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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

who is trying, with fresh eyes and fiery enthusiasm, to lift educational
methods out of the antiquated ruts in which he found them; a
forceful and dominant Minister whose abilities have made him
the central figure in the Government of a large Indian State and
whose fluent conversation provides me with an intellectual stimulus;
a Spiritual Head of an Indian religious fraternity who benignantly
ignores differences of belief in the deep regard that ties us to each
other; a penniless and possessionless Yogi who meditates on myster-
ious forces the 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 traffic 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, the 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 dingy Delhi alleys and bazaars to the
Jumma Masjid, India's largest mosque, where he discourses to me
of his youthful adventures upon the Mecca pilgrimage, and then
tells me how he is preparing himself for another kind of pilgrimage,
to wit, his exit from this world. He is likeable, this grey-beard, for he
does not hesitate to mix a little fun with his philosophy.

There are several others, both known and unknown, who touch
my trail so intimately; they are perhaps more mundane in mind,
but that does not prevent us being completely at ease with one
another. A man must be ready to touch life at many sides if he
would really live; even as a great Exemplar did not disdain to
consort with the world's rejected and despised sinners; yet always
he should do so where the inner attraction is mutual and spontane-
ous, not otherwise. Not seldom the most startling life-changes come
about in this way. One of the first people whom Christ induced to
price life at its proper value, or, in common parlance, whose soul He
saved, was not a respectable prop of civic authority and civic virtue,
but a hai lot.

When I was revisiting a certain city after some years' absence
abroad a friend there offered to give a little party in my honour to
enable me "to meet the leading men of the town". I flatly refused.
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. I had made a few un-
common researches. That was all. Lots of men have done that, and
more. Time to give a party when I shall have accomplished some*