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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT  IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

to the east civil war splits the Chinese republic into a broken vessel;
while somewhere in the west the death-rattle sounds in the throat
of the Ethiopian royal house.

In the crowded centres of civilization, microscopic men are
running hither and thither, inflated with their self-importance and

r Telling over the crust of a planet which, in the last analysis,
not belong to them. Here, a score or more of high peaks squat
perfectly still with their heads uplifted above the planet, as though
unconscious of their kingship, power and grandeur.

We sit in the shade of the bungalow verandah, Prince Mussooree
Shum Shere Jung Bahadur Rana and I, ensconced in spacious
cane-backed armchairs and both replete with that contentment
which comes immediately after an enjoyed and enjoyable lunch.

Whether it is the surrounding peace or the mere entry of a
stray thought that sets the other man talking of Buddha I do not
know. Anyway, he says: "Nepal has contributed something more
than good troops to the world. Do you know that the great Gautama
Buddha was intimately associated with Nepal? He was born within
its border. To three hundred million Asiatics the lovely little five-
acre wood of Rummindei, in Nepal, is sacred as his birthplace. A
great monolith set up by the Emperor Asoka nearly 2,200 years
ago to commemorate the spot still stands there with its lettering
as clearly cut as even

"And when, through the opposition and even persecution of
Muhammedan invaders or of rigidly orthodox Brahmin priests,
Buddhism was destroyed in India more than a thousand years
after its foundation, many of the monks and scholars who would not
give up their ancestral religion fled into the mountain fastnesses of
Nepal, where they were safe. That is why we have today thousands
of rare and ancient manuscripts and palm-leaf books, statues,
carvings and antiquities, in our monasteries and temples, brought
by these refugees. That is why, too, the religion of modem Nepal is a
curious mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism. A Nepalese is not
conscious of any antagonism between the two faiths and will often
worship in a Hindu temple one day and a Buddhist temple the next.
My own faith is Hindu, as you know, yet I feel much respect for
the other belief.

"Do you know, too, that although the last strongholds of Budd-
hism along the North Indian border today are Nepal, Tibet and
Sikkim, it once flourished here in Tehri-Garhwal State? At a spot
now called Barahat, about twenty-five miles as the crow flies from
this place, there is, among the ruins of ancient temples and other
buildings, a great brazen trident of immense antiquity which
bears an inscription recording the visits of Nepalese Buddhist
148