At that moment I returned to Eleutheria. I was now floating beside the Sadhu, who was watching sheep graze unafraid amidst a pride of lions. This made me think of eating. I said, “Sadhu, I am hungry.”
“That is a problem”, he replied gravely.
“What do you eat?”
“We all subsist on Amrita.”
I knew that Amrita was what ancient Indian gods drank to be immortal but I was certain that for Sadhu Jain it referred to something else, for example a food synthesis technology. I puzzled over this question as I looked at the pastoral scene in the fields below me. The planet sensed my hunger. The sheep began to bleat. Lions pawed the earth and growled loudly. A great flock of birds leaped out of a pond and wheeled through the sky in front of me.
The bubble that enclosed me lifted me high above the plains, despite my desire to walk beside the Sadhu.
The planet was rejecting me.
Sadhu Jain spoke to me through a voice in my head. “Change your perspective: don’t view the scene. Viewing makes you an outsider and apart. Experience it by becoming one with it.”
I attempted to follow his advice my opening up my consciousness and was overwhelmed by a cacophony of intruding spirits. The Sadhu continued speaking. “Join us. Begin with me.” He began to glow with an intense purple light that suffused the air around us.
Begin with you how? I wondered. And then I didn’t think, or rather there was no I in my thoughts. Somehow my spirit joined with the Sadhu’s, and through him it connected with the entire world. I floated back down to the planet’s surface.
The indigo aura that had enveloped me dissolved and my sense of identity returned, though not completely. I felt connected with all of the life around me; this both enhanced and diminished me.
I softly landed on the ground in the middle of a flock of sheep. The animals were no longer agitated. I sensed that they accepted me or perhaps I should say that I, as part of them, was no longer a threat. A lion, who had been resting on the edge of the flock rose and slinked forward. As he got closer to me his image became unsteady and he burned with an intense orange aura. I could feel myself as part of that aura-fire. The lion signaled me to sit on his back, so I did. I was glowing yellow-red; the Sadhu glowed indigo beside me.
I blinked. When I opened my eyes we were again at the Town of Three Gates. I was still riding the lion. We were facing the crudest of the three gates, which was made of pieces of grey drift wood and clay. “This gate is called Anava”, the Sadhu said, anticipating my question. “It is our word for ego.”
The lion stepped lightly over the threshold of the modest gate. Before me flowed a golden river. It was deep, but choked with sandbars and reeds the size of trees.
I rode dreamily beside the middle branch of the river. My spirit felt like a tiny boat on the surface of a calm ocean, except that unlike a boat I was not content to float on the surface but rather felt a compulsion to be immersed in water. I dismounted and walked into the river and began to swim, or more accurately the river invited me to swim. It pulled me in.
Although I still do not know how much of Eleutheria was illusory, I do know that it was a world of spirits; as I immersed myself in the Golden River I merged with them. In one moment I was the spirit of a fish, in the next I was the spirit of a bird; after that I was a fast land animal. My connection with these souls spanned the river, the surrounding plains, the entire planet.
“Merge with us and you can stay”, the Sadhu said.
Until the Sadhu spoke I had been experiencing other spirits. Now they attempted to experience me. The feeling was like standing beside a breaching dam the size of infinity. I was overwhelmed. Swimming, which initially had been effortless suddenly became difficult. My panic and fear caused the water around me to churn. I tried to shut out the millions of spirits that were absorbing my identity. As the waves thickened my fear transformed into panic. I began to sink like a stone through the water.
You must go!
With this message I was flung out of the golden river. I could feel no breeze, I could smell no smells; I could touch but not feel. Once again Eleutheria was quarantined against me. Sadhu Jain floated beside me. He said farewell with a low bow and a plaintive “namaste”, then I was hurled away from him, upward through the clouds and into space.
Although I moved with great velocity I felt like I was not moving at all, so it was easy to ignore the images speeding by me, and to reflect on my sudden exile from Eleutheria. With a heavy heart I mused, “What kind of perfect world would not have me as part of it?” As I thought this sad thought I burst out of the green-blue planet’s atmosphere and into space. “Eleutheria is not exactly a perfect world”, I corrected myself, remembering the Sadhu’s words, “it is a dream of a perfect world.”
This made me wonder, What would I dream of if I dreamed of a perfect world?
I thought about what I had just experienced: skies thick with birds; seas bursting with fish; dense forests. I had an answer to that question. My dream is the same one as Sadhu Jain’s, for I too long for harmony, peace, and abundance, and when I dare to dream, I dream of a world where there is no suffering. I have visited this dream, but could not stay.
I watched the Quark grow from a distant dot into a space ship. I knew that I would take a few minutes to reach it, so I twisted my body to look into the deepest part of space. Once again I confronted infinity. This time I was not afraid, for my terror had given way to awe and my heart was full of longing.