Spirituality means different things to different people. For some, ritualism is the way to attaining spiritual goals. For others, nature offers an alternate way to a higher level of consciousness. For me, it’s the Himalayas that rank above everything else on the quest to lend greater meaning to a life less ordinary.
The Himalayas are more than just the abode of snow. “The good shine from afar. Like the snowy Himalayas. The bad don’t appear, even when near. Like arrows shot into the night,” said the Buddha.
The Himalayas feature prominently in mythology and scriptures. They are the abode of Lord Shiva and a myriad of other gods and goddesses. Even in popular culture, this mighty snow-covered mountain range finds pride of a place. Who can forget the splendour of the Himalayas immortalised in the famous song Saare jahan se achcha?
Ever since my childhood, I have had a close association with the Himalayas. On the numerous occasions I have been to the mountains --- sometimes on trekking expeditions, on others as a tourist --- I have experienced a surge of spiritual vibrations emanating from the hills and the trees, rocks and rivers surrounding them.
Not for nothing has author James Hilton based his Shangri-La (an elusive utopia) in the Kunlun mountains, bordering the Himalayas.
Ruskin Bond, that stalwart of contemporary Indian literature, lives in and writes about his beloved Garhwal mountains, in almost all his novels and short stories.
This fascination with the hills may have its roots in the feeling of exultation that pervades the atmosphere 'up there'.
As John Muir, an American naturalist, said: "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
I follow this religiously, especially when the chips are down and self-doubts reign. Nothing can lift one’s spirits and take one closer to a higher consciousness as the high and the mighty Himalayas can.