The Quest of Ruru
Section Four — The Dual and Triple Aspects of the Three Worlds
THE MINOR GODS
Chapter 14 — The Great Poem
Thus have I heard:
AS all the gates of the city were closed at night, the gnani took Ruru to one of which the officer in charge was his close personal friend. After a short conversation aside, the officer ordered the sentries into the guardroom, opened a small door in the main entrance, and allowed Ruru—who had remained hidden in the dark outside—to pass through. Ruru had taken an affectionate farewell already, and with a hasty final goodbye, he slipped out and walked at a rapid pace in the direction which the gnani had indicated to him as the safest route, for it led almost immediately into a great forest and gave the best chance of escape if any body of soldiers were sent after him and searched the countryside. The gnani returned as quickly as possible to the Palace, and, entering by a private door, regained his rooms unobserved and went to bed again.
That his precautions had not been in vain was proved by the fact that almost immediately after he had retired there was a great stir in the corridors and a heavy sound of knocking at Ruru's chamber nearby; and soon there was a knock at his own door and at that of the ascetic. Both rose from their beds at once and opened their respective doors at the same time. They were sharply questioned by the officer in charge of the Palace guards, who wanted to know if they had seen or heard anything of Ruru, who was not in his room and could not be found. Both the ascetic and the gnani professed complete ignorance about Ruru's whereabouts as they had been asleep for hours, which was true in the case of the ascetic but not so far as the gnani was concerned, as we know.
The old philosopher asked the officer what had happened and as the gnani was a man of importance the officer told him that the Princess Sulochanā had arrived in a dishevelled state at the king's apartments, accompanied by the wailing and chattering Jihvā, and accused Ruru of having assaulted her in her rooms where he was supposed to read to her some of his poems.
The king was furious, the officer said, and had commanded him to arrest Ruru immediately. The gnani kept very calm during the recital of Ruru's misdeeds, but the poor ascetic gave a deep groan and collapsed on the floor in a faint.
Although there was much searching in the Palace, and the next morning several groups of soldiers were sent out in all directions, Ruru could not be found, and the search ended in complete failure after several days.
In the meanwhile, Ruru had marched away into the deeps of the forest as fast as he could go, and although he heard at times the sounds of pursuit in the distance, he had managed to conceal himself in the dense growths of the wood until he heard no more the noise of the hunters.
After a week of steady but rapid travelling, he began to feel safe, and, in truth, he never heard or saw any more of the king, the gnani or the ascetic. He regretted the absence of his two friends very deeply, for he had become most attached to both; and he never forgot them.
The ascetic remained for a long time with the gnani, mourning daily for his beloved Ruru, until one day he was discovered lifeless on his bed, having passed away peacefully in his sleep and risen up to the Higher Realms where, no doubt, he will meet the gnani and Ruru again in due time as the philosopher had predicted.
The forest was of vast extent, but very deserted, and Ruru did not meet a single soul during several weeks of travel. At last he found a wonderfully quiet and delicious dell, near a little stream, and, as there were all sorts of fruit and nuts growing there, he decided to stay there for a while to rest and meditate on all that had gone before. So he built himself a little hut of twigs and branches, covering it with leaves, and settled down for a prolonged stay.
Then the idea came to him that he should compose a great poem on the visions of the celestial realms he had beheld in his imagination during the latter part of his first visit to Sulochanā.
Luckily, when he had gathered hastily all those personal belongings he could carry when fleeing from the Palace, he had taken in his confusion a case containing sheets of parchment and writing materials. This case he had kept by him, although it was very heavy, mainly for the reason that if he discarded it, it might act as a clue, informing his pursuers in which direction he was going. But now it had become a very useful asset, and he was glad of his initial error in taking it. It also contained all the sums of money he had received in his capacity of Court Poet, for there had never been any occasion for him to spend it as all his wants were supplied at the Palace. This was a double good fortune, for he was loth to part with his jewels and the gold given to him by the rich merchant. He therefore praised the Lords who guide all our actions, and made a hiding place in which to conceal his treasures for the time being, for, although he still had his sword-stick, there might be bands of robbers roaming about who would, perchance, be too strong for him to fight them single-handed.
When he was completely installed at last, the first thing he did was to tune the Sarungi anew, and it seemed to him as if it quivered with life under his hands; as if it were delighted with its new abode and had a foreboding of great events to come.
Ruru was happy to be back again in the old familiar haunts of nature. Living amongst the great ones of the earth had been a valuable experience, but now he counted all the luxuries of the last several months as a blade of grass; to be discarded as of no more use or value.
During the daytime he wandered around, seeking food and twigs for a fire whenever he would require one. Sometimes, at night, he built one; and when he meditated on the effects of the flames, reflected by the green leaves, his soul wandered away into the strange realms conjured up by beholding that magic and mysterious glow in the darkness. And gradually he collected materials for his Poem—which was to be his masterwork—inspired by his roamings in the supernal Regions. One night, when he was lying on his couch of dry leaves and thinking of nothing in particular, there appeared above him in the air the vision of the two blue eyes; and it seemed to him that they had in them a new expression—like happiness and approval. He blessed the vision before it disappeared and felt excited and very content. So he fell asleep, while the Moon, the lender of beauty to the dusk, beshone the forest scene and peeped through the openings between the leaves in which the hut was shrouded, and he smiled down on Ruru as he slept; and meteorous streaks rushed in the blue-black sky, as if the Emperor of the aerial Spirits was practising with bow and fiery bolt.
One day, when Ruru was strolling around in the wood, dreaming about his Great Poem to be, he suddenly saw a pillar of smoke from a sacrificial fire, rising straight to heaven as if it were pointing at the lordly Home of the Gods. When he approached nearer to it he noticed sitting by its side a solitary anchorite, dressed in red garments, made of bark, which made him look like a great red ruby within an ocean of green. Ruru detected a peculiar smell mixed with the smoke, and this smell increased in power each time the devotee placed something, which he took out of a small bag, on the fire.
Watching silently from between the trees, Ruru noticed also that the man was constantly muttering some phrase, until he suddenly stopped, and, looking over his shoulder, saw Ruru standing there.
"Approach, my son," he said to Ruru; and the latter did as he was bid.
After looking at Ruru with sharp and piercing eyes he asked: "Whence do you come, whither are you going, and why do you watch me?"
"I was only roaming about," answered Ruru; "I live alone in a little hut nearby and I came upon you quite unexpectedly. May I be permitted to ask what causes that strange smell each time you place on the fire something from your bag?"
"You may," replied the anchorite; "that which I throw in the fire is a magic plant, called haemony."
"And what is its magic?" enquired Ruru.
"By offering this plant to the Goddess Ambīka, the mother, and muttering some mystic spells of which I know the secret, I shall obtain certain objects which I covet, and I shall add them to my great collection of other things obtained in the same manner. But this present ceremony alone is not sufficient; after it is all over I shall also make an offering of rice, boiled in milk, and throw portions of it to the four cardinal points, and then I shall ask the Goddess to accept my worship and grant me my desire."
"But," said Ruru, retreating a few steps in alarm, "the Goddess Ambīka is Durgā, the dreadful Being who demands human sacrifice!"
"Not always, my son," replied the anchorite; "there are many ways in which you may approach the Gods—if you know how!"
"How can you prove that?" asked Ruru, filled with curiosity.
"So it was taught me by my Master," replied the man; "and he was the greatest Magician ever known in the Three Worlds, and he could obtain anything he asked for and was the wealthiest man I ever knew; and he possessed the most unique magical instruments."
"Well," said the anchorite, "he had, for instance, a golden flying girdle which enabled him to rise in the air and behold all the secret doings of man at night. This gave him great power, for by approaching these men the next day he was given much gold and jewels after he had whispered a few words in their ears. A king once gave him grants of villages and many other rich gifts on such an occasion; and he also gave him his daughter! But this was the cause of much regret to my Master later on," he added whimsically.
"He had also a pen, made from the feather of an Angel's wing, and with this he could predict the future: for whatever was written with it would surely come to pass.
"Further he had a strange cooking vessel, made from the skull of a Djin; and whenever he wished it, that vessel was filled with the choicest food. And he had a star opal, as large as a hen's egg; and this opal could make its wearer invisible if he desired it. And finally he possessed one drop of Amrita, the elixir of life, and from it shone a brilliant ray, like a streak of gold!"
"And did all these marvellous things really bring him long life and good fortune?" asked Ruru sceptically.
"Indeed they did!!" cried the anchorite enthusiastically; "except in regard to his wife, who was more like a Pishachā than a female human being to him. But apart from that—and what, after all, is a mere woman—the fame of his glory spread through all the universe and resulted in many years of good luck, prosperity, power and happiness."
"And is he still alive on this earth?" asked Ruru.
"Alas, no," replied the anchorite, "for, on a certain ill-omened day, his wife found the one drop of Amrita and swallowed it out of curiosity; and she straightway grew a pair of mighty wings and flew up to the sky, where no doubt she awaited the coming of her lord, to torture him for all eternity."
"That," said Ruru smilingly, "was most unfortunate for your Master; but he must have had at least a few years of peace without her at any rate after that event. How do you account for a wife such as that becoming a plague instead of a blessing to her husband?"
"A wife," said the anchorite, "who loses the devotion towards her husband, which is her first duty, never was the true wife of his soul, but a mere stranger, joined to him for some mysterious purpose of the Gods of Destiny; and in reality she can never have any claim to the name and protection of her husband. Always remember that the heraldic sign in the standard of the God of Love is a fish; and this means several things, one of which is that unless the flame of conjugal love burns in a woman's heart she is as cold-blooded towards him as the inhabitants of the watery element."
"And now," said Ruru, "I want to tell you that I have always been a sincere student of the mysteries; but I have never been instructed in the rites which you are practising. Would you therefore teach me something about them, please?"
The anchorite agreed, for he wished to impress the young stranger with his powers and learning and began a long harangue about the magic Arts as he had learnt them from his Master. But he had either forgotten the true details or never understood them at all for his meaning was as difficult to catch as the wind or the dawn, which both pass away without leaving a trace. He said that in order to succeed in a petition to the Gods it is necessary to make a sacrificial fire of Shamī and Ashvatthar wood, divide this into three fires, make oblations and fix the mind upon the fulfilment of the wish. Then there are needed various magic herbs, such as he was using on this occasion, and finally one has to send the chariot of the mind—which, he told Ruru, is literally the wish itself—roaming about in all the regions of the spirits, until the right one is found.
But when Ruru asked how exactly the latter part of the ceremony was to be performed, the anchorite was soon lost in a whirlpool of inconsistent instructions and explanations, so that Ruru gave up all hope of ever understanding the magic teachings of this initiate and took his leave, after thanking him many times and promising to follow all the instructions faithfully . . . if he could.
He went back to his hut; grateful for the peace he found there, and he could not help wondering at the childish beliefs of men like the ignorant anchorite. It was quite clear to Ruru that the man's Master was but a cunning rogue, who obtained information of an unsavoury nature by listening at keyholes and peeping through cracks (such as the wise gnani had once hinted at); and before he went to sleep he dismissed the anchorite and his teacher from his mind for ever.
And as he lay on his couch he saw in a dream a Hero of divine appearance, riding on a peacock, and by his side was a Lady who looked like the Goddess of Justice and Loyalty, bearing the Plumes of Truth; and she was as seraphic as the Angel of Beauty and Love, and golden gleams shot forth from her celestial form and wrapt it in a shining halo. She had the glorious eyes of blue he had seen several times before in vision and she regarded her companion with the utmost devotion. And from her blue eyes there shone forth a flame, which Ruru recognised as the reflection of the crimson fire of Love within her Soul. And she turned round and said to Ruru: "Red is the colour of affection, and Blue that of its highest Power; Devotion that is Immortal and Indelible." And she spoke with a voice in which perfume and sound were fused into an essence of the aroma that floats over the Gardens of Elysium, and sublime Mimes danced a fantastic nautch around the pair.
In his dream Ruru realised that the Hero represented himself, and that the Lady was She of the inspired moments when he saw the two eyes of blue.
A weird melody, like the cry of a strange bird, but sweet, sprang up from the Sarungi which was lying beside Ruru's bed, and it floated away tremblingly between the colonnaded trees of that wild forest, after quivering for a while in the tiny room. And the Sarungi's sympathetic strings hummed with ecstatic vibrations and resounded still when Ruru woke up with a shock of amazement, as if he had fallen from a great height; and he listened with breathless rapture to the echo of that ravishing chant, the picture of his dream still before his dazzled eyes; the tones of that flute-like voice still ringing in his ears. And sleep fled before him for the rest of that night, like the sand-demons of the desert fly before the hot wind.
He lay still upon his bed of leaves and concentrated his whole mind on that which he had seen. And words and sentences sprang up from out of the inner deeps of his consciousness; and they formed themselves in lines and verses such as he had never conceived before. They were like long rows of flowers, sweet perfumed with the music of that voice, and looked like vast battalions of melodies symphonious, which had taken shape as the incarnation of poetry in the form of living words, dressed in robes woven out of the blooms that grow in Indra's gardens; and every word a radiant Angel, each with the same sapphirine eyes as the Lady of his dream. And when the morning chased away the dark of night he rose from his couch and with feverish haste wrote down his poem, sublime, composed in lofty, subtle style.
And as he wrote, the Sarungi chanted madly, as if it were the voice of some amorous nymph, dressed in vernant beauty and flourishing as in Spring, calling for her Lord.
So Ruru wrote his masterpiece; all day, without a moment's rest or any food, and he felt like an omnific, all-creating God of Light and Colours, multitudinous, like interwoven rainbow arcs that crossed the blazing dome of sky like ultimate perfection of imagination. And in the subtleness of his magical Art he wrote those shining words as if they were spells, written in strange runes and unknown sigils—a conjuration of the greatest Powers.
And Lo! When at the fall of dusk the final word was writ, he gave a sigh and sank exhausted and unconscious on the grass—and slept the dreamless sleep of those who with a mighty effort have crowned the day with work well done and now are put to rest, safe under the Protection of that Holy Guide who—always by our side—is our refuge and safe security when, striving on the Path of Fate, we trust in Him, our OUTmost Glory, not within, whose Sacred Hand will lead us to the Gate of Sanctity and Transfiguration.
Next morn, when in the Eastern skies the vermeil-tinctured Sun rose up midst pearly clouds of beauty, Ruru awoke, and all the arborets, small trees and shrubs, the stately palms, and all the forest giants with their blossomed creepers were brilliant with the jewelled dews of dawn; and he stood up and stretched himself, still half asleep, and at his feet there lay the parchment-leaves containing his Great Poem.
Bedewed they were as with a thousand diamonds, and Ruru took them in the hut to wait until the Sun was high so that he could then spread them out to dry beneath the golden rays.
And later on, between the dawn and noon, he gathered all the parchment sheets and placed them in their proper sequence, and, after thanking the gods of inspiration with many a prayer for approval and protection, he found a little knoll within the wood, surrounded by an open space enclosed by lofty trees. He stood straight up upon its top and praised the Might of Brahmā with words of deepest reverence.
And as his voice rang out there peeped at him the tiny birds from branch and twig, and from between the age-old boles of noble trees and under fragrant bushes, the dwellers of the woods beheld with sparkling eyes the strange invader of their solitudes upon that hill. And then he took his Manuscript, and, like the Sages of the ancient times, saluted Nature's bounteous Hosts and poured in streams of living sound that spate of measured, lyric verse; the splendid blossoms of his genius.
His words winged forth most sweet in praise of Beauty and travelled far and wide upon the breeze. He floated in an ocean of rapture, carried along by the eloquence of his own discourse. And the fragrance of his Great Poem was wafted across the world like the wind diffuses the perfumes of the flowers; and as the poet read his story in a deep, melodious voice beneath the canopy of leaves overspreading the little hill within that forest, the birds and all the animals gathered above and around him in great circles and listened with tears in their glistening eyes. And glowing and glittering insects swept within the greenish atmosphere in zooming flight on swift, ecstatic wings. The trees did murmur softly amongst themselves and repeated the golden accents, disseminating them in ever widening rings in all directions, until the winds took up their utterance and carried it aloft, up to the Sphery Shells in which the Planets sail on godlike errands in nodical revolutions, until the trinial worlds of gods and men became aware that now a new and glorious star had risen on their firmaments, to bless with beauty their abodes and every zodiacal point.
A crown of golden light shone round the head of Ruru, when, like the High-Priest at the altar, he performed that Sacrament of Poesy. And as the wind caressed the swaying, swooning blooms, the Sarungi thrilled with supreme delight, and from its gold-brown bosom rose delicious sighs, adrift upon the cadence of the buoyant, rhythmic breeze.
Next: Chapter 15 — The Master
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