A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
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; it is certainly not the kind for which anyone will care to pay
me a single rupee in remuneration. 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.
A mixture of different feelings passes through me. At one and the
same time I am exhilarated, awed and reassured. Exhilarated,
because I believe that some part of me "belonged" here, has indeed
dwelt happily here in some former earth-life. Awed, because I
remember that there are more than sixty peaks in the grand chain
of the Himalayas over 25,000 feet high, that the tremendous roll of
staccato thunderstorms and the restless flickering of bluish light-
ning constantly disturb these snow-capped gods standing in icy
detachment from the human world. Reassured, because although
Nature is notoriously inhospitable to man in these regions, a sense of
divine protection imperiously sweeps away every fear as it arises.
It will be hard, amid these eternal mountains, to appreciate the
value of time and consequently to let the mind rush restlessly about,
"Be still and know that I am God!"
That is the phrase from the Hebrew Bible. It bids me go to the
Himalayas, not as an explorer nor as researcher, but simply to cease
my external activities and to tranquillize my mind to the point of
utter placidity. I am not even to continue my ancient labours of
self-conscious meditation, it 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 surroundings, and to let every thought lapse away into
mere nothingness. I am to become a living paradox, seeking attain-
ment of a higher order of being by the curious method of making
no effort! In short, the Psalmist's saying, which I am obeying like an
injunction, is to be taken in its literal fullness.
So, in my hunger for the divine presence, I set out on my journey
northwards, hardly knowing where my feet will come to rest. For
the great range of the Himalaya mountains must be close on fifteen
hundred miles in length from end to end. Where, in that strange
world, can I find a spot solitary enough yet suitable enough to
permit me to merge my inner being into its surroundings?
From time immemorial the best of India's Yogis, sages, and
saints have resorted to the forest-clad ridges or icicle-studded caves
of Himalaya, to meditate and dwell amid harmonious scenes. It is
therefore in line with a good tradition that I imitate their example.