A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
by the mere sound, whether it is human or animal, but I remain
perfectly still. Soon a pheasant advances into my line of vision. Its
body is azure blue; its tail light brown. The bird takes a single glance
at me and turns afFrightedly, rushing down into the valley at
tremendous speed. It makes a great clucking and screams with
excitement. Callers, evidently, and especially human ones, are quite
Because this doctrine of re-embodiment comes generally linked
up with the uncomfortable notion of fatalistic retribution, many
Western people shy at it like a frightened horse. "What!" they
exclaim, horrified. "You expect us to suffer for the sins of others?
The whole question hinges on who we are.
If we are nothing more than physical bodies, then the objection
is perfectly fair. If we are merely flies fluttering across this planet for
our brief day and gone, then the West is right. If, however, we are
souls revisiting this world again and again, then the request to
settle up in one earth-life the sins we have committeed in another
possesses a certain rough justice about it. Then, the destiny which
puts its imprint on our lives becomes no blind arbitrary force.
I believe, nay, I know, that man's destiny is with God, and not
with the worms. The brain does not generate thought, the body does
not generate the soul, any more than the wire generates electric
current. Both brain and body are only conduits, carrying a finer and
subtler force into this dense material world.
If we are mere flesh-beings, and nothing more, then it would
certainly be unfair to ask our atoms, slowly transformed and redis-
tributed after death into other beings, to atone for our wrong-
But we are that, plus something more. That something more is
Consciousness. Really, we are conscious minds interwoven with the
bone and flesh of the body.
Those minds represent the summation of our characters, tenden-
cies and capacities. They are the real sources of our acts because
they are our real personalities, not the bodies. If we believe that they
do not vary greatly from birth to birth, then it is not difficult to see
that the personality which has to adjust agony given out in one
embodiment by agony received in the next is suffering for its own
sins and not another's.
But a doctrine which declares that every action must bear its
fruit, and that personal embodied life must continue again until the
consequence is worked out, is quite reasonable. It dovetails well with
all the other natural laws which every scientist detects in the physical