The Frozen Smile on the Rock

Where does a day drop down and vanish? On which floor is yesterday, which gave me so much of happiness and joy, lying? Can we gather the fallen days of our past just as we can sweep together and collect all the leaves that drop off a tree? One day is really a wonderful concept.

Who started measuring life in terms of days? The cave man did not measure life in days. To know day and night, he observed the environment around him and looked at the sky. His clock was made up of the earth and the sun.

As the earth revolves around the sun, the trees bloom, leaves wither, it rains and the stars keep moving away. This clock helped him bifurcate his life.

Even now there is a strange practice among an African tribe. One person keeps running around a village in a forest and time is measured by the number of rounds he makes. One person runs during the day while another runs through the night with a torch in his hand. This has been happening since generations. They fear if they stop running, the world will come to an end and hence they keep running!

When I think of days, I am reminded of the Puranic legend which says that the days will shrink when the world nears its end and there will be one long day. A destructive storm will rise with fury and the angry water will swallow everything. Just a single banyan leaf will float peacefully on this angry water. The peaceful banyan leaf is more attractive to me than the fury of the storm.

I have seen leaves
Dancing innovative dances in the breeze
Just as our lives;
Each time I hold a leaf
The dance alone hides somewhere!

This beautiful poem of Devathatchan makes me feel the dance in which the world around us holds our hands and that unknown moment when our hands are let off. Only when we realise the value of a day, do we understand its length and breadth. Mere appearance does not denote the greatness of something. The snail, which is eager to cross the world with its tiny feet may look greater than the elephant. We love to lose ourselves in the ultimate peace of this great universe. You might have realised how even huge rocks lay suppressed like small seeds, as you travel by huge valleys.

Our loudest voice also gets subdued by the roar of a huge water fall. In front of this great universe, our heart shrinks and falls off gradually like a wet cloth falling off from the string.

I had once been to Shravanabelagola in Karnataka to watch the Mahamasthabhisheka celebrations of Lord Gomateshwara, also known as Bahubali, which is celebrated in a very grand manner, during one of the monsoons. Shravanabelagola is surrounded by small hillocks. The huge statue of Bahubali stands on one of the hillocks. It was raining all along with way. As we ascend the hillock in the wet cool breeze, we get a glimpse of Bahubali`s majestic nude figure with a peaceful face, light smile, huge feet, legs around which climbers have been sculpted. After heavy rains during the night, silence ruled all over the hillock. The station of Bahubali stood proof to the spread of Jainism in Karnataka thousands of years ago.

It was a cloudy day and just a handful of tourists were seen. As we sat before the idol, we saw the wet feet of the Lord. I closed my eyes. I felt peace filling my whole self in droplets, gradually. This feeling was much better than opening my eyes and viewing the huge figure. I opened my eyes and observed the leaves of the climbers around the legs. The leaves of the climber around his left leg looked like fresh green leaves, though they were mere lifeless sculpted leaves and stood still at that massive height.

Were they depicting our desire to attain total peace within our hearts, with no disturbances, whatsoever?

The Jains had contributed a lot to Tamil literature, in the form of epics, grammar and dictionaries, which are permanent assets. Jainism simplifies life. It preaches sharing of love and purity in life. What we experience in front of the great Bahubali is just absolute silence. Besides Sharavanabelagola, I have also climbed the eight Jain hillocks around Madurai. The beds of Jain saints and the schools that they established lie in ruins on those hillocks. The very word Palli to mean school in Tamil, is a contribution of Jainism. The Tamil history says thousands of Jains lived on the hillocks and the caves around Madurai.

It is believed that Thiruthakka Devar staged his Seevagachintamani on the Perumal Hill near Madurai. There is another hill to the south of this hill. It is the Kizhakuyilkudi hill. There are Jain idols on this hillalso. I climbed this hill during one night. As we gradually ascend this hill, we can see the city of Madurai like a small patch. A huge banyan tree which is at the base now looks like small shrub. It was a bright night and the moonlight flowed upon all the rocks like clear water. We sat near the idol of a Thirthankara on the top of the hill. As the day broke, mild early morning sunrays started spreading on the hill. It seemed like the morn spread silently like the deep silence of Jainism. We went down the hill, as the second day extended.

I realise that as each day withers, it leaves behind its marks on our body, in the nature around us, in the river, breeze, sky and everywhere. A famous Zen line the grass is growing very well records that the grass keeps growing every second. Buddha too says the same thing as follows:
There is no place on this earth where things do not burn. Every thing in this world is being burnt by a fire which we cannot see and is nearing its destruction. Nothing on this earth is immortal. Everything struggles to survive. If you can see this hidden fire, you can realise the truth of the worldly acts.

The popular Malayalam writer Vaikom Mohammed Basheer had once said,
There are innumerable number of days in the treasury of Allah. He has graced me with more time than I actually require. He is very generous.

Each day is granted to you in the form of 24 coins. You start spending as you like. As we return home in the night, we have either spent or wasted or just let go the coins without purpose. As we wake up the next day, we again find those 24 coins and once again the game starts. I have not heard of any game which is so endless as this. Have you?

Translated from tamil by Sudha