( Brunton and his Guru (Shri Ramana Maharshi ) may have been the inspiration for the characters in Maugham’s work of fiction )

The Hindus, like
the Tibetans, firmly believe that the Himalayas are
the secret abodes of the gods, as well as of those
spiritual supermen whom they call the Rishees, who
to-day are supposed to dwell there in invisible etheric
bodies. Yes, one of them has brought me here .

It may even be that this unimaginably beautiful and
secluded spot is his very dwelling place. Enchantment
creeps upon me.
It is a fact that the broad mountains of this kingdom of Tehri are holy precincts. The Hindus believe
that these Himalayan shrines, set in the colossus among
mountain ranges, are even more sacrosanct than their
holy cities of Benares, Puri and Nasik. Twice
a day, at the favoured times of dawn and dusk, I shall
climb its steep face with the aid of the stick, and then
settle down to learn how a man might arrive at the
art of being still and, perchance, even ultimately know
God.

The best way to spread the
spirit of benevolence is to begin with myself. Let me,
then, compose my thoughts and silently repeat the
Buddhist formula for world well-being, whose spirit if
not whose words is :
“To the four quarters of the world, I send compassion. To the north, south, east and west, above
and below, I send compassion. To all living creatures
upon the earth, I send compassion.”

The brain is like a wheel which endlessly revolves,
picking up fresh thoughts with every revolution. Now
I watch the wheel slow down. The more I hold to
my resolve to press attention deeply inwards towards
a central point, the more my thoughts diminish in .
We are talking of the difficulty which beginners experience when attempting to learn how to concentrate
the mind. The adept remarks :
” If we assume that the average number of
thoughts which pass through a man’s brain during a
given period is one hundred, and if he succeeds in
reducing it by constant practice in regulation to eighty,
then we may say that he has gained the power of
concentration of mind to the extent of twenty per cent.
Therefore the most direct way to obtain such concentrative power is to practise the lessening of the number
of one’s thoughts.”
And with the slower working of my brain, yet
with all attention not a whit less alert, I begin to feel
a profounder peace enveloping me. The prolonged
concentration of thought has ultimately induced a
finer state to arise inside. How sorry I feel for the
city dwellers who are subject to turmoil without end I
Why should they make the intellect supreme ? Yet
their way of escape cannot inwardly be different from
mine. Minds, exasperated by the inevitable frictions
and disappointments of daily life, may find in the respite gained by mental quiet a soothing and healing serenity that will anoint their wounded nerves with
balm.
The intellect is but an instrument and not the
essential being of man. It is not self-sustained. It
is an automatic and routine faculty. Modern man
represents the triumph of mechanistic intellect over
mere instinct, just as future man will represent the
triumph of divine intuition over mere intellect.

The comparative stillness which surrounds me now
may not be, nay is not, the utter stillness which I long
to attain, for not a few slow-walking thoughts contrive
to meander around inside the emptied halls of my
brain. To be really still is to be centred. Nevertheless,
I shall be contented with it to-day and not attempt to
cross the mystic frontier.


The young cultured Hindu
who dresses like the moderns but thinks like the
ancients is fast disappearing.

Why should I waste my
time, with millions, in railing and ranting against the
defects of established society ? Rather should I do
a little constructive work. We shall have a pacified world when we
have pacified hearts-not before. The ancient Sages
who gave this simple formula are nowa-days denounced as impractical idealists. But if the
final test of a policy is its results in material affairs,
we must confess tohat this peaceless world has not
improved on them. The spiritual emptiness of our
epoch and the poverty of our inner resources express
themselves clearly ellough in the chaos, the distress
we see everywhere around us, and the dolorous servitude which we give to unworthy ideals and unworthy
men.
The world’s development of egotism and intellect
has given it a fictitious sense of practical wisdom.

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