here was once a young girl of about ten years old, called Ishani. She lived on a mountain farm with her father. Her mother died a few years ago, and since then her father has grown bitter, hard, a gruff man. He started drinking, stopped seeing anybody, and forced his daughter to the same isolation. He wasn’t a bad man, but was saddened by the loss of his wife, and exasperated at not being able to communicate with his daughter.
Ishani had long black hair, and large greenish eyes. Martyred by her father who expected her to replace her mother with the chores of the house, she had become fearful and shy. She spoke faintly and her demeanour was hesitant. Yet, despite her misfortune, she has kept an angelic face and her innocence was intact.
Although still a little girl, Ishani was ahead of her age, because of the work and responsibility that fell on her, the suffering that went with it. As for her father, he was exasperated by Ishani’s silence and withdrawn attitude, by her lack of courage at work, her mistakes and forgetfulness. He could easily get angry, which further frightened Ishani. She no longer knew if she should hate him, submit, run away, feel guilty, or take pity on him. These two beings were caught in a spiral where each fed the other with his or her inability to break this burden.
Ishani grew up in a poor family. Their small house, isolated above the village, was also home for a cow, a few goats and some hens. Ishani felt trapped, ressourceless, as if no solution, no light, could ever find their way into the labyrinth of her life. Everything around her looked grey, cheap, dull. She abhorred the dirt above all, which she felt she could never overcome. Her only refuge was a small remote temple perched on a rocky promontory. It was such a lovely temple, round shaped, pink in colour, with red columns and a flag on its tower. She loved to go there with her goats, amongst the trees. There she could let herself sob, pray and rest for a while.
Ishani decided that there was only one being who could now help her. She had made up her mind, she would go in search of God. Bringing a few little cakes with her, she left and offered one to a neighbour with whom she sometimes liked to spend time with. She enjoyed the shared silence and warmth amongst them. Using her best possible smile, and handing a little cake to him, she asked boldly: “Tell me, I need to know. Where can I find God?” But all she was met with was laugh. He would not take her seriously. She wasn’t defeated and pursued her quest with the village grocery man. Sharing another little cake with him, she asked again: “Where can I find God?”. She was thanked with the same smile and dismissive attitude. Nobody took her word with any credit. She went back home, avoiding any other person she could meet.
As she arrived home, her father was particularly upset that she had left for so long. After a few days during which her repeated mistakes and evasive attitude had particularly irritated him, it is the explosion. Drunk with anger and alcohol, he became furious and threatened Ishani. That was too much for her. For the first time, she answered back at him and ran away from home. She was in a state of intense panic and despair. She rushed towards the mountain pastures, to find the only soothing place she knew. Around her, nature echoed her inner state. The sky was dark and a storm was brewing. A few lightnings began to split the sky, and the strong wind in the foliage made a deafening noise. The thunder rumbled, and a few crows cawed gloomily. Ishani was sobbing, screaming, clinging to the grass. She slipped and fell, then left again with all her energy. She could no longer hear herself, as the outside noise of nature and her groans seemed to have melted into a single, dizzying din in which Ishani sank and got lost.
As the climb progressed, her rage began to give way to a relative calm. She looked up and saw the little flag stretching in the wind. She rushed on the little terrace in front of her dearly loved temple. There she collapsed, exhausted and out of breath. Slowly, her mind calmed down and a little serenity enveloped her. Ishani was surprised to find so much peace since her flight had plunged her into a despair she had never known so intense. She felt like an embrace and an inner silence took hold of her. She looked at the strange beauty and mystery around her, and let herself being soothed by the song of the wind in the foliage. The thunder had now moved away. She began to look around her. Suddenly, she noticed the presence of an old man who was sitting on a stone near the temple. She stood up and approached slowly. “Hello!” she said daringly, while sitting down beside him. She reached for her last little cake and offered it to him. They entered into a conversation.
“Where are you going my little girl?” asked the old man with his soft and gentle voice.
“I am searching for God, but nobody seems to want to help me! I don’t know if you could tell me anything about Him?”
”Just listen carefully”, said the old man “I will show you a way to meet God. I will give you my secret. Go back to your home and just make this little experience. Scratch every little thing you meet, any object in your house, and you will see that underneath its thin veneer of wood, iron, or fabric, it is actually made out of pure gold. Go and check that what I’ve said is true. Test it out. See what effect it will have on yourself, and come back again. I will be here on the next new moon.”
Ishani looked puzzled at him. Is this really the way to meet God? She thanked the old man and headed home again. As soon as she arrived, she started to carefully scratch one corner of the table. She was curious and eager. Could it be possible? Yes, there it was. Something bright and shiny! Her eyes lit up. During the next few days, she would scratch everything, the table, the chair, the bed. Everything she encountered was made out of the same golden essence. Everything! She tried in the courtyard, the tree, the stone by the door… She was so thrilled by her discovery! And how soothing it was for her, for her desperation. She decided to pursue it further and treat everything and everyone as if made out of precious gold. And it worked! The world seemed brighter, gentler, happier. It seemed to say ’thank you’! Every time ‘thank you’! Thank you!
When the new moon arrived, Ishani headed once again for the little pink temple. There she found the old man again, sitting on the very same stone. It made her smile. “Hello” she said.
“Oh, I see my little girl is back. How did it go sweetheart? Did you make any progress in your search for God?”
“Yes, yes!” she answered excitingly. “I have done as you told me. Everything I scratched – you were right – is made out of gold. The whole world is made out of gold! But how come that more and more, I don’t need to scratch anymore? I now often see things as shiny and bright as gold!”
“That’s very good”, answered the old man. “You are right. Your scratching has shown you that everything is made out of pure gold. First you needed to uncover it by scratching, but this is a contagious reality. You have started to take better care of everything and everyone, and the world started responding to you. You made it happier by recognising its true reality. And the world has infinite ways of saying ‘thank you’. Continue, find out how it will help and contaminate you. See that it is not only things. Your very gestures too are made out of thin threads of gold. Your words and thoughts are like a golden elixir of life. Notice how the world always returns the gift. It says, ‘You treat me as I am, so I will behave with you as I am’. This is the ultimate generosity, the reciprocation that we get from people, from the world, from objects. And be attentive, it always comes in ordinary ways.”
Ishani thanked the old man and promised to come again. She wasn’t sure to understand every word that he said this time, but she was reassured. It is normal to see the world as if made out of gold. There is no need for scratching anymore, only to recognise its beauty and shining presence as we would do of a precious friend. This is the secret for a happier life. In fact, Ishani reflected, the dislikes and the grey life I’ve been living in were of my own making, an invention to suit my own beliefs. It was never the beautiful reality that the world is. And the old man appeared today to be such a golden entity. Maybe that after all, he is God Himself.
The landscape around her appeared to be completely silent, as if suspended to her, and its crystal clarity imposed itself on her. Ishani became aware of the powerful beauty of these mountains, in the midst of which she had always lived, but which she was never able to appreciate. She imagined the farm below with her father working. She thought back on her problems which now seemed to be so deeply derisory that she began to love this so majestic and generous nature. For the first time, Ishani felt a great happiness enfolding her, and found herself loving herself and her life. She smiled and said ‘thank you’ to it all.
Back working and playing around the farm, Ishani was now more happy. She kept her secret for herself though. But people seemed now to notice a change in herself and responded to it in a variety of new ways. Even her father seemed to be now more quiet and peaceful. She noticed that there had not been any more arguments between them. She was on the right track. Life went on. She gave herself to things and people to the best of her ability. She felt immersed with life, but was troubled. It all seemed so mysterious. In one way, she felt she was not herself anymore. She felt she was giving way to something in herself so pure and untouched, that it made her disappear. She was losing hold on her life. It worried her. She felt she needed another talk.
Once again, when the new moon appeared again in the sky, she decided to go and spend some time with the old man, with God. That thought made her smile. Here he was, sitting quietly on his stone. “Hello!” Ishani said while sitting down beside him. “I’m worried old man. I have no grip on my life anymore. It feels that I’m disappearing. I don’t want to disappear! I want to be me!” The old man turned towards her, and using his softest, reassuring voice, said:
“It is because you too are made out of gold beneath the surface. You are made out of the very same stuff that the world is made out of. You are not left out of the picture. You too are like shiny gold. I hid it from you, didn’t say it because I wanted you to find out by yourself. You have now become gold. You are disappearing in one way. You are not the poor sad girl with problems. You are like the alchemist who has changed steel, wood, tissue, everything and everyone – including yourself – in gold. God is now ruling your world perfectly and beautifully. You don’t need to exist anymore. Just be this gold, which is your newly discovered Self. Don’t ever forget, Ishani means ‘close to God’. You can go and be happy now, my little girl!”
Ishani was dumbfounded by the words that were uttered by the old man. She thanked him and left quietly. After walking a few steps, she turned around and looked behind. There was no old man there. Had he ever existed? Was he God Himself? Ishani decided to drop these questions and move on. She walked back home in a way that she had never experienced as firm, light, and resolute. Nature was echoing her metamorphosis. The sky was clear and the rays of the sun radiated through the blue vault. The shadows were spreading out, perfectly formed, and a gentle breeze was blowing through the dancing grass. In the trees, a few birds were chirping, and a squirrel jumped from branch to branch. Ishani was happy, fulfilled, beautiful. Ishani, by the way, no longer existed, only this beautiful young girl running in the high grass.
Arriving in sight of her house, Ishani began picking up flowers. She sat down and contemplated the valley, thinking of nothing and watching the beauty of the summer night fall upon the farm. One by one, the stars were born and twinkled, and half a moon arose behind a surrounding mountain. She finally got back onto the path and entered her house. She washed her face and hands, arranged her hair, and put on a beautiful shawl from her mother. In the kitchen, she arranged the flowers in a vase and put it on the table. Her father arrived, as gruff as ever, but his irritation slipped over her like water on a polished stone. Ishani went out to sit by the fountain in the cool night. Her father approached again, surprised and troubled, then left again. The water in the basin was singing pleasantly, and a soft cool breeze invaded the air. A hen came pecking nearby, and an owl sang in the distance. Tonight, while breathing in the scent of the night, Ishani was contemplating life and death. Her love was so intense, her freedom so total, that she shivered and melted into the glittering night.
Text by Alain Joly
Paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
This story was directly inspired by a Rupert Spira YouTube video clip, called ‘A Fairy Story’. Some of the old man’s words or phrases are by Rupert Spira.
– ‘Presence‘, Vol. I & II – by Rupert Spira – (Non-Duality Press)
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