The Tears of Vishnu

Some pilgrims travel the road of enlightenment for generations, their searches passing from father to son, or from mother to daughter. Most of these unfortunates never find that for which they search. But for the woman from a small village near Badrinath it came on the second day. She had stepped from a very different road into a hut for refreshment, and found herself in a cave. She looked behind her for the entrance, but saw only the disappointments of her past. In front of her was an old man. Sitting naked in a simple wooden chair. She approached him to query her surroundings, and as she did, the light in the cave faded. But when she got closer, he breathed out, and new light flooded into the cave, spreading to the most distant corners and crevices. She saw that two of his hands gripped the arms of the chair, the other two were in front of his chest. She stood in front of him, and opened her mouth, but before she could speak, he raised his head to look into her eyes.

"Do you understand what I want of you?" He asked. His voice came to her as the sighing of the wind in the trees, and as the splash of a stream over rocks, as the faint popping of a flame on kindling, or the crunch of earth underfoot.

"No", she replied, confused, feeling that what was required of her was greater than she she could ever hope to accomplish alone.

"Let me show you." He said.

Though he never stirred from the chair, he took her hand and led her to a village in distant lands, to a time before even her forefathers had known. The people of the village were smaller than her own, and darker of skin, reminding her of the people from the northern mountains. She stood beside the old man and they looked down upon the people of the village, and as they did, tears fell from his eyes. Some splashed into the dirt stirring new growth that spiralled up in a mass of green. Some of his tears landed on the barren rocks, and where they did, new springs arose to form rivers that flowed towards the distant sea. Some of his tears fell onto the trees and plants, stirring the growth of new fruits and flowers. And inevitably some tears fell on the people, and those who were touched felt a stirring in their minds, and sought out new words, new thoughts. And as the years went by the village grew, replaced wood with stone. The stone grew pictures, then symbols she did not know. The people prospered, and had food to spare to offer back to him in gratitude.

"Now Do You Understand?" He roared. And his voice came to her as the thrashing of the trees, branches bent by the wind. His voice came to her as the waves of the sea breaking over rocks, pounding the sand on the beach. His voice came to her as the crackling of a fire, eager to light new wood. His voice came to her as the rattle of stones, loosened by a winter frost.

She fell to her knees and looked him in the eye. "No." She said, unsure what was required, but knowing it was beyond her.

"Let me show you." He said.

Still seated, he took her hand and led her to desolate lands, untouched by plant or animal. And they stood upon a mountain, and looked at the bare rock that stretched as far as her eyes could see. And in the distance she could see the gashes in the rock, which leaked the bright reds and yellows of the underneath. And then she felt his tears as they flooded down the mountain, to well in the valleys, to escape in hisses of steam from the hot rocks, or to lie in pools away from the heat. And as the years passed, she saw the stirrings of life in these pools, she saw a spread of green, then fronds appeared, and creatures to eat the fronds, she saw the creatures take their first steps.

"NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" He thundered.

And his voice was a shattering hurricane that scrubbed all before it, his voice was a sea of waves pounding the highest of cliffs into sand, his voice was a plume of fire driven from deep within the earth consuming all before it, his voice was a shaking of the rocks that levelled the highest peaks, and filled the deepest valleys.

She fell to her hands and knees, and bowed her head. "No" She sobbed.

"Then let me show you." He said and took her hand. And he led her to where it was dark. And as he stood beside her, she saw his tears. And as they fell from his eyes they shined and twinkled, and scattered, pouring forth in ever greater numbers. Some burst in a shower of light, and when they did others, smaller, formed in their wake, then dimmed and cooled.

He turned to her, but before he could speak, she bent her head, and kissed the feet of the old man. "I understand now." She said.

She was asleep beside the road when they found her. Thinking that she had been touched by the gods they carried her to the nearest temple. It took six men to carry her. For though the sins of man weigh less than each of the hairs on a butterflies wings, their number is greater than the whispered breaths of all the dreamers in the world, greater still than the number of waves on all the worlds seas, even greater than the grains of sand on the largest beach, and so much greater than all the stars in the midnight sky. She lies there now on a bed of lotus flowers, tended by her disciples. She listens in her sleep through out the days and nights, as the worshippers breathe life into her heart with their pleas for understanding and forgiveness. Their foreheads brushing the scraped planks of age worn deodar. Every once in a while, she will come close to waking, and her body will stir as if in dreams. The devotee will pause in their pleas, but always she will return to her eternal slumber, the world not yet ready for the forgiveness that she can bring.