Four Nature Myths


Viswakarman, architect of the cosmos , looked down one day from his heavenly dominions onto the face of the earth. It was not long after the Creation. Parts of the universe remained unfinished, and mankind had not yet awakened beyond a dim consciousness. Viswakarman's gaze roamed over the well-stocked forests, the green plains, the broad fields of wheat, penetrating down to Nature's innermost germinations, and the hidden workings of the subterranean forces. All the manifold treasures existing within and upon the Earth were comprised within his scope; for all that he observed had been created by his own hands. It was owing to this, indeed, that most of it had ceased to be of much interest to him. In much the same way does an artist, once having become engrossed with his creative endeavour to the exclusion of all else , find that his preoccupation with it may last for awhile , even after the work's completion . Eventually however he loses all interest in it, even going so far as to regard it as someone else's production - thus was it with Viswakarman.

What claimed his attention on that day was the nature of Man, whom he had not created. Brahma alone , highest among the gods and Godhead Source of All, Unbounded Unity, Originator and Final Destination of all manifested things, He who abides in No Place and No Time, beyond Being or Becoming, beyond all marks of identity and makings of distinctions: He alone was capable of the creation of living forms.

These were the earliest days, before the kindling of the first fires. Mankind's horizons were limited by the obligations of elemental survival; nothing of art, religion or philosophy had yet been admitted to its' contemplations. Viswakarman's inability to understand human conduct was total . To him their actions were senseless, their thoughts meaningless, their motivations the very height of foolishness. He scoffed, much as a master fondly disdains a pet animal, at the hollowness of their ambitions. Their quarrels, he regarded with amazement.

Thus was Viswakarman to be found, seated cross-legged on a cushion of massed clouds, his breath slow and regular, deeply absorbed in trance, his mind given over to meditation. As when, on a matchless summer evening, when chance, or the idleness of a traveler should drop a stone upon the immobilized surface of a lake, so that the opalescent rings of limpid waters may be seen to radiate outwards from this singular center, so did Viswakarman's thought gyrate in ever-widening spirals of speculation, the very force of his imagination driving him away from the center of his quandry:

" Can I find anything of value in their picture of the phenomenal world? Given their limited perceptions its' remarkable that they understand anything at all; but indeed they do. How they've managed this completely escapes me. And with respect to my magnificent Creation, the result of so much labor and brilliant inspiration ? Why, they see just nothing at all! And we all know what that means: expect no praises, or offerings, or sacrifices or incense from them! Yet, on the other hand.........." When, having reached that stage of Transcendent Mind which enabled him to recognize that, in the infinite limit, his speculations were destined to weave a great knotted chain returning inexorably unto itself, Viswakarman arose from his heavenly vantage point and sought out Brahma himself. He found Brahma asleep on the waters, His breath even, His lips slightly parted and enigmatically curved. Sitting down by His right side Viswakarman nudged Him gently, being careful to awaken Him without arousing His anger. He then addressed Him as follows:

" Brahma, He who is All-seeing and All-knowing, who has created both gods and men, to whom all lesser beings must indeed appear to aspire foolishly in the darkness, I desire from you the answer to a simple question." He paused, waiting until Brahma was thoroughly awakened and sat facing him. Then he continued: " What is the extent of mankind's understanding ? What aspects of my universal edifice are present to their eyes ? To which have you deliberately kept them blind? To what extent have you bound their understanding within an unbreakable, infinitely ingenious web of Maya? Are their struggles to be eternally in vain, or did you intend some ultimate purpose for their pitiable and wretched condition?" Brahma laughed: it was obvious that Viswakarman had not the least inkling of mankind's appalling state. Then He replied: " I fabricated the human race in such a way that it would remain forever blind to the true nature of the world. Its' understanding is arrested by the meaningless exteriors of things and events . It is unaware of the universal enveloping consciousness which exists throughout Nature. It knows nothing of the plan of the universe. It fails in its appreciation of the purpose of the meanest flower, not to speak of the great turmoil of transformation arising without cease on the face of the earth. Will you believe that I've done this deliberately, maintaining humanity in a perpetual state of delusion and ignorance, just so that I may take my amusement from its folly? Ha! Ha! Ha!" Upon hearing this, Viswakarman's heart filled with deep sadness. He took leave from Brahma and, melancholy and brooding, retired to his citadel . The creation of the universe, in fulfillment of a contractual obligation with the greater gods, had been the most exhausting endeavor in a long career covering many kalpas. His recompense had been paltry; most of his satisfaction had come from pride in workmanship and from the thought that he had created a world that would bring happiness to other orders of beings. His feeling now was that his labor had been altogether a waste of time and energy. It seemed to him indeed that his works and the works of Man shared in the same futility! Day and night he pondered these matters, until he realized that he had to do something about them . Yet it was only after the passage of another eon, that Viswakarman could leave the heavens for a journey to Earth.

He alighted in the middle of the night on the grounds of a woods dense with pine. Walking quickly he soon came to a grove close by the house of Ashoka. There he curled up in the branches of a tree and fell asleep.

He arose at the break of dawn . Standing before the eastern window of the house and facing the direction of the sun, he clapped two stones together in his hands. Arising from their bed, Ashoka and his wife Shrimati imagined this sound as coming from a far distance, like an echo of past and future time, the creation and destruction, all embracing and infinitely removed. Ashoka and Shrimati made their preparations for the day's journey , left their house and set out through the woods. They soon arrived at the broad grassy fields that lay in the valley below where they lived . There they worked until the middle of the day. The sky was a pure crystal blue, the fragrance of the air warm and sweet. Then they unpacked their bags, seated themselves and ate their afternoon meal. Intoxicated alike by the sun, the wind and the grass, Ashoka lay down with his head in his wife's lap and fell asleep .

All the while Viswakarman stood watching them from a concealed place at the top of the hill. Descending into the valley , he assumed the form of Ashoka's father. Shrimati greeted him from a distance. Coming up to them , he seated himself beside her. Soon they were caught up in animated conversation. As they spoke, Viswakarman induced a dream into the sleeping mind of Ashoka. This was the dream:

Ashoka and Shrimati are walking in the fields. They are very happy. The day is mild, the sky cloudless and pure, the sun burns brightly in the heavens. The sun comes down to greet them , saying: " I am the all-consuming energy vortex at the heart of Nature. Here , and wherever one finds conflict , violence or struggle, they have been of my making. I am the author of storms, tempests, fires, volcanoes , and all catastrophes .

Yet it is also I who provide the inspiration for lofty visions, magnificent dreams and heroic deeds .I am the source of all forms of passionate love, yet also the driving force of hatred. I am indifferent to Good and Evil. Mankind can use me as it sees fit: either to fill the world with chaos and destruction, war and endless anarchy, or to raise itself to the heights of its visions and dreams, there to be possessed of dreams anew and the urge to fulfill them." Ashoka stands up to kiss the sun. As he does so its radiant energy enters into his body, causing it to light up with a brilliant glow . The field in which they stand reveals itself in rapidly changing aspects, whereby they witness the miraculous transformations occurring ceaselessly at the core of Nature. From the grass flows milk, from the rocks water, from the flowers honey. Beneath their feet they hear the beating heart of the earth. Fissures and large chasms open up in the surrounding fields. They are assailed by the dazzling sparkle of brilliant diamonds and rich veins of gemstones in variegated textures and hues.

They next look at the river, becoming fascinated by the endlessly shifting alterations of the shapes in its rapidly coursing waters. As its streaming currents break off into random eddies, the generated turbulence coheres to a furious overflow, reaching outwards to the winds, over the river banks to the grasses and bushes, until it shakes the very ground on which they stand. They have attained to the recognition that perpetual turmoil abides in the substance of all things .

These various changing forces , initially present in the external world, now interact with them as well, and all of Nature is caught up in a single ebb and flow. Sometimes they are raised by sweet melody to a high peak of ecstasy as these active forces , contending in dissonance , harmoniously resolve. At other times they are deeply stirred by the primordial chaos thundering in the maelstrom of the elements.

Filled with the power of the sun , Ashoka and Shrimati return to their home , to bear children to whom this power is transmitted. These have children in their turn. All of the generations of the children of Ashoka and Shrimati are filled with the power of the sun, becoming wanderers through all the world's settlements , using their gift of transformation to reveal the many concealed faces of Nature .

This concludes the first dream induced into Ashoka as he lay asleep in the valley. Viswakarman then gave him another , which was this:

The night is cloudless and dark. Ashoka and Shrimati are seated together by the banks of the river. Water flows past them in slow, gentle movements. The moon hangs heavily in the sky.

The moon notices them and descends . They rise in greeting. The moon hovers over the river and says : " I am the creator of all things peaceful and permanent of this world. Everything that is quiescent, stable, tranquil , free from agitation has been my doing . I am the ultimate abode of contemplative beauty, the Mother of Concord. I instill the love of peace in all creatures. My powers may be used to transform this world into a joyous realm of peaceful fulfillment." Ashoka stands up to kiss the moon. As he does so, the rays of the moon penetrate him and immobilize him on the bank. Shrimati rises up to kiss him. They stand upon the banks of the river throughout eternity, serving as inspiration for all travellers in search of tranquillity and repose.

The sun, having just passed its prime, fell over the hill. The long shadows of evening began to emerge. Ashoka showed signs of stirring, soon to awaken. After an exchange of the customary formalities of leave-taking with Shrimati , Viswakarman left the valley, disappeared back into the woods, and returned to Heaven. Picking up their belongings Ashoka and Shrimati started back for their home.

From that time unto the present Mankind has sought to reconcile the two dreams of Ashoka with one another.