Chasing the Golden Deer

Chasing the Golden Deer

Rama’s plight warns us about the mirage-like character of Gold that evokes a sense of happiness but, leads to unhappiness says Manoj Das

Now that the thousand-tonne gold jackpot at Unnao promised by a holy man’s dream had melted away like a distant rainbow and the digging had left nothing more than a huge emptiness, it may be worth digging into the enigma of such dreams and delusions. In this case the dream was supposed to be inspired by the ghost of a 19th century martyr-ruler, but according to occult science no apparition of the dead is expected to fool around for one and half century in the milieu of the mortals. Nevertheless, occultism agrees that such dreams could have been engineered by some sort of a low-grade supernatural being, a spook or a fun-loving spirit masquerading as the ruler.

The ever-mysterious stuff

The well-known paradox questioning water without which we cannot live is so cheap but gold without even a glimpse of which we could live all our life should cost so much – had much more to it than the history of the evolution of gold-standard and other allied utilities could justify. Diamond or platinum cannot rival gold in the role the latter had played in our life, culture, religion and literature. Whatever is great and noble is adorned with a golden adjective: the most glorious time in the history of a country is Golden Age, the great writings are the Realms of Gold (Shelley), the promising islands (the Indonesian archipelago) were Suvama Dwipa, the top decorations are gold medals or the golden lotus, so on and so forth. Not only the gold proper, but also anything that glitters as gold had its irresistible appeal. The most significant instance of this psychological phenomenon is, as the pragmatic Kathnsaritsagar puts it, “A golden deer is simply impossible yet Rama runs after it; when a moment of crisis arrives, even the vision of the genius gets blurred.”

But if the vision of Rama (here seen as a human genius and not an incarnation with a sublime purpose) awaits a moment of crisis to be blurred, for the common man it is perpetually so. Kama’s plight only warns us about the mirage-like character of gold that inspires in us the hope for happiness, but leading to unhappiness.

And the warning has been there in other civilisations too. Midas, the king of Phrygia, bad an unquenchable thirst for solid gold. He managed at last to obtain a boon from the gods whereby whatever he touched would instantly be transformed into gold. Thus the hungry king had to go without his lunch which became pure gold at his touch; next he experienced the agony of his loving little daughter turning into a golden statue the moment she came running into his loving arms. Luckily the gods were kind enough to revoke the boon that, the king realised, was a curse.

But Hulagu Khan was not that kind towards the ruler of Baghdad, as Marco Polo reports. Surprised at facing no resistance from the ruler’s army, the Mongol invader found out that the potentate had spent almost the entire earning from his subjects in gathering and hoarding gold inside a tower. Hulagu opened that treasure-trove, took a part of that stuff, but pushed the potentate into it and sealed it, with this farewell message: “Eat your gold to your heart’s content, all alone!”

Despite all the cautions powerfully spelt out by mythology and history, gold never lost its sheen. Along the Amazon coast lay the dazzling land – El Dorado – the monarch of which found it luxurious enough to bathe in gold dust! If a savant like Sir Walter Raleigh (1552 – 2618) led two expeditions in quest of that chimera, we can imagine how many explorers must have perished in their unreported adventures.

The excitement over the Californian Gold Rush 0848) and the later explosion of gold in South Africa (1885) are only too well-known elements in modern history, fiction, travelogues and films.

We do not know how much gold the good earth has in reserve, but till the end of the 20th century, it had yielded the world 174,100 tonnes of this oldest metal known to man, half of which had been put to use as jewellery for women, men and deities. Obviously the descriptions of the mythical Lanka as having all its structures made of gold or the highways of the ancient Jerusalem as paved with polished gold are only figurative.

An immortal symbol

In Vedic mysticism the gold symbol­ises the rays of the sun (Sri Aurobindo). The sun itself is Wisdom. Hence, gold represents wisdom hidden amidst the colossal earthly ignorance of man – ironi­cally acting as an object of attachment and illusion. But since every individual has an inner psychic evolution, one day the attachment to gold may suddenly turn into an attraction for enlightenment. Here is an anecdote from the mystic folk­lore illustrating this promise:

One day a bandit gatecrashed into a hermit’s hut in the forest and demanded his wealth. “Take away whatever you find,” calmly said the hermit. The ban­dit’s search yielded him nothing. While leaving in disgust, he murmured in a soliloquy “Haven’t got anything since two days; hoped to find some money here, but…”

“Wait,” called out the hermit, “I remember a traveler leaving for me a chunk of gold a few days ago. It must be lying somewhere in that nook, wrapped in a piece of soiled linen.”

The astonished bandit picked up the parcel. “Is this real gold?” he queried.

“Oh no,” answered the hermit.

“Even then it should fetch me enough for my immediate need,” exclaimed the hermit happily and departed.

He was back the next day “Sadhu Baba, but that was real gold! I sold it at great price,”


“How much wealth do you possess that you threw away your chunk of real Gold to me so voluntarily?”

“Didn’t I say that it was unreal? Well, what do you expect to find from real gold?” asked the hermit.

The bandit reflected on the question for a while.

“Happiness and a carefree living, of course!”

“Gold had never brought happiness and carefree living to anybody – though it had brought some transient joy followed by anxiety or fear; had brought pride and vanity that are suffering in disguise. How then can this gold be real if it does not fulfill your expectations from it?”

“Where then is to be found the real gold?”

“Deep within yourself”, said the hermit.

(Courtsey: Changing Times, Times of India,Saturday, November 30, 2013)

"Atmeeyata Gata Kali Ebam Aaji" Talk by Prof. Manoj Das

About Manoj Das

For thousands of men, women and children of the past two or three generations, Manoj Das has been the very synonym of light and delight, whose writings in Odia and English inspire in his countless readers faith in the purpose of life and also open up concealed horizons of confidence and compassion in humanity a dire need today.