The Honey Doctrine

by Russell Atkinson

“All this is honey to all this,” the old man said, his honey-brown flesh shining from his outstretched arms. Up and over his head they went then down until his fluid fingers touched the leaves on the forest floor. His hands, still beautiful in their grace, swept down his body and arched toward the youth, Shvetaketu, sitting before him. “All this is honey to all this,” the old man said.

Shvetaketu, still as stone, waited and wondered. “This is a strange teaching,” he thought. “What does he mean, honey?”

The old sage, Kapya, sat on his mat of Kusa grass, unseeing eyes half closed. When Shevaketu asked, “Revered sir, what is honey?” no answer came.

Far away, in the depth of the jungle, peacocks called. Nearby, goat herders moved their flocks along, singing, tapping the ground or a goat’s behind with their staff. Boatmen striding back and forth rowed their country boats against the flow, chanting mantras to Mother Ganga or singing fragments of love songs. The sweet odor of jasmine rose with the heat from below the forested hill. Aware of it all, Shvetaketu sat wondering.

Then, muttering “Namaste, Gurudev,” Shvetaketu pranaamed. Wondering still, he walked toward the village. At the Kali temple he saw many bees, little dollops of pollen on their legs, flying straight into the jungle from the marigolds the Brahmins grew to make garlands for Kali, the Divine Mother. “Let me think about this,” he said to himself. He found shade beneath a banyan tree, propped himself against the trunk and closed his eyes.

Far away, in the depth of the jungle, peacocks called. Nearby, goat herders moved their flocks along, singing, tapping the ground or a goat’s behind with their staff. Boatmen striding back and forth rowed their country boats against the flow, chanting mantras to Mother Ganga or singing fragments of love songs. The sweet odour of jasmine rose with the heat from below the forested hill. Aware of it all, Shvetaketu sat thinking about honey. “Honey is golden brown, sticky and sweet to us, but what is it to bees? They hoard it as a miser does his wealth. Maybe honey is riches,” he thought.

Early next day, as the cows were driven to pasture, Shvetaketu went to Kapya, still sitting motionless on his Kusa grass mat. “Gurudev, I understand that honey is riches but I do not understand your teaching,” he told the placid old man, who, smiling, said—

* “This earth is the honey of all beings, and all beings are the honey of this earth. Likewise the bright immortal being who is in this earth and the bright, immortal being who is in the body are both honey. These four are but this Self. This underlying unity is the Great One. Knowing this is immortality and the means of becoming all.”

Shvetaketu wondered about this strange teaching a long time. Going back past the marigold garden, bees were buzzing about, busy as usual. Again he sat under the Banyan watching the buzzing about and the bee-line flights back to the hive. “Such activity! So much work! How much they must love their honey.”

Far away, in the depth of the jungle, peacocks called. Nearby, goat herders moved their flocks along, singing, tapping the ground or a goat’s behind with their staff. Boatmen striding back and forth rowed their country boats against the flow, chanting mantras to Mother Ganga or singing fragments of love songs. The sweet odour of jasmine rose with the heat from below the forested hill. As dedicated as hermits, the bees, never thinking of themselves, worked for each other, the Queen and the hive, without a stop.

Early next day, as the cows were driven to pasture, Shvetaketu went to Kapya, still sitting motionless on his Kusa grass mat. “Gurudev, I understand that honey is love but I do not understand your teaching.” he told the placid old man, who said—

“This sun is the honey of all beings, and all beings are the honey of this sun. Likewise the bright immortal being who is in this sun and the bright, immortal being who is in the body are honey both. These four are but this Self. This underlying unity is the Great One. Knowing this is immortality and the means of becoming all.”

Shvetaketu wondered about this strange teaching a long time. Going back past the marigold garden, bees were buzzing about, busy as usual. Again he sat under the Banyan watching the buzzing about and the bee-line flights back to the hive. “I will follow them,” Shvetaketu said to himself. By the pond in the village he found the smallest puff of goose down and wetting it, stuck it on the end of a bee, dizzy with delight, legs laden with pollen. Flying not as fast as it would like, the bee made off for the hive, Shvetaketu running after, straight to the hive in an ancient tree, scaring the wild dear, the squirrels, the birds and ruining the aim of chameleons.

Cautiously he approached the hole the bees were in. To a guard bee at the entrance he pranamed saying, “A little halt, busy one. Please tell me, what is honey?” The bee buzzed in a grumpy fashion and said, “What a silly question! Honey is everything! What is life without honey?”

Early next day, as the cows were driven to pasture, Shvetaketu went to Kapya, still sitting motionless on his Kusa grass mat. “Gurudev, I understand that honey is life but I do not understand your teaching,” he told the old man, who said—

“This moon is the honey of all beings, and all beings are the honey of this moon. Likewise the bright immortal being who is in this moon and the bright, immortal being who is in the body are honey both. These four are but this Self. This underlying unity is the Great One. Knowing this is immortality and the means of becoming all.”

Going home past the marigold garden Shvetaketu went into the jungle to the bee’s hive where he asked for an interview with the Queen. “Not possible.” said the drone on guard, “Her Majesty never leaves Her chamber, but perhaps She will answer a question through me.”

“Thank you,” said Shvetaketu, “please ask her: what is honey?”

A little later the drone came back, (during his absence, Shvetaketu counted 753 bees bustling into the hive laden with marigold pollen). The drone said, “Her Majesty said that honey is bees and bees are honey and that they are mutually interdependent; each is the effect of the other. Honey is the effect of bees and bees are the effect of honey.”

Early next day, as the cows were driven to pasture, Shvetaketu went to Kapya, still sitting motionless on his Kusa grass mat. “Gurudev, I have gone to great lengths to understand your honey doctrine—even consulting the Queen of the bees. She told me that honey is the effect of bees and that bees are the effect of honey and all is interdependent.”

“ Just so!” Kapya said, “they are one; the same though different. This is the mystery understood by the wise.

“Verily this Self is the King and Ruler of all beings. Just as the spokes of a chariot wheel are fixed in the nave and the felloe, so all beings, all the gods, all worlds, all organs and all these many creatures are all fixed in the Self.”

Far away, in the depth of the jungle, peacocks called. Nearby, goat herders moved their flocks along, singing, tapping the ground or a goat’s behind with their staff. Boatmen striding back and forth rowed their country boats against the flow, chanting mantras to Mother Ganga or singing fragments of love songs. The sweet odour of jasmine rose with the heat from below the forested hill.

A small bud burst open, unseen, in a dark cleft of the gorge, becoming a glowing white star in the gloom. In the Ganga, a group of dolphins herded a school of fish against the bank with a noisy surge of water that frightened the ibis into flight. The temple elephant, sad and bored, tethered by a stout chain attached to a spike driven deep into rock, swayed slowly side to side, dreaming of freedom.

Deep in the jungle depths a tiger made a kill. Tired and panting, the tiger sat with its forepaws on the body of a buck. The westering sun, large and dusky red, shed its misty light on the radiant clouds floating over a distant land. About the village, the cows were being driven lazily home for milking.

In the temple the Brahmin rang the big bell and began chanting the Gayatri Mantram—mystical sounds from before the beginning. Mothers put babies to the breast and elder sons lit the fires. Smoke drifted about the village and the smell of burning cowpats floated about with it—a smell the wild things knew well. As the light faded, birds went to roost and the creatures of the night sniffed the air to know the direction they should take. Silence as deep as the dark hung heavily in the warm air, made more intense by the short sudden hoot of an owl or the clucking of geckos.

Far away, a doe and buck were mating in an ancient ritual and some villagers in their huts were becoming amorous with each other. All home in the hive, the bees swarmed about the honey cells and the Queen laid more eggs.

Aware of it all, Kapya opened his eyes and said: “All this is honey to all this.” Blissful, free and unafraid, he stretched out upon the leaves and with a contented sigh, slipped into sleep.

 

* These quotations are adapted from Swami Nikhilananda’s translation of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

 

RUSSELL ATKINSON, a retired Naturopath and teacher of Hatha and Raja Yoga, is associated with the Ramakrishna Vedanta Societies in Australia. THEAKO@WESTNET.COM.AU

Posted on:

Comments are closed.

^ back to top