"Arhans are born at midnight hour ... together with the holy flower that opens and blooms in darkness." - The Voice of the Silence
We stood together at the door of our hut: we could see through the gathering gloom where our sheep and goats were cropping the sweet grass on the side of the hill: we were full of drowsy content as they were. We had naught to mar our own happiness - neither memory nor unrest for the future. We lingered on while the vast twilight encircled us; we were one with its dewy stillness. The lustre of the early stars first broke in upon our dreaming: we looked up and around: the yellow constellations began to sing their choral hymn together. As the night deepened they came out swiftly from their hiding places in depths of still and unfathomable blue; they hung in burning clusters; they advanced in multitudes that dazzled: the shadowy shining of night was strewn all over with nebulous dust of silver, with long mists of gold with jewels of glittering green. We felt how fit a place the earth was to live on, with these nightly glories over us, with silence and coolness upon its lawns and lakes after the consuming day. Valmika, Kedar, I and Ananda watched together; through the rich gloom we could see far distant forests and lights - the lights of village and city in King Suddhodana's realm.
"Brothers," said Valmika, "How good it is to be here, and not yonder in the city where they know not peace, even in sleep."
"Yonder and yonder," said Kedar, "I saw the inner air full of a red glow where they were busy in toiling and strife. It seemed to reach up to me; I could not breathe. I climbed the hills at dawn to laugh where the snows were, and the sun is as white as they are white."
"But, brothers, if we went down among them and told them how happy we were, and how the flowers grow on the hillside, and all about the flocks, they would surely come up and leave all sorrow. They cannot know or they would come." Ananda was a mere child though so tall for his years.
"They would not come," said Kedar. "All their joy is to haggle and hoard. When Siva blows upon them with his angry breath they will lament, or when the Prets in fierce hunger devour them."
"It is good to be here," repeated Valmika drowsily, "to mind the flocks and be at rest, and to hear the wise Varunna speak when he comes among us."
I was silent. I knew better than they that busy city which glowed beyond the dark forests. I had lived there until, grown sick and weary, I had gone back to my brothers on the hillside. I wondered would life, indeed, go on ceaselessly until it ended in the pain of the world. I said within myself - Oh, mighty Brahma, on the outermost verges of they dream are our lives; thou old invisible, how faintly through our hearts comes the sound of thy song, the light of thy glory! Full of yearning to rise and return, I strove to hear in the heart the music Anahata had spoken of in our sacred scrolls. There was silence, and then I thought I heard sounds, not glad, a myriad murmur. As I listen it deepened, it grew into passionate prayer and appeal and tears, as if the cry of the long- forgotten souls of men went echoing through empty chambers. My eyes filled with tears, for it seemed world-wide, and to sigh from out many ages, long agone, to be and yet to be.
"Ananda! Ananda! where is the boy running to?" cried Valmika. Ananda had vanished into the gloom. We heard his glad laugh below and then another voice speaking. Presently up loomed the tall figure of Varunna. Ananda held his hand and danced beside him. We could see by the starlight his simple robe of white. I could trace clearly every feature of the grave and beautiful face, the radiant eyes; not by the starlight I saw, but because a silvery shining rayed a little way into the blackness around the dark hair and face. Valmika, as elder, first spake.
"Holy sir, be welcome. Will you come in and rest?"
"I cannot stay now. I must pass over the mountain ere dawn; but you may come a little way with me - such of you as will."
We assented gladly - Kedar and I; Valmika remained. Then Ananda prayed to go. We bade him stay, fearing for him the labour of climbing and the chill of the snows, but Varunna said: "Let the child come; he is hardy; he will not tire if he holds my hands."
So we set out together and faced the highlands that rose and rose above us; we knew well the way even at night. We waited in silence for Varunna to speak, but for nigh two hours we mounted without words, save for Ananda's shouts of delight and wonder at the heavens spread above us. But I was hungry for an answer to my thoughts, so I spake.
"Master, Valmika was saying, ere you came, how good it was to be here rather than in the city where they are full of strife, and Kedar thought their lives would flow on into fiery pain and no speech would avail. Ananda, speaking as a child indeed, said if one went down among them they would listen to his story of the happy life. But, Master, do not many speak and interpret the sacred writings, and how few they are who lay to heart the words of the gods! They seem, indeed, to go on through desire into pain, and even here upon our hills we are not free, for Kedar felt the hot glow of their passion and I heard in my heart their sobs of despair. Master, it was terrible, for they seemed to come from the wide earth over, and out of ages far away."
"There is more of the true in the child's hope than in your despair, for it is of much avail to speak though but a few listen. Better is the life which aids, though in sorrow, than the life which withdraws from pain unto solitude. Yet it is not well to speak without power, for only the knower of Brahma can interpret the sacred writings truly. It is well to be free ere we speak of freedom; then we have power and many hearken."
"But who would leave joy for sorrow, and who being one with Brahma may return to give council?"
"Brother," said Varunna, "here is the hope of the world. Though many seek only for the eternal joy, yet the cry you heard has been heard by great ones who have turned backwards, called by these beseeching voices. The small old path stretching far away leads through many wonderful beings to the place of Brahma; there is the first fountain, the world of beautiful silence, the light that has been undimmed since the beginning of time - the joy where life fades into being; but turning backwards, the small old path winds away into the world of men, it enters every sorrowful heart, and the way of him who would tread therethro' is stayed by its pain and barred by its delusion. This is the way the great ones go; they turn with the path from the door of Brahma the warriors and the strong ones: they move along its myriad ways; they overcome darkness with wisdom and pain with compassion. After many conquered worlds, after many races of men, purified and uplifted they go to greater than Brahma. In these, though few, is the hope of the world; these are the heroes for whom, returning, the earth puts forth her signal fires, and the Devas sing their hymns of welcome."
We paused where the plateau widened out; there was scarce a ripple in the chill air; in quietness the snows glistened, a light reflected from the crores of stars that swung with gay and glittering motion above us. We could hear the immense heart-beat of the world in the stillness; we had thoughts that went ranging through the heavens, not sad, but full of solemn hope.
"Brothers! Master! Look, the wonderful thing! and another, and yet another!" We heard Ananda calling; we looked and saw the holy blossom - the midnight flower - oh, may the earth again put forth such beauty - it grew up from the snows with leaves of delicate crystal, a nimbus encircled each radiant bloom, a halo pale yet lustrous. I bowed down before it lost in awe. I heard Varunna say: - "The earth, indeed puts forth her signal fires, and the Devas sing their hymn; listen!" We heard a music as of beautiful thought moving along the high places of the earth, full of infinite love and hope and yearning.
"Brothers, be glad, for One is born who has chosen the greater way. Now I must pass onwards. Kedar, Narayan, Ananda, farewell! Nay, no further; it is long way to return, and the child will tire."
He went on and passed from our sight. But we did not return; we remained long, long in silence, looking at the sacred flower.
Vow, taken long ago, be strong in our hearts to-day. Here where the pain is fiercer, to rest is more sweet. Here where beauty dies away, it is more joy to be lulled in dreams. Here the good, the true, our hope, seem but a madness born of ancient pain. Out of rest, dream, or despair, let us arise. Let us go the way the Great Ones go.
Irish Theosophist, July, 1894
Present article was scanned and proofread and made available for publication by Mr. Jake Jaqua.
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