Once, there was a person.
Little more about their identity is known than that.
They were a person, overcome by grief at the cruel nature of the world. So overcome that in their wandering, they collapsed at the foot of a gnarled old buckthorn tree. There, they vowed to lie in misery until they were released from their mortal coil.
And there they laid, slowly withering away- but they did not die. Days passed, but thirst did not kill them. Weeks went by, but their cavernous stomach brought no premature end.
At first, they raged against this too. How could life, so wretched, have sunken its claws so deep into them?
But over time, grief turned to contemplation, and then to meditation. They propped themselves up against the trunk of that old buckthorn and laid amid its itching, stinging barbs, but felt no more discomfort. Bugs and insects bit at their skin, and the elements whipped at them, but there was no more pain. Their thoughts traveled far and probed deep, fueled by their negative energy until it was burned up in full.
It was then that clarity took hold.
They were far from the first or most auspicious of the enlightened, but they too crossed that threshold nonetheless. The ultimate reality of the universe began to take shape within their mind, hardening and coming into focus until it glimmered like a brilliant, cerulean jewel within their mind's eye. And then that jewel took shape, and expanded across their entire being, encasing them in adamant as firm as steel. Enclosed within, the accidental ascetic entered a deep and profound dream-state.
The buckthorn tree overhead died, and the land all around them withered away into a desert, yet that jewel remained, fast-growing and unblemished.
Until it was not.
As the crystal expanded alongside the expansion of the dreamer's consciousness, fractures began to appear across its vertices. These cracks deepened and spiderwebbed across the jewel's surface, until at last the first shards fell from that sky-blue expanse.
When the shards landed, they took shape. Long slivers became limbs. Chunks became torsos and a surmounting head. Fragments clung together as digits and joints. Thinking, comprehending minds born of the dreamer's power of thought filled their bodies. When the shards landed, they landed on their own two feet.
They stood up then, and became the first to behold that self-same jewel. Dimly could they see within its depths, and at once did they recognize the dreamer within to be the creator of this thought-form and all of their kind. They looked upon their parent with wonder, and soon began to meditate upon its nature, as well as their own.
In short order it was found that they too possessed a creative power of their own. Things of wonder and beauty translated themselves from their crystalline minds to the physical world through their jagged fingertips. Spires like petrified forests did grow, and thrones like lotus blossoms did bloom. They spoke to one and all at once, no secrets kept hidden, everything laid bare, and from that reflecting pool rose ever-greater achievements.
They taught their meditative techniques to each generation as they cleaved off of the brilliant mother lode. Contemplation turned to gratitude, to veneration, and to reinforcement of those ideas among their peers. This was not their god--no, gods are not so different from living, dying things--but this was someone worthy of their devotion and protection.
So when the first deeper cracks began to form in the mother jewel, the angular thought-forms grew concerned. When the shards which fell from those gaping wounds laid lifeless and without animating minds, they grew alarmed. And when those among them with foresight saw the cracks reaching so deep that the dreamer itself would be threatened, they grew to fear death for the first, awful time.
They knew that they were products of that unconscious mind. If the dreamer woke, or if the dreamer died, then what hope would there be for them? They would be blown away like leaves on the wind, snuffed out like the flame of a candle. Their nascent world would come to an end, and they did not want that. So they turned their minds toward the crystal, rather than the dreamer within. They focused their every thought and effort toward its preservation, and slowly but surely, the cracks began to narrow and vanish. When shards did fall away, they rose up once more- and were promptly put to work preserving the dreamer.
A society once so wide in scope of thought and imagination now turned inward, and all else began to fall by the wayside.
It wasn't long before doubt first appeared.
Is this the true path? Do all things around us not die? Why then do we persist? Was the dreamer not born of the living and dying world? Does the dreamer, in its wisdom, not foresee the inevitable? Why should it be exempt? Why should we be exempt? What is to be feared in death? What is death to the dead? Does moksha come?
Like a nail scraping against a mirror-polished surface, these questions cut through once-uniform thought and feeling. Fear not felt since the first cracks appeared returned anew, but its edge was sharpened and honed by the knowledge that those among their number harbored its cause. At first they were ignored and marginalized as best they could be. But when those doubts grew louder, the doubters were lashed out at, beaten and driven away to the edges of that stagnating domain. When still they would not quiet, a word was given that cut across all din and dispute: begone.
Chipped and illused, these sowers of disquiet left the land of unending firmity against unstoppable erosion, and began to walk the world at large. Now, strange things in a stranger land, they seek deeper truths and insights into the ultimate meaning and meaninglessness of reality. But they have not forgotten or forsaken the home they left behind. They will return one day when their doubts have borne fruits of knowledge. They will bring them back in order to nourish the enlightenment of those whose fear drives them to cling to the static and unchanging. They will bring comfort and compassion to the woeful many, and see the artificial growth of the crystal halted.
They will greet the dreamer beneath buckthorn tree, and they will know only peace and acceptance.
For Moksha Comes.
A little narrative piece that's been sitting on my dash for a few weeks. Hopefully I made comprehensible and respectful use of the Tibetan Buddhist story tropes I learned in college.ReplyDelete
It's mostly meant as the prelude to a full-fledged species write-up for some system or other. Just gotta pester a certain art person to make the PDF pretty!
Thank you for writing it.Delete
If you have text and art ready I can assemble pdfs.
Oh, thank you for the offer! I was planning on using a specific template I found online for D&D 5E material in this instance, but if and when I work on something other than that, I'll ask.Delete
This was a fun read.ReplyDelete
Hey, read and feedback much appreciated! I don't get many views past the first week of posting.Delete