6 August 2008

Letter 2.59

The last time I saw Buddhananda he confided to me, with the air of divulging a state secret, that he was going off to Sarnath for a while. (Sarnath, a few miles outside Benares, is where the Buddha first taught his Teaching; consequently there's a large Buddhist settlement there with numerous temples from various countries.) So, my mail drop's now at Mary Opplinger's place: she's an elderly Quaker from New England who has been here for 16 years. Her husband -- a Swiss working for some Swiss Church-sponsored foreign-aid group -- being off in Africa for the past few months, she has recently discovered a Hindu recluse who she is very taken with and whose teaching she now follows without being any less a Quaker for it. She's an expert in homeopathic medicine and treats all and sundry -- natives, hippies, freaks, cranks -- who call at her door. (In fact, her medicine cured some sores on my legs, caused by insect bites, that I'd not been able to rid myself of even using antibiotics and other Western potions.) She is, I suppose, the den mother up here.

I'm told that at Tibetan altitudes (over 10,000 feet) it's possible to fall asleep in shadow and wake up with both sunburn and frost-bite. These cooler clear days seen like a portent, though it never gets that extreme here -- but, for sure, winter's icumen in, and my thoughts run to thick woolen and fluffy down. Yet Time if not the seasons has a different character upon the hills -- it changes only as a cloud changes, simply shifting about imperceptibly while never seeming to change at all -- and it's easy to forget that in other parts it moves with the steady rhythm of an army on the march. But the clock and calendar of Kumaon -- the sun, the clouds, the trees -- are still timely.

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