Buddhist Audio Books

Facing Mount Kanchenjunga
An English Buddhist in the Eastern Himalayas
By Sangharakshita
ISBN: 9780904766523
Read by Subhadra

This is the second set of memoirs by Sangharakshita.

In 1950 Kalimpong was a lively trading town in the intrigue-ridden corner of India that borders Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet. Finding a welcome in this town, nestled high in the mountains, were a bewildering array of guests and settlers: ex-colonial military men, missionaries, incarnate Tibetan lamas, exiled royalty and Sangharakshita, a young English monk attempting to establish a Buddhist movement for local youngsters.

In this delightful volume of memoirs, Sangharakshita shares the incidents and insights of his early years in Kalimpong. These include brushes with the Buddhist ‘establishment’, a meeting with the ‘Untouchables’ saviour Dr B.R. Ambedkar and his friendship with Lama Anagarika Govinda. Behind these events we witness the development of this remarkable young man into an increasingly effective interpreter of Buddhism for a new age.

An Extract from: Facing Mount Kanchenjunga
From chapter 21: A Fresh Beginning

I was inspired by the bamboos and the orchids, by the haze-softened foothills, gashed red here and there by the landslides, by the changing cloud formations, by the breadth and blueness of the sky. Above all I was inspired by the snows.

The snows were not visible from 'The Hermitage', but as one walked up the road, in the direction of the bazaar, they gradually hove in sight. By the time one reached the Dharmodaya Vihara, which was situated half a mile from 'The Hermitage', there was the dazzling white mass of Kanchenjunga, with its twin peaks, piled up on the horizon at an unbelievable height. For the best view of the snows one had to climb up to Dailo, the skull-shaped hill beyond Dr Graham's Homes, and one day, with three companions, Sachin and I did just that. The three companions were Jungi, Dawa, and Omiya, the cheerful Bengali proprietor of a small watch-repair business in Darjeeling with whom Sachin had become acquainted and who was now spending a few days with him. As agreed the night before, we met at Sachin's house after breakfast and from there set out. The climb was a stiff one, especially towards the end, and it was not until nearly midday that, having emerged from the pine forest, we found ourselves on the bare top of Dailo Hill. The sun was shining brilliantly. Below us was the River Ranjit, winding through silver sands towards the plains, while around us, and stretching away into the distance, rose innumerable hills, all covered in soft blue haze. Aloft on the horizon, and extending in an unbroken line from farthest east to farthest west, were the snow peaks of the eastern Himalayas. There must have been hundreds of them. Except for Kanchenjunga and Lama Yuru, a pyramidal mountain so called from its resemblance to a meditating monk, I did not know their names. Nor did I care to know them. For me it was enough to sit there in that intense stillness, five thousand feet above sea level, simply contemplating those silent white forms. Contemplating them in this way - taking darshan, as my Indian friends would have said - I could begin to understand why the Himalayas had such a hold on the imagination of the people of the subcontinent and why they occupied so prominent a place in the religious and cultural life of Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains alike. I could understand why Kalidasa, in an oft-quoted phrase, had described the Himalayas as 'the congealed laughter of Shiva', and why the author of the Skanda Purana had gone so far as to personify the Himalaya or Himachala, in the singular, and extol him as a deity, saying:

'He who thinks of Himachala, even though he should not behold Him, is greater than he who performs worship at Kashi. And he who contemplates upon Himachala shall have pardon of all sins. All things that die on Himachala, and in dying think of His snows, are freed from evil. In a hundred years of the gods I could not tell you of the glories of Himachala, where Shiva lives and where the Ganga falls from the feet of Vishnu like the slender thread of the lotus flower. Truly, as the dew is dried by the Sun so are the sorrows of mankind dried up by the sight of Himachala.'

I had contemplated Himachala, and though I did not feel that my sins had been pardoned I could well believe that my sorrows had dried up, at least for the time being.


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