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India Part 2


Aurobindo looked like a grave Chinese mandarin, straight from one of those long scroll-paintings. He was small. His face showed utter composure, unbreakable calm, but no smile crossed it, no emotion flickered even for an instant.

Aurobindo did not communicate with his disciples or others by speech, except on rare occasions or with those closest to him. Instead he wrote countless notes in a tiny pinched calligraphy on small slips of paper.

The tides of life and destiny carried him as a boy away from his race. Time snatched the creed away before he had learned to understand it so that he grew up to meet men of every creed with equal friendliness. He keep this cosmopolitanism in his heart and mind.

Aurobindo Ashram: The Mother made her appearance every morning before breakfast on the balcony of her house, while a large crowd of devotees gathered in the street below. She stood there returning their gaze but slowly moving her eyes from one part of the crowd to another. Within a few minutes this daily ritual came to an end, and everyone dispersed. It was not so much a time for brief meditation as for receiving the blessing of her visible presence. It is a widespread belief in India that the mere sight of a great soul is a benediction in itself.

Pondicherry was a little French colony sending a deputy to represent it in the legislature at distant Paris. Its life has changed under its newer Indian Republican Government but in those days it was becoming shabby, with a pathetic air of lost affluence. The houses in the better part of the town were European in style, but their whitewashed walls were peeling and stained, their little gardens were overrun by weeds, and flowering shrubs were tangled and unkempt. In the early evening, just before lamps were lit, the tropic twilight made the place seem unreal and illusive.

When a young man, Aurobindo learned from Lele, a Maharashtsa yogi, to reject thought. He was told, "Look and you will see the thoughts coming in from outside. Fling them back; do not let them enter." He and Lele meditated together. Three days later they parted and never met again. But from then the Divine Silence took over.

By sending Sri Aurobindo to jail the English rulers unwittingly turned a politician, of whom there were so many, into a mystic, Oxford bred and modern minded, of whom there were none in India. The unexpected effect of their action was to give us all, Westerners as well as Indians, a unique expounder of Yoga and Vedanta in the most noteworthy development they have made in a thousand years.

There are some points in Sri Aurobindo's teaching which do not accord with the highest teachings of philosophy. Three of these are: his rejection of idealism in the Berkeleian sense, his advocacy of the Incarnation doctrine, and his acceptance of the possibility of mystical union with God. On the first point, it is impossible to escape from the truth that mind is the only reality we have ever known or can ever know, and therefore there is no place for matter in the scheme of things. In the second case, how can the infinite mind become confined in the finite flesh of no matter how divine an incarnation? In the third case, God as the Ultimate Reality is incomprehensible, intangible, absolute, and unthinkable. No human capacity, regardless of its power of stretching out, can so transcend its finite limitations as to achieve direct union with it. What the mystic does achieve, however, is union with his own individual divine soul--which is quite another matter. Still, Aurobindo is the most outstanding of recent Indian yogis.

Sri Aurobindo, the invisible Guru of Pondicherry, spent almost the whole of every year shut up and unapproachable in the penthouse-tower of his ashram. No one penetrated to his seclusion except the Mother and a couple of the oldest disciples. His writings on philosophy are dull and questionable whereas his writings on yoga are alive and authoritative.

Westerners are taking some interest in the teaching of Sri Aurobindo. I learn only from occasional book reviews in library journals, and from letters which I get from people I know, that more and more of his writings are being read and studied and appreciated every year. He is coming to be recognized as the authentic spokesman of modern Indian mysticism, as apart from the medieval type represented by the missionary swamis. I often visited him and stayed as his guest. Nevertheless, I still believe that we of the West must work out our own salvation and that Indian ashrams are not the proper places to do this.

Sri Aurobindo is dead! The great experiment, which was to have ended death, and extended life, has failed. The great truth enunciated by the Buddha and repeated by Maharshi, that all compounded things pass and must pass through a cycle of birth growth decay and death, has been vindicated.


In a region of India where one travels as much by boat on inland canals and lagoons as on roads; where coconut groves flourish luxuriantly on every side; where broad white sandy beaches hide the mineral thorium, so much sought in the years immediately after the war by atomic energy producing nations; where--on one of these beaches--the Apostle Saint Thomas is said to have landed and preached Christ, I met Atmananda the Sage.

In a region of India where the fruit of cashew trees and the fronds of coconut palms show themselves everywhere, I met a mentalist. His name was Atmananda.

Sri Atmananda told me that he was taught the higher philosophy and got enlightened by it in a single session. But it ought to be explained that this session lasted from sunset to sunrise the next day.

The Greek philosopher taught his pupils under the shade of wide-spreading plane trees, strolling back and forth, up and down, in little groves of olive trees or paved walks; Atmananda taught them under the shade of tall coconut palms, he seated, they standing out of respect.

Atmananda, the sage. It was a blessed scene: the sage on his simple chair and the pupils standing in front and around in a horseshoe pattern; the respect and homage permeating the air; the yearning for truth upon all the faces; the thick foliage of tall palm trees forming a lofty canopy. But alas! It has vanished with the past and the sage with it--only his teachings and memory are left for the world.

It is good that Atmananda warned his disciples that intellectual understanding of truth was not enough: they had also to establish themselves in it, he said.

Sri Atmananda told a person who could enter mystic trance at will and stay in it for hours, his mind wrapt by bliss, that this was not the highest complete state. "You still have to understand the world through the mind's intelligence," he said.

Atmananda claimed that apart from the spoken communication there was another which was unspoken, a silent spiritual emanation which would enlighten his hearers immeasurably more than mere words could, but which was so subtle and elusive that only a fraction of them could pick it up.

Atmananda's reply to a rich man was: "I don't ask you to renounce the world, but unless you are ready to do so don't come here." A leading disciple of Atmananda, John Levy, said: "Pure Consciousness is the background of perception."

Atmananda moved through the paces of a rhythmic dance with light graceful steps. They alternated as he danced, first forwards and then backwards.

Atmananda's movements were more foot-shuffling than dancing.

Atmananda: The unearthly musical tension mounted as time went on until it finally came to a head; but the crisis was a joyous one, a triumphant note permeated it, sublime peace displaced the suspense and tension; symbolism stopped; here was reality. For one was not merely looking at a spectacle, one was also participating actively in it by responding to it; one was worshipping at the same time.

At the end of Atmananda's ritual, after the gentle soothing climax, a total dignified silence fell upon the scene.


In this strange world with which I have been dealing, Krishnamurti, the South Indian Brahmin who was more at home, and for more years, in Ojai, California, than in Madras, India, occupies a unique position which nobody else can duplicate. There is much in the lives and teachings of Indian gurus which repeats the same pattern; but K's life and teaching are apart, different and outstanding. The colour and mystery with which gurus are invested by themselves or by disciples, he rejects sternly.

It was in 1929 that Krishnamurti exploded for the first time in public addresses which reversed his earlier teaching, dissolved the societies of which he was the titular head, renounced Theosophy, and asserted that "religious organizations are barriers to understanding of the truth."

Krishnamurti was as emotionally forceful in those days and in that little private tent as he was dryly intellectual when I saw him again lecturing upon a public platform in Hamburg twenty years later. He seemed to be a man passionately convinced that he had a mission to fulfil.

The disconcerting abruptness of his speech, the provoking iconoclasm of his views, made the Krishnamurti of those days a fierce critic of the Establishment.

Krishnamurti, despite the strong emphasis put into his sentences, stood during his lectures almost without moving his body, just as Emerson had done more than a century before.

Krishnamurti's attitude has mellowed. He is less harsh in his judgements, more patient with views which he formerly strongly denounced.

Krishnamurti said he never dreams, that dreams have no real importance, and that when he sleeps he gains complete rest.

The criticism of society, its ambitions and ideals, its politics and religion, its education and wars which was made by Lao Tzu was made again in modern times by Krishnamurti.

Krishnamurti: "The so-called saints and sannyasins have contributed to dullness of mind."

Aldous Huxley's close friendship in California with Krishnamurti did not save him from making the mescaline error, nor from taking the inferior Subud initiation.

On Krishnamurti: Our meeting was brief, but it gave me the chance to gain an impression of the man and an outline of his chief teaching that was out of all proportion to its brevity.

When I interviewed Krishnamurti (number one) forty years ago he told me that he was opposed not only to the methods and purifications and disciplines of yoga, not only to the authoritativeness of religious organizations and the dogmatism of religious creeds, not only to the injustices of capitalistic society, but also to the proliferation of temples, ashrams, gurus, and so on. He felt that all this was preventing people from thinking for themselves.

The long meeting I had at Adyar brought out several striking statements from Krishnamurti: (1) He disowned the Order of the Star because he no longer felt that religious organizations could save humanity. (2) He denied the value of spiritual authorities and declared them to be dogmatically harmful to truth-seekers. (3) He said that blind enslavement was the inevitable result of following gurus or adhering to organized creeds. (4) He further said that without full freedom from the influence of others to search for truth, it could not be found.

I admire Krishnamurti for his utter integrity. When it is so easy to let himself be sucked into that bog of teachers who exploit disciples and disciples who exploit teachers, and in his case still easier because of his world-wide fame, he resolutely turns his back upon it and goes in the opposite direction.

The Arcane School exists for novices and after they have made some progress they get into a rut unless they leave it.

One can have great admiration for Krishnamurti personally; he is doing useful work in debunking the nonsense which largely vitiated the theosophic movement, of which the school is only a variant. He is doing good by removing the superstitions and the flabbiness of the average theosophist. However, this is not to say that one endorses all his ideas. He has a particular work of criticism to carry out and does it admirably, but he lacks a constructive technique. He goes to extremes. In his righteous rebellion against the hallucinations of clairvoyants, the exploitations of religion and occultism, the deliberate self-deception of teachers, and the enslavement of disciples, he wants to throw overboard much that is useful and necessary. Meditation generally ends in a desert waste, but under proper guidance it can become immensely fruitful in every way. The pity is that there has rarely been a rational approach to it. Many good things have become so hopelessly mixed up with silly nonsense and personal exploitation that sensible people react in time as Krishnamurti reacted. Krishnamurti has attained a high level of discernment but it is not realization in the ultimate sense. He often comes very close to the truth, but shoots off at a tangent again. Had he realized this he would have been better balanced and done greater good.

The work of the Arcane School is excellent in its place. It cannot be considered to be of real rather than illusory assistance to those who have got beyond an elementary stage. One can be much in accord with Krishnamurti in his criticism of occult organizations, so far as people of sufficient ability to think for themselves are concerned.

The sphere of religion is gross illusion, the sphere of mysticism and occultism is subtle illusion, the sphere of ordinary metaphysics is growing perception but muddled and confused with opinion, while the sphere of pure philosophy is the removal of all illusion and error. This opens the gate to that fusion of feeling and thinking which is finally expressed in all action and thus leads to realization of truth. Asceticism is also a stage, intended to help the mind see clearly, unconfused by its desires, but of itself it can never give truth. It is often taken in India as a sign of highest attainment, whereas the real sage hides himself by trying to be outwardly as much like others as possible; hence he is rarely to be found wearing monkish robes.

Krishnamurti has seen through the religious and mystic illusions--a rare attainment--but unfortunately he is still finding his way through the third degree and has not finished yet. Nor can he finish until he accepts a guide. The real sage never enslaves the mind nor exploits faith, but Krishnamurti has never met such a one, and so is quite correct in his denunciations. He comes quite close at times to perception of reality, but sheers off at a tangent again.

The sufferings of our present epoch have a silver lining; they are spiritual teachers in disguise. But the man of reflection does not need them, if he has made Truth his goal. All the rewards usually but erroneously associated with religion and mysticism become his when he reaches this goal, but their appeal is secondary then. Most of them are but allegories and parables of what he gets rather than a presentation of actual facts.

If Krishnamurti accepts the same conclusions which he recommends to others, he should be logical and stop writing, lecturing, or granting interviews. But he continues these activities. Either he is inconsistent, or there is a flaw in his conclusions.

Does Krishnamurti note that in the very book in whose pages he campaigns so passionately against teachers and teachings, he himself writes as a teacher and gives out teachings? Merely disclaiming the title does not make him less of one.

The students' upheavals are clear exhibitions of what Krishnamurti's views on education lead to. His lectures to colleges, his addresses to youth, his writings on education--all end, when put into practice, in these student riots and violent demonstrations.

Too many of Krishnamurti's followers have only exchanged an old cage for a new one, despite their master's protest against such a course. Moreover, they do not even know that they have done it. For those who seek freedom--even his other followers, who catch his spirit much better and more loyally--are caged by their very seeking. They may become free only if they become relaxed.

I admire Krishnamurti for his sturdy independence and forthright honesty, but I do not admire his followers. They quickly fell into the old temptation of forming another sect, another group with exclusive outlooks.

Krishnamurti has rightly criticized the various kinds of spiritual attachment which aspirants tend to form; but in doing so he has leaned over too far in the opposite direction and nurtured in himself and then transmitted to his hearers or readers a detachment which is so rabid that it becomes compulsive. Thus a new and paradoxical kind of attachment is, ironically yet unwittingly, created by them to replace the old ones they have forsaken .

There is so much truth in Krishnamurti's teaching, so much excellent advice, that it is easy for his followers to get carried away, swept up emotionally by his sharp biting criticisms of orthodox and traditional ways. If this happens, the end result is confusion. For the overlooked fact is that his teaching cannot stand all alone, by itself--it is too negative for that--it takes naïve people out into the wilderness and leaves them there. But if Krishnamurti's counsel is put in its proper place, if it becomes part of a whole, of philosophy, then it is valuable.

Krishnamurti preaches the rejection of all goals and the recognition of the momentary flux of things. This takes away direction, purpose, growth. It leaves men bereft. Yet it is a correct description of the state of the rare few who have unwaveringly established themselves in truth. But the others, the countless millions who live in semi-ignorance, anxiety, fluctuating moods, need the inspiration of a goal, the uplift of a standard, the transforming power of grace meeting aspiration.

Krishnamurti's ideal is excellent but in the end, and in actuality, as demonstrated by observation in a wide area of space and time, it creates disorder. If he really believes in this ideal, surely silence is the proper way, and the only way, to express it.

What Krishnamurti says is partially true. There has to be self-effort in the first stage and the aspiration for improvement. But as this keeps the ego within the circle of self, the second stage opens by that abandonment of effort which Krishnamurti preaches. To enter the second stage prematurely would be a mistake and this he does not seem to grant. He is good medicine for theosophists but still not properly balanced.

Krishnamurti's teaching is certainly a part of philosophy but it is an overweighted part. And being only a part, it lacks the attributes of wholeness and balance which belong so beautifully to truth.

The intention is to shock him into new thought, awakened consideration, by means of bold surprising statements. But if the shock is too concentrated, the attack on too narrow a front and not distributed more widely, it may do more harm than good. This is the danger of methods like Krishnamurti's and Zen's.


In the personal presence of Gandhi, one felt that he was being used by some tremendous impersonal, almost cosmic power. But the feeling was noticeably different in kind from that one experienced with, say, Sri Aurobindo or Ramana Maharshi. It may be that in Gandhi's case the inspirer was the energy of Karma, shaper of India's destiny!

Gandhi spoke more slowly than any other man I have ever heard speak. It was as though he were waiting to receive each word from some other source or as though he were thinking out the full meaning of each word before uttering it.

The young men, with one eye cocked on the West, propose that India shall progress; Gandhi, with one eye cocked on the past, proposes that she will regress.

Again and again I was told before the war that Gandhi, by his new instrument of soul force, would bring peace to the whole world. But what I actually saw was that he could not bring peace to his own country, could not stop the growth of Hindu-Muslim strife.

Gandhi would throw Western science plus Western systems of medicine into the dustbin. But when Gandhi had appendicitis he threw his own doctrines there and submitted to an operation by an English surgeon. The fact that he picked them up again when he was well makes me think: Do these people live to justify doctrines?

Just like those of Hazlitt and Cobbett in the England of an earlier century, Gandhi's ideas were simply expressed in print, lucidly expounded on platforms.

"Machines would remain because they are inevitable," admitted Gandhi. Therefore he proposed to make certain exceptions, such as the sewing-machine, to his opposition to them.

Ananda Mayee

Ananda Mayee: Instead of using the personal pronoun "I," she often used the phrase "this body." She was born in 1896 in a Brahmin family noted for its religious learning and piety. When nearly thirteen years old, she was married to another Brahmin. She developed a great liking for religious music, from which she passed to mantra yoga practice. "Everything becomes possible by the power of pure concentrated thought," she says. No guru initiated her. From her middle teens to her twenty-fifth year, she passed more and more time in reveries, abstractions, and long periods of silence, until even trance states were achieved. Often she passed into states in which tears of joy or of longing and aspiration would well up in her eyes while singing devotional songs. Those who heard her were thrilled by the emotion in her voice. Strange phenomena manifested when she was alone. Her neck would be turned by some force and remain twisted for some time. A brilliant light would shine all around her; or her body would automatically assume one of the yogic postures, and she would stay in it for hours, eyes open and unblinking. Or she would fall into a trance so deep that no one could awaken her. She had to be left to come out of it of her own accord. Her food intake is very small. I first met her in Rajpur, at the foot of the Himalayas. Her husband had become her first disciple; his relationship with her was then a brother-and-sister one. She gives no formal initiation to disciples and recommends everyone to take a few minutes every day out of their routine for meditation. Benares is her headquarters now, but she goes on tour for a few months every year so that others elsewhere may benefit by her heavenly singing.[Ananda Mayee has died since this note was written--Ed.]

"I don't advise anyone to give up the world and retire into forests," Ananda Mayee said to me. She is a contemporary Indian lady guru whom I met at the foot of the Himalayas and then again twenty years later in a city. She has wandered throughout India. Her counsel has weight.

Pathos in Ananda Mayee's singing voice caused her hearers to weep. It was like listening to a divine angelic voice.

Ananda Mayee: Half the time she looked remote, as if she were not present in mind at all.

Ananda Mayee was held in high esteem by Nehru's mother. She continued to visit his family. After his mother's death she told Nehru's daughter on a visit, "This is the last time I shall see him." One month later he died.

Ananda Mayee, most celebrated of contemporary Hindu female mystics, had no guru and no guidance from any other human being.

Ramakrishna, Vivekananda

The Indian teacher of modern times whom so many Occidentals admire most and rate highest is Ramana Maharshi, but Sri Aurobindo and Swami Ramdas follow closely. Nor must I leave out Swami Vivekananda. He interests them more, far more than his own master, Sri Ramakrishna. He possessed the only spirituality the West cares for, the kind which was not afraid to plunge into the world arena and fight, albeit it fought to serve others rather than in self-interest. He had a strong intellectual acumen and sought the sanctions of reason for every doctrine that he adopted; indeed such sanctions were as sacred to him as those of faith in his teacher's words. His was no exaggerated asceticism. He did not prize his yellow robe of renunciation overmuch, did not worship it as a fetish like others, but valued it only for what it was worth--a convenient means of economizing time and energy for the special mission which he had undertaken.

After twenty years of the monkish life, towards the end of his career, Swami Vivekananda seems to have questioned the usefulness of adopting monasticism, inasmuch as he then confessed: "More and more, the true greatness of life seems to me that of the worm doing its duty, silently, and from moment to moment."

With the marriage of Orient and Occident, the developed minds of both hemispheres will perceive activity in rest, and recognize inaction in activity. "The doctrine of the Gita is intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness," says Vivekananda.

Sri Ramakrishna came to his illumination without practising any systematic discipline in yoga and after only six months of passionate prayer, whereas it took Buddha six years of arduous disciplined effort to attain his illumination. The difference of the two accounts and the difference of efforts explains why Ramakrishna attained the high stage of mysticism whereas Buddha attained the high stage of philosophy. The longer the road, the loftier is the attainment, and only those who take the time and trouble to traverse the whole length of the way may expect to gain all the fruits. He who stops part of the way may only expect to gain part of the result.

The late Master Mahasaya told my friend Swami Desikananda that his famous diary The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna contained only the elementary, not the most advanced teachings. Whenever Sri Ramakrishna saw Mahasaya coming, he told his closest disciples not to discuss advanced questions when Mahasaya was present, because he was taking notes. The esoteric teachings based on Avastatraya were never recorded.

The Ramakrishna Mission teachers are good people but have not attained ultimate knowledge. They are most useful in helping elderly ladies slip smoothly into their graves, but a young man ought to have a higher ideal than merely to become a human vegetable.

Other Indian teachers and schools

I was astonished when Professor Mahadevan, then head of the Department of Philosophy of Madras University, India, told me that he had once met Sri Atmananda and that the latter, when challenged about the difference between his teaching and Shankara's--of which Mahadevan is a keen follower--admitted that this was a difference which Atmananda only held secretly for himself, because most people were unwilling to embrace a monastic order and Shankara's teaching led to such a goal. So Atmananda taught them that it was not necessary to renounce the world and become monks, that they could live as householders and still attain enlightenment, which the professor rejected. A somewhat similar statement was made to me by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, ex-guru of the Beatles, when I challenged him that the method he taught was nothing more than mantram yoga and could not lead to self-enlightenment. Mahesh Yogi admitted this, but said that he gave the teaching in its mantric form as a bait, like holding a carrot before a donkey, to get the students started into meditation, and that later on the results of the meditation will lure them to go on to the higher yogas.

That reminds me that Mahadevan told me that Atmananda in explaining his position had also used this very word "bait" as what was held before his disciples. In the case of Mahesh Yogi, I can well believe that this was so; but in the case of Sri Atmananda I find it incredible, as I was not a disciple of his and he knew I was following a very independent line of research, so that he could speak to me more freely. I therefore conclude that Mahadevan, who is to all intents and purposes a monk and always has been even though for family reasons he never embraced a monastic order, makes the usual interpretation of Advaita customary among such orders in India--which is that only monks can achieve final enlightenment because only they have renounced everything.

As against that I quote two authorities whom Mahadevan himself accepts on all other points. The first is Ramana Maharshi, who definitely stated that anyone, householder or monk, could attain enlightenment because it did not entirely depend on outward things, but on one's inner state. The second is the present Shankaracharya of Kamakoti, who made a similar statement and whom Mahadevan also regards as one of his teachers. It is therefore a matter of one's personal bias entering into an interpretation of one's own masters' teaching, as I believe is what has happened in this case.

Madras University had the rare good fortune to have an excellent philosopher with a both a keen intellectual understanding and a spiritual realization of what he teaches his students.

The benevolent sage-king of Mysore put a profusion of flowering trees in the residential quarters of his city. Their exuberant colours and peaceful presence gave much to a sensitive temperament and more to an aesthetic one. He himself possessed such a temperament, but beyond that he was a knower, established in the higher philosophy of truth.

The Indian Swami Ramdas was a conflagration of goodwill and happiness. It was obvious that he wanted everyone to share his joie de vivre--and this in fact is what he told me.

The Indian Swami Ramdas, like Bismarck, read detective stories in his after-lunch rest period. Did he find it a necessity, and not merely a relaxation, thus to get away from all the tense talk of spiritual egocentrism that went on all day around him, and with him?

It was not only a mystic like the Indian Ramdas who had this unusual habit of referring to himself at most times in the third person. An editor I knew, a talented essayist and literary critic, also practised it. But whereas with Ramdas (I felt) it was a genuine detachment, with the editor it was something of a pose--not necessarily insincere but still a pose.

Tagore dryly commented, "One day I shall have to fight my way out of my own reputation."

The alleged Maharishi teaches a simple method for those who have only just begun to find out that there is something better than frozen orthodoxy in religion or hopeless materialism in science. It can be welcomed as such. It can take them one step farther than these two. But it cannot take them into Reality, cannot bestow insight into the ultimate truth. And its associations today with Mahesh Yogi himself are dubious, if not undesirable.

Mahesh Yogi's financial methods and publicity arrangements will not appeal to the fastidious.

I felt that there was an ominous sign of some kind of mild mental unbalance when, in the middle of quite serious conversation, the so-called Maharishi suddenly broke out into foolish needless disconcerting laughter. This repeated itself after intervals at the most unexpected times, so it was obviously a tendency. There is, however, a practice used in some Tibetan Lamaist sects of breaking out into laughing fits, but this is of a different origin. It is philosophic, a vocal act of judgement in weighing the world's reality against appearances.

Medieval Arab and Persian medical texts describing the symptoms of various forms of insanity mention "a childish merriness of heart, and unprovoked laughter, laughing without reason. Sound sleep is the best known remedy for this disease."

Centuries before Martin Luther struck at the materialistic mummery of a decadent European Church, Kapila in India issued his polemics against the superficial ceremonial of the Indian priests. Though the Brahmins, with cunning craft, gradually entangled and absorbed his Samkhya followers in later centuries, the system in its original and pure form remains a standing rebuke to all priestcraft.

Kapila in India thousands of years ago anticipated Bergson's thesis by opening up the perspectives of infinity and evolution.

In the early post-Vedic period, various schools of thought came into existence. One of the least known, because it is difficult to find direct records, is Svabhavavada, which has been translated broadly as Naturalism. This teaching rejected belief in anything supernatural or superphysical. At a later time, during the period when the Jain and Buddhist systems arose, a sort of reincarnation of this school appeared called the Carvaka.

The Jain householder must meditate three times a day and fast once a week. As he draws near his fiftieth year he must totally abstain from sex indulgence; as he draws near his fifty-fifth year he must withdraw from work and other undertakings, dispossess himself of every kind of property, refrain from participating in any business--even to the extent of refusing to give advice on worldly matters--and live on one meal a day. After that age he becomes a homeless sannyasin and strict ascetic.

"The study of philosophy disciplines the senses just as the morn's rising of the sun renders the owls lustreless," was said more than seven hundred years ago by the Jain Sage Ramasingha, who also likened the man ignorant of his divine soul to one "who though living in the house does not know the master of the house."

There once existed in India a system called Viraha Yoga which sought to feel the actuality of love during the separation from the person beloved, which tried to find joy through and in the very midst of its grief.

Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, pilloried the useless asceticism of the yogis: "To fast, to endure great heat and cold--all these works of penance are works of dark ignorance," he explained.

Nanak, the Sikh guru, was taught by no master. His wisdom and power were self-found. It is a rule that the founders of religion are self-illumed, as were Christ and Buddha and Muhammed.

Himalayan region

When I first saw that stupendous range, whose head and shoulders are always snow-covered, whose lower trunk and feet are thick with fir and deodar, rhododendron and azalea, I found for once that the reality matched the dream.

I shall never forget the sumptuous colours which take possession of the Himalayan peaks at sunrise and sunset.

There are areas of the Himalayan valleys which are strange country, for, apart from the few villagers, the only other inhabitants one is likely to meet are either holy recluses or unholy bandits.

Why did these recluses choose the frigid Himalayas for their spiritual retreats, when their bodies had been born into and were accustomed to torrid climates? I think it is because the immense tranquillity of Himalaya, the large scenic views, and the freedom from worldly humans which it offers gave the impression of being in another world.

The monsoon season in the Himalayan foothills is frightful, unforgettable. The wind comes in fierce gales, the rain falls in thick sheets.

The gypsies of Europe came originally from Himalaya. An artisan I met and conversed with and who was on his way to the nearest town in British India in quest of work (I think he was a carpenter) was a Drom, a native aborigine of the Himalaya west of Nepal. They are a darker race than other Hindus and keep to themselves, as do the gypsies, and for centuries were slaves and serfs of the Brahmins. They are the primitive race that was here before the Aryans came to India. The word Romany is undoubtedly derived from their name, for the word Dromani indicates a female Drom. The language of the gypsies bears so many words of Indian origin too. The Droms must have been driven out by an invasion and sent on distant wanderings.

Seven stupid brothers went for a walk in the forest one day, when they suddenly saw a tiger; they were all immensely frightened and began counting their company to find out if anyone had been carried away by the animal. Each forgot to include himself in the total and so they found only six. At once they rushed home and informed their father that one of the boys had been killed by a tiger. The father was taken aback by their shouts and weeping and, on hearing the dreadful news, did not verify it but fell down in a fit. This story is a good example of the humour of the Himalayan goatherds who told it to me both as a philosophic fable and as a funny story. Each counter did not remember himself and that is our plight, too. Each of our sceptics has forgotten his true self.

Gangetri was worth all the risks and hardship of attaining it. This vast rock-enclosed glen was inconceivably grand, majestic. The Ganges flowed over a single bed. Though this is popularly supposed to be the source of the Ganges, the river really rises far higher up in a mass of frozen snow which arches it.

A biologist once said that Himalaya is nothing more than a gigantic graveyard wherein countless millions of animals and doubtless human forms have been entombed. But when I enter a graveyard or a cemetery I am at once made aware of it and everything in me rises in distaste. My reaction on entering a cemetery is decidedly unpleasant but my reaction on entering the region of earth's loftiest summits, Himalaya, is decidedly pleasant; I find it attractive and not repulsive.