CHAPTER 6: EXPANSION OF INNER AWARENESS

    The majestic beauty of great mountains has the awesome power to immobilize our mind by knocking off the swarms of thoughts and anxieties, which ceaselessly haunt us. During my stay of a few years in Geneva and Vienna, I often drove around the enchanting mountains and lakes. It was an escape that I passionately looked forward to, from the verbose but non-communicative world of diplomacy. The scenic beauty of the Alps is captivating from a vantage point in the city of Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva. A drive farther south in the mountains is simply unforgettable. Also in Austria, the Alps and the serene lakes particularly in the southwest of Salzburg are gorgeous and a treasure of most cherished memories.

    It was, however, my encounter with the Himalayas in Nepal that left me speechless. I drove from Kathmandu on the road winding up the hills to reach a lonely teahouse ahead of Nagarkot, a small village. It is the closest point about fifty kilometers from Kathmandu for watching sunset in the Himalayas. It was my first trip to the place, though I did visit it several times later during my three-year stay in Nepal. When I reached the place, the sun was about to go down, and the sky was absolutely clear without a speck of cloud. The top of the hill I stood upon was overlooking a misty valley that spread across the cascading foothills. Above the deep, misty valleys rose the mighty Himalayas in a panoramic magnificence of innumerable snowy peaks. Beyond the foot hills, the long chain of mountain peaks filled the entire horizon in a semicircular expanse. The peaks pierced the deep sky with their astounding heights. Some of the snow-clad peaks had started to glisten in orange and light pink with the caressing touch of the soft sun.

    Though this description is gleaned from the memory, my actual encounter was a unique experience. My mind was totally submerged, and it became one with the immensity of the awesome beauty unfolding beyond the stretch of the misty valleys and the cascading chains of foothills. Soon with the approaching twilight, the dark blue sky, the majestic mountains, the valleys, and I appeared to melt into an infinite oneness. The utter silence of the place immobilized my mind, wiping out even the noise of thought. I could feel the sound of the footsteps of time in the midst of the immense space, which engulfed the identity of everything around.

    One time or the other, most of us have encountered such overwhelming awareness that wipes out our thoughts and memories for some moments. In the fullness of its primordial sentience, our consciousness immerses in the splendour and charm of the scenic beauty silencing the mind totally. Of course, such blissful experience does not last for more than a few seconds, but there can be exceptional cases like that of the great poet William Wordsworth, who could retain such extraordinary state of mind for a longer time. Also, some monks and Yogis practicing meditation have the capacity to allow the pristine pulse of consciousness to prevail by disengaging their minds from the transient processes of thought, memories and emotions. However, that, I believe, can be possible for several minutes only at a stretch. The great Indian philosopher J. Krishnmurti claimed to have an ability to remain “without any movement of thought” for even a couple of hours!

    The narration of my encounter with the Himalayas highlights the phenomenon of total awareness and its silencing power over other mental activities. It knocks off thought, memories, and the ordinary feelings. The only mental process prevailing at the time is the primeval feeling of pure consciousness or being. Though silenced at the initial stage of experience, thought and memories invade the mind after some moments and we start making exclamations to articulate our experience or comparing with similar experiences in past. We even continue to derive joy and gratification by gloating over the memories of the experience, which is nothing but a replay of the memories to prolong the pleasure.

   In fact, thoughts and memories are the spoilers of pure sensations and feelings. All our engrossing experiences of joy, wonder, or sorrow are marked with the absence of thought and memory. Even when you listen to the music that deeply touches your heart, there is no encroachment of thought and memory. In Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot says, “You are the music while the music lasts.” When we start judging and evaluating the quality of music, it means both thought and memory have taken over the place of pure awareness of music. The deep joy of music and the fulfillments of our acute biological urges represent the undiluted sensations and feelings that universally hold inexorable appeal. The point to be noted is that inner awareness represents pure sensation, which is the foundation of all mental processes…read more in the book…

foot