The Quest of Ruru

Section Two — The Hexagon



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Chapter 4 — The Quest

Thus have I heard:

DURING the days that followed, Ruru lay in a stupor of grief, and some kind neighbours attended to the last rites for his parents, conducting them with loving hands to the home of the fathers.

All signs of the drought, the fire and the flood had disappeared as by magic and only the ruined dwelling-places showed the effects of the earthquake. When Ruru went out for his first walk, the glancing streams and ever-rushing waterfalls were full of the melody of joyful nature; their laughing cadences, in rhythmic intervals, descended and rose upon the rainbow mists that hung in deep ravines upon the dancing waters. A lonely heron stood silently beside a pool. Maidens with good-luck bringing shell-bracelets on their arms strolled about, accompanied by women who wore the wrist-ring, which is the sign of marriage; and all were chattering like so many frolicsome birds.

The rooks and clamorous crows were busy on their nests in the mango-tope, which stood like a close dark ring near a clearing in the forest, and from the sirish the rural maids plucked twigs with which they love to adorn themselves. Little sinuous brooklets, filled to the brim with molten silver, shone in the bright light of the sun, and the peacocks soared upwards, screaming loudly with joy.

But Ruru looked as sad and attenuated from bereavement as the God of Love did when deprived of his wife Rati. The passionate earth lay spread before him like a picture in a dream, and with the all-seeing eye of the spirit he penetrated within its deepest profundities and realised that all was NAUGHT. The Sun-bird sounded its clear, sharp note as it hopped from twig to twig, standing straight upright in its dark-green dress, with a black ring around its neck. And doves were cooing in the neem tree, the husband repeating to his adored wife his endless: 'I love you—I do!"

But Ruru bewailed the loss of his parents, just as the white lotus mourns for its friend, the Moon.

"Why should I tarry here in this place which has lost all its attraction for me and where everything reminds me of the loss of my dear father and mother?" said Ruru to himself. "Why not go far away, out into the world, and find some remedy to cure my mind that's sick with my unhappiness? But where shall I go?" he mused.

"After all, it does not matter; any place is as good or bad as another," he added.

So, making up his mind, he returned home and, after selling the hut and his few belongings to some friends, he took from its peg the Sarungi, and after taking a sad farewell from his intimates one evening—after he had ascertained an auspicious moment—he set out on his Quest.

The blood-red sun encrimsoned the surfaces of the pools, as if they were lakes of almagra in which the gods would presently bathe and become rosed with joy; and streams and clouds were clad in flame. The day had fallen from its pinnacle and soft twilight was deepening into night when he found a huge ashvatthan wishing tree. Three times he walked around that mighty King of the forest, keeping it on his right and reciting a prayer for success to its indwelling spirit, and then made an oblation to it. Then he stood still before the tree, the Giver of Desires, and supplicated it again with ardent prayers; and the holy tree answered with a soft rustling, granting him his wish, and he bowed reverently before its majesty.

And now the sable bird of night was poised on stealthy wings and the forest paths seemed to be as labyrinthine and uneven as his own calamities. Tom-toms throbbed in a distant house where was celebrated a marriage feast, accompanied by the rapid chanting of the singers.

And he mused: "Would he fail after all and wander henceforth naked, wailing in the deep abyss of terror 'midst the nether gods? Or might he hope to win emancipation and rise on joyful wings up to the stars?" His thoughts of morbid doubt were like unto the evil blossoms which flourish in marshy places. "Ah," thought he, "listen to those tom-toms! The fools!! As here and now man sings his joyful Song of Life, the mournful throbbing of the tympanies of death sobs softly in the distance."

And now the moon had risen, and the flower-haunted hills shone blue in his enchantment. The cloak of night was luminous with stars; the lordly ones looked down upon the wanderer, and it was as if their eyes were filled with pity for his grief.

After several hours of constant walking he sheltered beneath a nyagrodha tree, which was of such a wide extent that it could have hidden an army between its rooted branches which formed a natural cloister. And as he went to sleep, he rose up in thought to the abode of the stars which seemed to become great flames, taking on form and changing into Beings of royal aspect and bearing; and anon he descended slowly on the drowsy clouds of opiate dreams to utter rest.


When Ruru awoke and stepped forth from his leafy pavilion, the morning sparkled with the glamour of the dawn; the sky was like an azure arch bedecked with roses, and he found a fresh stream of sweet water which laved his throat. The elixir of his soul was quickened into life, and, after cleansing himself, he rubbed the last vestige of sleep out of his eyes.

Gradually the morning haze began to clear and seemed to dissolve in delicate hues: ethereal and fragrant; and pellucid was the radiant air. He collected fruits that grew upon the trees and made his morning meal while watching golden beetles, green and porphyry, or red, which crept beneath the fallen leaves and in the grass with rustlings, soft, mysterious, glinting with metallic lustre. And a ray of sun broke on the surface of their shields, making them sparkle like living jewels.

At last Ruru rose up, feeling refreshed after his repast, and on looking round he found that he was very near the edge of a wood, and walking onwards he passed through elysian meads begemmed with light, where leaped the fawn in happiness, its melting eyes a poem of the gods. In the distance he heard the sound of voices, and passing through a flowery dell he stopped with a gasp of surprise. There stood a Ghat with its broad, wide, marble stairs, and by the entrance-arch of that Gate sat a wandering monk, counting his beads and praying. Ruru waited respectfully until the monk looked up and gave him greeting. He replied suitably and asked permission to sit by his side for a while.

"Certainly, my son," replied the monk kindly, looking at the youth with all-observing smiling eyes. "Whither are you bound, my son?" he asked benignantly.

"I am on my way to find Wisdom," replied Ruru. "I want to travel all over the land to collect Truth from the Master Minds in every nook and corner, and when I have found it I shall weave it into a silken Tapestry of Sacred Beauty and reveal it to all those who will behold it."

"This is a strange and unusual speech for one so young," observed the monk with interest, "tell me more about yourself, who you are and whence you come."

Then, like a bursting dam that can hold its agitated contents no longer, a flood of words rushed forth from Ruru's mouth; and he told the monk about his home, his teachers, the holy man, the Sarungi, and lastly of his parents and his grief at their death.

"Do not grieve about that," said the monk. "Death is the end of birth—and its reward. Think of the bliss in which your parents are dwelling now; all work and strife and feebleness forgotten. They have passed beyond the secret Veil of Illusion to the domains of Actuality. That which we behold on earth is but a shadow; a realisation of the senses which hold us all in thrall. The senses are liars and deceivers; those who are beyond them have found Truth and Happiness at last. It is only the wicked who shrink from Truth in terror."

"But," said Ruru, "I wanted to keep my dear parents always with me; we were so happy together."

The monk replied: "The ungrateful man is blinded by a desire for more and does not know a blessing when he receives it."

"Do you call the death of my father and mother a blessing?" cried Ruru indignantly.

"A man who is free from anger has gained heaven," replied the monk; "and virtue cannot penetrate a mind that is encased in the thick armour of sensual desire."

"But," cried Ruru, "what is there sensual in loving one's parents?"

"All love for human or other beings is sensual, my son," said the monk. "It is always a form of desire, and he who is entangled in the web of human desire is a prisoner of the senses—and gives way to sensual tyranny. If you want to find true Wisdom you must first find Freedom; and he who loves is not free."

"I do not believe it," cried Ruru, "and if it is true then I am a willing slave and prisoner to those whom I love. That which you have told me is repugnant to my soul, and it does not sound like the advice of a friend. Yet I always thought that holy wanderers like you had in their breast the true love for all that lives. If you have that love then you are a prisoner too; and, if so, how does your praying, meditation and penance help you?"

"My son," replied the monk smilingly, "the heart of a man knows his friends and enemies of former births; and though it is possible for an enemy to become a friend under certain conditions, such a one never remains a friend for all time. Do you really feel that I am an enemy because I have told you a truth?"

"But," he continued, "you are still very young and a long road of travail lies before you."

Ruru looked down, ashamed of his impetuosity, and he pleaded: "Forgive my hasty words, reverend Sir; I know that a long road lies before me; a very difficult road; a road that will not lead to success or riches."

"Oh, my dear son," said the monk, "what shall life, courage or riches profit a man if he does not use those gifts to protect his brother? And how many are there who have life, courage or riches that know the right manner in which to handle those gifts of Destiny? When modesty is united to prosperity they enhance each other's glory; and though the Fates protect those who are destined to become prosperous, there is a terrible reckoning in the end if they have misused their prosperity for self alone. A fierce spirit compels success, but success is a double-edged sword which may strike down its wielder in his exuberance.

"Once a fisherman caught a large fish, and the fish laughed heartily!
'Why do you laugh, O fish?' asked the astonished fisherman.
The fish replied: 'I laugh because I am happy!'
'And why are you happy!' queried the fisherman.
'Because you caught me,' replied the fish.
'Because I caught you?' said the fisherman, more astonished than ever. 'Do you not know, you silly fish, that your life is now at an end?'
'Yes,' said the fish, 'I know it very well.'
'And is this a reason for laughter?' asked the man again.
'Indeed it is,' replied the fish. 'In a previous incarnation you were a fly and I remember swallowing you. In that way I caused your death and I thus became your debtor; but now the circle is complete, for by causing my death you will have freed me of my debt and we are now quits; and neither in your heart nor in mine is there any guilt or enmity left.'

"So you see," continued the monk, "that the success of the fish in catching the fly resulted in his own death in the end."

"This is a very good teaching," observed Ruru.

"For that reason," said the monk, "you will not regret that your path does not lead to material success, but to spiritual enlightenment instead. Success is obtained at the cost of others, as a rule, and so the successful one becomes their slave when the time is ripe. Worship Sarasvati, the goddess of eloquence and learning during your coming travels until the day when you meet your predestined Master. But do not be impatient with what you may learn or hear along the road; for there is a grain of Truth in everything as well as a large amount of ignorance."

After the monk had given Ruru his blessing, the latter left him with many expressions of gratitude. The cornfields whispered rustling tales in answer to the wind's soft susurration. Upon a fragrant virid lawn, begemmed with starry flowers, there had sprung up a vivid, perfect bloom, more gorgeous than the rest; and like a lovely Queen of grace and sweet perfumed held court and claimed due homage from the others. The whole scene was so dazzling that it seemed to Ruru as if he was faced by whirling clouds of fiery light.

And as he walked along his way he heard the sound of singing in the distance, and presently he saw the lofty gilded spire of a temple amidst an opening between some trees. There came a waft of mystic incense, and when he neared the sacred spot the altar's smoke bedimmed his eyes with tears. And when his vision cleared again he saw a crowd of pilgrims praying or in meditation; and pious boys did chant the Sāma Veds with voices sweet as angels. And then the priest offered the argha, the oblation to the Gods, in the shape of rice, to which he added dūrva grass and flowers.

In Ruru's breast there sank the balm of Peace, and for the first time since his parents died his heart felt lighter. Heaving a deep sigh, he was relieved of his pain and he thought of the words of the wandering monk which had at first so incensed him.

"Surely," he said to himself, "the virtue of the just is like a patch of heaven's blue, fallen down to earth."

And then he saw with the eyes of his mind a vision so glorious that he gasped with sheer amazement, and, stretching out his arms he cried: "Oh, come to me, Belovèd."

Yet all he had seen were two shining blue eyes, full of sweetness and innocence, that stared at him with an expression of unbelievable gladness and astonishment, filling his heart with admiration. And just as quickly the incredible marvel of that cerulean glance was lost, and he came out of his inexplicable exaltation, trembling with a strange emotion.

"Doubtless," he murmured, "those were the eyes of an Apsaras in Heaven; never have I seen such loveliness. They were like two flowers, and thus must have looked the eyes of Prakriti when first she beheld Purusha: the Divine Mother and Father of all that is. What can this mean?"

And suddenly he knew that he felt very lonely, and he thought of the story of Saubhari, the old, devout and lonely Sage who was suddenly inspired with a desire for offspring. Going to King Māndhātri, he demanded one of his fifty daughters in marriage. Afraid to refuse, and yet unwilling to give one of his lovely daughters to the emaciated old man, who looked more like a dry bundle of old sticks than a bridegroom, the King temporised and said at last that if any one of the fifty beauties should want him for a husband he would consent to the marriage. Saubhari followed the King to the apartments where the girls lived, but on the way he assumed the form of a fair and handsome young man, so good to look at that when the girls saw him they were all captivated and contended with each other who should become his wife. In the end the Sage married them all and was lonely no longer; and he had erected for each a separate palace, finished in the most luxurious manner and surrounded with exquisite gardens; each wife believing through his magic that her husband was always with her and devoted to her only. And he had a hundred and fifty sons by them; until he grew tired of all his riches and retired with his wives to the forest.

In the meantime the priests had ended the ceremony, and the sacrifices and offerings to Soma were over and all the verses and Brāhmanas sung.

A few of the worshippers still lingered; the officiating priests and singers had all gone away and presently Ruru was left alone with his thoughts in front of the shrine. And there he sat in meditation on all he had seen and heard that day, until there rang within his mind the words: "Arise! Awake! Seek out the great ones and get understanding."

Shaking himself he took in his hand the Sarungi and rose up; and following the path of the sun he proceeded on his way, he knew not whither, but trusting in that Holy Guide who leads our steps if we but trust in THAT from which the whole world comes, to which, indeed, it goes again, by which this is supported, surely, too . . . to Him, the Self that Knows, all Honour be! Truth; Wisdom; Eternity; Brahmā. Source of all Bliss, immortal, shining forth, Peaceful, benignant, Secondless!!

May Harih destroy all Sin, so that the Higher Mind be cleansed; for that is Eternal and cannot be slain...except by its lower part!

Next: Chapter 5 — Patali

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