LETTERS FROM THE HIMALAYAS
GANGOTRI: September, 1901
While living in the Jamnotri Cave, Rama’s daily food was Marcha and potatoes once in twenty-four hours. This brought on indigestion. About seven motions every day for three successive days. On the fourth day of ill-health, early in the morning, after bathing in the hot springs, he started on his trip to Sumeroo, wearing no clothes except a Kaupin (a rag round the loins), no shoes, no headdress, no umbrella. Five strong mountaineers, having warm cloths on, accompany him. Narayana and Thularam sent back down to Gharsali
To begin with, we had to cross the infant Jumna three or four times. Then the Jumna Valley was found blocked up by an enormous avalanche about forty-five yards in height and one furlong and-a-half in length. Steep mountains like two vertical walls stood proudly on both sides. Have they conspired to deter Rama Bad-shah from advancing further? Never mind! All obstructions must disappear before a strong adamantine will. We began to climb the western mountain-wall. Now and again we could get absolutely no foot-hold and had to support our bodies partly by catching hold of the twigs of fragrant but thorny rose bushes, and partly by entangling our toes in the tender blades of the soft mountain grass called Cha. At times we were within an inch of sure death. A deep abyss with the cold bed of snow filling the Jumna Valley was as a grave wide agape just ready to give too hospitable a reception to any one of the party whose foot might tremble ever so little. From beneath the slow, faint, murmuring sound of the Jumna was still reaching our ears like the death dirge of muffled drums. Thus we had to move along in the jaws of Death, as it were, for three quarters of an hour. Strange situation indeed, Death staring us in the face on one side and air redolent with sweet scent refreshing and animating on the other. By this circuitous, dangerous enterprise, we reached at last beyond the awful avalanche. Here the Jumna left. The party ascended a steep mountain. There was no road, no foot-path, nothing of the kind. A thick dense forest was passed where we could not see the wood of the trees, Rama’s body received several scratches. After a little more than an hour’s struggle in this forest of oak and birch trees we reached open ground covered all over with smaller growth. The atmosphere was charged, rather saturated with delicious odours. The ascent put all the mountaineers out of breath. Even Rama felt it to be good exercise. Inclines of 80 degree and even more had to be scaled. The ground was for the most part slippery. But all around the stately vistas and charming flowerage and teeming foliage beguiled the hard journey. European gardeners, in general, get seeds of flowers from places like these to decorate Indian Company Gardens, where the ignorant English-speaking young men call them English flowers. But the remarkable peculiarity of most of these flowers is that when planted elsewhere they yield no fragrance, although they retain their original colour.
Young men, puffed up with European education, while reading the re-echoes of the Vedanta through the writings of European Professors, become fond admirers of what they deem to be Western thought, not knowing that the flowers of thought they have taken a fancy for, have been transplanted from their own mother-land with this remarkable difference that in the hands of European teachers the wonderful flowers have lost their sweet fragrance of renunciation (Vairagya). Vedanta, as presented by Europeans, keeps the form and colour of philosophy, but loses the delicious scent of realization.
Aks-i-gul men rang hai gul hi, wa lekin bu nahin.
What about the health of Rama who had been ailing? He was all right that day, no disease, no fatigue, no complaint of any kind. No mountaineer could go ahead of him. We went on climbing and climbing till every one of the party felt very hungry. By this time we had reached a region where it never rains but snow falls in gracious bounty.
There was no trace of vegetation of any kind on these bald, bleak heights. There had been a fresh snowfall before our arrival.
A red blanket was spread on a big slab of stone as a carpet for Rama. Potatoes that had been boiled the night before were given him to eat. The companions took their stale simple food most thankfully.
Lumps of light and brilliant snow served as (dry solid) water as well as luxury. Just after finishing the meals we were up again. Moving steadily onward and upward we toiled on. One young man fell down exhausted, his lungs and limbs refused to carry him any further; he complained also of giddiness of head. He was left alone there at that time. Proceeding a little further, another companion was senseless. “My head,” he said, “reels and reels.” He also was left to himself for the time being. The rest marched on. After a short while a third companion fell off. His nose began to bleed. With two men now Rama presses on.
Three beautiful Barars (mountain stags) were seen most excellently flitting past.
A fourth companion lags behind, and at last lies down on snow-covered stones. No fluid water was visible round about, but a deep gurgling sound was audible from under the stones where the man lay. One Brahman still accompanies Rama, carrying the aforementioned red blanket, a telescope, a pair of green glasses, and a hatchet. Air became very thin to breathe. Strange enough, two Garurs flew over our heads here. A tedious slope of old, old snow, of dark bluish colour, had to be mounted. The companion began to cut steps in the slippery snow in order to make it possible to plant our feet thereon. But the ancient glacier was so rigid that the poor man’s hatchet broke down. Then and there we were overtaken by a snow storm. The man’s heavy heart was cheered up by Rama with the assurance that Providence wanted to do more good than harm through the snowfall. And so it proved. The threatening snowfall made it easier for us to trudge along. With the aid of pointed Alpine sticks we mounted the slope, and lo! there lay before us fair, flat, extensive fields of dazzling snow, miles upon miles in width. A resplendent floor of silver-snow shining all around. Joy! Joy! Is it not an ocean of radiant milk, splendid, sublime, wonderful, and wonderful, Rama’s joy knew no bounds. He ran on at his full speed on the glaciers at this time, putting on his shoulder the red blanket and wearing canvas shoes.
There is no one in his company now (Akhir ke tain hams akela hi sidhara).
For nearly three miles he walked over the snows. Sometimes the legs got immersed and were drown out not without struggle. At last on a snowy mound, the red blanket was spread. Rama sits on it, all alone, above the noises and turmoil of the world, Beyond the fumes and furies of the multitude. Perfect silence reigns here. What a shanti prevails. No sounds of any kind audible except the anand ghanghor. Most blessed serene solitude!
The veil of clouds became a little less thick. The rays of the sun sifted through the thin clouds fell on the scene and immediately turned the silver snows into burning gold. Very appropriately has this place been called Sumeroo, or the Mountain of Gold.
O ye men of the world, mark it, no purple bloom on a lady’s cheek, no bright jewellery or fine ornaments, no superb mansions can ever possess an iota of the transcendent enchantment and fascination of this Sumeroo. And numberless Sumeroos like this you will find within you when once you realize your own real self. All nature shall do you homage “from cloud to cloud, from the blue sky to the green earth, all living creatures therein included from the eagle to the mole.”No god shall dare disobey.
Clear up, O sky! Disperse, ye clouds of ignorance that overhang India! No more shall ye hover over this blessed land. 0 Himalayan snows, your Master orders you to keep fast to your purity and faithfulness to Truth (Light). Never shall ye send waters impregnated with dualism to the plains.
The clouds are rent asunder. The snows all assume ochre-coloured appearance. Have the mountains embraced Sannyas? They have certainly put on Rama’s livery, what a phenomenon. The mountain snows look up to Rama in submissive willingness to run his errands.
Hip Hip Hurrah! Hip Hip Hurrah!
The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its labouring heart.
Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
“Well,” says the American sage, “Nature is the incarnation of a thought and turns to a thought again as ice becomes water and gas. The world is mind precipitated and the volatile essence is forever escaping again into the state of free thought. Hence virtue and pungency of the influence on the mind of natural objects whether inorganic or organised. Man imprisoned, man crystallised, man vegetative, speaks to man impersonated.”
If the world is my oxen idea (mind precipitated), why do not the external objects change at my will?
Says Gaurapada Acharya: “Mere thought in the dreamland divides itself into external objects on the one hand and internal emotions, desires, and so forth on the other. Moreover, the internal thought in that state seems to be in one’s control changeable, and comparatively unreal; whereas the external objects (as in a nightmare) appear to possess comparatively uncontrollable, stable reality of their own.
Now, as a matter of fact, from the point of view of man in the wakeful state, both the real and the unreal, the external and the internal aspects of a dream, are but idea, pure and simple, and they are, besides one’s own idea, one’s own creation. Again, in the wakeful state people distinguish between what they call stern constant external objects and the unreal internal thought. But to the man of self-realization the hard objects, no less than the variable thoughts in the long run, become nonentity like a dream, and so long as their appearance lasts, they affect him as his own; even though they cannot be altered at will, yet they are his own ideas. Your intellect cannot give an explanation of the growth of your hair or of the bloom of your face, still you regard the hair and the fair complexion your own. Just so, a Jivan Mukta finding himself to be the Self of all must regard every object his own. He is all-love. For him even the appearance of the real as well as the ideal is gradually relieved by the One only, without a Second Consciousness.