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The Descent of the Sun.


O glorious and infinite Spirit of Peace, Lord of Ascetics, who whirling round in thy wild dance dost lend as it were its colour to the sky, in whose mirror are seen reflected the blueness of thy throat and the silver digit of the moon in the matted tufts of thy tawny hair: thee we adore. And we worship the ever victorious trunk of the Elephant of Elephants, whose fierce glare consumes the innumerable hosts of opposing obstacles, as a forest fire shrivels the blades of dry grass a.


LONG ago, on the slopes of Himálaya, there lived a young King of the Spirits of the Air, named Kamalamitra b; for he was a portion of the Sun.

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[paragraph continues] And he worshipped the husband of Umá  c. And he turned his back on the pleasures of the senses, and went afar off, and dwelt alone, among the icy peaks and snowy plateaux that lie around Kailás. And there he remained, living at first upon leaves, and then upon smoke, and finally upon air, performing penances of appalling severity, till after a hundred years d that Lord of Creatures was moved to compassion. And he appeared to him, in the twilight of evening, in the guise of an ascetic, but in stature like a tall tree, with the new moon in his hair, and said: I am pleased with thy devotion, so now I grant thee a boon: ask. Then the young King bowed before him, and said: Blessed One, let me continue in this contemplation of thee: that is enough. Then said Maheshwara: This is well said: nevertheless, ask of me some boon. Then said Kamalamitra: Since it is so, and I must absolutely choose, then give me a wife, whose eyes, like these hills and this sky, shall be full of the dusky lustre e of thy throat and thy moon, as

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if, insatiate of gazing at thee, they had become, not transitory mirrors, but pictures permanently stained with thy glory. For so shall she be a medium of devotion between me and thee.

Then the moon-crested God was pleased. But he looked into the future, by his magic power of divination, and saw what was coming. And he said slowly: Eyes such as these will be dangerous, not only to others, but also to their owner. Nevertheless, I have given thee a boon: thou shalt have thy desire.

Then he disappeared, and Kamalamitra returned home rejoicing. And by the favour of the deity all the emaciation and fatigue of his penances left him, and he became strong as Bhima and beautiful as Arjuna f. And he arrived at his palace on the evening of the next day, and went into the garden to repose, as the sun was going down. And as he went, he looked before him, and suddenly he saw a woman, floating on a pool of white lotuses, in a boat of sandal, with silver oars. And her glances fell on those snowy flowers, and turned their tint to blue, for her eyes were lowered, and she was resting

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her chin on one hand as she lay, and with the other dropping one by one into the water the petals of a lotus red as blood. And the round curve of her hip stood up like a sand bank, and was mirrored again in the silent water below. And her lips moved, for she was counting the petals as they fell.

And Kamalamitra stood still, holding his breath, and gazing at her, fearing to move, for he thought it was a dream. Then all at once she looked up and saw him, and smiled, bathing him with the colour of her eyes. And it seemed to Kamalamitra that he stood in a pool of colour formed by the essence of all the blue lotuses in the world. And then suddenly he remembered the boon of the God who is clothed with heaven g, and he exclaimed: Surely thou art my own wife, sent me by the God who keeps his promises, and none other. For yesterday I gazed at his glory, and now I am gazing at thy two eyes, and it is the same. And if it be so, by what name shall I call thee? Then she said: My name is Anushayiní h, and for what

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purpose did the Creator form these eyes, but to reflect the image of their lord?

Then Kamalamitra, having thus obtained her from the deity, took possession of his lovely little wife, and thereafter remained with her in the region about Kailás, utterly bewildered and intoxicated by constantly gazing at those mirrors of deity, her two great eyes. And he plunged into their sea, and was drowned in it, and the whole world seemed to him to be made of lotus blue i. And like a vessel filled to the brim and running over, he was so overflowing with delight in her beauty, and the pride of having so unique a specimen of womankind all to himself, that he could not contain his emotion, but sought relief in going about everywhere talking about her, and trying to get everybody to acknowledge, what he thought himself, that all other women in the world were absolutely nothing in comparison with his own wife. Alas! a woman is one thing, and emancipation quite another.

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So it happened, that on a day, when he was disputing about her with one of his friends, and abusing him, for not readily admitting all his own eulogies of his wife, that friend of his suddenly burst out laughing, and exclaimed: For all things there is a cure, even for snake-bite there is a cure, but there is no cure, for one who has been bitten with a woman's beauty. Know, O thou infatuated lover, that the golden glamour of our Other Half, Man's ectype, Woman, is not like a simple musical theme, but one infinitely various, containing ten thousand notes, and stirring like a churning stick all the emotions in the ocean of the soul of man. And however beautiful may be thy wife's eyes, still eyes are only eyes, and a woman is not all eye, but something more. For one woman witches us, like a waterfall, with the music of her bubbling laughter, and another entrances us, like a forest-pool, with the peace of her shadowy silence. And one entangles us, like Yama k, in the nectar-nooses of her hair, while another pierces us, like Manobhawa l, with the archery of her poisoned eyes. And one enflames us, like the Sun, in the fever-fire of sick desire, while another soothes us, like the Moon, by

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the camphor of her dewy kisses. And like oxen, we are goaded, by the biting sting of one woman's evil, and like elephants, we are tamed, by the subtle spell of another's purity; and like birds, we are decoyed, by the lure of the bower of one girl's arms, and like bees, we hover and sip, around the honey of another's lips, and like snakes, we wind and coil m round the slender stem of one girl's waist, and like weary travellers, we long to sleep on the living pillow of another's bosom. Then Kamalamitra broke in impatiently: Away with the fascinations, of all the women in the three worlds, past, present, or to come! Could they unite to form the very body of the god of love, yet the eyes of Anushayiní, alone, would, like the eye of the enemy of Kaudarpa n, reduce them to ashes. Aye! those eyes, with their blue irresistible invitation, would succeed in corrupting sages, where Menaká, Tilottamá o and the rest had failed.

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Then his friend laughed in derision, and said: Boasting is useless, and in words, all men can do everything, and every woman is another Rambhá p. Babble no more of her beauty, but come, let your paragon of a wife put her power to the proof. For hard by here, in the wood on the hillside, is an aged Sage, named Pápanáshana q, whose austerities terrify even the gods. He would be an admirable touchstone for the eyes of this wonderful wife of yours, whose beauty exists, like a bubble, only on the stream of your words.

And then, stung by the taunt, Kamalamitra exclaimed in wrath: Fool! if she does not turn him from his asceticism as easily as amber draws after it stubble and grass, I will cut off my own head and cast it into the Ganges. Then his friend laughed again, and said: Do nothing rash, thou art not Daksha r: once gone, thy head can never be restored.

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[paragraph continues] But Kamalamitra hurried away to find Anushayiní. And he found her in the garden by the lotus pool, and told her of his brag, and said: Come instantly, and make the experiment, and vindicate the power of those wonderful eyes of thine, and my own faith in them, without delay. For I burn to convict that foolish sceptic of his folly, by ocular demonstration.

Then Anushayiní said slowly: Dear husband, thou wert angry, and therefore indiscreet, and I fear, lest by doing evil we may bring on ourselves punishment. For expiation follows guilt, as surely as Orion treads on the heels of Rohini s There is sin and danger in this rash experiment. And now it will be better for us not to venture upon the verge of a precipice, over which we may both fall, into irreparable disaster.

But as she spoke, her eyes rested on Kamalamitra, and bewildered him, and destroyed the persuasion of her words. For he heard nothing that she said, but was full of the blindness of passion, and more than ever convinced of the omnipotence of her beauty. And so, seeing that she could not turn him from his will, Anushayiní gave in, and yielded ,

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to him as to her deity. Nay, in the interior of her heart she rejoiced, to find that she could not dissuade him, for she was filled with curiosity herself; to see whether in truth her beauty would prevail over the ascetic, though she trembled for the consequences. Alas i where beauty, and curiosity, and youth, and self-will, and intoxication combine, like a mad elephant, where is the cotton thread of self-control?

Then those two lovers kissed each other passionately, like travellers who have been separated for a year. And yet they knew not that they were doing so for the last time. And then they went together to the forest, to find that old ascetic. And hand-in-hand they rambled about, like a pair of Love's arrows in human form t, till they penetrated to the very heart of that wood. And there on a sudden they came upon that old sage, and saw him standing, plunged in meditation, motionless as a tree. And round him the ants had built up their hills, and his beard and hair trailed from his head, like creepers, and ran down along the ground, and were covered with leaves: and over his withered

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limbs played a pair of lizards, like living emeralds. And he looked straight before him, with great eyes that mirrored everything, but saw nothing, clear and unfathomable and still, like mountain tarns in which all the fish are asleep.

And Kamalamitra and Anushayiní looked at him awhile in silence, and then at each other, and trembled, for they knew that they were staking their souls. But as he wavered, the thought of his friend's derision came back into Kamalamitra's mind, and filled him with anger. And he said to Anushayiní: Advance, and let this old muni u see you, and I will mark the result.

So Anushayiní went forward, obeying his command, and stepped over the leaves with feet lighter than themselves, till she stood in front of the sage. And when she saw that he did not move, she raised herself on tiptoe to look into his eyes, saying to herself: Possibly he is dead. And she looked into those eyes, and saw there nothing save two images of herself; like two incarnations of timidity, that seemed to say to her as it were: Beware! And as she stood there, trembling in the swing of uncertainty, Kamalamitra watched her with ecstasy,

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and laughed to himself; and said: Certainly that old muni is no longer alive, for otherwise she would have reached his soul through the door of his eyes, were it down in the lower world.

So as they stood there, waiting, gradually that old sage came to himself: for he felt that his meditations were being disturbed by something or other. And he looked, and saw Anushayiní standing before him like the new moon at the close of day, a pure form of exquisite beauty x, a crystal without a flaw, tinged with the colour of heaven. And instantly, by the power of his own mystical meditation, he divined the whole truth, and the exact state of the case. And he cast at that wayward beauty a glance, sorrowful as that of a deer, yet terrible as a thunderbolt: and immediately courage fled from her soul, and strength from her knees, and she sank to the ground with drooping head, like a lotus broken by the wind.

But Kamalamitra rushed forward, and caught her in his arms. Then as they stood together, the old ascetic spoke and cursed them, saying slowly: Irreverent

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lovers, now shall that beauty which occasioned this insolence meet with its appropriate reward. Descend now, ye guilty ones, into mortal wombs, and suffer in the lower world the pangs of separation, till ye have purged away your guilt in the fire of human sorrow.

Then hearing the doom of separation, wild with grief they fell at his feet, and implored him, saying: Fix at least a term to the curse, and a period to our pain. And he said again: When one of you shall slay the other, the curse shall end.

Then those two unhappy lovers looked at each other in mute despair. And they drew in that instant from each other's eyes a deep draught of the nectar of mutual contemplation, as if to sustain them in their pilgrimage over the terrible sea of separation, saying as it were to each other, but in vain y: Remember me! Then all of a sudden they disappeared and went, like flashes of lightning, somewhere else.


But Maheshwara, from his seat on Kailás, saw them go, for as fate would have it, he chanced to

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be looking in that direction. And grasping the whole truth by mystical intuition z, he remembered his boon to the Spirit of the Air, and he said to himself: Now has the future which I foresaw become the present a, and the blue eyes of Anushayiní have produced a catastrophe. But I must not leave her lovely body to the play of chance, for it has in it something of my own divinity. And Kamalamitra, after all, was not very much to blame. For he was bewildered by my glory, reflected in her eyes. So I am the culprit, who is responsible for this state of affairs: and so I must look after this pair of lovers. Moreover, I have a mind to amuse myself with their adventures b.

So after considering awhile, that Master Yogi took a lotus, and placing it on the earth in a distant sea, it became an island. And he made in it, by his magic power, an earthly copy of a heavenly type, of a nature known to himself alone, for the future to unfold. And having completed his

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arrangements, he allowed the chain of events to take its course.

But the old sage Pápanáshana, when those two lovers had disappeared, remained in the forest alone. And their images forsook the mirror of his eyes, and faded away from his mind, like the shadow of a cloud travelling over the surface of a great lake, and vanished, and were utterly forgotten.


3:a For Ganésha's trunk is usually smeared with vermilion. The other deity is, of course, Shiwa.

3:b 'The lover of the lotus,' i.e. the Sun. Mitra is also one of his names. [Kam- rhymes with drum.]

4:c i.e. Shiwa. Umá is his wife.

4:d This is a sort of Hindoo façon de parler: it must not be supposed to make him any the older.

4:e nila. As this colour is the keynote of the story, it should be observed, that it is a deep, intense blue, inclining to black, p. 5 essentially associated in Hindoo literature with the moon-crested God, peacocks, and the lotus.

5:f Characters in the Mahábhárata.

6:g digambara.

6:h 'a devoted wife.' But the word has another technical philosophical significance: it connotes evil, clinging to the soul by p. 7 reason of sin in a former birth, and begetting the necessity of expiation in another body.

7:i Kuwalayamayamjagat. When I was young, sings Bhartrihari, the whole world seemed to me to be made of woman (nárimayam).

8:k Death, who is represented with a noose (pásha).

8:l Love, whose weapon is his bow.

9:m There is here an untranslateable play on the word bhoga: which means both the coil of a snake and enjoyment.

9:n Alluding to the legend that Shiwa annihilated the god of love, who was endeavouring to inflame him, by a fiery glance from his third eye. Love's sacred fire met in this case, for once, with an element more potent than his own.

9:o The legend of S. Antony is but a western echo of the stories of these nymphs, whom the jealous gods employed p. 10 as weapons to destroy the virtue of sages whose accumulated asceticism was becoming mountainous and dangerous. Like the Devil, and long before him, they baited the hook with a pretty woman.

10:p See the Rámayan, book I.

10:q 'destroyer of guilt.'

10:r Whose true head was cut off and replaced by that of a ram.

11:s An astronomical simile: the ninth and tenth signs of the lunar zodiac.

12:t They were not human, but semi-divine; still, it is impossible to express the idea of incarnation except in terms of humanity.

13:u 'man of silence,' which, according to Kalidas and Bhartrihari, is the golden rule whether for fools or sages.

14:x Sushamásheshá: an incomparable expression, meaning, as applied to the thin streak of the new moon at dusk, that everything of it was gone, except its beauty: venustas, et præterea nihil!

15:y Because the former birth is always forgotten. But see the sequel.

16:z This power of gods and ascetics of a high order, frequently alluded to, reposes upon yoga, i.e. intense concentration, which is the secret of Pátanjali. There is a kernel of truth in it, after all.

16:a Time is another name of Shiwa.

16:b The whole creation, according to Manu (i. 80) is the sport of the deity.

Next: I. A Lotus of the Day