In any given life, with each turning of the wheel, a soul may accumulate powers and techniques, memories and secrets, skills and lore, good and evil, links with other souls and strange affinities.
In death, as souls transmigrate between the realms, from the prospective of those trapped within time and the turnings of the wheel, such things may take on lives of their own – each a facet of the central core, separate, yet linked outside of time. A soul may become a celestial kami, a demon of destruction, a spirit of trickery, an honored ancestor who aids his or her descendants, a vision appearing in dreams, and be reborn on Ningen-do – all at the same time – and repeat the process yet again. A whirlwind of shards of the self, reflections in a million broken mirrors cascading through time.
The Meditations of Unity strengthen those links. They prevent the fragmentation of the spirit under the stresses of death and rebirth. While the mind and body will still need training to use the remembered abilities, a newly reborn practitioner of the Meditations has a massive advantage over those who must begin their training from scratch.
Unfortunately, this is a very unnatural turn of affairs. There may be nothing more frustrating than to remember clearly what must be done, but to have to spend months or years waiting for your new body to develop enough to properly focus it’s eyes, to digest solid foods, and to control it’s bowels – and only then to face the daunting task of training its neural network to walk and speak again – and THEN to work for years to remaster the techniques that are so clear in your memory!
There tend to be two major reactions to this sort of experience. Some people become impatient, driven, and strive endlessly to overcome the constraints of their new bodies. They become determined to overcome all opposition and to go forth and accomplish great things. Many will seek vengeance on whoever killed them last time and put them through this ordeal before it’s time. They use their power to take what they want, and demonstrate the superiority of their abilities. They become the Asuras, the Mortal Demon-Gods of the Ivory Kingdoms.
Others become more philosophical. They accept their slow development, learn patience and acceptance, and allow their abilities to return at their own rate, without forcing them. These tend to become the Devas, the patrons and supporters of civilization in the Ivory Kingdoms, the guardians of stability – and the ones who have accepted that battles between the reincarnating demigodlings are both horrifically destructive and relatively pointless. Their goal is to transcend the great wheel, to achieve the ability to move throughout the multiverse without the need for constant death and rebirth.
Some of each – particularly those who only mastered the Meditations of Unity in their immediately prior life – renounce the discipline, and go through their next childhood without such frustrations. They will still be exceptionally talented, and may pick up the Meditations with unnatural ease if they ever decide to study them again – but without the regular practice of the Meditations, such effects fade across lifetimes. One can return to normality.
Others die before they can fully develop the meditations again – one reason why the Asuras-and-Devas-to-be usually take care not to display their powers too early – but such individuals, having practiced them over many lives, are almost certain to pick them up easily in a future life anyway.
The Meditations of Unity – an
Ivory Kingdoms advanced “Courtier” School:
Requirements: Void 4, Meditation 4, Theology 4, at least two ranks in some other school.
First Technique: The Awareness of the Great Wheel.
Your spirit may not be subdivided, despite the stresses of any form of rebirth (5) and – when you begin your next incarnation – you will clearly recall this one, allowing you to relearn your current schools without benefit of an instructor (10, -5 for having no direct applicability, net 5). You gain (Rank) free raises on Meditation rolls (5), gain the “Sensitive” Psychic Power thanks to your limited multidimensional awareness (3), and learn two level one Mudra of your choice, although their use still requires a Meditation skill of 3+ (2).
Second Technique: The Boundless Strengths Within
In your next life, you will not need to pay experience to redevelop techniques from this lives in which your practiced the Meditations of Unity, although you must attain a high enough rank to have technique slots available (10, -5 for having no direct applicability, net 5) and gain double the Style bonuses of the Meditation skill (5). You learn two Rank-2 and two Rank-3 Mudra of your choice, although their use still requires a Meditation skill of 6+ and 9+ respectively (10).
Third Technique: The Manifestation of the Divine Essence
As a unified entity, you gain partial Immunity to the normal restrictions on learning techniques: you may learn two techniques per rank instead of one per rank (10). Knowing the unreality of inury, you may subtract your Willpower from any wounds you take to a minimum of 0 (5) and recover (Void) wounds per hour (5).
According to legend, there is Hidden Fourth Technique in the Meditations of Unity: The Opening of the Ways. It provides +3K0 Bonus Dice which count as being skilled for Meditation (6), and access to additional Mudra – one each of Ranks 1-3 (6) and two of Rank 4; The Paths of the Void and The Recreation of the Self (8). Between them, those two Mudra may indeed provide freedom from the Great Wheel. Unfortunately, there are no known practitioners of the fourfold way to ask.
If there is a fifth technique, no one knows what it might be.
Overall, the Meditations of Unity are only a moderately useful school for your current incarnation. The ability to double up on techniques is very nice at higher levels – but this time around you’ll still have to pay for them and you’re investing three techniques in getting that ability. If you happen to be rank five when you acquire it, that means that you’ll now have ten technique slots – three of them devoted to a not especially helpful school. You’ll have spent 75 XP, and spent all your time since Rank 2 with greatly inferior techniques, to qualify for a couple of extra techniques now – which you still have to pay for.
So it’s just lovely for your NEXT incarnation – but how do you create someone who is CURRENTLY an Asura or Deva?
Actually, that’s pretty simple.
You need an Ally or Allies (your own prior existence, possibly in various aspects) with enough Influence to bestow Access to “a school or two” – invariably including the Meditations of Unity and at least one, and possibly two, other schools (10), Immunity to the normal experience-point costs of learning said schools (10), five 2-point Knacks (in Meditation and four skills related to the schools it teaches, 10), and Immunity to the normal restrictions on learning techniques: may learn two techniques per rank instead of one per rank (10). Now, that’s eight points worth of Influence alone (requiring you to buy this ally at least twice, since four is the upper limit), and your own prior existence is definitely at the Major Eccentricity level (+2 points), and definitely went to a GREAT deal of trouble to help you (+2 points). That’s 16 points worth of Advantages right there.
Out of game, you’ll also have to persuade the game master to let you take that little monstrosity of an advantage.
You’d also have started off well before normal adulthood – a penalty of at least 20 points out of your initial 60 for a Deva, and possibly up to 50 points worth (the penalty for starting off as a small child) for an Asura.
A few bonus dice, secrets, and languages are probably in order as well – if you have any points left to spend at this point.
As a practical matter, most Devas and Asuras are fairly quiet until they manage to reach rank four or so – at which point they’ll have eight techniques, normally including the complete Meditations of Unity for next time around. Really energetic ones can manage it by the time they’re twelve or so, ten or so if they’re willing to take some serious risks. That’s less uncommon than you’d think: proper caution and consideration of the possible consequences is also a function of mental maturity – just like learning to walk. A child is still a child, and inclined to immature behavior, no matter how powerful an Asura or Deva they may be.
Unsurprisingly, the practice of the Meditations have had some pretty drastic effects on the societies of the Ivory Kingdoms. They still have gods, ancestors, and so on – not everyone who becomes powerful practices the Meditations – albeit not nearly so many of them. They also have quite a few really high-powered essentially unkillable individual demigodlings wandering about – many of them still pursuing quarrels that have come down through a dozen incarnations. It is not without reason that the Asuras are referred to as Demon Gods.