Chapter 15 — The Master
Thus have I heard:
THAT evening, when bright Diana was riding to the chase, attended by her silver courtiers, Ruru was sitting by his fire and thinking of his Poem, vainly seeking flaws in that great masterpiece inspired by the vision in his dream; and he thought: "Now, what shall I do? Never shall I surpass that which I wrote yesterday, when almost in a trance. What is the use of abiding here any longer? I will go and see what next the Fates may have to show."
And as he looked upon the orange flames, lo! they were limned with indigo, and in the centre of the fire he saw a face, divine, radiant with wisdom and love. And that holy countenance seemed to express encouragement, and in its eyes he read approval of his decision to resume the Quest. Rising to his feet, he bowed deeply and with profound respect, at which the flames leapt up like wild fire-sprites—and the supernatural appearance was gone.
So the next morning Ruru went forth again; his heart and mind eager with longing to see once more the Lady with those two blue eyes. She for whom his soul craved incessantly now: for was she not the inspiration of his most sublime creation?
Towards the evening he reached a great jungle, and he thought: "It is getting late; is there time to cross this wilderness, which may be full of snakes and tigers?"
But curiosity drove him on, as in the far distance he beheld great masses of dark trees which seemed to be part of another forest, and he said to himself: "I believe that I can reach that wood before nightfall, and if not: I'll find a place within the jungle where I can sleep. Are we not always in the protecting hands of the gods if we trust in their benevolence?"
So he entered the jungle, and, after he had penetrated its dense growth of bushes, small trees and knotted lianas, while several small animals scattered and fled at his disturbance of their quietude, he suddenly beheld a solitary figure, standing on one foot without movement as if in the act of taking a step forward he had unexpectedly become petrified. It was a begging monk who was dressed in black antelope skins; such a person as one often meets wandering about the cities in quest of alms. Ruru stopped in front of him and asked: "Why do you stand without moving on one foot in this jungle?"
The monk, after drawing back his soul from the regions where it had been roaming—as if to make up for his stationary position on earth—replied: "Because in that manner, and going also without food by way of penance, I shall attain to happiness in the end, for no other expedient presents itself to me. I also perform many other austerities in honour of the Gods."
"Do you think, then," said Ruru, "that the Gods will be pleased if you continue standing here on one foot? What sort of Gods are they and of what benefit is it to them?"
"That I do not know," replied the witless monk, "but they can see that at least I am willing and eager to serve and venerate them, and so they may relent towards me."
"It seems to me," said Ruru, "that there are other and better ways to honour the Gods. Let's sit down for a while and discuss the matter."
But the monk was not willing to listen to Ruru's suggestion; taking him in his ignorance for a demon who had taken human shape and was now trying to persuade him to desist from his austerities and so lose merit; and he looked at Ruru with distrust in his eyes. The latter could read quite easily what was going on in the mind of the penitent and he remarked banteringly: "And what do you think of the female sex, holy Sir; do you despise them on account of your austerities and merit?"
The monk was now certain that Ruru was an evil god in disguise and he answered curtly: "I do not hate or despise women, for I never even think of them."
"Oh, thou holy, virtuous monk," cried Ruru; "it is well said that he who forgets the weaker sex and turns to the exclusive contemplation of his utter purity of thinking, forsaking the flesh altogether, shall attain to that part of the Three Worlds where all beings are sexless and dwell in an eternity of complete oblivion. Do you not know," he continued, "that a man is but half a human being until he has found his other half who dwells somewhere within the Universe, awaiting the moment when he and she shall attain the fruit of their birth when the two halves come together and complete one another? Do you wish to condemn that other, and better, half of you to meet the same fate as that which is reserved for yourself if you continue with your selfish practices, so that she will have to go about in the Three Worlds in a state of complete distraction, wailing for her lord and wringing her hands in vain? Out upon you and your unenlightened and ill-natured imaginings!!"
The monk had listened to Ruru's outburst in extreme amazement, gaping at him like a fish who has suddenly been dragged out of his natural element and now dangles on the hook of Fate, thrown at him by a cunning and merciless fisherman. And Ruru was just as amazed himself, for he had always resisted the temptations which are the lot of all young men, and he had never held in his mind the thoughts to which he now gave utterance; at least, not consciously. But it now seemed to him as if two smiling blue eyes were looking at him from a distance and approved of what he had just said.
The monk, in his astonishment, had placed his other foot on the ground and said: "Truly, Sir, I have never thought of it in that way; perhaps you are right after all."
"I know I am," cried Ruru stoutly; "let us sit down and talk it over. But where?" he added, looking round for a suitable spot.
"I know a place," said the monk, "follow me and I will show you a cosy nook," and he limped a little further into the jungle—his leg being somewhat stiff on account of lack of exercise.
The 'cosy nook' proved to be the remains of an old temple, and he led Ruru into the ancient sacred abode of the Gods; and only just in time. The blue pinions of day had folded up and sank wearily to rest, and burdened clouds banked out the light of Moon and stars. A mighty wind rose up and tore in fury through the airy vaults above; the rain swept down in torrentine streams, and the jagged flash on flash of lightning struck the monarchs of the nearby forest, while thunder rolled and echoed in the distant rocky, giant hills. Outside the ruined temple—unseen—the black dwarf shrieked exultantly and leapt for very joy amidst the stunning clamour; for, unaware of his presence, Ruru and the black monk discoursed on . . . Love!
When morning broke the skies were clear again, and now the monk, who seemed more human after his conversation with Ruru, told him that on the site of the jungle stood once a great city; and acting as guide he showed him the old remains of the Temples, Palaces and dwelling places. What was its history? No man knew; but the souls of many dwelt in these ancient haunts and wandered in the labyrinths of memory upon the mouldering pavements at night in the light of Soma, mocking the lonely traveller with ghostly chuckles of derision. This the monk had witnessed many times; and in the distance lay the shadow of an ancient, battle-scarred citadel, forgotten by all, except by the spirits of the slain. There, also, within that wilderness lay the broken marmoreal pedestals and plinths of a once colossal Palace. There stood the fruitless, ruined altars, the fire of sacrifice long dead, the faltering lips of penitents long mute, the flame of worship borne off with the wind in incense-laden flight.
Ruru became very thoughtful when he beheld it all and mused: "Behold! All the Palaces and Temples of the mortals must fall down at last, and all inceptions terminate; all their coalitions end in liquidations; all human acts must disappear, as flowers on the fields decay and wither away like old, forgotten dreams. But thoughts remain! for they are of the spirit; and only that is permanent."
"But," observed the monk, "when I practise great austerities . . . is that not also of the spirit?"
"No," said Ruru with decision; "to stand on one foot and neglect the body, oh, worthy monk, is a double-edged sword of ridicule and sin. Ridiculous is he who by means of material and useless acts endeavours to penetrate the Spiritual Realms; and a sinner is he who neglects the body, built for him by the Gods, and lent to him as a dwelling-place for the mind for as long as that body lasts."
"And after that?" enquired the monk.
"What happens then I cannot tell you," said Ruru; "that is the reason why I am wandering about, so that, perchance, I may find the Master who will reveal to me all the secrets the mortal mind may know."
The monk pondered for a while and then remarked: "I have heard that within the depths of the forest you can see on the horizon, there lives a very holy Hermit who blesses with his presence every region where he dwells. Once he resided near a city I know, and the result was that it became a sanctified centre of learning as well as the habitation of material prosperity. It is said that his Wisdom has reached the sphinx-like mystery of highest Initiation and is now in the perfect state of being flawless. His name is Narāda, the holy Pilgrim."
"Ha!" exclaimed Ruru excitedly, "and have you ever met that holy man yourself?"
"I should not dare!" cried the monk. "I have been told that something emanates from him which keeps away all those who are not worthy, because they lack the necessary qualities of high intellect and spiritual unfoldment; and such a one as I am," he added sadly, "is entirely unworthy of coming into his presence."
"I should say, on the contrary," replied Ruru, "that your very humility would be a passport to his presence, so that you too could bask in the Sun of Wisdom of such a sacred Being."
"Never," ejaculated the monk. "I should die of fright if I saw him, and I will never even try. But you go to him; for I feel that there is that in you which will enable you to meet that holy hermit, and he may even answer you one or two questions if you ask him in the proper manner. Enter that forest, as I said, and follow the course of the Sun towards the West; you are sure to find him if it is so preordained."
Ruru thanked him and went eagerly in the direction he was told to go, not knowing what the future held in store for him in the way of highest elevation, greatest terror, unbelievable happiness, deepest sorrow, and finally a transmutation of all his inner being, leading to the Mountain of Bliss in Paradise. Thus he entered the verdured wood, singing with happiness, for did it not seem at last that he was on the way to the sublime Master he had been seeking all his life and now hoped to find there? Would he have gone forth so blithely if he had had but the faintest inkling of what awaited him? Who can tell? The mind of a man is an unsolvable mystery; especially to himself. The hand of Destiny was now about to raise the curtain, and the scene would be illuminated with an almost intolerable light. But Ruru did not know—or his steps might have faltered on the Path to true Wisdom even then; in spite of his courage and high resolve.
Is it not true that Destiny is in all things, although all things not enjoined by Destiny? And is it not true also that there is a freedom given to intelligent men which allows them the privilege to follow the path of Fate of their own will, instead of having to be dragged along it to their doom? With no thought about such things Ruru went forward—to the West—along the Path of the Sun!
And by his side there trotted the nocent, mischievous black dwarf, although he was invisible to Ruru at the present; and the dwarf grinned maliciously to himself, showing his projecting yellow fangs, his gluttonous fat body crossed in all directions with swollen veins, and looking more hideous than ever as he capered about on his crooked legs.
Thus do all humans enter incarnation on this earth: partly sanctified by the Soul, partly cursed by the lower instincts; and who shall say that he has definitely conquered the latter—unless he be a true Initiated Master?
For many days Ruru followed the Sun-Path to the West, until one afternoon he reached a large open space, just after a shower of rain had descended on the ever thirsty Indian earth. And in the azure chasm of the heavens trembled the multi-coloured rainbow. A bridge o'er which the Sons of Light proceed in steep ascent from Angelic Realms Divine to radiant Cosmic House of Logos—unbeholden.
"Ha!" thought Ruru, "an omen! Perchance my Quest is nearly over."
Poor Ruru; his Quest was only just commencing! The next day he became aware of a subtle change in the atmosphere; he sensed a new vibration such as he had never felt before. Within its case the Sarungi also seemed to respond, for Ruru could feel a soft trembling: as if a butterfly in ecstasy had found its perfect mate. And dulcet musical sighs proceeded from the case, like slender rays of light filtering through the green magic of an ocean of leaves, tremulous in a summer's breeze, causing thrills to course through Ruru's body, as if a tender hand, light as a snowflake, had stroked him softly. And there sounded a mystic rustling in the trees amid the utter silence, and the blossom-laden creepers had a different sheen, as if there were an inner glow concealed within their flowery hearts.
And as he went on it seemed to Ruru that he was wading through some clinging substance that impeded his progress. But still he went on, undaunted, although a queer presentiment caused his heart to throb painfully and he found a difficulty in breathing; just as if the air were more solid here than elsewhere.
And then he seemed to hear a voice in the distance, and it had the quality as if it were the voice of a huge bronze bell in which the maker had mixed gold and silver in large quantities when casting it. It was deep, but sonorous, and rang forth in such a manner that Ruru was utterly fascinated and awed, as if it had been the voice of a God, and even if he should have had to battle his way through a dense army of furious demons he would have answered the call of that sublime speaker's utterance.
And now the trees began to thin and more and more light penetrated everywhere; and he saw that there was an added lustre to the light, as if it shone forth from a higher realm. And then—without warning—he found himself at the very edge of the wood, and in front of him he saw a spectacle of the utmost splendour.
There lay a glittering pool from which thousands of lotuses gazed up to the face of a being who stood upon the silver surface and preached a holy sermon to the flowers and to a ring of rose-winged flamingos who stood in a circle round the pool and listened to the sacred words in respectful silence. From the gnostic lips of the hermit—for it was he—streamed strange orisons in honour of the Hidden Gods. He was surrounded by a golden halo with a rose-tinted, wide, and far-spreading fringe, and its inner part shone like the Sun, come down to earth out of sheer love for mankind. He stood there upon the water within a magic circle as it were; a circle of irresistible holiness which spread all around him like a gigantic aura, ending in manifold soft colours, issuing from the outer rosy fringe, as if they were mixed by the hands of the very gods to bewilder all living beings. And as he spoke his eyes gleamed like the great jewel on Vishnu's breast.
And as Ruru stood spellbound, looking and listening in unimaginable enthrallment, captivated and enslaved for ever, the Sarungi trembled with fairy melodies that soared out of its case and winged their way up to the sky in undulating waves of wondrous descantry.
And when the sermon was over, the hermit walked across the water without causing the slightest ripple and came straight to Ruru, who stood there, stiff like a statue and unable to move or speak. He saw that the hermit's only adornment was a rosary. His ears were white with age and his face was graven by Fate's steel, while the furrows of his ecstacies lay deep upon that divine countenance.
With the Eye of his Soul the Sage pierced the veils of Ruru's mind and said: "Only those whose minds are pure are equal to the labours of Renunciation.
"Canst thou open the secret door to the ten-fold Glory?
"Canst thou behold the sevenfold Star of green and keep thy vision?
"Canst thou bear the breathless Bliss of the Seventh Region?
"Canst thou balance the Seven Lights of the Cosmic Realms within thy Soul?"
"Nay, Master," murmured Ruru with the greatest humility; "I can do none of these things, and though I have searched for several years for my Master, now that I had hoped to find him I know that I am unworthy."
"But one thing," replied Narāda, "shows your heavenly descent, and that is that you have neither knelt nor bowed to me. It is only such that are worthy of being instructed in the Highest Wisdom," and he initiated Ruru with a sacramental kiss.
"Come with me," he said to Ruru.
The latter followed him like one who is lost in a dream of unbelievable beatitude and grandeur—speechless with amazement.
Presently they arrived at the tranquil Hermitage where the holy Muni dwelt amidst the beauties of nature. To behold him was like a sanctification of sight, and for miles around—as the monk had said—all beings, even the birds, animals and insects, abided in the sacred felicities created by the divine radiance of him who was like an incarnated form of angelic bliss; sent to earth by the Gods in order to bless all living beings and grant them the glories of Peace.
Before he entered, Narāda waved his hand and said: "Behold!" And in front of Ruru there rose up a huge crystal pillar, filled with living bees.
"What are those bees doing in this pillar?" asked Ruru.
"These bees," said Narāda, "are the souls of fierce warriors. They are imprisoned within that pillar at the behest of one of the gods and they will be released only when He sends them into human incarnation again on the Day when He decides to fight the demon armies and destroy them for ever.
"Then, each of these bees will become a great warrior once more, a general in charge of vast multitudes of fighting men, and all the legions, commanded by these bees, will issue forth and utterly uproot the evil forces who now hold most of mankind in thrall, ever whispering within their minds and urging them to deeds of lust and violence. So shall each man send forth the holy warrior that is the highest part of each, and kill, and ruthlessly destroy the lower, that takes the shape of that black dwarf you left behind in the forest a short while ago."
"Oh," said Ruru fervently, "if only I could scatter to the winds that foul tormentor I would, with gladness in my heart."
"You can and you will," said Narāda, "for even now he is lurking in that wood in a state of utter confusion, not having been able to believe for a single moment in his lack of wisdom, or even intelligence, that you could ever have succeeded in reaching me; for such vile things always judge the higher principles of man by their own low and loathsome standards." And the holy hermit led Ruru within.
Next: Chapter 16 — The Path
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