FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT 'THE PATH'
There is not a cloud in the sky; there is not a breath of wind; the sun is pouring down cruelly and relentlessly its hot rays; there is a mist caused by the heat, and I am alone on the road. On both sides of me there are fields melting into the far distant horizon; there is not a blade of grass that is green; there is not a flower breathing in this heartbroken country; everything is withered and parched; all crying with anguish of the untold and unutterable pain of ages. There is not a tree in the vast fields under whose shade a tender thing might grow up smiling, careless of the cruel sun. The very earth is cracked and gaping hopelessly with bared eyes at the pitiless sun.
The sky has lost its delicate blue and it is grey with the heat of many centuries. Those skies must have shed gentle rain, this very earth must have received it, those dead plants, those huddled up bushes, those withered blades of grass must once have quenched their thirst. They are all dead, dead beyond all thought of life. How many centuries ago the soothing drops of rain fell I cannot tell, nor can those hot stones remember when they were happy in the rain, nor those dead blades of grass when they were wet. Everything is dead, dead beyond hope. There is not a sound; awful and fearsome silence reigns. Now and then, there is a groan of immense pain as the earth cracks, and the dust goes up and comes down, lifeless.
Not a living thing breathes this stifling air; all things, once living, are now dead. The wide stream beside the road, which in former ages bubbled with mirth and laughter, satisfying many living things with its delicious cool waters, is now dead; the bed of the stream has forgotten when the waters used to flow over it, nor can those dead fish, whose bleached and delicate skeletons lie open to the blinding light, remember when they swam in couples exposing their exquisite, brilliant colours to the warm and life-giving sun. The fields are covered with the dead of many bygone ages, never can the dead vibrate again with the happy pulse of life. All is gone, all is spent, death has trapped in its cruel embrace all living things, all except me.
I am alone on the road, not a soul in front of me; there may be many behind me, but I do not desire to look back upon the horror of sufferings of the past. On either side of this long and what seems to be an interminable highway of my life, there is desolate waste ever beckoning me to join its miserable quietude - death. In front of me the path stretches mile after mile, year after year, century after century, white in the blazing, pitiless sun; the road ever mounts, in an imperceptible inclination. The whiteness of this weary path, with the glittering sun, makes me almost blind; look where I may to rest my tired eyes, there is everywhere that immense ocean of blinding light, blatant in its intensity.
The sun never goes to sleep but ruthlessly sheds his unwelcome and awful heat. The road is not all even, but, here and there, there are parts as smooth as a lake on a calm, peaceful day. This dreary path is even to the tread, but unexpectedly, like some unsatisfied storm, which suddenly bursts forth to triumph in its joy of destruction, the road is broken up and becomes merciless to the already bleeding feet. I cannot tell when it will again become smooth and encouraging; it may be at the next footstep, or after many years of toil and suffering. This bitter road cares not if it causes pain or pleasure; it is there for me to tread willingly or unwillingly. Who built this road of misfortune I cannot tell, nor can the road mention his name. It has existed for many centuries, nay for many millennia.
Nobody but me has trodden it; it has been cut out for me to walk alone. Companions, friends, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers have I had, but on this dreadful road they cannot exist. This path is like the jealous and exacting lover, hating his love to have other friends and other lovers. The road is my inexorable love, and it guards my love jealously, destroying all those who would accompany me or help me. Exacting in all things both small or great, it never releases me from its cruel, kind gaze. It embraces me with a strength that almost chokes me, and laughs with a knowing kindness as my feet bleed; I cannot go away from it, it is my constant and lonely love. I cannot look elsewhere but only at the long interminable path. At times it is neither kind nor unkind - indifferent as to whether I am happy or unhappy, whether I am in pain or in ecstasy, whether I am in profound sorrow or in deep adoration, indifferent to all things. It well knows that I cannot leave that enthralling path, nor can it depart from my sorrow-laden self. We are inseparable; it cannot exist without me nor I without it. We are one, yet I am different.
Like the smile of a sweet spring morn the path beckons me to walk on it, and like the angry and treacherous ocean it cheats me of my momentary happiness. It holds me as I fall, in blissful embrace, making me forget the sorrow and the suffering of the past, kissing me with the kiss of a tender and loving mother whose only thought is to protect, and when I am in complete oblivion and ecstasy as that of a man who has drunk deep at the fountain of supreme happiness, it wakes me with a rude shock from my happy and ephemeral dream and pushes me roughly to my aching feet.
Cruel and kind is my lonesome friend and lover, unexpected in her hard tyranny and in her delicious love. Does she like me, I do not care; does she dislike me, I do not care, but she is my only companion, nor do I desire any other.
The sun is scorching me and the path makes me bleed. I leave no footprints on that hard road nor do I see the traces of any human being. So I am the only lover my path has had and I glory in my exclusiveness and separateness. I suffer unlike others, am happy unlike others, and my obstinacy in loving her is unlike any other lover the world has ever seen. I am breathless in my adoration of her, and no other worshipper can ever lay his sacrifice at her feet with greater willingness and with greater enthusiasm than I can.
There is no follower with greater fanaticism; nor can there exist a greater devotee. Her cruelty only makes me love her more, and her kindness binds me closer and everlastingly to her. We live for each other and I alone can see her dear face, I alone can kiss her hand. No other lover has she besides me, no other friend. As the young bird that bursts forth from its restraining nest with its untried wings to enjoy the freedom and the beauty of the great world, so have I rushed forward on this path to enjoy the exhilaration of loving her in solitude away from others who might dare to look on her beauteous face.
Many winds of many seasons have battered me, like a dead leaf blown hither and thither by autumnal winds, but I always have wandered back to this enticing path. Like a wave glittering in the hot ceaseless sunshine have I been dancing to the fierce winds; like a desert which is bound by no mountain, have I lain open to the sun; like the sands of the ocean, have my lives been. Never a peaceful rest, never has contentment filled my soul, never has joy penetrated my very being and never have I been comforted. No smile has ever compensated my longing; no face, sweet and gentle, has brought balm to my aching heart; no kind words have allayed my infinite suffering.
Neither the love of the mother nor the wife nor the child has ever quenched my burning love; but all have deserted me and I have abandoned them all. Like some leprous thing have I wandered, alone and unwept for. Pain and sorrow have been my eternal and inseparable companions. Like a shadow has my grief clung to me; like one in everlasting pain have I wept bitter tears.
Many a time have I longed for death and complete oblivion and neither has been granted to me; many a time have I looked death in its horrible face, tearing my heart and welcoming joyously the terror of so many, but it smiled and gave me a blessing; many a time, tired of wooing death, have I turned my face and footsteps to the altar of love and worship, but little comfort have I found; many a sacrifice, both of myself and of others, have I made in the hope of reaching the altar of contentment, but in vain; many a time have I dwelt in breathless adoration, but, like the scent of a delicately perfumed flower, has my adoration been wafted through centuries and left me listless, and still on my aching knees; many a time have I laid fragrant flowers at sacred feet, and no blessing have I received.
Many a time have I offered to the numerous Gods of many lands and races, but the Gods have always been silent and Their look always averted; many a time have I been Their priest in Their sacred temples but the white robes have fallen off me and left me naked to the sun; many a holy lotus of the temple have I kissed in adoration of the Gods, but the lotus has withered in my hand. Many a time have I worshipped at the altars that the world has ever created, but with bowed head and silent have I returned.
Many ceremonies have I performed, but my longing has never been satisfied; many rites have I delighted in, but there has been no joy, no hope. In many a temple have I been consecrated, but have received no comfort. Many a sacred book have I read, but knowledge was denied to me. Many a life have I spent in holiness, but my life has been dark. Many a window have I opened to gaze at the stars, but they parted not with their profound wisdom. Often have I lain awake looking into nothingness, looking for light, but darkness, intense darkness has ever reigned.
Often, in many lives, have I deliberately followed, sometimes blindly, sometimes with open eyes, the humble teachers of the secluded village, but their teachings have left me at the foot of the lonesome hill. I have lived nobly and toiled laboriously; I have restrained myself and I have been without restraint. Often have I cried, with aching heart and with bitter tears for the Divine Hand to lead me, but no hand has aided me. I have struggled fiercely with humanity to gain the light, but the light and the humanity have I lost. I have meditated profoundly with eyes fixed on the goal, controlling all my emotions, searching for truth; but nothing was revealed to me.
Many a time have I sought seclusion from my noisy brethren and tried to escape from their petty and ignoble thoughts and worries, from their false and uncouth emotions, from their little miseries and sorrows which they have created for themselves, from their cruel hate and their infantile pity, from their puerile affection and their fleeting compassion, from their unfair gossip and from their warm and selfish friendship, from their bitter quarrels and their loud rejoicings, from their vindictive anger and their soft love, from their talk of great things which they know not of, and their knowledge of the little things which they know so well, from their showering honours and their withering scorn, from their gross flattery and their obvious contumely, from their love desires and their petty aversions, from all that was human, and longing for all that was divine, noble and great; but wheresoever I have been, and wheresoever I go, humanity with its terrible agonies and crying pain has pursued me.
Many a time I sought seclusion and solitude in the forest glade dim and peaceful, but I found it peopled with my thoughts and haunted with misery. Many a time have I thrilled at the beauty of the world, the soft spring and the harsh winter, the calm and glorious sunset and the heavenly and luminous stars, the waking morn and the dying evening, the tender moon and the soft light, the pitiless sun and the shadows numberless, the green grass, the velvety leaf, the fierce tiger, the gentle deer, the loathsome reptile, the dignified elephant, the magnificent mountains, the boisterous seas. I have enjoyed to the full the beauties that the world can give, but no joy have I found in them. I have wandered in the shady valleys and climbed the precipitous mountains. I have searched everywhere in vain and in pain.
Many a time, in many a life, have I practiced Yoga through starvation, through physical torture, through self-denial, but I have not seen the seated God. Desires and false emotions have I annihilated; I have lived purely according to the sacred laws of many nations, I have done noble deeds which the world has praised and honoured, and it has showered me with earthly glories. I have never bowed my bleeding head to sorrow nor to temptation, and I have made pilgrimages to the earth's heavenly abodes; but always and everywhere have I found no true and lasting comfort.
Visions have I had in the temples of Nineveh, Babylon, Egypt, and in the sacred temples of holy India; their Gods have I worshipped, denying earthly happiness, renouncing father, mother, wife and child, offering sacrifices great and small, noble and petty, sacrificing my body and my very soul for the light to guide me; contentment has been denied me in all things I have done.
I have loved divinely, I have suffered nobly, I have smiled joyously, I have danced rapturously in front of many Gods, I have been intoxicated with divinity, I have longed to be freed from this aching world. I have helped many though helping I needed most; I have healed many though healing I needed most; I have guided many though guidance I needed most; I have comforted when comfort I needed most. When in deep sorrow I have smiled, when joyous, I have grieved; losing, I was happy; gaining, I was miserable; and ever have I loved my God.
Yet my soul is in utter chaos, yet I am pitiably blind, surrounded by darkness and unrealities, yet the pure light is denied me, yet healing comfort have I none, yet soothing contentment is withheld, yet blissful happiness is nowhere to be found, and I am alone, lonely as a fair wanderer in the sky. I am alone with myself.
Tired of worship and adoration, tired of solitude and loneliness, tired of seeking and longing for divine happiness, tired of sacrifice and self-mortification, tired of searching for the light and the truth, tired of being noble and unselfish, tired of the struggle and the steep climb, tired of body and soul, I threw myself with a vigour and an uproar on to the material world, hoping thus to gain the ungainable and unfathomable.
I became young and healthy, beautiful and passionate, free and joyous, gay with not a thought for the morrow, carefree and careless. I set about diligently and systematically to enjoy myself supremely and selfishly, heeding nothing but bodily pleasure and flashes of mental enjoyment. I set about to gain and to taste every experience both low and high that the mortal world could give me; nothing could be withheld from me, supreme pleasure was my sole aim.
Often I was born rich to sleep in the lap of luxury and to enjoy the lull of flattery. Youth was on my side and beauty was not denied to me; with these two the world and its gross and unappetizing pleasures were ever open to me. Foremost in all that was boisterous and lively was I; the untold pleasures of youth had I from morning till night, nay till gentle dawn appeared in the dim east, surrounded by licentious youth. I was foremost in gaiety, no rival could I find in my extremes. The pleasures of bright Nineveh, of gay Babylon, of wondrous Egypt and sunburnt India, were ever at my call. I was showered with their honours, with their praise and their flattery. I drank deep the wine of merriment at the fountain of gaiety and satisfaction.
Slaves and servants had I many, but never a master, not one. Desires, springing up like the glorious flowers of the tender spring, were immediately satisfied, never was there a curb to my whims and caprices. No sooner was there a thought of enjoyment, it was fulfilled at the next pleasurable moment. Love, of all kinds, was ever at my elbow; no pure thing was safe from me. I desecrated all chastity, scoffing at the high gods, spurning the humbly faithful of the human race. Rich and fragrant wine was always beside me with a slave to hand it to me.
Surfeited with the throbs of gratification of man, in all the civilized countries, among all refined nations and races, I incarnated as a woman to relish the delicate raptures of being loved by passionate men. Never was I satisfied with the monotony of one lover and the love of one wooer, but many and innumerable adorers had I at my window. Languishing in my love, clamouring for more, I passed my life. All the sufferings of child-bearing, the joys of having a child, the grief of losing one, the pains and sorrows of old age and the neglect and indifference of former lovers, have I experienced, and have gloated over past memories, and cried over long lost admirers.
Many a life, tired of licentious and free-loving woman, I became a sacred wife and gained the happiness of pure love. Children have I borne with pleasure and there never stirred in my heart, as of yore, the hate of suffering when I brought forth to the world an innocent being. The tender love of clinging children, their innocent smiles, their little sorrows and pains, their pure hearts, their dear and holy kisses, their delicate embraces, have I enjoyed, and have been thrilled at their welcome.
A loving wife, a tender mother I became, and gloried in the feelings of love. Having gained that experience of womanhood, I turned once more to the free man with strong and brutal emotions. Passion rent my heart and I lay in the lap of luxury forgetful of sorrow and pain, oblivious to the suffering of any creature. I lived a life of selfish enjoyment, rich in gross experiences, wealthy in mortal pleasures, and the material world withheld nothing from me.
But there was no satisfaction, no contentment, no blissful happiness, and my heart was as bare and desolate as the waste desert with no living thing to give beauty and rapture to it.
I had tasted the wealth of the worlds, and I became a poor man, a beggar, wandering from house to house, denied and cursed at, dirty, tired, ugly, hideous in my own eyes, laughed and pointed at, hungry, fatherless, motherless, with no woman who dared to touch me, pitiable, riddled with known and unknown diseases, with bleeding feet; with a dirty sackcloth on my shoulders which served me as a robe on festal days, as a blanket when the cool night breezes blew, as a headgear when the blazing sun shone pitiless on my dirty head; and with a worn staff in my hand have I wandered through the rich and inhospitable streets of many nations. The wealthy shopkeepers welcomed me, each and all, when I was born in their gorgeous cities, with a curse and a howl, with a hit and a kick; I was chased by men and savage dogs.
With faces averted the people passed, and their hands withheld the comfort which lay in their power to give. The villages and towns were alike; pitiless and with a hard heart the peoples of all nations passed me by. My bedchamber was some desolate and lonesome spot where no man or animal dared to come, loathing to breathe such foul air. Hunger always gnawing at my stomach, heat of the sun always burning me, cold winds of the north always biting me, frosts withering me, shivering with ague and pain, tottering with weariness, eaten by disease, have I wandered all over the earth, never meeting a smile, never a kind word, never a loving look.
The dogs were happy; they were fed, they had someone to pet them, to comfort and care for them; but even the dogs howled at me. No house ever opened its door to my occasional knock; the holy priests chased me from their sacred temples. Children, stricken with horror, stopped crying when they beheld me. Mothers have held their infants closer at the distant sight of me, rushing with a shriek into their protecting homes. I seemed to spread pestilence and unhappiness; the very heavens clouded. The rivers dried up at my approach, as I went to quench my thirst; the trees gave me no fruit; the earth quaked at my advance and the stars disappeared at the sight of my unfortunate being. No gentle rain fell on my head, cleansing my impurities.
Thus for many generations, among various nations, among strange people, alone and unhappy, like a lone cloud that hangs over the vale and the hill, that is chased and harried by wanton winds, have I wandered, miserable and loathed.
Shelter and physical comfort have I not found for many ages; weary of body and desolate of soul, hunted like some vicious animal, have I sought seclusion, and in solitude, alas! misery ever dwelt with me. Like a dead leaf that is crushed by many a foot, have I suffered within this cruel and gruesome abode of the flesh, poor and dirty, without love and without hate, with complete indifference as to sorrow or pain, void of intelligence, famished and thirsty, all the glorious emotions that once kindled my heart dead for many an age. Blind of hope, despairing of my existence, crawling from human sight, detested and loathed by the youngest of humanity, have I sought, through this agony and through this interminable sorrow, through this torture of the physical body and through the privation of the soul, through this degradation and horror - crying and in eternal pain, for that light, for that comfort and for that happiness which was denied to me when sunk in gross riches, when wallowing in selfish contentment and caring for nothing except for my crude pleasures, which was withheld from me also when I attempted to lead the pure and noble life.
For when I worshipped and dwelt in pure adoration, when life was a continual self-denial and self-mortification, when sin was abhorred by me, when, with head erect, I gazed always into the dim future for truth, when there was so much light around me, and yet profound and dismal darkness within me, when I loved purely and longed nobly, when I was thrilled at the simple name of God; in those lives of temple piety and harmlessness, no blissful contentment could I find.
Many and varied were my experiences, thoughts and emotions; innumerable passions, bestial and noble, fine sympathies and great loves; many a love, pure and selfish, many shades of gratification and fine and glorious feelings, much high intelligence and low cunning have I known; through many ages and through many centuries, through different nations and races, through every capacity, have I passed and gained the knowledge that the world can give to one who seeks and suffers.
Yet where is that light which sages have seen, that truth which conquers all unrealities, that compassion which heals all suffering, that blissful contentment which brings eternal happiness to the sorrow stricken soul and that wisdom which guides the aching humanity? Wheresoever I have been, wheresoever I have groped, I have returned with an empty hand and grieving heart. Like an erring child that strays from its beloved mother, have I wandered far into the realms of despair and unrealities seeking the great reality, far from the lonely road have I departed in quest of that unconquerable longing and that unquenchable thirst; but I have been burnt with anguish, and with drooping head have I returned.
No satisfaction or gratification have I found either amidst warring humanity or away from the madding crowd; happy or unhappy, elevated or degraded, in pain or in pleasure, there has always dwelt with me, like the dark shadow, a deep void which nothing could fill, an infinite longing which could not be satisfied; I have wandered blindly and wearily, asking every passer-by for that balm which would cure my aching heart; they gave of their best with a gentle smile and a blessing, but did not further my long quest. Where is that light and where is that infinite happiness?
I am tired, tired with the wanderings of innumerable ages; I am weary, weary with the fatigue of many centuries; I am exhausted from lack of strength to struggle and to fight. My feet falter at each footstep; I can scarce drag myself along; I am almost blind with long and continuous use of my eyes through interminable eras; I am hairless, haggard and old. Pride and youth have gone from me; I am bent double with the weight and sorrow of my infinite pain; beauty, of which I once clamorously boasted, has deserted me and left me a monstrous horror. What has passed and what has been wrought through those long and insufferable years is beyond my memory, and my indifference is complete.
I am desireless; no passion sways me; no affections tear me; emotions have lost their ancient and all-powerful influence over me; tender love is behind me far back in the distance; the exhilaration of action has been killed out of me; ambition, that spurs so many, either bringing laurels or dishonor, glory or shame, is buried in the distant past; pride that holds its head high amidst turmoil of noble and ignoble deeds, is vanished, never to reappear; fear, that overwhelms and holds men in thrall, is crushed; gruesome death, the awful and impartial companion of all, can no longer dismay me with its threatening stare. Yet there is a deep void of discontent and an everlasting longing for the almost unattainable.
Can I ever reach the mountain top of blissful contentment and grasp the supreme happiness? Oh! Mighty Beings, have compassion on the lonely traveller who has voyaged through many stormy seas, travelled through many lands and passed through many sorrows! I am alone - come to my help you pitying and happy Beings! I have worshipped You, I have adored You, I have offered many a sacrifice at Your altars, and much have I endured to kiss Your sacred feet. Comfort me, Ye Masters of Wisdom, with those eyes of love and understanding. What have I done, and what must I do to reach the glory and the greatness? How long must this pitiable condition last? How long, oh Master, ere I behold Thy sacred beauty? How long must I walk on this long and lonely path? Is there an end to this interminable agony which burneth the very love for Thee? Why hast Thou turned away Thy rapturous face, and whither has gone that beatific smile that allays all suffering in all things?
I have served the Great Ones and the needy world in a humble and despairing way; I have loved in a blind fashion all things, both small and great, and I have drunk at all the fountains of earthly wisdom. Never have I reached Thy feet. Like a glorious flower that has withered, that has lost its fragrance, its beauty and its tenderness, is the existence of my life; cheerless and desolate, like a dead tree that gives no cool shade to the weary traveler, I have given all, withholding nothing, and empty and hopeless have I remained. I have led the blind and the sorrow-stricken, myself being blind and sorrow-stricken. Why hast Thou not stretched Thy helping hand when I have stumbled? I am weary with asking; I have no hope; all seems to be dead, and utter darkness prevails. No tears fall, but yet I am crying, crying in infinite pain. No passer-by can help me in my pitiable plight, for there is no one but me on this long, long path that winds about like a mighty stream without a beginning and without an end. Desperate, like a madman, I wander on, knowing not whither to go, nor caring what becomes of me. The sun can no longer burn me. I am burnt to the very bone. Like a vast ocean which is boundless, is the glaring whiteness that surrounds me on all sides, and I can scarce distinguish the path which leads me to my ultimate happiness. Everything is left behind me: my companions, my friends and my love - I am desperately lonely.
Oh! Master of Compassion, come to my rescue and lead me out of this profound darkness to pure light, and to the haven of immortality, and to the peaceful enlightenment. I seek the pure enlightenment that few Great Beings have attained. I seek the high Deliverer who will free me from this wheel of birth and death. I seek the Brother that will share with me His divine wisdom; I seek the Lover that will comfort me; I seek to lay my weary head in the lap of Compassion; I seek the Friend that will guide me; I seek to take refuge in the Light.
The path gives no answer to my desperate calling; the cruel skies look down on me with complete indifference; the comforting echo does not exist, nor is there the dismal moan of many winds. profound silence reigns, save for the monotonous sound of slow breathing and the dragging of weary footsteps. There is no peace; there is a movement of thousands of invisible beings around me, as though they were mocking at my solitary suffering. The expectant hush that comes before a storm is my sole companion; only the annihilation of centuries replies to my continuous entreaties; isolation is complete and cruel.
The path no longer speaks to me as of ancient days when she used to point out the right and the wrong, the true from the false, the essential from the unessential, the great from the petty. Now she is as silent as the grave. She has shown me a part of the way; but the rest I must tread by myself, before this beloved path must be left behind when I reach the mightier and more glorious path. She cannot enter there, she cannot be the signpost as of yore, but let me be satisfied with the thought of her guidance through many epochs and storms to that everlasting resting place.
The path lies in front of me, gently and imperceptibly climbing, with never a curve and not a thing to obstruct its gentle slope. Like some gigantic snake, whose head and tail are unapproachable, whose eyes cannot perceive the end of its being, that lays itself in warm sand, heavy with killing, sleepy and contented, is the silent path.
It appears to be breathing and sighing with some quiet and happy satisfaction, but now the sun steadily pours down his burning rays and drives away all thought from my mind. My only longing is to find some delightful cool shade where I could rest my weary body for a while; but an irresistible force pushes me and urges me on, never allowing me any respite. That power impels me to go forward with faltering footsteps. I cannot resist it. I am weak and exhausted, but I obey that eternal and powerful compelling. I take a step, totter and fall, like a swift bird that is wounded by the cruel arrow; I struggle and become unconscious. Slowly and wearily I wake up and gaze at the naked and bright heavens, and I desire to lie and rest where I am; but that mighty force pushes me onto my feet, as of yore, to walk on the neverending path.
Lo, there is a solitary tree, many feet away, whose delicious shadow welcomes me. The leaves are tender, velvety, and fresh, as though the sudden healing breath of spring had but lately awakened the dead branches to joyous life and to delicate green foliage. Its shadow is thick, shutting out the searching sun. The fresh fragrant grass and the protecting tree smile with contentment on me, inviting me to share their happy abode. It is full of birds, joyous in their continuous chatter, calling to each other in playful tones. With failing strength I drag myself to enjoy the rare gift which the kind gods have granted to me.
As I with pain approach, the whole tree bends down welcoming me, giving some of its vital strength; I crawl under its fragrant and whisper- ing shadow and gaze wearily into its cool depths. Sleep and exhaustion overcome me; I am asleep, lulled by the welcome twitterings of many birds and the gentle rustle of many leaves. I rest through happy moments of complete oblivion of all suffering and pain, and the ache of many ages. Might I lie here, always, in this soft light, soothed by the murmurings of living things, unruffled by inner and outer storms! Glorious would it be to lie everlastingly here and sleep, sleep, sleep.....
I am burning, the sun is viciously glaring on me, revengeful of my momentary happiness. Where is my beloved tree and where are those happy birds with their happy song? Gaze as I may, nowhere can I find the tree of happiness. Gone, gone, and I am alone once again. Was it a dream? Was it the ancient unreality, taking a form that would give sure delight? Was it the pity of some kind God, or the cruel sport of a God unkind? Was it the great promise of the future? Or was it that some mighty Being desired to test the strength of my forbearance? Many vanishing realities have I followed only to hear their merciless laughter when I have grasped them; but here I thought that I was safe from their old and bitter sway, their barbarous persecution when I sought the lasting - the real. They have, then, pursued me even into this far and lonely place? With infinite caution have I learned to disentangle the real from the false, and when I thought I had mastered the supreme art, must I begin again at the bottom of the difficult ladder?
When I commenced this path in the bygone ages, there was a firmness in my tread; now again decision rules my steps, a new enthusiasm is born in me, as of yore, when before the many sufferings and many sorrows I was eager to face the unknown, and anxious to test my strength against the unweary path. The joy of struggle is surging up in me to conquer the mighty and immortal happiness. The path with its great force need no longer impel me forward; I run faster, nor do my feet falter. I no longer lag behind. I am the Master of the path. No longer need it spur me to act, for I am action; I am willing and I walk in freedom.
The path stretches mile upon mile, age upon age; steeper than of yore, narrower, more strenuous, the way winds precipitously, leaving behind the country of the past. Far below me lies the land of desolation and of immense sorrow, where Unreality, in many shapes and in many a guise, rules the great stricken dominions. Here, at this altitude, there reigns complete silence; the silence smiles on me; but as I walk unceasingly on this mountainous way, the recent joy is dead again, my weary feet falter as of old, and I long for that beloved tree which shared with me its happy shade and the soft wooing songs of the innumerable birds. That phantom tree gave me but the happiness of a fleeting moment, and yet I was gratified with that temporary joy. I beseech the same God who extended his fitful compassion over me, to grant me but a moment of shade, the happy song to lull the aching heart, and the companionship. If it was a dream of fantasy, let me once more embrace it and cling to it even though it be for a brief space! Though ephemeral was the taste of that momentary pleasure, grateful was the rest in the deep, cool shadows.
Where art thou, my beloved, glorious unreality though thou be? Hast thou forgotten the weary traveler who sheltered in thy calm shade? Though thou hast been a false comfort, yet how I crave for thee, to sink once more in thy soft arms, forgetting all but my delicious comfort. Grant me thyself but this once, and I shall be thy love everlasting. I am weary; come to my aid, my beloved, with thy transient beauty. Lull me with thy false murmurings, and encourage me with thy untrue flattery. I am spent with beseeching and exhausted with weariness, and I am in utter despair.
Far in the distance, there is a clump of trees surrounding a gay house, with a sweet and fragrant garden. I am in it enjoying the cool, and the bewitching smiles of many a beauteous maiden. I join in their fresh laughter and in their merry-making. Their pleasure-laden voices soothe me and the soft music lulls me to sleep. Here there is peace and quietness and complete forgetfulness. I am happy and contented, for in this abode of pleasure is the joy for which I have searched through innumerable ages; reality cannot exist but here. Am I not satisfied? Am I not surrounded by all that I desire? Why did I endure, why did I struggle? For here is balm to the aching heart and comfort to the comfortless.
How long, or how many ages, or how many days, I have dwelt in this pleasurable abode, I cannot tell; nor can I count the happy hours that have been spent here. Once again the unquenchable longing is stirring in the depths of my heart; it has awakened anew and tortures me. I cannot rest in this house of gratification; the contentment which it promised has not been given to me; there is no happiness, no comfort within its walls. I have been deceived with unrealities; I have feasted on untruth; I have been guided by the light of false reason, and I have worshipped, as of yore, at the temple of darkness. I have cheated myself with the temporary and the impermanent; after many ages and much pain have I once again fallen a victim to the mocking gods. Again must I wander forth; again must I face the unyielding path.
Once more I am in the blazing sun, once more do I feel the strength to face the long journey. Fresh enthusiasm and fresh hopes are surging in me; courage is born anew. The path of many ages smiles on me, promising once more to be the passage of light. Like a mighty tree that has bowed down before the stormy winds, but reasserts itself when they are stilled, and gazes again, with head erect, into the unfathomable skies, defiant and sparkling in the sun, so do I feel. Once more the joy of loneliness is pulsating through all my being, and the solitude, away from vain pleasures and the unmeaning crowd, is like a breath of fresh wind that blows from the mountains. I am alive once more eager to find the end of all sorrow, the glorious liberation. Happy is the man who struggles!
The long sinuous path lies in front of me, and all life has ceased to exist except for the one traveler on that lonely road.
I am throbbing with the excitement of a new and strenuous conquest, like a general, proud and haughty, that marches into a vanquished town. I long for greater and more difficult battles to be won, and I cry for the lack of them.
The solemn stillness breaks in upon my joy, and the grave quietness grips me. I am humbled by the vast expanse, and the pitiless skies threaten me; the pride of victory is broken, and its glory has departed; the terrible loneliness is gently and slowly overwhelming me. But the longing to attain the end is unabated; invincible is the strength, and the will to succeed is indomitable.
For how many centuries I have travelled I cannot count for my memory is weary, but I have journeyed through many seasons. The path is as tired as he who treads it, and both are crying for the end, but both are willing, the one to lead, the other to follow.
On either side of the road there arise in the far distance, at fitful intervals, tall and stately trees, tossing their bright heads in the sun, forgetting that they were like plants once upon a time. Birds of all feathers, of all hue and of all sizes, frequent them; their plaintive but happy cries reach my ears that have not heard a sound for many an age, except the sound of weary footsteps.
As I approach those joyous creatures they are not afraid, but gaze with supreme indifference, continuing their songs. Under the shade, the green grass sways to the soft music of the wind among the leaves. The strong tree, the gay birds, and the humble grass, all welcome me and promise to lull me to sleep. It is so close, so fragrant, so peaceful to the worn eyes - I almost hesitatingly yield - but there arise in me the memories of other trees, other birds and other shades so deliciously welcoming, yet so deceitful. My beloved path smiles, watching and wondering what my actions will be, whether I shall choose again the shadows.
It is cool under that tree, and blissful with the song of the birds and the soft music of the rustling leaves. Ah! let me stay but a fleeting moment and then let me pass on! The sun is hot and I am weary, and my body aches with the long journey. The refreshing shadows can do me no harm - let me but stay, Oh, thou inexorable path, for a happy second! Long sleepless nights have I passed with thee for many centuries, and dost thou grudge and deny me the sleep of but a passing moment? Canst thou not grant me this one pitiable desire? Whither hath fled thy love, thy infinite understanding? I implore thee not to turn away from me, but to answer to my call.
A profound silence reigns. The wind has ceased to play with the leaves. The birds are quiet, quiet as death, and the mighty tree broods in deep thought. The shadows have deepened, there prevails a greater calm and greater cool; the green, tender grasses look on me with their small inquisitive eyes, debating in their little minds as to the cause of my unforeseen faltering, whispering to each other in encouragement at my plight. The path of many experiences and great understanding smiles on my struggling hesitation, with neither encouragement nor pleasure; it is a smile of wisdom and of knowledge, which says: "Thou mayest do what thou desirest, but repentance awaits thee."
My choice is made. Like morning mist that is gently dispelled by the first warm rays of the slow-rising sun, so the magnificent tree of gratification fades gradually before me; the gay birds melt away as before a fast-approaching storm, and the green grass withers in the burning heat of the sun. There remains only a faint vestige of the past. The path leads on and I humbly follow.
At irregular intervals along the roadside there arise trees, inviting me to taste of their bright-coloured and luscious fruit and enjoy its sweetness. It would soothe my parched throat and quench my burning thirst, but my path is rigorous, and I pass them by. Further on there are magnificent houses, places of pleasure and delight, their welcoming doors always open inviting the travel-worn pilgrim. An age and many lives lie between house and house, and the tired traveller is the too-willing victim of their charm. Craving for their enchanting shelter, many a time have I hesitated at their doorsteps, sometimes straying into them and coming out with shame to walk again with gladness on the clean, sunburnt path.
The house of strong and selfish passions, with its gross gratifications and its impurities, have I entered, and have feasted on all that they could give. Oft have I passed with lingering footsteps the house of many false shadows, the house of satiety with its fleeting contentment, the house of flattery, and the house of learning, where false and fugitive facts lull the ignorant; but only to be enticed into the house of the love that limits, that is selfish, that is unkind, forgetting all except the one; the love that clings, the love that desires; the narrow love of the father, of the mother, the sister, the brother, and the child; the love that slowly and pitilessly destroys the nobler feelings; the love that contents itself with little things.
Many a time have I crossed the threshold of the house of blissful ignorance, of the brilliant house of vain flattery, and of the dismal house of black hate and cunning deceit. Often have I fallen to the temptations of the imperishable house of intolerance, to the boisterous house of patriotism, that breeds venomous and warring hate, and the house of solitary and cold pride, that is unapproachable and untouchable. In the house of friendship that uproots the friendship of others and is consumed with jealousy, and in the house of concealed and talented vice, have I sojourned for many weary seasons. And I have visited the house of small wisdom that excludes all knowledge except of its own petty creation, and the house of little learning that understands little but condemns violently and clamorously all that is beyond its insignificant comprehension.
Many a house of religion have I entered, dwelling within its narrow walls, sleeping in the lap of dark superstition, worshipping false gods, sacrificing innocent things at the temple's altars, and taking part in futile, religious wars and bitter persecution. Wandering into dark houses, have I sought light, and have strayed forth blind and comfortless.
The sympathetic path ever understood me when I returned to its bare arms, with head bowed down, with shame gnawing at my heart; it ever welcomed me, promising to be my guide and my everlasting friend.
I can see on each side of the long pathway many temptations in delightful shapes and forms, but they are not for me. Let others be enticed, but I will follow my ancient path. My sore need is to rest and to drink deep at the long-promised source, and no longer do I desire to quench my immemorial thirst at the shadowy fountains. Yet, as far as the eye can see, false things obstruct my view. Once I was able to talk quietly and for many an hour with my lonely companion, the path, but now it is silent, overwhelmed by sound. Once there was profound peace and tranquillity, but now the holy silence is broken by the barbarous tongues of the multitude. Yet through these clamorous scenes and continuous babble my path leads, and I follow without hesitation. How long I have travelled through the land of false fantasies I cannot say, but unerring, with a grave deliberation, have I adhered to my pathway. Always the path mounts, and with aching limbs have I climbed, clinging desperately; but never have I strayed and gone down into the dark valley. Many centuries have I struggled, resisting fleeting pleasures and inclinations; and yet in front of me there ever springs up temptation in new and varied forms to beguile me.
True it is that I can never again be their victim, and yet..... Ye pitiless gods, is there never an end to this goading misery and to this cruel and false land of passing desires? For how many an age have I trod this path of righteousness! Yet the end is still not in view. Or is this the goal of all my endurance? Nay, it cannot be, for I have seen, once upon a time, in a far bygone age, the summit of enlightenment. But for how many incarnations must I wander amidst sorrow and tribulation before I knock at the portals of bliss? Without demand, without question, and without lamentation, I must tread this path for another age.
I am weary and sick at heart; incarnations of great misery and pain have I endured. Vain hopes and promises have made me strong; imperishable has been my desire for the goal; persistent has been my blind groping after truth, and indestructible my ardent enthusiasm. Can all my aching sorrow and my torture be in vain? Cannot my beloved path lead me to the mountain top, as it has constantly and faithfully promised? Still, after the exquisite pain and indescribable longing, does the pathway lead amidst a vast expanse of shadowy illusions. Why? Ah! what have I done and what have I left undone, what little things of life have I neglected, what sacrifices are there still to be offered, what still greater agonies must I bear? What still greater purifications must I undergo, what still fiercer burning must I sustain, and what still mightier experience of torture awaits me before I reach that abode of pure enlightenment and sacred content?
The mother who bore me knew not what she did, and, had she known, the milk that she nourished me with so tenderly would have turned to poison, and would have spared me these neverending tortures. Happy would I have been to cease upon the midnight hour, but idle is it to moan and hurl myself against the inevitable. Blameless is my dear mother, and fruitlessly do I clamour against the pain of evolution. And in the end this groping must cease, this fumbling in the dark; for the door of knowledge must be found; there must be the light that guides, the truth that gives contentment, the enlightenment that brings calm happiness.
Oh! I can no longer cry, my body is too feeble to stand, the strength is gradually ebbing out of me - my entire being revolts against the merciless void. Can no god turn his pitiful eyes on the lonesome, spent traveller? Ye Masters of Wisdom, have compassion and shed that infinite mercy that can heal and that can bring light to the wanderer in utter darkness. O, ye cool nights, compel the fiery sun to depart hence and, ye dark clouds, cover up the burning rays! Ah! for the strong hand that could lead and support me, the gentle voice that could comfort and encourage me, the embrace and the kiss that could make me forget! Forlorn am I and with a dying voice, I call...
The voice of profound quietness answers me with complete silence, and the void echoes that dreadful stillness. My beloved path smiles on me, but, pitifully and on all sides, even among the boisterous houses of mirth, deep and awful quiet reigns, as on a night when some murderous deed is being enacted or when the churchyard grave opens its ponderous jaws as in a subdued yawn. I am exhausted, and I totter. The end of my very being draweth nigh. Within the mind's eye I seem to perceive the vision of the haven of perfect peace and the resting place for the weary and the travel-worn. Yet for how many an age must I still endure this pain of the mind, this surging dissatisfaction, this grief of ages and these woes of bodily suffering, I cannot tell. As far as the eye can scan, I see nothing but shifting and transient things. Yet at each footstep there throbs in me the assurance that the end of the long journey is at hand and approacheth like a ship at sea. May the deities that be above hasten me towards my destination!
Suddenly the air has become still, breathless with some great expectation, and there is a hush like that which comes for a moment after a glorious sunset, when the whole world is in profound adoration. There is a deep silence as on a night when the distant stars waft their kisses to each other, there is an unexpected tranquillity as that of a sudden cessation in a thunderous storm, and there reigns a great peace as in the precincts of a sacred temple. Within me the pain and sorrow of ages is partly stilled; there is a faint and soothing murmuring in the air as my eyes softly close. All things animate and inanimate are resting from their weary toil. The whole world is peacefully asleep and dreaming sweet dreams. The sun, whose fiery rays have for so many ages burnt me ruthlessly, has suddenly become kind, and there is a coolness as that of a deep wooded forest. Divinity is taking shape within me.
The path has become much steeper and I feebly climb the difficult ascent. As I mount this hill, the abodes of innumerable pleasures of the flesh, the houses of many desires and the green trees grow scarce, and as I reach the summit the enticing fantasies entirely vanish. The path ever ascends in a long straight line, the air is cooler and the climbing is easier. There is a fresh energy born within me and I surge forward with renewed enthusiasm.
Far in the high distance my path vanishes into a thick grove of mighty and ancient trees. I dare not look behind or on either side, for the pathway has become precipitous and dangerously narrow. I traverse this perilous passage in a spent and dreamy condition, with my eyes ever fixed on the far-off vision, scarcely looking or caring where I tread. I am in great ecstasy, for the dim sight ahead of me has inspired a deep and lasting hope. With a light footstep I am running forward, fearful lest the happy image should dissolve and elude me, as it has done so often. There is not another traveller in front of me, but the pathway is smooth as though worn by thousands of footsteps through innumerable ages; it shines like a mirror; it is slippery. I tread as though walking in sleep, dreading to wake to false realities and transient things. The vision stands out clear and more distinct as I rapidly approach.
The gracious Gods have at last answered my pitiful calls uttered in the wilderness. My long and sorrowful journey has come to an end and the glorious journey has begun. Far ahead there are other paths and other gateways, at whose doors I shall knock with greater assurance and with a more joyous and understanding heart. From this height I can behold all the paths that lie below me. They all converge to this point, though separated by immeasurable distances; many are the travellers on these lonely paths, but yet each traveller is proud in his blind loneliness and foolish separation. For there are many who follow him and many who precede him. They have been like me, lost in their own narrow path, avoiding and pushing aside the greater road. They struggle blindly in their ignorance, walking in their own shadow and, clinging desperately to their petty truths, they call forth despairingly for the greater truth.
My path that has guided me through rough and storm-laden countries is beside me. I am gazing with welling tears at those weary and sorrow-eyed travellers. My beloved, my heart is broken at the cruel sight; for I cannot descend and give them divine water to quench their vehement thirst. For they must find the eternal source for themselves. But, ye merciful Gods, can I at least make their path smoother and alleviate the pain and the sorrow which they have created for themselves through ignorance and pitiful carelessness!
Come all ye that sorrow, and enter with me into the abode of enlightenment and into the shades of immortality. Let us gaze on the everlasting light, the light which gives comfort, the light which purifies. The resplendent truth shines gloriously and we can no longer be blind, nor is there need to grope in the abysmal darkness. We shall quench our thirst, for we shall drink deep at the bubbling fountain of wisdom.
I am strong, I no longer falter; the divine spark is burning in me; I have beheld in a waking dream, the Master of all things and I am radiant with His eternal joy. I have gazed into the deep pool of knowledge and many reflections have I beheld. I am the stone in the sacred temple. I am the humble grass that is mown down and trodden upon. I am the tall and stately tree that courts the very heavens. I am the animal that is hunted. I am the criminal that is hated by all. I am the noble that is honoured by all. I am sorrow, pain and fleeting pleasure; the passions and the gratifications; the bitter wrath and the infinite compassion; the sin and the sinner. I am the lover and the very love itself. I am the saint, the adorer, the worshipper and the follower. I am God.