Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Silent Power of a Mountain


Mount Kangchendzonga
One day, while sitting in the loft of my 'tin palace,' a small retreat hut which I built at the end of a ridge not far from Darjeeling, a town in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, I was overcome, as happened on many occasions, by the majestic vista that spread out before me.

 From my perch, I could gaze out the window past the cupola of a small Chorten which rose up right in front of my house. It had been there a lot longer than my little house. These structures are a Buddhist symbol of the stages of enlightenment and often contain the relics of holy beings. Beyond the chorten, a line of bamboo poles had been raised, each containing large colourful prayer flags which fluttered in the wind. Each flag was covered in ornate Tibetan script bearing mantras and prayers. 

Beyond this, a few sturdy trees clung to the edge of the cliff face hiding somewhat the vast chasm which opened up right below. From that point, space ruled and swirling mists rose up from the distant valleys far below. 

The huge peaks of the Himalayas rose up just a few miles to the north, and on a clear day, one could see from Mount Everest in the west, right across a huge swathe of towering peaks to the tiny kingdom of Bhutan in the east. 

But there were no clear mountain views that particular day. Instead, monsoon mists billowed around the steamy valleys in an endlessly shifting dance.

And yet, there were moments when the clouds parted during the rainy months and then one could catch a fleeting but unforgettable glimpse of the huge massif of Kanchendzonga, freshly dusted and clothed in a thick and brilliantly white mantel.

Kanchendzonga is the world’s third highest mountain. It is an enormous eruption of black and grey granite that rises up 8586 meters in the far eastern portion of the Himalayan mountain chain.
In size it is just a few meters short of Mount Everest.

Recognized as a sacred mountain by the natives of the fiefdom of Sikkim, it holds a certain mystic and is revered by the locals who remain committed to protecting it from the footprints of irreligious mountaineers. 

However, the mountain itself is a treacherous domain for mortals and many have lost their lives trying to scale its flanks.

But from a respectful distance, the monsoon vistas are very special. There is no other time during the year when the play of light is quite so luminous and pure. What can emerge between the billowing clouds for fleeting moments are evanescent explosions of brilliant color and light. They appear as almost not of this earth.


These glorious visions of the mountain had inspired and sustained me for the many years while I lived on that ridge. The mountains were a ceaseless ocean of shifting color and light. They never looked the same. The play of light, the subtle shades of color, the shifting clouds and moods which it drew forth at different times of the day and night; all were a constant reminder, for me, of the dance of life which is forever changing. One could never lift ones gaze and not find there a new world of wonder.

During those years this majestic view of clouds, light, and mountains was nature's teaching for me. To look out of my windows and see how everything interacts in the natural world was a constant and vital lesson in impermanence and change.

Nature reflects the basic truths of life ceaselessly and with unmatched simplicity and beauty.
Even so, we often fail to notice them. We are constantly reminded of life's impermanence and yet we are swallowed up by our thoughts and by the ceaseless stream of distractions which claim almost all of our attention from the very moment we wake in the morning until we close our eyes at night.

Caught by the movement of the forms upon the screen, our eyes fail to see the screen upon which their movement depends. We gaze right past what is always present, unmovable, unshakable and null, grasping instead at the dancing forms and the shifting play of colours, light and dark.

In times cluttered with ceaseless distractions it is in the simplicity of nature that we can find, quite effortlessly, little windows of opportunity; windows that allow our spirit to soar free from the worldly display for a moment or more.

In the freedom of just such a moment, we can begin to discern what is constantly shifting and changing and what is consistently present and stable and begin to know the difference. In our eternal search for happiness, this is a very essential milestone on our journey back to the source of all being.

The silent power of a mountain can help us to recognize the unshakable power within.

*****

Read more in Masters, Mice, and Men
Volume Three in the series; Shades of Awareness


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