The Life Of Rukmini Das - A Warrior-Priest of the God Hanuman

Rukmini Das was once my name. I was a priest, a devotee, a warrior, and a householder. I served my lord and my people. Now I am a resident and a prisoner in the vira-loka, the hero world of karma. I am here until I am freed. At my death, I saw a vision of my god who said that when my karma of killing would be over, I would be freed by myself. This is a mystery to me.

My world would be a good one for people who were warriors at heart. I am here by accident, having defended many innocent people, and died in battle, as an enemy was defeated. My soul was caught up in the sorrow and celebration. Our people won.

You wish to hear of my life, and say that somehow you are part of me. I do not understand how you are part of me, but I will tell you of my life.

My village was Karnasthan, near a lake called Sita's Earring. I grew up in a family of twelve with ten children, six of them boys. All lived past childhood, which was fortunate as food was scarce.

I came from a caste of priests and teachers, and I loved learning as a child. I would go to the visiting sadhus (holy men), and question them about nature. Sometimes they would tell me things, but usually they chased me away, saying that I was too young, and to go back to my parents.

One sadhu in the town had been a priest before he renounced life in this world. When I was about ten, he came to my father and offered to teach me about being a priest. He said that I was the only child in the town that was suitable for teaching, and a priest in the family meant special [good] fortune after death, for his prayers were more powerful than ordinary ones. My father was persuaded by this argument. My mother objected saying I was still a child. But nobody listens much to women. So I was given to a sadhu for three years, and after that I would come back to my household. My father gave him a gift of food and money for my education.

I did not know if this was good or bad, but it was my fate. The sadhu said to call him "Bhai" or brother, so I did. He was stern at first, but later he became friendly. I missed my family but I figured I would soon return.

Bhai was my guru, and we traveled together back to his school or monastery. There many sadhus lived, and there were students of my age. I mostly spent time with Bhai but I learned from other teachers as well. Here they worshiped the great god-king Rama, and his general Hanuman, the god of bravery and devotion. Rama always acted correctly, but Hanuman acted out of love. So I preferred him. One of the sadhus had been trained in warfare, and he was a devotee of Lord Hanuman. We all took classes with him but I liked wrestling and shooting arrows, and practiced in my spare time.

Bhai taught me mantras, and healing, and initiated me. He bound me to many gods in devotion and service, but I took Lord Hanuman as my special god. When I did things right, I could feel his power within me. Priests are taught to worship many gods in many ways, but he was my favorite. I memorized the stories about his courage and compassion and I could chant long poems from famous writers. I did well there.

Section II - The Fortune-teller

One of the sadhus told me our village had been too long without a priest of its own, and a woman who had lived in our village but married outside the village gave money to the sadhus to train a priest. She had married into a wealthy family, for the eldest son had seen her at a fair and desired her, and would have no other bride. The family grew wealthier, and she wanted to do something for her own family in the village. She sent them money for this life, and wanted to train a priest [so she would gain a good rebirth]. Her husband indulged her wishes for she liked to lie with him, and gave the family two healthy sons.

So I was to be a priest, and the akhara had money from both my father and her for the same work. This was dishonest. But I could not condemn them too much, for they were poor and it was hard to get enough food and cloth for a whole group of sadhus.

I was initiated as a student and took the sun mantra, but though I respected him, he was never my god. I yearned for my lord of power and honor.

Time flowed on and I spent my days memorizing chants and stories, gathering plants for healing, and cooking and cleaning. Priests may be proud, but sadhus are not, and we learned women's work. We were taught not to fight and disobey. There were about half a dozen boys there, orphans who wanted to be sadhus, and some boys from the village nearby who would visit. There were no women.

I thought that being a priest would be a good job, better than farming and ordering animals around. We did not hear news from the outside world.

Once Bhai took me to a fortune-teller, who could read the lines of my face. He would fall into trance possessed by Lord Shiva, and whip himself. But when he saw me, he fell into a sleepy trance, and his voice blurred. He said,

You are cursed you know. Your life should have been a different life but something interfered with the curse. Learn all you can of manhood - learn to be a warrior. You think you can escape it but you can't - you will have to fight. Learn to be prepared - learn weapons and arms.
Bhai and I both wondered at this for I was to be a priest. The man awoke from his trance, and remembered nothing. Bhai brooded, and said,
We train you to help your village, but what if it is attacked? A priest can do little to defend it. You already like Hanuman's arts [of war] - let's see how good you can be. From now on, it will be fully half of your training.
There were sadhus there who wore only rope and chains, and they were strong men with long hair. They fought with spears and swords, and metal balls on chains. They knew fight postures like dance positions. One of them was named Hanuman Das, and I liked him for his name. He would hide food, and give it to me later.

He said,

Boy, they are training you to save your village, one way or the other. But there is only so much one person can do. When you go back, you must set up two schools, one for learning and chants, and one for war. Both must be taught.

Section III - The Vision of Hanuman

He sounded reasonable - perhaps that is what I was meant to do. I would learn as much as I could from them. They were willing to teach me, but they were not my friends. They were very independent, and did not believe in friendship, especially if you were younger than they were.

One night I went outside, and thought about my life. I imagined myself as a hero, saving my family, and they all looked up to me for saving them. I even helped save my village, and they did not look down on me because I was small and poor. They realized that I was good and strong. This was what I really wanted in this life - to be strong and to help people in trouble.

I sensed a smile in the sky. I looked up but I could not tell where it was coming from. It seemed to be everywhere. And then I had a thought, and it was like a deep voice saying,

So, boy you want to be a hero! Do you know what a hero's life is like? It is obedience and service to others, and devotion to your god!
I looked around, but I couldn't see anybody.

Then, in the midst of the stars, two great eyes opened. The sky became full of rich brown fur, wearing a jeweled hat and earrings. It was Lord Hanuman, and he took up the whole sky!

I wasn't sure how one addressed a god. Should I bow to the ground, namaskar [putting both hands together in from of my chest], or raise my hands over my head like the mad Krishna worshipers?

He said, "Do not worry about addressing me - I did not come here because I lacked ritually proper behavior. I came to see if you would be a warrior."

I said, "I will Lord, I will! It is all that I want out of life. I want to help people, and I will be glad to be obedient towards you."

He said,

Not just me, but all the gods. However, I will be your special god, and watch over you. What will you give me?
I said,
Lord, I will give you my heart and soul. I have little money but you can have all of it. I will give you my food before I eat it, in case you are hungry.
The Lord said,
Now these are some worthy gifts. But I want something more. I want you to meditate on me as soon as you wake up in the morning, and as you go to sleep at night. I will encompass your life and you will be my servant!
I said,
I hear and obey lord. Will you also be my friend? I will love you as a master but I would also like to have you as a friend.
He smiled again and said,
Well, I must say, you don't sound like a warrior-hero quite yet. But you are young, and different from the other boys at the school. Yes, I will be your friend, until the time comes for war. Your training here will not be for nothing. There is war coming here, by hardened men who worship a different god. Your skills will be useful.
I was sad to know that war would come. I said, "Will those that I know and love die too?"

The lord said,

All men die, but some die more nobly than others. In other lives, you have had trouble with nobility. Learn a soldier's honor.
He disappeared.

Section IV - Preparing for War

I wondered at this - was he really there? Could I have been dreaming? But I was awake, and I had not stopped being awake.

I went to my weapons training with energy, and I tried to learn as much as I could. I asked about the warriorship of others, especially those who worshiped other gods. Nobody there knew much about warriors with different gods. But one old man said that he had heard of armies of men who dressed in black and covered their faces. They fought on horses.

I asked if there was any way I could learn about war using horses. Nobody was sure about this - it wasn't traditional, even for warrior sadhus. They fought with sticks and staffs and swords, but not with animals.

I thought that those must be the warriors that Lord Hanuman said we must fight. But we had no horses.

I said, "I have heard that these men are coming again, and they will kill us unless we learn to fight them."

Bhai asked, "Where did you hear this?" So I told him about my vision of Hanuman. He looked surprised, as did the others there. They said, "Perhaps it is a warning to us all. How does one fight with horseman?"

The old man said,

We must make plans. We must practice as if we fight with horsemen. We must get more men here. There are warriors in the villages. We must see if anybody knows their techniques of war.
So they went out to find other warriors and bring them back. I hoped that what I told them was true, and that I had understood Lord Hanuman correctly. Over the course of months, many men came and trained in fighting. One old man knew how to fight men on horseback. I learned how to shoot the horses in the weak part of the legs, and in the neck and eyes. It was not pleasant but we had to learn these things.

After about six months, we started to hear about distant battles. As the year came around, it was getting time for me to return to my village, and there were battles nearby, several days away. The sadhus and warriors were training, and they did not need me. Bhai and I returned to my village and we spoke with the head man of our village. He was very concerned. He said we must defend ourselves if warriors were coming. Bhai and I volunteered to show what we had learned, and men from other villages came for a council. We all needed to be ready.

We showed what the old man had told us [about fighting horsemen], and carved tree trunks to the height of horses, and practiced pulling men off them (the horses). The smith in the village usually made pots, but now we had him making knives, and spears for every man. He never had so much business. He also made spikes, and these were hidden in holes on paths around the village. We had arrows and they were dipped in the old poison that we never used, because it would ruin the meat of the animals we hunted.

We made places to hide, and holes under the houses for women and children, and for old people. We made secret places in the dense forests for them to hide if there was time, and they were able to escape.

We set up scouts, and in the council had other villages set up their own scouts, so we would have advance warning. If they saw or heard trouble, they could blow loud horns five times in a row, and if it were night, make special fires in high places. I came back an official priest, but nobody cared. I was in my teens, young and unmarried, and not yet worthy of the respect of men. I must prove myself. I hoped to be strong in battle. If not, at least I could say prayers for the souls of the dead, encouraging them to a good rebirth and to the heaven of our god of justice or of war. I would rather save them in life, but I could also help them in death.

We dug big trenches through the forest, and hid them with leaves and sticks. I worked with the men, and eventually, I was treated as one of them.

Section V - Encountering the Invaders

Our land was rocky and full of hills, but there were forests where we got wood for cooking. The [invading] warriors would come down the roads and would not be in the forests, so we made the roads difficult to ride.

We were not a major city but a small village. We hoped that we would be overlooked, or at least only a few men would come our way. We were safe for a few months but then we heard the horns.

We had been practicing. The horns came from far away, so there was time to round up the women and the children and the elderly and hide them in the forest. We had made safe places, caves and hiding places between large rocks, and covered them so they could not be seen. At least they would be safe.

I rode out with Bhai and two other men, and spent the day making sure they were hidden, and that the children had food. We were a small village but we had over 50 people there.

Then we came back and placed barriers on the roads, and hid behind the rocks. It took many hours (we had all taken food) but in the distance we heard a kind of thunder, and then we could see a great dark cloud approaching us.

They were like the warriors the old man had described - on horses, wrapped in black rags, dressed in black like the storm clouds. We were all terrified - we were not warriors, we were not hardened by battle. But as they approached, they started falling into the disguised pits, and many fell on the spikes below. They started riding more carefully then going around the lumps and mounds on the road, riding along the sides and in the woods. Of course, we had made pits in the woods as well.

We tied thin string along the trails, and this made their horses fall, but did not kill them. They still kept coming towards our village. Finally, our headman gave the signal, and we went out to fight. It became a chaotic scene of people hitting each other with sticks, spears, and swords. I was now a priest, and I shouldn't be fighting - it was a bad action to take another's life for a priest. So I decided to focus on the horses. While the men were fighting men, I ducked down and slew horse after horse. I felt bad about this, and I said prayers for their rebirth in good bodies. This made the men fall off the horses, and it helped out our men. Warriors from other villages came, who had not been attacked, and had heard the horns. They knew where the traps were and could avoid them. They helped us fight.

With the men from the other villages, there started to be as many of us as there were of them. I was taking care of their horses and they were starting to steal each other's horses. Some men saw me, and we fought but I was able to defend myself well enough so that other warriors could step in and finish the job. I did not want to kill men.

But as the battle raged on, I saw my Lord Hanuman's eyes open in the sky, and I prayed, "Lord, what shall I do?"

He looked down and said,

All men die. The slayer is does not slay, the slain is not slain. You have heard of the great war and how the prince wished to refrain from killing, but he could not. You have been clever and useful focusing on the horses. But you cannot escape your fate - you must become a real warrior. I will give you some of my strength.
I felt as if full of light and energy, like a spirit of the wind. It did not matter anymore if I lived or died.

I turned and there was a warrior behind me. He was young too. But it did not matter - he would fight to kill me because that was what he was trained to do. We both had knives and we wrestled, trying to stab each other. Finally, I got a burst of strength, and stabbed him in the neck. He did not look at me with hatred, but rather with resignation. We stared at each other as his life fled away, and he collapsed.

I got up and fought with others, as if I were in a daze. Sometimes I stabbed them, and sometimes they stabbed me, but nobody hurt me enough to kill me. The air was full of screams, and dust, and neighing horses, and it was a blur. I remembered what I had learned with the sadhus. I fought for the sake of others, not for myself. I fought to protect my family, and my village. At one point, I fought a man whose turban was green, and I think I stabbed him, but he hit me in the face and the world turned dark. I lay on the ground a long time, unconscious. When I awoke, the warriors had gone and the field was full of people lying on the ground. I saw Bhai going carefully through the dying, stabbing in the throat all the enemy who remained alive. They would not be sheltered.

I tried to get up, but I fell down again. One of the village men saw me and said, "It is over."

Section VI - The Village Council
He gave me water and said,
We have all lost men. When most of the men on both sides were dead and wounded, they took the remaining horses and fled. I saw you killing horses. That was a good move - if there were more horses, they might have stayed longer. But with the few that remained, they knew they needed them to go on [and escape].

They were not strong enough to attack our town - too many of them were wounded. They looked like they were going back - I don't think they attacked any of the towns [after the battle]. Now they know that we will fight and that we will not be slaves.

The road and forests were full of wounded people. We took them back to the village and told the women that the area was safe, and had them tend to the wounded. Scouts were sent out again in case the warriors decided to return.

But they didn't, and all was quiet. We tried to find survivors from the other villages, and more people were alive than dead. Everybody cleaned up and drank water, and then we had a council, to try and understand what had happened.

Our headman said,

We do not know the politics of this. We do not know why these people were invading, and if their goal is near or far. We do not know if they will return.

Our thanks to our new priest, whose vision of the Monkey Lord warned us of this invasion. Child, you have proved yourself a true priest and warrior. We are glad to have you.

He went on talking but I barely heard. I was so happy that he had noticed me, and that I could be of help. He spoke of the bravery of all the men of the villages who died, and how we farmers and merchants had held our own against hardened warriors. We should be proud of this. The women cheered and the men stood up straighter. Even the wounded puffed up their chests.

He said,

The sadhus were of great help. They taught us to fight. We must give them a generous offering for the akhara this year, and for the future. They have also taught us the importance of information. Who among us would have known how to fight horsemen, if not for one old man. We must learn more of these invaders.

I suggest that we have some of us go into the cities. If we must walk for two weeks, we must go. We need to find out who these people are, and why we were attacked, and if they will come again.

There were some sadhus here who came to fight along side us - they were here with Bhai. Bhai stood up and said,
Sadhus are known for wandering - our presence in the city will not be noticed. We will say that we are on a pilgrimage. We will not choose to fight but we will defend ourselves if it is necessary. People are willing to speak to sadhus.
The headman said,
I accept your offer, on the part of our villagers. We all know that you have sacrificed the peace and happiness of ordinary life to follow a hard destiny. Now you sacrifice yourself for our safety. Such behavior is noble, and makes you worthy of the rishis and yogis of ancient days.

The men cheered them, shouting the name of [the god] Ram. The sadhus looked unmoved but I will bet that inside they swelled with pride, for this was a great compliment. I never realized that our headman was such a good speaker.

One of the old men in the village knew a little about healing, and I had learned a little among the sadhus. We cleaned wounds and bound them with rags, and found places in the shade for the wounded. The sadhus left on their spy mission. They were right. They would be perfect to find out information [about our attackers].

We could not return to peace because we did not know if we would be attacked again. Our headman said that we should return to farming work, but that every other day we must practice an hour of fighting so that we would remember what to do if they returned again. The women and children must remember their hiding places, and find the quickest way to get there.

Section VII - Sadhu Spies

We were not born of the warrior clan, but we had to learn their ways. The invasion changed our village forever. The sadhus were gone for several weeks and first one group returned, and then another group returned a week later. They said the news was not good. These men in black rags came from the north and wanted to conquer our country. They took many cities, and fouled the women, and torched the houses. Many were stone, so the houses were blackened but survived. However some towns had no men surviving.

The sadhus said that most villages were destroyed, but one village was full of warriors and fought back, and they were unable to take it. I'm sure that was us. The men in black are retreating now, for they come in waves. But they will return, and they will continue their raids. They do raiding for years on end, over and over until the land is theirs. Then they install leaders and tax collectors, and the people must bow down to them as rulers.

Their leader comes to war with them, and he is believed to be like a god, or to them a prophet. He wears a green turban - not black rags like the others. He was wounded on one of the raids, and this was a bad omen for them. It may slow their second wave of attacks.

I was proud - I knew that I had stabbed him. I didn't know if that was the wound, or mine had done nothing, and others had done more harm, but at least I contributed to delaying future attacks.

Our headman said, "How long is there between attacks?"

The sadhus said,

This is unknown. We asked others, who had heard from yet others. It could be six months, or it could be six years. But when they have fought in a place, they do not return to it [immediately]. They believe that it is bad luck to fight twice in the same place.

The headman said,

Then we can relax for while - they will not come again in this period of raiding. But if our land is marked territory, they will not go away completely. We must always be ready for them.

This is what we must do. Young priest and brave warrior, you gave the first warning. I ask you to worship the Monkey Lord daily, and we will build a temple for him here. He predicted this attack. Perhaps if you please him, he will tell us of the next one, too. Our village does not have its own god. - let us make him the god of this village. This too may make him want to help us.

Men, we must keep up our warrior training. Not as often, perhaps an hour a week, but we must remember how to fight. If we forget, we will die. Sadhus, you are our teachers and our protectors, and all sadhus here must be fed.

Women and children, and ancient ones, you must be protected. Keep up your hiding places, expand them, make them comfortable, and make new ones if you need to. Our men will help you.

Villagers, we will not die without a fight!

The people cheered.

And I will be the temple priest of Hanuman

Section VIII - The Hanuman Temple

So our people went to work with renewed spirit. We were the village that had resisted the invaders!

The men took unused land and chipped stone, and made mortar. They made a small square temple to the Monkey Lord, with a spire on top and stairs leading up to it. It was high and would not flood if there were rains.

It was not on sacred ground though, so I had to sanctify the ground. I needed a sacred object to bury. I wondered, was there anything here that he (Hanuman) valued?

At night I called to him, and said, "Lord, we build you a temple, for you have helped us and my village is grateful. Is there something we should use to sanctify the ground?"

In my dream, he said, "Give me that which you value most from the fight."

When I awoke, I thought about it. I realized that I most valued the knife with which I stabbed the man with the green turban, their leader. It was the single act that made me most proud. I would give him the knife.

I buried it beneath the temple, near the altar area. Now the ground was sacred, at least to me. We needed a statue, or at least a rock to be our god. We had men look in nearby villages but we couldn't find a suitable statue.

Then he (Hanuman) appeared in my dream again, as two open eyes in a dark sky. He said,

Warrior and priest, there is a rock known to me. It is associated with a warrior of old. Go to the river and walk until you see a great white boulder. Look beneath the boulder for a rock that was once carved.
When I awoke, I did so. The river was an hour away, and I walked along its bank for another hour. I finally found one (a white boulder), behind vines and tree roots. I looked beneath it and there were many small rocks in the water. I pulled up one that looked small, and it turned out to be big below the surface. It had dirt and mossy green seaweed on it. I washed it off, and tried to clean away the encrustations. On it was a picture of a man in kingly robes, incised into the stone. He carried a mace, and on the mace was a monkey with a crown.

I wondered what this meant. Surely it couldn't say that the king was superior to a god! Perhaps it meant that he fought with the blessing of the god, or that the god was everywhere for him, even in his weapon. I squinted my eyes but I could not make out who the king was. He looked like he had a beard, and a long robe.

The rock was heavy but I got it back. I went to the headman first, and showed it to him. He didn't recognize the figure either, but if the lord wanted it, that was enough.

We put it on the altar, and I called the Lord down to us.

The carved stone was not a statue but it looked venerable and old. It is good for a temple to look ancient - it means the gods have dwelt there for a long time, and they are unlikely to desert the place.

I placed the statue on the raised area for the altar, and below it was my image of the universe, with colors for the directions, and mantras both said and written at each corner. Beneath it was a picture of the Lord that I drew on a piece of cloth. This showed him to be lord of the universe, both below and above it. I gave him fruit and flowers, and burned incense before him, and offered food to him on a silver tray. I chanted his name, and thanked him for helping us. I asked him to send his life and breath into the semi-statue, and dwell there for us. I visualized his path, and chanted his name. I watched the carved stone until I could see it breathe with the god's breath.

Then he was our god, and we worshiped him each week in thanks. As his priest, I worshiped him each morning. He appeared sometimes, not playful like monkeys here but serious. He said that we must always be alert to defend our village, but that the invaders would not come back for a year or so.

So we had time to return to normal life. My parents wanted me to marry, and though I liked life with the sadhus, life with a woman could be good as well. My parents lived on a small compound, but they recognized that a married man would need his own space, so they built me a set of rooms connected to theirs but with my own room for prayer and meditation. I also had room for my future wife - they did not insist we stay with them. Some neighbors thought this would spoil us, and that a mere boy did not deserve a separate space, and would be lonely away from his parents. But my father said that I was a warrior now, and it was not suitable for warriors to sleep with others.

I did not have any women in mind - I had been busy thinking of invaders, and the Monkey Lord. So my parents contacted the headman who contacted parents in the nearby villages. They had seen me in the fighting, and I made a good impression on several men. I [soon] had a small pile of offers for marriage.

I was uncertain what to do, so I called upon my Lord. He said, "Marry the women who worships me best." This made sense. I told my parents that I would meet with the girls, and find out which would make the best wife by asking questions. My mother thought this was not traditional, but my father agreed. He knew I had prayed about it.

I met a series of girls who all seemed nice enough, but nobody stood out. Then one girl came to meet me and said, "I would be proud to be the wife of one beloved by the Monkey Lord." The other girls were nervous and silent, but this one spoke her mind. She said, "I will worship him too if we marry." I was interested - she liked him too.

Section IX - Marrying a Devotee

The girl was not the one my parents would have chosen - her skin was not light and she was thin. But her eyes were large and intense, and she was interested in my life. I liked this - even Bhai sometimes just tolerated me and my parents were nice but they didn't really know me or the Lord. Hanuman had become important in my life, and I wanted to share that with someone.

I told my parents that I had chosen her. My mother was not happy - her family was not wealthy, and she wasn't much interested in food and children. But my father was satisfied, because though she came from our caste, her father had spent some time learning the art of war, and he had knowledge of administration, having been a guard and later a treasurer in a large city. He had a reputation as an honorable man.

In our village, a husband would never call his wife by name, and she would never call him by name. I called her worshiper of the Monkey Lord, and she called me hero-priest. Those were good names for us.

Our [astrology] charts were harmonious, and we decided to marry. I would have liked to have asked her more questions beforehand as the Lord commanded, but my mother was outraged at the idea of unmarried people spending time together. She said that there would be enough time to talk after we were married. I suppose that she was right, and I did not speak with her until our marriage.

She came veiled, wearing gold necklaces and earrings, and came on a donkey (these were rare here). Her family came with gifts, and my family and my village fed them well for several days. There was music and dance, and it was pleasant, except that we could not eat, and had to listen to how marriage was a sacred commitment. Perhaps it was but it didn't have to be repeated so often.

At last it was over, and by the end we could finally eat. I didn't know how people were supposed to pay attention to the priest droning on while they were starving. I will do marriages as a priest, and mine will be really short and without so much repetition. If they want to eat, I won't notice.

Section X - The Birth of a Son

So we married and spoke later, as my mother wished. She had ancestors who had worshiped hero-saints, and her father preferred warriors to teachers and priests. She liked the drama of war, the life and death situations, the colorful stories and brave heroes. But she did not like death or illness, and liked the stories of tragedy so long as they were kept at a distance.

I did not know much about laying with a women, so I went to speak with Bhai during the wedding. He thought marriage was a waste of time and energy, but I told him that I owed it to the ancestors, and he accepted that. He told me about what women expect from a man. I checked it with my new wife, and she said that he was wrong. I figured she knew better. Neither of us had much experience, but eventually we figured out how things worked.

Food was a problem, for my wife and mother cooked in different ways. She learned to cook in my mother's style, to please her, and made our snacks in her own way - I thought they both tasted fine.

She was true to her word, and came to worship the Lord when I offered him incense, light, and flowers. I marked the stone in red and spoke to him in my mind. Usually he didn't answer. Sometimes other people came, and on holidays there were many people there. I had offering bowls for other gods too, and a big bowl for Rama.

A year went by, and people still came each week to practice warfare. The invaders were taking their time coming back. Meanwhile, my wife got pregnant which thrilled my mother. I thought it was nice but I didn't make that much money as a priest. The time went by - a year, a year and a half, then almost two years, and my wife had a boy. My mother forgave her for not being fat and fair when the child was born. I thought he could grow to be a priest or a warrior - he could choose, unlike me.

When he was a year old, they returned.

Section XI - 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 XII - 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 XIII - 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 XIV - 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.

Section XV - The Bhairava Speaks of the Life of Rukmini Das

This is good. You have cleansed another pearl. This life was a good one, though cursed with war. He (your past life) made honorable decisions, helped and served others, and was a devotee to a god and his priest as well. It is an ideal way to work off bad karma.

You still have some lives to go. It is a subjective judgment to determine how many lives one must remember. I include the lives that have affected you most strongly.

When you have finished this practice, there are others to follow.

This concludes the past life biography of Rukmini Das.

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