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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

is likely to happen is that I shall be much misunderstood, such are
the varying conceptions and misconceptions of that elastic term.
I have not the slightest notion of persuading the sad humorist of
Hollywood to cast away his Western habiliments and don a yellow-
coloured robe, to wrap a turban round his head and to wear a pair
of open sandals upon his feet. On the contrary, I should prefer,
possibly insist, that he make the morning parade upon this rocky
ridge-top in the full ceremonial dress of the screen. It would afford
me much pleasure to introduce him to my deodar properly attired
in his short frock-coat, ancient bowler and big boots.

I fear that he has to form his conception of Yogis from the
oratorical Swamis, or self-sent Indian religious teachers who have
made their appearance in the United States of America* lured by
dreams of an easy conquest of adoring disciples. Strangely enough,
most of them have themselves been conquered, for the tempta-
tions of the novel and freer life of the West were not provided for
in their philosophy. There are some honourable exceptions, of
course. But the rest form a funny crowd. When I heard a certain
advanced Yogi teacher at Rishikesh, the city of holy men, near the
foot of the Himalayas, turn with horror from the suggestion of an
American doctor with whonr I visited him, that he take some
Western pupils, denouncing them with the words, "Westerners will
- make a trade of Yoga," I felt nonplussed at his unjustness, for I
knew that spiritual sincerity is not a monopoly of India. Now,
however, many of his compatriots who have exported themselves
to the transatlantic El Dorado, along with their self-provided titles
of Yogi and Swami, have shown that the East has nothing to learn
from the wicked Westerners in this matter, having, indeed, forestalled
them.

I hope Mr. Chaplin will not judge me by the dress, person and
doctrines of these gentry, I do not want him to make their goal his
goal, nor to renounce his hard-bought Western wisdom for the sake
of acquiring the distorted echoes of ancient truths which today
pass current, even among the majority of the Indians themselves,
as the Eastern wisdom. Truth is an extremely elusive lady. She
resists the wooing of Occidentals and the caressing of Orientals
alike. She may be captured, nevertheless, but her price is her own
secret.

* The tamer compromises which almost all present-day holy men
have had to make with the ancient prescribed diets and disciplines
indicate significantly the insufficiencies of those ways in our own
time* Why not go the whole distance and adapt yourself com-
pletely to the era in which you live?

The old prescription for a dwelling-place was a cave, a forest, a