Chapter 20 — Golden Days
Thus have I heard:
THE next day Ruru conducted Māiāvatī to the loving embrace of her father. She returned from her exile like the orb of the Moon freed from its eclipse; and all was gladness at the Hermitage when in her sylvan, russet dress, wearing a wreath, like a nymph of the wilderness, she went about as on Deva feet that hardly seemed to touch the ground; each dainty step a blessing on the grass and flowers, and on the very earth and stones themselves as she floated softly along. And the limpid lustre of the lotus pool, the white and blue and golden plants within it, the surrounding trees: all seemed more glorious as her radiance was reflected in their beauty. Wherever she went there fluttered birds, like gems of emerald, ruby and turquoise, around her head, and doves sat on her shoulders; and the timid deer came from the forest and fed out of the lotus of her white hand, looking at the beauty of their benefactress in adoration with their great and lovely eyes which are like bottomless lakes, filled with mysterious lights and shades, as if they could behold the blest inhabitants of Swarga, Indra's Heaven. She was like the calyx of a fresh young flower, the splendour of her youthful womanhood ready to burst forth. She was of unimaginable sweetness and purity, and the nectar of her fragrance drew the black bees, and the butterflies so colourful who kissed her in passing and swooned with delight, as if she were a perfumed orchid from Paradise. She was like the incarnation of irresistible seduction, and the coarse bark garments she wore contrasted so utterly with the perfect symmetry of her figure that even the god of Love was not able to withstand the blue-lotus fire of her charms.
To Ruru it was the most wonderful time of his life, and, although Māiāvatī gave no sign—in the age-old manner of maidens—she shared his companionship with the same feelings.
They used to go for long walks together and discovered marvellous views, coloured by the magic of their mutual attraction, and they had many amusing and innocent adventures on the way when they beheld the joy of life of the creatures of the wilds. And before they set out she used to wait for him with her head bent a little to one side, like a honey-burdened flower on its slender stem; smiling the mysterious smile of dawning love.
"Oh, my dearest lady of the lovely blue eyes," exclaimed Ruru suddenly one day; "the marvel of your beauty has robbed me of my Soul and filled me with yourself, so that there is no room for more. I feel as if I have known you from all eternity, and for all eternity I am thine!"
She blushed crimson at his words and looked down in confusion.
"I worship the ambrosial lotuses of your feet," he continued, carried away on a wave of passionate love. "The turquoise nor the opal can match your peerless eyes. Crystal vases filled with Varuni's ruby wine and Hari's immortal draught, golden plates, laden with the fruit of the fair Pārijāta tree of Paradise, and all that you could wish for I would produce more rapidly than Krishna slew the savage bull Arishta. I would cloth you in silken dresses in colours like the diamond, the pearl, the sapphire, or any other gem, and in tissue like the silky gossamer of morning mists and gauzy clouds. I want to give you couches softer than the petal of a rose, scented with the perfume of the Moon, steeped in the ambrosial dews of celestial dreams; and every smile of your content would echo in my Soul like music of the Seraphs in Heaven, and every wish I could not fill a shadow on my heart!"
"I would not ask for all these things, nor want them," said Māiāvatī simply. "Alone with our love in a small hut, made of grass and bark and overhung with creepers, and for our food the fruit of the forest trees would be enough for me."
"Then you return my love for you?" cried Ruru in ecstasy, "and you will be my wife?"
"Yes," she murmured, looking steadfastly at him with her lotus eyes.
"Though the light of the Sun, the Moon, and all the Stars were quenched in the heavens," said Ruru fervently, "the Love my Soul holds for Thee shall ever blaze forth, my own Belovèd." And, answering his embrace, she kissed him with her bimba lips, and she said: "And when I become old and grey and wrinkled?"
"Then," said Ruru, "I shall love every wrinkle and each grey hair a thousand times more than your present loveliness; for you will always be the glory of my heart, my own sweet Lady—oh, adorable word—and your blue eyes will always be the blue of Heaven . . . which is you, and You, and always YOU; and nothing ever could surpass that You of you that's me, as I am You, mutually bound by five times eight sweet thongs of Love which nothing can ever unloose."
And his heart shook like an aspen leaf with the rapture of her dear smile.
"Why," continued Ruru, "has Destiny waited until now to show me your perfection, oh, Lady of my Visions and my Dreams? Your great blue eyes are full of Loyalty, and from them streams a glow of forthrightness and sincerity, and the bloom of chastity irradiates your lovely face." And he drew her towards him again, and their Souls blended in a kiss of Paradise upon their lips; mingling, so that even death could no more separate them, but for all Eternity they would be ONE.
"Oh, my Belovèd with the true eyes," murmured Māiāvatī, "I love you, and I adore you and I worship you so!"
"I have never lived until this moment," replied Ruru, "and all the rest is naught to me. I was an empty body which you have filled with your love. You give me Life, when once I longed for death; you are the pure white cloud of glory on my heaven and the jewelled Star on my forehead. You fill me with great waves of joy and delight, and my heart is like a sea of many colours—each wave a thought of love for you. I was asleep, but one blue glance from You has caused a glorious awakening. Oh, if I had only all the wealth in the world I would load you with jewels and build you a Palace of coloured marble and ebony and sandalwood, of silver and of gold; and though it would reach to heaven and cover all the earth it could not hold my worship for you, my dearest, sweetest Lady. Your Love is my Life, oh, gazelle-eyed one . . . even as water is the life of the lotus."
And Ruru was like a wick consumed in the flame of the Lamp of Love as Māiāvatī replied and he listened to the incomparable music of her sweet voice, and he felt as if he were submerged in an ocean of sparkling melody. The great red Moon was rising as if in a hurry to behold their happiness, and under his benevolent rays they strolled slowly back to the Hermitage, in front of which Narāda sat in deep meditation, as if his Soul had floated far away, high up to Heaven, in divine contemplation of scenes not for the rest of the world, but of his own domain.
Silently the lovers went indoors, fearing to disturb his visions, and whispered a soft good-night.
The next afternoon, towards the dusk, Ruru and Māiāvatī went up to the Master, hand in hand, and made their wishes known, asking for his consent and blessing.
"Sit down by me, dear children," said Narāda; "I am glad to consent and to bless that which has been destined from the beginnings of time. You are both of divine origin and have been sent into human incarnation for the purpose of becoming examples to mankind and to show it the way to the True Path; and this life is your final incarnation here. You, Ruru, know your good parents; they were entrusted with your early upbringing on account of the purity of their hearts and their simplicity of mind: which is true Wisdom. Before you came to earth this time you were already dwelling in the Heaven World, a Region that lies far away and is surrounded by golden flames. Before you two descended for the last time you had both to give your consent, for Māiāvatī was then already with you in that divine place, and you could have refused, both of you, and could have lived for all eternity together there; but if you had chosen that happy lot you could not have advanced any further. The Three Highest Regions would have remained closed to you both without your consent to this final Initiation and Sacrifice which you both will have to make . . . and rise above it in the glory of Fulfilment.
"For Māiāvatī I have no fears; but you, my Son, are of a very ardent temperament, and the struggle will be very hard. Dare you go forward, knowing this?
"You have already achieved the first great Step, when only courage and a pure heart were the two greatest essentials; but will you be brave enough to face bitter sorrow too?"
"I can but try, Master," replied Ruru, "and I hope that I shall be sustained then as I was during my Great Initiation." But he looked very thoughtful, and for a moment the icy hand of fear gripped his heart.
Narāda continued: "And now I will tell you both the history of Māiāvatī's birth, which she herself has never known: Listen!
"In the days of my youth I was a mighty hunter and master of archery, the same as Ruru, although he has never spoken to me about his skill with the bow. And one day there was a great contest, the prize being a king's only daughter. And all the princes and the famous archers of the neighbouring kingdoms, as well as those from far away lands, heard of the great trial of skill and its beautiful reward to the victor: for she was known to be the most glorious being in all the worlds; here, above and below.
"Her mother, who was a heavenly Apsaras, fell in love with the king when one day she beheld him in the power of his manhood, wrestling and overcoming a fierce tiger single-handed while she was roaming in the air above, had taken on human shape, and, when her daughter, the princess, was born she returned again to the divine worlds from which she had descended for a while.
"The child—Māiāvatī's mother—grew up into the most lovely young woman it is possible to imagine; combining in her form all the beauty of her mother and the strength and wisdom of her royal father, she became an incarnation of female seduction such as never had been seen before.
"And now she was ready to choose a husband, and her father, the king, urged her on to make the choice, thus avoiding bringing dishonour to his name, for an unmarried daughter who should be ready to meet her predestined mate but does not marry is as the shame of neglected ripe fruit in the Three Worlds.
"But the maiden had a strong will of her own and would not deign to look with the eyes of approval upon the many sons of kings who thronged her father's court, vying for her hand, considering them all as so much grass or fallen dried-up leaves on account of their lack of manly virtues: they having been brought up in the lap of luxury and used to soft living only, thus being quite unworthy of becoming the Lord and Master of the wilful beauty.
"And so she insisted that a great trial should be held; a festival of all that's fine and manly, and then she would reward him whom she considered most worthy and throw around his neck the garland.
"And when the day arrived there was such a meeting of mighty men as had never been seen before.
"And when she beheld that sturdy, puissant multitude she spoke and said that whoever should be able to bend the bow she had in her possession and speed the arrow into the heart of a huge and distant tree, so that it would pierce it from bark to bark, should receive his reward.
"And when I saw her in all her splendour I was wounded in the heart by the silent shaft of the flower-arrowed god of love.
"And first of all the princelings tried that great bow, but they failed, and the arrows fell feebly down but a few feet away from where they stood.
"And great was their anger in the humiliation of their princely pride, but the maiden only smiled and urged the famous archers to try in turn.
"But although some could bend the bow to half its depth and speed the arrow near its mark, none could even reach the tree, and all threw down the weapon and exclaimed: 'This is not a fair test, and the maiden is making sport of us and holding us up to ridicule in the eyes of the world, for only a mighty god could stretch that bow to the full, and then he might fail to pierce the tree!'
"And so they all tried, one after another, and all were found wanting in power, as if the whole world had become bankrupt of success in the manly arts, and a great and deep-voiced grumbling rose up from that host of valiant and vigorous men, for among them were to be seen the most strong, bold and able warriors and bowmen; many of great renown.
"But the maiden smiled only the more, for this was a scene after her own fierce and god-like nature, and, moreover, she had as yet seen none that appealed really to her womanhood.
"And her father, the king, began to wonder if he had been wise in granting his daughter her wish: for no ruler in the world can afford to offend the pride of his rival kings or his best marksmen and fighters, lest they should become the tools of Destiny and rend him in the end.
"At last I was the only one left and the very last of all those who had entered the competition, and when I stepped forward there were ironic cheers for I was utterly unknown to them, having come from a far distant land, and they said: 'Who is this presumptuous youth whom none of us ever saw before? And does he think in the foolishness of his ignorance that he will succeed where all the best of us have failed?'
"But the princess looked upon me with kindly eyes, for I was very fair to behold, and she said, 'Do not listen to these louts, oh young stranger, but speed the arrow to the mark, and may the Lord of Strength, He who overcomes all obstacles, aid you.'
"And when, amidst the deadly silence of that hostile assembly, I gripped the bow, her wish was answered, and lo! I bent it back till it was almost double, and the arrow flew forth with a loud and humming twang and found its mark, piercing that great tree, so far away, completely and falling unbroken another fifty lengths beyond.
"And then a shout went up from that warrior assemblage that shook the very heavens, and the princess came forward with shining eyes and threw over me the happy garland and the marriage cloak.
"And taking me by the hand she turned round to her father and said in her sweet but resonant voice: 'Here is my choice, oh king, and I will forthwith follow him wherever he chooses to lead, and you will never behold me again in this world.'
"And the king and his court, and all that multitude stood silent, smitten with wonder and stupefied with surprise when thus she declared her will as was her right; and, following two paces behind me, she left her royal home for ever and dwelt with me in the woods in utter happiness and love, baring her beauty like the lovely rose when at last we reached my distant home, becoming utterly mine for all Eternity.
"And she was like a heavenly nymph, fallen to earth to bless me, thus proving her divine descent. And we slept upon a couch of moss, and she was as sweet as a flower upon its bed of leaves, and in the pure waters of her Soul's desire dwelt Truth, Beauty and Love Divine, and she said to me one day: 'Oh, let my heart be enshrined in yours, and yours in mine for ever!'
"She was like a living bloom of female perfection, compared with the dead leaves of the rest of womankind. And it was the month of Chaitra, the month of Spring, when all of nature dons its marriage dress, and we were friends as well as lovers, like Kāma and Madhu, or Love and Spring, for Spring is ever Love's companion.
"And when I returned from the chase she came along to meet me, stepping daintily with her pearly-toed feet, and there bloomed a fairy rose upon her bosom; and she soothed my brow with a hand lighter than a snowflake.
"And sometimes, when she did not hear my steps, she lay curled in a bed of her own hair in a mossy dell, as if she were a wondrous pearl, dreaming of its own beauty in a vast oyster-shell, or like a foaming wave—suspended in mystic visions—motionless.
And all the past was swept into oblivion by one glance from the wonder of her lapis-lazulian and amazing eyes.
"And always she felt my presence; for there was ever a bond of magnetic power between the two of us which never failed to make us sense the nearness of each other, and when sometimes I crept silently behind her she jumped up with a glad little cry; for the true husband's presence is the true wife's heaven, for her only home is in the heart of her lord.
"And the unerring instinct of a woman knows in a flash who is her other half, far better than any man. Her mind retains the memories of past incarnations more easily as a rule, for her emotions are stronger and also more refined and wake the sleeping past to active life.
"Truly: Love is the greatest joy on earth and in Heaven!
"And then came the time when Māiāvatī was sent to us by the gods. But in giving us that happiness my wife was taken in exchange, and for me the world became filled with despair.
"Here was Māiāvatī born, and when the last rites were over I took our little daughter to some friends in the town near which you saw her first, my Son.
"And when she grew up she often came to visit me in my loneliness—which yet was filled with everlasting memories and tears.
"I thought: 'What was that unnameable spell that breathed from the essence of my dear one's Soul in smiles, and eyes, and voice; in sweetness indescribable from her fragrant body; intoxicating me with love and adoration and worship, and driving me to despair at its loss?'
"And then, when I was almost mad with grief and loneliness, there came one day a visitor; he whom you met at the Temple; that holy, kind and inspired Brāhman Priest who handed over my Treasure to you.
"A truly great Initiate, who talked to me about the Path and took me by the hand and helped me upwards until I too had my Initiation, like you, dear Son, and the silver petalled rose of my Higher Mind came to fuller bloom beneath the Sun of the white, flaming divine and holiest Lord of Illumination.
"And then came the glory of my first re-union with my beloved one, for I learnt to reach out to those sacred Regions where she waits for me; and at last she was granted the boon of visiting me, fully visible, as one night you saw in the olive grove. And henceforth I was content to wait in patience and bide my time until the real RE-UNION takes place, just as She waits for me in her flame-white dwelling-place in Paradise within the holy circle of the invisible Light."
After Narāda had finished his story, the Sun, seeing that there was no more to be told, set in splendour and went to rest, musing upon the divinity of true Love.
And Narāda with his two children went indoors; happy to be together in that peaceful home—blest by Her who shed upon it sacred Protection by day and night from her Retreat in Heaven.
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