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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

  *^*vmjn   i   ijue   HIMALAYAS

when I hang it from a nail in the wall like a polished sapphire in a
plain metal setting.

My companion examines the picture closely.
"It is a genuine Tibetan monastery hanging!" he exclaims,
and then turns it partly over to inspect the back. Seven vertical
rows of scarlet ink writing in Tibetan characters  confirm his
statement.

Although the wrapper and background of the picture are dark
with age, the painted portion is bright and fresh with gay colourings
as though it had left the artist's hand but a year or two ago. It
represents thirty-eight small portraits of the Buddha pleasingly
arranged in seven straight lines from top to bottom. In each of these
the Light of Asia sits in his conventional attitude with interlocked
feet, but the hands are given a different arrangement of gesture
throughout. These thirty-eight variants of hand-posing are sym-
bolical in meaning and bear profound significance, whilst the
writing on the back is placed to correspond exactly with the minia-
tures; thus by holding the whole painting up to the light, these
words read like key captions fitting each picture. They are not so,
hi reality, but mainly repetitions of the phrase OM-AH-HUM, as
uttered by the lips of each figure, a mystic Buddhist phrase sym-
bolizing many sacred and solemn meanings.

The centre of the whole piece is occupied by a much larger
portrait of Buddha, still with feet intertwined in the famous Lotus
posture; his left hand rests with palm upward and thumb upraised
in his lap, whilst the right hand droops to the ground with out-
stretched fingers. He is the thirty-ninth Buddha, who carries for me a
personal significance.

We gaze long upon my treasure. Those statuette-like figures of
the wise Gautama seem to bear with them a serene blessing, a sense
of utter peace* How artistic is the rhythm of the whole ensemble,
how exquisitely beautiful in pose and form! I must confess that the
sculptured effigies or brazen idols of Krishna, which are so countless
in Hindustan, usually leave me cold. His dancing grotesque figure
arouses no enthusiasm, bestows no benediction. And yet there is no
shadow of doubt that the message of Krishna was as divine as that
of Christ, and both as informed with wisdom as that of Buddha. It
may be that my modern outlook, searching for a Greek simplicity
of form and questioning like Socrates in the market-place, finds
more intellectual directness in the homely words of the Buddha
than in the inspired revelation of Krishna. Yet, Buddha unfortunately
took existence too seriously. He might have taken a leaf out of the
book of certain Hindu philosophers and seen it all as a dream,
mere fussy agitation, a churning of the waves tjiat leaves the ocean
150