An Old Legend
Oriental Department, January, 1897
CHHANDOGYA UPANISHAD, iv, 1-2.
Janashruti, the grandson of Janashruta, was full of faith, a giver of many gifts, bestowing much cooked food. He caused many houses of refuge to be built, saying: Everywhere shall they eat food of mine.
And swans flew by at night, and swan spoke thus to swan:
Dim-eyed one, dim eyed one, the fire of Janashruti is as bright as day; go not near it! be not burned by it!
And the other spoke again to him:
Who is this, in truth, of whom thou speakest, as though he were Raikva of the chariot? As to him who has won with the highest throw of the dice, the lesser throws go as well, so to Raikva goes all that people do well, and it is thus also with whoever knows what Raikva knows.
And Janashtuti, the grandson of Janashruta overheard this; and, on rising, said verily, to his charioteer:
O warrior! thou speakest of Raikva of the chariot!
Who is this Raikva of the chariot?
As to him who has won with the highest throw of the dice, the lesser throws go as well, so to Raikva go all that people do well; and it is thus also with whoever knows what Raikva knows.
And the charioteer, after seeking, returned, saying: I have not found him. And he said to him:
Where one, who knows the Eternal, is to be sought, go thou thither to seek him.
And he came upon him, sitting beneath his chariot, and he addressed him, saying:
O worthy one, art thou Raikva of the chariot?
And he replied, saying:
I, verily, am he.
And the charioteer, returned, saying:
I have found him.
And Janashruti, the grandson of Janashruta, taking six hundred cows, an ornament of gold, and a chariot drawn by mules, came to where he was, and addressed him:
Raikva! here are six hundred cows, an ornament of gold, and a chariot drawn by mules! O worthy one, instruct me in the divinity whom thou approachest!
But the other spoke again to him:
For a golden necklet am I to teach thee, slave! let it remain thine, and the cows as well!
Once again Janashruti, the grandson of Janashruta, taking a thousand cows, an ornament of gold, a chariot drawn by mules, and his daughter, came to where he was, and addressed him:
Raikva, here are a thousand cows, here is an ornament of gold, here is a chariot drawn by mules, here is a wife for thee, and the place in which thou art sitting is also thine. O, worthy one, initiate me into the teaching!
And Raikva, raising the face of the maiden up to his own, spoke:
I accept these gifts, slave! by this face thou makest me speak.
And the place is called Raikvaparna, in the Mahavrsha country, where he dwelt.
The Great Breath, verily, is the storehouse. For when the fire burns out, it enters into the Breath; when the sun goes to his setting, he enters into the Breath ; when the moon goes to setting, it enters into the Breath; when the waters dry up, they enter into the Breath ; for the Breath verily enwraps them all. Thus far as to the world-powers.
Then as to the powers within one’s self. The Life, verily, is the store-house. For when he sinks to sleep, voice, verily, enters into the Life, seeing enters into the Life, hearing enters into the Life, emotion enters into the Life ; for the Life, verily, enwraps them all. Thus there as these two store-houses: the Breath, among the world-powers; the Life, among the lives.
RAIKVA OF THE CHARIOT
Embedded in the records of the ancient Mysteries, as the fossil in the marble, we find many an old legend and story, which has come down to us without comment or note, without author’s or narrator’s name, without mark of time or place of birth. At one time these legends may have been, and almost certainly must have been, definite and complete records connected with great historic events, or personages, whose destinies were linked with the story of the Mysteries, and their development. Then, later, as the lives of great men, and the history of stirring and epoch-making events for the most part bear a secondary, symbolic meaning, these narratives, shorn of a large part of the circumstance and detail that clothed them at first may have been preserved as parables, as vivid figures and images of this or that aspect of life, and the events narrated may have been moulded and altered, to conform them to an ideal, universal type.
Lastly, these stories were in many cases preserved, simply because they had already been preserved so long already; their sheer antiquity was deemed a warrant of their special value, and they came down the ages, in a gathering mist of obscurity, often seeking in vain an interpreter who should unravel their long hidden meaning.
One of these strange and antique stories is that of Raikva and Janashruti the grandson. It bears no author’s name, and the sole local indication rather darkens than lightens counsel, as the place called Raikvaparna unto this day is no longer known on the face of the visible earth, and the whole allusion to it gives the story the appearance of having been invented, like many another, to account for a name whose origin had been forgotten.
However, there the story is, at the head of a chapter, in what is avowedly and uncontestably a manual for students seeking initiation into the Mysteries; there it is, and we must draw from it such pleasure and profit as we can, before passing on to what follows. To begin with, what—ever may have been the wondrous wisdom of Raikva, in virtue of which all the good that men did, accrued to him, as to him who has cast the highest throw at dice all lesser throws accrue, whatever may have been that secret doctrine, in proud possession of which he disdainfully refused the gift of six hundred cows, the golden necklet, and even the chariot drawn by mules, the hidden lore which only the fair face of Janashruti’s daughter persuaded him to reveal, we are destined to remain in ignorance of it. For the sentences which immediately follow the consent of Raikva to unveil his teaching, do not contain that teaching or explain to us what it was; and indeed these sentences, which we have translated, have quite evidently nothing to do with Raikva at all, or with his wisdom, or with Janashruti’s daughter, or the chariot drawn by mules. They might just as well appear in another chapter, or in any other part of the Upanishads whatsoever. Now there are many of these fragmentary teachings thus sifted through the more connected matter of the Upanishads, and whoever feels an irresistible curiosity and longing to know, is at liberty to search and seek among them, if haply he may find some such teaching as may seem to belong more rightfully to Raikva, after taking into due consideration all circumstances of time and place, the character of teacher and pupil, the bribe offered for the lesson, what the charioteer said, and finally, the evidence of the swans.
If we turn to the symbolic aspects of the story, and those views of it which make for edification, we may find a mystical meaning in the rejected offering of cattle, like that of the father of Nachiketas, and the deficiency supplied in that case by the offering of a son; in this, by the offering of a daughter. We may find a further hidden sense in the number of the herds; in the fact that the teacher was seemingly a man of no account and little honor; even, if some manuscripts are to be followed, very abject and forlorn in outward seeming. Yet after all, the truth will probably be that the story was preserved because it was very old.