Beauty Of The Quest

Cover of "Altai-Himalaya A Travel Diary"

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part X : INDIA (1924)

The Talmud relates that the dove brought the first olive branch to Noah from Mount Moriah. And Mount Moriah and the mountain Meru both lie in Asia. Here is the beginning of all things. Here is the source for all travelers and all searchers. Here is raised the first image of the Blessed Maitreya—Messiah—Muntazar, the Messiah now awaited by the Mohammedans. Thrice powerful M ! Here, above all disputes, the teachings have raised up the olive branch of the new world. Here is ordained the universal commune.

Some one voluntarily approached and touched our tent ! Who is this man, with his long black braid and a turquoise earring in his ear, and garbed in a white kaftan ? It is the Lama, Pema Don-dub, the local ikon painter. We ask, “Can you paint for us the Blessed Maitreya, exactly like the one in Tashi-lhunpo ?” He consents and now he sits on a tiny rug in the corner of the white gallery, and with various pigments, paints the Image full of symbols. He prepares the fabric for the painting and covers it with levkas (a mixture of chalk on glue), and irons it with a shell. He works exactly like Russian ikon painters. In the same way does he grind his colors, heat them on a coal pan; and thus does he keep an additional brush in his thick black hair. His Tibetan wife helps him to prepare his colors.

And so, in the corner of the white gallery is being conceived the ingenious image, many-colored. And each symbol upon it more clearly defines the Blessed One. Here is the frightful bird-like Garuda and wise Magi and Ganeshi, elephant of happiness, and Chintamani, the Steed, bearing on its back the miraculous stone, Treasure of the World. A sacred cycle of chosen symbols. And upon the image and the hands is laid pure gold.

Like our ikon painters, the artist lama chants hymns as he labors. The chants become more fervent; this means he is beginning upon the Image itself.

And another wonder occurs, only possible in this land. In the deep twilight when the waxing moon possesses all things, one hears through the house the silvery tones of a handmade flute. In the darkness, the artist lama is sitting upon his rug, playing with rapture before the image of Maitreya-Messiah-Muntazar.

The Strings of the Earth !

Talai-Pho-Brang.


Panoramic Kashmir

Panoramic Kashmir (Photo credit: NotMicroButSoft

PIR-PANZAL (1925)

Where have passed the hordes of the great Mongols ?

Where has the lost tribe of Israel concealed itself ?

Where stands the “Throne of Solomon” ?

Where lie the paths of Christ the Wan­derer ?

Where glow the bonfires of the Shamans, Bon-po, of the religion of demons ?

Where is Shalimar, the gardens of Jehangir ?

Where are the roads of Pamir, Lhasa, Khotan ?

Where is the mysterious cave, Amarnath ?

Where is the path of Alexander the Great to forgotten Taxila ?

Where are the walls of Akbar ?

Where did Ashvagosha teach ?

Where did Avan-tisvamin create ?

Where are the citadels of Chandragupta-Maurya ?

Where are the stones of wisdom of King Asoka ? . . .

All have passed by way of Kashmir. Here lie the ancient ways of Asia. And each caravan flashes by as a connecting link in the great body of the East. Here are the sandy deserts on the way to Peshawar; and the blue peaks of Sonamarg; and the white slopes of Zoji-La. And in the flight of the eagles is the same untiring spirit; in the fleet steed is the same unalterable motion. Nor does the world of roses and shawls of Kashmir resemble that forgotten and hidden world of Kashmiri blades.

Sacre du Printemps“— when we composed it together with Stravinsky, we could not conceive that Kashmir would greet us with its very setting. In Ghari, camping out by night, when the vivid spring sky became afire with stars and the mountains were azured, we observed rows of fires upon the mountains. The fires started into motion, separated and strangely circled about. Then the mountain slopes became aglow with these fiery processions. And in the village below, dark silhouettes began to whirl about brandishing resin torches on long staffs. The flaming circles proclaimed the end of winter frosts. And the songs proclaimed the Sacred Spring. This is the festival of the Ninth of March.

Bulbul,” the nightingale, sings on the apple tree. The cuckoo reckons out a long life. White linens are spread on the meadow and a samovar is boiling. Red and yellow apples and sweet cakes are passed around to those seated upon the spring grass. The eyes of the violets and the white and yellow narcissus are woven into a many-hued carpet. At evening, flocks of ducks and geese completely cover the tiny islands over the lakes. Small bears steal out on the spring glades. But none fears them—unless the mother-bear is with her cubs. . . .

The river banks are sloping. A line of boatsmen steer their canopied boats. . . . Upon a broad road the oxen drag themselves and the wheels grind along. Three-hundred-year-old plantains and tall poplars guard the ways. And the teeth of the encoun­tered travelers gleam often in the smile of greeting.

In the sheds lie the sleighs—veritable Moscow sleighs. In the yard, a crane screeches above the well. The straw roof is over­grown with green moss. Along the road are gnarled willow trees. And the greetings of the children are noisy. But where is this ? Is it in Schuya or Kolomna? It is in Srinagar, in the “City of the Sun.”

Tiny, big-bellied pillars—small ornamental designs—steep little steps of stone—the gilded roofs of the temple—creaking, orna­mented window-shutters—rusty locks—low little doors with their “curtesy”—carved balustrades—slanting tiles on stony floors—the odor of old lacquer—small windows with diminutive panes. Where are we then ? Is this the Kremlin of Rostov ? Are these the monasteries of Suzdal ? Are they the temples of Yaroslavl ? And what of the endless flocks of daws ? What of the naked branches behind the windows ? This is the chief palace of the Maharajah of Kashmir. How curious is everything which re­mains from antiquity. But the modern additions are hideous.

Upon the road are many Fords. In the hotel dining room one sees the faces of Americans. In the jewelry shop, side-by-side, hang two paintings—one of the view of Delhi, the other the view of the Moscow Kremlin. Among the crystals into which one gazes for destiny; among the sapphires of Kashmir and the Tibetan turquoises, are shimmering green Chinese jadaites—and like a garden, many-colored are the borders of the embroidered kaftans. Like precious shawls, the rooms of the museum are strewn with minute Iran-designs and “Gandhara,” belabored by destiny, unifies the cleft branches of West and East.

In the styles of the temples and mosques; in the angular carved dragons; in the tentlike, sloping hexagonal tower, is seen an unexpected combination of the old wooden churches of Norway and the Chinese pagodas. Out of one well is drawn the Roman­esque Chimera, the animal ornaments of Altai and the tiny animals of Chinese Turkestan and China. The Siberian paths of the nations have carried afar the same meaning of adornment.

The fort of Akbar stands firmly planted. But after you have climbed the steepnesses and flights, you may perceive that the old bricks and the claybeaten cement barely hold together. The arches are ready to give way.

Nishad, the garden of Akbar, occupies the site from the lake to the hill—a high place. The structures are modest and upon the corners are the little towers so beloved by him. They are characterized by simplicity and brightness.

Shalimar—the garden of Jehangir—is also in character with its possessor, standing “for itself.” There is less of outward show, but more of luxury—of that luxury which brought the descend­ants of the Moguls to poverty. The last Mogul, in Delhi, secretly sold furniture out of the palace and destroyed the valuable fac­ings of the walls of Shah Jehan and Aurungzeb. Thus ended the great dynasty.

The weaver of Kashmir accompanied the making of each of his designs with a special chant. Such a searching for rhythm reminds us of the great harmony of labor.

No song relates why the mountain “Throne of Solomon” bears this name. This is a place of such antiquity. Janaka, son of Asoka, had already dedicated here one of the first Buddhist temples. Seven centuries later the temple was rebuilt and con­secrated to Mahadeva. . . . But whence comes the name of Solomon? The mountain received the name of Solomon from a legend that Solomon, desiring a respite from the conventions of a sovereign’s life and from the burdens of his court, trans­ported himself upon a flying carpet to this mountain with his favorite wife. Here, again, we come upon the mention of that “flying apparatus” possessed by Solomon. A similar mountain is in Turkestan and in Persia.

It is not alone the mountain “Throne of Solomon” which transports the consciousness into biblical spheres. In the valley of Sindh the prophet Elijah is reverenced in a special manner. Most stirring are the legends; how the prophet sitting in his cave saves fishermen and travelers. Under various aspects, at times benevolent, at times stormy, the prophet appears to defend the works of justice and piety. Mohammedans and Hindus, divided by many differences, equally reverence the prophet Elijah.

Purple iris will always recall Moslem cemeteries. They are covered with these flowers. But there is also joy. The lilacs have blossomed, lilies of the valley are nodding and the wild cherry tree glistens.

Mount Moriah Cemetery Gate


Yamunotri, By Default

Unable to head for the mountains, for reasons beyond me, I recall this saunter through Garhwal during the rains …

I am not a religious person, though not an atheist and certainly not an anti-theist. If I would have chosen to go to Yamunotri, it would have been for the Himalayan panoramas it offers, the testing journey that provide opportunities for my challenged perfection, and the culture the region particularly fosters.
On this day, the 28th of August 2011, I had not chosen to proceed towards Yamunotri. My general desire was to visit the ” Kaurav County ” in the northwest-most region of Uttarkashi district, including Netwar and Mori in Tons Valley along the route to Har-ki-Dun in the middle of Govind Wild Life National Park, up northwest of Mori.
Mori is a sleepy hamlet of amazing scenic beauty, surrounded by greenish and yellowish paddy fields at this time of the year, on the banks of Tons River. The place lies in a region that has a uniquely Vedic culture and a history that local folks trace back to Kauravas and Pandavas, the royal warriors and kings in the epic age of Mahabharata. It was said that if one had to learn Sanskrit and true Vedic practices, in their detail, there was no better place to go to than this region in Uttarkashi.
Mori seemed to be a perfect vacation retreat to me, with its seclusion and high mountain solitudes. It had the tallest pine trees that thickly populate its forests. A primary curiosity of mine was this ancient historic temple dedicated to Duryodhana, who is generally reviled in the epic and by people in the rest of the country. In Netwar, 11 km up ahead, there is a temple with Karna as the local deity, another character from the epic who is better regarded but still an anti – hero compared to the Pandavas, the ultimate victors who had the support of Krishna. And, the villagers follow a tradition that includes polygamy !
The cultural diversity of the region then seemed fascinating to me… full of legendary temples, architecture, mythology and that ancient culture that still seemed alive to me in its texts. And thus I rolled out for Kaurav County that early morning before dawn, covering the potholed roads onto the tolled highway of recent construct. I noticed the morning sun when I had to stop for relief some distance before Muzaffarnagar.
That’s also when I was charmed by the paddy and sugarcane fields all around.
There was nothing exciting on the way up through Haridwar on to the bypass at the left, before the ancient town and world’s famed yoga capital of Rishikesh, that passes through THDC Colony and meets the National Highway 94, gaining about 700 m in height at Narendranagar. Unawares, I had given up the option of passing over the hanging bridge called Laxman Jhula and of visiting the Vashisht Ashram and Cave, located about 25 km away on the way to Devprayag.
The Greens …

It had gotten exciting, the drive pleasurably demanding, mountain sides intimately pleasing and views… clouds rubbing against the hill sides and the tops … and the houses yonder !

The road remained undulating but gradual, by and large. It wasn’t in the best of shape. The entire region seemed to be terribly neglected in terms of infrastructure. Frequently, there would stretches without metal top on the roads. People were generally disadvantaged with little work opportunity, and seemed severely depressed economically.

But, if anything, the Himalayas represent a continuity. There’s a cultural togetherness and homogeneity that shared beliefs inculcate in people’s outlook… to each other, to other beings, their animals, trees and vegetation, the mountains, temples, river and streams. There were enough of water lines, thick and thin, flowing down the mountain slopes.

The altitudes… 1000 m at Narendranagar… 1200 m at Hindolakhal Village… over a hump of 1600 m before Agrakhal at 1400 m… down to 800 m after Jajal… up again through 1200 m, Mohanchatti, to 1400 m, 1600 m, and 1676 m at Chamba, where I called it a day.
Chamba is situated at the junction of roads converging from Mussoorie, Rishikesh, Tehri Dam/ Lake and New Tehri. It  is a beautiful town, in the heart of Tehri district. Chamba is well-connected and just 60 km from Mussoorie. For travellers from Delhi, Chamba is an ideal interlude on the way up to Gangotri, Yamunotri and north-western parts of Uttarkashi.Some places of interest nearby are Dhanaulti, Surkanda Devi Temple, Ranichauri, and Kanatal, midway through Chamba-Dhanaulti road.

It was still cloudy when I click started the next day. I was heading for Barethi, Dharasu, on to Barkot, Naugaon and Purola, where I intended to halt. It was to be my base for forays into the Kaurav County of Netwar and Mori and, perhaps, the closest I could drive up to Har-ki-Dun. It turned out to be a wrong choice… due to landslides and road construction projects ! On hindsight, I should have taken the left branch off from NH-94 at Chamba, through Dhanaulti – NH 123 – Nainbagh – Kuwa – Naugaon – Purola.

Barely 10 km up Chamba, the National Highway 94 comes close to the bank of the Tehri Dam Reservoir on Bhagirathi River, down at 800 m altitude above sea level, and remains almost parallel right up to Dharasu at 1200 m. A little ahead, the highway forks into NH – 94 on the left and NH – 108 on the right, which continues to run along with the River Bhagirathi to Uttarkashi.

I took to the NH – 94 from Chamba. At Barethi too, I had the option to take a left branch – off to NH – 123 and on to Naugaon. But I was not aware of it and, frankly, felt no need to review my travel plan just then, even though the indications were there of roads being blocked or under construction. So on I continued towards Dharasu, rising up to 2200 m through some of the worst stretches, holdups, soft soil and treacherous mud… down to 1400 m at a sharp bend from where a branch – off to left went to Barkot barely 2 km away.

The place at the neck of that sharp bend, identified from a small signboard, was called Dobatta. The entire area was in a mess, with construction work. I stopped to look about. To my left, I could see school children crossing over a stretch of road paved with large boulders. There was a trekker jeep waiting about 50 m away, beyond the rough un-motorable stretch, to transport the public and the school children. I could only ” sigh ” and resume my way on the main to Yamunotri… to let the disappointment pass.

The road up from Dobatta ( Barkot, 1280 m ) remained difficult and neglected in patches… gaining altitude through Gangani to Sayanachatti ( 2135 m ), where a young man flagged my car. I stopped, curious, when he suggested that I stay the day at his place ! It was drizzling. The landslides and road conditions on the way had been tiring to negotiate. I dropped anchor at his rather basic ‘ hotel.’

The lodge had no food preparation facilities. There was a ‘ dhaba ‘ down the way I’d come, where I could have a simple fare. It was too early for a meal right then and I did not want to step out in the evening when I might be hungry. So, the only alternate was for me to buy something now that I could retain for later.

I went out for a stroll. The place had few houses, mostly villagers from far away who had built by the roadside to participate in the commerce that tourists to Yamunotri bring in. There was a tea stall where a few people sat gossiping… smoking, browsing through the newspaper, sipping tea or simply gazing. I joined them… had a no-sugar tea, made to order. There was sadness on the faces and reeked of depression when people spoke.

The tea stall did not have the eggs I was looking for. Almost the whole of Uttarkashi is supposed to be a sacred zone and non-vegetarian preparations were generally barred from local cuisine. Someone suggested I try a smaller stall across the road. I did find the eggs there and a couple of buns for my evening meal.

Back at the hotel, I tried calling up home but there was no network. I was told only the Govt owned telecom company had it here ! The gray evening passed into a dark night.

Next morning, I started off with a washed car… not toward Yamunotri but return to Chamba, where about I intended to stay overnight before starting for the home leg. Alas, traffic was held up barely a few miles down, due to landslide. The bulldozer came after 3 hours ! Tour operators found it convenient to handout lunch cooked for the tourists they were carrying. And travellers had their wash in the mountainside stream flowing half a furlong up.

The mess cleared up around 1 PM. I spent those 4 hours chatting up occassionally, listening to music most of the time, and gazing at a mule pair grazing in front of me !

On my way back, I followed the Yamuna River until Dobatta ( Barkot ).About 10 – 15 km before Chamba,  I stopped at a ‘ Guest House ‘ that I later discovered was a poor, dilapidated homestay run by a father – son duo. However, the lady of the house had cooked some wonderful chicken curry. But I did take the precaution of calling up the local Police Station and informing them of my stay there !
The next day, I made it home, by late afternoon.

Alternate Destinations. Authentic Experiences…

English: Draupadi and Pandavas

English: Draupadi and Pandavas

Distant Solitude Tugging At My Heart Now …

Distant Solitude Tugging At My Heart Now ...

The rest of the poetry is in the whisper, there !

Image

The Mountains Are Calling …

The Mountains Are Calling ...

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Journal : Integrated People

ALTAI-HIMALAYA
A Travel Diary
By Nicholas Roerich
[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part VII : INDIA (1924)
In the first full moon after New Year, which fell this year on the twentieth of February, there was the annual festival in Tashi-ding. The miracle of the self-filling chalice occurs at the time.

Since ancient days—more than eight generations ago—this miracle has been ordained. From a designated spot in the mountain river a small vessel of water is drawn and poured into an ancient wooden chalice. In the presence of witnesses, representatives of the Maharajah of Sikkim, the chalice is closed and hermetically sealed. A year later at sunrise during the same full moon, the chalice is unsealed amidst due ceremony and the quantity of water is measured. Sometimes the water has diminished but sometimes it has increased considerably. In the year of the great war the water tripled in quantity, which meant war. Now the water has diminished by half, which means famine and disorder.

This evil omen has been intensified by another sign. On February twentieth there occurred a complete eclipse of the moon. Never has there been so evil a sign.

The trumpets sound, the whistles shriek, the people in cos­tumes, as though from the “Snowmaiden,” proceed to the great stupa. The choir, singing, winds its way around the crowds. (extra space below – no indent)
Many prostrate themselves. The drums of the lamas resound­ingly thunder. At this moment darkness falls athwart the clear moonlight ! The golden fires of offerings gleam out as though against black velvet. Occurs a complete eclipse ! The demon Rahu has stolen the moon ! Never was it so until this day of miracle in Tashi-ding.

Said Asura Rahu to the sun : “Because thou hast carried away Razayana by deceit, I shall swallow thee, god of sun, at that time when, on the thirtieth day, you will unite the knots of the orbit!” And further Rahu pronounced a prophetic threat : “In penalty that thou, moon, although recognizing me, commanded that I be cut asunder, I shall seize thee and devour thee on the date of the fifteenth, during the time of the full moon!” And attentively the people are watching the eclipse of the moon and sun and beat upon the drums and threaten Rahu.

But there was also one good omen. At sunrise the head lama beheld garlands of fire starting to glow upon the peaks of the mountains.

When the moon was restored to the world, the dancing com­menced around the main stupa, a typical Russian round. The songs are also like the Russian; their import is spiritual. “In a monastery dwells our Lord Buddha. We bring to him our offering”—so begins one song; or “Mighty is the sacred book but I shall find a spot for it close to my heart” or, “I recollect the sacred monastery.”

In a white kaftan the artist who decorated the local temple approaches. We have arranged for him to go with us to paint the Blessed Maitreya. He will demonstrate the technique of the local painting.

Red, yellow, white, purple kaftans; women’s sleeves of crim­son, green and white. Peaked hats, fur-edged. The people talk, sing, and for two nights walk around the stupa.

They are touching their foreheads to the stone upon which the teacher, Padma Sambhava gave his benediction of the site. They walk around another stone bearing the imprint of the teacher’s foot and the imprint of hoofs and paws of beasts. And again the chorus marches around the stupa, singing of the fulfillment of all desires.

Entering the temple, you walk along your left up to the wall of the altar. Within the temples of the Yellow Sect, in the center of the altar wall, is the statue of Buddha. Or now, perhaps Maitreya-Buddha is at the right. Sometimes the lower temple is dedicated to Padma Sambhava and the upper one to Buddha. These positions are closely related to the inner meanings of the teachings : Buddha represents heaven; Padma Sambhava the earth. Upon the side niches are images of Avalokiteshvara— a spiritual conclave of brotherhood, many-headed and many-armed, like our Russian Hundred-Armed One. There are also statues of the “Keepers of Lightning,” of the founders of Mon­asteries and of sixteen Arhats, sitting in carved caves. Upon the altar are lamps and various offerings, seven chalices with water, a saucer of rice, censers with incense, a shrine with relics.

The walls are generally covered with frescoes, especially one wall, that of the altar. At the entrance stand the images of the guardians of the four hemispheres. In every temple will be found an image of the seven treasures vouchsafed to humanity; among them on a white horse is the image of the miraculous stone.

In a special compartment are kept the sacred books. The common dream of the monasteries is to increase the number of books; but books are expensive—a sacred volume costs up to a thousand rupees.

Especially touching is the service of the thousand lights, in the evening, here in the low frescoed temple, with its columns and ornamented beams. In the center is a long table on which fires are set; along the walls also stand rows of lights, and this sea of fires caressingly undulates and sways, wrapped in a veil of smoke from the sandalwood, wild mint and other fragrances, which are consumed in the urns. During this service the singing, too, is of exquisite harmony.

Along all paths, the caravans of the pilgrims wind their way. High saddles are covered with bright fabrics. Wild white ponies are bearing the bulging-bellied luggage. There are crowds of pilgrims seeking a resting place for the night. Here and there are a few banners raised in memory of the living and oftener for the dead. A crowd up to 1,200 collects together—but a peaceful, good crowd.

At early dawn, long before sunrise, when the snows on the mountain are still soft amber, the camp begins to stir. The drone of life creeps along and broadens; the cadence of early prayer mingles with the stamping of horses and mules.

In the morning, a procession makes its way toward our tents. The head lama himself proclaims the bringing of gifts. After him follow high uplifted trays with rice, with the ribs of a ram, with sugar-cane, with ale and fruit. The lama himself makes the offering to our traveling kitchen.

Amidst the stupas are spread the tents of the pilgrims. Here under a green canopy are sitting lamas from Tibet. Women are turning for them the lengthy pages of the prayer book. The lamas are intoning Tantrik songs, to the sounds of hand drums and gongs. Where is Stravinsky, Stokovsky, Prokofieff, where Zavadsky, to portray the powerful modes of these stirring calls ? And how fine is the white-gold face of her who turns the pages before the singers.

Not far off, a group from Nepal are clapping hands in rhythmic beat and chanting. In the center, a woman, with features un­moved, ecstatically dances the Sherpa Dance, full of the fine gestures of conjuration. Sometimes she moves her hands in a fluttering motion like a bird and utters a weird birdlike call. It is indeed striking.

There the wanderers from Bhutan are praying under a red canopy. Before the distribution of the healing waters, a sacred procession walks around the stupas. In the front are trumpeters in high red hats; after them the lamas in tiaras, and behind are borne a long row of sacred books.

At sunset, within the tent, the head lama quietly speaks of the sanctuaries of Sikhim. He relates the “miracles” which he has heard, or has himself seen; of the buzzing of swarms of invisible bees; of the singing and celestial music; of the appari­tions of sacred images. At our departure the lama pointed out two gracious omens. Upon our way, coming to meet us, were three brimming bamboo water-pails carried by water carriers and two woodsmen with full fagots of wood.

* *
Tashi-ding is one of Sikhim’s prominent sites and belongs to the parish of a great monastery, Pemayangtse, and is a day’s travel away. It is also on the peak, standing like a bulwark. It has been newly rebuilt. Its renovation has been done with such sensitiveness that even the most recent painting gives you joy by its fine and ingenious decoration. And the carvings on the casements are fairylike. And the tall heavy doorways lead you into the wooden temples of Russia. Dignified are the head lamas with their festive purple garments and with their impres­sive red tiaras adorning their heads. Nevertheless one recalls with most pleasure the eighty-year-old abbot of Tashi-ding, ever zealous and careful to improve his structure, with his economical eye penetrating everywhere.

Behind the gates of Pemayangtse are standing as guardians three-hundred-year-old ancient trees—like the fairy forest of Berendey. A tiny street of the lamas’ homes is like the suburb of Berendey, painted and ornamented with its many-colored porches and stairways.

Here is “Heaven’s Sacred Mountain” and upon its peaks shines a small mountain lake. There is also a small temple erected on the spot where the founder of the Red Sect in Sikhim lived. From Dubdi, the founder passed to the Sacred Lake and thence into the ancient Sanga Chöling.

The four most ancient monasteries of Sikhim are Dubdi, Sanga Chöling, Daling and Robling. And the meanings of their names are noble ones : “Palace of Meditation,” “Island of Secret Teach­ing,” “Island of Lightning” and “Island of Happy Striving.”

An excellent monastery is Sanga Chöling; nor do we forget Daling with its blue-white, porcelain-like entrance amidst a bam­boo grove. Here at the altar is preciously kept a sealed box con­taining relics of the founder of the monastery. There are ban­ners—gold on a black background. In Sanga Chöling there are no relics, but there lies a stone made sacred by the blessing of the founder; when the life in the monastery is undefined the stone is firm, but each besmirching of life makes the stone crack.

Here are those tiny doors, beloved to me in Novgorod and Yaroslavl. Here is beautiful fresco painting. Here are the polychrome ornaments entwining all casements of the windows and doors. Here are the same rounded backs of pilgrims devoted to the faith, and the fires of dedicated offerings. Our coolies are also lighting a fire—a true widow’s mite. And above them adamantly rises “the Keeper of Lightning.”

Although the teacher, Padma Sambhava, was never in Pemayangtse, yet in the monastery are kept the things which belonged to this founder of the religion. The things are kept sealed but on some occasions are shown; a garment, headdress, beads, tiny bells of a wondrous chime, two magic daggers and a small exquisite image of Buddha.

And the trumpets sound more thunderous in Pemayangtse and the dragon guardians seem more terrifying and the influence of the monastery is greater. The ruins of the palace of the Maha­rajah are near. According to the biblical custom the first Maharajah was chosen to reign by the head of the religion. But there is no figure of Maitreya in the big monastery.

A few solitary temples with a single fire before them, sur­rounded by peach and rose flowers and intertwining orchids and wild peonies, indicate closer the path of simple attainment of the Teaching.

Out of the forest walks a peasant and his head is adorned with white flowers. Where is this possible? Only in Sikkim.

India Travelogue From A Century Ago …

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part III : INDIA (1924)

The Tibetan tailor is making kaftans. He takes all measure­ments with his eye, but most astonishing is it that the kaftan comes out well-fitting. And all this is not done without care ! The quality of gold for the trimming, the color of the lining and the length—all this is thought out. The local homespun is very narrow and one is astonished how evenly they can smooth the many seams.

If we take the accredited historical data of the last century it is astonishing how definitely the folk-consciousness was freed from the obvious survivals of the middle ages. Those who defend such survivals should examine these historic paths and convince themselves and realize that what is occurring now is not acci­dental but under rational guidance and control. He who fails to recognize this rationality, cannot understand evolution.

In sudden support of fundamental Buddhism, the realist of realists, Huxley says, “No one but a superficial thinker rejects the teaching of reincarnation as nonsense. Like the teaching of evolution itself, reincarnation has its roots in the world of reality and is entitled to the same support commanded by every con­sideration which evolves from analogies.”

Two beautiful characterisations of Buddhism : “As a lion unafraid by noise. As a wind beyond being captured by a net. As a lotus leaf impervious to water. As a rhinoceros treading in solitude !” — “The study and manifestation of energy in all its forms. Energy of armament. Energy of application in action. Energy of dissatisfaction giving birth to the eternal striving which brings man into the cosmic rhythm.” So said Asanga.

Where, then, is the inactive pessimism ? Where is the philos­ophy of despair, as Buddhism is sometimes called by persons of small comprehension. How many books have been written under the false romanticism of the nineteenth century ? How many scientists, not versed in the languages, have fed their minds with these vague sour conclusions ? And now there has appeared again an image — Buddha, with a sword, with leonine daring, armed with all energies, within the universal structure, cosmic in striving.

“Watch the movement of the stars, as one who participates in them, and constantly consider the transmutation of one element into another, because such a process purifies one from the grime of earthly life.” So reflects Marcus Aurelius.

So also says an educated Hindu from out the Himalayas.

L. Horn writes : “With the acceptance of the teachings of evolu­tion, the old forms of thought everywhere are crumbling. New ideas arise in the place of outlived dogmas and we have before us the spectacle of a general intellectual movement in a direc­tion becoming ever more strange — parallel with eastern philos­ophy.

“The unheard-of speed and variety of the scientific progress current in the last fifty years cannot but call forth an equally unprecedented hastening of thought in the broad non-scientific circles of society. That the highest and most complete organisms develop out of the simplest organisms; that upon one physical basis of life stands the whole living world; that there cannot be traced a line which divides animal and vegetable kingdoms; that the difference between life and non-life is a difference in grada­tion and not substance — all this already has become commonplace in the new philosophy. After the recognition of physical evolu­tion it is not difficult to say that the acknowledgment of psychic evolution is only a question of time.”

The observation of the East astonishes and rejoices one. And not the obvious power of observation which leads to a dead stereotype; but observation, fine and silent in its substance. One remembers how the teacher asked the newly arriving pupil to describe a room, but the room was empty and in a vessel was swimming only a tiny fish. In three hours the pupil wrote three pages, but the teacher rejected him saying that about this one little fish he could have written all his life. In technical imita­tion is revealed the same sharp observation.

In the adaptation of the meter of a song, in the character of a call, in movements, you see an all-powerful culture. Somewhere the Hindus, en­veloped in their mantles, were compared to Roman senators. This is an inane comparison. Rather liken them to the philos­ophers of Greece, and still better, call them the creators of the Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, Mahabharata. For neither Rome nor Greece existed when India was flourishing. And the latest excavations begin to support this indubitable deduction.

In the Tao Te Ching are drawn the following subdivisions of the types of scientists : “Scientists of the highest class, on hear­ing about Tao, seriously bring their knowledge into life. Scien­tists of the middle grade, on hearing about Tao, sometimes observe it. And sometimes lose it again. The scientists of the lowest class on hearing about Tao, only laugh loudly at it.”

Lao Tze knew.

Hindus regard objects of art with fine understanding. From a Hindu, you naturally expect an interesting approach and un­usual remarks, and so it is. Therefore to show paintings to a Hindu is a real joy. How captivatingly they approach art ! Do not think that they are occupied only in its contemplation. You will be astonished by their remarks about tonality, about tech­nique, and about the expressiveness of the line. If the observer be long silent, do not think that he has become tired. On the contrary this is a good sign. It means he has entered into a mood, and one can expect from him especially interesting deduc­tions. Sometimes he will tell you a whole parable. And there will be nothing vulgar or crude in it. It is astonishing how transformed are the people of the East before the creations of art. Indeed it is more difficult for a European to enter into the current of creation and as a rule he is less able to synthesize his impression.

In the epic designs of India all can be coördinated. If in the crowd, your next neighbor should be a skeleton, pale with lep­rosy, you are not frightened. Next to you will lean a Sadhu, colored with blue stripes and with a head-dress made of cow dung. You are not surprised. A Fakir with toothless cobras will cheat you. You are smiling. The chariot of Juggernath crushes the crowd — you are not astonished. There is a procession of fearful Nagis of Rajputana with blades like curved fangs. You are calm.

And where are those for whose sake you have come to India ? They do not sit in the bazaars and they do not walk in processions. And you will not enter their dwellings without their consent. But do they really exist ? Are not leisurely authors writing about them only for the sake of being unique ? Yes, yes, they exist, and there exists their knowledge and their skill. And in this sharpening of human qualities is being exalted all human substance. And no leprosy will turn you away from India.

All that takes place at the metapsychical institute in Paris — the experiments of Nötzing and Richet in ectoplasm; the experi­ments of Baraduque in the photography of physical emanations, the works of Kotik in the exteriorisation of sensitiveness and the attempts of Beckhterev in thought – transmission at a distance — all this is familiar to India. Only, not as unbelievable novelties, but as laws long since known. They speak little on these themes, because of the dearth of scientifically enlightened fellow – conver­sationalists.

The ancient method of Hinduism and Buddhism is to open the doors to him who knocks, but not to call any one and not to coerce any one. But the quality of the knock also must be powerful. In the practical teaching of Buddhism, inde­pendence of consciousness is sharply emphasized, and as its consequence, an unconquerable forbearing and all-conquering patience. The greatest patience will win a victory. So let the ignorant deniers immerse themselves in the true East to learn and to absorb the power of containment.

Two characteristic episodes are related about the Tashi Lama. When he was in India, he was asked whether he possessed any psychic powers. The Tashi Lama silently smiled. In a short time, though closely surrounded by guards and officers, he sud­denly disappeared. All search was in vain. Finally, after a considerable period of time, the officers saw him calmly sitting in the same garden and around him were running, in fruitless search, the guards.

This incident reminds me of Gorki, who many years ago told me that he himself saw vivid images of Indian cities upon the blank metallic leaves of an album, which was shown to him once in Caucasia by a Hindu. With all his realism, Gorki absolutely affirms that he saw in vivid colors that which the Hindu pointed out to him. Greetings to Alexei Maximovitch !

Attraction by thought is astonishing. The desire was expressed to have an old Tibetan Buddha, but this is already difficult now. We spoke and thought among ourselves how to get it. In a few days came a lama and brought an excellent Buddha : “The lady wanted to have a Buddha and I am told to give the Buddha from my house altar. I cannot sell the sacred image — accept it as a gift.”

“But how did you know of our desire to have a Buddha ?”

“The White Tara came in a dream and told me to bring it to you.”

And so it happens.

Recently we read in the Statesman that the lowest castes of India begin willingly to accept Buddhism. Rabindranath Tagore, in a talk with Gandhi, spoke against castes. Out of the mouth of a Brahmin this avowal is significant. Many significant and beautiful signs.

Special attention must be given to the Puranas — therein are many most valuable indications : “When the sun and the moon, and Tishya and the planet Jupiter are in one mansion, then the Krita (Satya) age will begin.” So does the Vishnu Purana point out the age of Maitreya.

Lamas are constantly coming to us. They spread paintings on the lawn; and chantingly pointing with a little stick, they relate a whole epic. The vivid colors of the paintings merge with the natural colors of nature. The visual reactions have been valued since long ago. A nun comes. She sits at the threshold and throwing back her handsome head she chants her prayers. We can only distinguish “Tra shi sho !”

Altogether the ques­tion of language is very difficult. All these mountain dialects somewhat resemble Tibetan. But still the difference is very great and the number of dialects of the small tribes is also great. Finally from Lhasa comes Kung Kusho of Doring to salute the house of the Dalai Lama. The Kung (this is a title like a duke; remarkable is the coincidence of Conung, Kung, King) is an important old man with a wife and daughter, round of face like a Ukrainian; with numerous servants; on big black mules shod with silver are high saddles and many-colored horse blan­kets. On their foreheads they wear vivid red caps with the image of Chintamani. In 1912 the Kung was attacked by Chinese soldiers. They almost wounded him. They killed his secretary. This led to a revolt in Tibet. The Kung is astonished and rejoices at our Buddhist objects. We are breakfasting. We are making Tibetan dishes. We speak of the movement of Buddhism. He is a very ceremonious old man.

Interesting are the tales about the attacks of the cavalry of Kham and Golok. Wild riders do not need reins. Their horses, as in ancient narratives, take part in the battle with teeth and hoof. During battle, the riders take off their khalats up to the waist. Helmeted, with swords, lances and guns, this avalanche is borne onward. Sometimes they disappear under the stomachs of the horses. If all means of attack are exhausted the riders take stones from the ground and fight with screams resembling laughter. There is one sign which at once quiets this avalanche. Of course every tribe has its particularities in battle and by not knowing them one can weaken the best force. Tibetan women in songs, and in life sometimes, are not behind in manifesta­tions of courage. They throw hot water on the enemy; they meet the temporary conquerors with derision.

Near Ghum stands a high rock. It is said that on its peak is lying a significant prophecy. In each stupa are enclosed significant objects. It is wrong to think that the bookshelves dis­played in temples to some travelers comprise the entire book treasures of the monastery. Besides these official volumes of teachings everywhere in the secret recesses of the abbot there are manuscripts of unusual interest. One thing is dangerous. Often these hidden places are harmed by dampness, or mice, or are simply forgotten during some hasty evacuation. Often a lama will tell you : “I have written down the prophecies but I do not carry them with me. They are lying under a stone.” Then some unexpected event happens; the lama hastens to put his sack on his back and depart; and the invaluable manuscripts are lost.

Some idiomatic commands are characteristic : “To put on trousers” means to get ready for a march. Idiomatic terms often bring difficulties into negotiations. Once an ambassador spoke in very high terms about “the hair of Brahma.” Nobody understood him and the negotiations had to stop. However, he had nothing else in mind than the river Brahmaputra. Often the languages taught in universities do not help in the local places.

A Chinese book, “Wei Tsang T’u-Shih,” thus describes the Potala : “The mountain palaces are glowing in a purple sheen. The luster of the mountain peaks is equal unto emerald. Verily the beauty and perfection of all objects make this place incom­parable.”

We are reading of the builder of the Potala, the fifth Dalai Lama, named “Ruler of conjurations, eloquent, holy ocean of fearlessness.” It is he, who on becoming His Worthiness the Dalai Lama in 1642, built Potala, the red palace, Pho Brang dMarpo, on the red mountain Marpo ri. He also built the remarkable monasteries Mo-ru, Labrang Garmakhiya, and many others. He also erected on the rock the colossal relief of Buddha and the saints of Buddhism. During his rule Mongols entered Tibet the second time. Gruber, the Jesuit, dislikes very much this strong leader, although he finds that he was cautious in his methods, assiduous and devoted to art and knowledge.

Unusual is the end of this Dalai Lama. According to one version the Dalai Lama died in the eighties and his death was hidden for a few years in order to give opportunity for various political matters to be adjusted. According to another version the Dalai Lama voluntarily abandoned his rule and hid himself for several years in the very same seclusion in the Himalayas.

History is paralleled by the following ancient legend : “Every century the Arhats make an effort to enlighten the world. But until now not one of these efforts has been successful. Failure has followed failure. It is said that until the day when a lama will be born in a western body and appear as a spiritual conqueror for the destruction of the century-old ignorance, until then there will be little success in dissolving the snares of the West.”

The Chinese emperors lived according to the astronomical seasons of the year. For each season of the year there was a special colored garment. Each period of the year used to be spent in a special part of the palace.

The method of Buddhist teaching reminds one of the method of the Kabala, that of not imposing, but attracting, and pointing out the best way. They speak about a remarkable monastery, Mo-ru, and about the special learning of the lamas of that monas­tery. For the three summer months the lamas go away to the west for meditation.

During the “hearings,” the lamas often cover their heads with cloth. This recalls “biblical” ceremony. It recalls the statement of Damis, the pupil of Appolonius of Tyana, of how Appolonius, when he heard a “soft voice,” always wrapped himself com­pletely, from head to foot, in a long scarf of woolen texture. This scarf was kept only for this purpose. From altogether other times, the very same details reach us. Contemporaries were astonished how strangely Saint Germain sometimes “wrapped himself up.” Let us remember also the warm shawl of Blavatsky. Lamas carefully observe a certain condition of tempera­ture which is favorable to the induction of different manifes­tations.

Lady Lytton came to see the pictures. In the Lytton family splendid traditions remain from their celebrated grandfather Bulwer-Lytton. Then came Colonel Bailey. Then came the whole Everest Expedition. By the way, they persistently wanted to find out whether we did not ascend Everest. In the painting, “Burning of Darkness,”* they recognized the exact image of the glacier near Everest, and they did not understand how this characteristic view, seen only by them, could have come into the picture.

A page of the true East : “Again they will come with the ques­tion, ‘How shall one deal with obstacles ?’ One person is hin­dered by the family; one by a distasteful occupation; one by poverty; one by the attacks of the enemies. A good rider likes to show his skill on untrained horses and prefers obstacles to a smooth path. Every obstacle must be the birth of possibilities. When difficulties appear in the face of obstacles, they result precisely from fear. No matter in what attire a coward would garb himself we must find the page about fear.

Friends, so long as obstacles do not seem as the birth of possibility, so long do we not understand the teaching. Success lies in the enlarging of the consciousness. It is impossible to come near in the presence of fear. The ray of courage shall lead above the manifestations of obstacles, because now, when the world knows where to go—the seed of blood is growing. If the path is strewn by bones one can go courageously. If peoples speak in unknown languages— it means we can open the soul. If one has to hasten—it means that somewhere a new enemy is ready. Be blessed, obstacles, through you we grow.”

India, I know thy sorrows, but I shall remember thee with the same joyous tremor as the first flower on the spring meadow. From thy Brahmins we shall select the greatest who understood the Vedic wisdom. We shall select the Rajah who strove for the finding of the path of truth. We shall notice Vaishya and Shudra who have exalted their craft and labor for the upliftment of the world. A boiling kettle is the forge of India. The dagger of faith over a white goat. The phantom flame of a bonfire over a widow. Conjurations and sorcery.

Complicated are the folds of thy garments, India. Menacing are thy vestures blown by the whirlwind. And deadly burning are thy inclement rocks, India. But we know thy fragrant essences. India, we know the depths and finesse of thy thoughts. We know the great Aum, which leads to the Inexpressible Heights. We know thy great Guiding Spirit.

India, we know thy ancient wisdom ! Thy sacred scriptures in which is outlined the past, the present, the future. And we shall remember thee with the same tremor as the most precious first flower on the spring meadow.

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