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


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Light, Beauty And Truth.

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part IX : INDIA (1924)

Cover of "Altai-Himalaya A Travel Diary"

In the twilight under the flowing stars, in the purple sheen of the mist, sounds the soft voice of the lama, telling his calm tale of the “King of the World,” of His power, of His action and wisdom, of His legions, in which each warrior shall be possessed of some extraordinary gift. And he tells of the dates of the new age of general well-being.

The tale is taken from an ancient Tibetan book, wherein, under symbolic names, are given the future movements of the Dalai-Lama and Tashi-Lama, which have already been fulfilled. There are described the special physical marks of rulers under whom the country shall fall during the reign of the monkeys. But afterwards the rule shall be regained and then will come Someone of greatness. His coming is calculated in twelve years —which will be in 1936.

When the time came for the Blessed Buddha to depart from this earth He was asked by four lords of Dharmapala to bequeath to mankind His image. The Blessed One consented and desig­nated the most worthy artist, but the artist could not take the exact measurements because his hand trembled when he ap­proached the Blessed One. Then said Buddha, “I shall stand near the water. Thou shalt take the measurements from my reflection.” And the artist was thus enabled to do so, and exe­cuted four images, modeled from a sacred alloy of seven metals. Two of these images are now in Lhasa and the remaining two are still hidden until the appointed time.

One Tibetan ruler married Chinese and Nepal princesses in order that through them he might attract to Tibet the two sacred images of Buddha.

Twelve hundred years after Buddha, the teacher Padma Sambhava brought closer to men the teachings of the Blessed One. At the birth of Padma Sambhava all the skies were aglow and the shepherds saw miraculous tokens. The eight-year-old Teacher was manifested to the world in the Lotus flower. Padma Sambhava did not die but departed to teach new countries. Had he not done so the world would be threatened with disaster.

In the cave Kandro Sampo, not far from Tashi-ding, near a certain hot spring, dwelt Padma Sambhava himself. A certain giant, thinking to penetrate across to Tibet, attempted to build a passage into the Sacred Land. The Blessed Teacher rose up and growing great in height struck the bold venturer. Thus was the giant destroyed. And now in the cave is the image of Padma Sambhava and behind it is a stone door. It is known that behind this door the Teacher hid sacred mysteries for the future. But the dates for their revelation have not yet come.

Wherefore do the giant trumpets in the Buddhist temples have so resonant a tone ? The ruler of Tibet decided to summon from India a learned lama, from the place where dwelt the Blessed One, in order to purify the fundamentals of the teaching. How to meet the guest ? The High Lama of Tibet, having had a vision, gave the design of a new trumpet so that the guest should be received with unprecedented sound; and the meeting was a wonderful one—not by the wealth of gold but by the grandeur of sound !

Why do the gongs in the temple ring out with such great volume ? And, as silver, resound the gongs and bells at dawn and evening, when the atmosphere is tense. Their sound re­minds one of the legend of the great Lama and the Chinese emperor. In order to test the knowledge and clairvoyance of the Lama, the emperor made for him a seat from sacred books and covering them with fabrics, invited the guest to sit down. The Lama made certain prayers and then sat down. The emperor demanded of him, “If your knowledge is so universal, how could you sit down on the sacred books ?” “There are no sacred volumes,” answered the Lama. And the astonished em­peror, instead of his sacred volumes, found only blank papers. The emperor thereupon gave to the Lama many gifts and bells of liquid chime. But the Lama ordered them to be thrown into the river, saying, “I will not be able to carry these. If they are necessary to me, the river will bring these gifts to my monastery.” And indeed the waters carried to him the bells, with their crystal chimes, clear as the waters of the river.

Talismans… A mother many times asked her son to bring to her a sacred relic of Buddha. But the youth forgot her request. She said to him, ‘I shall die here before your eyes if you will not bring it to me now.’ The son went to Lhasa and again forgot the mother’s request. A half day’s journey from his home, he recalled the promise. But where can one find sacred objects in the desert ? There is nought. But the traveler espies the skull of a dog. He decides to take out a tooth and folding it in yellow silk he brings it to the house. The old woman asks of him, ‘Have you forgotten again my last request, my son ?’ He then gives her the dog’s tooth wrapped in silk, saying, ‘This is the tooth of Buddha.’ And the mother puts the tooth into her shrine, and performs before it the most sacred rites, directing all her worship to her holy of holies. And the miracle is accomplished. The tooth begins to glow with pure rays and many miracles and sacred manifestations result from it.”

A man searched for twelve years for Maitreya-Buddha. No­where did he find him, and becoming angry, he rejected his faith. As he walked along his way he beheld one who with a horsehair was sawing an iron rod, repeating to himself, “If the whole of life is not enough yet will I saw this through.” Con­fusion fell upon him— “What mean my twelve years,” he said, “in the face of such persistence ? I will return to my search.” Thereupon Maitreya-Buddha himself appeared before the man and said, “Long already have I been with you but you did not see me, and you repulsed me and spat upon me. I will make a test. Go to the bazaar. I will be upon your shoulder.” The man went, aware that he carried Maitreya. But the men around him shrank from him, closing their noses and eyes. “Wherefore do you shrink from me, people ?” he asked. “What a fright you have on your shoulder—an ill-smelling dog full of boils!” they replied. Again the people did not see Maitreya-Buddha, for each beheld only what he was worthy of seeing.

The lama says, “There are three kinds of teaching—one for the stranger, one for our own, and the third for the initiated who can retain. Now through ignorance they slaughter animals, they drink wine, they have property and eat meat and live squalidly. Does religion permit all this ? Where is beauty, there is teaching; where is teaching, there is beauty.

The people here are sensitive. Your emotions and desires are transmitted so easily. Therefore know clearly what you desire. Otherwise instead of Buddha you shall behold the dog.

That which is hidden in the past is not of importance—that which in age-old books, copied and unfinished, lies covered with dust. For the new construction, that which now resolves itself into life is important. Not through library shelves but through the living word is measured the possibility of future structures.

Under Kinchenjunga are secreted the caves in which are rest­ing the treasures. In stone coffins the cave dwellers are praying, torturing themselves in the name of the future. But the sun has already defined the future; not in secret caves, but in full sunlight one perceives the worship and expectation of Maitreya-Buddha. It is now three years since the Tashi Lama solemnly and openly dedicated the great New Image in his Tashi-lhunpo. The intense, invisible work progresses.

The Tashi Lama is now on his way to Mongolia by way of China. Unprecedented through the ages is this event. Mystery ! Incidentally, it may be that through Sikhim passed only the ab­ducting detachment and the Lama himself moved on to Mon­golia.

On a sacred morning upon the mountain started to glow rows of fire—another mystery !

Just now the wave of attention is turned toward Tibet—behind the mountain rampart events are stirring, but Tibetan secrecy is great. Information is contradictory. Whither disappeared the Tashi Lama ? What military manoeuvers proceed on the Chinese border ? What transpires on the Mongolian line ? A year of events !

Sikhim is called the land of lightning. Of course, here also occurs lightning but is it not simpler to call it “the land of future steps” ? For it would be difficult to imagine a better threshold to the mysteries of the future than this unexplored, rarely pene­trated country of rocks and flowers.

As behind a tiny silver apple on a saucer, do the hills and steps of the Himalayas reveal themselves. Hundreds, perhaps more, are the monasteries in Sikhim, each crowning the top of a summit. A small temple in Chakong; a big suburgan and monastery in Rinchenpong. Upon the next mountain appears gleaming white Pemayangtse, still higher, Sanga Chöling. Tashi-ding is almost unseen. On the other side of the valley is Daling and opposite Robling and still nearer Namtse. For a distance of forty miles one may behold the monasteries, for we must not forget that here one sees extremely far.

And again before us is the wall to Tibet. And not the back­bone of the lizard but the snow-white girdle is outlined upon the peaks of this wall—the girdle of the earth. Let us point the arrow northward—there must be the base of Mount Meru.

English: I took this photo of the 110 ft (35 m...
110 ft (35 metre) Maitreya Buddha facing down the Shyok River, Nubra Valley near Diskit Monastery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Journal : Legend And Conjuration

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part VIII : INDIA (1924)

Are the inhabitants of Sikhim poor ?

Where there are no riches there is no poverty. The people are living simply.

Upon the hills, amidst blossoming trees, stand the quiet little houses. Through the colored branches shine the bright stars and glimmer the snow-covered peaks. Here are people carrying their vege­tables; here, they pasture their cattle and smile kindly. Here, with fairylike music they walk along the steep paths in wedding processions. Knowing of reincarnation they quietly cremate the bodies. And they are singing. Mark, they are often singing.

Verily, one can sing under a canopy of various flowers and plants. Orchids, like colorful eyes, cling to the trunks of the giant trees. Pink, purple and yellow bouquets are strewn along the way like bright sparks. And these are not simply plants; many have their ancient powers of healing.

Nature awaits here full of gifts. Come hither and be cured. Charura, Parura, Orrura are the three important curative fruits against cough, cold and fever. Charura is like a yellow cherry; Parura like a green chestnut and Orrura like a yellowish-green crab-apple. All three are sharp to the taste and full of tannin. Here is the red bark of Aku Ombo, to cure wounds. Salve against fever is Sergi Phurba, like a dry giant bean. Chuta, the dry bitter root, will cure swelling and heal the throat. Bassack is a brown powder for colds. The red-stemmed Tze produces magenta; bitter Purma is for incenses. A broth from the roots of Berekuro is effective for women’s ailments. The flowers of Dangero heal the stomach, much like the flower of the red rhodo­dendron; while the leaf of Dysro is a disinfectant for wounds. Memshing Pati is a sacred plant in Nepal, where it is used for head ornaments at festivals. Endless are the useful plants…

The leaves of the herb Ava Duti are said “to soften” stones, just as do the “snow-frogs” * in the Himalayas. Therefore, if upon a stone you see the print of an elk’s foot or the paw of an animal, it seems they have eaten or touched this wondrous herb. Turning again to legends : near Phalut, on the road to Kanchenjunga, grows a precious plant, the black aconite. Its flower lights up at night, and by its glow one locates this rare plant. Here again is the trace of the legend of the Russian fire flower, that enchanted blossom which fulfills all wishes— and which leads us not to superstition but to that same source wherein so much still lies concealed.

* Snow-frogs”—a legend which attributes to snow-frogs the ability to soften stones.

Before our gates was found a strange gift. The branches of a fir tree, rhododendron and some other plants were there, with their leaves pointing to our house, and covered with a flat stone. This is a conjuration (Sunnium) and the man who raises this offering receives upon himself all which is sworn upon it, whether of good or evil, sickness or sorrow, or joy. For many days it lay there and even horses shied at it. The same conjuration we observed in the suburb of Jaipur; there in the middle of a street, in a flat basket, lay a lamb’s liver, flowers and three silver rupees. None touched them. These conjurations are of very ancient origin.

Everywhere are legends of the accidental discoveries of sacred spots, the revelation of which was followed by dumbness and even death. Thus it is told that one Shikari (a hunter) in Assam, accidentally wandered into a sacred place and beheld its mys­teries, and when he attempted to reveal them he was stricken dumb.

On the shore of the sea is moving a stick. It moves on alone and near the top of it is tied a lighted tinder. Thus do the conjurers of the coast of Malabar invoke their conjurations to burn the house of an enemy. Doctor Jones of Calcutta tried to overtake such a stick but it “walked away” beyond his own pace.

A legend from around Mongolia : “A venerated mother died and her son was desirous that a high lama possessed of exalted powers should perform the services over her. But such a lama could not be found. The son at the moment of death deposited the spirit of the departing one into a sandalwood casket, strongly sealed this sanctuary and himself invited the best lamas from Tibet. The lamas concentrated upon the casket; one of them be­gan to change in countenance, first becoming red, then blue from exertion. Then suddenly the casket burst into splinters before the eyes of all. This lama was able to free the spirit and thus could perform the service.”

The people here know everything; they have heard everything. One can remember and disclose all things in the twilight : of “Nam-Yg” (heavenly letters)—the letters and sacred books which are falling from heaven; of rings of silver or turquoise which change their color as a sign of foreboding and warning; of Si, the stone bead, sent from heaven to guard the health; of the finding of objects which disappear afterward. All this is known.

A woman was very pious and dreamt that she might receive the image of Buddha. Working in the morning amid her flowers she discovered an image and brought it into her shrine. But soon she forgot it and Buddha disappeared from the shrine. Next time the woman found in her garden a whirling sparkling stone and put it into a coffer and forgot it. Then the stone disappeared. Neglect always results in the disappearance of the bestowed happiness.

Do not record the things which can be read in books but those which are related to you in person; for those thoughts are the living ones. Not by the book but by the thought shall you judge life.

Understand the sparks of the primordial bliss.

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.

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part VI : INDIA (1924)

Before the New Year, the evil entities are destroyed by con­jurations and dances. In the Dance of the Stags, the effigy of the evil entity is hacked and its parts strewn around. In the midst of the circle proudly walks the Guardian of the Teaching, brandishing his sword — while black-headed lamas whirl around, swirling the wings of their broad sleeves. Musicians in high yellow hats are coming to the fore, like Berendeys in “Snow-maiden.” And above the ornamented cornices of the temple the eagles wheel, while from the turrets of the hill the assembled crowds stand out in colorful relief.

The dances themselves on the New Year’s day acquire signifi­cance, with their frightful symbols of evil entities. How far removed is the impression made by these awe-inspiring masks, against the sunny background of the Himalayas, from the oppres­sive dark corners of Museums where these examples are so often collected, frightening the visitor by the apparition of a conven­tional hell! Of course, this hell is invoked only for the terrifying of the weakly developed souls, and much fantasy is devoted to the intensifying of these hellish countenances.

In the monastery of the Red Caps the impression is not so luminous. In the Red Monasteries of Padma Sambhava, this symbolization is more physically conventional. The play starts with a simple “mystery” of the judgment over the dead. The chief lord of hell approaches with his assistants. The beast-like servitors drag forward the black soul of a dead murderer. They weigh out his crimes. The chalice of his sins weighs down the balance, and the murderer is thereupon thrust into a seething caldron. The same occurs to the soul of a female sinner.

But then there is summoned forth a saint in the vestments of a lama. He is adorned in a white scarf. Of course, the court must be just, so three messengers of joy lead the exalted one into paradise !

Fifteen years ago there died a remarkable lama who came from Mongolia. We saw his image — resembling the type of Russian ascetic. A powerful visage, unconquerably hard are the cheek bones; the eyes are piercing. “During the departure of this strong spirit, a rainbow shone over the monastery founded by him.”

The lama possessed rare books — and it is very difficult to obtain rare books. One must send a trusted person into remote districts. Remarkable books exist; there is the book of one Tashi-Lama, concerning his visit to sacred Shambhala. There are collections of symbolic parables. There is a treatise on the transmigration of souls. They are not translated.

The teachings brought from Shambhala often find their way into the works of European scientists. For instance, in the ceme­tery of Darjeeling is buried an enigmatic man, Hungarian by birth, who lived at the end of the eighteenth century. He came walking from Hungary to Tibet, remaining many years in un­known monasteries. In the thirties of the last century, Csoma de Körös, as he was called, died. In his works he pointed out the teachings from Shambhala, designating the next hierarchy to succeed Buddha. It is very characteristic that this savant came here from Hungary. His activity was entirely enigmatic.

One more spark about Shambhala. A very well known Tashi-Lama often fell into an ecstasy during his talks with his pupils. Sometimes he seemed to disappear altogether, being transported into the sanctuary, Shambhala. These ecstasies vividly transport one to the discourses of the time of Saint John de la Croix with Saint Theresa, when both blessed conversationalists in exultation were raised to the ceiling of the room.

Remembering exalted occurrences, one also recalls the sparks of indignation. “A slanderer once approached Buddha, but the Blessed One was so indignant, that a spark of lightning struck the offender. Of course, the Blessed One arrested the counter­-blow and revived the defamer, but the latter had been so shocked that he forgot his plan of attack. The sparks of the counter-­blow !”

“The case is also told that Sengchen Lama, before his execu­tion in Lhasa, pointed out that he would soon reincarnate again on earth. And truly very soon in Chinese Turkestan was born a boy with the same rare and characteristic physical defect on his knee, which distinguished the late Lama. Now this Mongolian prince is more than twenty years of age. At present in our service is the son of the servant of the late Lama, and he was wont to travel on the errands of his father to the young prince.”

Whoever is acquainted with riding horseback in Caucasia or in the Arizona and Colorado canyons, will know how to climb the steeps of the hills of Sikhim. Only, instead of the colorful tragedy of American wonders, here you behold an ascending garden cultivated by the mysterious rise of exalted teaching. And in its unknown caves sit hermits, who upon the strings of earth are composing the legend of celestial life.

He who has known the approaches to the old monasteries and ancient town sites in Russia with their blossoming hills and fragrant pine groves, will understand the feeling on the approach to the monasteries of Sikhim. I always repeat that if you want to see a beautiful spot, ask the inhabitants of a town to point out the most ancient site. These people of times immemorial knew how to select the most beautiful places.

Every mountain summit is crowned by a beautiful mendong (in the glossary it is spelled mendang), with its wheels of life, its prayers carved in relief and with its niches for seats from which you behold the image of the far-off distances. Here lamas and travelers are meditating. Here ban­ners are fluttering. Here each rider will slow down his horse.

From the mountain summit, you plunge again into the receding hills. The ribs of the checkered hillocks also disappear, like the backs of panthers, tigers and wolves.

After the hills, again the fairy-tales of the forest. Green gnomes and monsters impede the way. The verdant webs intertwine. The snakes wind themselves around the trunks. The moss-like tigers and leopards here are lurking. An enchanted world this !

The most fantastic hills and rocks form themselves into a seem­ing Sacred Chalice — a vast valley. In the center of the valley stands the unapproachable mountain of the White Stone, girded by two rivers. It is crowned by the Monastery Tashi-ding, which means “Valley open to Heaven.” An ancient place this. Try to search the endless wrinkles and cavities of its rocks. Try to unearth the treasures collected by the monastery — the miraculous stone, fulfillment of all wishes; the immortal Amritha and a hundred images of Buddha; as well as all the sacred books tem­porarily hidden; and all else spoken of in the ancient manuscript, “The Voyage through Sikhim.”

The approaches to Tashi-ding are very difficult. Only recently have the impossible trails been transformed into steep footpaths. Verily, the path of the spirit must be traversed by human feet !

One crossing on the suspended bamboo bridge is especially hazardous. Below, the mountain river rushes and roars, bearing down the icy current from Kanchenjunga. And above the bridge, on the steep slope, you pause many times : Shall I at last arrive ? One must hold one’s breath to conquer this age-old mountain.

Upon the upper slope, an honorary reception arranged for us by the land owners. Ale, sugar-cane and tangerines await us under the canopy of rushes, adorned with their yellow garlands. Farther off resound the reverberant drums and silver gongs.

The reception of the monastery. On the last slope we are met by the pipers and trumpeters.

Amidst the rows of a colorful crowd you reach the ancient place. Behind the gates of the monastery, in purple garments, the lamas receive you. In the front row a venerable old man, head lama of the monastery, stands like a delicately carved image of the fifteenth century. Thus you walk up to the spreading turquoise tents in the midst of a forest of stupas and amidst many-colored banners, amidst the sparkling rows of fires.

Journal : Spirit In The Eye

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

 

Part V : INDIA (1924)

The motley figures of hell are being trampled down by the powerful feet of the White Guards. Red and green “guardians of the entrances,” many-armed and with horrible grins, are threatening the violators. In explosive gasps flare up the gold tongues of the primeval flame. The misty aureoles of lights are glowing. . . .

With cold respect or else with a clerical sense of the scientific, do we examine the Tibetan and Nepal banner-paintings in the British Museum, the Musée Guimet in Paris, or the Field Museum in Chicago. But in a completely different attitude do we ap­proach the same paintings on this site, and they speak to you quite differently. Every gesture of Buddha’s hand is of vital meaning for the local world. The good and evil entities with their endless symbols are transformed from ornaments into a living epos. The images are enfolded in a stirring harmony of tones. The finest of these are of ancient work although the new paintings are also at times excellent. 

Let us predict for these images a great future—just as twenty years ago the future importance of the old Russian ikons was predicted. Merited attention has been given to the Chinese and Japanese art. An elaborate literature has expressed this free art concisely. But after a study of classic Egypt, after the subtlety of Japan, after the romance of China and after the arabesque of the Persian and Mogul miniature, now appears a new object for study and admiration. 

The art of Central Asia is coming to the fore. In the fiery fantasy; in the dignity of the fine form; in the intense and complex gradation of tones is manifested this completely unique and striking art. But in its quiescent expres­sion this art responds to the mystery of the cradle of humanity. In itself it forms Asia, to which in time shall be directed inquiries and researches. Only, it is necessary to knock upon the doors of this beauty without threats, without weapons, without pillage. With full readiness must we gather the pearls of profound and anonymous achievements; without superficial scientific hypocrisy and without bribed treachery. 

To study the life of a nightingale by first killing it — is it not barbaric ? 

One remembers keenly some objects discovered by Kozloff in Kara-khoto in Mongolia. Especially does one recall the wondrous image of the woman’s head. If such a people lived in the silenced cities of the deserts — how far were these places from being a wilderness ! 

Wisely, wisely did the deserts succeed in guarding for pos­terity new treasures, and not only material treasures. . . . One must recall not only the swords of the Tartar in measur­ing the life of Central Asia. There are also the tents of all travelers and searchers. Even to the Khan’s camps were sum­moned the finest of artists. 

I remember how badly fared one young doctor who was sent to Urga in Mongolia for service. Poor soul, he knew not what and how to search. If the young generation could realize what treasures were prepared for it, and lie at the edge of the road — unlifted. Sometimes it is only a question of lifting up the treasures. 

A little shepherd boy found 120 pounds of gold in Scythian objects, because he was attracted by the glimmer of metal which sparkled on the slope of the hill, washed off by the rain. How many such sparks are glimmering ! But often our eyes are dulled by laziness. 

The blessed Maitreya is always represented crowned by a wreath, in a great image. In Tashi-Lunpo, the monastery of the Tashi-Lama, three years ago there was placed a gigantic image of Maitreya, bearer of the new age of universal Unity. This idea has been invoked with the new approaching era of Tibetan chronology.

During the service in the temples, smoking Tibetan tea is passed around. Therein is the idea of the grail in this filling of the vessels before the Blessed Image. One must never leave the vessel empty — this is contrary to the custom of the East. Then the gigantic trumpets are sounded, like the voices of storm and thunder, with their summons to the future. Backs adorned with their purple mantles are bent low, thinking of the future. And like a fiery field, under the image of the Dream of the World, one hundred and eight fires (108) are glimmering. 

In a special compartment are guarded the masks of the keepers. Is it possible that these frightful visages can symbolize the way of benevolence ? However, these are not symbols of benevolence but symbols of earthly elemental forces. For there is the heaven and the earth. Even the physical world of Tantrik teaching, which has been so degraded in modern understanding, must be conceived sub­limely. The teacher, Padma Sambhava, would not have pro­claimed only a physical teaching. 

I look upon an ancient painting of the Monastery Daling. Here are the acts of the teacher, Padma Sambhava. All his forces are represented in action. Here is the teacher as a black-hatted lama with Solomon’s Star upon his headdress, striking a dragon. Here is the teacher summoning the rain. Here he saves a drowning one; he charms small evil spirits; weaponless, he conquers beasts and by a magic weapon he smites a tiger, first covering his head with the sacred triangle. Here he makes harmless the serpents; here he conjures the stormy current; and he sends rain. Now he fearlessly converses with the gigantic mountain spirit. Here the teacher flies above all mountains. Now out of the shelter of the cave he hastens to comfort the world. And finally in the circle of a poor family, he prays for a be­nign sea voyage for the absent master of the house. No matter how clouded is his teaching now, its foundation stills gleams through. 

Or again, another ancient painting: “The Paradise of Padma Sambhava.” The teacher sits in the Temple surrounded by the Righteous Ones. The Temple stands upon a mountain separated from the earthly world by a blue river. Across the river are stretched white hatiks (scarfs) and upon them the self-denying voyagers are crossing to the temple. A clear picture of the illuminated ascent ! Of course, his commentators have besmirched even this manifestation. How encrusted with false grimace are all religions ! 

Of course, the teacher, Tsong-kha-pa, is still nearer. He rose beyond the confines of magic. He forbade the monks to have recourse to magic powers. His teaching — that of the Yellow Lamas — seems less spoiled. 

On New Year’s Eve, February 4, after sunset, the fires in the monasteries upon the hill dart up. And the ringing gongs and the far-away drums reverberate. … In the morning are held the dances.

Journal : Pilgrim’s Quest

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part IV : INDIA (1924)

SIKKIM : evokingly and sharply the arrows whistle across the gulley, from out the bamboo grove. The Sikkimese remember their favorite ancient pastimes. One says : “The arrow is better than a bullet. It sings as it strikes while the bullet screeches as it flies outward.”

In the morning a red leaf was brought to us : “In the evening Senge will arrive.” After sunset upon the zigzag of the path, the fires began to flash out and the trumpets to resound. And finally it came rolling on — motley, noisy, trumpeting, drumming; with a dragon, with handmade horses, with paper yaks. With pop­guns and many-colored fires the dance proceeded, the motley crowd receding into the violet enamel of the night amid the explosions of the flaming spark. . . . These are Polovetsky dances ! And the banners upon the staffs — these are the stand­ards of Genghiz Khan !

If you understand, then you will be understood. Touching are some of the gifts of the lamas. Knowledge is needed in order to understand all the finesse of intention in these gifts : To whom an image, and just which image; to whom, a bearskin; to whom, a leopard skin; to whom, a fur coat; to whom, a khalat; to whom, a khatik; and if so, whether one with designs or a white one. By the hieroglyphs of these objects one can read their entire relationship with you. Are you recognized as a great scientist ? Or are you left within the limits of conventional politeness ? Or are you left without attention ? Often the non-understood “ceremony” is simply a short subtle code of gesture and conduct.

Two worlds find expression in the Himalayas. One is the world of the soil — full of the enchantment of these parts. Deep ravines and grotesque hills rear up to the cloud-line, into which melts the smoke of villages and monasteries. Upon the heights gleam banners, suburgans or stupas. The ascending mountain passes curve with sharp turns. Eagles vie in their flight with the colorful kites flown by the villagers. In the bamboo-stalks and amid the fern the sleek body of a tiger or a leopard adds a glimmer of rich supplementary color. On the branches skulk the dwarfed bears; and a horde of bearded monkeys often escorts the solitary pilgrim.

An earthly world this, full of diversities ! A stately larch stands beside a blooming rhododendron. All is entangled. And all this earthly wealth shades into the blue mist of the rolling distances. A chain of clouds crowns the lowering mist.

Above this synthetic picture, it is strange, unexpectedly startling, to behold new ramparts mounting the clouds. Above the nebu­lous waves, above the twilight, glimmer the sparkling snows. Erect, infinitely beauteous, stand these dazzling, impassable peaks. Two distinct worlds, intersected by a mist !

Besides Mount Everest, fifteen peaks of the Himalayan chain surpass in height Mont Blanc. If from the great river Rangith we survey all the approaches to the snowy border and all the white domes of the peaks, nowhere, to one’s recollection, is there such an open barricade of elevations. From this superb pros­pect one obtains an especially enthralling impression of the grandeur of the Himalayas — “Dwelling of snows.”

To the side of the ascent, the summits merge into one implacable wall — the jagged, unending ridge of the Sacred Lizard. It is difficult to discern that just at that point are hidden the snowy summits of Jelep-la and Nathu-la on the way to Shigatse and Lhasa — the fog seems especially often to envelop this road. The upper portion of the Buddhist banners bear the cross-shaped spear, disk, crescent and lotus-petals. Are not the emblems of all teachings intertwined upon one flagstaff ? In these re­minders of the symbols of the elements of Nature every one will find an image near to him.

Upon the ikons and ornaments of Tibet often is found, glow­ing with precious stones, the image of the fish — that happy sign — the same found upon the walls of the Roman catacombs. In one conception is united the Buddha’s “Wheel of life,” the Circle of the “Elements forming the mystery” of the Christian church and the “Wheel of Ezekiel.” The many-eyed seraphim and multiple eyes of the Luminous Mother of the World penetrate equally into the recesses of the soul.

In the cults of Zoroaster there is represented the chalice with a flame. The same flaming chalice is engraved upon the ancient Hebrew silver shekels of the time of Solomon and of an even remoter antiquity. In the Hindu excavations of the periods from Chandragupta Maurya, we observe the same powerfully stylized image. Sergius of Radonega, laboring over the enlightenment of Russia, administered from the flaming chalice. Upon Tibetan images, the Bodhisattvas are holding the chalice blossoming with tongues of flame. One may also remember the Druid chalice of life. Aflame, too, was the Holy Grail. Not in imagination; verily by deeds are being interwoven the great teachings of all ages, the language of pure fire !

It has long since been said, “Faith without deeds is dead.”

Buddha pronounced three paths: the long way of knowledge, the shorter way of faith, and the shortest way—through action. David and Solomon also glorify the strivings of labor. The Vedanta extols the manifestation of works. Verily, in the foun­dation of all covenants, action is placed foremost. This is the creative fire of the Spirit.

Are the symbols of the Hindu Trimurti alien to the Trinity ? Does the Buddhist Tree of Wishes, hung with the objects of all desires, not respond to our conception of the Christmas Tree ? What of the details of the arrangement of the temple altars ? What of the ascetics and hermits, who buried themselves in their stone coffins ? What of the image-lamps and the fires of con­jurations; the wreaths and candles of heartfelt prayer, flung upon the bosom of the Ganges ? And the birch of Trinity, the musk and incense ? And the wrought gem-bedecked vestments ? And the stones flung at Buddha by his closest kin—are they not like the stones of Stephen ? Verily, not by accident have Buddhist legends been carved upon the frescoes of the Campo Santo in Pisa.

From times immemorial have the most ancient forgotten temples extolled the anticipation of the new epochs. In the ancient city, Kish, has recently been discovered the Temple of the Mother of the World. Sarnath and Gaya, the scenes of Buddha’s personal achieve­ments, are fallen in ruins, now only the goal of pilgrims. So too, Jerusalem. “Because Jesus himself witnessed that the prophet is without honor in his own country.”

According to the legend, Buddha’s initiation was performed in the presence of the High Ones. The site of initiation is called “the holiest stupa” but its location is not disclosed. The sites of Buddha’s achievements on the Ganges are known, as well as the scenes of the birth and death of the teacher — in Nepal. Ac­cording to some indications the initiation was performed farther north — beyond the Himalayas, because Buddha came down from the north for the performance of his works. But where was Jesus until his thirtieth year ? Who knows those haloed retreats ? Whither lies Korya-Morya ? Shall they be revealed? The legendary mountain Meru, according to the Mahabharata, and the equally legendary height Shambhala in Buddhist teaching, both lay in the north and served as the summit for initiations. And not everywhere until the appointed date, can the details of these places of high knowledge be told.

Wise intercourses — one sees clearer from above. Instead of petty quarrels of denunciation, history recalls to us truly inter­national ties. It is pointed out as a historical fact that a Mon­golian, Bogdo Khan, was saved from illness by the “appearance of Nicholas.” This is averred by the Mongolian Khutukhtus, whose knowledge is considered very high. All is full of signs, only do not overlook them. Observe keenly and joyously, and flexibly.

Upon the wrist of a Tibetan woman we observed a strange blue sign, which on closer inspection showed the appearance of a tattooed blue cross of equal ends. When she was asked the explanation of this sign, the woman revealed that a Tibetan physician had applied the sign during “a very dangerous cough” —evidently pneumonia. Tibetan physicians generally inject medicines under such signs. This sign was made by the per­sonal physician of the Dalai-Lama during his three years’ stay in Darjeeling. Swastika is a symbol of the conception of fire and life.

According to the prophecy of Lama Tsa-rinpoche, the present attempt to conquer Everest will end only in losses. Let us see whether the old lama is right.*

* The Lama proved to be right. 

The lama seemed astonished at the desire of foreigners to ascend the summit of Everest, at any risk. “Why expend such efforts in the physical body ? Is it not simpler to be there in spirit ?” For with ease do lamas project their astral bodies, for which, of course, no height is an obstacle.

From this very window ** the high priest sent prayers to Tibet which was troubled by the Chinese. For three years, facing the wall of the Himalaya, he kept vigil.

** The author lived in the so-called Talai-Pho-Brang where the Dalai Lama stayed about three years during his flight from Tibet.

In the time of the old Jesuit mission, about 300 years ago, in Lhasa, there was a Christian chapel. Great lamas visited it. Now no one even remembers the approximate site of it.

The lama here bewails the visiting hunters — they came and killed many stags ! And now when the lama strolls into the forest, few are the stags that come to him. And he loves the animals to approach him ! Not savagery but deep culture rings in his complaint. We are reminded of the tale of old Avramy, who was a shepherd beyond the Ural, and when he prayed to the East, all the sheep in silence turned also toward the sunrise.

In Buddhist monasteries it was the custom to confine in the library him who was defeated during a scientific argument. Let him learn more ! An excellent custom !

“A Chinese Amban (governor), an evil and dissolute man, was desirous of visiting a venerated holy abbot of the local monastery in Tibet. By persistence and force he demanded an audience, but when he entered the reception room of the abbot, he saw on the throne, instead of the holy man, the image of a hideous pig, and in fright he rushed from the presence. Thus the dissolute man, making his way by force, found an image worthy of him ! A fine reminder to all despots : As ye measure so shall it be meas­ured unto you.”

A legend of Central Asia tells of the mysterious nation, under­ground dwellers—the Agharti. Approaching the gates into this blessed kingdom, all living beings become silent, reverently paus­ing in their course. Recall, now, the Russian legend about the mysterious “Tchud” which went underground to escape the persecution of the evil forces. To this secreted place also leads the sacred legend of the subterranean Kitege. Everything comes from the North.

The whole world tells its tales of underground cities, treasure troves, temples merging under water ! The Russian and Norman peasant relates about this with equal surety. So, too, does the inhabitant of the desert know of the treasures which sometimes glimmer from under the sand waves and then — until the ordained time — recede again under the earth.

Around one beacon-fire are gathering those who remember the predestined dates. We do not speak of superstitions but of knowledge — knowledge revealed in beautiful symbols. Why in­vent, when truth is so manifold ? In La Manche even now is seen the city which has been “submerged” under water.

Many sources tell of the subterranean dwellings in the district of Lhasa and Koko-Nor. A lama from Mongolia recalls the following legend : When the foundations of the monastery Genden were built during the time of the Teacher Tsong-kha-pa, in the fourteenth century, it was noticed that through the gaps of the rocks there arose the smoke of incense. A passage was broken through and there was found a cave in which, motion­less, was seated an old man. Tsong-kha-pa aroused him from his ecstasy and the old man asked for a cup of milk. Then he asked what teaching now existed upon earth. After which he disappeared. It is also pointed out that the Potala, the palace of the Dalai-Lama, has hidden recesses of the greatest antiquity. By the facial expressions of the high lamas one will not discover anything. One must seek through other paths.

If so much lies underground—how much more lies under the veil of silence. It is naïve to insist, after the first cautious re­sponse. An authoritative astrologer assures us that he knows nothing — has only heard rumors. Another who is versed in the ways of antiquity just now insists he has not even heard of such things. And why should they answer otherwise ? They must not betray. Most heinous is treason — and there are many traitors. We discern the true devotion and behind it the structure of the future.

It is said that Solomon manifested such devotion toward the Temple that even when breathing his last, lest he interrupt or harm the work of construction, he remained upright in prayer until an ant bored through his staff. The example of perse­verance and devotion !

Unexplained have remained the strivings of Solomon toward the One Beginning, sheltering all forms of knowledge. Aban­doned Fatehpur-Sikri (near Agra) is full of the signs of this unity which was understood by Akbar the Great who preached the spirit of One Temple. In the center of the palace-court is still standing the temple of united religion. Superficial writers wonder why the walls of this mysterious structure bear the remains of such varied signs — the traces of Buddhism mingled with Hindu and Christian fragments. This united torch was already mani­fested in life !

“Wise in heart and mighty in strength; who hath resisted Him and hath had peace, Who spreadeth out the heavens and treadeth upon the waves of the sea — Who maketh Arcturus and Orion and the Pleiades and the inner part of the south — Who doeth things great and incomprehensible and wonderful of which there is no number” — exclaims Job about the One. And are not the mysterious signs of Watan and Senzar received by great lamas pointing toward it ? We asked the Lama, “Is it true that the Festival of Unity is approaching ?” He looked closely at us, then answered, “Such are the prophecies.”

In 1924, according to Tibetan calculations, the new era began, for here a century is not calculated as a hundred years but as sixty.

You listen to the reading of the Bhagavad-Gita; you hear the exclamation of the Buddhist servers of the temples. You listen to the singing of the choir. Does there not appear before you the One Image — the One common Will toward happiness and joy, to the unity of consciousness, embracing and conquering, to the exalting and enlightening Aum ?

Should we not reflect why all Covenants tell of the same active beginning ? Why is the manifestation of phenomena always accompanied not only by the same unexplainable words, but always by a vivid action of spirit ? The writings say, “He re­volted.” And without the wondrous “uprising,” without this invisible action, nothing is decisive. He realized and became en­lightened; became filled with invincible courage !

The formulas themselves often astonish by their universality. In them are united the summons of the mysteries with the prayers of the most unexpected cults separated by whole epochs and whole continents. The language of the Mother of the World is the same for all cradles.

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” or “Halelu, Halelu, Halelu” is a conjuration of ancient rites. From the Chaldeans, Babylonians, through the Israelites it reached our era. It is also known by several tribes of India.

In this region the simple guide will suddenly turn around on his path and proclaim : “But men must finally realize that pos­session is one and all are equal ! But will That soon come, Which will unite men ?” So thinks and ponders the simple, poor man, among the blue hills of Sikkim. In the hope of the guide you discern the powerful proclamation of Vivekananda; without depreciation, only in all powerful unity and righteous understanding, he walked. One wishes that our priests of the West valued Buddha in the same way as the enlightened lamas speak of us. Only in such benevolent understanding lies the guarantee of the future structure.

All creators of Unity must be recognized. Principally let us have less of ignorant denials.

With difficulty one succeeds in getting plants which nurture the musk-deer. But how to bring this mountain pine to the laboratory ? Below the altitude of 6,000 feet, the plants perish.

Most often from Bhutan the ragged, deep blue furling waves of fog crawl upward. Not only the snowy ridges but also the steps to the mountain paths are wrapped in the dense mist. It is difficult to believe there is a hidden glimmer. Shall we not begin denying the very existence of the Himalayas ? If they are invisible, that means they are non-existent ! Whenever some­thing is invisible to us we presume it does not exist. Such is the decision of ignorance.

Intricate are the mountain paths with their many turns. How many are the earth-covered pits under the horse’s hoofs ! Many are the intercrossing currents and streams, with the torpid damp­ness under the green-blue foliage. Truly many are the serpents beneath the flowers. And the language of the murmuring foliage is incomprehensible.

Early are the stars aglow here. Toward the East, undiminished, flames the triple-constellation of Orion, this astonishing constella­tion which finds its way through all teachings. In the archives of the old observatories, undoubtedly much remarkable data could be found about it. The cults which surround some con­stellations such as the Bear and Orion amaze you by their wide­spread popularity.

The wisdom of the Shamans designates them for worship. Nor did Job accidentally point to them alone as the supreme act of achievement. The glimmer spreads everywhere. In the latest number of the Journal of the London Asiatic Society is this very important item : “The Emperor Baber near the begin­ning of his memoirs says : ‘On the outskirts of Barakoh is a mosque called the Jawza Madjid. The real meaning of the word is House of Orion. Jawza is a name of Orion.’ “With what ancient cult was the mosque pointed out by Baber identified ?” It is now most likely effaced by the sands of the great desert. Thus we see how unceasingly does Orion attract the eye of men. Again are the astronomic bulletins telling of the inexplicable pink rays, which have suddenly flashed from this constellation. The constellation of Orion contains the signs of the “Three Magi.” The significance of Orion, too, in ancient teaching was compared to the significance of Atlas, supporting the weight of the world. Verily, the Star of the East ! Only in the East do you feel the vital sense of astrology and astro-chemistry in its scientific import. The observatories in Jaipur and in Delhi over­whelm one with their fantastic conviction.

The air is pure. The small Lepchas, coolies of Sikkim, bear huge stones up to the mountain on their backs. It is for the unknown structure. Their heads are bent so low that one cannot distinguish their faces, because of the shawl and metal rings and chains. Will they be able to bear it safely ? How is it possible to overload a body four feet high with such an immeasurable burden of stones ! Yet instead of groans you hear laughter from under the bent back. Much laughter is heard in Sikkim. The further one goes toward Tibet the more communicative are the people. And the more often one hears singing accompanied by a pleasantry. The air is clearer here.

The chief of the caravan is called Sardar. In his purple kaftan, he is mounted firmly on the white mountain pony. Many are the white horses here. The caves of Kinchenjunga, where were guarded the treasures, are still far off. In one of the caves is the statue of Padma Sambhava (teacher of Tibet) and behind it is seen a stone door — never yet opened by man. And yet they say : “Nothing remains hidden !”

The human consciousness often is “like a dog’s tail. If it has curled itself — no matter how you straighten it out, it still per­sists in curling back.” Thus it was told by the ancient Chinese.

But it is also known how completely the consciousness has been transformed by a mere touch.

“Why do you not tell us all you know, as if you were strewing pearls or setting landmarks ?” By these signposts you yourself will pass the entire way. You alone — by human feet. Accord­ing to your growth shall you yourself gather pearls. By your own hands shall you match them. By your own hands will you develop dynamic power. “You will return” and project your will.

Otherwise matter will again not flow out in the “song of cease­less labor.” In this way, superficial curiosity will be divided from true striving. They tell of one “modern sage” who offered to found an institute where any one coming from the street could at once be convinced of phenomena. But this “sage” forgot to offer these strange comers from the street at least the wherewithal to wash their hands for the tests. There are ways which we must approach only with pure hands and with our own will.

And if through the shell of the objects of every day you will be enabled to behold the summits of the cosmos — what a new wondrous and undiminishing outlook shall the world have for the unsheathed eye. The medical lore of the ancients acclaimed laughter as useful for the purification of the glands. How useful then must a smile be for the brain ! Thus shall the trembling conjuries of fear be transformed into the valiant call of joy.

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.

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part II : INDIA (1924)

In the very backyard, in a tiny bed of meager flowers, rests a small homely image of Ganeshi, elephant of happiness. The family of Hindu coolies living in the shanty offers to him its last grains of rice. Not much happiness has this image brought to them.

Against the evidence of such refined values as are seen in Ramakrishna, Rabindranath Tagore, Sir Jagdish Bose, one cannot become reconciled to that which still constitutes the contents of the temples. Here is a phallic cult—Lingam in Elephanta. Up to now, in the sanctuaries of this cult are seen the traces of fresh offerings. From the ancient wisdom we know that “Linga is the vessel of knowledge” and we know the scientific explanation from times immemorial of this wise distribution, of energy. But now the basis of this worship is forgotten and it has degraded into superstition.

Another ugly spectacle ! In a golden temple of Benares, before us, was led a white little goat. She was led into the sanctuary. There evidently she was approved of because in a little while, frantically protesting, she was hurriedly dragged before us. In a minute, she was stretched out on the threshold of the temple and the broad knife cut off her head. It was difficult to believe that a sacred action had taken place ! The meat of the goat evidently went for food, because priests do not partake of any meat except that of offered sacrificial animals. And such animals the population evidently brings each day.

The teaching which sanctioned the priests, evidently pictured them as quite different. Even their appearance is undecorative and they cannot guard the beauty of the symbols of knowledge. As long as the rule of castes is not comprehended properly the country cannot develop. During our stay we read of several difficult family dramas founded on this ground of an evidently surviving prejudice. At the same time, the Vedanta and Advaita clearly establish the principle of unity. Some of the most cosmogonic parts of the Vedas are written by women, and now in India has arrived the epoch of the woman. Greetings to the women of India !

In spite of a superabundance of tourists they seem to know America very little. One can understand this. The whole mass of tourists quickly flows through the sheet-iron channels of tourist companies, and never enters into a real and active contact with the life of the country. In the north of India, Americans are called “nomads” because the agencies give to these hurrying, breathless groups a special character, completely outside of the people’s understanding.

Out of the windows of the car glide by huddled little villages, those original producers of all utilities and the makers of the nation. But who cares for these primary sources ?

Ramakrishna says : “In Atman there is no distinction of male or female, of Brahmin or Kshatriya and the like.”

Ramakrishna executed the work of the sweeper to show, per­sonally, that there were no distinctions.

In December, we want to go into the Himalayas. We are regarded with astonishment : “But now there is snow !” Snow is feared. Whereas the only time for the Himalayas is from November to February. Already in March the curtain of fog rises. From May to August only rarely and for brief periods can one see the entire glimmering range of snow; and truly such grandeur is nowhere paralleled.

Just as when you are approaching the Grand Canyon of Ari­zona, when you approach the foothills of the Himalayas you go through the most uninteresting landscape. And only for a moment, at dawn, in Siliguri, do the white giants appear before you as the first messengers. And again they are hidden in the curly jungles. And again tea plantations. And again barrack-like structures and factories. And only some­times does a typical habitation appear and conceal itself again as a vision from another world. There are tales about the attacks of tigers and leopards. There are mountains of cases of tea with the mark, Orange Pekoe. There is a Belgian mis­sionary from Kurseong.

It becomes cool. Crowds of small coolies are repairing the cave-ins from the last monsoon. In the frosty air one cannot even imagine the pressure of the summer monsoon downpour from which all nature becomes moldy. There are few birds. Eagles are seen.

Mountains are densely covered. The view of Darjeeling itself disappoints you. Is it necessary to seek the Himalayas in order to find merely a corner of Switzerland ? The colorful types of the bazaar are not apparent at once, and the regular barracks and bungalows already strike one’s eye.

We search for a house. The first information is not encour­aging. We are assured there are no good houses. Some are shown to us, lacking outlook and grounds, some immersed in the little streets of wooden country houses and fences. This is not suitable. We want something, beyond—there before the image of all the Himalayas, where the city orchestra does not play its conventional tunes. “You will find nothing there !” But we are persistent. We go ourselves, and we find an excellent house. And calmness and solitude, and the entire chain of Himalayas before us. And still another surprise : Just here lived the Dalai Lama during his long flight from Lhasa. For us, this house is just what is needed.

Not on one occasion only were we awakened by the chanting and the rhythmic beats around the house. These are the lamas who, bowing to the ground many times, marched around our dwelling.

Somewhere the people are babbling that in this house lives a devil which appears as a black pig. A haunted house, as we were told. But we are not afraid of devils, and in the neighboring village, Bhutia Basti, there are many black pigs which resemble boars. Did not our dear monkeys who came into the bathroom and ate the peas and flowers around the house play the part of the devil ?

There is the tiresome need of having many servants—and the reason always the same : castes. It reaches absurdity. The porter does not clean the path. Why ? It appears that according to caste, he is a blacksmith and has no right to take a broom into his hand. Otherwise he will become defiled and become a sweeper. He decides the problem in a very original fashion. He begins to brush around the garden with five fingers, creeping along the ground. The groom is from the high Kshatriya caste and hints at his descent from a king, which did not hinder him from mysterious operations with the horse feed. Sometimes in the kitchen religious meetings are arranged. And the cook, chairman of the local Arya Samaj, persistently persuades his listeners to something. Buddhists are not limited by caste and are free to perform all kinds of work. They work fast, are merry, are quick to understand and easy to adapt themselves.

There are many tales about Tibetans, the warriorlike tribe of Kham and about the wild Goloks, who call themselves wild “dogs.” They bring one back again even to the times of Sieg­fried : They cement their brotherly oaths by mixing and drinking brotherly blood. They never part with their weapons.

“His Country” begins to unfold, as the series “Banners of the East” is begun. In June, after the first rains, all the tempera begins to be covered with white spots of mold. One has to heat up the place considerably in order that the mold should dry and come off.

“His Country.” In Sikhim, itself, was one of the Ashrams of the Mahatmas. To Sikhim, Mahatmas came on mountain horses. Their physical presence communicates a solemn im­portance to these parts. Of course now the Ashram has been transferred from Sikhim. Of course now the Mahatmas have left Sikhim. But they were here, and therefore the silver peaks of the chain glimmer still more beautifully. . . .

Accompanied by pupils, artists and a sculptor, comes the majestic Rinpoche from Chumbi. He walks throughout the whole country erecting new images of Maitreya. All is being hastened. In a long talk, the lama points out that all may be attained only through Shambhala. For those who imagine Shambhala as a legendary invention, this indication is a super­stitious myth. But there are also others, fortified by more prac­tical knowledge.

The noble Atisha, the Pillar of the teaching, walked from India to Tibet for the purification of the teaching. The teacher passed by the retreat of Milarepa. The great hermit became conscious of the passing procession and wishing to test the forces of the Pillar of the teaching, appeared sitting on the end of a blade of grass. The noble Atisha seeing this manifestation of the hermit, came down from the porte-chaise and also rose upon the end of the next blade of grass. And when the teachers exchanged brotherly greetings, Milarepa said : “Our knowledge is equal, but why is the blade of grass under me slightly bent, while under thee, it has retained its tension ?” The noble Atisha smiled : “Verily, equal is our knowledge; but I come from the country where the Blessed Tathagata himself lived and taught, and this consciousness raises me.”

What magnets are laid in India ? Indescribable is the charm of the children’s round dance near Madras, with its tiny Gopis and miniature Krishna, Lel and Kupava. The best images are strewn in the unrealized wealth.

India knows the all-penetrating power of the magnet. And how about miracles in India, friends of the west will ask ? We will say that we have not seen “miracles,” but we have encoun­tered every manifestation of psychic energy. If one wants to speak about the manifestations of a “higher miraculous” power— then it is useless to talk altogether. But to comprehend the materially-attained development of psycho-physical energy, then India gives even now the most remarkable manifestations. The celebrated “evil eye” of the east exists, and the people die sub­missively at the ordained date, if they are not able to counter­act it by a still more greatly trained will. The transmission of the command of will from a distance does exist. Suggestion in any form exists in highly complicated correlations. Some mani­festations are being performed consciously and a greater part subconsciously through natural ability and beneficial atmospheric conditions. And that which is unusual for a civilized European, that very thing for the cultured Hindu, or rather Asiatic, will be an almost daily material occurrence.

Observe how remarkable are the physiological comparisons traced by the Hindus between cosmic manifestations and the hu­man organism. The womb, the navel, the phallus and the heart, all these long since have been included in the fine system of development of the universal cell. Only it is difficult to entice the people into a discussion of this. Again is necessary that con­fidence which cannot be established at the dining table.

During the period of Inquisition people were burned for in­voking the teraphim. But in India even now this means of influence is practiced. And now, in the Malabar Hills dark per­sons may come and because of an unfulfilled request will try to touch you, while they say to you : “Sahib will be sick” or “You will live only ten days.” If the organism at that moment is fatigued or if the will is weak, the command is fulfilled, and one can remedy this only by a counter-suggestion. But often the counteraction is less powerful or not applied in time.

The cases related about the “evil eye” provide a remarkable, and as yet untouched, problem for the psychiatrists and criminologists. The person who has received this stroke of the will, on the appointed day begins to lose his life energy and his power of resistance and finally the apparatus stops. The doctors who do not apply suggestion in time are at loss for a cure, and begin to poison the paralyzed nervous system still more. Incipient anæmia, a stroke of the heart or spleen, or gall bladder, nervous spasms and choking are often the visible effects of the command of the invading will. It is difficult to ascertain just how the nature of the attack on the particular organs occurs; one may rather imagine that the most feeble organ succumbs to a nervous attack. In a small and more crude manner the same practice is apparent in Shamanism, but the gradations of the will and its applications are entirely incomparable. It is justly pointed out that such murder or harm by will power is far more dangerous than a physical one. And where can one seek the limits of such sug­gestions? In the East one sometimes hears a significant sentence: “He shall not live.” It means one has sensed the spark of the will-stroke.

Two qualities must be conceded to the English : steadfastness and precision. For the East, both qualities are remarkable. Pre­cision according to the ordained dates of course is absolutely necessary because “the worst theft is the theft of some one else’s time.” Do not be late if you wish to be respected.

It all began with the unknown traces found by the Everest Expedition. Then, in the Statesman, an English Major related how during one of the expeditions into the region of the Hima­layas, he encountered a strange mountain inhabitant. At sun­rise, amidst the frosty snows, the Major walked away from the camp and climbed the neighboring rocks. Glancing at the near-by rocks, the Major to his astonishment beheld a tall man almost naked, standing, leaning on a high bow. The mountain inhabitant did not look at the Major, his attention being com­pletely attracted by something unseen behind the curve of the slope. And suddenly the man bent, strained himself, and by madly dangerous leaps rushed from the rocks and disappeared. When the Major told his people about the meeting they smiled and said: “Sahib has seen a ‘snow’ man. They are watching the guarded places.”

They tell of a recent case in Bengal. A Sadhu was traveling in a train without a ticket. At the first station he was put out of the train. The bells rang. The locomotive whistled and did not move. So it continued for some time. The passengers re­membered the Sadhu who had been put off and demanded that he be put back in his place. Then the train moved. This is verily mass suggestion !

A European lady living in India entered a dense part of her garden and became lost in a revery as to why the garden walks were not laid out in that place. Three days later she went there again and saw a freshly traced path, but the end of the path was somewhat lost. 

She called the old gardener: “Who has made the path?”

“Mem-Sahib wanted to have the garden path but I did not know how to end it !” 

Then the woman remembered that the completion of her thought about the garden path was not clear.

Sir Jagdish Bose affirms that the sensitiveness of plants is com­pletely astonishing. As the plants feel the formation of a cloud long before it is visible to the eye, so the East feels the thought at its inception. In the close interrelation between the visible and the invisible, and in the epic simplicity of their interplay, lies the charm of India.

 

Journal : Beauty, The Quest

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Part I : INDIA (1924)

Siani glides by. Here are the Wells of Abraham. Here are the “Twelve Apostles”—fantastic little islands. Here is Jeddah, the gateway to Mecca. The Moslems on the steamer are praying toward the East, where, behind the pink sands, is hidden their center. To the right the boundaries of Nubia are lying like an ancient cornice. The hulks of wrecked vessels cleave to the reefs. The Red Sea can be merciless as can the Arabian sandstorms. Not in vain does the fiery finger of the Stromboli Volcano threaten and warn by night. But now in the winter the Red Sea is blue, not hot, and the dolphins leap in mad merriment. In a fairylike design lie the Arabian Bays—Korya Morya.

The Japanese do not lose an opportunity to visit the Pyramids. This nation does not waste time. One should see how quickly and sharply their field-glasses move about. And how persistently practical are their questions : Nothing superfluous. This is not the vacant touring of tired Europe. “Well, now finally we will come to an understanding,” says the Japanese in a businesslike way without any sentimentality. And may this businesslike attitude be the guarantee of cooperation !

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In Cairo, in the mosque, sat a boy of seven or eight and chantingly read the lines of the Koran. One could not pass by without noticing his penetrating striving. And in the walls of that same mosque was boldly imbedded the cannon-ball of Napoleon. And that same conqueror of empires broke the image of the Great Sphinx. But if the sphinx of Egypt is mutilated, the sphinx of Asia remains safeguarded by the great deserts. The treasures of the heart of Asia are preserved and its hour has come.

Ancient Ceylon—the Lanka of the Rāmāyana. But where are the palaces and pagodas ? It is strange. In Colombo we are met by the Swiss Consul. The policeman is Irish. A French peddler. A Greek with post-cards. Dutch tea-peddlers. An Italian chauffeur. But where are the Singhalese ? Have they all emigrated to Europe ?

The first aspects of Buddha and Maitreya reveal themselves in the Kelaniya Temple near Colombo. The powerful images are guarded in the dusk of the temple. Hinayāna prides itself before many-varied Mahayana on the refinement and purity of its philosophy. The great restored stupa near the temple re­minds one of the ancient foundation of this place. But, after all, only in fragments do Colombo and Ceylon recall the ancient Lanka of Hanuman, Rama, Ravana and other giants. And for Buddhism, Ceylon is an important site. Many temples and palaces guard the fragments of one of the best periods of the Teaching. Outside of the ruins that are known, numerous unsuspected treasures are buried under the roots of powerful jungles. That which has above the soil gives an idea of the past splendor of the former mighty city. You do not need to search for the places. They proclaim themselves. But exploration can only give results if it is carried on in a broad measure. One must approach such ruins fully fortified, as one palace alone has 900 chambers. Ceylon is an important site.

The public baths near the bitter-sweet mountain, Lavinia, do not suggest the domain of ancient giants. Slender palms shame-facedly bend down to the spray of the tide. Like skeletons stand the fragments of Anuradhapura; consider that Anuradhapura is not entirely explored. And Adam’s Peak is not enticing. By the remains of Anuradhapura one may judge how powerful was Borobodur in Java.

And again, ceaselessly, are gliding by the faces of our fellow travelers : the Japanese, with whom we wept over the remains of the Cairo Pyramids that have passed from a valiant history to become the curio-museum of a greedy guide.

Is it really India ? A thin shore line. Meager little trees. Crevices of dessicated soil. So does India hide its face from the south. And the black Dravidians as yet do not remind us of the Vedas and Mahabharata.

Multi-colored is Madura with the remains of Dravidian strata. All the life, all the nerve of the exchange, was near the temple. In the passages of the temple are the bazaar, the court, the sermon, the reciter of the Ramayana, the gossip, and the sacred elephant who wanders in freedom; and the camels of the religious processions. The ingenious stone carving of the temple is colored with the present-day crude colors. Sarma, the artist, sorrows over it. But the city council did not listen to him and colored the temple according to their own plan. Sarma is saddened that so much of fine understanding is gone and has as yet been replaced only by indifference.

He warns us not to go far in our European attire because some elements of the population may be hostile. And yet Madura is a city of 1,000,000. Sarma inquires about the condition of artists in Europe and America. He is genuinely surprised that the artists of Europe and America can live by the labor of their hands. It is incomprehensible to him that art can provide a means of livelihood. With them, the occupation of artist is the most profitless one. There are almost no collectors. Sarma himself, tall, in white garments, with sad, calm speech, awaits something better, and knows all the burden of the present.

There was no possibility of a meeting with Tagore. Strangely such things happen in life. In London, the poet found us. Then in America we succeeded in meeting him in New York; and he also met George in Boston. But in India itself we did not meet ! We could not go to Bolpur and Tagore could not be in Calcutta. He already was preparing for his tour in China.

There were many curious occurrences. In Calcutta we tried to find Tagore. We thought that in his native city his name would be known on every corner. We took a motor and requested to be taken straight to the poet Tagore, and in vain we rode for three hours through the city. First we were taken to the Maharajah Tagore. Then a hundred policemen and peddlers and passing Babus sent us into the most varied alleys. Finally six volunteer guides were hanging on our motor. And so we ourselves, in this bushy manner, finally remembered the name of Dwarka Nath Tagore Street, where the house of Tagore was situated.

It is said that when Tagore received the Nobel prize, a depu­tation from Calcutta came to him, but the poet severely asked them : “Where were you before ? I remain the same person, and the prize has not added anything to me.” Greetings to Tagore !

We met the relations of our friend Tagore—Abanindranath Tagore, brother of Rabindranath, artist head of the Bengal School. Gogonendranath Tagore, nephew of the poet, also an artist, sec­retary of the Bengal Society of Artists. Now he imitates the modernists. A splendid artist is Kumar Haldar, present Director of the School in Lucknow. Hard is the life of the Hindu artist. Much resolution is needed in order not to abandon this thorny path. Greetings to the artists of India ! Why is it that in all countries of the world the condition of scientists and artists is so precarious ?

Thorny also is the way of the Hindu scientists. Here, before us is an example, in a struggling young scientist, a biologist and pupil of Sir Jagdish Bose. He began his laboratory in the name of Vivekananda. In his peaceful little house above the laboratory is a room dedicated to the relics of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and other teachers of this group. This young man, pupil of the closest pupil of Vivekananda, carries into life the principles of this master, who fearlessly proclaimed his evocation to action and knowledge. In this little top chamber he formulates his thoughts, surrounded by the things which belonged to his beloved leaders. One remembers vividly the portraits of Ramakrishna and his wife. Both faces impress one with their purity and striving. We sat in complete silence near this memorial hearth. Greetings !

Who can explain why the path of knowledge and beauty is the most difficult ? Why does humanity accept with such hesitation all that is predestined ? It is therefore the greater joy, to see in India, the signs of an ascent of knowledge and art. It is joyful to see that in India the number of schools is increasing and that legions of new enlightened workers for science and beauty are ready to serve in the victory of evolution.

In Calcutta, not far behind the city, are two monuments to Ramakrishna. On one shore, Dakshineswar, the Temple where long lived Ramakrishna. Almost opposite, across the river, is the Mission of Ramakrishna, the mausoleum of the teacher him­self, of his wife, of Vivekananda, and a collection of many memorable objects. Vivekananda dreamt that here should be a real Hindu University. Vivekananda took care of this place. There is a great peace here and it is with difficulty that one realizes oneself so near to Calcutta with all the terror of its bazaars and confusion.

We met Sister Christine, almost the only living pupil of Vive­kananda. Her useful work was broken up by the war. And now, after the lapse of many years, Sister Christine has returned again to the old site. The people are changed. The conscious­ness is consumed with local problems. And it is not easy for Sister Christine to find contact with the new waves of Hindu life.

On the memorable day of Ramakrishna, as many as half a million of his admirers gather.

From the purest to the most hideous : In special streets of Bombay, behind bars, sit the women prostitutes. In this living merchandise which clings close to the bars, in these outstretched hands, in their calls, is contained the whole terror of bodily desecration. And a Hindu Sadhu passes through with his burning incense in order to purify the spot !

When we entered the Chartered Bank of India—out of the door there came to meet us the sacred cow; and how strikingly amusing was this correlation of bank and sacred cow !

The tigers roar in Jaipur. The Maharajah has forbidden any one to shoot them. In Golta Pass two tribes of monkeys are at war. The guide arranges a battle for a most reasonable fee. Nowadays all battles may be arranged thus easily !

The Fakirs are seated, “charming” the old, half-living toothless cobras. The pitiful Hatha-yogi is whirling in the bazaar, making the most gymnastic contortions for the purification of his spirit. “The spiritualist” offers to make the carriage move without horses, but to do this it is necessary “that there should not be one cloud in the sky.”

And along with this is a fantastic and romantic fragment of old Rajputana—Amber where the princesses looked down from their balconies upon the tournaments of their suitors; where every gate, every little door, astonishes one by the correlations of its beauty. Near here is the penetrating and fantastic Golta Pass which could not be imagined in any fantasy—only the “play” of life can accumulate such unexpected creations. And here also is Jaipur with its fairylike astrological observatory and with the charm of an unspoiled Hindu Moslem city. Fatehpur-Sikri, Agra—rare chips of a departed culture. And the frescoes of Ajanta are already unsafe.

All the remains of the constructions of Akbar have a veil of seeming sadness. Here the great Unifier of his country buried his best visions so misunderstood by his contemporaries. In Fatehpur-Sikri, he conversed with his wise Birbal, and with the few who had attained his level. Here he built the temple of universal knowledge. Here he lost his few friends and foresaw that the welfare of the State created by him, would not be preserved. And Agra and Fatehpur-Sikri are full of a kind of limitless sorrow. Akbar knew how the well-being which he bestowed on his people would be pillaged. Perhaps he already knew how the last emperor of India would live to the middle of the nineteenth century, peddling the furniture of his palace and chipping from the walls of his palace in Delhi the fragments of mosaics.

With all the dustiness gathered by time, the architecture of Benares still retains its charm. All the mixture of form of the old Hindu, Dravidian and Moslem, can give new solutions to the unprejudiced architect. One can easily imagine a combina­tion of the many-storied Tibetan structure, with the comforts of an American sky-scraper. One can draw a parallel from the palaces of Benares to the palaces of Venice and to a livable private dwelling. One can develop the style of American pueblos, with the newest understanding, as is being done in Santa Fé.

A Hindu complained to me of the lack of Hindu architects. I said to him, “If there are no architects, let an artist develop an idea, but let him proceed from out of the harmony of the folk consciousness combined with the character of its nature.” One cannot defile the whole world with a uniform building. One cannot make out of Java a Swedish Stockzund. And one cannot visualize Comanches and Apaches in the houses of Boston. Ap­propriateness must be maintained.

On the shores of the Ganges, a gray-bearded man, cupping his palms like a chalice, offers his entire possessions to the rising sun. A woman quickly telling her rhythms performs her morn­ing Pranayama on the shore. In the evening she may again be there, sending upon the stream of the sacred river a garland of lights as prayers for the welfare of her children. And these fireflies of the woman’s soul, prayer-inspired, travel long upon the dark watery surface. Beholding these offerings of the spirit one can even forget the stout priests of the golden temples. We are minded of other things. We recall those Yogis who send into space their thoughts, thus constructing the coming evolu­tion. Not the usual priests these, but active hermits; they are bringing our thought near to the energy which will be revealed by scientists in the very near future.

Gigantic stupas of Buddhism—burial mounds surrounded by a fence. The same Kurgans of all centuries and nations. The Kurgans of Upsala in Sweden; Russian Kurgans of Volhov on the way to Novgorod; the Steppe Kurgans of Scythians, sur­rounded by stones; all tell the legends of the same solemn crema­tions which have been described by the skillful Arabian traveler, Ibn Fadlan. Everywhere, the same purifying conflagrations.

Everywhere, much incense, rose water and fragrant sandal-wood. Hence the smoke from the bodies in the Burning Ghats of Benares is not turbid. And in Tibet, also, cremation is used.

Regard the gentle child games of the Orient—and listen to the complicated rhythms of the chants and soft music. There are not evident the profanities of the West.

The Maharajah of Mysore is awakened with special songs— songs of beginning and of end.

In Madura in a crowded alley, an old man models the forms of the “sacred images.” He is the last old man—with him dies this knowledge. Thus is dying the past. So is approaching the future.

On the fields are standing, in circles, the figures of white ceramic horses. Whence are these resplendent mounts ? Upon them, the subtle bodies of women are said to go galloping through the nights. Backs, which are doubled during the day in household tasks, at night are made erect in flight. Shall one say it is a goat’s leap to the gathering of witches ? No, rather is it the flight of the Valkyries—the virgins of the air—the leap toward a wondrous future.

Each day a woman’s hand molds the sand at the entrance of the house into a special design. This is the symbol that within the house all is well, and there is neither sickness, death nor discord. If there be no happiness in the house then the hand of the woman becomes stilled. A seeming shield of beauty is placed before the house by the hand of the woman at the benevo­lent hour. And little girls in schools early are being taught a variety of designs for the signs of happiness. An inexplicable beauty lives in this custom of India.

Vivekananda called the women of India to work and to free­dom. He also asked the so-called Christians, “If you so love the teaching of Jesus why do you not follow it ?” So spoke the pupil of Ramakrishna who passed through the substance of all teachings and learned through life “not to deny.” Vive­kananda was not merely an industrious “Swami”—something lion-like rings in his letters. How he is needed now !

“Buddhism is the most scientific and most coöperative teach­ing,” says the Hindu biologist, Bose. It is a joy to hear how this truly great savant who found his way to the mysteries of plant life speaks about the Vedanta, Mahabharata, and about the poetry of the legends of the Himalaya. Only true knowledge can find the merited place for all existing things.

And accompanying the voice of the savant, simple and com­prehensive, the silvery tones of an electric apparatus tinkle out the pulse of the life of the plants, reopening pages of the world’s knowledge, long since sealed.

Bose’s mother in her day sold all her jewels in order to give her son an education. The scientist, in demonstrating “His king­dom,” says : “Here are the children of the rich in luxurious con­ditions. See how they become puffed and baggy. They need a good storm to bring them back to healthy normalcy.” Know­ing the pulse of the plant world, the scientist approaches whole­somely all the manifestations of life. He values highly Timiryaseff’s review of his works. One of Bose’s best books was written on the heights of the Punjab in Mayavati—in the shrine of Vivekananda. Vivekananda departed too soon. Bose and Tagore—noble images of India !

The frescoes of Ajanta, the powerful Trimurti of Elephanta, and the gigantic stupa in Sarnath, all speak of other ancient times. And this former beauty also glimmers in the fine and slender silhouette of a woman who carries her eternal water—water which feeds the hearth.

And the well, as in biblical times, remains the central spot of the whole population.

Journal : Beauty, In Truth

ALTAI-HIMALAYA

A Travel Diary

By Nicholas Roerich

[ Published by Claude Bragdon ]

Serge Whitman : We who search the paths of international understanding and the structure of universal peace, must look upon Roerich as the apostle and forerunner of this new world of all nations.

An extensive literature is dedicated to Nicholas Roerich. A large monograph “Himalaya,” published by Brentano’s, New York (1926), gave 100 reproductions of paintings Roerich made during 1923-25. Another, published by Corona Mundi in 1923, International Art Center, introduced to the world the phases Roerich”s consciousness morphed through in its quest for beauty and peace that he sought for us after the gore and gloom of the First World War.

For four and a half years, Roerich traveled the Indian Himalayas, over the Silk Route through Central Asia to Mongolia, before returning to Tibet. Precisely, his expedition started in 1924 from Sikkim, then an independent kingdom, through British India region of Punjab and Kashmir in Himalayan foothills, on to Ladak, Karakorum, Khotan, Kashgar, Karashar, Urumchi, Irtysh, Altai Mountains, Oyrot region, Mongolia, Central Gobi, Kansu, Tsaidam, and Tibet.

Apart from the paintings he made during that mem­orable journey, Roerich kept a diary of sort with jottings, travel notes, those “thoughts upon horseback and in the tent,” contemplations induced by lofty mountains and boundless deserts, all wrapped in the inviolable secrecy of the East.

The publishers called Roerich’s write up “The Symphony of Asia.” But Roerich himself wrote in a letter, in 1925 : “Friends, it would have been far easier for me to have set down the entire journey in all its fairy-tale of ‘fantasy,’ which colors every peak and every desert space with unprecedented truth. But then some will be incredulous, as he who sleeps in darkness does not believe in the sun. Is it possible that the sun is already rising ? Facts are needed. I am writing only facts. I am setting down fragments of the thoughts as they now live in the East. I am setting down distances and tales, as they are now related. But even in facts, the Sunrise comes from the East.”

Then, after its lengthy wanderings in Tibet, came this telegram on May 24, 1928 :

Roerich American Expedition after many hardships has reached Himalayas. Thus ended big Central Asiatic Expedition. Many artistic and scientific results. Already sent several series of paintings to New York. Hope last sending from Mongolia safely reached you. Many observations regarding Buddhism.

Peaceful American flag encircled Central Asia. Everywhere warmly greeted except Khotan and Lhasa Governments. Further movement Expedition from Khotan assisted by British Consul at Kashgar. On Tibetan territory have been attacked by armed robbers. Superiority of our firearms prevented bloodshed. In spite of Tibetan passports Expedition forcibly stopped by Tibetan authorities on Oct. 6, two days north of Nagchu. With inhuman cruelty Expedition has been detained for five months at altitude of 15,000 feet in summer tents amidst severe cold about 40 degrees below Centigrade.

Expedition suffered from want of fuel and fodder. During stay in Tibet five men, Mongols, Buriats and Tibetans died and ninety caravan animals perished. By order of authorities all letters and wires addressed to Lhasa Government and Calcutta British authorities seized. Forbidded to speak to passing caravans. Forbidded to buy foodstuffs from population. Money and medicines came to an end. The presence of three women in caravan and medical certificate about heart weakness not taken into consideration. With great difficulties on March 4, Expedition started southward. All nine European members of the Expedition safe. Courageously bore hardships of exceptionally severe Winter. Greetings.”

I have chosen to serialise Roerich’s work because, I believe, we all need to have a glimpse of that spirit and its quest, that yet oriental culture, as it was before its westernisation, that yet untrampled topography and pioneering adventure, and those words yet special, in their wonder and pithiness. The excellent “intoduction” here below speaks of “surface existing for depths” and an “aura that brightens the darkness” with which you, dear reader, might well strain to connect but emerge refreshed in ways that is becoming increasingly rare in our electronic age. It merits both my extraordinary belief in beauty and my hope for personal evolution.

INTRODUCTION – By Publisher

ON May 8, 1923, Nicholas Roerich left America for India, and he has been wandering about in remote, dangerous and seldom-visited parts of Asia ever since. “Altai-Himalaya” is the record of his mission, just as his series of pictures “Tibetan Paths,” “Banners of the East,” “His Country,” are records in terms of paint. But “Altai-Himalaya,” though penned on horseback and in the tent, under conditions the most difficult, is as much more, and as much richer than the ordinary diary of travel, as his paintings of the Himalayas are more than a literal transcription of some of the earth’s most magnificent scenery. For in whatever medium Roerich works, or in whatever he is expressing, there shines forth not only the artist, but the embodied intelligence – the man, the whole character of the man. Though sincere and simple, it is a character compounded of such unusual elements as to be on its esoteric side uncomprehended.

Now, “esoteric” is to most ears either a meaningless or a hateful word : what do I mean by it in this connection ? I should perform for Roerich an ill service if I failed to answer such a question, because it would be to avoid mentioning what seems to me the very raison d’être of his journey, his art, his life. And yet how is it possible to make intelligible or even plausible what I have in mind ? Without attempting to elucidate, explain or justify it, therefore, I shall simply say that there is a tenable point of view from which one may regard Roerich as an envoy of those powers which preside over the life and evolution of humanity in the same sense that gardeners preside over a garden : that he journeys into desolate and forbidden lands for the fulfillment of a mission, the purpose of which will increasingly reveal itself. Whether one believes this or not, it would be hard to imagine a better ambassador of good will from the West to the East, for the reason that although he represents the summit of European accomplishment and culture, Roerich is deeply Oriental in his temperament, sympathies and point of view.

One has only to look at him to see – or, if you must have it so, imagine – the reincarnated Eastern sage. In Little Tibet, and in the white vastness of Siberia he was received with an honor, accorded a confidence and even an affection, quite different from the ordinary attitude of these peoples toward strangers, which has the reputation of being covertly or openly hostile. Roerich and his caravan encountered frustration and hostility, too, and in full measure, but it is interesting to note how exactly in proportion to the spiritual development of the various peoples he encountered was their response to his unique quality, and their recognition of the unprecedented nature of his mission among them.

This book was written “in the saddle,” more literally than figuratively. There is a certain vividness, immediacy, authenticity about it for this reason, giving the reader a sense of actual participation perhaps impossible to be imparted in any other way, together with intimate glimpses of the workings of the author’s mind in the presence of sublime scenery, new human types, strange manners and customs, and under the assaults of hardship, danger, and the stresses and strains of exploration in almost untrodden lands. Roerich is a man of original, strong and definite personality, of which everything he does bears the stamp. His expressions are themselves revealing, eloquent – not only of himself, but of the thing he is attempting to describe. The one-, two-and three-word sentences, the subjects without predicates – they have been suffered to remain just as he wrote them because they have so much the merit of the sketch, the jotting, put down in the moment of that “first fine careless rapture” which in a more premeditated form of art is likely to leak away.

This is a book whose surface exists for the sake of its depth, and even for concealing from all but the most penetrating, what that depth contains, as surfaces sometimes do. But in order to give you every possible advantage, and for your further enlightenment upon Roerich’s antecedent accomplishments and life, I shall devote the remainder of this essay to what I have learned and know of Roerich, and what I think of him.

In the history of the fine arts, certain individuals have appeared from time to time whose work has a unique, profound and indeed a mystical quality, which differentiates them from their contemporaries, making it impossible to classify them in any known category or to ally them with any school, because they resemble themselves only – and one another, like some spaceless and timeless order of initiates. Such were Leonardo, Rembrandt, Dürer, Blake, and, in other fields, Beethoven and Balzac; such also, in our own times and in a lesser way, were Rodin, Ryder and Burne-Jones, for their work show flashes of that dæmonic and eerie beauty which is the sign whereby they may be identified as belonging to that mythical, mystic brotherhood.

Roerich, in his life, in his character and in his art reveals himself as a member of this fraternity. For thirty-five years – since the time of his first exhibition in Russia – he has been going up and down the world – Europe, America, Asia – absorbing the auras of diverse peoples, making pilgrimages to remote places, and always and everywhere scattering wisdom, planting seeds of beauty, some of which have sprung up, flowered and scattered seeds of their own.

In Russia, as secretary of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, and later as director of the school of that society, he was an important agent in organizing and coördinating that native, new and powerful impulse which in painting, in music, in the drama and the dance later spread throughout the civilized world : for it is not too much to say that everything which now goes by the name of modernism had Russia for its cradle. It is significant in this connection that Stanislavsky enlisted Roerich’s aid in the Moscow Art Theatre, that Stravinsky dedicated to him the Sacre du Printemps, for which Roerich designed the original mise-en-scène, and that Andriev, Gorky, Mestrovic, Zuloaga, Tagore and others throughout the world, who represent the newness, have paid him the tribute of their homage and their praise.

Coming to America with an exhibition of his paintings, at the invitation of the Chicago Art Institute, Roerich immediately took steps to resume and repeat the work he had inaugurated in Russia, that of uniting the arts, and thus uniting men through beauty, for he believed, as many others are coming to believe, that beauty is the universal and true solvent whereby racial and national animosities may be dissolved. To this end, he founded, with the help of friends, a school in which all of the fine arts were to be taught, under the title of Master Institute of United Arts, and a year later he established Corona Mundi, an International Art Center. The school passed through those vicissitudes which usually beset enterprises of this character in a civilization such as ours, the best image of which would be a rush-light in a wind-swept darkness – but it survived, and has today a permanent home on Riverside Drive, New York. Other vast outlines, sketched by Roerich at this time, have not been filled in : they include Cor Ardens, an affiliation of the creators of beauty everywhere throughout the world, and Alatas, an international, non-commercial publishing association for the interchange and dissemination of new and constructive ideas through the mediumship of the “art preservative.”

I mention these enterprises to show the vast sweep of Roerich’s vision, to indicate his function as a prophet and pioneer, clearly foreseeing and quietly planning a better order in a world still in the grip of its so recent terrible nightmare, not yet risen from a bed drenched with blood and stained by tears.

Should his prophecies come true, and should his dreams of binding humanity into a brotherhood through beauty materialize, it is for this that he will doubtless be most honored and longest remembered, but to us, his contemporaries, he is naturally best known as a painter of hauntingly beautiful pictures. These are of all kinds and on a vast variety of subjects, but in general they represent nature strained though a mystical consciousness – the light that is on sea and land translated, by some potent magic, into the light that never was on sea or land. Roerich satisfies the idealist without affronting the realist. Mukerji, the Hindu novelist and poet, remarked to a friend that if he wanted to know how the Himalayas impressed a beholder, he should see Roerich’s paintings of them, because along with true rendering of their form and color, something of their spirit was communicated too.

After a brief sojourn in America he forsook the ordered and easy life of cities, and unappalled by the rigors, dangers and difficulties of such a quest, he set out for Asia, “trailing clouds of glory” as he went, so to speak, in the shape of paintings of the Grand Canyon, the Santa Fe country, the Pacific, India and the Far East. The culmination of his life work, up to the present, is in those groups of paintings named by him “The Tibetan Path,” “Himalaya,” and “Banners of the East.” These are freighted with mystical meanings which, even though unintelligible to all save the initiated, yet act upon the unenlightened consciousness as does perfume upon the senses, or as music upon the emotions. It is not that Roerich attempts to be deliberately cryptic – on the contrary, a very great deal of his symbolism is almost naïve in its simplicity – but the average mind so resents the very idea of esotericism, that it closes itself to a certain extent.

Roerich’s symbolism, as I say, requires no glossary, possessing the characteristics of directness and universality. An example of his general method is seen in that painting of what he names the Messiah series, entitled, “The Miracle.” It represents a titan valley, not unlike the Grand Canyon, a world primeval, stark, rock-strewn, without visible flora or fauna. Prominent in the foreground is a natural bridge, and over this bridge passes a road. On the near side of the bridge are a few human figures, prostrate before the miracle of a great radiance coming from behind the bridge, the aura of some supernatural presence whose figure is not yet visible. Here is a simple, natural symbology subject perhaps to different interpretations, but none of them contradictory. Considered objectively, the picture is simply a dramatization of that expectancy of a messiah which is so general nowadays, and it holds forth the healing promise, that though his presence is not seen, his aura brightens the darkness, his influence is already felt. Considered from the standpoint of subjectivity, the denuded valley might symbolize the condition of the soul after trials and purgations; the road, the “small old path” to freedom and perfection; the bridge, that stage on that path where the transit is effected between the lower and the higher consciousness; the prostrate figures, those “qualities” which must be redeemed and “carried over,” awe-struck at the miracle of the felt approach of the “golden person” bringing release from the bondage through the shining of the inward light.

But the great merit of this picture, freighted as it is with meaning (and that of others of its class), lies in its beauty of color and composition. The mystic and metaphysician in Roerich never submerge the artist, with the result that when he permits himself the use of symbols he is still lyrical and not literary: his pictures are not sermons, but songs. “The Miracle,” despite the fact that it conveys a message, is not a morality so much as a delight to the visual sense, abounding in spatial rhythms and color harmonies as fine and subtle as those of some priceless old yellow Chinese rug. The “story” is there, but the final indelible impression is one of beauty, and this is as it should be, for in the hierarchy of trades and talents the creative artist is nearest to the throne of God.

Of Roerich’s archæological pictures I shall not speak, nor of his pioneer work in the theatre, important as that has been, because I feel that these things, which at one time absorbed his mind and dominated his consciousness have since become far less important to him than what I shall call his mystical quest. One has the feeling that in everything he does he is seeking the hidden truth, the unrevealed beauty, the Lost Word, in point of fact. Like some mighty indefatigable hunter, armed not with a gun, but with his pen and brushes, he stalks his quarry across oceans, rivers, mountains, though knowing all the while that the thing he is seeking is in himself. Both in his writing and in his paint­ing he permits us to participate in this adventure, and thus draw nearer to that truth which is beauty, and that beauty which is truth.

CLAUDE BRAGDON