A dragon with a vengeance...
|There once was a denizen of the Eastern Sea, Redfin Carp by name, who was endowed with an indomitable spirit and an upright character. |
Redfin Carp was a figure of immense stature among his fellow fish.
He was constantly bemoaning the fate of his comrades.
“How many untold millions of my brethren proudly dwell in the vast ocean deeps.
They entrust themselves to its boundless silver waves, glide up and down among the swells, and sport in the seaweed and kelp.
Yet countless of them are taken by baited hooks and caught in nets. They wind up on chopping blocks, where they are sliced and cooked to fill the bellies of those in the human world.
Their bones are cast away and left to mingle in the dust and mire. Their heads are thrown to the stray dogs. Some are dried or salted for inland markets.
Exposed in stalls and shopfronts for all to see. Not a single one finishes out his natural span. How sad is the life of a fish!”
Amid these sad musings there was a great welling of spirit in Redfin Carp’s breast. He pledged a solemn vow.
“I shall swim beyond the Dragon Gates. I shall brave the perilous bolts of fire and lightning.
I shall transcend the estate of ordinary fish and achieve a place among the order of sacred dragons.
I shall rid myself forever of the terrible suffering to which my race is heir, expunge every trace of our shame and humiliation.”
Waiting until the third day of the third month, when the peach blossoms are in flower and the river is full, he made his way to the entrance of the Yu Barrier.
Then, with a flick of his tail, Redfin Carp swam forth.
You have never laid eyes on the awesome torrent of water that rolls through the Dragon Gates.
It falls all the way from the summits of the far-off Kunlun Range with tremendous force.
There are wild, thousand-foot waves that rush down through gorges towering to dizzying heights on either side, carrying away whole hillsides as they go.
Angry bolts of thunder beat down with a deafening roar. Moaning whirlwinds whip up poisonous mists and funnels of noisome vapor spitting flashing forks of lightning.
The mountain spirits are stunned into senselessness; the river spirits turn limp with fright. Just a drop of this water will shatter the carapace of the giant tortoise; it will break the bones of the giant whale.
It was into this maelstrom that Redfin Carp, his splendid golden red scales girded to the full, his steely teeth thrumming like drums, made a direct all-out assault.
Ah! Golden Carp! You might have led an ordinary life out in the boundless ocean.
It teems with lesser fish. You would not have gone hungry.
What made you embark on this wild and bitter struggle?
What was waiting for you up beyond the barrier?
Suddenly, after being seared by cliff-shattering bolts of lightning, after being battered by heaven-scorching blasts of thunderfire, his scaly armor burnt from head to tail, his fins singed through, Redfin Carp perished into the Great Death and rose again as a divine dragon—a supreme lord of the waters.
Now, with the thunder god at his head and the fire god at his rear, flanked right and left by the gods of rain and wind, he moves abroad with the clouds in one hand and the mists in the other, bringing new life to the tender young shoots withering in long-parched desert lands, keeping the true Dharma safe amid the defilements of the degenerate world.
Had he been content to pass his life like a lame turtle or blind tortoise, feeding on winkles and tiny shrimps, not even all the effort Vasuki, Manasvi, and the other Dragon Kings might muster on his behalf could have done him any good.
He could never have achieved the great success that he did.