Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 15 : The Orient > Chapter 2 : India Part 1

India Part 1

Images of environment, culture, history

India is a country of striking contrasts: I found men there--and not a few, either--who lived lives of immaculate purity. Yet in the South I have seen great temples provided with brothels for the profit of priests and the convenience of pilgrims.

From the first day when I looked down over the edge of the ship at the Indian scene, its colourful character provoked my curiosity and demanded comprehension. And when I finally stepped ashore from the gangway it felt not only like an arrival but also like a reunion. For I swiftly passed from enquiry to love. But with the years I was compelled to moderate my ardour, to balance emotion with reason, and to take the temperate judicial view of the country, its people, and its culture.

I was aroused in the morning by the warm rays of the rising sun and sat up with an exclamation of surprise. All around me I heard that clamorous awakening of nature which comes after an Indian dawn.

Watching the sun's movement, westward and downward, into a lovely colour world of rose-pink and delicate lavender--this was part of the compensation for enduring India's tropic clime.

Some Indian shrubs and trees bear beautiful names: casuarina, peepul, tamarind, gold mohur, palmyra, cashew. Chinese plants in this class are nenuphar; Japanese plants in this class are wisteria. (China also has wisteria.)

The dreaded Monsoons bring depression and dismay in their train. Irritating sandstorms herald them, oppressive silence of the animal kingdom announces them. They turn the fields into lakes. Sudden and tremendous falls of temperature at night play havoc with the health of the unprepared.

With the dew and the dusk came the delicious perfume of jasmine flower--the "Queen of the Night," the gardener called it.

Out in Europe, with what glee would I welcome the sun, how ready I was to play truant to the town and rush off to dream in its golden rays, but here I have begun to look on it with something of dread; there is a malign influence hid within its tropic light; it hurts the unwary Westerner quickly and occasionally kills, while the unlucky native is deprived of that energy which is needed if he is to conquer nature and wrest a worthwhile livelihood from her.

Midsummer in the plains of the South scorches the body and depresses the mind--often like the hottest room of a Turkish bath. Breathing becomes difficult and debility comes easily. Even to touch a brass door handle with the hand is to burn the flesh; vigilance must be exercised as soon as one begins to move about.

Sometimes one felt the oppression of eternally sunny skies, too bright and too glaring to be comfortable, so that one longed for the sight of a dark cloud, the stir of a breeze, or the touch of rain.

I sat among somnolent monks in Indian ashrams in my jejune days. The heavy drowsy air was not conducive to incisive thought.

I mused on the irony of the difference between the prehistoric belt of ice that stretched from the Himalayas across the Deccan, and the burning tropic India of today.

The tropic sun which grilled us at noon now treated us gently as the day declined.

South India: The hot damp afternoons invite one to desert work and take to sleep.

Crows caw greedily when food appears and they will vie with the monkeys as thieves. I once saw a crow and a monkey make a simultaneous and spontaneous dash for the remains of my lunch when I was going off and happened to look back over my shoulder for a moment. Both arrived at the plate at precisely the same moment. The crow cawed indignantly, the monkey shrieked, and then the latter used its intelligence (or is it animality?) and struck the crow a light blow in the face with its right forepaw. The bird cawed again indignantly as it retreated and lighted on a rock, there to watch bitterly (enviously?) while the monkey finished my meal. How it must have meditated on the injustices of life!

Tiruvannamalai: an amusing incident. One afternoon I retired to my cottage for a quiet siesta, and, having stretched myself out comfortably, I took up a book with the idea of reading myself to sleep. Ten minutes later I became aware of something moving at the window which adjoined the bed. Turning my head I saw the quaint face of an inquisitive monkey, its watery eyes peering at me through the wire grille which I had nailed up over the window to keep out unwanted snakes. The little creature had climbed up to the window and was taking stock of the room. Meanwhile the dog, Chakki, which had accompanied me and lay on the floor near my bed, noticed the monkey and flew forthwith through the open door which had been left open for the sake of air and leapt, barking, at the animal. The monkey took shelter on the tiled roof where Chakki was unable to follow it, and thereafter ensued a comical concert--hisses from the monkey and barks from the dog.

Monkeys in South India form a large part of the animal population, and once I saw two of them enter a railway carriage and chatteringly take possession of a seat!

Monkeys: A long-limbed stone-coloured animal leapt forward at the head of the tribe. He was the chief and appeared to be the largest creature of them all. I do not know how many monkeys composed his tribe--possibly twenty or twenty-five. Most of the monkeys bore the signs of mighty battles fought out during the night. Scars, gashes, and open wounds were common sights. He grimaced at me from a tree. The younger creatures were a quaint sight. They were exceedingly nervous when away from their parents yet exceedingly curious. One grey little infant would pucker its face into the queerest wrinkles as it wonderingly watched my early-morning shave. I am sure that, since it was such a frequent onlooker, it has received sufficient lessons to become an adept in shaving technique! The dog was an inveterate enemy of the monkey tribe. So deep was his dislike that in some strange and subtle way he could sense their presence even when they were not visible, as when hidden behind a boulder or up a tall tree, and at once he would emit a series of growls which shook his entire frame, such was their intensity.

Eventually he would leap up, snarling ferociously, and dash or leap towards the offending creatures. Monkeys are tribal animals and very rarely found alone.

The monkey's pink hand stretched itself out to grasp the banana I offered him but withdrew again almost immediately. He was hesitant, dubious about my motives. Could he trust me? He looked appealingly into my eyes. I tried to reassure his timidity.

The monkey perched itself on a boulder and watched me gravely. It was a small grey-haired creature, not larger than a fox terrier, and its face was inexpressibly quaint. A wistful yearning was in its eyes and I took this to be nothing more than a yearning to share some of my food. I drew out my camera and tried to snap its picture: at the click of the shutter the animal grew alarmed and fled precipitately into the bush. Knowing something of its habits, I waited patiently. Five minutes later, I saw a pair of watery brown eyes peeping at me from behind the boulder. Quite reassured, it crept up to the top and assumed its former seat. I threw it a few spoonfuls of food which it scooped up in its dun-coloured hand and then ate greedily. Its next act was to blink wistfully at me again through those queer half-drooping eyelids.

At mealtimes a tribe of hill-monkeys would descend to the boulders and bush near my bungalow and spread themselves out in a circle. Then they would watch me and my servant, busy with the food. When the food was cooked and I began to sit down to eat, the most daring spirits among them crept a little closer and looked mutely into my face. Nevertheless they never completely trusted me, and at the first sign of an untoward movement they would leap up agilely and be off. They were queer things of varying sizes, the largest being their chief or king. Their foreheads would pucker whenever I looked at them, as though to ask, "What is this man's next move going to be?"

Watching the human qualities displayed by these creatures, their affection for their mates, their instruction of their young, their intelligent daily living, I would often meditate upon the origin of monkeys. Are they degenerate men, as some assert, or are they aspiring animals, as others claim? Science is not so certain today as it was in Darwin's time.

The monkey's eyes twitched as he regarded me. I held a piece of food before him and the thin lips of his wide mouth moved slightly. I withdrew the food and his hands went to his tail, gripped it by the end, and lifted it up and down in annoyance. The melancholy irritation of his face was indescribable. It did not last long, but gave way to an aspect of resignation.

I think back to those days when, troubled by endless mosquitoes and tried by merciless heat, I had to live through the tiring heat of Indian days, the oppressive weight of Indian nights. It hardly made one alert to the subtle metaphysical ideas.

Those terrible evenings when mosquitoes whirred through the surrounding air in attacking squadrons were not conducive to amicable relations with the animal kingdom. Their thirst for blood seemed insatiable. Their energy, despite the residue of tropical heat, seemed inexhaustible.

A cloud of mosquitoes descended but left me unbitten. Somehow the tribe has never favoured my flesh, though the brown ants always made full amends for their neglect by biting me well and hard around the feet, ankles, and legs.

Ant invasion: Sometimes I would spend an odd quarter of an hour studying the psychological equipment of these queer little creatures. Once I found a long line of black ants on the march from the foot of a tree to my hut. They moved in perfect order. The vanguard had already reached their objective and were even now attacking my store of sugar fiercely, despite the fact that it was kept in a tin reputed to be airtight. Saddening experience, however, had already taught me that airtight was not at all the equivalent of "ant-tight." I hastily diverted the foremost members of the army corps into other directions; but with a curious obstinacy the retiring ranks refused to flee and continued the attack with unabated ardour. I kept on pushing away the new arrivals, but to no purpose. Hundreds more arrived to take their place.

I found that rough cocopalm fibre matting (coir) or rough gravelly stony soil, laid around a house, tended to deter snakes from risking the journey over such an uncomfortable surface.

In India I learned to be a little wary of Mother Earth and to become less of a worshipper of lovely nature. Throw yourself down on the ground beneath a palm tree and you may throw yourself on a snake or a scorpion!

I walked with trepidation through those tropical nights whose black silence seemed to hide an intense animation and to cover the lurkings of countless living things.

I stood in the courtyard as twilight descended. I walked to the tank to watch the last and laggard bathers finish their ablutions. I sat down on the flat stone and fell into a profound meditation--how many hours it lasted I cannot say, but the moon had climbed high in the sky when I opened my eyes and returned to the earth-world.

I passed on to the famous Golden Temple, given over to the god Shiva. The stream of worshippers seemed an endless one. Lovely flower garlands were constantly being carried in and gave a gay colour to the scene. Devotees touched the stone doorposts with their foreheads as they left the temple, and then turned round, startled in momentary surprise as they beheld the infidel. I became conscious of an invisible barrier between me and these others, the barrier between white and brown skin.

Somnathpur Temple stands in the centre of an enclosed court. Not a square inch of the surface of three stellate towers is without decoration, yet there is no feeling of superfluity in this impressiveness. I visited it in Mysore State. One inscription in Kannada characters says that this place was the holy hermitage of Vasistha. The temple is nearly seven hundred years old. It is Hoysala style. At Harihar (elsewhere in Mysore State) there is a Kannada inscription which refers to Somnathpur Temple and says that the Brahmin village attached thereto "was so full of learned men that even the parrots were capable of holding discussions in Mimamsa, Tarka, and Vyakarana!"

The holy of holies in Egyptian temples were always dark and gloomy, and approached by halls in which the light grew less and less as the worshipper advanced. So too are the interiors of the South Indian temples even today.

Among the sacred shrines of this place is the great Temple of Lakshmi, a legacy from immemorial antiquity. Its cloisters have sunk through age and now lie buried under the surface of the earth. Lakshmi is the much-sought Goddess of Wealth in the Hindu pantheon.

In a certain Indian temple, where brown-faced worshippers pass and re-pass in silent reverence, one can see the following phrase incised in the stone: "Power of Will is the whip which lashes man on to success!"

The domes and columns of its palaces, mausoleums, and mosques rise up out of the dried-up Deccan desert to remind one that the town was once starred in Indian medieval history. Here is the Great Mosque, second largest in the whole country, impressive in its enchanting grandeur, but pathetic in its loneliness of deserted halls and corridors. Here, too, is the curved head of Shah Adil's mausoleum, carrying the second largest dome in all the world. This weird building possesses a whispering gallery which echoes back one's voice seven times. The effect of those repeated and dying echoes is truly ghostly, for one's words are sent back as though uttered by invisible phantoms. Even the "Traveller's Bungalow" in which we sleep is a gem of Moslem architecture. Once it was a little mosque built under the shadow of the Great Dome. How sepulchral it seems when we sit down in the evening to our curry and rice! I wander among the deserted palaces and then sit down to watch the domes and minarets glisten in the early morning sunshine, and to meditate on the lost grandeur of these dusty memorials of a bygone Eastern empire.

The European in myself rose in rebellion. I think of those fierce, bearded kings whom the accident of birth had flung up to perilous good fortune, and who had lorded it in this place for their brief lifetimes. I image them sitting in the Hall of Private Audience to hear petitions from troubled subjects, the while captive ladies of the harem peep out behind latticed windows and sigh. And now their places are but cemeteries of ancient splendours.

I think, too, of that time when, by the magnificent marble tank in the garden of the Taj Mahal, I sat and pondered on the extraordinary beauty which the hands of man can evoke. I had just come from the white palaces of Agra, which gleam like buildings out of a scene in the Arabian Nights. The four famous tapering minarets rose against a pearly sky. The hands of my watch went round but still I lingered. . . .

The Hindu religious artist put four or more heads on his idols when he wanted to depict the divine wisdom.

Saint Thomas and Cranganore: There is a small mosque in Cranganore which, according to tradition, is the first mosque founded in the whole of India. It does not face Mecca, unlike the other mosques, but faces due east. Another peculiarity is that the Arattu procession of the Thiruvanchikulam Temple circumambulates this mosque also.

I visited Hardwar where over a thousand monastic houses are crammed together representing almost all the diverse views and disciplines of Hindu religion.

I walked shoeless across the soft red carpet inside the mosque. It was the hour of evening prayer and the devout were already crowding through the doors. Two great lanterns, which were suspended from the roof, shed their light on the scene.

The grim red sandstone walls of Agra Fort hide a great secret. Their formidable plainness gives little hint of the glorious arabesques and golden minarets, of the white marble Muhammedan architecture which rises like an ethereal vision to greet the visitor who penetrates it.

There is no mosque in all the world like the Pearl Mosque. Domes, cloisters, courtyards, and corridors, are all of stainless white, as fresh today as when gay King Charles was on the throne of England. The Saracenic arches have the most exquisite proportions. But it is when we wander through the Royal Palace--a dream of shining marble and golden domes--that even a cold Westerner must forget himself and lay excited emotions of wonder as ready tribute upon the altar of worship.

Agra Fort is contained with lofty walls, moated and battlemented, and is built of giant slabs of red sandstone. Within are white marble palaces, a-sheen in the sun--fit stages for the most enchanting tales from the Arabian Nights.

Because Indian metaphysics regarded time as illusory, Indian culture regarded the recording of history as a waste of energy. So Indian pundits wrote few chronicles--just the opposite of Chinese literati, who wrote them voluminously. Because history was not studied, it was not understood, at least as we Westerners understand it.

The date given by Kamakoti Peetham Math for its foundation by Adi Shankara is 482 b.c. The Math also gives 509 b.c. as the birth date of Adi Shankara, 1887 b.c. as the birth date of Buddha, and 484 b.c. as the date of the foundation of Sringeri Math. Western scholars say that Shankara was born in 788 a.d. Math=monastic institution for teaching and propaganda--in Shankara's case, of Advaita.

To this day no one really knows whether India's most renowned philosopher, Shankara, lived about 500 b.c. or 500 a.d. A thousand years more or less means nothing to the old-time Oriental, apparently. Of course, our Western professors may give you Shankara's "precise" dates, but the latter are nothing more than guesses.

First of the Shankaras was the master from Malabar--the extraordinary region on the southwest coast of India. Philosopher, mystic, theologian, commentator, missionary, debator, author, and traveller--he was unquestionably one of India's greatest geniuses.

They will not renounce antagonisms unless stronger selfish interests make it convenient or profitable to do so, or unless a higher power comes into play and bids them do so. Three hundred years before Christ, King Ashoka made himself master of the greater part of India, as Napoleon later did with Europe and was lured by the same personal reasons. But, unlike what happened to Napoleon, the light of Buddhist spirituality came to him, and he devoted the rest of his life to service and uplift of those he had spoliated.

When I first went to India to learn more about the mysteries of yoga I was following in the footsteps of the famous Chinese pilgrim-traveller, Huien Tsang, who had journeyed nearly 1500 years before me from China to India and to the University of Nalanda expressly to study yoga, for which it was then famous. But in those days teachers were wiser than now, for the practice of yoga was combined with the study of such scientific and philosophic knowledge as then existed. Consequently all applicants for admission had to face a guardian who appeared at the door of the university and asked them difficult metaphysical questions through a small window. This was done to test the intelligence. Only about twenty percent of the candidates passed this preliminary examination and were permitted to enter. The rest had to return home mortified.

The British brought lawyers with them to India. When they came, justice was swift in its workings.

Then, nearly a century ago came the planters of coffee, who cut down the primal forest jungle for their plantations. Thick woods that gave habitation to every kind of wild animal and bird, from mongoose to monkey and from screaming eagles to roaring leopards, disappeared before the white man. The sunlit treetops now yield to the low scrawny tea plant. But all the forests are not gone; vast tracts of jungle still remain.

In ancient times the lion roamed through India. Today it is almost extinct.

The Tamil literature of Southern India is a mine of treatises on yoga and mysticism. Yet the Dravidians, the race which created it, existed in India prior to the coming of the Aryans, prior to the arrival of the Brahmins and their wisdom. It is a pity that most of this literature still remains untranslated, because it was written by adepts in their respective arts, though many took great pains to veil their writings in symbol and metaphor so that students must dig hard and think perseveringly in order to arrive at the correct meanings and to know why these Tamil adepts grudged their secrets to posterity.

That there was once important contact between prehistoric India and mysterious Atlantis cannot now be proved, but a few reflections of it do exist in the legends, the scriptures, and the yogas of present-day India.

As I gazed at the temple my mind wandered back. Did some group of exiles come here from ancient Egypt and intermingle their influence with that of the dark-skinned Dravidians, descendants of the pre-existing indigenous inhabitants of India before Anjunsaruved?

In the South you find not only the darkest-skinned Indians but also the oldest races of Indians. Consequently you find their oldest culture there too.

Tiruvannamalai, Taluk (small district), pronounced "Tiruvahnna mali": a spur of the Javadi Hills (locally known as the Tenmalais, "south hills") runs into it. It is inhabited by Malaryalis, a body of Tamils who at some period settled upon these hills and now differ considerably in their ways and customs from their fellows in the plains . On the hills are large blocks of "reserved" forests in which are grown sandalwood and teak trees.

In Tiruvannamalai, town headquarters of the Taluk, the population is mainly Hindu, with a fair sprinkling of Muhammedans and Christians. The name means "holy fire hill" and is derived from the isolated peak at the back of the town 2,668 feet above sea level, which is a conspicuous object for many miles around. The Hill and temple, commanding the Chengam Pass into the (important) town of Salem, played an important part in the Wars of the Carnatic. Between 1753 and 1790 they were subject to repeated attacks and captures. From 1760 the place was a British post and Colonel Smith fell back upon it in 1767 as he retired through the Chengam Pass before Haidor Ali and the Nizam. In 1790, Tipu attacked the town and captured it. Cholera used frequently to break out at the annual festival and be carried by fleeing pilgrims far and wide through the district. The great want of the place was a proper water supply, and lengthy experiments have now matured in a waterworks.

In the sultry afternoons you will find men sprawled across their thresholds, asleep, or lolling in blissful unconsciousness under a scrawny tree. Everyone takes a siesta after lunch and a deadly silence stills the few activities of the place.

As we drove through the ancient streets I descended now and then to make a few purchases. There was very little obtainable in the way of edibles, and less still for my European taste. Nevertheless, here were plenty of plantains--those diminutive bananas which grow freely all over India--and nuts, as well as small sapless oranges. I bought these and a few other items. The solemn-looking shopkeepers in the bazaars squatted right in the middle of their piled-up wares, baskets, and open sacks, which were arrayed along the front of their comically tiny shops.

In ancient Indian tradition the water lily, or lotus, was considered the perfect flower because of its symmetrical proportions and refined colourful loveliness. This is why it became India's national flower. Further, the diamond was called the king of gems and the ruby was called the queen.

Low-roofed huts built of mud and straw, straggling along in a crooked line, composed the village. Round flattened cakes of cow dung fuel lay drying in the noonday sun before some of the houses.

Scarcely is a child out of its mother's womb when she begins to think of arranging its marriage.

If Hindus wish to bankrupt themselves over their children's weddings, it is none of my business; but I can see nothing for these extravagant and costly ceremonies except that they bring a momentary flash of colour into the otherwise drab existence of the Indian peasant.

There is very little romance in India, either in the social life of its cities or in the villages of its flat plains.

I have seen the Indian poor sweating in the South and shivering in the North, and pitied them.

The pitiful whine of the beggars is still in my ears, the resigned faces of the lepers are still in my eyes, the shrivelled stumps of the mutilated still horrify me.

Benares was built close on four thousand years ago, and the stuffy houses, noxious smells, crumbling walls, and overpowering psychic atmosphere fully attest to its age. The past lies heavily upon Benares.

I went for a stroll through the narrow streets of the old town. Several houses were so rickety as to appear in the last stages of collapse; the walls were rotting with age, while the roofs were peeling with decrepitude.

In the mean mud hovel of this poor Indian peasant, with its straw-filled hole in the wall which did duty for a window, the dark smelly room which housed his cow as well as his children, there was nevertheless a resigned will.

Some of the huts were no more than the crudest shelters, mere lean-to's, squat thatched roofs resting on a single wall and a few upright posts.

Some of these dark-skinned people who passed by me wore gorgeous-looking flowing robes; others were clad only in rags and tatters. Such is the motley which goes to make Bombay.

A young Brahmin got into the compartment. His hair glistened with oil and was curled up into a topknot. He walked in with a dignified air, as one proudly conscious of his own worth.

He wore a long-skirted coat with a high tunic collar; his trousers were of that weird type reminiscent of European trousers worn a century or more ago which sheathed themselves tightly around the lower legs but expanded themselves above the knees. (He belonged to the court of a Rajah.)

I set myself the formidable task of learning Tamil. I had picked up several phrases of Hindustani during my travels, through my attempts to study the half-dozen dictionaries and conversation guides which I had bought on landing in Bombay. But so far I was unable to catch hold of a single Tamil phrase. It defied my aural and mental vigilance--this many-vowelled, half-chanted, Spanish-like language. So I resolved to take the thing seriously and begin a proper study. There was only one book available at the place--a book which had been lying about for thirty years, probably--but it served my purpose.

The Madras Presidency contains perhaps the hardest and easiest tongues in India, if not in the world. In the Malish districts there is a tribe of simple, half-savage people called the Khonds. They live in the forest among the rocky hills. To learn the Khond tongue you need not learn more than three or four hundred words, and some are remarkably easy and apt. "Miau" is the Khond word for cat, "kwach" is for duck--literally transcripts from nature. Tamil writing is all angles and corners. Tamil shares with Armenian the dubious honour of being the hardest language in the world to learn. I heard a missionary once say that scholars have spent a lifetime but failed to master it.

The Tamil tongue is full of vowels, and to listen to a Tamilian speaking is to hear a flow of half-chanted liquid sound.

There are 200 to 300 characters in Tamil. Tamil pundits claim that theirs was the first language in the world. Who knows?

There is a saying in India, "It is better to have a pigeon today than a peacock tomorrow."

Among the Tamils I heard the saying that "it is no use blaming the arrow when there is an archer behind it."

In ancient India, broths were drunk with much satisfaction: there was even a cookbook on the subject called Supasastra (soup-scripture), although it has now been lost. The very title of cook was "supa-krit" (soup-maker)! Today the southern part of India still preserves a few remnants of the ancient tradition, among which is mulligatawny (pepper-soup), a curried soup.

Over the well had been built a "pikotah" or water-lift. This curious, ancient, and wooden engine had for its principal part a long beam, worked like a lever. The latter was balanced upon an upright post. As a man walked up and down its length, its ends rose and fell in harmony. A bucket tied to one end sank into the water at each fall and was full when lifted up again. These Indian wells are usually much wider than our European ones.

The "tonga" is a two-wheeled smooth-running little carriage. The driver sits in the front near the tail of his horse, and the passenger half sits and half crouches in the rear.

I met no other Englishman during the whole of my stay near Tiruvannamalai, but once I encountered the sweet Danish women who run a mission high-school in the little town. I felt sorry for them, these two noble self-sacrificing women, for what a contrast was this swelteringly hot place with their cold Denmark! Here they had lived for years, uncomplainingly, educating a handful of boys in English, the three R's, and other subjects. But faith was strong in their hearts and in the name of Christ they were doing this work. The work that such people do and have done in schools scattered all over India is worthy of more recognition on its material side, though with their spiritual ministrations I am not concerned.

The clean shops of the European quarter in the mall soon offered a pleasant contrast with the unhygienic booths of the area where I had emerged.

Bombay is only half Indian. An English friend took me into a marble-paved club near the sea front for a smoke and a drink. We listened idly to the orchestra play its lifting tunes. Black smoke belched out of the tall chimneys which landmarked the mill quarter. It is a country of inevitable incongruities, a land where the ridiculous dogs the steps of the sublime, where repellent monstrosities are coupled with ennobling ethics. Squeaking grey-faced monkeys jumped about with babies clinging to their stomachs.

A cynic said that the difference between certain creeds which exist in India is that some believe in one God and three wives, but others believe in three Gods and one wife. Thus there is something to suit varying tastes here, you will observe, and no Caleb in search of a creed need leave this land disappointed!

Light has always been worshipped by the higher-caste Hindus. Every evening when lamps are lighted in a house, all the members present remain in an attitude of prayer. In certain houses, when someone happens to be lying in a bed at dusk (which very rarely occurs except in a convalescent or indisposed state), he is asked to sit up for this ritual.

In Indian myth Shiva burned the god of lust. Hence those who have renounced worldly ways honour and worship him. Hence he is the god of the sadhus and yogis.

The Brahmins have passed on with scrupulous fidelity and exactness the tradition received by them from their ancestors.

Indian numerology--or, according to the point of view, superstition--holds even numbers to be unlucky; so deals, gifts, and other transactions are made in odd numbers.

The Hindus do not accept the descriptive name Dog Star for Sirius. Instead they call it The Hunter--a name which we Westerners allot to the constellation Orion.

I gave him the friendly Hindu greeting, with raised hands and palms pressed together, which carries the silent meaning "I and you are one."

Scene on British Indian steamer: In the sailor's quarterdeck at extreme stern, one-and-a-half dozen Muhammedan sailors of the crew bring out their cheap straw mats, lay them on deck, prostrate before the setting sun, and pray quietly. I am impressed by their reverence as they watch the dying sun.

The Indian Brahmin wears a cord around his chest not only to indicate the caste to which he belongs but also to indicate his link with God.

Too many Indians have the curious belief that God has reserved truth for monks and nuns, and excluded it from the laity.

Hut life in ashram: Each morning these men and women go through a ritual of ablution in the sacred pool.

To leave out of one's reckoning both the body and the world as non-existent is not an idea that has profited India in any way, if we look at her history. In the very act of denying them as illusions, the Indian has himself fallen into an illusion.

This slave mentality accepts merciless famines in a spirit of spineless fatalism. India has yet to learn to be vital and self-reliant.

These Hindu pariahs accept their pitiable lot of outrageous poverty in a yielding manner which the more rebellious Western poor would never agree to.

There are different versions of the AUM symbol, according to the languages predominant in the different parts of India. Straight lines appearing in the Tibetan version give it more strength than the Indian version. This corresponds with the comparative personal qualities of the plain-dwelling Indians and the mountain-dwelling Tibetans.

Whoever understands the workings of the Indian mind where it has not been changed by overmuch contact with Western men or modern thought, will understand its pessimistic trend. For it imperiously demands and strongly needs the consolation of a world-escaping religion. The undertones of Indian life are not happy; they speak of resignation and melancholy, of unalterable destiny and the insignificance of man.

The monotonous singing of the Hindus suggests suffering and death, resignation to hard fate, and the transiency of the values of everyday life. It leaves us with a sense of depression and yet, curiously, with a sense of devoutness also.

A creed of resignation comes naturally under the burning Eastern sun.

The lassitude and defeatism of men immured in the tropics is reflected in the religions bred there.

The premature ageing of these Indian women is a tragedy. In the West, woman no longer submits to the tyranny of the birth certificate; but here she anticipates it!

Englishmen do not pour out their hearts to the first stranger they meet. But Indians do. On my numerous train journeys and in my visits to the homes of friendly Hindus, I was entertained to entire life histories, to recountings of family woes and fortunes, and to personal confessions such as most Westerners usually reserve for intimate circles alone. Furthermore I was invited to contribute my quota likewise but regretfully declined. I write this queer fact down neither for them nor against them; it is just an expression of the friendliness and homeliness which pervades Hindu life.

Reverence for holiness comes easily and naturally to the Indian even more than to most Orientals.

The plain fact is that all denunciations of things Indian present one side of the picture alone. There are many good things which one could say about the Hindus and their ways--things which offset, to some degree, the inherited evils.

I discovered long ago that nothing can be done in India without several loud consultations, unnecessary harangues, and animated conferences--and even then it is often not done!

The race possesses a fatal fluency of talk--fatal, that is, to all action.

Obscure, irresponsible newspapers abound in India. They delight in misrepresenting the facts.

Oriental fancy can become very exuberant; the stories which gather round the guru's figure can become very prolific; and much of it all may be untrustworthy.

The typical Oriental biography of a holy person suffers from the defect of treating him as a deity whose acts were always right and never wrong, whose mind and conduct were never marred by human mistakes.

It is difficult to credit the Indian traditions on these matters, because of their notorious habit of embellishing such stories and of exaggerating them.

For instance, the tale of every holy man is highly coloured in the telling. His mere cure of a swollen ankle in Panchgani is reported at Patna as the healing of a hundred lepers.

I do not assert that these things are wholly imaginary but that the superstitious minds of the people have distorted the facts.

Few are competent to write a trustworthy account of these unusual men. Oriental pens leap into exaggerations and improbabilities over the top of every encouraging fact.

There are ultra-patriotic Indians who claim that airplanes and other Western inventions were previously invented by their own progenitors. The only evidence for such claims is a few sentences in the Purana and Veda--early sacred texts from the chapters on mythological history. This kind of fairy-tale evidence is on a par with that offered at the turn of this century by one who described himself as the "Hebrew National Poet," who dedicated his book "To the Learned Men of all Nations," and who asserted that the Talmud was the repository whence Virgil got his best ideas, Pasteur his germ theory, the engineer Eiffel his plan for the famous tower, and even the inventors of the electric telegraph and the bicycle their original impulsion!

The sacred cities and places of India are overgrown with the weeds of impossible legend and incredible fancies.

Writers of lurid fiction have created a picture of the Oriental as a subtle, unaccountable, and even sinister person. I found him, on the contrary, to be a simple, understandable, and kindly person.

He is free from the nervous fidgetiness, the painful self-consciousness of Occidentals.

These Indians treated me with a respect that was almost embarrassing, considering that I held no official title, no social status high enough to warrant it. Indeed, at times it bordered on veneration itself.

I knew how to get along with Orientals, how to win their sympathy and service, by the simple direct method of being myself.

I flitted direct from the gorgeous palaces of Maharajahs to the shabby huts of ascetic hermits.

Many a time I genuflected before a holy man in the same way as his own people--that is, by falling forward and resting the forehead momentarily on the floor.

A lad with sunken cheeks approaches me, clasping his hollow abdomen, and then points to it with his index finger in a pitiful attempt to make me understand that he is starving. I give him some food and a little money. Thereafter he becomes one of my retainers and arrives daily for his allowance.

My bearer-servant assumed an attitude of paternal protection toward me. He carefully analysed the bills which washermen, milkmen, and the like presented me. He persisted in paying the coolies himself when we travelled, and if they demanded more he would turn around and violently abuse them, adding insult to injury by saying, "And your grandmother was a monkey!"

In my Asian wanderings I noticed that the people of sun-scorched plains were the most fatalistic and those of the hills were least so. Where the one group surrendered easily to lethargy, the other used will and energy to shape circumstance.

The Indian dhobi or laundryman provided me with quite a problem. He does his best, by repeated slashings upon hard jagged flat stones on the riverside, to destroy your shirts in two washings. Should the quality of your wear be strong enough to resist this treatment, he will then do his utmost to cause your cotton drill suits (which must be changed and washed a few times weekly) to shrink rapidly until the sleeves retire up toward the elbows and the coat runs away from the waist.

I began to be increasingly overwhelmed by that vague sense of oppression and apprehension which heralds the coming of an attack of fever. There was a continuous ringing in my ears, a painful tightness around my brain. My sleep was fitful and broken and I was tormented with strange dreams. I suffered from intolerable thirst alternated with peculiar shakings and shiverings. Memory of those days wears thin. My mind descended into vagueness--blurred. The fever spread and soon I was utterly devitalized, brain and body like spent flames.

Had I endured all the hazards of travel through dangerous regions in order to fall victim to a mere mosquito? Was malaria, borne by that tiny insect, to take me captive?

For days I had been intermittently down with fever, which persistently snuffed at every passion, even the passion to live. The physical weakness induced by tropical fever is extraordinary, and one drags the body about as a painful burden.

I knew I had returned to South India, for the lizards were sprawled flat on the wall, waiting for unwary flies; the ants were strung out in a long moving line along the floor; the temple bells rang out across the evening air--and across it too sometimes came the temple smells of camphor and incense, or the kitchen smells of curry and spice! Best of all was the last smell--the many-petalled jasmine flowers, so well called "Queen of the Night," planted in my little garden.

One afternoon I sat on the stone flags leading down into the tank, notebook in hand, trying to pencil a few jottings. My head was filled with scraps of dialogue, pictures of quaint scenes, and portraits of queer types which passed through my daily life there. Moreover, I still loved to brood over ponderous problems, and thoughts would circle around them like vultures around a corpse. Hatless, I thought possibly I might develop enough hardihood to withstand the reputed dire effects of the fierce Southern sun. Instead, I succeeded eventually in developing sunstroke and paid the right price for this inexcusable bit of foolishness. Anyway, as I sat beside the placid pool on this afternoon, a shadow fell across the white page of my notebook. I looked around and beheld my friendly sub-inspector of police. He was a Hindu, short, slim, and good-looking. Usually there was a harassed look upon his face, for his duties were onerous. "Want to see a show tonight?" he asked in his laconic way. "Big temple car festival. Idol, procession, singing, ceremonies, and all that." I jumped up and accepted on the spot. "It is extremely kind of you to come such a long distance to tell me," I said gratefully. "Not at all, " he answered. "I have been up on the hills after some fellows in a criminal tribe who failed to report, and looked in on you on the way back. Do come." And so it was arranged.

It was hardly the spot to take a lesson in yoga, this busy street in the heart of Calcutta's business quarter, but nevertheless I heard some memorable things there.

Beyond the drab uneven tract which ran for nearly two miles outside the ashram windows, I caught a glimpse of a tall temple tower. It stood up like a great symbol of this religious land, and day after day, week after week, it reminded me of what lived deep in the South Indian heart.

I would stray out of the compound sometimes and go towards the little town, a short way. As I was sitting down on a stone beside the road, resting awhile, a herdsman might come up to me, stand, and stare with whole-souled curiosity upon the foreigner who represented a race rarely crossing his orbit.

In the bazaar, my eyes were attracted by an old image of the Buddha carved in reddish stone. I bargained with the merchant for it and soon succeeded in carrying off this curio.

Spiritual condition of modern India

The fundamental basis of Hinduism is a conception of God which is at least as lofty as that to be found in any other religion. But time, which develops the physical sciences of the human race, degenerates its spiritual sciences. So India has cluttered up the primal purity of its faith with a miscellaneous assortment of customs which cramp and devitalize the people. Stupid and cruel practices do not become less stupid and less cruel because they receive the sanction of religion. Caste, purdah, early marriage, untouchability, extravagant expenditure on marriage, the unfair laws of inheritance, the countless idiotic duties prescribed by priests, and a host of minor stupidities of which the absurdly exaggerated notion of cow-dung's value is a single sample--these do not help India, they hinder her. They have become embedded in the religious culture of the country and only an iconoclastic ruthless hand can extract them. I am not suggesting that India should throw her faith overboard. I am simply suggesting that this extraction should be made despite the fanatical opposition of priests and the outcries of orthodox old fools. I am the last man who would like to see India turn atheist, like Russia. It is because I love the lofty philosophy of the Upanishads and the inspiring records of India's great Seers that I would like to see the vile superstitions which batten parasitically upon the life-blood of the people driven from the land. I would like to see a new Hinduism arise, purified and set free from its diseases. I would like to see the people unchain themselves from the idiotic custom-prisons into which they have been forced by unspiritual priests who have substituted the letter for the spirit, external ceremony for internal faith. I would like their doped condition to come to an end and the attitude of self-reliance to run like fire throughout the country.

It is easy for the probing historian or experienced studious traveller to see how superstitious practices develop, to watch a beneficent, reasonable, or well-founded custom turned into a stupid, cruel, or absurd one. For a simple instance, take the practice of suttee, the burning of newly made widows on the deceased husband's funeral pyre. It was originally a gesture, symbolic, because never again could the widow marry: sexually and matrimonially she was a dead person. She lay down for a few moments beside the man's body and then got up and joined the onlookers, whereupon a burning torch was applied to the pyre.

Yet something of tangible worth exists behind a number of these superstitions, though how great or how small this number is, I cannot say. It might pay a European to sift them scientifically. Mr. Miles, in Land of the Lingam, tells how an English friend of his, resident in South India, had suffered for thirty-five years from eczema, and had spent a small fortune on doctors to no avail. At last he agreed to let his native bearer apply a thickish red fluid a few times to the skin. The Englishman was permanently cured. Yet the successful remedy turned out to be nothing more than blood from the throat of a certain kind of lizard!

Superstition and folly have been so widespread and so ancient in India that its forms are quite unbelievable. It is wrong to believe that in India truth and wisdom, virtue and altruism alone reigned, or reign: even more foolish to believe that the Hindu religion was or is associated solely with goodness. The great temples of the South drew a large part of their income from the prostitutes recruited by the priests for their service. Education and truth--the enemies of superstition--have been as absent from India as from other lands while priestcraft and exploitation have been as present.

Witchcraft, the black arts, flourish in Indian villages and among jungle tribes.

The India of ignorant villagers is not the country which drew me. The India of Upanishadic seers and sages gave something which could take, with which a seeking mind could be fortified, by which half-found truths could be confirmed. But that is not the India of today: those men are gone; only the texts remain.

Arrian, who scratched his name on the Egyptian Sphinx and wrote a summary of Nearchus' travels in India, mentioned the rarity of the Rishees. If that was the situation two thousand years ago, it has not improved today.

I left Europe some years ago in search of Oriental wisdom, as Anguetil du Perron had left it nearly two centuries earlier. Only for me there will be no discovery of new Upanishads to crown the end, because I seek a higher life, not rarer books.

Ten years of Oriental travel and residence, undertaken solely with this object, gained me a widening and deepening of knowledge, as well as the friendship of some personalities powerful in the spiritual world.

When I went among the yogis and asked them for the secrets of their beliefs and practices, I set out a little better equipped materially than Anquetil du Perron, who set out in November 1754 for India to obtain the sacred books of Zoroaster for Europe and to learn the secrets of the Parsis. He carried only two shirts, two handkerchiefs, a pair of stockings, a Bible, and a volume of Montaigne's Essays. It took him three years to travel from Pondicherry in French India to Surat, the headquarters of the Parsis, in the midst of miseries and difficulties. I have done almost the same journey in three days, thanks to the railways built by British enterprise.

Armed with the theories of yoga on the one hand, and with the latest findings of Western psychology on the other, I thought one might explain many an alleged miracle.

I must make it quite clear to an unfamiliar European audience that the real yogis are neither showmen nor mountebanks.

This dual understanding of mine, this comprehension of the contending forces of Asia and Europe, proved to be of some service--to slough off my European skin. I can transfer myself from the Asiatic standpoint to the European without difficulty and without a minute's delay.

Although I met these people on singularly intimate terms on account of this spiritual bond, I sometimes felt that our differences of mental processes and physical habits separated us and prevented any communication.

Although I have deliberately turned away from the portals of contemporary Indian ashrams and given up many of the hopes and beliefs they once aroused in me, I still revere and study the writings of old Indian seers, which remain as grand and as true as ever.

These moss-covered books mean little to me when considered on account of their age, but much when considered on account of their wisdom.

I shall try to explain the extinct arcana of Asia, to interpret its invisible spirit, and to cast some fresh ray of light amid its grey shadows.

I do not leave the city before encountering a benevolent-looking Muhammedan fakir, who has attained wide local reputation as being the holiest man of the district. I do not doubt this statement: goodness is plainly written on his face. But when enthusiastic persons show me his footprint sunk deeply in a broad rock and tell me that he caused it to appear by stamping his foot when a sceptic demanded proof of his miraculous powers, I sadly turn away.* (*footnote: One can find similar myths in other parts of India, though this was the first occasion when I had seen it created during a man's lifetime. At the hill of Bhurmoilla there is a footprint of the god Vishnu imprinted in stone; at St. Thome there is a rock which retains the faintly discoloured impression of the foot of Saint Thomas, made after he was wounded by an arrow more than a thousand years ago; at Buddh Gaya there are no less than twenty footprints of Gautama Buddha, all unnaturally large--as though size indicates sanctity! One, indeed, is two feet long! And in a Delhi mosque the keeper will show you a footprint neatly made by the historic Muhammed Shah in marble. Common sense, plus a little understanding of Oriental mentality, indicates that all these visible tokens of the miraculous are nothing more than the handiwork of pious devotees, who think it necessary to bolster up a single fact with fifty fictions.)

We drive westwards again and ultimately pass through the old town of Miraj, where men foregather from the surrounding country to sell their produce and to trade. One slips back to the early medieval period in its streets, which are covered with thick sandy dust.

He never asked you to exhibit the palm of your hand that he might gaze at the lines therein. He simply went into a trancelike meditation and then rattled off your past history or predicted the future with astonishing accuracy. Above all, he refused to accept any payment for his gift, though he would not refuse the offer of food or a simple piece of cheap cloth if these were offered to him voluntarily. I gauged my informant's recital as being on the side of probability, for he was himself a shrewd man capable of criticizing religious humbug of the kind which abounds in India.

Here is a man of that primary stuff of which the grand prophets were made. A conversation with him carries my mind back to those spacious days when Asia's illuminated seers gave her greatness and wisdom.

Here in the Arcot Province this phenomenon of fire-magic is so common that I have not hitherto thought it worth recording. The fire-walkers of Arcot are famed throughout the South, and there are many of them. Even the little town of Tiruvannamalai, where I reside, has a quarter where several mud houses hold a whole tribe of them. These people are chiefly potters by trade. Once a year they stage their show, under the leadership of the High Priest of their own temple. They have a little temple perched on the summit of a hill. They walk in procession to the temple at about the middle of the year (the date is fixed by the calendar of religious festivals) and then perform their magic. They are illiterate uneducated people, simple, living close to nature, as their houses are on the outskirts. I questioned the High Priest very closely about their secrets, and this is what he told me:

"Everyone who is to take part in the fire-walk--and all members of our people (we are Harijans, outcastes) usually engage in it by their own desire--everyone has to prepare for forty days beforehand by leading an ascetic life. They must eat once a day only, and not engage in sexual intercourse. They must take solemn vows in the temple, under my direction, at the beginning of the forty days, to abstain and to keep their minds engaged in prayer as much as possible. If a man attempts the fire-walk and gets scorched, we take it as a sign that he has not kept his vows, and generally when he is accused he confesses that it is so: but the majority walk successfully through the ordeal and vindicate our ancient custom."

I asked to what did he attribute this power of resisting the heat. He replied: "It is through the power of faith, devotion. We have intense faith in our own deity, whom we worship, and we dedicate this festival to him. We believe that he protects us from the fire in return for our devotion and asceticism."

"Why do you carry on this custom?" I asked.

"It is a demonstration to show the power of spiritual things over material," he answered. "It strengthens our own religious faith, and may affect others. To us it is a proof of the existence of our deity."

Life in Benares was like this. Fakirs with an eye for business would hear of me and come to my abode. Charlatans, beggars, and religious humbugs would approach me. Experience gradually taught me and I soon learned to detect the genuine from the false, and with a wave of the hand I would dismiss the latter before they could begin their wordy requests.

Black magician types abound in India. At Durgaon, on the Nerbudda River, there were many black magicians among the Bhils. The latter tribe have real powers. For a few annas it is possible to procure their services to injure an enemy. I tested the truth of a legend that if you do not offer food to a Bhil who takes a fancy to it he will turn it to poison. A Bhil came up once and fancied some of my dinner. I did not offer it to him, nor did I eat it. I waited, and two hours later the food turned green. I offered it to a crow, who ate it and fell dead. Black magicians usually have a horrible death as retribution. They are sometimes killed by the spirits they use. They correspond to evil witch-doctors. A favourite method used by the black magicians to injure or kill a person (for their clients) is to stick needles in a lemon and put it near the house of the person. The lemon represents his head, and the needles are injuring his head by some magical powers.

The holy men of India put ashes--or dust if they have none--on their forehead or smear it on their bodies because it represents the dissolution of their personal life, the reduction of all their possessions to nothing, and the discarding of all that is superfluous to their great purpose in life--union with the Supreme Spirit.

Swami Omananda Puri tells of the yogi she saw jumping and barking like a dog in an Indian bazaar as part of his training to overcome pride. In India, as in most Oriental countries, the dog is held in contempt because it is often a scavenger, eating filth and animal droppings. Such is the crazy atmosphere of tropical spirituality!

It is a common thing to see these holy men in the scantiest of rags; they have reduced their belongings to an absolute minimum, as befits the wandering gypsy-like life which most of them lead. A coconut shell water-pot, complete with lid, handle, and spout, a begging bowl, and a linen wrap for carrying a few other articles represent their usual outfit.

Every twelve years a (Brahmin) holy man is supposed to return and see his birthplace, and then go wandering again.

The Indian sadhu often has no fixed home. His roots are nowhere; his domicile is everywhere.

Ashrams are really monasteries; ascetic sadhus are really monks.

The yogi's glazed stare may be of utter blankness or high-level absorption.

Every sannyasin carries his calabash or water-pot, made from a gourd-shell, and his bamboo staff. The pot hangs from his waist and the staff is held in his hand.

We have to be factual and take Indian yoga as we find it historically existent today, not as two-thousand-year-old texts say it ought to be. It is antiquated in its historic associations and limited in its practical applications. It shows no direct connection with the intellectual needs and environmental circumstances of twentieth-century life.

The ancient East had great mystics and celebrated thinkers of whom she could well be proud. But a people cannot live on a great spiritual past forever. It has to make the present great too. This, as must sadly be noted, it has failed to do.

It is a common delusion to believe that because a place or country has harboured spiritual greatness in the past, it is therefore best suited to harbour it in the present. The fact is that the only inspiration they can give today is that of either a museum or a library, where memories and records may be studied intellectually, but not lived. For that last purpose, it is essential to consider circumstances as they now are.

Those who thrill to the statements of these old books--and rightly so--can only thrill to the actual spiritual conditions of present-day India by being blind dreamers, perceiving their own rosy dreams and not the dark realities.

The old spiritual traditions are passing away, but something of their afterglow lingers on in villages, suburbs, and scholastic circles.

It would be more true nowadays to say of the Orientals what Swedenborg said of the eighteenth-century European people: "The Christians are in fact so corrupt that the Lord has betaken himself to the Gentiles and the angels have slender hopes of the Christians. When the Gentiles are instructed in these spiritual matters, they are in a clearer, more interior perception or intuition than the Christians; and many more of them are saved." The Shangrians who regard themselves as the spiritual elect of this planet are merely living on worn out secondhand faded glories; they are taking to themselves what properly belongs to the ancestors who lived thousands of years ago.

Too often there is the slavish repetition of Advaitic dogmas, the dread of thinking for oneself or of daring to subject a sentence from Shankaracharya to critical semantic examination; the unimaginative, uncreative mentality which shuts the door on all non-Advaitic thought and interests or work since Shankara's century can only write commentaries on his work, producing mere echoes, never an inspired new statement.

The bane of Indian higher cultural life is the lack of independent ventures of the mind. For hundreds of years men have not had the courage to do more than write interpretations of other books, which themselves were written thousands of years ago and hence before human knowledge had advanced to the degree it did later. We find in Sanskrit few original works but any number of commentaries.

India suffers from the complaints of old age, just as America suffers from the complaints of adolescence.

These pundits, successor-gurus, and such like are only copyists. They are rigid and frigid, congealed in the forms of others who lived before their own time. They are only imitators, neither original nor creative, and above all are sunk in the letter and insensitive to the spirit.

The downfall of India is due to a variety of causes, but one of them is the adulteration of esoteric truth by theological superstition. The element of truth in the resulting mixture, instead of being helpful, became harmful; and the people who might have become the world's leading guides became instead the world's failures both in heaven and on earth. We have nothing to fear from truth, for it can incapacitate no one; but we have everything to fear from those modicums of truth mixed with large doses of harmful drugs which stifle the life-breath of men and nations. Truth must therefore be thoroughly defined, not by biased prejudice but by its own inherent light.

Indian culture suffers from the malady of being too consciously imitative of its own past, from being overwhelmed by the sense of its own historic continuity, and from the lack of vigorous and positive contemporary achievement.

It would be folly to believe that India is peopled by yogis squatting in meditation under every tree, or to go there hopefully in expectation of finding a mahatma in every city.

My Indian friend Dr. Rammurti Mishra, a talented surgeon and practising yogi himself, once estimated that there were possibly a thousand real yogis in his country while its population numbered approximately 375,000,000.

The fact that ash-smeared fakirs or repulsive and dirty ascetics have been often mistaken for true yogis does not make them such. European travellers, as well as the ignorant native populace, are not always in a position to distinguish between the genuine and pseudo varieties. Stupid acts of self-martyrdom are not the true yoga. Their madnesses would be scorned by the genuine, who regard the body as a sacred temple for the holy Guest, the immortal Soul, and treat it accordingly.

I saw at length that I had nothing to learn from men who were ignorant and illiterate, sometimes immoral and dishonest, often idle and parasitical. But were I to judge the ancient and primitive principles of yoga by the practices of many of its modern sophisticated votaries, it would be most unfair.

If some of these ash-covered and cross-legged holy men sitting half-naked under shady palms or inside dim huts are cultured or wise, many are ignorant or stupid. Yet both kinds have run up the flag of rebellion against the world's life, the world's ways, and the world's beliefs.

It is open to anyone to become a begging friar, but only those who are accepted and trained by a teacher of the order can become a sannyasin. The sadhu's life offers an easy means of escape to the lazy man. He can spend a lifetime without doing a single stroke of work, and the pious or the charitable will give him food and shelter.

Although masquerading under the same name, these fakirs do not represent the honoured class of real yogis, who deserve high respect. There has been much falling-off in attainment compared with their great predecessors.

Providing people only with the ceremonial nonsense of their religions, priests were unable to lift the land toward a true spirituality; yet they hindered the material development which was essential to raise the standards of living and education.

I was annoyed by the temple priests--wretches who pretend to worship Buddha but really worship the purse--vile beings who pester every visitor with continuous demands for money. One receives such requests every few yards, so that what should be a sacred and hallowed walk becomes a happy hunting-ground for mere mercenaries. O, Gautama! How sad I felt that these parasites should pollute the sacred precincts of Buddh Gaya.

How can one give oneself up to the pleasure of an artistic meditation when these same meddlers press upon your heels and repeat their request for baksheesh with endless monotony? It seems that one can do little in India, or anywhere in the East for that matter, without baksheesh. I know that wherever I went around the country this constant demand for "a few annas" finally wore down my temper. Yet I ought to have learned tolerance.

India's curses are rapacious priests who turn religion into a business, inherited ignorance which lets thrive vile superstitions, and dishonest charlatans who trade on the credulity which afflicts seventy-five percent of the people. The cure of these things is Western education and sound instruction. India's greatest oppressors do not come from the grey West, but from within herself.

The processional crowds which move out of Indian temples and accompany the idol through the dusty streets are unlikely to contain philosophers in their ranks.

You might as well talk Aquinian theology to the average Christian as talk Vedanta metaphysics to the average Hindu.

Try to talk philosophical Hinduism with the wretched priests who supervise the beheading of goats on the threshold of a temple of Kali; try to discuss Vedanta with the poor crazed superstitious folk who stoop to touch the sacred blood of the slaughtered goat with their pious hands!

The Neo-Brahmins offer a carefully expurgated system of Hinduism, all sugar and no gritty sand! They have dropped the curtain on the idol-worship and kept careful silence on degrading customs.

I thought of these teeming toiling millions who manage somehow to keep afloat upon the sea of existence, pouring their petitions the while into the deaf ears of India's plentiful gods.

Every part of India holds its visionary or saint, its devotee or philosopher, its fanatic or lunatic.

In those days there was a street, or part of a street, inhabited by prostitutes, each in her own house, with a mother or housekeeper and servants. The younger or higher-grade ones usually had some talent with a musical instrument, which they played to entertain clients. There was nothing to remark in all this, but what was remarkable was that the street stood on ground belonging to Arunachala's great temple, and that the house rent was collected regularly by an employee of the temple trustees. The women were part of a very ancient system which was prevalent throughout the South, and in other parts wherever the larger temple establishments attracted pilgrims--flourishing particularly during the festivals which recurred several times a year. The girls and women who danced in the ceremonies and processions before the sacred idols were drawn from the ranks of those prostitutes, hence their name, Devadasis ("servants of the god"). I remember once sitting in a bullock cart with Dr. Krishnaswami, the local educated physician who was the personal doctor to Ramana Maharshi and one of the saint's earliest devotees, driving through this street on our way to the medico's home. A few of them stood idly on the verandahs of their houses as we passed by. He turned to me and said bitterly, "They have been responsible for the ruin of many a man's health." For syphilis and lesser venereal diseases infect a high percentage of these unfortunate creatures despite their "sacred" character, just as much as they do their secular sisters in the larger towns, modern factory areas, and slum quarters of the Orient. They were dedicated to the presiding deity of the temple from infancy, and so could not marry anyone else but had to spend the brief years of their beauty in sexual promiscuity. The tradition which made this possible has been breaking down, like several other Indian traditions, particularly through the efforts of social reformers and leaders like Gandhi, and many temples have dispensed with Devadasis' services. Whether this has now happened at Arunachala I do not know.

We heard much of, and I wrote much about, Indian spirituality. But we hear less of, and I wrote nothing on, Indian sensuality. How many hundreds of phallic symbols stand upright in the front courtyards of temples! What of the celebrated temples of Khajuraho, where erotic carvings cover their elongated cone shapes?

The local priest gravely asserted that the sculptures depicting scenes of human coupling were carved to keep lightning from striking the building!

The front-rank position which Indian yoga holds in the mystical world may easily make it the chief claimant to humanity's attention when humanity turns appreciatively towards mysticism. But such a position is itself partly the outcome of India's having retained the medieval way of life longer than the Western nations. There was plenty of mysticism in medieval Europe. It was India's failure to keep pace with Western intellectual and physical development that permitted her to retain her mystical predominance.

The vigour which India once showed in the realms of philosophy and mysticism has vanished. Even the fervour with which it is still pursuing religion has become mechanical and made-to-order. For it is passing through a phase in its evolution which Europe passed through a few hundred years ago. Philosophy, mysticism, and religion flourished triumphantly in the leading European countries during the medieval period but broke down and have largely passed away in influence and power and prestige under the impact of the spread of modern knowledge and the application of rationalistic science and inventive technology to life. India today is going through precisely the same phase that Europe has already travelled. The half-feudal structure of society is collapsing. The prestige of priests and mystics is tottering. Political changes and economic needs are delivering heavy blows to the ancient ideas which once supported India so well but which have become misfits in the new world of the twentieth century. The notion that India is and will ever remain "spiritual" is an illusion that is being exploded before our eyes. Her fate is driving her to take the same road that medieval Europe was driven to take. She will enter increasingly on the development of rational outlook and material civilization, with the consequent rejection of superstitious belief and post-death paradises. But she will not travel so foolishly far along this road as did the West. For the influence of her whole tradition, the atmosphere of her whole environment, and the warning voices of her living leaders will combine to check her from becoming unbalanced. She will pause and note the woe and destruction that has fallen on ruined Europe and she will ask: "Is this to be the end of the new road?" She will pull herself up in time.

The plagues, dirt, poverty, and superstition of present-day India find their parallel in the plagues, dirt, poverty, and superstition of medieval Europe. Belief in witchcraft and practice of witch-burning were as rife then as belief in bhuts (evil spirits) and practice of puja-magic are rife in India today. The open street-sewers of London have vanished completely but the open street-sewers of India remain. When chloroform was first introduced into England, its use was widely denounced as atheistic, just as Gandhi denounced the use of modern surgery and power machinery as Satanic. What has been responsible for the advances in Europe? There is but one answer--reason, and its scientific application.

Modern India is really medieval Europe transplanted to an Eastern clime. Religion in both cases plays and played a dominant part. Men turned their intelligence to the creation of theological problems in the Middle Ages, and then spent centuries arguing about them. Those who travelled did so in order to make long pilgrimages to holy shrines. The populace was enslaved by stupid customs and deeply rooted superstitious notions kept alive by a powerful priesthood. The intelligentsia debated whether an angel could stand on the point of a needle, or engaged in splitting metaphysical hairs. Though these amusing things have died out of the present-day West, they have not died out of present-day India. It is pitiful to find her pundits and priests still cherishing notions which were platitudes in medieval Europe, but which the modern world disregards scornfully. Most Indians still believe in charms and spells and witchcraft; so, four centuries ago, did most Englishmen. Most Hindus will believe any barbarous nonsense if only it is told them by a priest; so, four centuries ago, did many Englishmen.

In the Orient exhibitionism has too often masqueraded as asceticism.

Yellow-robed ascetics will offer you sacred ashes, fat pundits will whisper miracle-working mantrams in your ear, but both are merely exploiting human superstition.

Why is it that the Oriental masses live in materially degraded and mentally enslaved surroundings? And are they not mostly famished men with skinny bodies and hollow stomachs in this land of many paupers and a few potentates? Is it unreasonable to expect that the holy men should, by their transcendental wisdom and spiritual forces, have kindled such great inward and outward development amongst their own peoples as to place them in the vanguard of nations? Yet the very reverse seems to be the case. They themselves give various and conflicting answers to these pointed queries. What credence can be given to their answers? Shall we remind them, with Carlyle, "There is your fact staring you in the face"? Anyone who studies the history of the bygone Orient or travels through the present-day Orient will know that no words can get rid of this uncomfortable fact. The suffering and ignorant masses have not had their sufferings removed nor their ignorance dispelled by the holy men whom they have fed and supported. There have been honourable excellent and admirable exceptions--such as Swami Vivekananda, of course--who have devoted their lives to service or instruction, but they have been few and far between. What, then, does this mean? It can only mean that the efforts of the mystics were primarily directed for their own benefit, on the one hand, and that they lacked either the desire or the capacity to assist the masses, on the other hand. This is not necessarily to their discredit if we regard it as an indication of the limitations of mysticism itself; it stands to their discredit only if they make exaggerated claims on its behalf, as they usually do.

The question is often asked in Europe and even more in America why, if the yogis possess any special power, do they not make any marked improvement in the material environment of the masses? This question is soon followed by several others. Why did their intuition not rise and tell them to warn leaders of the Mutiny of 1857 that the movement would end in failure, and thus save many thousands of their countrymen from death and mutilation? Why did they not use their supernatural powers to hypnotize, or at least to frighten away from their sacred land, the first fierce Muhammedan invaders more than a thousand years ago? Why did they not give ample warning to the ill-fated peasants of the coming of historic famine, so that they might make proper preparation in adequate time to save themselves, their unfortunate families, and their helpless cattle? Either they possessed these powers or they did not. If they possessed them and did not use them to help their suffering fellows, then they were lacking in the first elements of common humanity. If they did not possess them, why do they still go on making extravagant claims to such powers?

It is not for me to answer these questions on behalf of the Indian yogis. They themselves might give different replies. I can only guess at some of the possible ones.

Those swamis who have gone forth with the idea of changing the world into a greater India have not understood the world.

The compassion for human suffering which Jesus showed, the sympathy with human seeking which Buddha showed, are not very prominent traits in the yogis. Jesus and Buddha tried to save men; the yogis try to hide from them.

The indifference of most Indian mystics (Sri Aurobindo shines out as the most luminous exception) to the gigantic conflict then being waged for humanity's soul was, in the end, the result of an incomplete metaphysical approach, an antiquated practical approach, and a self-centered mystical approach.

"Frequently the ideal of the cold wise man who refuses all activity in the world is exalted, with the result that India has become the scene of a culture of dead men walking the earth which is peopled with ghosts."--Sir S. Radhakrishnan (in an address at Calcutta, 1931)

Sir Shanmukham Chettiar, formerly prime minister of Cochin and once head of a Government of India Mission to Washington, made the following significant admission in his convocation address to Annamalai University, 1943: "I have often asked myself the question: Why is it that, in spite of all its great philosophy, the Hindu religion has not kindled this spirit in the hearts of its votaries? The spirit of social service seems to be alien to our temperament and upbringing."

The worst of living in the largest ashrams is that they flatten out their inhabitants into nonentities, they destroy whatever strikingly individual qualities, original and creative energies, a talented man may have and turn him into an intellectual eunuch.

To persist in living in an atmosphere of unreality is to stagnate indefinitely.

I contributed toward that movement to Indian ashrams; now I criticize it.

India's change and modernization

India, which has sunk so low in the scale of nations, may yet rise again to become the moral leader of the world. A country with such elevated thoughts at its heart cannot die.

Village life suffers from the defects of senility. It lies in a rut--a rut of dirt disease laziness inefficiency, squalor and poverty, ignorance and uneconomical custom. It is in urgent need of reform. The peasants need to be taught how to farm more sensibly; they need to be taught the use of iron plows and to give up the bit of twisted wood which served the ancients but shames the moderns. Everyone--man woman and child--needs to be taught to respect privacy and cleanliness in such simple things as attending to the calls of nature, and not to degrade themselves by imitating the animals. They are human beings and ought to construct simple screened latrines or to dig walled pits rather than ease themselves in public trenches in the street. They need to take some of the gloom out of their dark houses by putting in windows admitting more light. One feels sorry for these victims of unhealthy customs and realizes how strong is the need of fresh vitalizing reforms.

They need to plant more fruit and vegetables and less rice. They ought to substitute wheelbarrows for their heads when moving loads of muck, dirt, or manure.

These reforms must come from external influence, from European interference, if you wish, for initiative is not an Indian gift. I venture to suggest that the Indian government could scarcely perform a more useful service, with so little trouble, than to carry out the following plan: let them translate Mr. F.L. Brayne's little book Socrates in an Indian Village into the principal languages of the country and have it printed in cheap pamphlet form. Let the study of this booklet be made compulsory in every school in India, whether village room or grand university, so that the younger generation will start equipped with these ideas. There is no hope in India from the older men. Greybeards are stuck in their grooves; they are in a rut. But from the younger ones--yes. Young iconoclasts, custom-breakers, are needed.

As I sat in this stuffy quarter of this stuffy city, I thought of the things I would do if it were handed over to me. First--and a paramount necessity--I would have a squadron of "sweepers" thoroughly clean and disinfect the entire city. Then I would collect all the beggars, all the self-mutilated objects of charity, all the wandering lepers, and arrange to put them into useful work or a home for the incurable. I would install electric lighting, a clean water-tap system, and start a local newspaper which would seek to foster civic pride.

Behind the facade of India's political trouble looms the dark shadow of economic trouble. A vast primitive agricultural population finds itself in distress and listens to the politician who offers a panacea. Their grievances are genuine and obvious but the cure for them is not so obvious. It is not only a matter of headwork, but of heartwork: some goodwill is needed.

India, in her poverty, should not only call on the help of Brahma but also on the help of modern technical and scientific methods of industry and agriculture.

Benares: I thought what we would have made of this river bank had England been given a free hand, and I smiled. I thought, too, of the stately and regular stone building on Victoria Embankment in London, and that magnificent boulevard which fronts it.

The industrialization of India will make its real appearance only when the spirit of joint stock enterprise makes its appearance.

This eager hunger for university degrees is pitiable. India's need is not for more lawyers or politicians with empty letters trailing after their names, but for qualified industrialists, men with knowledge of technical crafts and manufactures.

There are many old Brahmins who offer romantic defiance to progress. They prefer the ancient ways of living, the stereotyped lines of thought. They would rather drink dirty well-water than finger these "new-fangled" taps.

India needs more science and sanitation, less religion and superstition.

Even such an authority as Mrs. Indira Gandhi, when India's own prime minister, admitted that "the old society with its narrow confines, made all the more oppressive in India by the divisions and taboos, did deny the freedom to think and to develop." Is it surprising that with all the challenges of our era there is need of new attitudes, original thinking, and free search?

Some of my Indian friends are alarmed and horrified when they contemplate the fate which is in store for their land, and it may be that the downward arc of revolution will fling them into a more materialistic life for their own benefit. It is ridiculous to ignore the mingling of ideas which have come to them by contact with the West. The Orient is becoming Occidentalized at a rapid rate. The process is inevitable simply because Oriental life, like our own medieval life, lacked certain elements which we moderns have added to render existence comfortable and less laborious. Our medieval European forefathers ate with their fingers, precisely as my contemporary South Indian friends do today. I am not enamoured of the medieval interpretation of life; its poverty of comfort and narrowness of outlook are neither simplicity nor spirituality in my eyes. The Middle Ages are remote enough in thought and habit to render them unattractive to the modern mind. The simple life is not incongruous with the electric light, nor the tranquil mind with automobiles--all depends upon how we use or abuse both light and car. Inner quietude is priceless, but it need not conflict with outer comfort.

The Asiatic people, like the African, want more of the good things of this world. They want it more than they want spirituality. So more and more most of their spiritual guides denounce what they call the growing "materialistic tendencies." Thus these guides reap the harvest they have sown. Since most of them have taken monkish vows, they teach the laity similar ideals--to renounce the world is regarded as the highest way and the only way to God! But the masses have had enough of a poverty-stricken existence, enough too of negative teaching. So if they turn away from the spiritual guides to materialistic ones, the blame is not all theirs. Some of it must be in the faulty emphasis of the teaching too. If the sight of a yellow-garbed holy man no longer arouses abject reverence in all hearts, if Gandhi's own disciple and heir tried to emulate the West in raising the standard of material living, perhaps the pendulum-like activity of the world-movement is countering the upset balance of things.

I believe that Kathleen Mayo was as much sent by God to sting the Indians into doing something for downtrodden women, as any of their own prophets who bring spiritual messages. For God works in mysterious ways.

Will India slide into a military dictatorship, chaos, revolution, or Communism? Will its political unity fall to pieces? Will the ancestral teachings of Hinduism be half-drowned in a new wave of pressing concern with material affairs? Will India's politicians prove themselves in the end to be bankrupt? And what about the priests, the yogis, and the swamis? Is their parrot-like uncreative repetition of past forms dying because the past, in which they live and to which they cling, is itself dying? It is not for me to say what the signs in China, Tibet, Vietnam, and soon all South Asia, portend for India.

A truly spiritual man partook of no pleasures other than religious ones, engaged in no worldly activities--this was the typical Indian attitude until quite lately. But the release of new energies when India was released from alien rule, the shock of invasion by Chinese Communists, and the impact of the Five-Year Plans of forced and quickened industrialization brought in a less sternly ascetic, more humanly activistic, and better-balanced outlook.

Young India is ceasing to listen to the sacred voice of its ancient lawgiver, Manu, and is beginning to listen to the bitter voice of Marx. Although this noteworthy change is symptomatic of the iconoclasm and materialism of our time, it is even more indicative of the evil time descending on religion.

The attitude of the younger generation of educated Indians towards their holy men who withdraw from society and squat in ashrams is summed up by an unsolicited remark which was made to me in 1944 by a twenty-seven-year-old official of the Reserve Bank of India, Madras Branch. He said: "We young Indians feel that x, a famous yogi, is a shirker and that he has given no help to India."

I think India will be all the better for the change, since spiritually she is at a low ebb, and materially she seems to be taking the same road which the Western races have taken--a road that leads to a miserable dead-end. The culture of India is so conservative that only emancipated virile youth can change it. And youth has begun the change. It has begun as a little stream; it will finish the course as a resistless tidal current.

India's way of salvation will come in her renunciation of barbarous superstitions, however sanctified by religion, in forgetting the nonsense of her past and turning her face toward the future. The old men look wistfully toward the past, but the young men turn ruthlessly away.

Time is wearing the gilt off old India's idols. The prestige they command is beginning to wane among the youthful citizens of the towns.

The venerable old hermit smiled disdainfully at the hurrying crowd, at the taxis and tramcars which represent part of modernity's contribution to the city's life. It was dignified old age gazing down at restless youth.

Young India has rebelliously and lately thrust aside the old standards; for weal or woe the god of atheism is entering the pantheon--notably in the Bengal and Bombay Presidencies.

The young university-bred, town-fed Indian is more interested in modern politics than in ancient yoga. Quite possibly he regards the venerable bearded yogi as a museum specimen.

The inert Asiatic acceptance of conditions as they were is going.

India has awakened from the slumber of centuries and will yet take her place in fulfilment of the high destiny reserved for her.


What is so often overlooked by its present advocates is that the four-caste system was devised for the Hindus at an early stage of their history, and quite obviously for a small primitive community. But under modern conditions, with thousands of different occupations open to mankind and with democracy in the air, it has become a total anachronism--as divorced from social facts as it is hampering to social justice. The caste system must have been a blessing to a small primitive society but it has become a curse to a large twentieth-century one. Wisdom established it but foolishness perpetuates it.

Even when a low-caste Hindu believes he could better do the work or carry out the duties of a higher caste, he is theoretically forbidden to change to it. If he defies his exploiters and makes the change, he is told by some that he has committed a sin and is contributing to the ruin of God's planned social order. If a cobbler finds himself possessed of literary genius, he must go on repairing shoes! If he refuses and takes to writing, he is told that he endangers his own salvation and society's harmony! Such is the absurd and cruel consequence of blind acceptance of an arrangement which was certainly convenient in a simple primitive world but is no longer so in our modern complex one. And this, in its own turn, is the consequence of religious superstition inculcating a pseudo-resignation to events by misusing the name of God.

What is the origin of the institution of caste, for instance? The system was unknown in India before the Aryans arrived. They were a light-coloured people, as you know, and the Dravidians are very dark. They wished to keep their stock pure, to remain apart racially, and therefore established this rigid system of caste.

The ancient Indian lawgivers, who were also their spiritually enlightened sages and who laid down the foundations of their religion and mysticism, taught that caste was a fact in nature based on the growth of the quality of an individual through successive series of lives on earth. That the caste system was later used as a means for repression and exploitation is beside the point. Any good thing can be misused and abused and then becomes a bad thing. In any case, today even the Indians admit that caste has fallen into confusion and that the quality of a person is no longer entirely revealed by the kind of family into which he is born. Nevertheless, we must qualify this by saying that enough does still remain to give some indication of the probabilities of the inner worth of a person from the type of environment in which he was brought up.

Caste is a fact in nature and must be accepted as such, because there are different levels of human development; but one should not fall into a trap of making it an eternal fact of nature, of refusing to make the caste system flexible and its members mobile, so that they can pass up from a lower to a higher form of caste during their lifetime--and not in some future incarnation as the Brahmins assert. But every social hierarchy tries to preserve itself for selfish purposes, and this is what happens with the caste system. Is it any wonder that sooner or later the members of the lower caste revolt and destroy the whole system? This happened in India, is still happening in India, and has happened in China, Japan, and many other countries.

Tradition is the accompaniment of caste. When it is completely out of touch with the times it is likely to fray, become threadbare, wear out, and fall to pieces. And then the caste falls with it.

Only when a social class such as a hereditary aristocracy, a priestly class, or an ecclesiastic hierarchy is really and inwardly superior, alive and significant, does it deserve respect. If it lacks this inner element, it is merely a withered copy of what it once was. That is, it is dying and inferior.

Hindu orthodoxy carries the belief in possible pollution by inferior auras to an extreme but logical extent. A high-caste person whose habits have not been changed by residence in the West or by contact with Western education will not allow a dog into his house as a pet or for protection. Its mere presence is regarded as unclean, so he will certainly never stroke it. And it is not only the propinquity of living creatures which may pollute him: even the handling of inanimate objects may do so if a lower-caste person has previously handled them. It is believed that such impure magnetism may remain attached for months.

Caste is a fact in nature. It itself will abolish all attempts to abolish it. But if it is to be acceptable, it must abolish its arrogance, intolerance, and permanent exclusiveness. The door into it should be open--to merit.

Caste is certainly a fact of nature, but it is not an eternal unchangeable fact. Individual members can rise to a higher or sink to a lower caste, and do. To maintain the standards of any caste is proper, but to do so by preventing all new entries behind rigidly built, unscalable walls is tyrannical.

In a period of caste confusion like ours, personal merit and personal achievement take the place of status conferred by birth, by family descent. Social order and social hierarchy of the old kind must today prove their reality or be destroyed by the world-wide tidal wave of uprising.

It was not only the cultured Chinese who thought it unpleasant and demeaning to shake hands but also the orthodox Brahmin. For him the touch or shadow of a non-Brahmin would pollute his own aura.

Indian religious law forbids the mixing of colours and organizes society on a skin colour basis (referred to as varna).

General and comparative

The general tendency among all the Asiatic countries is still to look to India--and not to Tibet--as the centre of traditional wisdom, the source of true religious and philosophic culture, and the repository of living authority concerning yoga. This tendency is not a mistaken one.

India has had in the past more of the knowledge of the higher philosophy and more of its traditions than any other country in the world. Yet it was not the teaching's original home. The knowledge passed to it from other civilizations which are now extinct.

India has a longer history of spiritual discovery than any other country in the world.

If the knowledge which has come to students of the modern study of comparative religion, mysticism, and philosophy is judged impartially, it attests the historic fact that ancient and medieval India led the whole world in this spiritual culture.

We read, hear, and speak of the spiritual wisdom of the East; but the term is used far too glibly. The different peoples have had different religions, and even within one and the same religion there are different views. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism--each has its sects, none in agreement with the others as to what constitutes truth, or even the way to it. Even if India is selected as the teacher (which is an act of judgement implying a capability which is already possessed through a knowledge of truth), the gurus there follow inherited systems and teach traditional doctrines which do not support each other. There is no unique teaching which is Indian alone and cannot be found elsewhere.

The possession of a profound wisdom and the tradition of a mystical practice are not exclusively Indian. To believe that these things never existed in the past and do not exist now outside that country, as I believed in more adolescent years, shows a failure in research.

The philosophy of truth is not, and never was, the exclusive possession of India.

The tradition of this hidden philosophy has been carefully transmitted from a time so ancient that even five thousand years ago Yajnavalkya mentions in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad its origin as having been lost in still earlier antiquity.

"This lore, my son, is the esoteric essence of all the Vedas, independent of tradition or of scripture, a self-evidencing doctrine. This instruction is better than the gift of this whole world, were it filled with jewels."--Mahabharata

It could be said that to put fine points upon these three Sanskrit words which are used so loosely today might be helpful to students. First, the word guru applies to one who opens the eyes of those who are spiritually blind. The title swami applies to one who provides spiritual teaching for the ignorant. The term acharya applies to one who provides the best example of spiritual conduct.

The addition of "ji" adds reverence to a title or name, as in "guruji," especially as used by devotees.

Why is it that so many Indian cults, systems, sects, and schools have to posit an authority for their teachings higher than that of their founder? Why do so many have to make assertions like "the teaching was originally imparted by the god Shiva to our first guru. It was revealed by him in great secrecy?"

It is a fallacy to believe that there is some place so perfect as to be outside the problems which beset all other places, or some man so wise and good as to be a god in human guise.

There is this difference between the two largest and oldest Asiatic peoples. The mystics of India always sought an idealized human being as their master. When they found him, he was proclaimed God incarnate; everything he said or did, everything about him was considered perfect. Consequently they fell into self-deception and in their excess created an unhealthy relationship. The mystics of China were not such dreamers. They sought no impossible human perfection; they recognized necessary human limitations and inescapable human flaws.

Under the aspect of Dakshinamurti, it was Shiva himself who tried to initiate the Mounis under the banyan tree. But it was useless, unsuccessful. This is one tradition which I was taught, quite the contrary to what the Shankara followers learn.

The spectacle of metaphysicians, yogis, and religionists fussing over their little respective fragments, in the belief that they represented the whole, greets our astonished gaze! How much could a mere novice hope to learn when most of the experts themselves are struggling to apprehend the alphabet of their own traditional doctrines? Sometimes their attempts to elucidate the higher wisdom end only in darkening it! This medley of opposed opinions among learned men themselves may be amusing to an indifferent observer but is agonizing to an ardent seeker after truth. For he will find such a bewildering host of doctrines in the vast jungle of Indian philosophy and mysticism that the effort to understand and reconcile flatly contradictory tenets will be sufficient to drive a man crazy.

The difference between Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism is smaller than it seems, although advocates of both sides have tried to make it seem greater than I believe it really is. A distinguished Indian authority on Advaita has written that the Buddhist doctrine of the momentariness of existence--that is, the moment-to-moment nature of existence--is a great stumbling block to a reconciliation of the two true religions. (These are not his words, but my own.) The concept of a Void has led to some misunderstanding in Western circles. It has been equated with annihilation by some and with nihilism by others. But this is not so, for the world appears out of it. It is neither absolute nothingness nor the All. The Buddha himself said that nothing can vanish from the universe, but nothing new can arise in it; that fundamentally there is no change. We can add, therefore, that there is no cause-and-effect relationship, which is also a teaching of Advaitic Vedanta. A Buddhist philosopher, Aryadeva, observed: "If I neither admit a thing's reality nor its unreality, nor both at once, then to confute me a long time will be needed." This is merely saying negatively what Advaita Vedanta says positively when it declares that only Brahmin IS. After much search, however, I have succeeded in finding, for the first time, a reference by an enlightened Mahayanist to what he called nonduality, which is exactly the same term used by Advaitins. But before I give the reference, since it concerns the Void, I must also mention that this doctrine of the Void is a second stumbling block between the two religions. The quotation is: "The insight of the Bodhisattva penetrates into being but never loses sight of the Void. Abiding in it, he accomplishes all works. For him the Void means Being, and Being means Void. He does not stay one-sidedly in either being or non-being, but synthesizes both, in nonduality." Although I have never seen any other reference to nonduality in the Mahayana texts, this reference is important because of the source from which it is taken. It is taken from a book which, so far as I know, has not yet been translated into English. It is called Yuimakyo Gisho (Vol. II, pg. 55-a). The author of this quotation is very famous in Japanese history, much admired and much respected. He is Prince Shotoku. He was the Crown Prince and Regent of Japan and was loved by the people. He wrote some commentaries upon the Mahayana sutras.

Sarnath: I saw the vast ruin of the first Buddhist monastery in the land, built by the liberal hand of King Ashoka. Remnants of wall and heaps of stone, they testify to the regrettable defeat of Buddha's rational teaching in religious and irrational India.

The Vedantin needs Buddhism to complete and to equilibrate his outlook; the Buddhist needs Vedanta for the same purpose. Otherwise, there is a kind of one-sidedness in each one. A widening-out will improve their views and better the persons.

All these arguments and debates between one school of thought and another in Hinduism and in Buddhism really show that no dogma should be brought in, because all philosophic positions are a matter of standpoint. That is, they are relative--relative to the standpoint adopted. In The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, I brought them all down to two basic standpoints: the practical, which accepts the world as existing, and the metaphysical, which accepts Mind as alone real.

Atman--one of the most important and basic doctrines in Sanskrit learning. To take Atman as self is to confirm and strengthen the very error which the doctrine of Atman seeks to refute! Such a procedure imbues the mind anew with the thought of "I." For in Atman there can be no such thing as a personal entity, no existence of an ego at all. Those who have studied both the Hindu Upanishads and the Buddhist Abhidhamma sufficiently and profoundly cannot fail to observe that Atman is merely the intellectual parallel and counterpart of Nirvana. And who has more strongly fought the belief in self than Buddha?

It is an unconscious handicap to all who have investigated ancient Indian wisdom that they have taken one of its key words, Atman, invariably in the terms of our European term "Self." Every Sanskrit scholar conning his texts in some Western university, as every Indian pundit conning them with his foreign pupil, translates this word precisely the same way. The term is currently used in the sense of self in India, but the conception of self to which it is applied bears no comparison with that principle of individual life which is referred to by our Western use of the word. It is a misfortune that having no equivalent to Atman among English words, our scholars lazily took the nearest to it instead of going to the trouble of coining an appropriate term as scientists coin new terms every year to fit their new discoveries. For the full implication of Atman is wholly ultra-individual and in no way commensurate with self as we use the term. The consequence of this mistranslation has been an immense barrier to right comprehension amongst all Westerners who have grappled with this doctrine.

When Alexander's Greek legions were fighting the petty kings of the Punjab, migratory Indians were settling along the banks of the Mekong and grafting their culture on that of the original Chinese-type inhabitants, who were snake-worshippers. Later came the gentle missionaries of the Buddha who in their turn grafted their faith on the Brahminical-Chinese existent one. Brahma had to share the allegiance of his votaries with Buddha.

The mystic inner tradition of both Buddhism and Hinduism overflowed the Indian frontiers and became at once the solace and support of people so different as the nomadic Tartar herdsman tending his lonely flock, the cultured Chinese mandarin enjoying the arts and comforts of a highly civilized city, and warring Cambodian kings returning from battles to build vaster palaces and grander shrines.

Both China and Japan took what India brought them and in the course of time transmuted the gift as by alchemy, but each in its own individual way, to forms suited to the national character.

I count myself an admirer of the best ancient Greeks. Their writings have nourished me; their surroundings have enthralled me. Their values of truth, goodness, and beauty have uplifted me. But it is only fair to say that the best ancient Indians, in accepting the first two and replacing the third by reality, brought in a profundity plumbed by no other people. Yet, if they had kept the third value and made reality a fourth one, theirs would have been the gain.

Greece at its best sought truth and beauty; India sought truth alone. To the Indian this is reckoned as his country's superiority, but to the impartial observer it may not seem so.

If Greek teachers thought the best way to instruct pupils in philosophy was to use the method of question and answer, the dialogue form, Indian teachers thought the best way was to write a commentary on a standard classical work.

Just as the chief place in a Greek temple was assigned to the statue of a god, so the holy of holies in an Indian temple was assigned to the jewelled image of a worshipped deity.

Just as the ancient Greek language could adequately put human ideas into words and do so even better than English, so the ancient Sanskrit language could express spiritual and metaphysical ideas better than any other tongue could.

There is a sanity, a practicality, and a reasonableness in the Greek and Chinese philosophers which seems to be lacking in the Hindus.

It is one of the surprising quirks of history that Christianity was believed and practised in India before it was believed and practised in Rome itself--or even in any country other than Palestine and Egypt. The sea route from Egyptian Red Sea ports or from Alexandria to the Indus River delta was an established one. Does this make it less surprising that the young Jesus visited and learned in India during that mysterious period between his twelfth and thirtieth years?

Hinduism and Buddhism have never been organized in the way that Christianity has been. There has never been a single ecclesiastical structure to hold all the followers. Each temple and each monastery has traditionally been free and self-governing.

The Holy Trinity which Hindu mystics have revealed from the depth of their meditations cannot be altered in any way to fit the one revealed by Christian mystics. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in no way resemble Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This situation is perplexing to believers in mysticism, but only to those who have not studied philosophy.

The Muhammedan and Hindu authors of important spiritual works including scriptural works usually began with an invocation. This prefatory act was both part of putting themselves into the mood, the passive mood, of receiving inspiration from the Higher Power and part a reminder to the reader to approach his reading with sufficient reverence and seriousness.

Buddha, Buddhism

Professor Radhakumud Mookerji of the University of Lucknow, who has achieved a distinguished reputation for his laborious researches into ancient Indian history, once told me that his investigations of old Pali records proved that Gautama the Buddha was the most widely travelled man of his time, his wanderings being solely devoted to spreading truth and doing good to others.

The Buddha loved peace and quiet. When he was present in the assembly, the disciples found he sat so perfectly still that the whole scene is described as resembling a lake of lotuses waiting for the sunrise. There are several stories of the Buddha refusing to allow noisy monks to live near him. He loved solitude also and often spent long periods away from everyone, even from his monks.

The Himalayan inner strength shown by Gautama was balanced by a tender gentleness.

The Buddha came to Alara and Uddaka, two renowned teachers. He learned from them the successive degrees of ecstatic meditation (samapatti) but, soon discovering it was not the way to enlightenment, he resolved to apply himself to the "Great Effort." See Buddha's own account of the two teachers in Majjhima Nikaya N.I., page 80. See also description of the Great Effort in Childers' Pali Dictionary, s.v.

Gautama, trained in youth to rule men, had in adulthood to beg his food from them.

Buddha found, when he started public work, that already over sixty different world-views, religious creeds, and intellectual outlooks were being propagated in his own country.

The man who was Gautama did not primarily seek to change the Hindu religion, to correct its current form, or to remove its abuses--although these things did also happen as a result of his activities. He came to bring a new wave, a new spirit, a freshness of felt ennoblement. For he came from a higher plane to this ancient globe.

Buddha found the masses were being led into superstition in the name of religion. He denied the utility of the ceremonies which were supposed to placate the gods, remove troubles, and attract fortune. He deplored the slaughter of animals in temple sacrifices. He denied that caste was a rigid congealed institution, open only to those born into it. Instead, he asserted that anyone, by developing the capacities, could enter.

Those who would regard the Buddha as merely an ethical teacher and religious reformer, or as a sort of Hindu Martin Luther, have not seen deeply enough into his person and his teaching. The level of both puts him among those who come among us invested with special authority and special power. Such men are called Avatars.

Why did Buddha not wait even a week after his enlightenment near Benares before going out to preach among the people? Why did he keep up this spreading of his message so incessantly for the remaining forty-five years of his life? Contrast this with the many Hindu sages and mystics, from his own time till this day, who sit and wait for would-be disciples to approach them. The answer lies only partly in the special mission and power with which he was invested by the World-Mind.

Buddha wanted to break down the over-superstitious atmosphere in which religion in India had half lost itself. So when he began to teach he approached men through their intelligence. He rejected God in the sense that he refused to talk about God. Yet the Buddha's teaching led to a goal which was exactly the same as this philosophy's, and the path which he taught others to travel in essence followed the same stages.

The Buddha holds a quarter of the human race to his ostensible allegiance. Few follow him completely now along the Middle Path which he chalked out; fewer still comprehend the intellectual side of his highly reasonable teaching. But in his own time he moved every class, from bejewelled courtesans to toiling peasants. For all the unlettered are not fools, and greatness can explain itself without words.

Buddha himself said that he would not pass away until his disciples were properly trained, until they had become fearless and self-restrained, until they were learned students and practising followers of the truth, until they could teach it clearly to others and competently refute false doctrines.

No critic has ever appeared to question the impeccable probity of Buddha's mind, however much bias and prejudice may have opposed the products of that mind.

Gautama made sure that no point in his teaching was missed at the first hearing, for he reiterated it plenty of times.

It was in the last period of his life that Buddha gave out the teaching which came to be called Mahayana.

To think of Gautama the Buddha, the picture of his face appears as emanating pure intelligence tinted by compassion. To read his printed sayings is to feel that attention must move slowly, that the mind needs all its seriousness to absorb their meanings.

The basis of the whole doctrine of the Buddha is that whatever is transitory is subject to cessation, to changeableness, to pain and to suffering. Everything follows this law of impermanence and everything is subject to annihilation. The Buddha also showed that personality, and every part of it, is subject to decay and dissolution, and is therefore always painful.

A fundamental idea of Buddhism is that Suffering is a consequence of Ignorance; it is necessary to set oneself free from fallacy, otherwise a man revives into incessantly renewed existence. Fallacy ceasing to be fallacy as soon as it is known, knowledge alone causes deliverance.

Natalie Rokotoff, the Russian Orientalist, after considerable original researches, wrote in the book Foundation of Buddhism: "Certainly Buddha's knowledge was not limited to his doctrines, but caution prompted by great wisdom made him hesitant to divulge conceptions which, if misunderstood, might be disastrous. A tradition of three circles of his teachings was established for the chosen ones, for members of the monastic fraternity, and for all."

Gautama's first refusal to disclose his doctrine was based on his understanding that those whose character was not pure enough, or mentality subtle enough, to grasp it would not only reward his efforts with rejection but also prove a source of trouble or vexation to him.

India was overly religious and priest-ridden at the time. Buddha spoke only in negatives about God: he said Nirvana was not this, not that--never what it was. This was a very wise thing to do, for if he had told them what it was, they would have been confused and would have rejected what they could not understand. Instead, he told them that if they followed the eightfold path they would find the happiness and peace they were seeking, which was true.

Buddha answered the needs of his country. The Buddhist path is right as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough for the fuller approach needed today.

Buddha used the same argument that advocacy of the Short Path uses: namely, that in trying to get rid of the ego one is only trying to get into a more refined alternative. The Philosophic way to consider this is to see that it is merely an argument over words. First, because it is enough if one can slough off the ego and attain the Overself. Second, because any considerations of an infinite progression would get into concepts so vast that they are beyond the comprehension of the finite mind. It is useless to indulge in such arguments.

Uninstructed critics no longer dare to put Buddhism on trial for preaching the doctrine of annihilation. Time has brought a broader understanding.

Long ago Buddha stressed how insufficient is the ordinary human existence, how frustrating it often becomes, how petty and narrow its outlook shrinks down to.

Buddha taught not only what many of us come to recognize in the end--that frustration and suffering are part of the normal pattern of life--but also that they are the more predominant part.

Gautama saw through all the glamours and pleasures of life, divested it of the shows and deceptions which keep truth and reality hidden.

Buddha saw the tragedy of life always and finally frustrating itself or disappointing its hopes.

In looking so often at the sad, tragically brief side of life, as the old early Hinayana Buddhism bade us do, there might be the likelihood of becoming quite morose, but for the escape route which Buddha offered: the fruits of enlightenment.

As a counterblast to all belief in an eternal ego, the Buddha said in the Maha-Punnam Sutra, "You have to know fully causally and truly that no form whatsoever, no feeling, perception, mental constituents, or consciousness whatsoever, be they past present or future, internal or external, gross or delicate, lowly or exalted, far or near, is either `mind' or `I' or `self' of mine. When he sees this clearly the instructed disciple of the Noble Ones becomes aweary of perception, aweary of the mental constituents, and aweary of consciousness. Being thus weary he comes to be passionless, and being passionless he finds Deliverance. Being Delivered he comes to know his Deliverance in this conviction; `Rebirth is no more, I have lived the highest life, my task is done, and now for me there is no more of what I have been.'"

The Buddha said, in Anguttara Nikaya: "For, my friend, in this very body, six feet in length, with its sense-impressions and its thoughts and ideas, I do declare to you are the world and the origin of the world, and the ceasing of the world, likewise the way that leadeth to the ceasing thereof."

"It is not enough to have seen me! . . . This brings no profit. . . . A sick man may be cured by the healing power of medicine and will be rid of all his ailments without beholding the physician." These are the words of the Buddha.

Dukkha=uneasiness, restlessness, frustration, suffering, basic anxiety--there is no sufficiently precise English translation but these words give a hint.

From Lankavatara Sutra: "Thou shouldst look inwardly and not get attached to the letters and superficial view of things; thou shouldst not fall into the attainments, conceptions, experiences, views, and Samadhis of the Sravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and philosophers . . . nor dwell on such Dhyana as belong to the six Dhyanas, etc."

For the first couple of hundred years of its history, Buddhist piety honoured Gautama as an enlightened man but did not worship him as a God. For this reason it refrained from depicting him in statue or picture, but figured him symbolically only by the Bo-tree or the Truth-wheel. Muhammed was even more emphatic in demanding no higher recognition than as a Messenger, a Prophet, and strictly forbade the representation of his human form. To this day, in no mosque throughout the Islamic world can a single one be found. But, in striking contrast, every Buddhist temple throughout Asia has its Buddha statue. What overcame the earlier repugnance was human emotional need to admire the superhuman attainment of Nirvana, the religious desire to worship godlike beings or pray to them for help, the feeling of devotion toward a higher power. And a great help was given to breaking the ban by the spread of the Greek empire in the lands between Persia and India, as well as in Northwest India itself. For this brought Greek ideas and influence, a less otherworldly, more rationally human attitude, expressed in the way the Greeks figured their own gods always in human forms. When their artistic skills were called upon to make the first stone statues of the founder of Buddhism, they represented him not as a half-starved lean ascetic, not as a bare-shouldered shaven-headed monk, not even as a spiritual-looking saint, but as a curly haired, beautifully featured, Apollo-headed prince. For it was Greek sculpture which first portrayed the naked human body with a beauty, a pose, and a refinement unmatched earlier and hardly surpassed even in our own time.

Buddha, whose vigorous scepticism refused even to deify God, has ironically been deified himself by his Tibetan and Chinese followers! Buddha, knowing the anthropomorphic tendencies of the masses, forbade his followers from making any image or picture of himself, but within two or three centuries was exhibited everywhere on temple statues and portrayed on monastery walls.

Buddhist legend asserts that the first figure of the Buddha was a carved sandalwood statue ordered to be made during his own lifetime by King Prasenagit. Archaeologists can find nothing earlier than the Ghandhara figures made by Greek sculptors in Central Asia, in what is now Afghanistan, 250 years after Buddha passed away. It may be that after this first Prasenagit figure was made, Buddha forebade any more to be made. But, certainly, he would not have liked to be personally worshipped. He was very active in denouncing the superstitions which prevailed in the national religion of India.

Those carved figures showing the Buddha's upstretched palm in blessing or in preaching have a psychic as well as a physical meaning.

In Ceylon and several other places one sees shrines bearing large footprints impressed on the stone floors, treasured and guarded. They are proudly exhibited and honoured by popular superstition or priestly cunning as being the Buddha's own marks. The more cultured know better: these prints symbolize the long journeys made by Buddha when propagating his doctrine.

The Buddha when figured in nirvanic contemplation stands for both the negation and, at the same time, the affirmation of being.

The proper meaning of the term Nirvana cannot be gleaned unless a twofold definition is learned. It must be psychological and it must also be metaphysical.

Those graceful little figures of the seated Buddha have gone all over Asia carrying a calming effect to millions of persons in the past 2500 years, reminding many to remember what they are and where they are going, to pause in the daily round of activity and look within.

The bearded figure of the Buddha is seldom seen, the shaven face most commonly seen. The first is associated with his extreme ascetic years of early search, discipline, and suffering; the second with his later years of attained wisdom.

The kinship of man and beast which appears when harmony and goodwill prevail between them is shown by the statues of Buddha. When he got so deeply absorbed in contemplation as to remain for hours with uncovered head exposed to the fierce tropical sunrays, either a cobra would rear itself up behind him and provide a protective shelter with its outspread hood or many snails would creep up his body and fasten themselves all over his head.

The sweetest smile I have yet seen on any Buddha figure is the one on a large head resting on the mantel shelf of the main lounge in the French Riviera's famed Eden Rock Hotel at St. Juan Les Pins. It was apparently a faithful copy of an Indo-Chinese model. There was not only the withdrawnness to be expected from such a representation but also an ecstatic serenity, an uplifted joyous knowledge of the Great Secret.

In the Musée Guimet in Paris, we may see a couple of ancient statuettes that perfectly portray Buddha's wonderful half-smile of happy deliverance from this world of ignorance, illusion, error, sin, and suffering.

The gilded Buddha-figure--this graceful remnant of a perished epoch in a distant alien country--with its patient mysterious smile.

I have placed this slim Chinese painting of Gautama so that it adjoins the little Buddhist shrine and in a way gives the bronze idol background--it already has "underground," for it was the Supreme Monk of Thailand's (called Siam in those days) own personal statue, always by his side. When our talks, ripe with his 83-year-old wisdom, came to an end and I took farewell, he presented it to me with a smile.

A green jade figure of the Buddha gleamed under electric light.

It is an extraordinary fact, a twofold one which nobody seems to have observed and bestowed the special attention which is its due, that first, the Maitreya, the Preacher of Love and Faith, whose coming Gautama prophesied, did actually come in the person of Jesus, and second, that the only figure of Buddha to be found anywhere in Asia portrayed sitting in Western fashion is that of the Maitreya, a huge hundred-feet-high gilded giant in the praying-hall of the picturesque monastery of Basgo, near the Western borders of Tibet. The Orientals to whom Buddha came generally squatted or sat with folded legs on the floor, whereas the Occidentals, among whom Jesus' message was chiefly spread, have generally sat on chairs since the sixteenth century, while their rulers, leaders, and nobles--like those in Egypt and elsewhere--sat on thrones for ceremonial occasions.

This piece of sculpture, which by now has been carried across the entire world, has given mankind the suggestion of a wondrous peace of soul. Not only that, it has lifted them up to think of a noble mind permeated with compassion. But whatever their elevation these qualities were associated with the race of men, whereas in the case of Christ they were associated with a supernatural divine being. We remember the Buddha mostly as being seated in meditation with both hands folded, the Christ as standing to preach with one hand raised.

André Migot in Tibetan Marches: "The Buddha-to-be, the Indian Maitreya, alone of all the Buddhist theocracy, is represented not squatting but sitting upright in the way that Europeans do, for legend insists that Buddha's next reincarnation will come from the West, and not from Asia." (He refers to Tibetan temples.)

Mahayana Buddhism emphasized altruism whereas Hinayana emphasized self-discipline. Philosophy includes, couples, and balances them, for both methods help to crush the ego. The Mahayana emphasis was not a merely sentimental corruption of the authentic teaching, as the opposing school alleged, any more than the Hinayana was irreverent and insufficient, as its Brahmin critics alleged.

When this excess of guru-worship and priest-riddenness became too prevalent in India, Buddha tried to re-proclaim the truth and to counterbalance the superstition. He taught, in many places and on many occasions, "No one saves us but ourselves; No one can and no one may; Each alone must tread the path." In our own time we hear echoes of these beliefs that Buddha tried to reform. It is claimed that Ramakrishna, and two later historic gurus, actually transferred the bad karma of their disciples to their own shoulders; this explained the serious illnesses which killed off all three.

The essence of Buddhism was summed up in a single sentence by a non-Buddhist writer, by the preacher in Ecclesiastes: "The day of death is better than the day of birth."

The Buddha Amitabha became World Saviour. His help particularly goes out to the sinful and weak who call upon him by name and with faith. But it is Kwan-Yin who intercedes with Amitabha and who mediates his grace to the pious.

By "Will" Schopenhauer meant the will to live, survive, and satisfy desire in the body--exactly what Buddha called "craving."

"Desire nothing!" Buddhism admonishes, "or you will be first deceived by the illusion of happiness and then castigated by the reality of sorrow. Be resigned to the fact that it is impossible to be happy both in and with this world." With such a weary negative attitude, it no longer matters how people suffer or why they suffer. The will to live is weakened, the surrender to fatalism is strengthened. Buddhism is a religion of weariness, a way of salvation for those tired of living, an emotional and intellectual narcotic which enables hopeless men to shut their eyes and forget the world they are sick of.

"Like a lion not trembling at noises, like the wind not caught in a net, like a lotus not stained by water, let one wander alone like a rhinoceros."--Buddhist scriptures

The most important difference between Hinayana and Mahayana is that the latter regards Buddha as divine and not merely a sage, as the Infinite Spirit reincarnated in human form.

The Yogacara (Vijnanavada) Mahayana school explains the phenomena of consciousness, or how events and things appear in and through the mind which is the repository of all knowledge.

The Yogacara Buddhism of Dinnaga and Dharmakirti is a later development which alone of Indian thought claims to make verifiable statements.

And yet, if everything is incessantly changing, still there is a certain continuity of substance or essence throughout these changes which prevents us from asserting that it has become a totally different thing; if every human being is not the same as he was some time ago, still we have also to admit, with Buddha, he is not another being. The alterations we witness occur in the realm of form, not of essence.

Vedanta, Hinduism

The first doctrine presented by Hinduism is what the absolute Self, Brahman, is. The second doctrine is the identity of the absolute Self with Brahman. According to the second of these doctrines (whose profundity makes the services of an expounder and a commentator so useful), the inmost Being of man, Atman, is divine and perfect, as is the cosmic Being of the Lord, Ishvara. The third doctrine is that the universe is maya, an illusory thing that has no ultimate reality. The fourth doctrine is that history is not a meaningless scramble of happenings, but flows through karma--God's law--and through avatars--God's incarnations. The traditional mission of all the Shankaras has been to guard, protect, or preach the doctrines and beliefs, from the simple commandments for illiterate peasants to the higher mystical experiences of the yogis and metaphysical teachings of Advaita.

The concept of nonduality given by the Advaitins seems impossible to grasp and to accept to the normal Western mind and quite rightly so. This impasse must exist unless and until the situation is clarified and the only way to do so lies through mentalism. The human mind normally functions in a dualistic manner--that is, it identifies itself as a subject with an object of its consciousness outside. This dualism penetrates the practices followed on the Quest and the knowledge gained as a consequence of them. It cannot be got rid of until both subject and object are thrown into and unified by the pure consciousness--Mind--in which, from which, and by which all happens. In this connection a further point must be established. I have written admiringly of two great souls--Sri Ramana Maharshi and Shankaracharya of Kanchi, the spiritual head of South India. Now both these are strict followers of the original, the first Shankaracharya, who lived more than a thousand years ago, and they quote from his writings very frequently. Whoever studies those writings will discover that Adi Shankara, meaning the first Shankara, in his arguments against the Buddhists--especially those of the idealistic Yogacara and Vijnana schools--seems to reject idealism which is an incomplete form of mentalism. But let us not forget that Shankara was engaged in a campaign to reduce the power of Buddhism and increase the power of Hinduism. Let us not forget too that Buddha himself was not bound by any such bias; he was a free thinker and he did not hesitate to question the authority of the Vedas which Shankara followed and accepted. The Buddha rejected animal sacrifices and futile religious rituals, for instance. It is to Shankara's credit that he gave out the Advaitic teaching of nonduality--which is impossible for a Western mind in all its rationality to accept unless it falls into mysticism and yoga. Both the living Shankara and Ramana Maharshi were upholders of Hinduism. As I have said, the doctrine of nonduality is quite acceptable when presented with a mentalistic explanation or through a mystical experience, but not otherwise.

The defect of all the Vedantic authorities in India today is that they have lost the Buddhist esoteric tradition and even despise it; for only in the combination of both can be realized that restoration of the genuine, archaic Indian wisdom. It contains all that is worthwhile in religion, mysticism, yoga, philosophy, science, and psychology, but with all the rubbish left out. Anyone can get this realization without a teacher--provided he is made of such heroic stuff as Buddhas are made of; if not, he has to find personal instruction or lose valuable years, even lifetimes.

The ruination of Vedanta in India was partly due to the fact that it got into the hands of people for whom it was never intended, who turned it into an arid dry and formal study similar to the scholasticism which posed as philosophy in medieval Europe. They therefore misunderstood it because they were unripe. Such hair-splitting intellectualism was barren of results for human life, and as a karmic consequence modern Indian has turned against and rejected philosophy, especially Vedanta philosophy, with a despairing sense of its futility. On the other hand, the Chinese provided India with an example in practical Vedanta, and for several centuries their leaders, statesmen, artists, scholars, soldiers, and religious geniuses were all men who had been trained in it. Thus Truth was made fruitful.

There are many views as to what constitutes the highest Indian teaching. However, we have yet to find in India or any other country a perfect agreement between high teaching and personal conduct; the first is so easy and the latter so hard. The reconciliation is easily effected by attaining the TRUTH, which is not that personal life is wholly illusory and dreamlike (that is taught only to beginners to disengage them from over-attachment) but that divinity and reality are everywhere, for they are ONE, hence the individual life is just as real as any other. It has to be realized, however, and the way to this realization lies through preliminary sacrifice of it, but it does not end there.

I am neither an over-enthusiastic advocate, nor a critical adversary, of Hindu religion.

The lethargy of old Asia and the apathy of the older Asiatics are not solely a matter of oppressive climate; they are also a matter of mental attitude. The teaching that all is illusion, the belief that we come back again and again for the same old round of events, the emphasis on life's brevity and transiency, also account for them. Most things do not seem worth the battle. The will is weakened when the mind turns wearily away.

First as an expression of the divine creative power is the sun. What wonder that the Hindu is bidden to face it when he prays on arising, and to pray to it again before dusk?

Kali Yuga means the era of the goddess Kali. She symbolically stands for the darkest age in man's history, when evil and suffering reach their greatest fulfilment and intensity.

The Vedantic rejection of the world as non-existent may sound fantastic to Western ears. It is, however, correct if the statement is limited to meditation experience and to metaphysical theory. It is not correct for the experience of practical living and psychological theory, since the senses and the thoughts are there working: they do not work at the deepest point of meditation. Because this difference is not usually made absolutely clear, confusion results. In any case, it is one-sided and unbalanced to go on babbling only that the world is non-existent and to keep on ignoring its existence to the senses and thoughts. A balanced philosophic view must combine the two understandings together and then there will be no confusion. It is a mockery of personal experience to tell those who are suffering from terrible maladies like cancer that the world, and therefore the body, are non-existent.

How can modern Western men hear or read the ancient Advaitic claim that this vast world does not really exist and understand, let alone accept, it? They are likely to receive the claim with enough incredulity to consider it not worth rebuttal. But those who are patient enough not to do so, and willing enough to look for the evidence in nuclear physics, which the Hindus of past times did not have (the Hindus of our time merely repeat their ancestors' words like parrots), may begin to find some reasonable sense in it. The case needs presentation in three stages. To put it quite briefly: the first reduces all material objects to their atomic elements, to electrons, ions, protons, and so on, and shows that they are composed of energies and are not at all what they seem to be. The second draws on the metaphysics of mentalism to lead into the profounder understanding that in the end all that is known of the energies is in consciousness. They are ideas. This deprives the world of reality, and presents its basic existence as immaterial and unsubstantial. The third stage turns away from the world to the ego which experiences that world. The "I" too is a complex of thoughts and as such not a continuing identity. But as a point of consciousness it derives from universal impersonal Mind, without beginning or end: THAT is the real underlying existence of the individual ego and its world, which do not and cannot possibly exist by themselves. In this sense they are described as non-existent.

Thus modern thought approximates to ancient wisdom, but there is this important difference: that the Orientals arrived at their doctrines through the force of concentrated insight and reflection, whereas the Occidentals moved through a series of researches, experiments, and observations which demanded long and untiring effort. Yet the approach of the one to the other is heartening.

My plaint is that for long I was told by the Indian Advaitins, by their holy men and even by texts, that the universe does not exist or, if it does seem to, that is merely an illusion. The final declaration which really put me, as a Western enquirer, off Advaita came later: it was that God too was an illusion, quite unreal. Had they not left it at that but taken the trouble to explain how and why all this was so, I might have been convinced from the start. But no one did. I had to wait until I met V. Subramanya Iyer for the answer.

The philosophies of India were conceived and constructed thousands of years ago by people born and raised in a torrid oppressive climate. Although some of them escaped to the colder Himalayas to write their most important texts, the general tendency was to excel in metaphysical abstract thought: to theorize rather than act, to dream and debate with such subtlety as to lose practicality and ignore actuality. The Westerner can modify these extremes. Advaita is admirable but will become more useful if it is equilibrated by the Westerners' tendencies to make things visible and serviceable here and now.

The mistake made by Vedantins, as well as by others in somewhat similar schools, is that while rightly proclaiming that there are two kinds of knowledge, they wrongly disparage or neglect the lower kind merely because it is lower.

We hear often of the problem of evil, seldom of the problem of good; Vedanta explains why good is ever-present.

It is realized that The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga is likely to have given the impression that the teaching, itself, is based on Vedanta--a misconception caused by over-emphasis on certain points. Vedanta fails to explain the world or else transfers its creation to man. On these two points alone, The Wisdom of the Overself does not agree with Vedanta.

The materialistic psychologists make the subject depend on the object. The others make the object depend upon the subject. And the Advaitins merge the two together.

Critique of Vedanta: Even if you--the Vedantin--say that the body does not exist, you do not, you cannot, deny that you experience it. Then there must be something which suggests the experience to you. This too you will admit and will name this something as Maya, which you describe at the same time as the mysterious power which creates the World-Illusion--and with it, the body-illusion--for us. This bestows on Maya a power equal to the power of God, since it makes God--whom you say we really are--forget himself. So there are then two supreme realities! This is an untenable position. What is the use of the Vedantic talk of living as if the body did not exist? Who is deceived by it? Certainly not the Vedantin himself, for in all his actions he has to take the body into his reckoning. The philosopher, who keeps himself deliberately disengaged even while he is busy in and with the world, accepts the body for what it is, neither overvaluing nor undervaluing it.

There seems to be a gap between the need of doing any service in this world and the theory of World-Illusion (maya). However, it is not correct to say that this theory is the ultimate view of Indian philosophy. It is used as a jumping-off ground, a first and tentative step to break the crude materialism of the average mind. It was propounded in ancient times when the scientific knowledge now available, which makes materialism a ridiculous theory, was unknown. The Ultimate view is that this world is also Brahman, or Reality, and therefore life here is not to be despised but fully valued, experienced, and honoured.

The world is there within human experience, imperiously so, a given fact which needs to be accounted for. It is also within the Advaitin's experience even while he is denying it, for he has to deny it to someone else who is also in that world. It coexists with him, be he sage or ignoramus. It would be better if, instead of discarding the reports of the five bodily senses and rejecting the use of reason, he were to admit that it is there but that it lies in the field of consciousness.

Does the Universe exist? The Vedantic author answers his own question in the negative. His publication must therefore shrink into nothingness along with the rest of things. Since it is not possible for me to review a non-existent book . . . but there! The application of his theory to his work is leading me to dangerous results!

Although the word Maya plays a prominent part in Advaita teaching and is given at least three meanings--inherent change, unreality, and appearance--it must be examined and analysed from the philosophic point of view with regard to the history of Advaita and its followers. From what has already been said about the nostalgia of the more spiritually minded of the Hindu peoples--their yearnings for these past glories and past times--this was carried to an extreme extent and made the present look more like a dream towards which they were looking for reality in vain. We must admire them for this fidelity to their ancient, very ancient, faith and teachers. But it must be remembered that as humanity slowly evolves through the ages, so must the teaching evolve with it to fit the kind of awareness they have developed and especially to correct it when it runs to extremes. The idea of mentalism, which says that all is in the mind and that Mind is indeed the real, must not be misunderstood and turned into a way of escape in order either to live in those past glories (as the Oriental did) or to excuse our own laziness, as we may do.

There are Indian schools of thought in the Vedantic group which turn Maya into an entity, a thing by itself. There are other Vedantic schools who have a higher understanding of Maya as being nothing other than the play of Consciousness.

Not only does Advaita teach that the world does not exist, it also teaches that nothing ever existed. One need not be a materialist in order to ask of what use or worth is such a teaching.

The exhilaration induced by Advaita can be as heady as champagne. The belief that there is only the Real and that nothing else exists or is to be concerned with, can be quite unsettling to intense or neurotic temperaments. The votary can become mildly mentally disturbed.

Yoga=way. Darshana=viewpoint. Abisheka=initiation.

It is difficult to date the origins of yoga with exactness. The ancient Hindus did not care much to keep exact historical records, for time had far less importance among them than it does with us.

The most historic description of one such rope trick appears to be that of Ibn Batutah, an Arab or Moorish Sheikh of Tangiers, in the Volume of Travels, in the middle of the fourteenth century. The first recorded mention of this trick in India is in the ancient shastras and sutras. Shankaracharya, over a thousand years ago, in his great work Vedanta Sutra, has given not only reference but also an excellent explanation of this feat, in Sutra 17: "the illusory juggler who climbs up the rope and disappears differs from the real jugglers who stand on the ground," and so on. From this it is clear that the trick was well known in this mysterious land over a thousand years ago.

Has it occurred to any Western mind that the yogi's legs are coiled up beneath and around him as if his lower body were a snake?

In the field of Indian writing, study the best texts, usually the ancient ones, along with some excellent modern ones. Disregard those twentieth-century authors who pour out torrents of rhetoric, much of it mere verbiage.

They look at life as if from a distance, unaffected by it intellectually, unmoved by it emotionally, unconcerned with it personally. They seem bloodless creatures, these figures held out to us as ideal by Hindu religio-philosophic texts.

The term "pure consciousness" has been used in these books, but it is an unfortunate one, as it was taken over from the Sanskrit. It gives rise to objections which would not appear if the term "Mind" (or, as a variant, "The Overself") were used in its place, with consciousness existing as a potential of Mind, just as dream can exist as a potential of deep sleep.

Sanskrit study: Here a fresh difficulty arose. The decipherment of those texts involved a knowledge of such subtle shades of verbal meaning as only those who had spent a whole lifetime poring over them could possess. For the language in which they were inscribed--highly technical Sanskrit--was the most developed and therefore the most difficult of all ancient cultural tongues. Such a knowledge was possessed only by the respected class of men called Pundits. These erudite scholars were usually apprenticed to Sanskrit learning and literature almost from their infant days, with the result that its numerous nuances of significance were mastered by the time they reached early middle age. The simplicity of their lives, their great devotion to financially unprofitable studies, and their unique services in preserving the classic lore for ages by remarkable feats of memory, saving thousands of manuscripts from destruction by intolerant invaders, had always excited my admiration and respect.

Mahopanishad IV.2: "By the word Samadhi is denoted only the knowledge of Reality and not mere silent existence which burns the straw of desires."

It was one of my teachers, Professor Hiriyanna, who, in an article written in the Tamil language, gave the following explanation: "The knowledge of the true self, Atman, acquired by study, can be transformed into direct experience. The former is called mediate knowledge and the latter is called immediate--by the practice of dhyana or meditation, which signifies constant dwelling upon the nature of the true self until it becomes an immediate certainty."

In the statement "Tat Tvam Asi" (That art Thou) we must observe that the existence of "That" is put first, while the "Thou" is identified with it only later. This is significant.

"Not by avoidance of activity, nor by renunciation either, may freedom of the soul be gained, or perfectness; only by constant service of the world may the great peace of Brahma be attained."--Bhagavad Gita

We must not fear to test the ancient knowledge, and, so far as it is sound, it will survive. We must explore the newer knowledge and not turn timidly from its unfamiliar paths. We must wed ancient wisdom to modern. It is absurd to follow either blindly. That in many ways the men of thousands of years ago thought and felt differently from us is undeniable. Take even such a wonderfully inspired work as the Bhagavad Gita, from which so many millions (including myself) for so many centuries have drawn light and hope and peace. Yet it does not hesitate to insist upon even the most spiritually advanced men offering to the Gods sacrifices of animals birds and cakes upon altar fires. Which of us Westerners would derive inward joy and emotional uplift from watching, as I have watched in North India, a number of screaming goats stabbed and flung on blazing flames? Let us not mislead ourselves in this matter.

The Bhagavad Gita's references to the hidden teaching are as follows: XVIII, 75: it is called "the ultimate mystery"; IX, 2: "the royal secret"; IX, 1: "a profound secret"; XVIII, 63: "profounder than profundity itself"; IX, 1: "profound beyond measure"; XVIII, 64: "the profoundest secret of all."

Although revered by Hindus as the very word of God, the Bhagavad Gita is replete with contradiction. It laments trivialities such as the overlapping of varnas (caste). It ardently advocates a study of Gita as a sure way to salvation, but what this way is is never clear and has been the subject of endless disputatious commentary. The idea of "absolute action" absolved from all relevance to an end or aim is a Gospel in a vacuum. One Hindu scholar holds that Gita is a hotch-potch of various mutually incompatible doctrines (see The Hindu World by Benjamin Walker.)

Those stately scripts, the Upanishads, hold the essence of India's wisdom.

In Mandukya Upanishad, the phrase "on account of the shortness of time" refers to the arguments made by the ancient Indian equivalent of the contemporary "Personalist" school of philosophy. The sentence ending "within the contracted space of the body" should be understood also as a temporary lapse from its own standpoint for the sake of overcoming an opponent by using his own beliefs, which, incidentally, is an old habit of the ancient Indian writers. The comment that one cannot confine an idea within the spatial limits of another idea is quite correct. It is amusing to note that Mandukya disposes of the theosophical "astral travelling" as usually understood, but does not prevent the ideas of other persons and places appearing to one's mind--but both time and space are themselves mental. "Travelling" is therefore illusory but the "appearances" may actually occur.

The illusion of the snake and the rope, as mentioned in the Mandukya Upanishad, is not one that can really arise when the truth of nonduality is perceived, because then both snake and rope are known as mind. For it is the mind that will tell you of their existence and it is only mind again that will tell you of mind's existence. Therefore, do what you will, you can never get beyond Mind. The possibility of an infinite regression does not arise.

The Mandukya Upanishad is not usually recommended for study to Western people. The book is too archaic for modern minds, for one thing, and a number of its arguments were written to refute the arguments of other Indian schools of thought existing at the time, some of which have now disappeared. Consequently these references are sometimes obsolete and often drearily uninteresting. However, for those few who are familiar with this kind of literature, its study is not difficult.

Chandogya Upanishad: "Mind is the self--he who meditates on Mind as Brahman, he is, as it were, Lord and Master so far as Mind reaches."

It may be that the early Indian priests practised interpolation of their sacred texts as freely as the later Christian priests did of theirs; at this late date the point is beyond correct knowledge. But when the whole of the last chapter of the most respected book of the Brahmin way of life, Laws of Manu, informs us that a man who steals a piece of linen will be reborn a frog, the reasonable mind must begin to wonder. Yet the same book contains many rules which are as eminently rational as this statement is silly.

"Let him not wish for death, let him not wish for life, let him wait for the time, as a servant for his wages. Rejoicing in the Supreme Self, sitting indifferent, refraining from sensual delights, with himself for his only friend, let him wander here on earth, aiming at liberation."--The Sannyasi, from Laws of Manu

Professor S.C. Roy: It would be wrong to class Manu with the Rishees. He is regarded as an ethical teacher and law formulator--not as a God-realized man.

"The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom know that which is, is kin to that which is not." This sentence from India's oldest Bible, the Rig Veda, supports philosophy's award of the highest status to sahaja.

An ancient Indian script itself boldly announces the truth. Says the Shiva-Gita 13, 32: "Liberation is not in a special place, nor does one need to travel to some other town or country in order to obtain it."

"If, O king, anybody could secure success from Renunciation, then mountains and trees would surely obtain it. These latter always lead lives of Renunciation. They do not harm anyone, they do not lead a life of worldliness and are all Brahmacharins. Behold, the world moves on with every creature on it acting according to its nature, therefore, one should act. The man shorn of action can never attain success."--Mahabharata

Mahabharata Santi Parva. CXCI, 31: "The wise hold that righteousness is essentially an attitude of mind."

Bhagavata Purana: "How can the mind drunk with divine thought have other thoughts? Why a thousand words?"

"Most anchorites strive only for themselves, and therefore fail; but those who truly know, engage themselves in service of the world."--Bhagavatam

"The Bliss-Attainment of a yogi is Maya," wrote Sri Samartha Ramadas, in his Sanskrit text Atmaram.


Kamakoti Peeta's Shankara does not shake hands when parting. He merely raises one open hand upward in front of him, with palm facing the other person, as if in blessing.

"My body is Thy temple," wrote Shankaracharya in a prayer to Shiva.

Shankaracharya: Some of His Holiness' teachings and sermons have been translated into English. His explanations throw fresh light on several details of Hinduism. He patiently goes through point after point to reveal the rational side to modern minds.

But all these are secondary compared with His Holiness's own person. He exhibits in himself the qualities of a knower of Brahman, the attributes of a holy Rishee. Those who come into his presence, suitably prepared by previous aspiration or faith, may feel his power, even see his light and experience his grace. Hinduism has been misunderstood by many Westerners; the knowledge of His Holiness and the work of Mahadevan can correct their views so that they can see why it has survived so long.

Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana was a Pure Channel for a Higher Power [Essay written for publication in The Mountain Path--Ed.]

The organizers of this meeting to commemorate Sri Ramana Maharshi's anniversary have asked me to take part in it. I have no official connection with the movement associated with his name, and for many years have preferred to remain silent. But their kindly insistence has overcome this reluctance.

Forty years have passed since I walked into his abode and saw the Maharshi half-reclining, half-sitting on a tigerskin-covered couch. After such a long period most memories of the past become somewhat faded, if they do not lose their existence altogether. But I can truthfully declare that, in his case, nothing of the kind has happened. On the contrary, his face, expression, figure, and surroundings are as vivid now as they were then. What is even more important to me is that--at least during my daily periods of meditation--the feeling of his radiant presence is as actual and as immediate today as it was on that first day.

So powerful an impression could not have been made, nor continued through the numerous vicissitudes of an incarnation which has taken me around the world, if the Maharshi had been an ordinary yogi--much less an ordinary man. I have met dozens of yogis, in their Eastern and Western varieties, and many exceptional persons. Whatever status is assigned to him by his followers, or whatever indifference is shown to him by others, my own position is independent and unbiased. It is based upon our private talks in those early days when such things were still possible, before fame brought crowds; upon observations of, and conversations with, those who were around him; upon his historical record; and finally upon my own personal experiences, whatever they are worth.

Upon all this evidence one fact is incontrovertibly clear--that he was a pure channel for a Higher Power.

This capacity of his to put his own self-consciousness aside and to let himself be suffused by this Power is not to be confounded with what is commonly called, in the West, spiritualistic mediumship. For no spirit of a departed person ever spoke through him: on the contrary, the silence which fell upon us at such times was both extraordinary and exquisite. No physical phenomena of an occult kind was ever witnessed then; nothing at all happened outwardly. But those who were not steeped too far in materialism to recognize what was happening within him and within themselves at the time, or those who were not congealed too stiffly in suspicion or criticism to be passive and sensitive intuitively, felt a distinct and strange change in the mental atmosphere. It was uplifting and inspiring: for the time being it pushed them out of their little selves, even if only partially.

This change came every day, and mostly during the evening periods when the Maharshi fell into a deep contemplation. No one dared to speak then and all conversations were brought to an end. A grave sacredness permeated the entire scene and evoked homage, reverence, even awe. But before the sun's departure brought about this remarkable transformation, and for most of the day, the Maharshi behaved, ate, and spoke like a perfectly normal human being.

That there was some kind of a participation in a wordless divine play during those evenings--each to the extent of his own response--was the feeling with which some of us arose when it all ended. That the Maharshi was the principal actor was true enough on the visible plane. But there was something more . . .

In his own teachings Sri Ramana Maharshi often quoted, whether in association or confirmation, the writings of the first Shankaracharya, who lived more than a thousand years ago. He considered them unquestionably authoritative. He even translated some of them from one Indian language to another.

In the temple of Chingleput I interviewed His Holiness the Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Peetam, a linear successor of the first Guru. When the meeting was concluded, but before I left, I took the chance to ask a personal question. A disciple of the Maharshi had come to me and wanted to take me to his Guru. None of those I asked could tell me anything about him, nor had even heard of him. I was undecided whether to make the journey or not.

His Holiness immediately urged me to go, and promised satisfaction. He is still alive and still active in the religious world of Southern India. In my humble belief, he embodies the same high quality of Consciousness which the Maharshi did. The belief is shared by Professor T.M.P. Mahadevan, who was present as an eighteen-year-old student during my first meeting with the Maharshi, and who has ever since remained a devotee of both Mahatmas. He is now Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Madras.[Professor Mahadevan has since deceased, in October of 1983.--Ed.]

Sometimes, as I looked at the figure on the couch, I wondered if he would ever come to England. If so, how would he be dressed, how would he behave in those teeming London streets, how eat, live, and work? But he was uninterested in travelling and so he never came, not in the physical body: what did come was his spirit and mind, which have awakened sufficient interest among the English to make this meeting possible.

Again and again he gave us this teaching, that the real Maharshi was not the body which people saw; it was the inner being. Those who never made the journey to India during his lifetime may take comfort in this thought: that it is possible to invoke his presence wherever they are, and to feel its reality in the heart.

Ramana Maharshi was one of those few men who make their appearance on this earth from time to time and who are unique, themselves alone--not copies of anyone else--and who contribute something to the world's spiritual welfare that no one else has contributed in quite the same way.

For much of each day the Maharshi was an unspectacular person. But when the pentecostal light touched his mind and radiated from his eyes, he became not merely a different, but a superior being. There was something almost supernatural about this change. It was plain for anyone to see that he was animated by some power, being, or presence other than his usual self. Yet it did not last and could not last. The light departed again, and he himself fell back into ordinariness.

Sri Ramana Maharshi is certainly more than a mystic and well worthy of being honoured as a sage. He knows the Real.

There are few men of whom one may write with assured conviction that their integrity was unchallengeable and their truthfulness absolute, but Ramana Maharshi was unquestionably one of them.

Ramana Maharshi: Sometimes one felt in the presence of a visitor from another planet, at other times with a being of another species.

The white loincloth which Ramana Maharshi usually wore served him for most of the year, except during the cooler nights of the mild South Indian winter, when he added a shawl. He had few other possessions. I remember a fountain pen, the old-fashioned liquid ink filling-with-a-glass-syringe type. With this he did his writing. There was also a hollowed-out coconut shell or gourd painted black, in which he carried water for ablutions. He had little more and did not seem to want anything else. The most impressive physical feature about him was the strange look that came over his eyes during meditation, and he usually meditated with open eyes. If they looked directly at you, the power behind them seemed quite penetrative; but most often they seemed to be looking into space, somewhat aside from you, but very fixed, indrawn and abstracted, and yet aware.

When Ramana Maharshi was displeased with anyone, he kept his eyes averted and looked to one side of or away from that person. It was as though he did not want, even by accident, let alone purposely, to meet his glance and give him darshan.

When he went into these meditative abstractions, the expression in his eyes and even face changed markedly. The eyes shone strangely, mystically, and testified, so far as any bodily organ could, to awareness of the Reality behind this world-dream.

Gazing upon this man whose viewless eyes are gazing upon infinity, I thought of Aristotle's daring advice,"Let us live as if we were immortal." Here was someone who had never heard of Aristotle, but who was following this counsel to the last letter.

Some of these Oriental hermits spoke with such verbal economy that one despaired of getting a satisfactory conversation with them. Ramana Maharshi was one of them. Others were so loquacious that their words tumbled over one another. Many of the lesser hermits belonged to this category.

When a non-Hindu--that is, a Christian or Muhammedan--fell into a huddle on the tiled floor before him, touching it with his forehead, the Maharshi was obviously embarrassed . . . but only out of his kindly considerateness for the other man. For he knew that prostration before another man was alien to the custom and attitude of the Christian or Muhammedan.

The name Sri Maharshi is an honourific one, his real name being Venkataraman.

The Maharshi was fond of his dog Chakki. I noticed during my travels that several yogis--not the wandering kind, of course--kept dogs. But never once did I see one who kept a cat. One yogi told me that the yogis abhor cats as belonging to some unclean psychic influence.

There is hardly a posture which has not been used by someone somewhere for meditation. In the Rietberg Museum at Zurich there is an unusual marble twelfth-century figure of a meditating Chinese Buddhist monk. His head and neck are twisted quite askew towards the left side, the left elbow rests on the top of his left knee, the left palm supports his left cheek. This is exactly the position into which Ramana Maharshi eventually moved and in which he long remained after the memorable interview at our first meeting. In later years he took it up again occasionally.

Restricted as he voluntarily was to the couch, the Maharshi varied his position on it at different times of the day. Sometimes his was a recumbent figure, sometimes a seated one. He sat, reclined, squatted, leaned forwards or backwards. Sometimes he assumed the pose of chin cupped in his hands which always reminded me faintly of Rodin's sculpture The Thinker.

The Maharshi said to us after the magistrate from Madras had departed that he had been able to give unhesitating answers because the thinking process was not working, because something other than intellect was using his mind.

There was hardly a period of the day or night when Sri Ramana Maharshi was not on display. Contrast this with the attitude of the guru that Professor Medard Boss, the psychiatrist, found in India who avoided seekers and hid from them. Ramana would not, could not, leave Arunachala, the hill, so he had to take what came with it, the devotees. The place chosen was no longer his own; the time belonged to them. He was reluctant to stay but far more reluctant to leave. His was truly a surrendered life.

The Maharshi was condemned--or self-condemned if you like--to live in public all day and all night. This is not the sort of life we would wish to have and certainly not the sort, as he once told me, that he had expected when he moved to Arunachala as a youth.

Arunachala, South India's sacred mountain, is identified in Hindu mythology with Shiva, the patron God of the Yogis, who is said to have appeared in the night on its summit in ancient times in the ruddy vesture of a flame. The present writer has himself seen a vast luminous cloud move slowly and softly around the hill at night, glowing with a weird phosphorescence, when no moon or starlight was present and for which no natural force could have been responsible.

The Greeks regarded their Acropolis as a sacred hill, just as the Hindus still regard their Arunachala. But whereas they put their most shapely building, the Parthenon, on top, with its symmetry and dignity, its graceful Doric pillars and stately ruined temples, the Hindus put nothing at all except a burning beacon, and that only once a year.

I turned my head to gaze meditatively through the hermitage window. The rising slope of a spur belonging to the Mountain of the Holy Beacon came into sight, its craggy face shimmering in ripples of misty heat.

One of the sacred eighteen Puranas of the Hindus calls Arunachala Hill "the southern Kailas." Parvati, the erring wife of Shiva, was sent from her home in Kailas to make penance at Arunachala, and there I have seen her statue in a little temple on the hillside with several huge stone guards, guarding the approach to her, to protect her while she is absorbed in meditation.

We sat in that sultry hall, enduring the late-afternoon heat, in various stages of dress and undress--men with resplendent long coats from the North buttoned all the way down and collars encircling the neck, men from local Southern villages in nothing but a loincloth, men in shirt and skirt, men in monk's robe leaving one shoulder exposed. Every shade of skin from almost white to ebony black could be seen. And in accord with the local custom that shoes should not be brought into a house, should be left on the verandah, all were barefooted. All sat facing the light brown figure half-reclining on a long couch housed in a corner of the oblong-shaped hall.

Meals were served at Ramanashram on enormously large flat banana tree leaves.

Ramana Maharshi's alleged deathbed statement that he would be more active in the ashram after death can now be traced to its true form. He was fond of reading biographies of saints and mystics, both Western and Eastern. In The Life of Catherine of Siena, her own dying last will and testament, Catherine says: "I promise you [the disciples] that I shall be with you always, and be of much more use to you on the other side than I ever could be here on earth, for then I shall have left the darkness behind me and move in the eternal light." Note her use of the words "on earth" which, in the quoted words, was surely the Maharshi's meaning too. The belief that Maharshi's ghost is now more active at the ashram than was the living Maharshi himself contradicts his own teaching as I heard it from his lips and as it is even stated in print in an ashram publication, Golden Jubilee Souvenir, page 209. Here he expressly declares, "The idea that he [the guru] is outside, is ignorant." That belief is certainly based on the idea that the real Maharshi was tied to a particular place outside his body. By the light of his lifetime's gospel, it is mere superstition.

Ramana Maharshi ended his life in a tragic illness--cancer--which brought consternation to his ashramic disciples. They trotted out their various theories on the religio-mystic level to account for the personal and public tragedy, for the unequal equation which allotted so much suffering to so much sanctity.

The notion that anyone can take on the burden of someone else's guilt, or karma, is itself a negation of the law of karma. This must apply to Ramana Maharshi no less than to the common man.

On Ramana Maharshi: That he made contrary statements at times must be admitted, but he would probably have justified this by the need to adopt a point of view on a level accessible to the person to whom he was talking. When Italian planes flew low over Ethiopian towns and machine-gunned undefended citizens on the streets, the news was brought one morning by a visitor from Madras; we all looked at M. to watch his reaction. He simply said, "The sage who knows the truth that the Self is indestructible will remain unaffected even if five million people are killed in his presence. Remember the advice of Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield when disheartened by the thought of the impending slaughter of relatives on the opposing side." And yet, as against this, I heard him utter on another occasion words which were the exact duplicate of those written by the artist Van Gogh in a letter to his brother: "I am not made of stone," in reference to some situation, implying that human feeling was certainly there.

It was a noteworthy feature of many, if not most, of Ramana Maharshi's answers that they were seldom direct and often evasive. This was because he tried to divert the questioner to the one fundamental need--to know the Overself--whereupon all questions would collapse or find their own answers.

The Maharshi demonstrated the truth of Lao Tzu's counsel concerning the advantages of lying low if one rests one's life on the Overself. Never once did he push his own name and fame, but his worth came to world recognition. Never once did he ask for a roof over his head, but others provided it for him.

Ramana Maharshi tells his questioners to know the Self but he does not tell them how they can do so.

I asked Ramana Maharshi this question: "Is it permissible for a man to engage in teaching his spiritual knowledge however imperfect both he and his knowledge may be?" The mystic of Arunachala answered: "Yes, if the destiny allotted to him for this birth be such."

The translations of his sayings are mostly my free interpretations based on work done with learned Tamil pundits, not literal recordings. The strange exotic idiom of the Tamil language does not give itself to easy understanding by a Westerner unless this is done.

Heinrich Zimmer, the Jungian, wrote in German a book based on Maharshi's teaching. He had to gather his materials from other books, of which very few existed at that time, and from correspondence, as he never went to India and consequently never talked to Maharshi.

A visitor, Lebanese by birth, Egyptian by upbringing, and French by marriage, complained to me that the Maharshi was a phenomenon. She recognized and admitted his greatness but she had come to India in search of a guru to guide her, not someone to be looked at from a distance while he sat in isolation like a solitary mountain peak.

"Every kind of Sadhana except that of Atma-Vichara presupposes the retention of the mind as the instrument for carrying on the Sadhana, and without the mind it cannot be practised. The ego may take different and subtler forms at the different stages of one's practice, but is itself never destroyed. . . . The attempt to destroy the ego or the mind through Sadhanas other than Atma-Vichara is just like the thief turning out a policeman to catch the thief, that is himself. Atma-Vichara alone can reveal the truth that neither the ego nor the mind really exists, and enables one to realize the pure, undifferentiated Being of the Self or the Absolute. Having realized the Self, nothing remains to be known, because it is perfect Bliss, it is the All."--Sri Ramana Maharshi

Excerpt from Maharshi's Talks: "Even the thought of saving the [sick] child is a sankalpa (wish), and one who has any sankalpa is no Gnani. In fact, any such thought is unnecessary. The moment the Gnani's eye falls upon a thing, there starts the automatic divine activity which itself leads to the highest good."

"The prophet of God," wrote Gildas, the Druid prophet, "will know God does nothing but what should be, in the manner it should be, at the time and in the order it should be." And on this same point, Ramana Maharshi declared, "God is perfection. His work also is perfection, but it appears to you--you see it--as imperfection!"

A remark once made by Ramana Maharshi reminded me of Tagore's extraordinary statement in his poem Vairagya. A pilgrim goes in quest of God after leaving home. The more he travels, the farther he goes from his house, the more he puts himself farther from the object of his pilgrimage. In the end, God cries, "Alas! Where is my worshipper going, forsaking me?"

Ramana Maharshi: One night in the spring of 1950, at the very moment that a flaring starry body flashed across the sky and hovered over the Hill of the Holy Beacon, there passed out of his aged body the spirit of the dying Maharshi. He was the one Indian mystic who inspired me most, the one Indian sage whom I revered most, and his power was such that both Governor-General and ragged coolie sat together at his feet with the feeling that they were in a divine presence. Certain factors combined to keep us apart during the last ten years of his life, but the inner telepathic contact and close spiritual affinity between us remained--and remains--vivid and unbroken. Last year he sent me this final message through a visiting friend: "When heart speaks to heart, what is there to say?"

Let there be no misunderstanding about my connection with Ramana Maharshi. My appreciation and reverence for him remain as great as ever. I still consider him one of the few enlightened seers of modern centuries. I did during his lifetime adopt the outward attitude of an independent student. However, my inner connection with the living mind which manifested as Ramana Maharshi remains unbroken.

Although I have not been a rigid follower of the Maharshi and for that reason have been either admired or criticized for the wrong reasons, I have accepted the fundamental rightness of his teachings and the perfect authenticity of his experience.

Although outwardly I ceased to be a literary and articulate link with Ramana Maharshi, inwardly I myself never ceased to be linked with him.

I need not have taken his sentences down on paper, for I wrote them on my mind.

It was partly out of deference to his noble character, his exalted mind, and partly because of my unbroken if unknown link with Ramana Maharshi that I kept such a silence for such a long time. Except for a very few friends, it will not be understood.

The criticisms of Ramana Maharshi are deeply regretted: they were occasioned more by events in the history of the ashram than by his own self. It is not possible to make an appropriate amendment, although I had planned to make one in the next book which I hoped to write. But alas! such a book was never completed.

When the Maharshi was asked by the financial secretary of the government of Mysore, "Is Paul Brunton's Secret Path useful for us Indians as well as the Westerners?" he replied: "Yes--for all."

My deference to the dead master's status and reverence for his worth are great and unshakeable. His pure life was an inspiration and an influence but it was not an example to imitate in all matters.

The evil forces seek to impede such work and will use both those who openly disavow faith as well as those who claim to have it but show little sign of its works. During my years of absence in the Orient one of those unfortunate human instruments published the statement that I had started a lawsuit against Ramana Maharshi! This assertion was utterly false in every way, as well as completely impossible, for the inner contact between Maharshi and myself remained always unbroken, while the outer relationship remained always of the friendliest. Indeed, on my side I made it a habit of annually expressing my affection and respect through some visiting friend or in a written message, and on his side never a year passed without his enquiring kindly after my welfare through these friends. Before he died he sent me a special message: "When heart speaks to heart, what is there to say?" Many years have passed since this stupid lie was printed, but my reaction to it, as well as to other lies emanating from the same source and sedulously circulated, remains a silent one. Such a mixture of evil and vulgarity deserves and can be met only with contempt.

I hold and feel with Gautama of blessed fame that my duty is to extend ungrudging compassion to those that wrong me and to return the protection of benevolent pity for their malicious attacks. I have no enemy. I know that all creatures are of the same divine element as myself, and to those who in their blindness do not see it I bear no resentment. The truth is at once my solace and my strength. All are my tutors, none enemies. May all men share in the peace of true enlightenment!

Although I cannot identify myself with these acknowledged followers of Ramana Maharshi, since I refuse to identify myself with any sect-in-the-making such as they are now creating, I welcome the appearance of every new book about him or his teaching. And I know that the misrepresentation of some part of his doctrine must be the price paid for all that is authentically told us by these followers, since they cannot help either the limitations of their spiritual vision or the ulterior motivation of their interpretations. Let this be regretted, as I must; nevertheless I look sympathetically to the good amid all this, to the benefit of truth and inspiration borne to mankind along with it.

Reply to Critique of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga in Light Journal, London: The reviewer has mixed up the M with the M in Theos Bernard's book. They are two separate persons. He has also poured scorn on my statements that I had sufficiently repaid Maharshi, and so on. Just as his first critique was based on his own mistake, so his second critique was based on his own misunderstanding. I did not mean that M was seeking repayment or had any desire for publicity. Anyone who, like me, knows M knows also that to attribute these things to him would have been absurd. I meant rather that in giving this publicity to M I did what I considered to be my duty to M and to the public. If later destiny dismissed me from his service, that was because the task allotted me in connection with him had been fulfilled and she had other tasks for me in view.

My published words showed this veneration I always felt, and feel, for Ramana Maharshi. If later the technical difference between mystic and philosopher was completely withdrawn from print where the reference was to the Maharshi--thus finally getting done what had been sought for so many years against real frustrating difficulties in other quarters--I am happy it was done during my lifetime. But final humbling and full amendment will come later still, at the hour dictated by fate.

But I began to understand why the world's scriptures are well packed with marvels. Sensible men today adopt a critical attitude and refuse to swallow half the wonders which are tacked on to a religious message. The additions have undoubtedly been made by over-devout followers. It was highly instructive to me to watch how a similar group of legends was already forming itself around the Maharshi's name during his own lifetime. What amazing wonders will not spring up after he is gone! It is necessary for me to describe things as I find them, not as I would like them to be, and I regret to record that I gathered a crop of stories which were the result of worship that cared more for adulation of a personality than regard for truth. There is a right channel and a wrong channel for the guru-worship which prevails among Indian devotees, and foolish ascriptions to the gurus of non-existent miracles is unfortunately quite a common thing all over the country. Fortunately my inner insistence on the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth put all these tales into the crucible of investigation whence few emerged.

Sri Maharshi is unquestionably a great saint and an adept in yoga. But this must not lead me or others to confuse the issue. The claims of truth press irresistibly on me and I will continue to follow the elusive goddess even though she were to lead me into a deserted wilderness where I must walk utterly alone. Time has opened my eyes to the fact that the states of mystical ecstasy, however delightful to experience, are not necessarily always tokens of truth.

I write all this with reluctance, because I would rather refrain from the slightest criticism of one whom I admire and esteem so greatly and whose teaching I accept so wholeheartedly on all other points, but my remarks are intended to be purely impersonal, as though I were writing of someone who lived hundreds of years ago and whom I had never had the privilege of meeting and of having been treated as one of his own disciples, even to the point of being initiated.

The chapter on Jesus in Discover Yourself explains that He had to go through the growing pains of spiritual ripening, as had every adept who wanted to serve. Where this desire to serve is absent (as in the highest type of mystic, such as Ramana Maharshi) illumination often comes fully and suddenly; but then it is only mystical.

For the sage the suffering of others is his; for the yogi it is not. The Maharshi was an adept in mysticism--that is, yoga--but his idea of truth needs to be disputed. He says that the sage can watch with indifference the slaughter of millions of people in battle. That is quite true of the yogi but it will never be true of those who have sacrificed every future nirvanic beatitude to return to earth until all are saved; they alone are entitled to the term sage; nor can they do otherwise, for they have found the unity of all human beings. They would never have returned if they did not feel for others.

The Maharshi's body lies buried in an Indian grave but his teaching lives inside the minds of all who can perceive its truth.