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قراءة كتاب Life and Death, and Other Legends and Stories

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‏اللغة: English
Life and Death, and Other Legends and Stories

Life and Death, and Other Legends and Stories

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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that all living creatures might increase greatly and multiply, the kindly god created Love, which he made to be Happiness also.

After this Brahma summoned Vishnu and said to him:

“Thou canst produce nothing better on earth, and since heaven is created already by me, do thou rest and let those whom thou callest people weave the thread of life for themselves unassisted.”

Vishnu obeyed this command, and henceforward men ordered their own lives. From their good thoughts came joy, from their evil ones, sorrow; and they saw soon with wonder that life was not an unbroken rejoicing, but that with the life thread which Brahma had mentioned they wove out two webs as it were with two faces,—on one of these was a smile; there were tears in the eyes of the other.

They went then to the throne of Vishnu and made complaint to him:

“O Lord! life is grievous through sorrow.”

“Let Love give you happiness,” said Vishnu in answer.

At these words they went away quieted, for Love indeed scattered their sorrows, which, in view of the happiness given, seemed so insignificant as to be undeserving of notice.

But Love is also the mighty mother of life, hence, though the region which Vishnu ruled was enormous, it was soon insufficient for the myriads of people; soon there was not fruit enough upon trees there, nor berries enough upon bushes, nor honey enough from cliff bees.

Thereupon all the men who were wisest fell to cutting down forests for the clearing of land, for the sowing of seed, for the winning of harvests.

Thus Labor appeared among people. Soon all had to turn to it, and labor became not merely the basis of life, but life itself very nearly.

But from Labor came Toil, and Toil produced Weariness.

Great throngs of people appeared before Vishnu a second time.

“O Lord!” exclaimed they, stretching their hands to him, “toil has weakened our bodies, weariness spreads through our bones, we are yearning for rest, but Life drives us always to labor.”

To this Vishnu answered:

“The great and all mighty Brahma has not allowed me to shape Life any further, but I am free to make that which will cause it to halt, and rest will come then to you.”

And Vishnu made Sleep.

Men received this new gift with rejoicing, and very soon saw in it one of the greatest boons given by the deity thus far. In sleep vanished care and vexation, during sleep strength returned to the weary; sleep, like a cherishing mother, wiped away tears of sorrow and surrounded the heads of the slumbering with oblivion.

So people glorified sleep, and repeated:

“Be blessed, for thou art far better than life in our waking hours.”

And they had one regret only, that it did not continue forever. After sleep came awakening, and after awakening came labor with fresh toil and weariness.

This thought began soon to torture all men so sorely, that for the third time they stood before Vishnu.

“O Lord,” said they, “thou hast given us a boon which, though great and unspeakably precious, is incomplete as it now appears. Wilt thou grant us that sleep be eternal?”

Vishnu wrinkled his brows then in anger at this their insistence, and answered:

“I cannot give what ye ask of me, but go to the neighboring ford, and beyond ye will find that for which ye are seeking.”

The people heard the god’s voice and went on in legions immediately. They went to the ford, and, halting there, gazed at the shore lying opposite.

Beyond the clear, calm, and flower-bedecked surface stretched the Plain of Death, or the Kingdom of Siva.

The sun never rose and never set in that region; there was no day and no night there, but the whole plain was of a lily-colored, absolute clearness. No shadow fell in that region, for clearness inhered there so thoroughly that it seemed the real essence of Siva’s dominions.

The region was not empty. As far as the eye could reach were seen heights and valleys where beautiful trees stood in groups; on those trees rose climbing plants, while ivy and grapevines were hanging from the cliff sides.

But the cliffs and the tree trunks and the slender plant stems were almost transparent, as if formed out of light grown material. The leaves of the ivy had in them a delicate roseate light as of dawn. And all was in marvellous rest, such as none on the Plain of Life had experienced; all was as if sunk in serene meditation, as if dreaming and resting in continuous slumber, unthreatened by waking.

In the clear air not the slightest breeze was discovered, not a flower was seen moving, not a leaf showed a quiver.

The people who had come to the shore with loud conversation and clamor grew silent at sight of those lily-colored, motionless spaces, and whispered:

“What quiet! How everything rests there in clearness!”

“Oh, yes, there is rest and unbroken repose in that region.”

So some, namely, those who were weariest, said after a silence:

“Let us find the sleep which is surely unbroken.”

And they entered the water. The rainbow-hued surface opened straightway before them, as if wishing to lighten the passage. Those who remained on the shore began now to call after them, but no man turned his head, and all hurried forward with willingness and lightly, attracted more and more by the charm of that wonderful region.

The throng which gazed from the shore of Life at them noted this also: that as they moved forward their bodies grew gradually less heavy, becoming transparent and purer, more radiant, and as it were blending with that absolute clearness which filled the whole Plain of Death, Siva’s kingdom.

And when they had passed and disposed themselves amid flowers and at trees or the bases of cliffs, to repose there, their eyes were closed, but their faces had on them not only an expression of ineffable peace, but also of happiness such as Love itself on the Plain of Life had never given.

Seeing this, those who had halted behind said one to another:

“The region belonging to Siva is sweeter and better.”

And they began to pass to that shore in increasing numbers. There went in solemn procession old men, and men in ripe years, and husbands and wives, and mothers who led little children, and maidens, and youths, and then thousands and millions of people pushed on toward that Calm Passage, till at last the Plain of Life was depopulated almost entirely.

Then Vishnu, whose task it was to keep life from extinction, was frightened because of the advice which he had given in his anger, and not knowing what to do else hastened quickly to Brahma.

“Save Life, O Creator!” said he. “Behold, thou hast made the inheritance of Death now so beautiful, so serene, and so blissful that all men are leaving my kingdom.”

“Have none remained with thee there?” inquired Brahma.

“Only one youth and one maiden, who are in love beyond measure; they renounce endless bliss rather than close their eyes and gaze on each other no longer.”

“What dost thou wish, then?”

“Make the region of Death less delightful, less happy; if not, even those two when their springtime of love shall be ended will leave me and follow the others.”

Brahma thought for a

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