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Excerpt- The Secret Docrine of Clouds
An Excerpt- The Secret Doctrine of Clouds
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
It has been more than fifty years since the beginning of this soul’s life journey, and still I find conclusions the stuff of fools. The only truth that remains clear to me is that each second of the ‘now’ is all that we have, and all that we will ever have. We may project, deliberate, rival, procrastinate or discover, but in the end we are who we are now and nothing more. Truth to me exists only in the ‘now’, the rest, both past and future is but a lie clouded by clumsy human thought.
‘While men measure the portions of bread, ‘The One’ explicates the nature of hunger, and while struggle pulls tightly the purse strings of freedom, ‘The One ’dispels the war. We are all far from the likes of He, but we are all on the path, however it may outwardly appear.’
The words within these pages to me are true, but I make no such claim for you. What I will guarantee is that after reading this book you will come to either of two realisations. One- that your soul is ready to hear these words and they will live within you with joy, and the light that they will ignite, will strengthen the essence of your life. Or secondly- your soul will reject the words outright and this book will be cast aside, as nothing more than ink on paper.
Whichever you so choose, and the choice is yours, your blessed steps will still be trodden where, and in the way that they were intended, and further, you will be no worse off either way.
‘Simplicity is all that your heart requires, and when truth finds its mark, there is no purer joy, no greater feat, no easier acquired knowledge or more perfect bliss than the serenity within that knowledge.’
Have you ever lay on fresh green grass and gazed pensively up to the sky, watching with no particular purpose, the clouds evolving above you? We can easily see so much within their form: faces, figures and animals to name a few. And have you ever watched a nature programme on TV, witnessing the daily life of a flower captured by time-lapse photography? How animated they appear, twisting, reaching, yearning, and almost human-like in their movement. In our arrogance, we humans see ourselves removed from other life forms, so far above their evolution in a technological sense. We see our intellect as superior to all life, simply because we have claimed the planet by force, and now do exactly as we please with it. It is an interesting and perhaps dangerous assumption.
What if plants were so far beyond our evolution that they had abandoned cognizant thought and other such amusements far behind eons ago? Instead they chose gaining a perfect balance and harmony with their environment, and in essence, communing with life itself? What if plants, the colour of their blooms and their almost inexhaustible variety of forms were reaching out in some attempt at communication? What if they were trying to warn us of our folly and the impending disaster that we were bringing about for ourselves and our children, and our children’s children? What if all of our lives were a lie, a vast and complex array of assumptions that were so far from reality, that not one of us could see it? How sad our entire species would be, if that were true. But what makes you think that it’s not?
In 1906 a female child was born in a small village on the outskirts of Delhi, India. The child’s name was Della and she was a normal child in every sense.
She grew quickly as children do, and was a smart, hardworking child, always willing to help her parents and to share their burden of poverty. Della looked after the family’s small home by day, while her parents worked in the city, labouring to gain a few rupees to buy food and to survive the harshness of their lives. At only five years old, Della could cook, wash and even barter with Hussein, a local trader who sold foodstuffs and produce in a market not far from where they lived. More often than not, she would get what she needed for far less than Hussein intended. But Della had a decided advantage- she may have looked five years old but had the intellect of an adult, and an educated one at that. No matter what Hussein did, Della could turn it around on him and in the end, would win every exchange. Hussein always cursed after realising that he’d lost yet another exchange. But when Della collected her produce and left with that familiar big smile etched across her face, Hussein grinned knowingly, having gained a real respect for his little rival.
What Della learnt, came mostly from the local Hindu priests, who had taken a liking to this rather cheeky, feisty young girl. Being a female, Della had no right to pursue a religious life and therefore personal tutoring disallowed. But the priests saw something in Della that they had never seen before and they simply could not refuse to teach her, in their own time. For the sake of peace and possible ramifications, her tutorials took place under a shroud of secrecy.
Each day after her domestic chores, Della went to the temple and learned many subjects, often beyond religious teachings. It soon became clear that Della was teaching these old priests much more than they had ever taught her. And that was unusual, and something that these experienced priests could never talk about to anyone.
This little girl was special and no-one knew then just how special or why she knew what she knew. Della was a mystery, an enigma, but as she began to suggest extraordinary and revolutionary ideas and unexplained knowledge, the priests felt even more in awe of her and blessed to be in her presence. They dared not speak of this for fear of losing this window of opportunity that they believed God had opened to them. But beyond the priests and helpers of the temple, no-one knew of Della’s secret life, and she was much the same as other children of her age and circumstance.
At the grand old age of twelve, Della entered that phase in life when the local boys began to notice her and as was tradition with families and religion, compete for her future hand in marriage. Della wasn’t at all interested. Her parents couldn’t understand her reticence, knowing the right suitor could deliver her to a better life. But Della saw life through different eyes and outwardly found nothing that could deliver her to anything of worth. The answers for her existed internally, not just within herself but within all of life.
What happened on an average day in 1919, changed Della’s life and to a greater extent her understanding of life. What she discovered was to rock the foundations of her thinking and transform what she believed to be the truth. What Della found was a truth so difficult to accept that it took her more than seventy years to reveal it to the world. This is her story…
Della had risen at dawn as always, and after helping her mother cook a simple meal, saw her parents off to work and then went straight down to the river to wash some clothing.
It was nearing summer, and even early in the morning, the sun was already blistering. Dry dust swept up by an intermittent breeze clouded the streets in a soft brown haze, in contrast to the endless blue sky above.
She leant intently over the wash stone and kneaded her mother’s favourite sari in her hands, the river water lapping on and off the smooth stone beneath her. As she worked the garment, she suddenly felt a presence and immediately turned to find Indra crouched down only a few metres away.
‘What are you looking at?’ she said sternly.
‘It’s a free country.’
‘That is a matter of opinion.’
‘Why are you so cranky all the time?’ asked Indra.
‘I’ve no time for boys. I have far too much to do.’
‘Always too much to do, Della; you must learn to have fun.’
‘Fun does not get this washing done,’ Della replied, slapping the sari against the stone.
She leant back and brushed a dark coil of hair back from her tiny face.
‘Anyway, what could you possibly offer me?’
‘Ah,’ said Indra, another thought at work. ‘You’ll have to come with me and see.’
Della sighed and rolled her eyes, then stood up. ‘You boys are all the same.’
She picked up the basket of washing and placed it on her head and with one hand for support, walked off past Indra with her nose stuck up conspicuously.
‘I was just joking, Della.’
Della ignored his plea and continued her way, with perhaps a little more sway in her step than before. Indra huffed, then crouched down and picked up a pebble, casting it angrily into the river.
When Della arrived home Mr. Patwe was waiting for her, impatiently pacing up and down outside her family home.
‘Where have you been girl? Your father told me you would be here this morning.’
‘I’m so sorry Mr. Patwe. I just had to wash these…’
‘None of your excuses, Della, you have been promised to help Mrs. Patwe with Devi. You know how bad her back is.’
‘Yes, of course I will. Let me hang these clothes and I will be right over, Mr. Patwe.’
‘Make it quick girl! Mrs. Patwe hasn’t got all day!’
Mr. Patwe stormed off and Della quickly hung her mother’s sari out to dry. Wiping her hands on her clothing, she shut the door and left for the Patwes’.
The Patwe’s home was luxurious compared to the hovel in which Della lived. It was a stone house and some rooms even had doors and glass windows.
Mrs. Patwe was a curt, rather large woman of higher caste, a fact that she wielded like an iron mace, satisfied the world as a whole was in her employ.
When Della knocked lightly on the front door, Mrs. Patwe flung it open rashly, and stormed back inside bellowing, ‘You’re late girl! You know I can’t do this alone.’
‘I’m so sorry Mrs. Patwe, I had to do some washing first.’
‘I don’t want to hear it Della, just grab Devi’s leg,’ she spat, grunting with strain as she tried to maneuver the boy’s shoulders.
Della grabbed the leg, which hung over the side of the metal bathtub like a huge dark-brown weight, the whites of his souls and splayed toes dwarfed by the shear mass of his calf.
Devi was having a wonderful time, noisily clapping the palms of his hands together and giggling convulsively with each attempt by his washers. He was like a dark beached whale in rapturous hysteria, soapy water gushing out in spurts from the few spaces between him and the sides of the overfilled tub.
‘You’ll be the death of me, boy!’ cried Mrs. Patwe, her beautifully pinned hair now a mass of wet ringlets and frizz.
‘Devi, you must stop this now,’ said Della, in a calming voice.
‘Is fun!’ he replied, followed by a few claps.
‘Come on now, Devi. Let me put this leg in so we can clean it.’
‘Do it for Della. Calm down for Della,’ she said, running her slender fingers through his hair.
His black pool-like eyes looked up soulfully. ‘No play?’
‘Della help Mama wash first, and then play?’
‘Play, yes,’ he said, sitting up and drawing his massive leg into the bath.
‘Thank Krishna! …And you Della. You always did have a way with him.’
Mrs. Patwe scrubbed Devi’s back with a big brush, while Della talked to him calmly, to insure his continued cooperation. He sat there mesmerised by her siren-like voice and listened intently as she told him a fable about animals that one of the local priests had told her.
When she was finished, Devi clapped with approval and laughed his unique laugh, as his mother awkwardly dragged him to his feet.
Devi was two years older than Della, and three times her weight. Attending to Devi’s needs by herself was all but impossible for Mrs. Patwe, and Della had proved to be a Godsend. Mr. Patwe… well, he was simply too busy with his business to help, or want to.
Della took Devi, in his clean clothes, down by the Yamuna River and sat with him on a soft patch of grass under the shade of a Banyan tree. He sat crossed legged, his rolls of fat amassing over his legs, almost covering them. A constant smile radiated from his bloated face, and his eyes, as innocent as a two-year-old’s, peered wistfully into the radiations of branches above him.
‘It is beautiful, Devi…this sacred tree,’ she whispered.
Devi nearly fell backward, straining his neck to see to the top of the leafy canopy. ‘Huh,’ he said, as Della caught him and with difficulty, pushed him upright.
‘We are all alive, Devi. You, me, this wonderful tree and each drop of water. Look, it’s an ocean of life,’ she explained, looking out over the river.
Devi looked at her and smiled a gummy smile- an innocuous, essentially vacant expression. Della grinned, realising that living the experience needed no understanding for Devi. His sweet innocence seemed to deliver him to the peace that all of these Hindus were working so tirelessly to achieve during their lifetime.
With a knowing smile, Della picked up several small pebbles from the edge of the river and then sat opposite Devi. She looked down pensively at the stones, so smooth and round. She placed them on the ground and then one by one, tried to pick them up, throw them in the air and catch them on the back of her hand.
The first one landed successfully and Devi’s eye’s lit up.
‘Yes!’ he cheered, clapping his hands frantically.
It was now his turn, and so he picked up one of the stones and threw it up so high that he squinted, trying to see where it had gone. Sure enough it landed squarely on his head with a ‘clunk!’
They both burst out laughing, Della giving Devi a good rub on his black mop of a head.
‘Look, Buddha sits by the water,’ a voice gibed.
Della turned to see Indra and a few of his friends, snickering.
‘Leave him alone, Indra. You don’t know this boy. He’s harmless.’
‘Brainless, you mean,’ added one of the others, bravely standing behind Indra, all the boys now laughing.
Della rose to her feet and with both hands on her hips, set on them. ‘You idiots, mocking someone like Devi, who wouldn’t harm a fly. Why don’t you do something with yourselves, instead of picking on poor Devi?’
‘So this is why you reject me, Della. You’re going to marry Devi, aren’t you?’ suggested Indra, his eyes hardening.
‘You bastard. Damn you Indra!’ she cried, picking up a stick, and launching an attack.
The boys scattered in all directions, wildly laughing as they made good their escape. After she’d set a frantic pace for these fleeing misfits, Della eased back, angrily threw down the stick and returned to Devi, who was more than confused. She sat down, still brooding.
‘Who’s Buddha?’ he asked, not understanding what had happened.
‘Don’t you worry, Devi. Perhaps it’s time to go home anyway. I have so much to do,’ she said, helping him to his feet.
They walked slowly back through the streets toward Devi’s home, the ‘fairy princess with the ogre’. Fleeting glances from passers by lined their way, taking pity on them.
‘My head hurts,’ said Devi, rubbing his head with his huge meaty hand.
‘Come on,’ she replied, with an affectionate bump to his shoulder.
They wandered the streets of their village, the dusty pathways filled with village life. Most of the village houses where shanty-like houses made from wood and metal sheeting tacked together in often-makeshift ways. Nearly all were single room dwellings with only the most meagre of furnishings, bedding and cooking facilities within.
Small children sat cross-legged in doorways grinding grains on large square stones or kneading dough under the guise of a watchful mother’s eye. Children roamed the streets in their virtual rags playing ball games and rolling woven cane hoops with sticks- their dark dirty faces beaming with joy, their white teeth like pearls out of the darkest depths. Della loved her village. It was poor but alive and hope lived well there among these struggling souls.
As they turned into a lane not far from Devi’s home, something caught Della’s eye. She stopped and looked down to see a small plant shoot by the side of the dusty path. It caught her eye because of its strange variegated leaf pattern, and that nothing would normally grow in such inhospitable earth, on the edge of a village path.
She crouched down to take a closer look, while Devi leaned forward too, wondering what she was doing.
‘What?’ he asked.
‘It is this shoot. How can it live here, Devi?’ she said, without looking up.
‘If this plant wants to live so much, then I think it should, don’t you?’ she asked.
Devi just smiled that harmless vacant smile and then nodded, unsure about her intent.
Della found a sharp-ended stone and began to cut the hard dry earth from around the little shoot. When she had cleared about an inch of red soil from around it, she used a stick to leaver up the shoot with its tiny roots. It was no more than a few inches high, so the task was not all that difficult. With the shoot in the palm of her hand she rose to her feet and looked up at Devi.
‘See Devi, this tiny plant wishes to live and we will help it, yes?’
Lightly biting his bottom lip, Devi nodded agreeing. Then, after a pause…‘How do we do that?’
‘Ah. What do plants need to grow?’
Devi shrugged, having never thought about it.
‘Well, it will need earth to live in, lots of water and the sun. But Devi, there is one other thing that will help make this tiny shoot grow.’
Devi waited with anticipation for the answer.
‘Love, Devi. This plant will be loved and appreciated and that will help to make it strong.’
With the shoot, Della took Devi home and then returned to her home, where she found an old tin can. She made a few holes in its base and filled the tin with the richest earth that she could find and then planted the shoot. She gave it a good watering and placed it on the shelf of the window nearest her bed. The sun’s life-giving rays would stream in until midafternoon each day and give the plant the best chance of survival.
Pleased with herself, Della then collected the rupees her father had given her and headed to the markets to do battle with Hussein, the local trader.
It was Friday and the markets were humming, the contesting voices of barter filling the air. The market was on the edge of the city, some fifteen minutes walk from the village and Della took only a large square fabric tied at the corners and placed over her shoulder.
When she arrived at Hussein’s stall, there were only a few customers, so she waited until she could have his full attention.
Della, being so small, was hardly noticeable in front of the large trellis table that displayed all the produce and goods. She was so slim and delicate her pale-blue floral patterned frock just fell from her, hardly revealing her contours. Her skin was dark and finely textured, without a single blemish, and she wore a gold nose ring that her parents had given her when she was younger. She was an attractive girl, with the darkest eyes and a beautiful smile that radiated her gentle caring nature.
For all of their poverty, there was one possession that Della loved and cherished. It was an abalone shell hair comb that her late Grandmother had left to her, and she wore it daily with pride. Her glorious silken black hair had never been cut and each morning Della would wind her long hair up and secure it behind her head with her treasured comb. It was her only real possession.
‘Ah, I see I have a fight on my hands,’ said Hussein, suddenly peering down at her.
‘And how are you Mr. Hussein? I trust you and your family are well?’
Hussein looked up and down the street pensively.
‘Are you sure you’re not a forty-year-old dwarf?’
‘I assure you Mr. Hussein I am but a twelve-year-old girl working hard to help her family.’
‘I got a family too, you know,’ replied Hussein. ‘Wait, I want to get a pencil and paper,’ he added, down under the trellis table.
After retrieving them, Hussein took a deep breath. ‘All right, what can I do for you?’ he asked tentatively.
‘Well firstly, one cup of urd dal, then some elaichi, enough to flavour a meal for four people. Oh, how much is 2 lb arva chaval? Your sign says 32 rupee for 5lb or 8 rupee per lb. And, three lassun sabuth.’
Hussein was writing down every word, making sure that he had it all. He then looked up into Della’s eyes, suspiciously.
‘I’ll just get this then,’ he said, slowly turning and picking up a bag.
Della waited patiently while Hussein packed the items, except for the rice. He picked up a 5lb bag and sat it down in front of her.
‘But Sir, I only need 2lb,’ she explained. ‘My family are not wealthy people.’
Hussein growled silently. ‘Then it will be 16 rupee plus 2 for the urd and 4 for the eliachi, and… 5 for the sabuth. That’s 30 rupee exactly,’ he said, showing her the written proof of his calculation.
Della just looked at him for a long moment, and then sighed.
‘Can you empty half of that 5lb bag into the bowl, please?’
‘Why?’ asked Hussein, watching the child’s eyes closely. Then begrudgingly, he emptied the bag into the bowl.
‘Well, that’s 16 rupees worth of rice, yes? But I don’t want that much, so take out half a pound Mr. Hussein and that will be perfect.’
Hussein scooped out and weighed half a pound and placed it back into the original bag. ‘But you still owe me 16 rupee, Della.’
‘Oh no Mr. Hussein, that was before when there was more rice. Now I owe you 16 minus half a pound, which is 4 rupees. So I owe you 12 rupees plus 2, plus 4 plus 5, which is 23 rupees.’
‘No,’ replied Hussein, checking his figures.
‘But look, my father only gave me 22 rupees, Mr. Hussein. What can I do? It is only 1 rupee, surely I can owe it to you Mr. Hussein,’ she said, looking up at him with those irresistible brown eyes.
Hussein quickly packed the rice into a bag, placed the other packed items on top of it and pushed the bag toward her.
‘Oh, thank you so much Mr. Hussein, you are a kind man and our family will be forever indebted to you.’
‘Just give me the money, Della,’ he said gruffly.
She handed it over and quietly slipped the other 10 rupees in her hand into her pocket. Picking up the bag and securing it in her makeshift carry cloth, she bowed to him with her hands clasped together and turned for home.
Hussein shook his head and looked down at the pile of coins in his hand, and began to count. There were exactly 20 rupees. A warm smile slowly crept across his aged round face, and he rubbed his balding head briskly before turning to his next customer.
Della hurried home with her goods, stored them and tidied up their hut. She soaked some lentils ready for her mother to make dahl as part of their evening meal and cut and washed some vegetables. She sat down for only a minute to eat a mango that she had picked up, and then headed to the temple to meet Rampal. Just before she left, she went to the windowsill to see how the little shoot was going. Its tiny leaves were straight and strong and Della grinned.
‘You are going to live a glorious life, my little one,’ she whispered, and dashed out of the hut.
Della made her way through the streets to the edge of the city where the temple stood. It was a majestic brick building, painted white with several columns at its front, the capitals of which were decorated with gold. As she approached, she smelt the familiar scent of incense wafting from the open front doors. To the side of the temple was a narrow laneway that led to the rear, used for deliveries and access for the novices. Della quickly walked down the lane and was met by Rampal, who directed her inside.
‘Come quickly, you are late, Della.’
‘I’m always late, Rampal. I have so much to do.’
Once inside, Rampal closed the iron-hinged door and quickly led Della to a small prayer room where they would not be disturbed.
Della sat cross-legged on the floor, while Rampal lit some incense and sat down opposite her, reaching for a holy manuscript scrolled and bound not far from where he sat. The door unexpectedly opened with an ear-shattering creek, and they both turned sharply. A plump round head emerged.
‘Can I sit with you today?’ asked Vijay, apprehensively.
Rampal moaned and gestured for him to come in.
Vijay settled and the three sat quietly for a silent moment of prayer, the filtered light from the window above them streaming through the carved ebony lacework. Then Rampal removed his heavy-rimmed glasses from his robe, placed them on the tip of his nose and was about to read, when Della interrupted.
‘Rampal, have you ever talked to a tree?’
Rampal’s brow furrowed a little. ‘Well no, not really.
Why do you ask, Della?’
‘Do not the Hindu Gods recognise that trees and plants are alive, as we?’
‘Well, yes, but not exactly as we are,’ he followed.
‘The Tulsi tree is sacred in our religion, and many plants and trees are respected as part of the cycle of life, death and life again. All things are part of the cycle of Karma, but these lesser forms are without soul, Della, unlike you and I.’
‘How do you know that a tree does not have a soul, Rampal?’
‘I suppose I cannot know this. But Lord Brahma created life in many forms and for that reason all life is sacred, in that sense. Again Della, why do you ask such a question?’ he enquired, puzzled.
‘Because we are human, and we seek comfort in Gods, does not mean the Gods have chosen us to understand that which cannot be understood. We see what we see because we allow ourselves. What if what we see is wrong?’
Rampal looked to Vijay, but his expression mirrored Rampal’s own. ‘I…I’m not sure, Della,’ he replied, looking down at the scriptures in his hand.
‘I can only know what I know through these holy words, through what I understand,’ he explained.
‘But who wrote these holy words, Rampal? Did they know the truth of all things?
Rampal was speechless. Here a twelve-year-old girl was questioning the basis of his understanding, truth that was instilled in him from the beginning of his life.
‘What are you saying?’
‘I am but a drop in the ocean of life, but I can see that men claim knowledge for many purposes, one of which may not be for the truth, but for other more selfish motives. Do you then worship these words, or the one who first uttered them, or perhaps the cause for which they were uttered?’
Rampal was stunned. He had taught this girl much about the Hindu religion and she’d taken and assimilated every word, faster in fact, than any novice that had ever entered the sacred halls of their temple. Rampal himself was over fifty-years-old and with his experience as a priest, had never met anyone like Della, especially with her thirst for understanding and also being a girl.
He had agreed to this tutoring outside the allowed boundaries of his duties, females were never allowed into a religious order. But she was not a normal child, male or female, and he could not resist the opportunity to aid in her thirst for education.
‘Della, you are a special girl. It is the reason I sit here before you. You have a mind for these subjects, a mind that can even force others to question themselves. I’m not sure just how much I can teach you. Perhaps it is you, who teach us, little sparrow…or should I say peacock.’
Della blushed. She had meant no disrespect, nor had she searched for praise. She was simply voicing her thoughts, as many as she had coming to her, minute by minute.
‘I think Rampal, you and Vijay are kind and gentle souls who spend your life in holy reverence. But I do not know the world that you see is the same as what I see. Perhaps a simple ‘Sudra’ girl cannot know these things, or should want to. But I do want to.’
Della stood up and looked through the carved window shutter, the soft filtered light creating patterns on her small dark face. ‘There is something there that I do not see that I know I must. It is that feeling that drives me.’
She looked down to Rampal, her face filled with confusion.
‘Life will reveal all to you, Della. Maybe not now, but the truth will find you eventually,’ said Rampal, reaching up and taking her slender hand in his.
Vijay sat forward. ‘Della, I don’t know a lot, I am young too. But I do know that your path is important, and that a path is already there for you alone, to walk,’ he said, with a warm smile.
‘You are so kind to me. I enjoy your company so much and being able to talk so freely. I have to cut our meeting short today, but can I return on Monday, same time?’
‘Of course you can,’ replied Rampal.
‘I better go, then.’
Della quietly left through the rear entrance of the temple and made her way home. There was much to do before her parents returned home.