CHAPTER - 31
It was, of late, a frequent occurrence. Adi Shankara had been regularly coming into his mind every two or three hours, and generating in him spiritual thought-waves of great intensity. Jitendra had an urge to occupy himself more and more with the works of the great saint. New and hitherto unknown interpretations of some of his spiritual tracts came into his consciousness like mysterious flashes, and seemed to enlarge his grasp of the Ultimate of the ultimate, the Brahman. Jitendra chose to sit at times keeping his mind free of all thought so that in his motionless mind Adi Shankara could shine and work his all-purifying divine influence.
It was mental and physical silence and the silence of all that was mortal in one, Mona, the absolutely perfected Mona, that was what would attract Godly powers into one's being and give them freedom to operate on one's mental, spiritual and vital levels. That was how the mortal man grows and advances into a semidivine being and later into something more and then yet more till he ended in a merger with the Brahman. If one was all the time preoccupied with thoughts of self and the world, his whole being, shut off to Higher influences, and overwhelmed and saturated in time with material interests and worldly bondages, perishes. That was why Mona, the Silence of Silences, was worshipped as a sort of electromagnetic field in which the fire of God generated by degrees and the heavenly forces began to manifest themselves. Silence was therefore one of the most sacred and most sanctified things which was considered a form of God and in which His Eternity and Infinity stood abstracted. And so Jitendra was in a continuous Mona everyday for hours and kept avoiding Bharathi when he was in that state. He soon became thoroughly pervaded by Adi Shankara and was almost transformed into one of his other selves. And what reflected constantly in his mind was the figure of Adi Shankara he had seen in the painting of the artist Vidyapathi which he had seen in the Sanskrit Academy while he discussed Naradha Bhakthi Sutras wit the professor Bhattacharya. Jitendra had seen many pictures of Adi Shankara in his life at various places, but this one was different. Adi Shankara seemed to live in it and subtly smile at him, and he could hear him talk, not through words or the aid of mortal speech but through his power of lighting the mind and the soul. He felt the sparks of his life all through his self. Apart from it Adi Shankara had a particular relevance to his life as a Sanyasin. It was through his grace and inspiration that he came upon the particular site where his Ashram was now located in Rishikesh.
If the Ashram grew and flourished, and spread the gospels of the great Yogis of yore, and rendered religious service throughout the country, and did what it could do to spread Satya and Dharma, he believed it was all because of Adi Shankara. Why did he choose that place instead of some other place, many people still asked. But he never said why. He was just not inclined. Something always seemed to mysteriously stand in the way. The truth was that though the world looked full of reason and seemed to be conducted and led forward by arguments, what actually remained was only mystery. Reason couldn't be explained by reason, because Reason itself was a mystery. What a man thought and why he thought it no one could explain. Man appeared to be subject to some sort of a mysterious Remote Control. It was always Prakriti, the Original Cosmic Principle that acted, and Man thought that it was he that acted. This he had often explained to Bharathi through the Sloka 27 of chapter 3 of Bhagavad Gita entitled Karma Yoga. And also through Sloka 61 of Chapter 18 entitled Moksha Sanyasa Yoga. How the Ashram came to be located in its present place was something that stood testimony to the power of the Higher forces.
There were places, and such places were only a few, that had an inscrutable occult quality, and looked like particularly blest, and attracted, as if by some galvanic power, the Higher Forces. Such places produced vibrations that peculiarly harmonized with your own. All of a sudden, your problems seemed to resolve, your worry ceased, and you leapt in joy when you happen to stand on such a spot. One hardly knew why, but great souls knew why, Sages knew still better. Such places produced sudden inspirations. A sudden bout of unaccountable joy, a deliverance from some long-standing worry, a sudden outbreak of light in some area of your self, a dispelling of ignorance and discovery of some truth, a resolution of some perpetually nagging doubt, all these things happen only in certain places. Such a place was the site in which his Ashram was now located.
Jitendra was then a student in Benares Hindu University. Side by side with his post-graduate studies, he had undertaken a research on Brahma Sutras, one of the most famous works of Hindu Vedanta. The most outstanding commentary on it was that of Adi Shankara. There was nothing to rival it. His expository treatises were themselves unending sources of Brahmic Wisdom. He depended on them to help him forward in his research. But one particular Sutra in the great work riddled him, and much as he racked his brains, he could never arrive at a true understanding of it. Night and day it worried him, and the meaning eluded all the time. One doubt led to another and that to another, and soon his whole mind was cast in doubt upon doubt. It was the 14 Th. Sutra in section 2 of chapter 3 which read: "Verily Brahman is only formless on account of that being the main purport (of all texts about Brahman)". Months after months went by, but he never could break through the obscurity that surrounded the text. The doubts tormented him, and would never leave him. He lost sleep. He sat in prayer to Adi Shankara whenever he felt like it. He prayed to him to give him understanding. His meditations on the great saint continued, but no light came.
One day he and three of his professors had to take a team of visiting educationists who had come from Canada on a tourist study of pilgrim centers. They came to Haridwar, and they could not leave out Rishikesh. When they arrived at Rishikesh, they had to stop at the very spot where the Ashram was later to come up because the visiting team suggested they could stop here for some coffee and refreshments. The attendants took out from the van the folding chairs and the two folding tables and arranged them on the grassy meadow. The food-packets and the flasks of coffee were then placed on the tables. The driver and the attendants ate their share sitting inside the van. Amid all this Jitendra had not forgotten to send out mutely his earnest prayers to Adi Shankara.
All of a sudden, Jitendra's mind lighted up. And answer to his doubts came in a great rush. Light after light, and solutions came one after the other as if from some hidden source of the place. Months of worry and torment had passed off in a single moment. He felt as if a great burden had been lifted off his mind.
Surely Adi Shankara had trodden over this very place two thousand years ago. Perhaps it was here that he met the sage Vyasa, the author of the great Mahabharatha, whose spirit was said to have materialized before the former in the form of a wandering Sanyasin. The Narayanji Maharaj Temple, a few hundred feet farther away, was renovated by Adi Shankara. So went the legend. This would leave one in no doubt that Adi Shankara should have had something to do with this place. Rather much. The place should have distinctly come under the influence of his aura some of which the place should have captured and kept. That was the reason why he chose to set up his Ashram on this very spot when he became a Sanyasin. The place was an abode of Light. It was an abode of Peace as well. He believed that some of Adi Shankara's spiritual self lived in the place. It was he who was sustaining the Ashram through, and imparted to him and the inmates the necessary wisdom to make its working a success. After he was dead and gone, Adi Shankara would still remain there as ever and lead the Ashram forward and make it grow larger and larger. Therefore he had never worried what would happen to the Ashram after he was no more. It was on this spot the gods and the fates chose to effect the first meeting of Jitendra and Bharathi. But her astral self had already met him the previous mid-night in the form of a sparkling light of soul-captivating grandeur.
Now the idea kept obstinately coming into his mind that the picture of Adi Shankara in the Sanskrit academy was without any worship or Puja. It should taken out of its present place and put in a separately constructed sanctum in his Ashram. It should be formally installed, after the observance of the necessary rites, as an object of regular worship. He phoned up and spoke to the authorities of the Sanskrit Academy. They agreed to part with the picture for whatever price he chose to give. He sent them a check for rupees ten thousand and asked them to deliver it at his Ashram at once His disciple-secretary Madhusudhan would receive it. Everything went through as per his instructions. Madhusudhan was instructed to go ahead with the construction of a sanctum as an adjunct to the Krishna Temple with the help of the engineer whom he named and who lived at Haridwar. In about a week, word came to Jitendra that the sanctum had been constructed exactly as per his instructions. He had kept the picture in the Puja room of the Swamiji. Jitendra wrote to him saying that the moment he arrived at the Ashram, the installation ceremony would commence and concluded on the same day. The artist Vidyapathi who came to know of the arrangement wrote at once to Jitendra that he be permitted to stay in the Ashram premises with his family, and see to the regular conduct of Pujas at the sanctum, and that he be also entrusted with the general management of the temple. Jitendra agreed since it was with him a question of deep sentiment. Vidyapathi believed that it was Adi Shankara who rehabilitated him and put him back in his profession as artist through the agency of Jitendra.
Jitendra, in anticipation of his foreign tours which he expected to last more than six months, possibly even one year, had constituted already a Board of Trustees consisting of persons known for their high integrity and truthfulness with Lynda Wallace as the chairman to be in charge of all the work relating to the Ashram and to manage all its properties. They were invested with all the necessary legal and administrative powers. He retained with himself a general overall control. Otherwise it was the Board that was all in all. The Board would be a continuing body until he chose to wind it up. As regards his personal properties, he put Lynda Wallace in complete charge. He had given her an all-comprehensive General Power of Attorney.
As soon as he returned to his Ashram, he would first go to the cemeteries of his parents and of Kalidas, pay Homage and take their blessings. He would visit important temples in Benares and also Buddha temple in the farm and offer worship. Then he would perform the installation ceremony at the sanctum of Adi Shankara in the Ashram. After this, he would drive straight to the airport and emplane for his tour abroad. He was already thinking up a revised itinerary and writing it down.
Jitendra had been telling that while painting her in the nude he would be realizing the God in her on the canvas. All of a sudden he found out that there was in her side by side an erotic Venus too. Could he steer clear of that obstacle? Bharathi was a real woman, and a woman of peerless charm and power, and a woman whose spell had a cosmic quality, and impossible to combat. If that spell did not work, it meant she was not the super-woman that he had been fostering in his fancy for working on the canvas. But that spell had already begun to work on him and drove him mad. He was beginning to fear that he might possibly be reduced to just a wisp of straw before the phenomenon that was Bharathi. Therefore before he could realize the God in her on the canvas, he had started realizing, in a blurred fashion, the devil hidden in him. Perhaps it was not the devil, for in a man like Jitendra no devil could find room, but Nature which could rise at any unpredictable moment with all its furious irreversible drives. But in his case it did not work so openly or so blatantly as yet. But its subtle operations had begun to cast their shadows. Before certain women even the most resolute men fell. But here it was not before Bharathi that Jitendra fell, but before the overwhelming abundance of her aphrodisiac charm. It started fueling and burning slowly in his blood. But till after some time he didn't suspect it. The God in her which he would realize on the canvas might possess a lot of destructive power too. Suppose it took him as its victim. There was no reason why it should not. His mind became a pulp. In Bharathi, he now saw a heap of flaming terrors.
He must have enough of her nudity for his mind to work upon if he was to determine in advance the right kind of techniques and concepts he must employ to execute safely the fearsome project. But he didn't as yet have enough of it in his mind. The auspicious day he had fixed in consultation with Bharathi for starting the work was yet one full week away. The amount of her nakedness he could catch the other day at the tea- shop was really not much as it now struck him since she stood in darkness on the other side of the partition wall, and the mirror, though it gave of her nakedness in full, it was only a reflection, a blurred and shadowed one. It was more like a silhouette. It was as in a dream. Whatever clarity he had obtained was a dreamy sort of clarity. The mirror, though it was against the fire, the light of it could not reach that far. It was a sluggishly bleaching figure, mainly dark, but sort of twilighted if at all. It was an insufficient nudity but with a clear outline. But this was not enough for him. It was precisely this that started his fires. The artist in him, yes the artist in him, and nothing else, in order to bring out an unexcellable masterpiece became greedy for the whole figure absolutely clear and thoroughly visible in every part. Of course he could see any amount of it on the day fixed for starting the work, and go on working on the canvas as long as he liked. But his psychology was getting perverted and working on morbid lines. He could not ask Bharathi to come and strip herself before him for a preliminary study. He would instantly lose his status as her Guru, and possibly she might not agree. Some of his self had already separated from him and working the figure on an imaginary canvas on an imaginary easel.
Therefore the nights became dreadful and his mind a regular battlefield. He had so much avarice for her entire nakedness in a sort of lighted clarity that in his dreams he had begun to beg her for the favor, not like a man infatuated, but like a very genuine and interested artist. In fact he was still an artist and not a male in his prime voluptuously roused. He still trusted to his Sanyasa to preserve him and keep him from sin. But even in his dream she didn't oblige him. That made him wild and threw him off his balance. His Sanyasa often intervened and cautioned him, but the artist wouldn't keep quiet. She was several times a more tremendous beauty in the nights, for the night with its phantom and mystic property worked it to fantastic heights in its ghostly solitudes, but it was a monstrously killing nightmarish beauty. But soon he became steady and fully recovered himself. He became suddenly aware that he was on the point of getting sexually smitten with her. He should watch and save himself with utmost vigilance. His Sanyasa and all his religious reading redeemed him admirably, and at last he had gained his peace. But he didn't know that Bharathi, the all-powerful female, and the woman with the arch-wizardry God had wrought in her, lay hidden in his subterranean self as the arch- temptress.
He lifted his hands in prayer to the tree, his philosophic companion, and kept talking to it in the night. For it was a sort of Fellow-Sanyasin too, both their hearts beating as one. One night at about two, one of the birds, he had seen the other day engaged in amorous sport, came flying and sat on his chest. In his dream he felt the soft feathery dove in his hand, but it seemed to have grown rather too soon to something rather too big for his hands. Next moment the dove was not there, but it was Bharathi, but she would not agree to strip but nestled against his chest and face. Then he opened his eyes only to see that he had nothing around him except the windows and the sofas and the cupboards. He sat in the bed as if he had lost something. He switched on the light.
Bharathi saw it from her room. She was a little alarmed. She feared if he was not well or had contracted any fever. But then he took some book and started reading. Bharathi went back to her bed, her mind still worried. Already she had been feeling too dissatisfied with the wilted and somewhat ailing look on his face. He then went into his studio, and stood watching the empty canvas on the easel. He stood watching and watching, hoping that Bharathi would distill out of it all naked. But she distilled not on the canvas, but in his feverishly charged overexcited imagination.
Next night he slept fast, but at the exact moment in the night, even without his willing, something brought the bird to him again. It came right through the air flying at the speed of a gale and sat again on his chest. Now too he felt its softness. Softness became all hard the next moment. It was velvety in the extreme, but still overflowed his hands. In the next moment it was again Bharathi, but stiff and resistant. He tried to attempt more in the dream. But she got angry They both fought and fought. He beat her and she beat him. He chased her and she in her turn chased him. Then again he beat her and she too beat him. His head broke in the struggle. She ran into a room and closed the door. He waited outside hoping that she would come out. But she refused to come. Suddenly he woke up and saw that it was all a dream. He sat and wept. He had never thought that he would be so bad and lecherous a man in his dreams. He thought he would ask her pardon when she came in the morning to serve him his breakfast. She came and was so sweet, and so solicitous, and full of anxiety when she saw his haggard face. Her eyes filled as she watched his face. It had gone sickly, even unsightly, overnight.
He looked like one that had lost half his consciousness. He felt feverish. His temperature rose and rose. He could not eat his food. Then she had to feed him with her own hands from a plate, using a spoon. Every three hours she fed him with a strongly reviving nourishment as advised by her father. His hands shook and fell. His body was in shivers.