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Chapter 5: The Bondage of Hope

She continued to look after the ascetic. Then one day the ascetic opened his eyes and told the young woman that he wanted to leave that place and to go to some other mountains, as he had to walk on a more difficult path and that he cannot rest until he has conquered heaven itself.

The young woman started crying, the tears fell from her eyes. She said, “What have I done wrong that you are stopping me from serving you? - and I have never asked you for anything.”

The ascetic looked at her face and thought he had never seen such beauty - not even in his dreams! The woman looked familiar and unfamiliar both. The face was just the same, but now there was a glory in it. The body and the features were the same, but now they were radiant. She was like some forgotten song, played again on a flute by some musician. The ascetic sat down and again closed his eyes. He didn’t go.

That night the young woman couldn’t sleep because she felt so happy at her victory, but also repentant for polluting the sadhu. She was happy that she had won, but felt unhappy for being an obstacle on the path of the ascetic. She felt sorry that because of her he couldn’t continue the journey upwards. That night she couldn’t sleep. She laughed and she cried. In the morning she made a decision. She touched the feet of the ascetic and told him, “I have to go. My family is going to another village.” The ascetic blessed her so that she would be happy wherever she lived, and the young woman went away.

After many years the asceticism was complete. Lord Indra himself came down, bowed and said, “The doors of heaven are open to welcome you.”

The ascetic opened his eyes and said, “I don’t want heaven.”

Indra was very surprised. He couldn’t believe that any human being can say that he doesn’t want heaven. Then Indra thought that maybe this ascetic had the desire of attaining salvation. So he asked, “Do you want salvation?”

The ascetic said, “What would I do with salvation?”

Lord Indra was highly impressed by this attitude. He thought to himself that this is the height of asceticism - there is not even the desire of attaining salvation. Out of regard he wanted to bow down in front of that ascetic, but before doing so he said, “But there is nothing beyond salvation. What else do you want?”

The ascetic replied, “Nothing except that young maiden who used to collect wood in this forest. I want her!”

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