Warrior of the Soul

Book 1

into the whirlwind


David Pratt

© July 2001

Part 2   When the axe falls

~ 1 ~

‘The problem with Sahula,’ said Khamseen, ‘is that he’s so gullible and naive, so fanatically devoted to his “guru” – who probably doesn’t even exist; I mean, I’ve never actually met him and it wouldn’t surprise me if Sahula was fantasizing the whole thing.’
    Keshava, Sahula’s cousin, sat on a bench in the shade of a tree, listening to Khamseen, a friend from a nearby town.
    ‘I think he’s got a screw loose,’ Khamseen continued. ‘He’s still living in the age of superstition, of religious mumbo-jumbo. I mean, for God’s sake, his family doesn’t even own a DVD player even though they could afford one!’
    ‘We don’t have one either yet,’ said Keshava uneasily, ‘but I’m trying to persuade my parents to buy one. I agree we need to keep in touch with the latest developments, but that doesn’t mean we should immediately throw everything else overboard. Don’t you think the great sages of the past knew a thing or two?’
    ‘I doubt it. Not if Sahula is anything to go by.’
    ‘Well, I agree he doesn’t have much of an intellect.’
    ‘Be honest, man, he’s as thick as two short planks!’
    Sahula, who was hiding indoors, listening to the conversation through the open window, put his hand to his mouth to stop himself from laughing.
    ‘He sits up there in his ivory tower on the mountain top, chanting mantras and spinning prayer-wheels, and acting like some sort of god. He’s a fanatic, he hasn’t got a clue what’s going on in the world. You remember four years ago when he was surprised to learn that the world was poised on the edge of a nuclear war? If it hadn’t been for the bite of an apple, we’d probably all have been vaporized! What’s more, when was the last time you saw him at our local disco, making out with a pretty girl? Tell me that!’
    ‘Yes but he is a monk, don’t forget,’ Keshava replied.
    ‘Well, anyway,’ Khamseen went on, ‘I think a law should be passed forcing monasteries to get hooked up to the internet, so that they can keep their fingers on the real pulse of life. By the way, do you know why Sahula has now grown long hair? I mean, he’s been walking around with a shaved head all these years. I thought he might have become a hippie, but he told me he still belonged to the monastery.’
    ‘He told me he didn’t,’ said Keshava.
    ‘There you are, you see – a complete scatterbrain! Far be it from me to criticize anybody behind their back, but I mean, he used to be fairly normal until he went away to the monastery at the age of eleven. Do you remember the time he stole some cooking apples from Mrs Kshatriya-Dhal, the greengrocer, and she cuffed him round the ear and chased him down the street with a broomstick? That was a laugh!
    ‘But just look at him now: seven years on and he’s completely brainwashed, a walking zombie. You can see it in his far-away look. If his father hadn’t been killed in that train accident all those years ago, I’m sure he’d have knocked some sense into him; he was a government official and at least had a bit of intelligence – and a fat wallet. And why’s Sahula keeping us waiting? In his letter he said he would meet us here, at his grandmother’s house.’
    ‘I don’t think he’s totally insane,’ said Keshava, ‘though he may sometimes act like it.’
    ‘Well, tell me this, Keshava, what does he know about modern science?’
    ‘What does modern science know about the occult world?’ asked Sahula, dressed in his yellow robes, as he walked out of the doorway into the garden.
    He greeted them in the traditional manner and they returned the greeting. Keshava looked rather embarrassed.
    ‘And what the hell is the “occult world”?’ asked Khamseen scornfully. ‘Can you prove it exists? Is that what they teach you at the monastery? How to trick people with so-called “occult powers”? It’s a well-known fact that it’s all done with mirrors. Anyway, if you possess such “powers”, why not prove it?’
    ‘Go on,’ Keshava urged, ‘give us a demonstration!’ He knew Sahula could do it – he had seen him do it before.
    Sahula sat down on the parched soil and was silent. Part of him longed to make Khamseen eat his words. It would not be too difficult. A few months ago, he had admitted to Keshava that he might have learned something about producing occult phenomena, and after Keshava had persistently mocked the idea and teased him, he had placed a pebble in Keshava’s hand and made it move and jump onto the ground by the force of his will. He had received a little instruction in such things after his first few years in the monastery’s inner circle, but was still only a novice. However, the next time he went to the ashram, his master sternly forbade him from giving any further demonstrations. ‘The more such people see, they more they will want to see,’ he had said. ‘You will never be able to satisfy them. You must never waste power for frivolous ends or to impress others. Never!’
    As Sahula stared silently into space, Khamseen looked at Keshava and then motioned with his head towards Sahula, as if to say: ‘See what I mean?!’
    ‘You want to see an occult phenomenon?’ Sahula asked suddenly.
    ‘Yeah,’ cried the two youths in unison.
    ‘Look around you. Look at the marvellous universe we live in. Look at the planets and stars in their regular motion. Look at the wonders of life – at the mysteries of birth and growth, the cycles of life and death. Look at the miracle of a human being. Do you mean to tell me that all this is the result of random physical forces? Sorry, but I’m not that gullible!’
    ‘Hang on a moment, know-all,’ Khamseen retorted, ‘haven’t you ever heard of laws of nature?’
    ‘And what exactly are “laws of nature”?’ asked Sahula. ‘Surely they’re just general rules that scientists have formulated to describe the regular processes of nature, but which explain nothing. Physical matter can only be moved by force – acting either from outside or from within. As I see it, “laws of nature” is just a catchword for the habits, the instinctual activities, of a whole spectrum of nonphysical forces and entities, ranging from elementals to spiritual intelligences. And instead of acting blindly, they follow the patterns laid down by previous cycles of evolution.’
    ‘So that’s the sort of claptrap they teach you, is it? And if everything’s the result of these supposedly intelligent forces, how come there’s so much misery and suffering in the world? So much for your perfect, all-powerful Creator!’
    ‘I don’t believe in a “perfect, all-powerful Creator”; I have no use for such a fantasy,’ answered Sahula calmly. ‘An infinite universe made up of multitudes upon multitudes of living, evolving, imperfect entities at every conceivable stage of development, the higher guiding the lower, the higher guided by those even higher – that makes much more sense to me. And if you want to know where evil comes from, look into you own heart.’
    ‘Oh, I see,’ said Khamseen sarcastically, ‘so it’s not God who created evil – it’s me!’
    ‘What I mean, brother,’ explained Sahula patiently, ’is that we are all as yet highly imperfect beings and sometimes misuse our free will in ways that hurt others.’
    ‘Well, anyway, I think that dismissing modern science before you’ve thoroughly investigated it is sheer madness,’ said Khamseen.
    ‘But you must agree,’ said Keshava hesitantly, ‘that science doesn’t have the answers to everything. I mean even scientists sometimes completely disagree with one another.’
    The conversation was interrupted by the sound of someone calling Sahula’s name: it was his seven-year-old brother, Ranjit, who ran up to him and happily leaped into his welcoming arms. He always looked forward to his elder brother’s visits from the monastery, and loved going with him into the nearby pine forest to play. Ranjit was followed by their thirteen-year-old sister, Sushila, and their mother and grandmother, who had been to the market. They all greeted one another and then went inside for something to eat and drink. As they reached the door, Sahula turned to Keshava and said sternly:
    ‘Come to my mother’s house this evening. You have some explaining to do.’
    Keshava nodded, looked at him with a pained expression, then looked away.

~ 2 ~

Later that afternoon, Sahula and Ranjit were sitting in the nearby forest in their secret hideout – a clearing enclosed by a dense thicket of shrubs and trees. After playing the ritual game of tag, they collapsed on the ground, laughing and panting. Ranjit then began to tell his brother about what he had been doing at school and what had been happening in the village during Sahula’s seven-week absence.
    The sun shone down through the canopy of branches, casting a magical play of shadow onto the vegetation below.
    Ranjit looked at the flowers growing all around them.
    ‘Sahula, why do the flowers grow?’
    ‘Because they love adventure; they’re so full of life and energy that they just love to grow and produce lovely scents and colours.’
    Ranjit nodded.
    ‘Where do flowers come from?’
    ‘From seeds.’
    ‘Where do seeds come from?’
    ‘From other seeds.’
    ‘Where did the first seeds come from?’
    ‘From the womb of nature.’
    ‘Where’s that?’
    ‘In the invisible worlds.’
    ‘Why are they invisible?’
    ‘Because they have a different rate of vibration and work on a different frequency to our world.’
    ‘You mean like a radio station?’
    ‘Yes, but our own antennas – our senses – can’t pick up the signal.’
    ‘Because they need mending?’
    ‘Well, . . .’
    ‘Or because they weren’t designed for that?’
    ‘I get it. And where did I come from?’
    ‘You came from your last life and were born from our mother’s womb.’
    Ranjit was silent a moment, then asked:
    ‘Wasn’t our daddy needed?’
    ‘Certainly. The body of Ranjit began as a seed that was quickened into life by our father and nourished in the womb of our mother.’
    ‘Where’s that seed now?’
    ‘In your heart.’
    Ranjit put his hand on his heart.
    ‘Can you feel it?’
    ‘I think so,’ said Ranjit with a grin.
    After a brief silence, he asked:
    ‘Sahula, where do we go when we dream?’
    ‘The mind flies off to the places it is attracted to. If our minds are clean and pure and full of love, we go to beautiful places and dream beautiful dreams; but if our minds are full of hatred and evil, we go to horrible places and have nightmarish dreams.’
    ‘And what happens when we die?’
    ‘The cord of energy linking the mind with the body breaks and so instead of just sleeping, the body dies and starts to disintegrate.’
    ‘But what happens to us once we’ve got rid of our bodies?’
    ‘That depends on how we’ve lived our lives. First we have to throw off the lower elements we’ve accumulated by bad thoughts and deeds, and this might be accompanied by unpleasant sensations or even nightmares in the case of very bad people. But then the soul passes on to the higher, heavenly realms where we reap the harvest of our good thoughts and deeds, and have lovely, peaceful dreams.’
    Ranjit again looked pensive, then asked:
    ‘Sahula, what happens to the past?’
    ‘The past is imprinted on the substance of nature and stored in the memory of nature.’
    ‘You mean like the CD-ROMs we have at school?’
    ‘CD-ROMs – they’re sort of like shiny disks and have pictures and things stored on them. In digirized form, of course.’
    ‘Of course. Well, it sounds like the same sort of idea, except that the whole of nature is one vast . . .’
    ‘ . . . CD-ROM.’
    Ranjit looked up at a bird flying through the air.
    ‘Sahula, what holds the sky up?’
    ‘Nothing, it’s so light it just floats.’
    ‘And do the stars float too?’
    ‘Yes, in the ocean of ether – which is so fine and fluffy that we can’t see it with our physical eyes.’
    ‘That’s because it’s a different vibration,’ said Ranjit.
    ‘Yes, I think you’re right!’
    ‘Do the stars ever die?’
    ‘Yes, like everything else in nature. There’s a time to be born and a time to die, a time for activity and a time for rest. After a hard day’s work, you need to sleep. And after a life of hard work, you die, and rest . . .’
    ‘. . . and then come back.’
    ‘Of course. As surely as spring follows winter and day follows night, birth must follow death.’
    ‘Will I come back as an animal?’
    ‘No. Long, long ago our souls were animal souls and incarnated in animal bodies; now they have evolved into human souls and incarnate in human bodies. Humans do not normally regress to the animal kingdom, just as blood does not normally flow backwards in our veins. When we die, the atoms of our lower physical and ethereal bodies may take up residence for a while in rocks and plants and animals, but they are drawn back to our soul when it returns to earth-life.’
    ‘So that it has a new body to live in?’
    ‘Yes – a new body made of old materials.’
    ‘That’s clever. But does it hurt to die?’
    ‘Not normally, no.’
    ‘Do people ever die for others?’
    ‘What do you mean?’
    ‘Do people ever die so that others don’t have to die?’
    ‘Everybody must die eventually, that’s the nature of things, but sometimes people sacrifice their lives so that others can continue to live.’ Sahula wondered what had prompted this question. Ranjit was always asking him about death.
    ‘Would you die for me?’
    ‘Ranjit, I love you so much that I would die for you ten times over.’
    ‘Even if it hurt?’
    ‘Even if it hurt.’
    Ranjit ran over to his brother and hugged him, and smiled at him with his big, innocent blue eyes.
    ‘In everything we do,’ said Sahula, ‘and whatever happens to us, we must always try to cultivate a quiet cheerfulness and remain . . .’
    ‘ . . . firm but gentle . . .’
    They both laughed.

~ 3 ~

Sahula and Keshava were sitting watching the sun go down.
    ‘So where exactly do you stand, Keshava?’ asked Sahula. ‘You write to ask me if you might be able to come to the monastery to study and to meet my master, and then I hear you pitching into me as a madman!’
    ‘I was defending you,’ said Keshava, not entirely convincingly. ‘And anyway, you shouldn’t have been spying on us.’
    ‘I wasn’t spying, I was going to creep up on you.’
    Keshava looked surprised.
    ‘Wasn’t that rather frivolous?’ he asked.
    ‘Well, even we “gods” in our “ivory towers” occasionally like to have some fun!’
    Keshava grew serious again.
    ‘The problem is, Sahula, I’m not like you. I’d like to believe that all you say is true, but I can’t accept things on faith; I need to have evidence and proof.’
    ‘That’s reasonable enough. When I was very young, I always felt that there were invisible worlds and invisible beings; occasionally I used to catch glimpses of them. And since then I have acquired what, for me, is positive knowledge that such things exist. Your position is quite different. Like so many young people today, you’re mesmerized by the claims of science and the glamour of technological gadgets and dismiss the philosophers of old as ignorant and superstitious. If you really wanted to, you could learn to see the inner worlds for yourself, but you probably wouldn’t have the patience. You’ve seen one small demonstration of occult forces, though my master has forbidden me from doing it again, and . . . ’
    ‘But that’s what is so infuriating about these “mahatmas” and “sages”; they hide themselves away, conceal their knowledge, and seem to want to keep us all in ignorance – if it really is ignorance.’
    ‘They act in the manner they know from experience to be most effective. They want us to learn to think for ourselves.’
    ‘But if they’re really interested in helping humanity, why don’t they do so more openly? Why all the mystery and secrecy? Aren’t they just being selfish and elitist?’
    ‘Either they are more highly evolved than the rest of us or they are not. Assuming they are, what should they do? Hold a press conference to announce their teachings on ethics and metaphysics, and perform some occult phenomena to “prove” who they are? You can imagine what would happen: some people would worship them as gods, others would denounce them as devils, and most of the rest would dismiss them as lunatics and impostors. They give out their teachings according to people’s merits and capacity to receive. “Live the life and you will know the doctrine” is the ages-old rule. It’s perfectly logical and just – whether you like it or not.’
    ‘You mean: “No pain, no gain.” But what do the mahatmas do all day?’
    ‘Some have public duties in our community and at times in the history of civilization this has also been the case in the West. But much of their work has always been conducted on the astral plane, in our planet’s thought-atmosphere, where the same spiritual effort can produce far more potent effects. Anyone who shows a glimmer of the “buddhic splendour”, the spirit of brotherhood and compassion, and any individual or group striving to advance human knowledge or spread a healthy philosophy of life, may attract their attention and receive an extra impulse in their work without knowing it. But exactly what their influence has been and is on human evolution – who is in a position to judge, except they themselves? They’re not interested in name and fame. They can operate far more effectively if they remain unseen, unnoticed and unappreciated, and therefore unobstructed and undisturbed. That is largely how they have worked for countless ages, and they’re hardly likely to change their ways just to satisfy the whims of you or me.’
    ‘Well you obviously believe in what they’re doing. But you claim to know one of them. Did you ask your master if I could meet him, like you said you would?’
    ‘He said no.’
    ‘But why?’ asked Keshava irritatedly. ‘I suppose he thinks that I’m too “unworthy” and “inferior” – or is he afraid that I’m too independently minded and he won’t be able to bamboozle me?’
    Sahula shook his head sadly.
    ‘He said there was no point wasting time wrangling, that you were incapable of believing the evidence of your own eyes, and that the best thing you can do is go to college, study the sciences, and if you do so honestly and with an open mind, and don’t ignore things that don’t fit in, your faith in materialism will be severely challenged.’
    ‘Well I’ve never heard such rubbish! Of course I believe the evidence of my own eyes.’
    ‘In that case you know that occult forces exist, because I once gave you a little demonstration.’
    ‘Yes, but it was all done too quickly and not under test conditions.’
    ‘My master said you would prefer to accuse me of trickery and deception than abandon your materialistic faith.’
    ‘I’ve never accused you of trickery.’
    ‘It was either a genuine occult phenomenon, or I – your friend and cousin – have tricked and deceived you!’
    ‘Well . . . do it again. This time I’ll become a true believer.’
    ‘I’m not allowed. But I pestered my master as much as I dared and he said he would drop you a message to prove what he had said. He said you would find it in your wallet.’
    Keshava eyed Sahula suspiciously and retrieved the brand-new wallet hanging round his neck, beneath his shirt. He looked into all its compartments. ‘There’s no message here. I pronounce the test a failure and your master a fake.’ He returned the wallet to its hiding place.
    Sahula counted silently to ten, as he had been instructed, then said:
    ‘Well perhaps you’d better look again, just in case.’
    ‘If you insist.’ Keshava opened the wallet a second time. A look of amazement spread over his face as he retrieved a folded piece of paper. He read it quickly.
    ‘Did you write this?’ he demanded.
    ‘No, I did not!’
    ‘So why is it in your handwriting?’
    Sahula grabbed the note and read it: ‘Brother Keshava, you are right to question everything. Doubt all – even your own doubts. Pursue the truth with an honest and open mind and some day the truth will be yours.’ Keshava was right. It was all written in Sahula’s handwriting – except for an illegible scrawl at the bottom, which was probably a signature.
    ‘You wrote it and planted it on me, didn’t you? What a dirty trick!’
    ‘Don’t be so ridiculous! A letter is materialized in your wallet in a perfect reproduction of my own handwriting and all you can see is a “dirty trick”! I pronounce the test a brilliant success. You won’t believe the evidence of your own eyes. Well at least you can’t accuse my master of not having a sense of humour. The whole thing is almost . . . frivolous. And you’ve no idea how much power it costs to produce a phenomenon like this.’
    ‘I admit it might be genuine. But if it is, it’s clearly designed to sow further doubts, therefore it can’t be the work of a superior intelligence, therefore it’s probably a hoax. Though I’m not saying it is for certain. The message itself is pretty trite and could easily be the work of an impostor. So I want another test, but this time I will decide what I want doing, and I will determine the time and place and the conditions under which it should be performed. We need multiple, independent witnesses, careful controls, video cameras filming from every conceivable angle, and . . .’
    Sahula laughed heartily and then said, with a touch of sadness:
    ‘Keshava, I think that’s the last you’ll ever hear from my master.’

~ 4 ~

A few days later, on the evening before Sahula was due to return to the monastery, he had another conversation with Keshava.
    Keshava seemed in low spirits. Sahula knew he was still trying to decide what to make of the note, but neither of them mentioned it. Sahula told him a few things about his new duties at the monastery, though, as usual, he avoided any mention of the inner circle, and Keshava asked whether he ever intended to get married and have a family.
    ‘I’m not cut out for that. What about you?’
    Keshava said he hoped to get married one day and whispered to him the name of the girl he had his eyes on.
    ‘Well I hope you’re not going to ask me to perform an occult ritual to win her for you, because that would be black magic.’
    ‘But don’t you ever feel the urge?’
    ‘What, to perform black magic?’
    ‘No! To have sex with a girl!’
    ‘Keshava, I’ve been having sex with girls for millions of years. I think it’s time to give it a rest.’
    ‘You’re not trying to tell me that it’s wrong and unnatural are you?’
    ‘Of course not – not if the motives are pure. But it’s not essential. Unless you’re totally obsessed with it and always thinking about it, in which case you whip up your astral energies and colour them with sexual thoughts, so that they inevitably seek release in that direction – one way or another.’
    ‘I’ll leave the “occult” explanation to you. Some people might say that you’re being unnatural by repressing natural feelings and desires.’
    ‘I’m not repressing anything – I’ve never felt better! Anyway, my master says that sexuality is a passing phase in humanity’s development. Many millions of years ago there were no sexes and in the very distant future there will again be no sexes.’
    ‘How boring!’
    ‘To the modern, sex-crazed mentality, certainly. Sexual activity – spasmic, convulsive self-abandonment – is the exact opposite of the perfect self-control that adepts strive for. It also depletes our vital energies, weakens the body and brain, agitates the mind and hinders the opening of the third eye – the pineal gland, the organ of inner vision. So let everybody make their choice. And you can predict with utter certainty that for as long as the two sexes remain, the desire to join together in sexual union will also exist; that’s the nature of things – obviously, because otherwise no new bodies would be produced for souls to incarnate in. But there are higher forms of “union”, and some individuals have always outrun the mass of humanity and attained union with their own sexless, spiritual selves; they are our elder brothers, the watchers and guardians of the human race.’
    ‘Like your master?’
    ‘Yes. Then there are those who strive to follow their example. Sometimes people aim too high, bite off more than they can chew and fall badly or, much worse, become hypocrites by preaching one thing and doing or thinking another. We must all set our own goals and fight our own battles. Step by step we climb.’
    ‘Well, good luck to you.’
    ‘Good luck to you too. I think you’ll need it even more than me!’
    ‘I suspect it’s the other way round,’ said Keshava with a laugh.

~ 5 ~

When Sahula arrived at the monastery the following afternoon, after the seven-mile walk up the mountain from the village, one of the lamas handed him an envelope. It bore his name – Sahula K. Askari – in his master’s writing. The note inside instructed him to go at once to the ashram. So Sahula set off on the five-mile trek to the secluded spot where his master lived.
    The master greeted him and they sat down on the cushions on the floor of the building.
    ‘I have watched over you for seven years, Sahula. Whatever mistakes you have made, I have seen that your heart and motives are essentially pure. You are free of pride and worldly ambition, you are honest and humble, and you are devoted to the chief aim of our holy Order: to become a coworker with nature and a servant of humanity. To serve humanity with all our heart and all our soul is the only lasting joy that we can know on this earth.
    ‘Remember that compassion does not mean sentimentalism; nor does nonattachment mean cold indifference. You must have sympathy and compassion for all, feel the sorrow and heartache of humanity, yet be incapable of tears. Our Brotherhood would be worse than useless if we spent all day blubbering in despair. From a long-term perspective, there is far greater cause for optimism than pessimism, for the forces of harmony always triumph over the forces of disharmony in the end.
    ‘Seek the middle way in all you do. Every present moment we embroider upon the past the design of the future. Therefore let every moment be a change for the better, a seed of finer and greater and grander things, for every positive thought or deed lifts a little of the heavy karma of the world.
    ‘Your occult powers are still very undeveloped, though far greater than you have yet realized. When the time is right, you will be helped to perfect them. Then you may finally discover who you really are.
    ‘There is a time for speaking and a time for silence. Waste no words when words would be useless or counterproductive. Never speak to wound or to score a point. Sow seeds of ideas and leave them to germinate or wither according to the soil in which they fall. You cannot force the evolution of others – only of yourself.
    ‘Do not despise others for their vices and weaknesses, for these weaknesses were yours yesterday and may be yours again tomorrow. Do not envy others for their virtues and accomplishments, but rejoice and follow in their footsteps. There is no fault in the people around us that we either do not possess ourselves in some degree or that we did not once possess in the course of our long evolution. Even our highest buddhas and bodhisattvas were once sinning mortals. Those who trail behind even the mass of humanity today will remain in the human kingdom but as forerunners in the next planetary cycle; just as every grain of sand in the oceans will at some point be washed up onto the shore, so every soul will have its day in the sun.
    ‘Those who hardly know even their own hearts and motives should refrain from standing in judgement over others: judge the action, not the person. Bear no grudges or ill will, harbour no resentment, for by doing so you merely add to the agony of the world. Forgive those who wrong you: learn to forgive, learn to love – purely and impersonally and without preference. Treat everybody impartially.
    ‘Nothing happens without a cause and nothing moves without a force. The causes of present events lie largely in the past, but even if we knew what had happened in our past life, it would help us little, for the roots of that past life lie even further in the past. Imagine, for example, two boys, one of whom is always being bullied by the other. One day as they are playing, the bullied boy can take no more – he puts out his foot and trips the other up; the bully falls and knocks his head against a tree and suffers permanent brain damage. A terrible accident? There is no such thing. It is karma; everything is karma. What good would it do to know more? And who can say what impulses might surface when the two individuals meet up again in a future life, in different bodies and different roles? Heed my words, Sahula. The multiwoven web of causation is unfathomable in its infinite complexity. Do not brood over the past, do not regret the past; live in the present, for the future.
    ‘You cannot enter the stream of occultism without calling forth the karma of the past in accelerated and concentrated form. Your greatest trials are yet to come and purity and selflessness are your only protection. Have no fear: face adversity and misfortune with courage and equanimity. Nothing can happen to you that you have not in some way brought upon yourself. Accept responsibility for everything that befalls you, but never blame yourself for things you cannot prevent and are not directly responsible for. We cannot change the past; all we can change is our attitude towards it, try to come to terms with it, learn the necessary lessons and move on. Remember, true love brings all kindred souls back together again.
    ‘Never fight against nature; work with her. Nature is always wiser than any individual human being, because it does not share our personal preferences, our emotional attachments and shortsighted delusions. It is utterly just: it knows no favourites and makes no exceptions. In the end, all is for the best.
    ‘Be self-dependent and self-reliant; lean on nobody, cling to nobody. Do not live for the admiration of others, do not be swayed by the ignorance of others, and do not depend on others for your happiness. Discover your inner soul-strength and become the warrior within. This you must achieve through the strength of your will, for the will is the one irresistible power in nature. Whatever the phantom or demon, it may be swept into nothingness by concentrating upon it your will and bidding it go.
    ‘The highest and most difficult form of knowledge is self-knowledge. It requires constant, critical self-examination, and the realization that you are not your body, or your sensations, or your thoughts, feelings and desires, but that inner centre of pure consciousness which observes all these lower aspects. A calm, steady and balanced mind, free of unruly thoughts, emotions and desires, is best able to receive and reflect the inspiration and illumination of our higher self. If you learn to know your innermost self, by becoming increasingly at one with that innermost self, you will have the key that unlocks the deepest mysteries of nature, for the heart of the heart of our being is one with the heart of the universe.
    ‘Never doubt the things you know to be true. Have faith, Sahula, even when the axe falls. If you are victorious and yet remain humble, you will be taken on a journey to a sacred place that is of this physical earth, but not on this earth, yet is two thirds the size of the earth. Sacred Shambhala – in all its many levels, including the imperishable central land of the inner circle – is no myth.’
    They sat without speaking for several minutes. Sahula did not feel it appropriate to break the silence with all his questions. Finally, the master said:
    ‘My faithful chela, it grows late. You must return to your duties.’
    They stepped outside. As Sahula turned to leave, the master placed his hand on Sahula’s head. A look of sadness seemed to flit across his wrinkled face.
    ‘Press on resolutely, do not waver, and you shall reach the other shore. My blessings are with you – always.’
    The master turned and went inside.
    Sahula set off, reflecting on his master’s words, wondering what all this had been about. He was about half-way to the monastery when suddenly he knew: he would never see his master again in this life. His master had just said farewell. Sahula’s first instinct was to rush back to the ashram, but he checked himself and set his sight tearfully towards the monastery. His master had been more than a father to him; he had helped to awaken his soul-nature and for that Sahula was eternally indebted to him. He must never fail him.
    The next day Sahula tried to learn from the chief lama what had happened to his master, but all he could glean was that his master had ‘departed’.

~ 6 ~

Three weeks later Sahula was suddenly awakened from his sleep by a fellow-monk calling his name.
    ‘Sahula, wake up, wake up. The chief lama wishes to speak to you.’
    Sahula hastily pulled on his robes and went out into the courtyard. The head of the monastery walked over to him.
     ‘You must return to the village. Your family needs you.’
    ‘What’s happened?’
    ‘Have courage, Sahula. Do not fail us. Go!’
    Sahula knew better than to question further. He ran and stumbled down the mountain path in the early light of dawn. He was a few miles from the village when he saw someone running up the path towards him. It was Keshava.
    ‘Sahula!’ he exclaimed. ‘Thank God! I was coming to get you. Something terrible has happened. Several men broke into your mother’s house. They took Ranjit.’
    ‘What?! Where are they? What’s happened to my mother and sister?’
    ‘Your mother heard Ranjit cry out and caught the men carrying him away. One of them pushed her against a wall and knocked her unconscious, but she’s alright. No one else saw them entering or leaving. There’s no trace of them.’
    Sahula’s mother clasped her son in her arms when he arrived at the house twenty minutes later. She related again what had happened. The police were already searching for Ranjit and there was nothing more they could do. The kidnappers were probably miles away by now. Sahula said he would go and look too. His mother seemed to be expecting this and handed him a bag to take with him, which he tied round his waist. He bade his tearful mother and sister farewell, promising to return soon.
    Sahula headed straight for the secret hideout in the forest, for he felt quite sure that he would find Ranjit there. He also sensed that something horrible was about to happen, but that it was something he had to face alone.
    He reached the clearing fifteen minutes later, pushed aside the branches that hid the entrance and rushed inside. Five burly men were sitting in the centre of the clearing in a circle – in the middle of which sat Ranjit.
    ‘Sahula!’ cried Ranjit, jumping to his feet. One of the men grabbed hold of him to stop him running to his brother and Ranjit choked back the tears.
    ‘What’s going on?’ Sahula demanded.
    A tall, bearded man, the ringleader, stood up and walked slowly and menacingly towards him. He stopped a few inches in front of him, towering over him.
    ‘Sahula, how good of you to heed the call. We’ve had our eyes on you for some time. You have learned certain secrets that we would like you to share with us. This will of course involve you breaking your vows, but to encourage you, we’ve brought along your little brother. You may either keep your vows, as all good monks should, and we shall then very slowly torture him before your very eyes, or you may tell us what we want to know, and then all will be well. Now, why don’t you come and join our little gathering.’
    He lifted Sahula into the air and half threw him towards the rest of the group. Sahula landed in a heap and scrambled to his feet.
    ‘Let my brother go. Please! Do what you want with me but let my brother go.’
    ‘Don’t be silly, Sahula, torturing two people is twice as much fun as torturing one.’
    ‘Please, let him go,’ Sahula begged. ‘Please!
    The ringleader ambled over to Sahula, then kicked him viciously in the stomach. Sahula fell to the ground in pain and Ranjit sobbed loudly.
    ‘What am I supposed to know that is of such interest to you?’ gasped Sahula, as he lay on the ground clutching his stomach.
    ‘You are going to make us very rich and very powerful. We know that you have been shown certain underground passages and rooms at the monastery, where vast treasures are concealed. You also know about certain magic practices that are of great interest to me.’
    While the attention was focused on Sahula, Ranjit had wriggled free and started running towards his brother. The final seconds of his short life began to tick away . . .
    ‘Tell them nothing, Sahula,’ he cried. ‘They are bad men. I’m not afraid to die.’
    The ringleader bounded forward and intercepted the boy, lifted him into the air and slammed his head against a tree with a loud crack. Ranjit fell to the ground, but the man picked him up by the hair, pulled out a long knife from his belt and held it at Ranjit’s throat, his hand over the boy’s mouth.
    ‘You’d better start talking or this kid’s dead,’ he shouted, a hideous expression on his face.
    Sahula slowly raised himself onto one knee. He had seen what the others could not see and said a silent prayer. Ignoring the pain in his stomach, he stood up straight.
    ‘What must be, must be,’ he said softly. ‘How could you do this to a defenceless young boy?’
    ‘If you want to save your brother, you’d better start talking.’
    ‘I will tell you nothing.’
    ‘Alright, you cold, callous monster! I’ll slit his throat and we’ll watch him bleed to death. Maybe that will loosen your tongue!’
    There was a tearing sound as the knife ripped open Ranjit’s throat. But Ranjit felt nothing – for he was already dead.
    When the ringleader realized what had happened he threw the knife to the ground in anger. He must not fail those whom he feared. He turned on Sahula like a mad dog. A barrage of brutal kicks and punches rained down on his head and body, and a shower of blood spattered over his robes. As Sahula fell to the ground, he tried in an intense act of will to wrench himself out of his body, but already he was too weak, the effort was only half successful and he sank into unconsciousness.

~ 7 ~

Sahula awoke in pain. The memory of all that had happened flooded back to him. The loss of his dear brother made him feel sick inside. His body ached, his face was a bloodied mass of bruises, his lips were torn and his left eye was swollen shut. He saw trees all around him, but did not recognize where he was. He was lying on the ground, spread out in the shape of a cross; his legs were free, but each arm was tied to a log on either side of him. He guessed that he had been unconscious for over a day and wondered if he had been drugged.
    ‘The demigod awakes, though he no longer looks so divine,’ spoke a mocking voice. ‘Where are your mahatmas now? Have they abandoned you?’
    Sahula opened his right eye and saw the bearded man standing a few feet in front of him – holding a long-handled axe.
    ‘Go ahead. Kill me!’
    ‘I’ve no intention of killing you, Sahula. I’m going to chop you up bit by bit until you scream for mercy and tell me everything I want to know. I thought it would be nice to begin with your right arm. Where would you like me to chop it off? At the wrist, the elbow . . . ?’
    ‘Oh, why not chop the whole thing off. What’s the use of two arms anyway?’ said Sahula calmly.
    ‘How very witty we’ve become overnight. Perhaps this might put a dent in your “mahatmic” composure . . .’
    The man brought the blunt end of the axe down across Sahula’s left kneecap, causing him to cry out in pain.
    Gritting his teeth, Sahula again tried with an intense effort of will to separate his mind from his body. Without his master’s assistance, he could not quite manage it, but at least the pain was dulled.
    ‘What have you done with Ranjit’s body?’ he asked.
    ‘We left it where it will be found.’
    Sahula breathed a sigh of relief.
    ‘Thank you,’ he said sincerely.
    ‘What do you mean thank you?!’
    ‘It will help my mother come to terms with what you’ve done if she can give her son a proper cremation.’
    ‘I’m very happy to have obliged you. Anything else I can do for you?’ asked the man sarcastically.
    ‘No. Not at the moment. Thank you.’
    The man suddenly grew enraged.
    ‘What’s the matter with you fanatics? Are you completely inhuman? Don’t you hate me? Don’t you want revenge?’
    Sahula studied him through his one good eye. He could see dark shapes flitting about him, enveloping him, seeping into him. He looked at him with pity – the man had made himself into the plaything of evil forces.
    ‘I have seen the horror that hatred causes. I would have to be insane to want to inflict that on others. Don’t you believe in karma?’ asked Sahula sorrowfully.
    ‘I believe in nothing,’ the man roared, his face twisted with anger, his eyes wild and bloodshot.
    He marched up to Sahula, stood before his right arm and lifted the axe over his head.
    ‘Tell me where the treasure is kept,’ he shouted. ‘TELL ME! NOW!’
    ‘You poor wretch,’ whispered Sahula. ‘May the gods have mercy on your soul. Do what you have to do.’
    The man let out a blood-curdling cry of rage. He aimed the axe at Sahula’s upper right arm, then swiftly brought it down with all his might. There was a dull thud and Sahula’s eyes closed.
    Suddenly the man began to howl and foam at the mouth, beating his fists against his body, tearing at his hair, shrieking hysterically. His legs buckled beneath him and he banged his head repeatedly against the ground, convulsing and vomiting. Finally he collapsed in a heap and lay there whimpering.
    Sahula looked at his right arm. His fingers twitched. He moved them again, to convince himself that his arm really was still attached to his body. He did not know whether the man had deliberately wanted to hit the side of the log, or whether he simply needed more practice with his aim.
    A wave of doubt and despair swept over him. What was going on? Was it all a dream, a nightmare? Was his brother really dead? Was he himself dead? Who was this man? Where were the other outlaws? Even if he had told them all he knew – which was precious little – what good would it have done them? He knew that the Brotherhood had huge reserves of wealth set aside for future missions. He had seen some of it. But the men would never have been allowed to steal it. The elementals guarding it would have made sure of that. And while it was true that certain signs and symbols were used in controlling occult forces, the main requirement was highly-developed powers of visualization and concentration and a well-honed will, and he doubted whether these men had the patience for that. Except perhaps the ringleader – otherwise how would they have found out about him and his forest hideout? Perhaps the dugpas, the self-made sorcerers and workers of evil, were behind it all and were using these men for their own ends. He did not understand what was going on.
    And what was supposed to happen now? Was he supposed to escape? Would the other bandits appear and finish the job? Would he ever see his mother and sister again? His thoughts turned again to Ranjit. Now that the immediate danger seemed to have passed, he could control himself no longer. His eyes filled with tears and he began to sob like a child. It all seemed so pointless, so utterly and totally pointless. But he didn’t believe in pointlessness.
    Blinking the tears from his eyes, he tried to sit up, grimacing in pain. He began trying to free his left arm. The rope was not very tight. After a while, he managed to pull his arm free. He then used the blade of the axe to cut the rope restraining his right arm. Within a few minutes he was free. He stood up and tried to walk, but found he could not put much weight on his left leg due to the injury to his knee. He hobbled over to the man on the ground; following his severe epileptic fit, he appeared to have fallen into a deathlike stupor. There was nothing Sahula could do for him.
    ‘You poor, silly man,’ said Sahula sadly. ‘What’s going to become of you? You must try to be less excitable in the future, otherwise you’ll damage your health.’
    He chose a direction at random and started walking. But he had taken only seventeen paces when suddenly he found himself face to face with the other bandits. When they saw their leader lying on the ground, apparently dead, they seemed to grow confused. One made as if to grab Sahula, but Sahula pointed a finger at him.
    ‘Must I put a curse on you too, you evil little man?’ Sahula sneered. ‘Like I did with your leader?’
    The man mumbled something and edged back. The sight of this thin youth, in his blood-bespattered robes, with his disfigured, barely human face, seemed to strike fear into them.
    ‘Stand aside, you miserable curs! Go and tend to your leader!’ Sahula commanded.
    He decided to make himself scarce before the men realized he wasn’t the powerful magician they mistook him for. He set off up the hill, out of the valley. Once he got his bearings, he would head for the village and return home to comfort his mother and sister.

~ 8 ~

As he limped off, he caught sight of a bag lying in the grass. It was the one his mother had given him. It must have come untied and fallen from his body as he was being carried here. He picked it up and set off again. As soon as he was safely out of sight and off the beaten track, he sat down wearily and opened the bag. It contained lots of nuts and fruit – and an envelope. He opened it, took out a piece of paper, unfolded it and read with bated breath:

    My beloved son,
    I write this as I wait for Keshava to fetch you from the monastery. I feel certain that you will go and look for your brother and that it is you the men really want. I also feel certain that you will live to read this – though I fear for your brother Ranjit.
    Many years ago, when you were very young, and before Ranjit was even born, the chief lama came to see me. He told me that you were special and that when you were older I should send you to the monastery, where you would receive instruction from one far higher than he. I did as advised and am proud of what you have become.
    The lama also hinted that one day something tragic would happen to my sons, but that you would survive and come back to me at once – unless I gave you permission to continue your quest. He said that even our most precious possessions – our children – are gifts from the gods, loaned to us for a purpose, but that there comes a time when we must let them go so that they can follow their own calling. He said the choice was entirely my own.
    Sahula, I am a simple, devout woman, but I know in my heart that what the lama said is true. Do not hesitate to do what you must do. Your sister and cousin will look after me. Though my hand trembles as I write these words, I release you from all your filial duties and give you my blessing. You will always be in my heart and I know I shall be in yours.
    I love you for ever,
        Your devoted mother

    ‘Thank the gods you cannot see me now,’ Sahula thought to himself, his eyes brimming with tears.
    His mind was in a whirl. He did not know what to do or what to think or what to feel. It was all so surreal – except for the constant throbbing pain in his battered body. Was he supposed to turn his back on his mother? Why couldn’t he have been a normal person and lived a normal life? His dear little brother would probably still be alive.
    He found himself walking, limping, one painful step after the other, in a dazed, trance-like state.
    An hour later, utterly exhausted, he arrived at a vantage point above the valley. He looked around him. The lofty, snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas towered up to the north and east, with lower ranges to the west and south. He did not know exactly where he was, but he was sure that it was a good seventy miles from his village. The bandits must have driven most of the way to their hideout and then travelled the rest of the way on horseback or on foot. Oh, where was his master now? Why did all this have to happen?
    He found himself heading downhill again and soon came to a secluded spot where there was a deep pool of water, fed by a mountain stream. He took off his robes and jumped into the water. The freezing temperature brought him back to his senses. He bathed the blood from his aching face and found he could see a little out of his left eye. He ate some of the nuts and then lay down beneath the midday sun and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. When he awoke a few hours later, he felt stronger but still quite alone. If only his powers had not been so limited, he could have established instant telepathic contact with the brothers, so that they could send out a rescue party. He smiled inwardly at the naivety of the thought.
    His village must lie to the west. But he set a course to the east. For although his heart bled at the thought that he might never see his mother and sister again, his mother’s letter gave the right to pursue a higher calling – if he was equal to the challenge. If he could rise above the personal ties of blood and family, he felt he would be given the opportunity to become more deeply involved in the mahatmas’ wider work for humanity.
    For seven days he wandered, keeping to the forested valleys and foothills, where the days were warm and the nights not unbearably cold. There was no sign of habitation anywhere and he saw only an occasional deer or leopard in the distance. He drank from pure mountain streams and each day he ate some of the nuts and fruit his mother had given him, supplemented by wild berries. His wounds were slowly healing and, despite his meagre diet, his strength gradually returned. But his peace of mind did not. One moment he felt elated, inspired by the enchanting scenery and the star-spangled celestial vault of night, confident that all would turn out well; the next moment he felt dejected, miserable and alone, a failure to his brother, mother and sister, forsaken by his master, utterly irrelevant to the world. The further he travelled towards the east, the more part of him longed to return to the west.
    On the seventh day, in a fit of depression, he ventured up higher into the mountains, into the freezing cold air, punishing himself for the death of Ranjit. He wanted to reach the snow and ice but his strength gave out. He collapsed on a mountain crag and resolved to sit there until he died. After two hours of shivering, he began to lose consciousness. Suddenly he heard a sound behind him and looked round startled. His heart missed a beat. A wild tiger stood some ten feet away. It uttered a deep growl.
    ‘Well, go on, eat me! I don’t give a damn,’ Sahula declared fearlessly. ‘Rip me limb from limb if you want to. At least I’ll be good for something. I haven’t been of much use to my family. Let me feel the pain my mother must feel at the loss of her two sons!’
    He turned away and waited for the animal to pounce. He had lost the will to live. He heard the tiger slink closer. He could feel its breath. Then it rested its head on Sahula’s shoulder, as if to comfort him. Sahula put his arms around it and wept into its fur. Then he wiped away his tears and smiled.
    ‘Don’t be afraid, tiger. I shan’t eat you. I couldn’t hurt a flea!’
    A new resolve seemed to spring up inside him and a sensation of warmth flowed through him. It was time to stop wallowing in self-pity, to leave the past behind and move on. He might yet achieve something on this quest. He patted the tiger and retraced his tracks down the mountain slope. The tiger followed part of the way and finally disappeared.
    Sahula again set his course towards the east. There was no point fantasizing about what might have been. His higher self had placed him here, exactly where he needed to be, and nothing else would have satisfied him. His brother was dead, but so brave and pure a soul could come to no further harm. Sahula felt he was nearing a turning point. And he knew with absolute certainty that the brothers were watching him.
    That night he succeeded in freeing himself completely from his body and, as he had been dwelling in thought upon his mother, he flew off in that direction. He could not see everything clearly, but he thought he saw her awaken and call to him. Then he was whisked off back to his body. Perhaps he had reassured her that he was alive, but he knew he must not try it again.
    For many more days he wandered, his resolve growing firmer day by day and his outlook more positive. He surveyed his life, his failures and his achievements, his strengths and his weaknesses, and took advantage of the perfect solitude to tap deeper than ever before into the hidden resources of his spiritual self.
    On the eighteenth night after Ranjit’s death, he dreamed that he was floating far out in space. He saw silvery and golden tendrils of energy radiating from the sun, coursing through space, washing over and through the earth, entering at the north pole and exiting at the south. He saw a huge red sphere of magnetic fire at the centre of the earth, surrounded by luminous ethereal light, all encased in the outer, solid shell. Suddenly all went black, followed immediately by a dazzling explosion, and he saw a lotus of light, with a symbolic buddha-like figure, eyes closed, seated in meditation upon it, and he heard its soundless call.
    Early the next morning, he sat on the ground beneath a cloudless sky, soaking up the regenerating rays of the sun. He was at peace with the world. He felt that his quest was almost over and that his worst ordeals were behind him. Little did he know that everything that had so far happened was but a prelude to the real battle – which was just about to begin . . .

~ 9 ~

All at once he found himself immersed in a huge dark shadow. He looked up, expecting to see a monstrous bird descending upon him. Instead, he saw a jet-black cloud. As it enveloped him, he lost consciousness. And there his entranced body lay – for three days and three nights.
    A scene of passion met his eyes – a sea of naked figures, writhing and groaning in an ecstatic orgy of lust. He stood in their midst and they pulled at his gleaming white robes. He felt their clammy hands and tongues caressing his naked flesh and he drew back instinctively. He tried to force his way out of the crowd, but naked bodies pressed up against him, barring his way. Seductive, sensuous sensations began to roll over him and he felt himself being sucked into their midst. Had he come all this way to fall at the very first hurdle? He recalled his master’s words: ‘The fire of passion is hot, intense and agitated. The fire of spirit is cool, soothing and refreshing. Make your choice, Sahula, and never look back.’ With a supreme effort of will, he banished the scene from his mind and with a snap of the fingers it was gone. He did not intend to squander any more lives in servitude to sterile passion.
    He was standing on an empty plain.
    ‘This must be a lucid dream,’ he told himself. He frequently had lucid dreams and knew that he had absolute control over what happened in them.
    A beautiful young woman in white – someone he recognized – appeared before him and beckoned to him, calling his name.
    ‘I told you before,’ Sahula sighed. ‘I know you would be loving and devoted, and that raising a family can be very rewarding, but married life is not for me. My heart just wouldn’t be in it. Personal love, even at its best, is still a limitation and merely a stepping-stone to universal love.’
    ‘Don’t be so selfish, Sahula,’ she chided. ‘Come to me!’
    ‘Your words merely prove that we are living in different worlds and are completely unsuitable for one another. And anyway, what am I arguing with you for? You’re only a figment of my imagination. So farewell, and now be gone!’ He clapped his hands and she vanished.
    His mother, sister and young brother walked towards him, hand in hand.
    ‘Sahula!’ cried his mother. ‘Thank God we’ve found you. Why did you desert us? Please come back – we miss you and need you.’
    ‘Please, Sahula,’ Ranjit begged. ‘Let’s go into the forest to play – just like we used to.’
    ‘Impossible,’ said Sahula, ‘because you’re dead.’
    Ranjit began to cry. He lifted up his head and Sahula saw a thin trickle of blood seep from the gash across his throat; the blood began to flow faster and faster, until it became a torrent, cascading down over his small body and lapping at Sahula’s feet. Ranjit let out a heart-piercing scream.
    ‘Why am I torturing myself like this?’ Sahula asked himself. ‘It’s totally absurd. May all futile nostalgias perish – now!’ He closed his eyes, opened them again, and found himself once more alone.
    The man with the axe appeared before him, with a ruthless glint in his eye.
    ‘Not you too!’ said Sahula impatiently. ‘Stop wasting my time. Be gone!’ He clapped his hands.
    But the man still stood there and began to laugh uncontrollably.
    ‘You got off lightly the first time, Sahula, but then I was only practising. Now I intend to finish the job.’
    Again Sahula tried desperately to banish him from his mind – but in vain. His heart raced. What was going on?
    ‘This is no dream, Sahula. This is for real!’
    Sahula realized that his will was not strong enough to avoid the next part of his vision; he had no choice but to endure it. He resolved to remain unflinchingly calm and to emulate the serenity of his beloved master. He steeled himself.
    The man brought the blunt end of the axe down on Sahula’s head, felling him to the ground. Pain shot through his body and blood poured down his face. But his face registered nothing.
    ‘And now the arms, Sahula.’
    Sahula looked at his arms. They were tied to two logs on either side of him. He tried to raise his consciousness out of the body, but his consciousness would not budge – not yet; his past demanded that first he must taste pain – indescribable, inhuman pain . . .
    The axe came down on his right arm and embedded itself in the bone. Another swing and it was severed completely. Agony, sheer agony flooded through him. But still his face registered nothing. One mighty swing of the axe and the left arm was hacked from his body. Sahula lay in a pool of blood. The pain limit was reached, but still he remained fully conscious. But was it really pain he felt? Or was it pleasure? Was there a difference any more? He was not sure what the sensation was. Perhaps it was just numbness. In the end it was all the same – vibration, part of the eternal, ceaseless vibration of nature. Sahula knew that there was no real separateness between himself and the man wielding the axe or anything else in existence. In the depths of their being, all lifeforms pulsed to the rhythm of the one Life and danced to the tune of the one Harmony, for all were manifestations of the one divine Essence. Sahula ceased to fight, relaxed the tension, let go of his personality and tried to melt into the oneness.
    He heard a distant rumble that grew louder and louder until it became a deafening roar. A mountain of earth and rock swept over him, crushing him and suffocating him. He fell into a raging torrent and was sucked down and down, his lungs filled with water and he found himself drowning. Roaring flames leaped up around him, his clothing caught fire and his flesh began to burn with searing pain. A whirling tornado bore down upon him, whisked him aloft and carried him at lightning speed through the air. Mercilessly it tossed and tore at him and finally dashed him against a wall of rock. Throughout it all, Sahula saw and suffered but did not flinch; his mind reached out into the unknown, driving its roots deeper into the emptiness from which all things are spun.
    He plummeted down and down, deeper and deeper, into an abyss of blackness. He submitted to the flow: he knew that the core of his being was imperishable and indestructible; for not a particle of infinitude could ever be annihilated and none could ever be created. He had absolute faith in the justice of nature and knew that the trial could not last forever. He had committed his soul to the masters, to the cause of humanity, and if he was strong enough to withstand this ordeal, no power in the universe could prevent him from taking his rightful place in the Hierarchy of Compassion, as so many warriors of the soul had done before him.
    But first the ghosts of his past must be exorcized. As he plunged into the chasm of nothingness, subhuman energies – thoughts and desires and emotions from his own past – returned to haunt him. Hideous forms clawed and gnawed and tore at him; alluring forms enticed and seduced and tempted him. But he had come too far to waver now: temptation had lost its attraction, he was indifferent to pleasure and to pain, deaf to the wearying allurements of sin, the cacophonous cries of the senses. Wave after wave of thought-forms harassed and attacked him – dragons of passion and lustful obsessions, phantoms of fear and demons of hate – but Sahula slayed them all with indomitable will.
    For a seeming eternity the torment continued, scene after scene after scene – but Sahula bore it all with perfect detachment. For he was no longer the experiencer but the experience itself; That from which all events unfold; That into which they all subside. He had no tears left to shed, no anguish left to feel; the bottomless wells of suffering were exhausted. His soul pulsed to the beat of the One Life.
    He was falling out of the sky, faster and faster, rushing towards a granite surface of rock, carried by a will superior to his own. He crashed into the rock and felt every bone of his body break. He lay motionless for a second, then clambered to his feet, unharmed and free of pain. Was it over?
    Not yet – for the torment was about to begin all over again, from the very beginning. There was one way out . . .
    The beautiful young woman appeared before him.
    ‘Come and join me, Sahula, and you will suffer no more. Every comfort and contentment will be yours.’
    Ranjit appeared too.
    ‘Come on, Sahula,’ he urged, ‘take my hand, please don’t abandon me again.’
    Without hesitation Sahula dismissed them. He could no longer be ensnared by such deceptions and delusions. This time, in this life, now, he would conquer. Nothing could happen to him that he had not brought upon himself. If he succumbed he would not end his suffering, but merely guarantee himself future suffering. So let it happen. This time he would prevail.
    And so another seeming eternity of torture began – but multiplied many-fold in intensity. Again he dismissed the seductive phantasms of his imagination with invincible will. Again the man with the axe appeared:
    ‘Admit defeat, Sahula, and you will triumph over pain.’
    ‘Let the axe fall,’ Sahula commanded in silence. The axe came down – once, twice, three times, swamping his senses with an agony of numbness.
    Again he was crushed, drowned, burned and torn by the four elements. Again he was subjected to scene after scene of terror, anguish, lust and despair. Maimed and bleeding, yet totally unscathed, Sahula suffered in sensationless pain and did not waver.
    Finally, he was cast back down to earth and smashed against the ground. Without moving, he stood up, healthy, strong and whole, a vibrant expression on his face.
    A huge golden sphere of cool, ethereal fire formed itself in the air in front of him. The same benign figure he had seen before, seated on the gleaming white lotus of light, opened its eyes and gazed down at him; then it rose to its feet, put its hands together and bowed to Sahula – in reverence. A final blinding explosion of brilliant white light, a sensation of unspeakable peace and joy – and it was all over.

Sahula awoke. He had conquered. His period of probation was at an end; he had placed his feet firmly upon the path. He felt no elation, no triumph, just profound tranquillity and an overwhelming sense of inner power. With time, the effect would largely wear off and many further struggles awaited him on the winding road ahead, but if he remained steadfast and continued to prevail, the bond of union with his higher self would become deeper and more lasting with each success.
    In the twilight he climbed to the top of a hill to watch the sun rise in the east. With joy in his heart, he stood there, radiant and serene, his arms outstretched, welcoming the divine sun, as its first crimson rays touched the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, awakening the earth to a new day. The solar orb rose higher and higher, and still Sahula stood there, his arms at his sides, his hands joined, his head bowed.
    Suddenly he felt a tingling in his spine. The moment had finally arrived. With perfect calm and an unutterable sense of peace, he turned to face the tall, majestic figure standing behind him. Their eyes met in instant, inner recognition. No words of greeting were needed. Finally, his new guide spoke:
    ‘Come, Sahula, come and rest awhile; we have a long journey before us.’

Warrior of the Soul - 1: Part 3

Warrior of the Soul: Contents