“Arhans are born at midnight hour, together with the holy flower that opes and blossoms in darkness.” –From an Eastern Scripture.
We stood together at the door of our hut. We could see through the gathering gloom where our sheep and goats were cropping the sweet grass on the side of the hill. We were full of drowsy content as they were. We had naught to mar our happiness, neither memory nor unrest for the future. We lingered on while the vast twilight encircled us; we were one with its dewy stillness. The lustre of the early stars first broke in upon our dreaming: we looked up and around. The yellow constellations began to sing their choral hymn together. As the night deepened they came out swiftly from their hiding-places in depths of still and unfathomable blue–they hung in burning clusters, they advanced in multitudes that dazzled. The shadowy shining of night was strewn all over with nebulous dust of silver, with long mists of gold, with jewels of glittering green. We felt how fit a place the earth was to live on with these nightly glories over us, with silence and coolness upon our lawns and lakes after the consuming day. Valmika, Kedar, Ananda, and I watched together. Through the rich gloom we could see far distant forests and lights, the lights of village and city in King Suddhodana’s realm.
“Brothers,” said Valmika, “how good it is to be here and not yonder in the city, where they know not peace, even in sleep.”
“Yonder and yonder,” said Kedar, “I saw the inner air full of a red glow where they were busy in toiling and strife. It seemed to reach up to me. I could not breathe. I climbed the hill at dawn to laugh where the snows were, and the sun is as white as they are white.”
“But, brothers, if we went down among them and told them how happy we were, and how the flower’s grow on the hillside, they would surely come up and leave all sorrow. They cannot know or they would come.” Ananda was a mere child, though so tall for his years.
“They would not come,” said Kedar; “all their joy is to haggle and hoard. When Siva blows upon them with angry breath they will lament, or when the demons in fierce hunger devour them.”
“It is good to be here,” repeated Valmika, drowsily, “to mind the flocks and be at rest, and to hear the wise Varunna speak when he comes among us.”
I was silent. I knew better than they that busy city which glowed beyond the dark forests. I had lived there until, grown sick and weary, I had gone back to my brothers on the hillside. I wondered, would life, indeed, go on ceaselessly until it ended in the pain of the world. I said within myself: “O mighty Brahma, on the outermost verges of thy dream are our lives. Thou old invisible, how faintly through our hearts comes the sound of thy song, the light of thy glory!” Full of yearning to rise and return, I strove to hear in my heart the music Anahata, spoken of in our sacred scrolls. There was silence and then I thought I heard sounds, not glad, a myriad murmur. As I listened they deepened–they grew into passionate prayer and appeal and tears, as if the cry of the long-forgotten souls of men went echoing through empty chambers. My eyes filled with tears, for it seemed world-wide and to sigh from out many ages, long agone, to be and yet to be.
“Ananda! Ananda! Where is the boy running to?” cried Valmika. Ananda had vanished in the gloom. We heard his glad laugh below, and then another voice speaking. The tall figure of Varunna loomed up presently. Ananda held his hand, and danced beside him. We knew the Yogi, and bowed reverently before him. We could see by the starlight his simple robe of white. I could trace clearly every feature of the grave and beautiful face and radiant eyes. I saw not by the starlight, but by a silvery radiance which rayed a little way into the blackness around the dark hair and face. Valmika, as elder, first spoke: