Chapter 11 — Onwards!
(The divine Goddess and the pious Bee)

Thus have I heard:

PRESENTLY they left the holy Cave, and, after thanking the ascetic for acting as his guide, the gnani asked: "And whither are you bound now, my friends?"

The ascetic replied that they had no definite goal, but that he himself was accompanying Ruru on his quest for enlightenment and that they simply wandered wherever the gods of Destiny would lead their steps.

"Then why not come with me?" suggested the philosopher; "I myself am on a sort of pilgrimage, and presently I intend to return to the town where I live; but I am in no hurry, and we can proceed at leisure."

Both Ruru and the ascetic were glad to accept the offer, and Ruru asked: "Would you then tell me some more of your wisdom while I sit at your feet while you walk?"

The philosopher laughed at the use Ruru made of his own pleasantry, and he agreed amiably.

"What shall we talk about?" he asked.

"Well," said Ruru, "about a year or more ago I saw a wandering monk, listening to the birds and animals talking in the trees and bushes; how is this done?"

The gnani smiled and answered: "It is said that if you would learn to understand the languages of birds and animals you must eat the flesh of a snake, for he is halfway between a bird and a beast, and by eating him you acquire the properties of his mind. The eating of the heart and liver of a dragon has the same result." (* see Publisher's note in sidebar)

"But are there still such beings as dragons?" asked Ruru innocently. "At any rate, I should not like to acquire the knowledge in either way."

"I have never seen a dragon myself," replied the gnani mischievously, "but there are plenty of snakes about."

"I believe you are teasing me now," said Ruru doubtfully.

"The only dragons I have ever heard of," said the gnani, "are mythological ones, and I believe that in the ancient times there may have been suchlike animals. Perhaps a dragon is that animal we now call a crocodile; perhaps the name meant some other animal of gigantic proportions, for I know that huge skeletons of unknown reptiles have been found from time to time. The belief in dragons may be due also to magic and superstition."

"Please tell me something about both?" pleaded Ruru.

"These are very large subjects," replied the gnani, "but I will try to tell you a little about them.

"Superstition and magic are often the same thing. There are, for instance, cases when a burglar takes earth from a grave and sprinkles it round the house he intends to despoil of its treasures; he thinks that this will throw the inmates into a deep sleep. Or they take Masān, the ashes from a pyre, and throw it over the occupants of the house they are robbing, to make them entirely unconscious when they are already asleep. Others again steal a human shin-bone, remove any marrow there may be in it, fill it with tallow, set this alight, and with this weird candle they walk three times around the house, which is said to prevent the people in it from waking up. Or they play upon a flute made from a human leg-bone, and this music sends all to sleep. . .except the burglars. This is a sort of magic and superstition combined.

"There are also various kinds of black magic; and a most potent charm, known as Momiaī, is produced in the following manner by black sorcerers. First they catch a boy, as fat and black as possible; a small hole is bored in the top of his head, after which he is hung up by his heels over a slow fire. The resulting essence or juice is then distilled into seven drops—which is Momiaī. This has healing properties which are of a supernatural quality. Any wounds, no matter how severe, are healed by it at once, and he who has this magic ointment is believed to be invulnerable; it is also called the oil of Vishnu, or Rāma.

"Then there are the so-called 'magic obstacles' with the aid of which a pursuer is prevented from overtaking those that flee before him; such as the well known example when the pursued person throws behind him a twig, which at once becomes an impenetrable forest; a pebble, which becomes a mountain in the path of the pursuer; a bottle of water, which becomes a river, and so on.

"Further we must remember the Tantric Rites, in which a human being is sacrificed to the Goddess Durgā; the victim is generally a virgin."

"Yes," said Ruru, "I have seen an example of this."

"You have?" cried the gnani in astonishment. "How did that happen?"

Ruru then told him the story of the two babes and the evil wizard, and the old philosopher was amazed when Ruru showed him the magic belt.

"But you have a real and extraordinary treasure here!" he cried. "Do you know for what this belt is used?"

"No," replied Ruru, "but the merchant said that it is very valuable on account of the jewels and their settings."

"The jewels are certainly valuable," said the gnani, "but its real value lies in its magical properties."

"What does it enable one to do, then?" asked Ruru.

"That belt enables one," was the reply, "by concentrating his mind on it, to send forth the mind from the body to any part of the Three Worlds he wishes to visit and behold all its wonders. It gives the mind the power to roam through the air at will and learn all secrets."

"I want to try that at once!" cried Ruru excitedly.

"Oh, no," replied the gnani. "It is not so easy as all that; you must first prepare for it by many weeks or months of concentration, meditation, and stilling the mind until you have reached a state of true Peace within yourself. The best way to do this is under the guidance of a genuine Master."

"Can you help me, Sir, to learn how to do it?" asked Ruru eagerly.

"I am afraid that I cannot," replied the gnani. "I am only a philosopher, and not a great Mystic such as you need for this purpose."

"I wonder if I shall ever find one?" sighed Ruru.

"You will, at the appointed time," was the answer. "Do not be impatient, my son; the fact that you have the belt is an indication that you will find the Master too. And moreover," he added, "that belt has been used for black magic, and it must be purified by a holy man before you can use it; otherwise you might behold that dreadful Goddess again!"

Ruru shuddered inwardly when he thought of her, and all the demons and goblins of that black night, with the funeral pyres blazing up, the whimpering babes, and the dreadful curses of the baleful magician seemed to come to life again.

"Had that black ceremony any connection with Alchemy and Fire Worship?" asked the ascetic.

"No," said the gnani, "Alchemy has to do with obtaining gold from base metals. There was, for instance, the great Chandra Varma, who was born of the embraces of Chandrama, the Moon-God, who had the knowledge and the power of extracting gold from iron, and not converting iron into gold as the ignorant believe possible. There is also the story of Lalīya, who was a blacksmith of Ahmadābād. He made an axe for a Bhil, but the latter returned it, complaining that it would not cut. When Lalīya examined it he found that he had been trying to sharpen a Philosophers' Stone instead of a piece of iron. As soon as he was certain of it he rubbed all his store of iron with that stone, and he became so wealthy that the king conceived a great hatred for him and sent his troops to attack him and take his gold away. Rather than give up the stone to the rapacious king, he threw it into the Bhadra river where it lies to this day, as the story has it. Once some iron chains were let down into the water at the very spot where the stone lay; and all the links were turned into gold. But as the sailors from whose ship the chains were let down did not discover that their iron chain had been turned into gold until hours later, when they had proceeded quite a long way down the river, the exact spot was never discovered. This is of course but a fable, but the so-called 'Philosophers' Stone' is only a symbol which conceals a great secret.

"With regard to Fire-Worship, this again is a magical operation, not necessarily black magic though. Sacrifice of vilva fruits is often made to the God of Fire when some one wants a boon from his hands. If the God is pleased with the fruits of the Bel, then they will come out of the fire cavity in the form of gold. In such cases the Seven-Rayed Fire-God appears before the supplicant in bodily form, and the boon will be granted. But the Brāhman who makes the sacrifice, or any other person, must be chaste and pure; for if he is not, the God cannot be propitiated."

"Has Fire-Worship any connection with the Ashvins, the Twin Deities of Light?" asked the ascetic again.

Ruru shook his head in denial, and the gnani said: "No; they are quite different beings. They are variously described as Sons of Dyanus, the Sky-Father of Heaven; and also as the Sons of Sūrya, or Savitri, the quickening activity of the Sun. In the Veds it is related that the Sun married Sañjña, who, after bearing her husband two children, fled from him owing to his overpowering Splendour. After many vicissitudes the Sun reduced his Splendour, disguised himself as a horse, and went in search of his lost wife. When he found her at last they mingled the breath of their nostrils, and from it were produced the Twin Deities of Light.

"In other sources it is stated that they are the symbols for 'Day and Night,' 'Heaven and Earth,' 'Sun and Moon,' and so on. They are described as riding in a golden chariot, drawn by two horses; their name also means 'The two Horsemen,' but the poets state sometimes that the chariot is drawn by some mystical bird, a buffalo, or an ass.

"But there is yet another aspect of the Ashvins to be taken into consideration, for they are also described as healers of disease, deliverers of those in distress (more especially of those in distress at sea), and they raise up the downtrodden and are the benevolent friends of lovers."

Ruru, who was amazed at the wide knowledge of the gnani on all kinds of subjects, said: "When you were resting at the top of the cliff you said that the best way to hear was to overhear; how do you come to that conclusion?"

"This," replied the old philosopher, "I said on account of the many stories there are in connection with a man or woman overhearing talks between birds and animals, which accomplishment you yourself would like to master. There is, for instance, the well-known story in the Siri-Jātaka in which two roosters are overheard boasting to each other of the virtues that rest in their flesh when eaten by a human. 'What power have you?' asked one of them. The other replied: 'Anyone who kills me and eats my flesh roasted on coals gets a thousand pieces of gold next morning.' But the other one replied: 'Bah! That's nothing. When anyone eats my flesh he becomes a king, and if he eats only my outside he becomes the commander of an army if a man, or a chief-queen if a woman.'

"This conversation had dire results for both of them. There are numerous tales like that."

"And what can you tell us about cow-worship?" asked the ascetic, who had suddenly become even more avid for information than Ruru himself; although Ruru was listening with the greatest attention all the while, for the gnani told things that Ruru, with all his previous studies, had never heard about before.

"In the Vishnu Purāna," said the gnani, "we can read that Prithu, Son of Vena, wished to find edible plants for his subjects after he had been installed as Universal Monarch, for, during the preceding time of anarchy, all plants had perished. Therefore he attacked the Earth, which promptly assumed the form of a cow and fled before him, traversing all the regions of the sky. In the end she yielded to him and promised to fructify the Earth with her milk. Then Prithu took his bow and with it he flattened the surface of the Earth, levelling hundreds and thousands of mountains in the process. Then he made Svayambhuva the calf, and he milked the Earth, receiving into his own hand the milk for the benefit of Man.

"From this came all sorts of corn and vegetables upon which the people subsist even today, and as they always will. As Prithu granted life to the Earth he became as it were her father, and for this reason she received the patronymic appellation Prithivī, which means 'Daughter of Prithu,' as you will know. After this all the gods, demons, sages, serpents and trees took milking-vessels according to their needs and milked the Earth of so much milk as they required. This is a beautiful symbolism which you will be able to interpret if you meditate upon it.

"In the olden times people ate all sorts of meats, but the slaughter of an ox was always regarded as a sort of sacrificial act, and it played an important part at wedding feasts for the entertainment of the guests. It was not forbidden to injure or slay certain animals—until the Brāhmana period. In these present days a number of animals may still be killed for food, but one must always remember the laws of transmigration of souls; and he who is a mighty king today may be a crow in his next incarnation.

"The cow is now considered so pure on account of its live products of milk, curds, ghee, urine and dung, which are also pure and used in the sacred rites of purification, exorcism, magic, medicine and domestic ritual, that the cow may no longer be killed. Moreover, the sweet smell of the cow has led to the myth which traces its descent from Surabhi—'the fragrant one'—who once practised certain severe austerities, so that Brahmā granted her immortality in a region above the Three Worlds, named Goloka. This region is the Heaven of the cows and its beauty is of the greatest excellence. It can only be attained by those who have achieved much merit on earth by the continual gifts and worship of the sacred cows."

"Thank you," said the ascetic, "and can you now tell me something about poisons? For there is nothing so elevating to the mind as the use of contrasts, and I should very much like to hear the opposite of purity by listening to your honeyed words in connection with that which is utterly vile."

The wise gnani smiled at the quaint request and said: "There are all sorts of ways in which the use of poison is applied, and even in the Laws of Manu we can read that it is the duty of a king: 'When he has shut up his foe in a town, by beleaguering him, that he shall sit encamped, harass the foe's kingdom and continually spoil his grass, food, fuel and water by means of poison, even to the living trees and creepers, until the very stones and landing places are poisoned too.'

"The most deadly poison is the aconite which grows in the Himālayan districts, so that the sheep there have to be muzzled. There are also the poison-maidens, who are prepared by the Rākshasas and who poison any man they have been sent to in their first embrace. Sometimes kings have special poison-maidens who are fed on poison from birth and are then presented as a great gift to such enemies as the king wants to get rid of; and one single kiss from any such maiden would be sufficient.

"There is also the poison that resides in the eye of a snake; even if he does not strike, his look can kill, and only warriors in air-tight armour can slay him.

"Then there is the poisonous breath, and the bile of the green tree-snake mixed with that of the green water-frog and of the jungle-crow, which is smeared on the gambier used in betel-chewing. Such are a few of the ways in which evil men or demons can destroy their enemies."

"Is there no way to counter the vile acts of poisoners?" asked Ruru.

"Yes," replied the gnani, "a ring made of the very sacred Darbha grass, which was formed originally from the hairs of the Lord Vishnu, and which fell off him in his incarnation as a tortoise, when he acted as a pivot for Mount Mandara at the churning of the Ocean: such a ring, worn on the finger at all times, will protect the wearer from poisons. You know how this grass is used for all sorts of ceremonies connected with initiation and magic, and at weddings, prayers, invoking the Gods, and on many other occasions. But its use as a protection against poison is not so well known."

"Why do the sorcerers sometimes eat the victims they sacrifice?" asked Ruru.

The wise gnani replied: "By eating the sacrificial offering of flesh the enchantment becomes perfect when the victim is pure and of high caste."

"But what do they gain by those enchantments?" asked Ruru again.

"They gain eternal perdition for the sake of temporary profit," said the philosopher. "Once upon a time," he continued, "there was a poor man who was always hungry and could discover no means by which he might always have plenty. So he went to a well-known sorcerer in his neighbourhood and asked him what he would require in payment if he performed for the hungry one a ceremony, calling up the gods, so that they would always provide him with sufficient food to eat. The wizard told him that for this boon he would demand his everlasting services in this world and the next. The hungry man agreed in his despair, and the ceremony was duly performed. At its climax there appeared a terrible-looking demon who gave the poor man a quantity of rice; and though he consumed a portion of it each day it never diminished in volume, so that he was hungry no more.

"But although he was grateful for the boon he had received, his mind was smitten with remorse for selling himself to the evil ones for a mere handful of rice.

"So one day he fled from the sorcerer and took up his habitation in a holy grove where he practised a dreadful asceticism, throwing away the rice. And for many years he stayed there, eating or drinking nothing, but living on the dews of morn and eve and existing on his self-reproach only, praying for forgiveness without ceasing day or night.

"At last the gods felt compunction for the miserable sinner, and one day they caused a Heavenly Nymph to pass by his grove. The Goddess was a daughter of the Vidyādharas who had come to worship Mahākāla, whose statue stood in a nearby Temple. When she saw the penitent, who was worn down to a shadow, the benevolent chambers of her heart opened and gave him entrance there, although he was not aware of it. She bestowed on him the Magic Sciences, so that he became filled with Light and could henceforth change his shape at will.

"He therefore arose, took on the form of a bee, and flew to a flower-filled glen where ever after he existed on the nectar of the flowers, meditating on their delicate delight which is like the beauty of the Gods themselves, and all the sidereal or baleful influences of his stars were as naught from thence, and in the end, his pure love for the beauty in which he was submerged (for the beauty of pure love is the true Ruler of the Three Worlds) led him onward to that Holy Road which is called the Path of the Sun—which is the Way to Glory and eternal Peace."

Both Ruru and the ascetic clapped their hands with joy at the termination of this new and unknown story; but suddenly the gnani stood stock-still and gazed with astonishment at the ruins of an ancient Temple, just visible in the twilight which now was falling rapidly.

He walked towards it, the others following him, and to their amazement they saw in the midst of the ruins the gigantic statue of a divine and glorious Goddess, and on one of her hands sat a huge brown and golden bee, as if in meditation. . .

Stretching out his right hand, the gnani performed the Pradakshina ritual and walked three times round the Holy Image in an attitude of deep devotion, following the course of the Sun (for the opposite way is an evil incantation or ritual and brings misfortune and the disapproval of the Blessèd Ones in Heaven).

Ruru and the ascetic followed his example in their turn, and afterwards they had some food and went to sleep near the Temple under the protection of the Divine Goddess.

Next: Chapter 12 — The Hunt

  horizontal rule

© COPYRIGHT 2014 J Michaud PhD and — all rights reserved