Chapter 2 — The Black Dwarf
Thus have I heard:
AS time sped along in its chariot of gold and silver, or days crowned by Sūrya and nights protected by Soma, Ruru grew up through the periods of childhood, boyhood and youth. His teachers said that he was the most brilliant pupil they ever had, and his memory was prodigious. He seemed to know all things by some wonderful inner sense of revelation, was excellent at all games and sport, sturdy of body and strong in health. When he reached the age of seventeen he had become a young man of fine appearance. Tall he was and slender, yet possessed of iron strength. His perfect, oval Aryan face glowed with a rosy bloom underneath a bronzed surface of peach-like skin. The maidens cast languishing glances at him wherever he went, but Ruru did not seem to notice them, for he was always living in the regions of his imagination, and that which men call love did not touch him as yet.
He had never forgotten the visit of the holy man, and often he took down from its peg the beautiful Sarungi, wondering what was the Message that lay hid within its plump and shining body. There was within that ancient instrument some mystic charm which Ruru felt but could not touch, or see, or hear. He often spoke about it to his parents, but they, good and simple souls, could not tell him what his mind was eager to know.
The bond between Ruru and his father and mother was of so strong a nature as is seldom found. He repaid their love and kindness with absolute devotion and tried in every way he could to lighten their heavy tasks within and out of the home.
Ruru still felt the same adoration for nature, for trees, plants and animals, skies, clouds and wind as of yore. In fact, these things and beings seemed to become more and more personal and full of hidden meanings as he grew up. He still went for solitary strolls through the woods and the countryside, and often looked with longing at the mighty Himālayas—the abode of snow—which lay shining in the distance like white clouds of glory against the deep blue sky. Or, he wandered far along the banks of the rivers, where amid the pale green sedge the lotus raised its lovely head, the swaying, rustling osiers keeping guard, throwing deep brown shades in the afternoon.
Anon he dreamt away the time in a silent, sweet mossy dell, which surely was the playground of the nymphs, who are so fair that human eyes are dimmed as with a mist and cannot gaze upon their beauty.
And he worshipped the wonder of the trees; the sals, tamarisks, South Sea pines, and the palms whose plumes wave slowly to and fro in the warm breeze; or the betel-nut with its crest of feathery shoots, the light-leaved tamarind that spreads its branches far and wide, the pale faint-scented bitter neem, the seemul—as gorgeous as a bride—with ruby-gleaming flowers, the great Indian fig-tree and the swaying, swinging bamboo bough.
From time to time he offered white flowers to Vishnu in appreciation of all the beauty he beheld: for Beauty is the Cloak of God; and amidst all that luxuriance the monkeys could be seen hopping in and out of the purple shrubs, or chattering and scolding from between the heavy foliage of the banana trees, or peering at Ruru from behind the thick boles and ancient arbours like the banyan tree, which is for ever evolving out of itself, living for all eternity, for each brown branch bends down and thrusts a new root in the earth. This certainly must be the symbol of Brahmā, the Universal Spirit of Energy, pervading and constituting everything. Although Brahmā itself is neuter it has a triple personality, all masculine, in the forms of Brahmā the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shīva the Dissolver and Reproducer who brings Light and Life out of Darkness and Death; until at last all manifested things and beings are reabsorbed into the One, Eternal and Impersonal Essence of the Supreme God.
And, as he meditated thus, the vultures screamed with hoarse, dry cries above the trees, and the voices of the sylvan gods swelled in the breeze and blended with the thundering cascades of nearby booming waterfalls. Thus Ruru spent his leisure hours each day, ensnared in a wonder-web of dreams; or roaming in the cooler hours of night when the silence embraced him with its Lethean lassitude.
And on the magic mirror of imagination he beheld faint phantom shapes; and stars like berylls blazed in the darkness of his inner being and were reflected in the disturbed deep waters of his reason; trembling images upon the woof of his thinking; shining beams of loveliness on the shield of reverie. Or, his mind was lost in the myriads of far-away and glittering stars, fixed in the sky of night as if a whirlwind of silver sparks was frozen into immobility by the mighty Will of the Gods. In the hoary deeps of the night it seemed to him that the stars snapped their silver chains and dispersed to the Freedom of Nothingness, and his prayers rose like incense to the Throne of the Most High.
To assist his parents in gathering provisions Ruru used to go forth at dawn, armed with bow and arrow. And as Ra, the Lord of Fire, did enter through the portals of Dawn, there seemed to float in the soft air the echoes of the sounds of golden cymbals; and as the rays of the sun beshone in play the early mists, the lovely tints were reflected in the shining dewdrops' eyes, and pearlaceous nectar filled the elfin flower-cups with living essence. And sounds of singing floated through the air; it was the melodious voice of the wind among the flower-laden branches, chanting a duet of fragrant music with the canzonets of the early insects, whose gold and emerald wings hummed and droned as they zoomed amidst the corollets and blooms.
Clad in a vest of green as dark as the palasa trees he ranged the forest, bow and arrows in his hand, and slew his meat with mercy; and then went home, rejoicing in the gladness of his parents' eyes, and rendered thanks to God.
Often Ruru used to visit his old teachers in the nearby town to hold converse with them who loved him for his modesty; for the adornment of excellency is modesty. The wisest of his teachers was an imposing figure, very old, with a network of many wrinkles, the result of deep thought and saintly meditations, on his beautiful brown face, whose patriarchal beard, which flowed down his breast over the airy white draperies in which he was always clothed gave the impression as if he himself were the symbol of purity, wisdom and glory.
One day the discussion led to the art of how to attain perfect memory. "According to the ancient sorcerers," said the old teacher, "one should, after a fast of three days, take a plant of Soma, recite certain formulae and eat of the plant a thousand times. You will then be able to repeat anything after hearing it once. Or, bruise the flowers in water, and drink the juice for a year. Or, you may drink Soma, that is to say the fermented juice of the plant, for a month. Or you may drink it always. In this way the child Nagāsena—of whom you may read in the Milinda Panha—learnt the whole of the three Vedas by hearing them repeated only once. But there is no necessity for you, my son, to try such experiments, for your memory is perfect already," he added, smiling in his beard and looking fondly at Ruru.
And then, as usual, Ruru began to talk about that unforgettable day when the holy man visited his small home, and he discussed with his teacher the wise and kind sayings of the visitor.
Then his teacher said: "It is always well to have the mind fixed on salutary counsels, my son, for this will lead to success and honours."
"But," replied Ruru, "I do not particularly want success and honours, and the holy man said that my path was towards spiritual elevation, and not to riches and so on. Moreover, I am quite content to live always with my parents at our happy little place, for I cannot think what greater blessings and peace there could be in the world."
"Yet," remarked the teacher, "although the scorning of wise words, such as you heard that day, has always bitter results, you should remember too that you cannot always live with your parents, and that you will have to make your own way in the world and build your own home-life, with a good and understanding woman by your side as your wife. You are too vigorous and healthy to live alone and a fine young man like you ought not to do so; and your parents will not be with you for ever."
"May that day be far away," cried Ruru fervently, "I love my father and mother and do not want to be parted from them."
"You love your parents," replied the teacher, "I know that it is so, but you ought not to dwell too much on such things, but think also of your duties towards the woman you will certainly meet one day and who will have a larger claim on your love than even your father and mother. Always remember that human delight—whether love for one's kin, for one's wife and children, or in regard to anything else, is but the baseless fabric of a dream in this world of unrealities; the only good is loving service to others, and as such it attains actuality."
Ruru was silent, and his teacher continued: "This is as true with regard to love as it is with hatred. Love and hatred are the two greatest forces in the Universe; but love is ever the strongest: for it comes directly from the Gods. Is there not the wise saying that the only vengeance of the truly great against their enemies is compassion?"
And he went on: "Love and compassion go hand in hand, and in your love for your parents, whom you serve as a loyal son, you give evidence of the truly God-like attributes inherent in man. But when you find the woman of your heart, mind and soul, the loving service you will render her, added to your loyalty, will lead to the greatest glory of all, for within them are contained the Laws of both material and spiritual perfection, which leads to ecstasy on earth and in Heaven."
"Oh," cried Ruru, "how can one as imperfect as I am attain to such felicity without committing many errors?"
His teacher observed in a kindly manner: "On this earth none may strive without an occasional fall, my son; and if it is your destiny to err, the same as is the lot of all of us, for otherwise we should be perfect and not of this earth, then you will make mistakes. No man can baulk Fate nor break its chain of riven steel; nor can Doom be repealed by any device of ignorant man. But however ominous the clouds loom in the sky, they may yet be distilled into gentle rain. This applies especially to the search for the true mate; the one who is able and willing to share with you all your acts, thoughts, dreams and inspiration. The one who will listen to your words with true understanding and sympathy and who has the genius to comprehend that which cannot be uttered. Such a one is hard to find, for the heart of a female is a tangled maze and none but her real mate can ever read within the labyrinth the secret hieroglyphs ensnared within that mystic web. And even then he can only read the secret with understanding if so she wills, compelled by true love. There is a saying that a female, like prosperity, is never faithful to anyone. This is but a half-truth, for once the two whom Destiny has chosen to provide happiness and peace for one another as the reward for past suffering and service meet, then neither can be false to the other under any conditions. There will be no disharmony, no strife and no jealousy; for good women who desire their husbands' happiness do not nourish jealousy; nor are they ever inharmonious in thought or act with him. Such a pair has found a foretaste of Paradise on earth. Now and then, surrounded by a host of virtues, there falls from Heaven a good woman who brings praise to her husband like unto the pure light of the sun."
"How can one find such a one?" asked Ruru, interested in spite of what he had said before.
"Such questions have no answer, my son; only the Gods can lead you to such a woman, and only if both of you have deserved it, as I said before."
When Ruru went home again early that evening he resembled the fairy, close curled within the heart of a flower; asleep, and dreaming of Love's delight in the aspen spell of Spring. Upon the mighty distant Himālayan heights the snow was radiant with rosy soft reflections from the clouds of eve, its lambent gleams contrasting with the shadow tints of distant hollows. It seemed to him as if all the glories of Infinite Heaven swept by in golden veils, woven of flame, blinding with billowing splendour. Meadows green and golden, woods in green and brown in silver glow, trees in emerald, olivine and sapphire hues that light the pearly air with tints which make the poet and the painter hang their heads in mute despair, for they are untranslatable and ever must escape the pen and brush of mortal man; a Song more noble than the melodies of noblest Bard.
A virgin flame of inspiration was lit within his mind, and love for the unknown and better half of him bloomed in his heart like a rose. He chanted a song to the twilight and bade the silver moon arise; and day swooned on its broken pinions while with the eyes of fantasy he saw the adorable forms of beautiful maids which seemed to arrange themselves into a garden of spell-binding flowers. And he sang as if he had borrowed inspiration from the bulbul and the nightingale, and his song was composed of the longings of adolescent innocence: ignorant of the webster "Fate," who ever weaves his sensuous nets, the treacherous texture of whose shuttled threads be clinging tangles for the young.
Suddenly he heard a harsh voice, saying: "He who chants to the nightingale wastes his breath!"
Looking round in surprise he saw a savage-looking black dwarf, crooked of back, a vile creature, who suddenly burst into furious rage and cursed and swore at Ruru. The latter regarded the strange apparition with amazement and disgust; too astonished to speak for a few moments.
"Well," asked the dwarf, "what are you staring at me for so insolently? Am I not handsome, strong and full of marvellous intelligence, you snivelling fool?"
At last Ruru found his voice and cried indignantly: "Begone, thou misshapen bird of ill omen."
"And why should I, thou would-be saint?" asked the dwarf.
"Begone," cried Ruru again, "you contaminate the beauties of nature and of the spirit with your vile presence."
"Thou inept babbler and prater," shouted the dwarf "Spirit indeed! Where is that 'spirit' you gabble about so glibly? Show it to me, and perhaps I'll believe in it!"
"For the last time," cried Ruru once more, "Begone! Your disastrous lips drip poison!"
"Begone, begone, begone!" mocked the dwarf. "You will not get rid of me so easily, my friend, for I am but thyself. The real you, made of flesh and blood instead of milk and water, who has to follow all the laws of flesh and blood."
"You liar," shouted Ruru in return, "you evil being!"
"You love-smitten mooncalf!" yelled the dwarf in reply.
"I am not!!" said Ruru in exasperation. "Love means nothing to me, nor does anything else in the world, except my father and mother. My destiny is of the Spirit and to the Spirit I cleave."
"Forget about your saintly and spiritual aspirations," sneered the evil dwarf. "These are but empty nightmares for old fools, too enfeebled to enjoy their natural functions."
"I will no longer listen to your wicked words," cried Ruru, attempting to walk away.
But the crooked dwarf jumped in front of him and said: "That holy man of yours was only an old cheat whose life had run its course and who was jealous in advance of your virile powers to come, you stupid young ass. Enjoy life, I say, while you are young and strong."
"Let me pass," commanded Ruru.
"Let you pass, oh thou lump of badly animated clay?" cried the dwarf in a rage. "Have I not told you that you cannot get rid of me? As long as you live I shall be by your side, behind, and in front; for I am you! Too long have I waited impatiently to reveal myself to you as your own self and as you really are inside. Too long have I laughed in secret scorn over your silly mouthings with a lot of old and wrinkled idiots; from now on you shall live as a young man really should!"
The two opposed each other in dire antagonism; like Earth and Air, or Fire and Water. All that was good in Ruru rose up in arms against the evil which confronted him; yet he had to listen to that demon voice, disgusted as he felt. Fearful imaginings crept into his thoughts, like shadow-clouds dim the glory of noon-tide. Was there any truth in what the dwarf had said? Was there within himself some unholy principle—which might counteract the good—and would it pursue him all his life as the dwarf had stated?
The latter perceived Ruru's hesitation with glee, and said: "Thou bat-eyed dolt! Thou who thinkest that he loveth nature! I shall open thine eyes in such a manner that thou wilt realise at last what nature really is; and none too soon either."
"I do not want my eyes to be opened to your disastrous and evil suggestions," said Ruru with as much dignity as he could gather together; "for the last time, Begone!!"
"Nay, my young hypocrite," screamed the black dwarf, "not 'begone'—but BEHOLD!"
At these words there shone a light between the trees, and in the midst of it stood the most wonderful maiden Ruru had ever seen. Her countenance gleamed like the moon, her lips were painted with vermilion, and she had embellished the nails of her hands and feet with gold. Her only garments were the four cardinal points, and she stood before Ruru revealed in all her beauty, which was like the peacock-feathers of the juggler Kāma, bewildering the Three Worlds. Enchanted by the witchcraft of her glance, his spirit was drawn by the necromancy of her glamour; and he felt as if he were drowning in the rapture of her Circean eyes. She was like a torrent of the nectar of beauty . . . irresistible!
Slowly he walked towards her, inevitably drawn, as the sea advances to meet the rising moon. A sky-roaming Vidyādhara flew in the air above Ruru and beheld him with a smile. Lascivious golden stars and blue shone in the firmament and the air was laden with the scent of Sajna trees, while fire-flies glimmered over the fields and between the trees and bushes.
Thus Ruru beheld the maiden, and his inner being was shaken to the core with nervous tremors. He tried to clasp her to his breast, but suddenly the vision disappeared and he heard the raucous evil chuckles of the black dwarf.
"Oh ho! what now! my 'spiritual' prater of platitudes?" the dwarf exclaimed hoarsely. "Is this not better than your vain and vapid dreams of things you cannot know? This is a sign of life as a healthy young man like you should know it; the rest is for milksops, fools and old wrecks who do not know better, or cannot remember the glories of their youth!"
Bewildered utterly, Ruru looked about him, and saw the dwarf sitting on the stump of an old tree, looking with unholy glee at his victim. The marvellous maiden was gone as if she had been but a flitting moonbeam, and the world seemed empty.
"We shall meet again," cried the dwarf, and with a sudden crooked leap he disappeared in the shadows of the night.
"Alas," sighed Ruru, "what has happened to me? I am full of longing for that sweet maid: is there really some truth in what that dreadful being has said? Have I been living in a land of fantasy that's filled with fretful, unsubstantial shades that roam about in devious paths, wantonly overturning the pictured urns of imagination, scattering the charming crystals of ideality upon the barren ground of fact—yet never attaining to reality? Is there such a thing as Spirit, or has the holy man misled me on that long gone day?
"Who to ask?
"It is said that old age is the harbinger of composure which comes with the first grey hairs. I am too young to know for certain, and I do not feel very composed just now.
"What to do?
"Destiny often elevates the worthless and strikes down the men of merit. Have I been elevated by this vision or struck down?
"Who to tell me?"
His cheeks were as pallid as the moon as he stood there in his indecision, and now a deeper darkness began to advance like the vanguard of a troop of bandits. He glanced in agony about him, and suddenly there rang within his inner mind the kindly voice of the holy man and he heard once more his wise counsel. And it was as if he saw within the dark figure of a nun, clothed in a white garment, and a soft voice whispered: "Affliction will be conquered by him who has his eyes fixed firmly on duty."
Ruru listened in silence with all his Soul concentrated in his Mind, and anon he heard the voice say: "The illusions of this transient world are unfurled like a rainbow mist and vanish soon in the Rays of the True Light."
"Ah," cried Ruru, "the wise words of the Stranger; can they be really true?" And the fangs of remorse gnawed at his heart as he slowly walked homewards, deep in thought.
But it seemed from time to time that from between the trees and undergrowth there sounded the hoarse chuckle of the black dwarf. . . .
The Self can only be approached by Higher Mind, and not by the senses; this is well known. The Mind must store up the flashes of illumination received in ecstasy; this is also a Truth. But for Ruru there was still much to learn by that experience which will lead a true man to the Light; especially when he sometimes stumbles and falls. Such a one is beloved of the Gods when he tries again and again.
And as Ruru went to rest that night he prayed softly, although the echoes of the evil voice of the black dwarf rang still in his mind:
"A-um! May Brahmā of the sacred Teachings, All in All, perfect my members, speech, life, sight, hearing, give me strength and guard all my powers!
"May I be not cut off from Brahmā; Brahmā not cut off from me; may there be no off-cutting; for me no cutting-off!
"Let all the virtues in the sacred lore repose in me, who find my sole delight in that One Self; may they in me repose!
"A-um! Peace, Peace, Peace! Harih, A-um."
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