Chapter 22 — The Final Test
Thus have I heard:
WHEN Ruru and Māiāvatī had furnished their permanent home and were installed within it like a pair of divine beings in a Heavenly Mansion, Ruru began his writings and teachings; and soon a great number of young disciples flocked to him, and the elect vied with each other to obtain possession of his poems and essays, for they were written in such an amazing and sublime style that the like of it had never been seen before.
And gold and jewels were showered upon him, so that one day he said to Māiāvatī: "It seems that in one respect the holy man who came to us when I was a little child was wrong, for behold: if this goes on—and I cannot see why it should not, since I have you always near me to give me inspiration—we shall be rich indeed in time. Not that I want any greater riches than your presence bestows upon me, my Belovèd, but I do not know how to prevent these treasures flowing towards us in an unending stream."
But Māiāvatī only smiled; for in her wisdom she used those riches to ease the lot of the poor and the sick, and the fame of her charities, generosity and goodness spread all over the Three Worlds, so that even the Angels and other divine Beings rejoiced and blest her.
And invitations came in from the king of that land and from the kings of other countries, offering rich appointments at their courts; but Ruru refused them all with delicately constructed phrases, for he was most unwilling to leave the haven of their lovely home, filled with happiness to overflowing.
And now he understood why Mahāsena had called his beloved the chosen Bride of Science, as was already indicated by her name, for she was ever quick to understand his teachings, like a sudden ray of sunlight illuminates a landscape, and she even gave wise hints about his work by means of cleverly raised questions; hints which he eagerly took up and expanded into glowing scenes, full of wisdom and splendour within his books and doctrines. She was his equal and superior—in every way, and the light that shone through her from the higher realms of inspiration mingled with his flame of genius, and all who read those twice inspired productions stood benumbed with wonder at beholding their lustre.
And she was ever about him, and, like the Guardian Angel he had once called her, protected him from all worldly annoyances, so that the torch of his poetic exaltation should always burn brightly with the sagacity that was theirs.
And so he illuminated the whole of that region with the joy-giving attributes of his accomplishments, as if he had descended from Heaven—as in reality he had, though none knew it except Narāda and his belovèd—surrounded by all its glory; or as if the Moon had come down to earth in order to give to mankind that superabundance of Light which it lacked before.
And when Māiāvatī returned one day from one of her errands of mercy, leaving him, as she thought, immersed in a new and grand conception of poetical beauty, he said to her: "When you are away I am like a diamond without its brilliance, for the light of your love reflects within me and awakens my Spirit."
"Nay, my Belovèd," replied Māiāvatī, "mystical intuition such as yours is the power of the gods in heaven, or like the gods come down to earth, in human form as Sages, Poets, Artists, and other inspired men."
"I think," said Ruru in turn, "that true love, such as ours, is a garland of ever blossoming flowers, perfuming all the spheres and lighting even Heaven with its rapture. Thus wise, and in no other way is real inspiration born."
From time to time they closed the house and went forth on an excursion to the Hermitage. And at night they sought a bed of moss, and, couched upon it amidst the flowers and the trees, they dreamt in each others' arms; and at noon they rested under the dark shades of some Kadamba tree with its sweet-smelling orange blossoms. And ever was Narāda full of joy when he beheld the happiness of his dear children, until one day he said: "I have received a visit from Her, and she tells me that the time is near when I shall rejoin her, to dwell together for all eternity in Paradise. Do not grieve for me when I am gone but be glad, for the time of waiting has been over long and is now coming to an end at last. Do not come here any more, for I shall soon be with my own Belovèd."
Ruru and Māiāvatī were stricken by the sadness of this sudden news, and it seemed to them as if a great light had gone out, leaving the world in shadow. Narāda saw their sorrow with pity in his heart and said: "Remember ever that here below all is illusion, a rather dreary dream, and that the true Actuality lies elsewhere in supreme delight. One day you two will have to face the journey also; but have no fears, for a steadfast and trusting heart is the attribute of the chosen of Light. And now . . . farewell; may the everlasting Blessings of the Heavenly Masters be yours and never fail; we shall meet again."
Silently the two turned away, and Narāda went to the olive grove to await the advent of the great Summons.
And when the two lovers were on the way back to their home of love and affection, fondness and delight, Ruru said: "Now that great Sage, Master and dear Father goes to his reward. We must not grieve for him, as he said, for if we did we should set up the wrong vibrations, which might retard him on his Way; and that would be selfishness, my dearest one."
And though Māiāvatī could not help being very silent, she agreed with her husband in her heart; and she and he were consoled by the Master's last words: "We shall meet again."
"Yes," she thought, "and not only shall we see him again, but we shall also meet our dear Mother, whom Ruru once beheld in her Heavenly robes, but whom I have never known."
And when they neared the city after three days they went to visit Mahāsena, and that wise one consoled the two still more and was glad for the sake of his friend who was now going to true Emancipation. He said: "Emancipation depends upon the Wisdom which the Gods place within our Higher Minds like a sacred Lamp, illuminating the world of dark ignorance if we are truly wise. Such has Narāda been blest with; may the same be said of the three of us."
And alluding to Māiāvatī's good works, he added: "A true woman sacrifices herself for those whom she loves—which are her nearest ones and those in need of tender care, whoever they are; or else she is not worthy of her sex." And he blessed them both.
So they returned home, and, obedient to the Master's words, they now thought of him as one who was dwelling in happiness with the Lady of his heart and mind and soul. And in order to overcome their sense of loss, Māiāvatī attended more than ever to her sick and needy dependants, ever praying for their welfare, and seeking out those who were too shy or sensitive to ask for help, for such are the most worthy.
And Ruru was immersed in divine composition, or else he stood before his circle of adoring pupils, who listened enraptured to the roseate Teachings flowing in masterly phrases from his smiling lips in deep and mellow tones.
When the two friends and lovers were alone the five arrows of the flowery god ever pierced their hearts anew, and they were lost in gazing within the deep pools of each other's eyes, beholding there the radiant Soul which looked through its transparent windows; and they were like two brilliant flames, rejoicing in the beauty they saw issuing from their inmost hearts.
"I can never become accustomed to the miracle of your love," said Ruru one day; "for I feel utterly unworthy of its wonder."
"My heart," replied Māiāvatī, "is full of you, Belovèd, like a cup which is filled to overflowing with aromatic wine, and it can hold no more." And from her hair there came a lovely scent, like that of vanilla mixed with a thousand nirvanic odours; and Ruru drank deep from its angelic nectar, which lulled his mind into celestial dreams.
"But," he said, like one who beholds a vision in which the Soul soars up to realms divine and floats amidst a gossamery, coloured haze, "if I laid upon the surface of that wine the petal of a rose, it would be like a sacred boat of worship, filled with the ambrosia of my adoration for Thee, my Belovèd, drifting upon that roseate sheet without spilling the cup's contents, yet adding to our love, as it were."
Thus the lovers poured out the vials of the wine of passionate affection, one upon the other; and ever did the Gods refill with efflorescent rapture their adularian goblets, set with rubicelle and sardius, amatrice and heliolite; and Time was not and Eternity stood still. And in the sky there could be heard the lyric voices of a host of Seraphs who sang like a flock of sweet-tongued birds, or sounded like the soft and mellow tones of a dulcet organ's voix celeste. And it was as if they drank from Fountains of dewy Light when they imbibed each other's radiance, their inner being sparkling like a mass of jewelled stars, shooting rays of happiness all round the circuits of the Æther that bear the worlds along upon their airy orbits. And each time Ruru beheld his Lady thus, there was enkindled within his Soul a blazing fire that rose to highest splendour; and he felt as magnificent as a golden eagle in strong-winged flight; majestic, and endowed with royal power, who soared in a heaven filled with rich and sonorous melody, impregnate with bliss most opulent, and unfathomable in its deep profundity. And as Māiāvatī returned his gaze, the two resembled a pair of Angels: lost in the adoration of their Deity . . . .
And then—without any warning—Māiāvatī, who had been standing behind Ruru, watching him at his work as usual and listening to that which he had written when he read out certain lines to her and asking for her opinion, suddenly sank down upon a couch and said faintly: "Oh, my darling, I feel so strange—what can it be?"
Ruru jumped up in dreadful alarm, and Narāda's words rushed into his mind like a thunderbolt from a sunny sky: 'Sacrifice which you both will have to make . . . and rise above it in the glory of fulfilment . . . the struggle will be very hard . . . . ' And he heard again the words of the stranger: 'Grief is the key of the Gods with which they unlock the portals of our Minds, so that we may behold the Higher things of the Spirit.'
"Oh, Holy Lords of Light and Life, have mercy on my belovèd," he prayed inwardly when he had reached her side and saw the ashen whiteness of that dear countenance. "My Belovèd, what is it?" he asked, hardly being able to speak.
"I do not know, my dearest, but I am so terrified," she sighed.
Trembling, and with awe-stricken mind he rushed into the servant quarters, ordering one of the chetis to run to the nearest doctor and bring him back at once. Hurrying back to Māiāvatī, he found her lying still, hardly breathing, soft moans escaping from her throat. Paralysed with dread he knelt beside her, holding her hands, not knowing what to do; all thinking power having deserted him with the sudden shock. Numbed with anguish he sat beside her, sending out appeals to help to all the gods he could remember, to the Master, to her Mother, utterly unnerved by an awful foreboding and by terror.
At last the doctor came hurrying in, but one look at Māiāvatī told him all, and he stood there, shaking his head.
"In the name of Mercy—do something," stammered Ruru.
"You must be brave, my poor friend," said the doctor; "there is nothing I can do."
At that moment Māiāvatī opened her eyes and whispered: "Farewell for a short time, my dearest husband; you have given me the most glorious happiness a woman has ever known; thank you for all your love and goodness to me. Do not despair, Belovèd, I will guard you on the Path without being seen. Endure for my sake and be brave; this is the Final Test." And giving a soft sigh she stopped breathing and was gone.
Ruru stood like one turned into a stone; unable to speak or move or think. Dry-eyed he looked down upon his Belovèd; and he stared with eyes that resembled deep pools, filled with the darkness of unutterable despair. And the memory of his former bliss shot into his heart like a searing flame. All he could do was to pray for sudden death, so that he could follow the Jewel of his mind at once; never to be parted again.
"What care I for the 'key of the gods' and their inept portals," he thought. "Who wants 'fulfilment' when the dearest one on earth has been snatched away by the cruel gods who are but a low mockery and a snare for fools!" And he cursed the Creators and all their works in the anguish of his unbearable torment. And with a hard and harsh voice he bade the doctor to make the necessary arrangements for the funeral of all his hopes and happiness; and turning away the women, who were too overcome with grief and surprise to resist him, he was left alone with his sweet bride—for such she had always remained to him—and he dressed her in the first soft silken dress she had worn on that unforgettable day of their first homecoming, and he bedecked her with all her mother's jewels and placed a mango-flower in her hair; closing the dear blue eyes for ever, and kissing her on the forehead for the last time. And he cut off a lock of his own hair and mingled it with hers, so that she should not be utterly alone on her last journey amidst the flames.
And when the bearers came to take her away, followed by a multitude of wailing women and crying men, he walked beside the bier, and when she was placed upon the pyre it was Ruru himself who applied the torch to the brands; and when the greedy flames roared up and howled and all her loveliness was destroyed for ever, he gave one great cry and fell like a tree struck by lightning. Unconscious he was carried home by friends and fell into such a raging fever that his life was despaired of by all. He was in such a fearful state of grief at his bereavement that his taper of life was almost melted by the fire of his agony. And in his feverish dreams he heard the Sarungi which rang and trembled with the slow-swaying motion of a sombre symphony of mournful sound. In the madness of his delirium he jumped from his couch, no one being able to restrain his giant strength of that moment, and he tore the poor Lute from the wall and smashed it in a thousand pieces. And with a loud cry its soul escaped from its devastated body and flew like a glittering meteor to Heaven to rejoin the Soul of its maker.
For three months Ruru lay waiting at the portals of death, but the time for release was not yet, and in spite of his fervent prayers for liberation he began to mend slowly, until came the day when he could stagger up once more and sit in silence in the empty rooms amid the ashes of his former bliss.
And he travelled through all the regions of the Three Worlds in the chariot of his mind, trying to find his darling; but nowhere was she to be seen, for she dwelt in a realm where his Self could find no entrance; being laden with sorrow it was dragged down, and the wings of his Spirit were powerless to carry him up. And when she did come down to watch Ruru and to bless and console him, vainly seeking to enter his mind, which was utterly confused and bewildered, chaotic and out of her grasp, he could not see her, and it was as if both were wrapped in a magic cloud which made her invisible to him and which her loving words could not pierce.
At times he felt a sudden warmth, and it seemed to him as if his sweetheart stood by his side and stroked his face and kissed his lips; but he put it all down to imagination, not realising that the love of a true woman will find a way to reach the object of her adoration and break through all the bars and walls of the material and the Spirit. But Ruru was utterly sick in mind and heart-broken, and his thought dwelt ever on the absence of Māiāvatī, thus making it impossible for him to feel or sense her presence; and he was like a garden, burnt up by the hot rays of the sun of grief: all its flowers dead and withered.
And he abstained from food and drink—unless he was forced by his attendants to take it—for he wished to follow his Belovèd by the same road along which she had passed, but he was too strong to die, and the gates of death remained mercilessly closed to him. Nor could he have died, for there were still many duties to be performed before he could hope for Freedom. He realised this dimly and continued to recover gradually; and in the mental stupor of his mind there rang at times the voice of his Master, but he could not grasp the words, as if only part of him were on earth and the rest in deep shadows elsewhere, ever seeking his Mate.
"Oh, alas," he sighed, "for that sweetness which has gone from earth and left it desolate and bare."
Roaming about his house, silent and alone, with head sunk on his breast, he looked down with sad, unseeing eyes, touching now a bracelet, then a shawl, a dead flower collected by her, or anything else that reminded him of her blue-eyed fairness; and there never passed across his face a smile, for the grey shadow of his dead love lay upon it, while her fragrance lingered in the air and tilled his mind with bitterness at its loss.
"Oh" thought he, "I would give all I have of mental gifts and worldly goods, even my place in Heaven, for but a single moment with my Belovèd in my arms. What is the use of life without her darling presence, or why cannot the curse of memory be lifted from me; remembrance that tortures me with the red-hot irons of the recollections of our lost delights? Where is now the nectar of our love? where are the days of happiness when we were bound by the flowery chains of mutual affection? I am sinking in the waters of loneliness like a shipwrecked, drowning sailor. Oh, let me drown too like that happy being who is now free from earthly woe!"
One day he heard a minstrel singing her favourite air, and blinding tears poured from Ruru's eyes, and like a madman he rushed out upon the frightened, innocent singer, driving him away with bitter curses. The nectarious arrow of the rose-winged god of love had turned into a poison-dart which like a cruel shaft pierced heart and mind.
And then he thought: "Oh, those golden memories!" And the grief-entangled casket of his mind was suddenly filled with jewels; and as he took out each gem with the loving hands of the spirit and lingered upon its perfection with the eye of reminiscence, his inner being shook with the pangs of utter torture. The words! The looks! The graceful movements! The dear companionship! The song of love within the melodious utterances of that silvery and golden voice, slightly husked with emotion when they were alone! The blending of their Souls in deepest comprehension of all that is great and good and beautiful; each memory a sparkling gem with a thousand facets, glittering in an aureate blaze of hallowed recollection! Oh, the dreadful pain of longing for his Lady . . . gone, Gone, GONE!! Thus he spent the time in suffering; and when he was well enough to go out again he wandered through the woods and fields and on the dusty roads; and all the rest of mankind appeared like a host of shadows: unsubstantial. And trees and flowers, beasts and birds, glorious dawns and Ra-souled sunsets were but the cruel weapons to remind him of his loss and stab his mind with wanton racks of woe. And he cried and cried as though he thus might dissolve himself in tears and be no more. And all the time the thousand loving names he had invented for his Mate—and hers for him—came in his mind, escaping from his lips in despair.
One day he called together all the servants and gave them gold and sent them away; for he could bear their sad faces no longer. And he sent out criers to all parts of the town and around it, beating their grumbling drums that mumbled, hummed and rumbled with muffled sobs beneath the tumbling sticks of their gruff tormentors who told the poor and sick and needy to come to Ruru's house the next morning. And when they came in ragged troops, with tears in their eyes, he divided amongst them all the rest of his money and possessions, and he told them it was the last gift from his belovèd and her farewell to them all.
And he told his weeping disciples that now his day of Teaching was done: for he himself stood in need of that which no man could supply, least of all himself—the Peace Within; and he listened to their sobs and pleadings with dry eyes and unmoved face and waved them all away.
And then he went indoors and made a heap of all his books and writings, and, setting fire to it he left the house never to return.
The only thing he saved was the ancient vessel Narāda had given him, and it was in his mind to go to the Temple and give it to Mahāsena, to be kept among the sacred furniture of that House of Worship. But when he arrived there, the ancient Priest was gone, for he too had heard the call and answered it, rising to those Heavenly Places for which Ruru longed in vain. And he turned away, leaving the vessel with Mahāsena's successor, and he went into the forest deeps, intending never to see the face of man again.
Next: the conclusion . . . Chapter 23 — Transfiguration
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