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In Search of the Inner Himalaya

Bill Aitken

By Stephen Knapp
Black & White, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 238, Rs. 395.00

By Ralph Nataraj
Metavision Publishing, The Netherlands, 2004, pp. 191, price not stated


Spirituality, unlike religion with its collective proscriptions, connotes an essentially free, solitary state, immaculate in being beyond belief, expression and  morality. Neither of the two books under review  entirely avoid the trap of  endorsing  the popular belief  that  the Himalaya  and Ganga  are  suitable symbols of  the spiritual  state because of their majestic and  aloof grandeur.  However, since mystics assert that evidence of the spirit  can be found equally in the desert, the  marketplace and  in the most ordinary of  human hearts, there can be no intrinsic merit in seeking out a Himalayan cave.     At Lucknow railway station an old Sufi once defined spirituality  as: “When two  become one”.  India`s startling range of doctrines and methods to find  that oneness  appeals to foreign freethinkers  often because of  the erotic possibilities  inherent in certain Vaishnava  and Tantric schools  whose teachings hint at    exciting options in the quest for the spiritual which in the Semitic scriptural  perception of reality remain strictly out of bounds. Neither of these  books pander to  the  Kama Sutra level of  attracting readership and  both  are  insightful  expositions  by foreign enthusiasts of  Hinduism`s remarkable open house policy  that  allows for recognition  of  the  experience of union between lovers – physical and otherwise — as genuine emulation of  life`s  ultimate spiritual oneness. It ought to be a source of pride  in the modern world that the  rapturous love of Radha  and Krishna (that would  be grounds for  the adulterous wife to be publicly stoned in some societies) has always been  acknowledged by certain schools to be divinely inspired. Surely this daring insight  is unique evidence of  Hinduism`s mature understanding of what truly constitutes the spiritual.     The danger of  enthusiasts is that  they  often misinterpret the symbolic nature of  images that are intended to arouse our  psychic understanding  rather than the corporeal  senses.  Search for Destiny is  a kind of mystical thriller written quite well by Stephen Knapp  who is an American  disciple of  the Gauriya school of Bengal, revolutionary both in carrying the ecstatic teachings of Chaitanya  Mahaprabhu beyond the Kala Pani and in demonstrating that a convert  (dikshit) Vaishnav can be  born  outside Bharat Varsha‘s  emotionally sacrosanct confines. The book is subtitled A Spiritual Adventure in the Himalayas when in fact it is more of a psychic revelation wherein an American seeker tells of how disillusioned with his career as a rock musician he came ...

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