The Upanishads Elucidated – The Seekers of Light

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In our ongoing series of tales and stories that illustrate some deep concepts from the Upanishads, we feature a new story titled ‘The Seekers of Light’. The key characters in the story are the children of four different kinds of light. These four lights, Soma, Agni, Vajra and Surya, also invoke the symbolism we find in Sri Aurobindo’s psycho-spiritual interpretation of these Vedic deities.

To read previous stories in this series, click HERE.

Someshwar, the tavern keeper, rang up his daughter excitedly, “It’s worked this time. You found the soma formula. None of the former customers have returned, and it’s been a week.” 

Somini switched off the Bunsen burner, and checked her own excitement, “Are we sure they have not passed away?” 

“No, no, my dear sceptic rationalist,” laughed her father, “I have spied on each one of them. And they have not returned to drink themselves silly, because they have drunk the divine soma at last.” 

Somini rushed up the steps from her underground laboratory to reach her father’s tavern, “Are you sure they have not passed out in some psychedelic sleep?”

“Oh no! This is a permanent change.” 

“You mean you saw them write poetry?” 

“Yes, yes, and much more. One returned to sculpting. Another started tending to his garden. A third wrote letters all day. I am sure it’s a transformation, or transmutation – as you alchemists prefer to call it.”

Somini saw her father’s back speaking on the phone to her. She jumped before him and hugged him, stunning the old man to tears. She had been waiting for years for this day. Now she had crossed an important threshold in her life. 

Chandra, the Moon God. Mewar, circa 1700-1725, source: Wikicommons 

That night Somini walked through a dark forest with a flask of soma elixir in her hand. The crickets whispered loudly to each other, “Quiet please, she is here, at last.”

Somini reached a calm pool and gazed lovingly at the crescent moon floating on it, “Grandpa, look what I brought you. It is made of the finest of flower essences and the rarest of herbs, mixed with beautiful sights and sweet music, happy emotions and soul moments. Drink and be fulfilled.”

She poured the nectar on the reflection of the moon.

The moon started waxing before Somini’s happy eyes. He grew and swelled till he was a full moon, glowing in his own light. Somini plunged in the water and hugged the round globe close to her heart. 

But when she looked up at the sky, all her joy vanished. The moon was still a thin crescent. The image in the water dissolved like water colours in the rain.

“Somini,” said the moon, “I am really pleased with you. The soma rasa made after centuries of labour, is the one I wanted. Yes, it will draw my children out of their dark nights of the soul. The soul scientists working in underground chambers will come out and share their discoveries. Dreamers will be able to manifest their dreams. But the light the soma brings will wane. You will not find that light in my kingdom. Go, my child, bring that everlasting light to my people.”

And so Somini, set out on the quest, with her soul’s moonbeam as her only torch.

The king of the night, Soma, and his star courtiers looked at Somini who carried their collective hopes in her single breast.

When dawn came, Somini wanted to rest along with the owl and mole, and all the nocturnal creatures that accompanied her. She saw the forest ahead lit up brightly. But it was a false dawn. When she came close, she felt the heat. The forest was burning. A horde of men ran out with spears, bows and arrows and dead animals on their shoulders. “Save us, O cold goddess,” they cried and fell at Somini’s feet. 

A mass of gold shimmering in the air on a fiery chariot came out of the forest. Somini raised her arms, “Halt, mighty Agni. Why do you persecute these men?”

* * *

Agni, God of Fire, circa 1830, source: Wikicommons

* * *

Agni reigned in his fiery steeds,

“These are not men, but asuras. I gave fire to man to cook food, to perform sacred sacrifices, to keep warm. But some have aggrandised themselves with it. They run machines that dig up my gardens and hurt my creatures. I will destroy them before they destroy my other children and consume themselves too.”

Somini replied, “They are warriors I can use in my journey through the unknown.”

Agni dismounted from the chariot, “Where are you going, daughter of Soma?”

“To find the everlasting light.”

The voices behind her said, “Master Agni, spare our lives. We will bring the light to Fireworld, and share it with all, for it will not be a limited resource to scramble for.”    

And so they followed Somini, like insects trailing a fire. At the edge of the known world, they saw a bridge. It was a blaze of red, orange and gold, like a twilight. Somini covered her eyes. The night within her trembled in fear.

But the firebrands around her, lifted her up on their shoulders. They were about to cross the Twilight bridge when they heard a loud crack in the sky. A fierce lightning blinded them for a moment and a thunderous voice said, “Who goes there without permission?”

“Your son, Tadit, O mighty Vajra!” replied a voice behind the crowd. A tall man made his way forward and placed a foot on the bridge.

“Father, allow me to proceed to the land of the steadfast light. You gave us the power of the atom; we built gadgets and engines, to free us of menial tasks. Now, the wires have become shackles. We seek the steady light, not the restless electron.”

Image: Indra bearing a lotus and the Vajra, Kalyan print, Gita Press
Source: Wikicommons

The lightning answered, “Is that so, my child? Did I go wrong in showing you the secret of the atom?”

Tadit replied, “No, my lord, you were right, but we misused your gift. Perhaps it was necessary, for now we seek something beyond.”

Somini joined her palms in supplication,

“Let us pass too, O Vajra. We are children of Soma and Agni. We seek a light that will not be eclipsed by the night, a light that will not burn us to ashes, a light that will not burst into sparks.”

The lightning opened the gates of the twilight bridge. On the other side was a land washed by bright sunlight where children worked as though they were at play. Somini and her friends gazed at them and were filled with joy themselves. “Come join us,” called out the playful workers.

The newcomers realised they were adults and even older folk, but with childlike candour and curiosity in their eyes. The fire tribe dropped their heavy weapons and were ready to jump in, but Tadit raised his arms,

“Stop, you fools. Don’t you see these children are drunk with eternal youth? They don’t want to grow up. They can pleasure us for a while, but cannot give us what we seek. Let’s not dally here, we have to return home with the promised light.”

There was a mighty rumble in the sky that made the lightning rod in Tadit’s hand quake. He knelt down and prayed,

“O mighty Surya, this sky-quake will shatter us to pieces. Be gentle unto us, and pardon my pride. Perhaps you are the ultimate light we seek. I walk in a relative light, and know not that I know not.”

A blinding sun appeared,

“I am not angry, son of Vajra. My children were seekers too, but now they are blinded by too much light. I too am a relative light. Take them with you, for you still have a long way to go.

“I am told that there, the sun shines not, nor the moon or stars, nor lightnings, what can one say of the fire? All these lights are just a reflection of his effulgence. His brilliance lights everything.”

न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विद्युतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्निः।
तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति ॥
na tatra sūryo bhāti na candratārakaṁ nemā vidyuto bhānti kuto’yamagniḥ |
tameva bhāntamanubhāti sarvaṁ tasya bhāsā sarvamidaṁ vibhāti ||
(Katha Upanishad 2.2.15)

There the Sun cannot shine and the moon has no lustre; all the stars are blind; there our lightnings flash not, neither any earthly fire. For all that is bright is but the shadow of His brightness and by His shining all this shineth.

A host of white horses trotted out of the horizon and came to the mortals, batting their friendly eyelashes. Each picked a person, and they took off in formation, like a flock of white migrating cranes. They flew over forests glowing with fireflies, volcanoes with red lava roots, valleys covered by the blanket of moonbeams, and deserts split by lightning cracks.

The riders saw a boundless ocean appear before their eyes as far as they could see. The water was golden, the froth on the waves silver, and the sand on the beach sparkled like diamonds. The children of the sun sang out in awe,

दिवि सूर्यसहस्रस्य भवेद्युगपदुत्थिता ।
यदि भाः सदृशी सा स्याद्भासस्तस्य महात्मनः ॥
divi sūryasahasrasya bhavedyugapadutthitā,
yadi bhāḥ sadṛśī sā syādbhāsastasya mahātmanaḥ.
Such is the light of this body of God as if a thousand suns had risen at once in heaven.

~ Bhagavad Gita, 11.12

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* * *

From the beach Tadit struck the ocean with his lightning ark, but not a wave was disturbed. The fire and sun tribes dug canals, but not a drop trickled in. Somini cupped her hands and collected some water, but it splashed out like liquid gold. “How shall we take it back home?” she asked. 

A deep voice from the ocean replied,

“You have come so far to the edge of the creation, edge of all possibilities, and edge of all dreams. Why don’t you plunge in? You will not remain individual photons anymore. You will become part of my waves. This is true liberation, the purest moksha.”

“I don’t want a personal salvation,” said Somini, “As long as my people are in the dark.”

“Me too,” replied Tadit, “Even if we transform every downward impulse to a soaring aspiration, it is still not the light we seek.”

The majestic ocean replied,

“All creatures are born of light, are sustained by light and return to light. These people you care for are already taken care of, by the very fabric of Reality. But to plunge in Light consciously is a rare gift. I am offering you such a gift.”

Somini bowed to the ocean humbly, “Lord, I was told it is of delight, not of light that we are born, are sustained and return after we pass. A joy not shared, does not become delight of existence.”

आनन्दाध्येव खल्विमानि भूतानि जायन्ते।
आनन्देन जातानि जीवन्ति।
आनन्दं प्रयन्त्यभिसंविशन्तीति।
ānandādhyeva khalvimāni bhūtāni jāyante|
ānandena jātāni jīvanti |
ānandaṁ prayantyabhisaṁviśantīti 
(Taittirya 3.6.1)

For from Bliss alone, it appeareth, are these creatures born and being born they live by Bliss and to Bliss they go hence and return. 

The fire children said, “Lord, we were punished for taking too much. Teach us to give.” Then the sun’s tribe came forward, “Lord, we gave so much, no one aspired for anything anymore. Tell us what to give and how much.”

The ocean rippled with a million gurgling waves,

“Children, I offered you gifts no human could dream of, but you resisted it. I am a father who can give only so much. Give love as a mother gives to her helpless child. It is a boundless and unconditional love, but it can also smite with a smile.”

Above the ocean, the little mortal eyes saw a scene that blew their little minds.

Image: The Golden Hammer, painting by Priti Ghosh
Source: Link

A woman of incomparable beauty, a mother of innumerable beings, held a large hammer of solid gold in both her hands. She swung it back and smote a door as high as the sky. The golden waters of the ocean were set free. They rushed out in all directions.

The mortals were picked up by waves in their giant palms. The children of the moon, the sun, fire and lightning knew they would return home with much more than the light. The divine mother had assured them of things they had not prayed for, things they could not even have imagined.

The first thing they would share would be the secret knowledge. That we are not only born of delight and light, but also of love. We are born of love. By love we are sustained. And into love we return.  


People have been categorised variously by different schemes using personality types. In this story they are categorised as children of four different kinds of light. Soma, Agni, Vajra and Surya.

There is a gradation in quality of energy from the moon to the sun. The soma people are enamoured by night. They are the dreamers and romantics, introverts and witnesses.

The fire people are children of jada agni. They are choleric – anger and action are their strengths of character. They are the industrialists who invented the machine.

The children of Vajra have harnessed vaidyuta energy, from toasters to atom bombs. They can be nervous and impulsive, but can also catch intuitions as lightning flashes.

The children of the sun have a lighter temperament. They ride on sourya energy that is abundant and pure. But they can also lose their way, blinded by the sun.

There is another light that is the source of all these lights, which is our native home. But this infinite ocean too is incomplete without the power that will bring it to the lower worlds. Ishwara needs Shakti, the divine feminine, to execute his command. For she alone can love and sacrifice herself as a mother.

~ Design: Beloo Mehra

Read more stories in this series HERE.

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