The Wanderer

This is a short story that I originally wrote as a stand-alone short and has turned into a series. It is influenced by the Yamas,  most particularly Satya, truth.

There once was a wandering sage who had given up all of his possessions to know and be one with god. When the old man arrived in the desert village where he would spend the night, a young boy asked him why he wandered. The older man, strong but weathered from the harsh sun replied with an eery silence, “I search for god.” The boy was in awe. He spoke simply, slowly, and with the great conviction of a lifelong quest. The old man looked up at the sun and smiled. The boy had never seen such peace before.

The boy started to talk to this man when he returned from the desert, as he begged in the main streets of desert towns. He only returned from time to time, but the boy found him to be full of great wisdom. The man had nothing and took only what he needed to survive in the harsh desert outside of the villages and he claimed to be free of the material world. One day when he returned to the village, he met the young man and they spoke of that day the sage had spoken of his quest to god. He was entranced by his quest for perfect stillness and pure bliss. The boy said he wished to follow the sage as he wandered and the old man agreed.

“But first”, the sage said, “you must say farewell to your mother and father and tell them about the journey you wish to embark upon. Only with their blessing, may you follow my footsteps as you please.”

So the boy left the sage to fulfill his charge so he could leave to find god with this great sage who was quieter and slower than anyone he had met.

First the boy decided that he would said goodbye to his father, thinking it would be easier than talking to his mother. The sage waited outside the village, silent in the harsh desert while the sun set with his eyes unmoving on the sun. Pink and orange spilled over the horizon with the dying day.

The boy rushed home, excited to depart and tell his parents of the news. But to his surprise, his father replied sullenly and sadly when he learned of his son’s intentions, “So you wish to know god, do you? What do you feel you are missing here? You could stay with us and learn from the few books we have collected of the great gods of the epics.” But the boy was not pleased and hung his head for a moment. He took a step towards the door to leave, but his father spoke in a pleading tone.

“Please son, don’t leave. I fear you will find nothing out in the harsh elements but suffering and death. Learn to herd and farm and raise a family, like your ancestors before you.”

“But father,” the young-man replied soberly, “I must learn about myself and my world!” He continued speaking in more of a whisper than his full voice, as if it were partially a secret. “There is so much out there and I know so little! I met a sage in the village today and he is on a journey to find god! He looks at the sun as pure bliss and he has no worries, no chores, no pigs to feed, and no one to look after. He wanders from place to place and seems to be at peace with everything! He is wise father, he said he needs nothing!”

Father chuckled sadly at his son’s enthusiasm, “He is wise you say? What has he taught you? Did he tell you that everything that you see is a reflection of what is inside of you. And inside of you, there is a powerful spark of light, some call it god, others call it other things. This light is the same light as the light you see in the sleeping sky, winking at you from their places in heaven. You don’t need to go anywhere to find this thing you call god. Did this sage trick you into following him? Why are you so set on this mission of yours?”

“No, I asked him if I could follow him.” the son retorted. He was angry now, and sick of his father’s cryptic messages. He did not see a light inside of himself as his father had said. His voice heightened with sarcasm, “If god is already inside of me, why do the sages travel in pilgrimages, why do people retreat to mountains to find enlightenment, what is the point of seeing the world? Why do even the most powerful men bow and pray and sacrifice to the gods? Certain places are more sacred than others are they not? Do you really think these people do all of these things for nothing?” The son threw up his hands in despair.

His father replied slowly, “God is in everything son. Some people see god clearer when they are in a specific place, or doing a specific thing. Sometimes, it is when they feel the most alive.” Father sighed heavily, as if resigning his conclusion, “I grow saddened by your malcontent. You are searching for what is right in front of you!”

But at this the son grew angry. His father obviously did not understand. “Then why is there suffering father? Why do people get sick, die, and live in pain? Why is there disease, evil, scarcity, and poison? If god is inside of us, why do we hurt so much, all the time? Why isn’t everything prosperous and fruitful? Why do men travel to mountains and rivers and shrines and holy places to find god if he is just there inside! It doesn’t make any sense! I want a life of little suffering and I want to free myself from this weight I feel each and every day.”

At this, his father grew thoughtful and bowed his head in contemplation. “How many of these men have found what they were looking for, son? Have you even asked this sage if he knows god? Has his wandering and begging borne fruit? Listen closely son, men are full of lies and deceit and greed. Do not trust them, even this sage, whom you think has found the answers you are searching for. Each will serve himself more than he serves you.” He paused again, this time he examined his son, and his eyes teared as he spoke. “You must serve yourself, I understand. I will sorely miss you, son. You are my greatest love, the fruit of my life and I wish you prosperity and success in your journey to god. Listen for one last thing before you go. I believe that we hurt because we are meant to learn, my son. But the lessons are up to you. Perhaps this is what you must learn. I love you my son, someday, remember that you are always welcome here.”

The father smiled and embraced his son with all of his spirit, but the son was now simply confused and even more frustrated, his father didn’t make any sense. He was simply done with his nonsensical non-theology and was ready to say goodbye to his mother. He hugged his father back and felt warmth spread through his body as his frustration melted and he realized that he might not see his father again for a long time. Tears began to fall and they found themselves shaking for a moment in their sorrow. The son turned to leave, surer than ever of his path to freedom and bliss.

The boy’s excitement at the idea of journeying with the sage didn’t fade and he went into his mother’s room, the only other room in the house, to speak with her.

When he walked in, his mother quickly wiped her eyes, she had obviously overheard the father. She embraced her son immediately and cried into his now strong chest and arms; he was now a full six inches taller than her. He was days away from the final ceremony of manhood in the village, but he would leave all that behind. After a minute of holding his mother, he wiped her eyes with his sleeve and told her that he would return someday. He felt an intense sorrow begin to come over him, but he would not be swayed from his quest.

She replied harshly, much to the son’s surprise, “Do not speak to me of the future, unknown and meaningless. I want to spend time with my only son! Are you really leaving me here? Why do you leave your father and me, your family to follow this man whom you know nothing of? What has he found but despair and poverty in the harshness of the desert sun?”

“He searches for god!” the son exclaimed. “Mother, please understand. I wish to find god, I do not want to ordinary, boring life of a shepherd! I want to be free of this miserable suffering to live eternal bliss! This sage will lead me to freedom and lead me from this boring life.”

At this his mother let out a brief sigh. “Then you must leave my son. But remember to follow your heart, above all else, it will tell you where you need to go.” And she embraced her son for a long soft hug. It made the boy sad to see his mother in tears, but he was convinced of his quest. Then, the boy left into the darkening sky, now a faded purple with stars beginning to shimmer in the growing darkness.

The parents were saddened, but days, then weeks, then months and years passed. Their son did not return home. After a decade, he had still not returned and they gave him up for dead. Many of their friends had died on similar quests to find god, so they assumed death had claimed their son.

But one day, the once boy, now a man wandered into their small village. He met his mother’s eyes and she immediately ran to him and embraced him so fully that he dropped his begging bowl. The porcelain shattered on the hard ground. Tears flowed from their eyes onto the sandy ground, tears of joy. It had been more than 11 years since his departure.

He stood under the village gate as his parents looked questioningly at their forgotten son; it was obvious that he had suffered, there were scars on his back, his lips were cracking, and he was so thin that you could easily make out the bones of his body.

“I have returned!” he spoke with enthusiasm through the obvious weakness. His voice was ragged as his clothes.

They fed him water and the man who was once their young son spoke slowly, pain obvious in his voice. They clothed him and his mother bathed his sores and cuts and cooled his fever. That night, the son rose to speak with his father. He met his father to watch the stars of the darkness fly in the sky and they walked outside of the village, into the border of the now cooled dunes.

The son spoke after a time, in a voice sure and slow, “It took ten years of wandering the desert with nothing, following sage after sage to understand what I was looking for. I found misery, suffering, and greed. Even sages take and lie, sometimes. We are all seemingly bound by our humanity. Father, you were right, each man who I followed took from me to feed himself when it came down to a choice between him and me. This happened until I decided that I would feed myself first. But no one would feed me before I did. I found nothing that I was looking for, but suffering and death and luckily not my own.” The son looked into his father’s eyes to see tears dropping on the floor.

The son smiled and embraced his father, “You are my truest teacher. No sage led me to god, the only answers I found were those that I concluded. I think I had to see what god was not before I could see clearly what god really is. Wandering this place forced me to learn what was truly in my heart by stepping away from things that I loved dearest.”

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