A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
hungry dog would eat its biscuits: today I reject and repel the
remunerative tasks which are constantly proffered me.
Not that I regard my solitary existence here or my hermitage
life in the South as the only sort of existence worth having; on the
contrary, I believe in rhythm, in withdrawal only if followed by
activity, in solitude only if followed by society, in self-centred
development only if social service is its later complement; in spiritual-
ity only if nicely balanced by materiality. We should follow Christ's
injunction and render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, yet
not fail to hold fast to the things that are of God. All those things
which make up the best in material life and which the world well
covets—property, home, position, marriage, motor-cars, furnishings
and fine clothes—are indeed attractive, but we need not forget
our first destination whilst we go off in their quest. Therefore,
spiritual retreat is but an episode in my whole life, not a final goal
but just a camp by the wayside. I am here in India neither as tourist
nor resident, but as a wanderer who might remain fixed for a
couple of years or fly off overnight at his whim. In short, I have no
settled abode, neither in the wilderness nor in the city. I try to keep
my mind cool and my life uncluttered.
Nowadays I have become an idler, useless to society and un-
profitable to myself, a do-nothing who merely sits still and en-
deavours to keep away the waves of invading thought that advance
upon him. In short, I possess neither fixed status nor recognized
place in the world. I am no longer respectable.
Does it matter?
In a pocket-sized, black-clothed book which a friend in Bombay
has just sent me I read at random this sentence which, to me, is a
sane and soothing notion:
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his
That book bears on its title-page the words: The New Testament.
It is really only another way of saying that to estimate a man by
his wealth or by his output of work is vulgar. It is not alone what he
does for the world that most matters, but what he is in himself.
My extract, however, is unfortunate for my friend. She has sent
the book with the especial desire that I read a totally different
sentence. On the flyleaf she has lightly pencilled this note: "See
Acts, Chapter 26, Verse 24."
Accordingly, I turn over the pages and look up her monitory
reference. And I now read: