Book Talk: A Hermit in the Himalayas

Last few days have been very hectic on the work front. Travel stories from whatever I could manage in-between will follow soon but before that I wish to share my thoughts on an evergreen Himalayan classic A Hermit In the Himalayas written by the eminent travel and spiritual writer Paul Brunton. Shuttling between travels and assignments over the past few weeks, I got a good deal of time to savour this book written by the man who was among the first to champion the Himalayan spirituality and Yoga in western world.

The sultry summer heat of May and June is an unlikeable period to inspire spiritual wisdom in the mind. Nonetheless, the book provided me with inner rewards and a subconscious dose of Himalayan-induced spirituality; making up for the loss of not being in the lap of the Himalayas. Honouring his journalistic as well as traveller’s instincts, the author does talk about the harsh clamour of contrasting cultures, politics or fates from across the globe but, indeed, much of the book is about the spiritual beauty of the grand solitary spaces of the Himalayas.


The book was first published in the year 1937, during which time, the author travelled extensively in the East particularly Indian and the Himalayas in search of peace and spiritual isolation. It is but natural that much would have changed in the world since Paul wrote this book but at the same time many things continue to remain the same particularly the calmness of the Himalayas and politics of its kingdoms. Hoping against the hope of securing a permission to visit the Sacred Space of Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, the author, Paul Brunton sojourned in comfortable yet peaceful confines of a forest bungalow in a wooded hillside of Tehri in Garhwal, Uttarakhand. Although he failed to conquer the diplomatic hurdles to visit Tibet, he nevertheless met the celebrated Kailashi Swami Pranavananda as a visitor to his forest home who narrated his perilous journey to Kailash Mansarovar through Kashmir and Leh.

Compulsively fond of drinking tea, particularly the one he obtained from Darjeeling, he turns his expression towards nature; penning every simple thought coming out of a hermetic retreat in the Himalayas. Brunton relates his communion with various dramatic elements of his Himalayan abode; from the silence of a starry night to reading constellations, from soaking in the Deodar air to confronting a leopard, from exercising self-control to the efficacy of Yoga, from giving first-aid to a sheepherder to counting icy peaks and mountaineering expeditions, etc. And yet he accepts the importance of a city life,entertainment, of concrete jungles with equal ease and need. The underlying theme of his discourse in the book is to seek “a pathway into the deep stillness of our higher self through scared communion with nature itself”.

Embodying the grand forces of nature, the Himalayas he believes, “are an oases of calm in a world of storm”. Sweetened by the love emanating from the Supreme Being himself, the pure Himalayan air revitalises the soul. The mountains are flushed with beauty that belongs, not to them, but to God; leaving us with an inspirational poetic symbol. “The steep paths of the Himalayas are akin to the steep paths of life itself. But I adventure up the rugged trail with music sounding in my ears. God is luring me on”. Calling the Himalayas to be his novitiate for heaven, he adds that in these grand solitudes I may prepare myself for the sublime solitude of God.

In about 190 pages, the book captures the author’s spiritual takeaways from the Himalayas in an expression that suits a spiritual journal. Like most Europeans, he too travelled in a typical British babu style. Preferring to not isolate himself from the world around in real sense of the word, he kept an orderly to assist him in his mountain life where he was in constant touch with the outside world through letters and notes or even visitors.

I suggest this book for every Himalayan lover. Read this to feel the beauty, clarity and solemn silence of the godly icy mountains; in words. The book is currently available at Amazon or Flipkart at an average price of INR 382.

4 Comments on “Book Talk: A Hermit in the Himalayas

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