The story of the hare and the tortoise retold...

I was Shashank. Now I am Shashank, the Buddha.
I was born in the Sharvnaag valley of Kulantapeeth (modern day Kullu) in a grove on the banks meandering Vipasha (Modern day Beas), the daughter of the Himalaya. This valley was abode to many animals most prominent of which were clans of Ruru deers, Shyamak crows and my kinsmen known as the Anugaur hares, the fastest of all the creatures that dwelt this valley.
There was one more, sort of an anomaly in this normally vibrant valley; Mahakachhapa, the great tortoise. He was unlike anyone I had ever seen, for he was a Buddha, an awakened one. He was a creature of remarkably few words and fewer outward actions. I had seen him since my childhood, sitting there by the Vipasha, often in a steady lotus posture. It appeared that he had been there in that pose since the birth of time.
His enigmatic composition attracted me. But his incomprehensible meditativeness confounded my kinsmen who took refuge in making fun of his slow speed. While I observed him meditating from distance, my cousins ran around him mocking in contempt while he smiled at them in content. I could sometimes see him gazing intently at me almost as if looking inside me.
He used to say- “The truth is that works”, so I speak of the truth, of the event which bestowed upon me my enlightenment.
I will not dwell into the intricacies of time, for time is a phenomenon non-existent for the awakened. Let us just say, it was the time of the year when mountains, the silent guardians of the valley start to disrobe their white snowy attires and cover themselves with the blossoming sheets of hilly flowers of myriad hues. It was that time of the year when the prestigious annual race of the valley was organized. Anugaurs had been making their clan proud by winning this race every year since its inception. I was chosen to represent my clan that year, for I was the swiftest even amongst my kinsmen. I was sure of my victory and with this assurance, I glanced towards the cheering audience comprising of almost every inhabitant of the valley.
“I am going to win” I said to myself and took my stance.
“But to what end?”
“Shall I gain peace?”
“Will it end the torment that your innocent soul is bound to suffer in the world of Maya?” said a voice inside my heart, voice that has always been posing questions to me, questions I never understood. This is a voice that probably echoes inside all of us, that we do notice but never heed to.
“Save your questions for another day and let me concentrate on the race” I mumbled to myself and imagined myself crossing the finish line and to be the undisputed champion. Then something curious happened.
I felt a slight murmur rising up among the audience which gradually became a loud muddle of indistinguishable sounds. I broke my stance and looked around to find the source of exclamation, and lo! I saw the master Mahakachhapa approaching the race track with steady and aware footings.
Mahakachhapa was never sighted entering the premises where any worldly event was to take place. I, like everyone else was stupefied at this unusual site. He was walking straight towards the starting point of race track, where I was standing, all the while looking into my eyes for eyes are the gateways to one’s soul.
And then came the first of many taunts that were to follow- “Behold the fastest of all creatures, whom even stormy winds cannot surpass, our own Mahakachhapa!” There was a loud thunderous laughter; it was my cousin Gaurang. I saw the whole valley cachinnating at the great tortoise.
“Are you here to participate in the race, O great sprinter?” asked Gaurang with a hysterical laugh, to be answered by the master with sweet, calculated words uttered in a calm and musical tone
“Is it so?” said the master.
“Look everyone, the great lord Mahakachhapa belonging to the fastest species in this god made world is here to defeat our champions!” sniggered Gaurang.
Each one but me, of all the contestants then left the track feigning a fear of defeat on the hands of Mahakachhapa, but he stood there silently, gazing at me and asked
Will you run with me Shashank?”
Though the question was directed at me, reply came from Gaurang- “Look… look… everyone! The great sprinter is here to defeat Shashank! Shashank my brother I know you must be terrified on account of this great runner challenging you, but in the name of the honour of our clan, I implore you to race with him. Even if you are defeated, you will be proud to have competed with the Lord Mahakachhapa himself” said he, giggling all the while.
Old Mahakachhapa gazed at me smilingly, and asked again
“Will you run with me Shashank?”
“Yes! I will my lord!” I said unable to escape the magic of that set of compassionate eyes. My reply stopped Gaurang’s uncontrolled laughs and caused him to stare at me in disbelief.
“You must be really crazy to have accepted the challenge of this lunatic. Have you forgotten that one must compete with equals? Even the idea of competing with this lowly creature seems insulting to me” snarled Gaurang.
“Brother please leave the track. He has challenged me, not you and this is me who am going to race with him so there is no reason for you to feel insulted” I said.
“When this is all over I am going to kill both of you” were the parting words of Gaurang before he left the track and headed for the audience’s space.
Mahakachhapa looked in my eyes with that inward gaze of his; gently placed his staff on the ground took his stance. I too followed him and took my stance.
Mahakachhap himself began to countdown “Anupashyah, Anudhyaayah. Unmuktah” (let us see, let us focus, and break free!) and on his third word I sprinted with the speed of an arrow shot from a bow. Though I was running, my mind was fixed on his words-
Anupashyah- Let us see!
           Anudhyaayah - Let us focus!
                        Unmuktah- Break free!
With every passing moment my attention started shifting towards master’s words.
Anupashyah! Am I really seeing things as they are?”
“Anudhyaayah! Am I focused?”
“Unmuktah! Will I break free?”
My pace began to slow as I; nay my whole being was immersed in deep contemplation over master’s words. I felt a trance cocooning me gradually and steadily.
I stopped in between the race, looked back and saw master approaching towards me with graceful and contemplative steps, smiling as if inwardly and silently. I observed him; there was neither any fear of lagging behind nor any desire of reaching anywhere, he was present. He was present ‘here and now’ in his totality.
I could see how his whole persona was radiant with the message of “Anupashyah, Anudhyaayah. Unmuktah”. He was uttering these magical words with every little action as well as with silence of his, he was also preaching me do the same.
Anupashyah- I wanted to see. One can see, only when one is steady, so I decided to be steady. Then I started to see. I saw the mountains meditating. I saw the trees. I saw the grass. I saw the shores of the Vipasha. A sudden realization came over me; it wasn’t me who was looking, it was the existence which was revealing itself to me.
Anudhyaayah- as I began to see things as they really are, I became more focused. I could listen to the river. I could comprehend the songs of wind. I could join the jubilant existence dancing all around. I was listening how whole existence was reverberating with the incessant sound of ऊँ (Pronounced: Om). I could clearly see that existence is not steady, not even for a moment. It was bursting forth with the energy of creation and destruction without a cease.
Unmuktah- the more focused I became, more clearly I could observe that there is no “I or you”. My ‘I’ was nowhere. As there was no “I”, the “you” ceased to exist automatically. There were no boundaries between me and beyond. There was no person, no soul, and no supreme soul. There was just a void. There is only one hollow, whose being exists in naught. And that one was all around, that one was in me, that one was me.
My eyes began to close to welcome the unbroken eternal moment of trance from which there is no coming back. The last thing I saw before embracing the ‘Mahabodhi’ was the sight of my master Mahakachhapa crossing the finish line.
He had not only defeated me but also won over me. He was now my master, my teacher.
A tortoise master had defeated his hare disciple. But with that he also awakened me from that clouts of the deep slumber which is perceived as life by the dreamy creatures like us.
I was Shashank. Now I am Shashank, the Buddha. 

[This story is a tribute to Herman Hesse, the author of "Siddhartha"]

[ Stories of a Seeker are a series of posts by an author who wants to be known as "Seeker". From what we know, Seeker is a genuine and strong individual, who seeks answers to the conundrum of ethics and existence and prefers anonymity and unhindered solitude. Also Read Stories of a Seeker: The Lost Hope]

{ 5 comments ... read them below or Comment }

  1. "Let us just say, it was the time of the year when mountains, the silent guardians of the valley start to disrobe their white snowy attires and cover themselves with the blossoming sheets of hilly flowers of myriad hues."

    1. Arun you will definitely like this one

  2. shouldn't the order be Anudhyaayah, Anupashyah, and then Unmuktah... until we are focused, how could we see through the things. btw nice article and it so relate to current happenings!!

    1. @above: what u r saying is ur logic but what i've written in this story is my experience.

      -The Seeker.

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