Viveka’s Story – Part One

Searching for home on the PA turnpike.
Searching for home on the PA turnpike.

As told by Stephen Cope in the prologue to Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (1999, xix-xx):

Once upon a time, in a small kingdom in northern India, a beautiful young queen named Atma gave birth to a son, whom she called Viveka. Auspicious signs accompanied the birth. There was a rainbow. Flocks of white doves were sighted, and a lush rainfall sweetened the ripening fields of the kingdom. Little Viveka was loved by all. Around him, however, a silent contagion festered. In the absence of the king, who was away fighting infidels on the northern border, an internecine struggle broke out in the royal household. Finally, as a result of the sinister backroom plotting of several courtiers driven by greed for the throne, the young prince, the sole heir to the throne, was stolen from the nursery and abandoned to the elements–sent floating down the river in a basket to his certain doom. 

As fate would have it, however, the young child was rescued by a group of very poor peasants and social outcastes who lived in a remote area of the kingdom near the mouth of the river. They reared Viveka as one of their own, sharing with him all they had to give, in a life of grinding poverty and deprivation. The peasants did not reveal to Viveka the mystery surrounding his true origins, and Viveka grew up identifying himself as an outcaste, immersed in the life of poverty and hopelessness that he had learned. 

But something else lived inside Viveka. He had a recurring dream of palaces and lush green fields and a mother’s love. Viveka had an enduring and secret fantasy that he had another home, another family. Inside him remained subtle traces of the paradise he had lost. Meanwhile, back at the court, others, too, were dreaming of him, dreaming and praying that he still lived. On the morning of his sixteenth birthday, Viveka’s mother appeared to him in a dream. She called him by his true name, which he recognized at once. In the early hours of the morning, Viveka awakened in a cold sweat. His mother had called him home and had sent him a vision of the landmarks he should seek in his pilgrimage back to his true family. 

Just before dawn that morning, Viveka set out on a quest for his true home and family, with nothing but the clothes on his back and several days’ rations of food. For seven years, Viveka searched, looking for the landmarks his mother had given to him in the dream. Along the way, he encountered every conceivable obstacle–wild animals, thieves, sorcerers, bands of outlaws, hunger, fear, hallucinations. But as he roamed the mountains and plains of northern India, he also encountered naked ash-smeared yogis, seers, ascetics in caves, countless holy men and women who shared with him all their yogic wisdom and assisted him in his quest. 


To me, this is a story with an archetypal truth: we all yearn for Home.


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