A 40 Year "Retrospective Journey"

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

November 19, 2008

A Man and A Mountain

November 19, 1968
Mim Tea Estate

An interesting facet of Merton's time in Darjeeling is his relationship with Mount Kanchenjunga which takes on the role of a character in his journal. Donald Grayston, who made a pilgrimage to Asia "in the footsteps of Merton" in 2000/2001, shares the following "guest post" on the unique relationship of a man and a mountain...

(Grayston photo)

"Merton on his journey practised what his friend David Steindl-Rast called “exposed consciousness,” spiritual openness to all experience, and developed thereby a deep capacity for integration. A notable example of this is Merton’s “quarrel” with Mount Kanchenjunga, regarded as a goddess by Buddhists (AJTM pp. 146-61). He had a magnificent view of the great mountain from the window of the guest wing of the manager’s bungalow at the Mim Tea Estate, where he made a retreat.

(Grayston photo)

Before his retreat, in Darjeeling, he says that the mountain was “a lovely sight but hard to photograph” (p. 135). He then launches into a conversation between himself and the mountain in which he struggles with how his camera had become an instrument of western technological domination (he wanted a good photograph but the mountain was hidden by clouds, i.e., was not co-operating or submitting). Then he had a dream, in which he “saw” the mountain from “the other side,” the Tibetan side, the side he couldn’t see with his physical eyes (p. 152).

This dream, which brought the two sides of the mountain together, ended his “quarrel.” Man and mountain had revealed their true natures to each other; no separation remained." Donald Grayston

About Kanchenjunga (from Wikipedia)
"Kangchenjunga (कञ्चनजङ्घा) is the third highest mountain in the world (after Everest and K2), with an elevation of 8,586 metres (28,169 ft). Kangchenjunga translated means "The Five Treasures of Snows", as it contains five peaks, four of them over 8,450 metres. The treasures represent the five repositories of god, which are gold, silver, gems, grain, and holy books." Wikipedia

Kangchenjunga 1857 painting

"Kangchenjunga was first climbed on May 25, 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band of a British expedition. The British expedition honoured the beliefs of the Sikkimese, who hold the summit sacred, by stopping a few feet short of the actual summit. Most successful summit parties since then have followed this tradition." Wikipedia

TTFN... Rob

"There is another side of Kanchenjunga and of every mountain - the side that has never been photographed and turned into postcards. That is the only side worth seeing." Thomas Merton AJTM p.153

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