The Jivamala
Rukmini Das
The life of a Warrior-Priest of Hanuman

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Section XII - Hanuman's Warning

A few weeks before they came, I had a vision of the Monkey Lord. He said, "Child, now is your time. Your enemies are on the move, and will soon be here. You must be brave."

I said, "How soon will they come, Lord?"

He said, "Before the month is out, and the moon has changed."

I said, "We have been practicing as you have taught. Is there anything else we should do?"

He responded, "Make sure that the women and children are safe. They do not belong on the field of battle." Then he disappeared, and I was back in prayer before his statue.

I went to the headman and told him of the warning. He said, "Then the time we have dreaded will be coming." He called all the men in the village together, and sent out messengers to all the nearby towns and villages, for a meeting [to take place] in a week's time.

We met and changed the schedule for war practice. Now we would practice every day. The women raced to the shelters by hidden paths, seeing who was fastest. The children got used to being amid the rocks, and stopped crying when they went there each day to hide.

Our sentries were put out on the hilltops with horns, in greater numbers than they had been. Again we dug up the roads and trenches, and placed spikes in the ground, and cauldrons of tar in high places. We met with the men of other villages, and we all planned ways to protect ourselves. The time given to us by the Lord was vital to us for preparation. One could not live like this all the time, but it was important for now.

I am neither priest nor warrior. I am a sentry - my job is to warn others. I do that, but I wonder why I was born in the caste of a priest. What this village needs is warriors, not priests.

Our messengers went to the nearby villages, and they sent messages to the far away villages. The scourge returns again. But this time there is more warning - I told not only my own village, but also all the ones around. They will be able to get weapons and protect themselves.

This is a black and merciless army we fight, a plague, which comes again and again. I hope we survive.

Section XIII - The Dance of Death

I contact Bhai, and I ask if he knows doctors. There was a sadhu trained in healing, who knew the herbs and mantras. Bhai escorts him to the village, by the trails through the rocks. We gather stores of herbs for the days ahead, and boil cauldrons full of the healing water. We practice the chants for stopping bleeding, for freeing paralysis, for loosening the frozen, and knitting the broken. He knows some magical chants against enemies, and we practice them too. I am not sure they will work well but it is worth a try.

About three weeks after the warning, we hear horns from a great distance. The women and children prepare to spend days in the mountains, bringing food, water, fuel, and blankets [to their hiding places]. We bury all the valuables, and take out our weapons. Our blacksmith has put knives on the ends of spears, and made axes. We practice with these, and daggers. Every man has at least two weapons.

I do not know if I will live or die, but I will follow the Monkey Lord, and make him proud of me. I will be devoted, as he was, during the war with the evil king. In two days, the army comes. They are still dressed in black, and their faces are covered. I do not know if they are the same warriors who came before, or if they are different. I do not know if they know us as the village that resisted.

We are better in battle this time, and there was more tar dumped from high places. I decided to use the same tactic, and start with the horses. It was easy to get trampled in the chaos, but I avoided it. I was, however, covered with blood from standing beneath them.

Our guards had blown their battle horns, and men from other villages came charging in. They knew that it would be best to fight them all at once, rather than have them pick us off from village to village. I thought the men in black looked frightened to see all these new warriors coming to fight along side us, but I may have imagined that. With our extra fighters, we had almost as many men as they did.

Again it was chaos, smoke and burning tar and dust and blood and sweat. It is impossible to keep track of what is going on in battle - you just had to make sure not to fight with anyone on your own side.

I left the horses and struggled with men, stabbing and being stabbed, and time slowed down. We danced the dance of death and destruction, the dance of Lord Shiva, the grim reaper of men. It was his dance that we did, but then I was Lord Hanuman himself, the bravest warrior in the world. Fighting out of devotion to Lord Rama with no thought of self. I fought because I worshiped him, because I was him, and there was no self for me any more. Lord Shiva danced through my body, and Lord Hanuman danced through my heart, and I was priest, and warrior, and a vessel for the gods. I danced the dance of death until there was no more strength in me, and I collapsed on the battlefield, in the midst of war.

Section XIV - The Death of Rukmini Das

I move in and out of sleep. I do not know if I am waking or sleeping. There are dead all around me, both us and them. I look in the sky and see the eyes of the Monkey Lord, and they smile at me. Whether I have done well or ill, it is my lord's smile that is most important.

I am there for a long time, and the sounds of battle drift away. Then I see the healer who washed my wounds in the healing water. I have been moved - we are not laying on top of each other anymore. I suspect that Bhai got the surviving invaders, for these are from our villages.

I notice that there are women and children - they are supposed to hide for several days. Has it been several days?

I see my wife who looks beautiful to me, though I never really thought about that before. She says to me,

Husband, I am glad that you have returned to us. The healing sadhu said that your wounds are grave, and that I must not disturb you. But you should know that not a man in any of the villages lacks wounds, but the invaders were wounded worse. Only a handful of them rode away, and they did not harm the village or the women and the children and the old ones. You have protected the village. You did a good deed by serving the Monkey Lord, husband.

I smiled at her and drifted back into unconsciousness. I did my job here, I accomplished what I needed to do. I am no longer bound to stay. Whether I live or die depends on the gods, and the fate written upon my brow.

I hear the Lord who says, "Well done. Your time has come. Your son will grow up to be the child of a hero. It is time for you to travel."

I drift towards him amid the remnants of dust and smoke, into the bright atmosphere - I see his place now, and it is the azure heavens. He leaps from cloud to cloud and he juggles magical objects. He is lord of my fate, and of magic, and of the skies. His flight in the sky is the flight of my soul.

We fly together, and I am like a soldier following my general, not like a priest worshiping my god. We go through heavens of deep blue, and land in a place of rich vegetation.

The Lord says,

This is the hero world young warrior. You have been faithful to me, and I think you would enjoy this place. It is a land of reward for heroes. You have land, beautiful women, wealth and cattle and horses. You can hunt and fish and ride. It is a place of selfless action, for that is what brings heroes here.
I say, "Lord, I will stay where you command me, but I would rather see my own wife and child."

He said, "They still live, but your body has died and been burned with honors. They cannot come here. Is there anything else that you would like?"

I say, "Lord. Some day I would like to enter your heaven and serve you forever."

He says,

Spend time here first. When your later life comes to find you, then it is time for you to leave. Then you will enter my heaven.

Section XV - Entering the Heaven of Hanuman.

So I am here in the world of heroes, of men whose lives have been serving a lord, human or divine. I have met no heroes who acted for themselves - they have defended their lands, gained by expanding territory, but always for the sake of others. Those who acted for themselves have no place here.

My lord said I must stay until my life reclaims me. You are my future life. I must call on the lord.

He (Rukmini Das) meditates on Hanuman, and I try to also. But I have never done so, and all I see are [the movie] images from The Wizard of Oz and Planet of the Apes.

I see a pineapple and then bananas but I do not know what these mean. A great black doorway appears, and the sound of drums [is heard]. There is an announcer of news, an Indian with a great blue turban, and curled up toes on his shoes. He says that a change of worlds has been declared for a worshiper of the Monkey God. It is not from a hell to a heaven, as he normally announces, but rather from one heaven to another. It is not a liberation - it is a transfer.

The door opens to another world. The hero world was mountainous, with valleys and forests, and horses and wild animals. But this new world is a garden paradise, full of bright flowers, and waterfalls and spice trees. Birds sing, and bees buzz, and the sound of gentle laughter is heard in the distance.

A monkey dressed in crossed bandoliers bows, and holds out his hand. I see Rukmini Das walk out, and he enters the new world. The lines of his face and body change. His skin is shimmering with light, and he smiles with happiness.

I know that Hanuman comes to greet him, but I cannot see him. He has made it clear that I am not permitted to see him., for I am not a devotee, and do not worship his monkey form. So I see only a great black shadow.

Rukmini Das steps through the door, thanks me, and he is gone. I see only the black doors, and then they too disappear. He has gone to the heaven he sought, from the heaven he earned. He is free of desire.

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