Old demons,new fears…!!!

Many are the roads, but Truth is a single path and those who tried this way are few. They pass unrecognized, their goals unknown, while slowly and steadily they pass along. Men do not know for what they were created, and most of them fail to see the Path of Truth (Imam Ghazali R.A.)

 

“Sir, what is next to ecstasy, then?” Aurangzeb asked.

The teacher replied, “Pain”.

“And what is next to pain?” he shot back.

“Nothingness” came the answer.

“What is next to nothingness?” He was in no mood to surrender.

The teacher replied, “Hell”.

“And what is next to hell?”

 

There was pin drop silence in the classroom. The teacher stared at him a little longer than usual but he sat there smiling nonchalantly.

 

It was not the first time he’d done this. Blithe and reckless as he was, his colleagues knew this was one of the things Aurangzeb loved the most: bewildering his teachers by asking them daring questions.

 

Suddenly, the bell rang. The teacher left, saying he would continue the discussion in the next class.

 

The next day, The Adventure Society of Pakistan were on the campus in search of volunteers for their next expedition. On an impulse, Aurangzeb enrolled for it. He was always looking for adventure; to travel towards the unknown. Three days later, he embarked upon the journey that would forever change the way he looked at things.

 

The trip was going well but, one day, while trekking, he lost his way back and found himself in a deserted village with medieval houses. He stopped in front of one house and, mustering all his courage, knocked at the gate.

 

He knocked again but there was no answer.

 

A third time and still nothing happened.

 

Suddenly, the gate opened and a woman almost jumped through it.

 

Aurangzeb noticed that she was dressed strangely and had a veil covering her head.

 

“You must be one of the wanderers who often get lost while searching for the drowned temple,” she said, without preamble.

 

Temple? What temple? he thought.

 

No matter how tired he was, the very thought of a temple with treasure hidden underneath it sent his adrenalin pumping.

 

The woman offered him a glass of water, which he gulped down in one go. After regaining his senses, he asked her the location of the temple.

 

“Just off the river, to the west of the village, lies an island. On it is a vast temple with many bells,” said the woman, “But, before you go there, you must first confront and overcome your personal demon,” she cautioned, “Only then will you be able to hear the bells”.

 

Personal demon? This was one of the most ludicrous things he had ever heard in his life.

The woman, reading the expressions on his face, said,

 

“When you do not know your personal demon it usually manifests in the form of a dog or a wolf”.

 

He began to feel a little dizzy. Maybe it was because of the water he had drunk thirstily after almost an hour of walking. He suddenly felt the need to leave the place immediately. His sixth sense was telling him that something bad was about to happen.

 

Not knowing where he should head for, he started moving in the general direction of the river that the woman had mentioned. Before crossing the bridge, Aurangzeb felt a strong presence. He knew immediately that there was no point in running away from the inevitable. He looked to his left and there he was: his personal demon, in the form of a wolf.

 

He locked his eyes with the wolf, frantically trying to find a way to deal with the situation. On his right stood a deserted house. He thought of climbing up to its roof but immediately rejected the possibility.  Aurangzeb was left with no other option than to go up against the demon.

 

Slowly, the wolf started to move towards him, making a low growling sound, which was more terrifying than a loud bark would have been. Then, seeing weakness in his eyes, the wolf leapt at him and began to bite him.

 

Aurangzeb began to fight, just to protect his throat and face. Then he felt excruciating pain in his leg. He curled up to see that some flesh had been torn away and blood was gushing out.

 

At that moment, embarrassing questions that he used to hurl towards his teachers echoed in his mind.

 

“What is next to ecstasy?”

“Pain.”

“What is next to pain?”

“Nothingness.”

“And what comes next to nothingness”

“Hell…”

 

Aurangzeb could not think beyond that. Yes, this was Hell indeed.

 

He never fathomed his death in such a manner. The wolf continued to tear apart his clothes, although Aurangzeb continued punching him with his bare hands. Then, all of a sudden, he heard a voice from within him. The voice insisted that he should not give up and, at that moment, he felt a club at his side. He grasped it and began beating the wolf with all his might.

 

The wolf started to retreat and, with the bloody club in his hands, Aurangzeb was imbued with an immense feeling of strength. He continued beating the wolf ferociously until he ran away, but started to feel dizzy from the loss of so much blood.

 

A farmer watched all this from a distance. He reached Aurangzeb just in time, catching him before he fell, unconscious, to the ground. He tore off a strip of cloth and wound it round Aurangzeb’s badly bleeding leg. Then the farmer took him to a nearby village where the doctor looked at Aurangzeb’s wound. The doctor advised him to rest until his wounds healed completely.

 

The next day when Aurangzeb’s woke up, the thought of temple suddenly flashed in his mind. Inquisitively, he asked the farmer about the lost temple.

 

“Oh, an earthquake swallowed up that temple, a long time ago,” he said.

 

This dampened Aurangzeb’s spirits but, still, he did not lose hope. After a few days, he began to limp around, but his wound still prevented him from walking. Lying on the floor, he contemplated his encounter with the wolf.

 

That one event had taught him a great lesson. It changed his way of thinking completely. Aurangzeb now realized that the temple, if it ever existed, was his own self and, in order to have control over it, one needed to reign in the ‘demons’ of greed, envy and lust that plagued it. Now, he would confront the world with the same weapons that were used to challenge him. With these thoughts in mind, he slept until the following day.

 

The next day, he again felt the urge to see the temple. The urge was so strong that he took one of the sticks lying on the ground and began limping towards the western bank of the river. When Aurangzeb reached it, he sat down on the river bank and stared out at the horizon. Yet, all he could hear was the sound of water touching his feet and cries of birds in the air.

 

For a moment, Aurangzeb forgot the idea of finding the temple and the treasure, and concentrated on the natural beauty that surrounded him.

 

He began to count numerous blessings with which he had been bestowed and, for the first time, he felt grateful for being alive. Then, because he was at peace with himself, Aurangzeb heard the first bell, then another, until all the bells in the temple were ringing.

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