Aryacharya's Return
Victor Endersby

Aryacharya, lying on the stone bench in the stone hut, heard on the cobbles outside the familiar footsteps that he had dreaded for some days. Overcoming the impulse to turn to the wall and pretend sleep, he looked up. When he saw the Guru’s face, it came to him that terror was in neither face nor footsteps, but in his own heart. Nevertheless, it remained.

The Guru said. “You sent for me.”

“Yes, I - “ He choked into silence.

“How did it begin?”

“It was when Suryadeva - that one new come from a village of mud huts - convicted me of error about the Sutra. They all laughed. Even you, my Teacher, smiled.”

“What next?”

“After that assembly, the visiting monk Chandramaya spoke to me gently and respectfully, saying: “A wise man need not heed the laughter of fools. Let us walk in the hills and talk!” It was like healing salve on a burning wound.”

“Do you remember clearly all that followed?”

“Not in detail. But it was pointed out that while I had been wrong in the mere word-meaning, the principle involved in my rendering had been upheld by some of the great among sages, and could be shown to have a higher import than that which was taught in the Ashram. Pondering upon this, it then appeared to me that I had been laughed at for superior, not inferior knowledge. A great weight was lifted from my aching heart. Then I wondered why you, my Teacher, had not come to my aid. I asked Chandramaya about this. He gave me an ancient book, wherein he said I might find food for thought, and departed for some days.”

“And you found - ?”

“A marked passage wherein it was said that one who gave full loyalty to an inferior teacher, in time would - “ his voice faltered shamedly - “would transcend that teacher. I - I had given you all the loyalty of my heart for full seven years.”

“And how did you feel about all this?”

“Strange. It was a great desolation that you were not all that I had thought. I felt lost. At the same time, freed - and joyous to know that, unrecognized even by myself, I had so progressed on the Path.”

He smiled ruefully.

“This Chandramaya - he came as by chance to the particular Assembly of your mishap. He then spoke to you; you went away together; and he had in his garment all the while that particular book with the so-apt passage marked. Did this not impress you as strange?”

“Not then. After I went to Kalipur with him, I did ponder on it. It then came to me that I had been befriended by a Being with foreknowledge. I thought - “ He choked again. “I thought that at last I had found my Guru - my real one.”

“How did you come to go to Kalipur?”

“When Chandramaya came back, I had had much time to think. It seemed to me that if an inferior understanding of the Wisdom was in the world, the superior must exist somewhere also. I had resolved to ask Chandramaya about all this, and when I did, he suggested that I look into matters at Kalipur Ashram... There I was received in the most brotherly and respectful manner. Even the prior listened to my views and deferred to them with respect. This I felt to be that true humbleness of the great, who understand that no man may grasp all of truth and are ever ready to receive more, whatever the source.”

A goodly portion of what blood he had left was not in his face.

“Then you pledged yourself as Chandramaya’s chela and were sent on a mission of preaching. During that mission you were everywhere acclaimed for your goodly presence, your quick wit, your ready command of abstrusities. This, I think did not cause you pain. Is it not so?”

Aryacharya moaned and closed his eyes.

“Also,” continued the Teacher, “in the course of your journey through all the towns of the Kalighat, did you not use much of this wit to pour contempt upon the dullness of your former conrades and preceptors?”

“Even so,” said Aryacharya faintly.

“Do you wish to speak of the raid on Bodhapur Temple?”

“I do not wish to, but I must... Chandramaya told us that those priests were an evil lot who engaged in foul practices in the name of the Wisdom, and corrupted the villagers. He said that by a show of force with the retainers of Kalipur, they would speedily depart and leave all in peace; but that even if some were slain, it were better to lose the body than to continue on the road to Avicha. I - I had no idea so many would perish - or any of the village women and children.”

“What were you told of Bodhapur Temple - and what did you find there?”

“We were told that within an inner and secret room we would find the foul implements of their true ritual. By some chance I failed to find my appointed post during the raid, and came to the Temple as the doors were broken. I went in. But the only inner sanctuary I found was furnished even as our own.”

“What did Chandramaya say of this?”

“When I told him, he looked strange and was silent for a moment. He then said: ‘One who fails in the right performance of duty must expect to be misled by false appearances. Had you not gone to the Temple at all you would have had no problem. Yet because you have come to me honestly I shall enlighten you as to the nature of the dark seed that might ripen into the deadly weed of suspicion. The truth of the matter is that you never reached the real inner shrine. What you saw was the innocent secrets shown to the uninitiate. The real one lay behind and was discovered later.”

“Then - ?”

“Then I retreated in shamed confusion. For many hours I fought with my unworthy doubts. They bore upon me with irresistible pressure - I had to know. At last, pretending to go into the hills for solitary meditation, I went back to Bodhapur in disguise and examined the burned ruins of the Temple. There had been no other inner room. I had seen all. Chandramaya had lied.”

“Did you not know that lie told by one in Chandramaya’s high position was necessarily the act of a dugpa?”

“So our ancient books say. But do they not also say that there is one knowledge for the lowly, another knowledge for the elect? Are not also your own disciples sometimes deceived?”

“By themselves alone - and not without many prior warnings.”

“Self-deceit - yes. It was that in truth that still led me on. I had forsaken an undertaking and pledged a new one. If this too were in error, I had lost all and was soul-doomed. This I had not deserved after such long faithful service, nor could I face it. I must go on in the faith that all was well whatever the seeming.”

“Tell me of the end.”

“In the temple yard I found a scrawl. Looking to find the owner thereof, I saw my name thereon, and read. It was a note from one of Chandramaya’s chelas to another. It spoke of foul things and seemed to indicate a sanction from Chandramaya himself. I could not, in spite of all faith, accept this as an innocent seeming to be forgotten. I went to Chandramaya therewith, who read it with a face like stone. After a long time, he said: ‘My son, strange and terrible are the mayas that test the fortitude and intuition of those approaching the goal of initiation. Steadfastness under doubt and temptation when the height is almost reached may mean the difference between glory and eternal darkness. The choice must be yours but it is my duty to aid. See you not how different may be the meanings of this matter? For instance, this note does not necessarily convey the meaning that you see. I may in reality be a way of saying thus and so. If worst comes to worst, then we must face the fact that two chelas are delinquent and seek to lay a false teaching on the shoulders of their Guru. I shall keep the note and ascertain the truth of the matter. Rest in peace, my son, have faith, and all will be well!”

“I went forth much comforted, feeling that perhaps attainment was nearer than ever. But many days went by without further word from Chandramaya; the while I noted that chelas beheld me strangely. At last I overheard a whispered conversation:

“One said: ‘But Aryacharya found a note that told the story.”

“‘Not so did I hear it,” said another. “The note meant nothing - Aryacharya was jealous-minded and read this and that into it.”

“I have the truth of it,” said the third. “He had a fever and gave the Teacher a paper, telling a wild story. But on the paper was naught.”

“Whence, I wondered, came all this? Had the chelas in question been taxed with the thing, and was this their defense? Chandramaya, I thought, should know. When I told him of these tales, he gazed upon me benevolently, placed the tips of his fingers together, and said: ‘My poor boy - I know that you thought you gave me such a note. But I was much concerned about you that day. You were flushed and your manner strange. The chelas so and so tell me of strange words that you uttered, and that you mistook the bald head of a monk, shining in the dusk, for the fallen moon, and cried out in alarm.’

“‘The infection is passed and you feel better now. But it is in such moments of weakness that dugpas seize upon us to implant dark seeds of meditation. For the sake of your soul, put aside all such imaginings.’”

“Then I knew. And there was somewhat to fear of testimony. I had made a jest of the moonbeam glancing from that monk’s glistening pate. A foolish and unkind jest. But when I sought to leave the town, I was stopped with swords where no swords were before. I am Kshatriya-born. I countered sword with stone, left the guards stunned, and escaped over the ranges with these many wounds that seem not to heal. I felt no hunger, or thirst; I hungered and thirsted only for that punishment that would cleanse my soul. At last I came here, where I found help, and sent for you. But I think I am dying.”

The Guru gazed upon him long, with sorrow and compassion.

“In the speech of Raj Yog,” he said, “is no word for ‘punishment.’”

“But Agnivarsha, your pupil and my Companion, died in Bodhapur Temple. I bore no arms, but am guilty in thought.”

“Karma cannot be evaded by acceptance of the feeble punishments of man.”

“But what may I do?”

The Teacher’s voice was gentle.

“There is no further problem for the present. In future incarnations you have a choice of roads. By the easier and longer you may abandon thought of the Wisdom and become as other men, householders, tradesmen, peasants. Thus in numerous lives you may unknowingly absorb by degrees the results of your transgression, through the common lot of struggle, effort, disappointment, bereavement, disease and death. You may again take the Secret Path, or you may not.”

“And by the other?”

“There is a dark land in the West where in times to come the Wisdom, a small but rugged growth among stones, shall battle for its life against minds of a people ill-attuned, against folly and treason within and hate without.”

“The Companions of that day, in serving, shall suffer. The Goal to which you first pledged yourself was right to the highest service. In earning suffering, you have earned the right to serve, for only companions so qualified may serve well on that battlefield. You have failed. You may now transform that failure into success - in a few short lives at most.”

“What is the cost?”

“To suffer all that others have suffered through you. You shall relinquish your ascetic state to become householder, prey to anxiety, care and bereavement. You, innocent, shall be held guilty of all that you in reality did in this life, and more. Pride of intellect will be humbled into dust, again and again, until the last bleeding fibre is crushed. When most faithful, you will be held most faithless; when most abnegating self, you will be seen as most selfish; longing only for the sweet rest of quiet wilds, you will be thought ruthlessly ambitious. Abnegating all, it will be thought that you seek to grasp all. When most truthful, you will be held master of the lie. Desiring love, you will inspire fear; shrinking, you will seem arrogant. Reluctant to break a twig from a tree, you will appear merciless. You will be betrayed by unknown hands. For, being deceived, you have deceived.”

“How was I allowed to do this? Were we not told that three warnings of error would be given?”

“You had them - from Chandramaya.”

“Chandramaya? - I do not understand.”

“You will.”

“These paths, O Guru - which holds the greater sum of suffering in the end?”

“That of the chela. Also the greatest risk. There will be other faults, new trials. You might again fail - and forever. But, for mankind, the stake is great indeed.”

“The choice is made.”

The Guru stood. His piercing eyes were very kind, and much of the sadness was gone from his face; which, Aryacharya now saw, was that of a young man, beneath the bushy beard.

“Then,” he said, “it may be that the final good will be greater than if the error had not been. Our love and hope and trust be with you. I must go - there is great need elsewhere.”

He laid his hand on the chela’s head, a touch to help through the coming dark; and went away as the mountain woman outside the door knelt on the stones. As the sound of his boots receded, Aryacharya weakly turned his head and gazed at the evening star over the darkling mountains; star of hope and fulfillment. It shone very small and far away; but very steadily.

Last Update : January 2009
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