White Mountain, Green Mountain
You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.
–Li Bai, ‘Green Mountain’
A header change that needs no explanation at all: my mind is still in the mountain clouds.
But even here there is cause for dismay. We see a lot of breast-beating about dwindling habitats of wildlife species, but whoever gives any thought to the fact that the territory of the sadhaka is imperilled? My Sadhguru rues that with the building of motorable roads, there are no more impenetrable, remote retreats for spiritual men.
Time was these yogis could find themselves bolt-holes high up in the caves, secure from prying eyes or thirsty but encroaching masses who would gather at their feet. The waters of these Himalayan rivers are so prized, I understand, for this very reason. The yogis who stayed at these higher altitudes poured their knowledge and energies into the Bagirathi and other streams, a way of sending downstream what they had earned and what they could share with others. The whole concept of ‘Ganga nahaana’ or bathing in sacred waters comes from this.
But now, abutting the sacred Vyasa Gufa in remote Mana – a place that must have, over time, harboured countless sages and adepts – is a teashop claiming to be the last tea-stall in India. As we trekked to the point where Saraswati emerges from the cliffs, I crossed a small cave. An aghori sat in it, smeared with ash, a ‘dhuni’ duly lit for his meditations – and a small crowd around him, taking pictures. I don’t know if he minded, but I did.
Thanks to our coffee table books and the documentaries that we have seen, we have objectified our holy men. An aghori is not just a picture, is he? He is a life, an entire way of life... a purposeful life with life-choices wildly different from most of us. I was made sharply aware of that this trip. People like you and me, who drop everything they know and walk away into the hills, in search of a truth they only dimly perceive. Brave men.
I hope they find their retreats – high on those slopes, living on so little! Possessing just that much, my Guru says, as would make a difference between life and death.
I so loved the Chinese poet Li Bai for his utter gorgeosity and poetic empathy. And, I cannot resist another poem by him:
Lines For A Taoist Adept
My friend lives high on East Mountain.
His nature is to love the hills and gorges.
In green spring he sleeps in empty woodland,
Still there when the noon sun brightens.
Pine-tree winds to dust his hair.
Rock-filled streams to cleanse his senses.
Free of all sound and stress,
Resting on a wedge of cloud and mist.