Advaita Fairy Tales
Pia de Blok
Evidently the story of Uma from the Upanishads has stayed with me. It is a story about a young redheaded boy who can't burn up a blade of straw, and Agni (human stuff) the god of fire. The story is also about the boy with the white hair who can't blow the blade of straw away and Vayu the god of the wind (feelings and desires. Also, there is Glass Swan Uma, daughter of the Himalayas, whom Brahman knows and is seen as his representative. Then there is the muscled man, the god Indra (intellectual capacity). It is clear that the gods represent people's qualities.
King Silence (Brahman) says to them: Think of nothing, of no thing… and the blade of straw burns up, and the other blade of straw is blown into the wind.
' You see', he then says, 'you are already the wind and the fire. You don't have to ponder that'.
The stories want to offer us the possibility of experiencing silence. That is very important because of the increasing pressure and stress with which children currently grow up.
An upbringing that is directed more towards silence than towards stress is what every child wishes for themselves.
This little book could be an eye opener, an indication of how it also can be...
The Glass Swan
There is a swan through which the sun always shines. How is that possible? The following fairy tale will tell you.
The Glass Swan drifted on the water between two banks. Before her she saw water, behind her, under her, and above her the beaming sun. When she looked at one bank she saw nothing, absolutely nothing. There was nothing to hear, nothing to see, nothing to feel. King Silence ruled this bank. There was no one who saw that except she. On the other bank there was a lot of commotion.
Throngs of people gather at certain places as if there were something special to be seen there. She thought to herself: which bank of the river should I climb, the silence or the busyness? 'Le me try the busy side,' and as if it happened by itself she glided towards the busy side.
There she saw a big old-fashioned gramophone, one with a copper horn out of which the sound came. The gramophone just kept talking about all the music that it had played in its life. 'What a busy little man', thought the swan. Then she saw a teapot that just kept on telling about all the people whose tea water she had boiled, and a cobblestone that just went on and on about everyone who had walked on him. 'What a fuss', sighed the Glass Swan.
Then she saw even more people forming a circle around someone and she decided to take a look. Gliding closer by she saw a young boy with red hair dressed in red and yellow clothing. He called: 'come take a look. My name is Fire. I can set this blade of straw ablaze!'
Everybody wanted to see that. But no matter how he tried and tried; talking loudly, or being angry, making crazy faces, standing on his hands, or using hocus-pocus, he didn't succeed.
At another place where many people were also gathered there was another young boy busy. He had white hair and hazel colored clothing and he called: 'come take a look at what I can do. My name is Air and I can blow anything in the world away.' While he said that a blade of straw whirled around his feet. 'Blow the straw away then,' the laughing people called. But, to his own surprise and the surprise of everyone there, hocus-pocus didn't do the trick.
The Glass Swan looked at all of it and thought: 'What a busy bunch.' Then a man with very big muscles came towards him. She could see that he was very tremendously strong, and everyone there saw his strength and they were full of wonderment and respect.
' Good day Swan,' he said, 'do you understand all this?' 'Yes, certainly,' and with a resounding voice, so that everyone could hear the Swan said: 'nothing can be done in all this busy-ness. It is already so crowded; there is no room for anything else. Things are made out of the stillness, wonders happen there like the blowing of the wind and the birth of the fire'.
Then the Glass Swan said: 'who wants to go with me to the other bank, we'll go and have a cup of tea with King Silence'. And they all went to the other bank. They all followed the shining Swan. They saw suddenly that the sun shone through her; she radiated.
So, full of clarity she helped the people to the other bank. They could sit on her back and travel like that.
By King Silence it is still, so still that you actually don't exist, but he is there nevertheless. He said to the boys with red hair and white hair: 'the wonder cannot happen out of pressure. It comes from silence, just think about nothing, about no thing'.
And… the blade of straw burned up and the other blade of straw was blown into the air.
' You see,' said the King, 'you are already the fire, and you are already the wind. You don't have to think about it.'
And then everyone was quiet. And that was beautiful.
The Glass Swan and the sun and all together, decided to stay with the King from now on, and if we are all going to sleep now, then we'll all drink some tea this evening; in stillness by King Silence.
With thanks to Dr. Douwe Tiemersma, who showed me the insight in Advaita.