Excerpt from Hermit in the Himalayas

I take Nature’s gift thankfully. The Gods who made
this land must have been beauty-drunk. The wild
beauty of the scene outsteps imagination. It inspires
the mind and uplifts the soul. Were I a Shelley I
Would quickly become lyrical over this region, but
alas ! I am not. For the lordly Himalayas exist with
an aura of complete solitude which is ineffably
peaceful and inspiringly grand. In these Himalayan
highlands, there arises the true charm of mountaineering ; civilization is so remote, towns so distant and
serenity so prevalent. They carry the suggestion of
eternity, although there are hill ranges in the south
which, geologically, are far older. The tremendous
heights are, perhaps, chiefly responsible for this
suggestion. Here one is face to face with the universal
mystery itself, hiding behind no man-made facade of gregariously-built cities but revealing its calm challenging face directly and assuming it,s wildest form..
Himalaya embodies the grand forces of Nature.
For
destiny has truly prepared a special place for my
meditations and when I search the long rugged line.
of the Himalayas on the map and let my finger rest
on the kingdoin of Tehri-Garhwal, where India’s
sacred river, the Ganges, takes its rise, I feel, as by
inspiration, that here must be my substitute for Mount
Kailas

Moreover the most sacred
shrines of India are here. Many stories of the deities,
sages and Yogis who have lived in this secluded king-
dom have come down from the mists of tradition.
Here, if anywhere, I may find a fit spot for my meditations, for it is set amid the world’s grandest scenery.

Dawn has spread over the East
like a pinkish pearl. When the music of twittering,
chirruping, singing and jubilant birds, excited over
the event, has somewhat subsided, I get the bags
opened.
Mount Arunachala, in South India,
where my Master dwells and where I have taken up
-my temporary abode, is called in very ancient Hindu
books, ” the southern Kailash.” It possesses a strong
spiritual affinity with its Tibetan confrere, as well as
striking historical ties.
The sacred peaks of Badrinath,
Kedarnath , continue the jagged sky-line
and glitter against a cloudless sky.
It is a curious and startling thought that a visitor
from another planet who was approaching our earth,
would notice first of all this serried Himalayan range.
Par, with hundreds of peaks, at least, more than
twenty-thousand feet in height, the Himalayas become
the most outstanding object on the surface of our own
planet !

What luck ! To have an entire forest of
Christmas trees at one’s door ! And each tree carries a load of gifts upon its needled branches-gifts intangible and invisible, maybe ; gifts of serenity and
quietude ! The tops of these towering trees reach
almost to my very door, but their roots are about
fifty feet down the mountain-side. What the firs lack 
in girth, they make up for in height. They are lordly 
and grand in their vivid green garments

. The ground is thick 
with fallen brown fir-needles. , snow-white blossoms of 
faintly-scented little flowers which brighten the 
shadowed scene. They spangle the dark foliage like a 
firmament of shining stars. Among these silent tree-
shadows I may find, doubtless, what the towns cannot 
give- peace, depth and healing.


We continue climbing the narrow track. The-
steep paths of Himalaya are akin to the steep paths
of life itself. But I adventure up the rugged trail
with music sounding in my ears. God is luring me-
on. I am riding, not merely into Himalaya, but into
heaven. I have forsaken one world only in order to
find a better.
The air is sweet and The mountains are flushed with
beauty that belongs, not to them, but to God.


A secret nook in a pleasant land,
Whose groves the frolic fairies planned ;
Where arches green, the livelong day,
Echo the blackbird’s roundelay,
A spot that is sacred to thought and God
, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star holy shines.


A Yogi who meditates on
mysterious forces , while he sits upon the Ganges
bank beyond Rishikesh, that unique town where
recluses, monks and pilgrims make their permanent or
temporary abode ; with great calmness he tells me
how he separated the spirit from the body and found
himself witnessing scenes in far-off Calcutta or even
hearing the noise of London as he looked down
upon it ! Then there is a young Bengali lady who has
achieved an exceptional height of spiritual realization,
and whose face reminds one of the beatitude-filled face
of St. Teresa, while she sits with half-closed eyes
surrounded by a large group of devotees ; a lean, bent
old muhammedan grey-beard who takes me through
clingy Delhi alleys and bazaars to the Jumma Masjid,
India’s largest mosque, where he discourses to me
of his youthful adventures upoil the Mecca pilgrimage,
and then tells me how he is preparing himself for
another kind of pilgrimage, to wit, his exit from this
world.

I had no
desire to meet the leading men of any town. Besides,
why all the bother ? I had done a bit of journalism,.
a bit of editing, and a bit, I hope, of finer writing in a
few books.
Time to give a party when I shall have accomplished
something worthwhile, when I shall have climbed the-
Himalaya of the soul and reached its white summit,.

I hear the cuckoo. Its call makes me think
of spring’s sure recurrence in Europe.
Sundown brings a rapid change of colours. The
peaks and crags of ethereal white which rise to the
sky are now warmed by the waning beams into masses
of coral and pink ; but this is only temporary. The
descent of the dying sun transforms the frosted silver
of the snows from colour to colour, while suffusing the
lower forest-covered ridges with saffron. The red drifts
into gold and the gold returns once again to yellow.
And when the final rays take their leave, the warm
colourings also abandon the range and the snows
assume a chalky whiteness. The pallor becomes more
pronounced and ends in greyish-white.

We ride 
through a monstrous yet beautiful ghost-world. 
Leaves turn to silver in the moon beams and tree-
trunks seem to be carved out of frosted stone. There 
is something indescribably weird in the picture of pale 
moonlight on the world’s giants. I

Each is now a wraith-like titan, 
grand, grim, yet undeniably beautiful. For the Himalayas, in this 
weird light, has become the fabled land of the giants. 
.

Overhead, the sky scintillates with its wealth of 
beauty. Planets wander through the firmament with 
unnatural brilliancy. The stars, in their high heaven, 
are like clusters of diamonds upon the crowned hair 
of night

And of what shall my activities consist ? The
principal one is just sitting still ! I am quite serious.
It is indeed, I must admit, a queer kind of work, the
queerest which I have yet undertaken ever since my
ship weighed anchor and turned its bow from the
British shore ;

. Yet that is the absolute truth, the sole purpose
of my cutting adrift from the generality of men and
settling for a while in this unfrequented Himalayan
kingdom. I expect no excitements, no hair-raising
situations, no perils, in this new adventure of mine.

I am not even to continue my ancient
labours of self-conscious meditation, he counsels, but
just to be still !
I am to seek no outer adventures, nor even any
inner ones. I am to take Nature as my tutor, to merge
my spirit into the absolute silence of her surrounings, and to let every thought lapse away into mere
nothingness. I am to become a living paradox, seek-
ing attainment of a higher order of being by the
curious method of making no effort ! In short, the
Psalmist’s saying, which my Master quotes again at
the end of our sitting, is to be taken in its literal
fulness.
So, in my hunger for the divine presence, I set
out on my journey northwards, hardly knowing, where
my feet will come to rest.
In this undertaking I am simply obeying the injunction laid upon me by my revered spiritual Master
two days before I parted from him. The scene sticks
adhesively to memory. We sit in utter silence during
the eventide hour.

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