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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

PREFACE TO THE FIRST BRITISH EDITION

LEST readers wrongly believe that this is a new book, that I have
broken the silence of several years with the following utterance, I
must hasten to tell them that it is not. It was written more years ago
than I like to remember. The sheets were struck off the press in
Madras, near where I was staying at the time, and circulated in
book form. A small number of them was sent to England and here
issued in the same form but soon disappeared. A Hermit in the
Himalayas was never reprinted, despite demands.

Although I did not return to the same Central Himalayan region
which it describes, the tides of war did bring me to these stupendous
mountains, first to the extreme Eastern end, on the frontiers of
Sikkim, and later to the extreme Western end, overlooking Little
Tibet.

It has never since been possible for me to forget the breath-taking
grandeur of those endless rows of summits, gleaming in the sun as
they half-lost themselves in the sky, nor the happy sound of rushing
streams dancing on the floors of steep, rocky valleys.

It was inevitable that some of the points of view from which the
reflections in this journal were written should become modified by
the inner development and wider experience of passing years. But
the general point of view remains substantially the same and that is
the need of gaining spiritual peace by regaining control of the mind
and heart. It is not long since I came back from Oriental travel and
tropical life to live in the Western hemisphere again, yet everything
I have seen and heard here convinces me that this need is more
urgent and more imperative than it was when the journal was
written* If the world stands bewildered and confused in the face of
its troubles, it is partly because we Westerners have made a God of
activity; we have yet to learn how to be> as we have already learnt
how to do.

We need these oases of calm in a world of storm. There are times
when withdrawal to retreat for such a purpose is not desertion but
wisdom, not weakness but strength. If we withdraw for a while so as
to reconsider our goals and survey our courses, if we use the time and
leisure to calm our agitations and sharpen our intuitions, we cannot
be doing wrong.

However, I do not advocate rural or monastic retreat for the
purpose otherwise than as a valuable temporary and occasional help,
for the real battle must be fought out within one's self, just where the