The Path of Later On
“The path of later-on and the road of tomorrow
lead only to the castle of nothing-at-all.”
BY THE wayside, many-colored flowers delight the eye, red berries gleam on small trees with knotty branches, and in the distance a brilliant sun shines gold upon the ripe corn. A young traveler is walking briskly along, happily breathing In the pure morning air; he seems joyful, without a care for the Future. The way he is following comes to a cross-roads, where Innumerable paths branch off in all directions. Everywhere the young man can see crisscrossing footprints. The sun shines ever brighter in the sky; the birds are singing in the trees; the day promises to be very beautiful. Without thinking, the traveler takes the path that is nearest to him, which seems, after all, quite practicable; it occurs to him for a moment that he could have chosen another way; but there will always be time to retrace his steps if the path he has taken leads nowhere. A voice seems to tell him, “Turn back, turn back, you are not on the right road.” But everything around him is charming and delightful. What should he do? He does not know. He goes on without taking any decision; he enjoys the pleasures of the moment. “In a little while,” he replies to the voice, “in a little while I shall think; I have plenty of time.” The wild grasses around him whisper in his ear, “Later.” Later, yes, later. Ah, how pleasant it is to breathe the scented breeze, while the sun warms the air with its fiery rays. Later, later. And the traveler walks on; the path widens. Voices are heard from afar, “Where are you going? Poor fool, don’t you see that you are heading for your ruin? You are young; come, come to us, to the beautiful, the good, the true; do not be misled by indolence
Words of Long Ago
and weakness; do not fall asleep in the present; come to the future.” “Later, later,” the traveller answers these unwelcome voices. The flowers smile at him and echo, “Later.” The path becomes wider and wider. The sun has reached its zenith; it is a glorious day. The path becomes a road. The road is white and dusty, bordered with slender birchtrees; the soft purling of a little stream is heard; but in vain he looks in every direction, he can see no end to this interminable road.
The young man, feeling a secret unease, cries, “Where am I? Where am I going?... What does it matter? Why think, why act? Let us drift along on this endless road; let us walk on, I shall think tomorrow.”
The small trees have disappeared; oak-trees line the road; a gully runs on either side. The traveller feels no weariness; he is borne along as if in a delirium. The gully becomes deeper; the oaks give way to fir-trees; the sun begins to go down. In a daze, the traveller looks all around him; he sees human figures rolling into the ravine, clutching at the fir-trees, the sheer rocks, the roots jutting from the ground. Some of them are making great efforts to climb out; but as they come near to the edge, they turn their heads and let themselves fall back. Hollow voices cry out to the traveler, “Flee this place; go back to the crossroads; there is still time.” The young man hesitates, then replies, “Tomorrow.” He covers his face with his hands so as not to see the bodies rolling into the ravine, and runs along the road, drawn on by an irresistible urge to go forward. He no longer wonders whether he will find a way Out. With furrowed brow and clothes in disorder, he runs on in desperation. At last, thinking himself far away from the accursed place, he opens his eyes: there are no more fir-trees; all around are
barren stones and grey dust. The sun has disappeared beyond the horizon; night is coming on. The road has lost itself in an endless desert. The desperate traveller, worn out by his long run, wants
The Path of Later On
to stop; but he must walk on. All around him is ruin; he hears stifled cries; his feet stumble on skeletons. In the distance, the thick mist takes on terrifying shapes; black forms loom up; something huge and misshapen suggests itself. The traveller flies rather than walks towards the goal he senses and which seems to flee from him; wild cries direct his steps; he brushes against phantoms. At last he sees before him a huge edifice, dark, desolate, gloomy, a castle to make one say with a shudder: “A haunted castle.” But the young man pays no attention to the bleakness of the place; these great black walls make no impression on him; as he stands on the dusty ground, he hardly trembles at the sight of these formidable towers; he thinks only that the goal is reached, he forgets his weariness and discouragement. As he approaches the castle, he brushes against a wall, and the wall crumbles; instantly everything collapses around him; towers, battlements, walls have vanished, sinking into dust which is added to the dust already covering the ground. Owls, crows and bats fly out in all directions, screeching and circling around the head of the poor traveller who, dazed, downcast, overwhelmed, stands rooted to the spot, unable to move; suddenly, horror of horrors, he sees rising up before him terrible phantoms who bear the names of Desolation, Despair, Disgust with life, and amidst the ruins he even glimpses Suicide, pallid and dismal above a bottomless gulf. All these malignant spirits surround him, clutch him, propel him towards the yawning chasm. The poor youth tries to resist this irresistible force, he wants to draw back, to flee, to tear himself away from all these invisible arms entwining and clasping him. But it is too late; he moves on towards the fatal abyss. He feels drawn, hypnotized by it. He calls out; no voice answers to his cries. He grasps at the phantoms, everything gives way beneath him.With haggard eyes he scans the void, he calls out, he implores; the macabre laughter of Evil rings out at last. The traveller is at the edge of the gulf. All his efforts have been in vain. After a supreme struggle he falls... from his bed.
Words of Long Ago
A young student had a long essay to prepare for the following morning. A little tired by his day’s work, he had said to himself as he arrived home, “I shall work later.” Soon afterwards he thought that if he went to bed early, he could get up early the next morning and quickly finish his task. “Let’s go to bed,” he said to himself, “I shall work better tomorrow; I shall sleep on it.” He did not know how truly he spoke. His sleep was troubled by the terrible nightmare we have described, and his fall awoke him with a start. Thinking over what he had dreamt, he exclaimed, “But it’s quite clear: the path is called the path of ‘later on’, the road is the road of ‘tomorrow’ and the great building the castle of ‘nothing at all’.” Elated at his cleverness, he set to work, vowing to himself that he would never put off until tomorrow what he could do today.
- The Mother
(A tale for young and old)
ONCE UPON a time there was a splendid palace, in the heart of which lay a secret sanctuary, whose threshold no being had ever crossed. Furthermore, even its outermost galleries were almost inaccessible to mortals, for the palace stood on a very high cloud, and very few, in any age, could find the way to it. It was the palace of Truth. One day a festival was held there, not for men but for very different beings, gods and goddesses great and small, who on earth are honored by the name of Virtues. The vestibule of the palace was a great hall, where the walls, the floor, the ceiling, luminous in themselves, were resplendent with a myriad glittering fire. It was the Hall of Intelligence. Near to the ground, the light was very soft and had a beautiful deep sapphire hue, but it became gradually clearer towards the ceiling, from which girandoles of diamonds hung like chandeliers, their myriad facets shooting dazzling rays. The Virtues came separately, but soon formed congenial groups, full of joy to find themselves for once at least together, for they are usually so widely scattered throughout the world and the worlds, so isolated amid so many alien beings. Sincerity reigned over the festival. She was dressed in a transparent robe, like clear water, and held in her hand a cube of purest crystal, through which things can be seen as they really are, far different from what they usually seem, for there their image is reflected without distortion. Near to her, like two faithful guardians, stood Humility, at
Words of Long Ago
Once respectful and proud, and Courage, lofty-browed, clear eyed, his lips firm and smiling, with a calm and resolute air. Close beside Courage, her hand in his, stood a woman, completely veiled, of whom nothing could be seen but her searching eyes, shining through her veils. It was Prudence. Among them all, coming and going from one to another and yet seeming always to remain near to each one, Charity, at once vigilant and calm, active and yet discrete, left behind her as she passed through the groups a trail of soft white light. The light that she spreads and softens comes to her, through a radiance so subtle that it is invisible to most eyes, from her closest friend, her inseparable companion, her twin sister, Justice. And around Charity thronged a shining escort, Kindness, Patience, Gentleness, Solicitude, and many others. All of them are there, or so at least they think. But then suddenly, at the golden threshold, a newcomer appears. With great reluctance the guards, set to watch the gates, have agreed to admit her. Never before had they seen her, and there was nothing in her appearance to impress them. She was indeed very young and slight, and the white dress which she wore was very simple, almost poor. She takes a few steps forward with a shy, embarrassed air. Then, apparently ill at ease to find herself in such a large and brilliant company, she pauses, not knowing towards whom she should go. After a brief exchange with her companions, Prudence steps forward at their request and goes towards the stranger. Then, after clearing her throat, as people do when they are embarrassed, to give herself a moment to reflect, she turns to her and
“We who are gathered here and who all know each other by our names and our merits are surprised at your coming, for you appear to be a stranger to us, or at least we do not seem to have ever seen you before. Would you be so kind as to tell us who you are?”
Then the newcomer replied with a sigh:
“Alas! I am not surprised that I appear to be a stranger in this palace, for I am so rarely invited anywhere.“My name is Gratitude.”
You spoke of Sri Aurobindo’s birth as “eternal” in the
history of the universe. What exactly was meant by
The sentence can be understood in four different ways on four
ascending planes of consciousness:
1. Physically, the consequence of the birth will be of eternal
importance to the world.
2. Mentally, it is a birth that will be eternally remembered
in the universal history.
3. Psychically, a birth that recurs for ever from age to age
4. Spiritually, the birth of the Eternal upon earth.
~ The Mother in 1957
David-Neel & Mr.Tiger
As I am still unable to read to you this evening:
I am going to tell you a story. It is a Buddhist story which perhaps you know, it is modern but has the merit of being authentic. I heard it from Alexandra! David-Neel who as you probably know, is a well-known Buddhist, especially as she was the first! European woman to enter Lhasa. Her journey to Tibet was very perilous and thrilling and she narrated! one of the incidents of this journey to me, which I am going to tell you this evening.
She was with a certain number of fellow travellers forming a sort of caravan, and as the approach to Tibet was relatively easier through Indo-China, they were going from that side. Indo-China is covered with large forests, and these forests are infested with tigers, some of which become man-eaters... and when that happens they are called: "Mr. Tiger."
Late one evening, when they were in the thick of the forest — a forest they had to cross in order to be able to camp safely — she realised that it was her meditation hour. Now, she used to meditate at fixed times, very regularly, without ever missing one and as it was time for her meditation she told her companions, "Carry on, I shall sit here and do my meditation, and when I have finished I shall join you; meanwhile, go to the next stop and prepare the camp." One of the coolies told her, "Oh! no. Madam, this is impossible, quite impossible" — he spoke in his own language, naturally, but I must tell you Madame David-Neel knew Tibetan like a Tibetan — "It is quite impossible. Mr. Tiger is in the forest and now is just the time for him to come and look for his dinner. We can't leave you and you can't stop here!" She answered that it did not bother her at all, that the meditation was much more important than safety, that they could all withdraw and that she would stay there alone.
Very reluctantly they started off, for it was impossible to reason with her — when she had decided to do something, nothing could prevent her from doing it. They went away and she sat down comfortably at the foot of a tree and entered into meditation. After a while she felt a rather unpleasant presence. She opened her eyes to see what it was... and three or four steps away, right in front of her was Mr. Tiger! — with eyes full of greed. So, like a good Buddhist, she said to herself, "Well, if this is the way by which I shall attain Nirvana, very good. I have only to prepare to leave my body in a suitable way, in the proper spirit." And without moving, without even the least quiver, she closed her eyes again and entered once more into meditation; a somewhat deeper, more intense meditation, detaching herself completely from the illusion of the world, ready to pass into Nirvana... Five minutes went by, ten minutes, half an hour — nothing happened. Then as it was time for the meditation to be over, she opened her eyes... and there was no tiger! Undoubtedly, seeing such a motionless body i must have thought it was not fit for eating! For tiger like all wild animals except the hyena, do not attack and eat a dead body. Impressed probably by this in mobility — I dare not say by the intensity of the meditation! — it had withdrawn and she found herself quit alone and out of danger. She calmly went her wayand on reaching camp said, "Here I am."
That's my story. Now we are going to meditate like her, not to prepare ourselves for Nirvana (laughter but to heighten our consciousness!
8 March 1957