The dust in the ashram had not yet been stirred by morning activities. Across the valley, the near silent drone of mantras, which never ceased through night and day, was becoming absorbed into the sound of birds, the crackling of fires, and the first conversations of pilgrims. At the farther end of the village, where one picked up the trail to the river’s source, sacred ceremonies were performed as they had been performed for a thousand years. Only during the winter, when snow overwhelmed the village and mountainsides, did the ceremonies stop. For those mornings the temple priests continued their rituals farther down the mountain, and the yogis chanted their mantras there as well until the birds and sky and air told them that it was time to return to the village.
The old yogi sat on the dust floor of his ashram in the last days of the season. The autumn chill had made its way into his bones. He was pleased with the pilgrims who had passed his way this year. They had a gentleness about them that did not interfere with the vast inner realities that were the mainstay of his life. They did not take away from his chanting, which continued throughout the day and most of the night.
The room next to which he sat was the private sanctum of the last pilgrim of the season. The yogi was listening to the young man’s breathing through the curtain that separated the room from the hall. His breath was hardly discernable, but it was there. The yogi was waiting for his breathing to reach a certain rhythm before entering the room and assessing his condition. He had sat there most of the night, listening, silently chanting and waiting for the moment of perfection to turn all actions into the frictionless flow of being.
When that moment arrived, the yogi carefully pushed the curtain aside and looked into the room. The young man, still dressed in his white kurta but with a shawl wrapped around his shoulders, was sitting in his sleeping bag propped against the wall. His hands lay out to his sides palms up. His head leaned slightly forward, and his face radiated the bright alertness of pure introspection. He was there and not there at the same time. The yogi was pleased. He quietly slipped into the room and let the curtain fall silently behind him. With two fingers, he touched the young man’s wrist and sent a wave of his consciousness into the currents of life running through it.
The yogi noticed first that the man’s conscious mind, which ordinarily would have generated an incoherent stirring in the pulse, had ceased to be active. With this obstacle removed, the yogi was able to send his consciousness deeper into his river of life, where he felt long, drifting waves of motion that signified the initial stages of eternal life taking on particularity. The yogi’s last gesture for this young man was to stabilize these waves into a regularity, so that each wave had the same length and frequency, allowing the ocean itself to rise from the depths of his being and take precedence in his knowing. When he was satisfied that his intent had been accomplished, he looked into the young man’s face, which now shown with an imperturbable serenity. He then picked up the golden book, which lay by the young man’s outstretched leg, and silently left the room.
Only a short walk down the hallway, which had not yet been illumined by the sun trying to make its way into the valley, the yogi stopped in front of another room, the entrance to which was also covered with a curtain. For a few moments the yogi waited while he quietly uttered specific mantras, which alone would allow the curtain to be moved back. When he finished the mantras, he took a quick glance at the book he held in his curled fingers and passed inside.
Just on the other side, he let his breath exhale until there was no a personal life moving through him. He propelled himself forward as a wave of conscious intent wrapped around the golden book. As this wave picked up speed, the yogi drew into himself the boundless consciousness of the young man in samadhi and opened himself to the thousands of millions of passageways, aisles and multi-dimensional corridors before him, all of which contained rows of golden books extending beyond any possibility of total perception. The yogi, clutching one particular book, accelerated his motion and followed a line of passage through the infinite maze of left and right movements, of ups and downs and of other movements that human dimensions of experience could not account for.
There was no time, yet in this vastness, eternity was a living reality that had seeds of infinite possibilities, of which the yogi and his book had become something specific to be lived. In his journey, there was no map or guide to direct his way. He moved with absolute certainty through the maze for one eternal moment after another, through one turn in the maze after another until he approached his destination. As he slowed, particular volumes within the infinity of volumes began passing through his consciousness, which was condensing out of the currents of being he had merged into in order to arrive at his destination.
When stillness arrived and his consciousness hovered within the minimal form required for him to fulfill his purpose, he saw individual books lined up, all alike, stretching away from him in all directions. In front of him there was an empty space between two other particular books. The yogi was here, exactly where and when he was supposed to be, as if he had always been here coming and going at the same time. In a corner of his consciousness, he uncurled his fingers in the hand that held the book and allowed the other hand to put it into the place awaiting it. But just as the book was about to leave his awareness, the yogi paused. He noticed that the small smudge that had eternally been in the lower front corner of the book was gone. Something flickered in the thing that he was.
Then his consciousness was free. With the same surge of intent that had brought him to that particular point in infinity, he returned by the exact path he had followed to the curtain that separated him from where he was now and that which lay on the other side of the curtain.
As the waves of consciousness gathered around his human matrix, the old man gradually took form. From this side, he needed no particular chants to move the curtain. When he was complete, he found himself in the dusty corridor which was the dwelling place of his human reality. His walk down the hall was slow and deliberate. His feet touched the floor with the absolute certainty that the ground existed and that each step was exactly and perfectly as it should be. He stirred no dust.
When he reached his room, he moved the curtain aside and entered. He walked straight to a worn cushion in the middle of the floor and sat down. Next to the cushion was a small table which held a bottle of water and his prayer beads. After a drink, he picked up the beads and placed his thumb on top of the first bead and the middle of his index finger underneath and waited. When he heard the sound of the river, he set his fingers into motion and continued his chant.