OLD DIARY LEAVES, Third Series (1883-87)
by Henry Steel Olcott
RECEPTION BY THE MAHARAJAH
THE experience described in the last chapter was certainly calculated to make a deep impression on the dullest mind; how much more so on one whose highest aspiration was to be permitted to work in some capacity or other with the "Elder Brothers" for the good of the race! If anybody had asked me what was the rarest pleasure that I could imagine, I should have answered: "To see and converse with a Master, for in his benign atmosphere the mind and heart would expand like a flower to the sun and one's being be filled with joy." And here I had had it without the asking. Yet when I came to look back upon it, it was but like a remembered glint of sunshine on a cloudy day, seen for a moment, then gone. The whole time of the interview could not have been longer than ten minutes. The touch of his hand drew me out of the depths of the oblivion of dreamless sleep. I had had a fatiguing day, the tent was very cold, heated only by some embers in a great earthen pot, and I had covered myself to the ears in the bed-clothes. I am touched, I wake with a start, I clutch the arms
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of my visitor, possibly my would-be assassin; the sweet, kind voice breaks the last stupor of slumber; he is there, standing beside my bed, his face aglow with a smile; I see it in the chiaroscuro of the backlight. Then the magical creation of the silk-enwrapped letter in my hand, a few words, a farewell salute, he walks past the lamp on the box, his noble form lingers an instant in the tent-door, he gives a last friendly glance at me, and is gone. It is not much as to time, but its memory will last my life through. Years before—as my readers will perhaps remember—I was bidden to go on with my work as if there were no Masters to guide and help, but only Humanity, the "Great Orphan," to labor for: to expect nothing from Them, yet to be ready for anything. So I have gone on until to-day, never asking for help, never holding back for lack of the promise of it, yet never being without it when it was really needed.
This Lahore visit of the Master was but one of many proofs vouchsafed me that we are watched and helped; never deserted, never forgotten, howsoever dark may seem the outlook, howsoever menacing the aspect of things. Twenty-odd years of this experience has begotten a constant calm and an abiding trust in my heart, as it did in that of H. P. B. Sometimes it may be a glimpse of a personage, sometimes an audible voice, sometimes a clear forecast of events, sometimes a message through third parties; like that which Mme. Mongruel, the gifted seeress, gave me in her somnambulic sleep last year at Paris, and which
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foretold the immediate future of the Society, the duration of my own life, and the aspect of things towards the end of it. Thus, in the letter made in my hand were predicted the deaths of our two opponents, then most active, and good counsel was given me. Though traitors should fill twenty corner-stones with deliberately concocted lies about the history of our movement, and for ever suppress my name and Mrs. Besant's from their falsified records, it will profit them not one iota; the work will go on, and the real workers be recognised, comforted, and helped, so long as they are loyal to their duty.
The next evening, after the visits to Mr. Brown and myself, we two and Damodar sat in my tent, at 10, o'clock, waiting for an expected visit from Master K. H. The camp was quiet, the rest of our party dispersed through the city of Lahore. We sat on chairs at the back of the tent so as not to be observed from the camp: the moon was in its last quarter and had not risen. After some waiting we heard and saw a tall Hindu approaching from the side of the: open plain. He came to within a few yards of us and beckoned Damodar to come to him, which he did. He told him that the Master would appear within a few minutes, and that he had some business with Damodar. It was a pupil of Master K. H. Presently we saw the latter coming from the same direction, pass his pupil—who had withdrawn to a little distance—and stop in front of our group, now standing and saluting in the Indian fashion, some
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yards away. Brown and I kept our places, and Damodar went and conversed for a few minutes with the Teacher, after which he returned to us and the king-like visitor walked away. I heard his footsteps on the ground, so it was no wraith, but the man in his external body. Observe that it could not have been Damodar masquerading, for he himself formed one of our group of three. Then there are the distinguished personal peculiarities of the two, as unlike as possible, to account for, and the chela, whom I had had to do with for years. Still further proof was given me before retiring, when I was writing my Diary: the pupil lifted the portiére, beckoned to me, and pointed to the figure of his Master, waiting for me out on the plain in the starlight. I went to him, he walked off to a safe place at some distance where intruders need not be expected, and then for about a half-hour told me what I had to know, and what does not concern third parties, since that chapter of T. S. history was long since closed. Needless to say I slept very little on either of those two nights. The august visitor told me, however, that he had not come to me of his own motion entirely, although glad to come to me in person; but had been sent by the Authority higher than himself, who was satisfied with my fidelity and wished me to never lose confidence. There were no miracles done at the interview, no magic circle traced on the ground, no gum-burning lamps placed around it and burning with steely-blue flames: just two men talking together, a meeting, and a parting when
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the talk was over. I can affirm that it was not Damodar but was the One I was called to meet; so let it pass.
I broke up camp the next day—November 21—and left Lahore for Jammu, the lower capital of H. H. the late Maharajah of Kashmir, whose invitation to visit him I had accepted. One of his durbar officers, a Muslim and, strange to say, given to drinking, despite the prohibitions of his creed, had been sent down to escort me from Lahore. Simple affair as this was, there had been protests, explanations, and compromises before it could be arranged. I had heard that the Maharajah's custom was to make presents in cash and costly clothing to his visitors, and I positively declined to accept a single rupee, as incompatible with my lifelong habit. The emissary was at his wits' end between two such stubborn men, and an active exchange of telegrams made things no better until, at last, the cloud rolled by and all was settled in a way to satisfy us both. It was agreed that the khillât, or present, should be given and by me received and receipted for officially, as President of the Theosophical Society, in which capacity I am ready to accept any gifts, however large, that involve no wrong to anybody. So, all being right, our party took the 6 p.m. train for Wazirabad, which was reached at 9.30. My escort had evidently been saying good-bye to friends to some purpose, as his breath smelt very bad in our closed railway carriage, and he was quite half-seas-over. His tongue got to wagging about politics, and I was assured, with mysterious
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hints and nods, that a revival of Moslem power was certain, and that his fifty million Indian co-religionists would rally under the standard of the Nizam of Hyderabad. After a while I got my fill of this nonsense and the odors of his mouth, and retired to my corner and read. He wanted to stop at Wazirabad, for that meant the chance for sleep and other things, but I declared my intention of pushing forward to Sialkot. We reached that place by horse-dawk at 3 a.m., stopped at the rest-house until noon, then moved on to Jammu. We left our carriages on the hither side of the River Tavi, and were brought on two of the royal elephants, a distance of two miles, to the huge bungalow that the Maharajah keeps for his more important guests. The road from the river leads straight through the main street of the quaint old town, whose breadth may be guessed when I tell my reader that as our elephants moved their huge bulk forward, horsemen, and even foot-passengers, had to whirl into alleys or clamber into shops to avoid being crushed! And we, seated on their backs, cross-legged in true Oriental fashion, were almost on a level with the living apartments and, if we had been discourteous according to Indian notions of politeness, might have seen the families in their private rooms. At the rest-house we were received by an army of servants with the obsequiousness that means naught else than the hope of bakshish. My lordship was asked to name what meats, game, fish, etc., I might prefer, whether I would begin operations now with the customary
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whisky "peg," and when I would have my meals. They appeared really astonished when I named my simple, non-flesh diet (for that time was included within my five years' trial of vegetarianism), and declined their liquors, wines, and fermented drinks. Such a mad white they had never seen before! And then, too, who had ever seen a European gentleman on terms of friendly equality with Indians? Yes, here were two Sahibs, actually two, travelling with dark-skinned people as if they were as good as themselves, and apparently enjoying their company! Bismillah!
As we learned that a certain famous European doctor had been sent by the Maharajah's request to prescribe for him, and that he would arrive that evening and be lodged in the same house with us, I at once asked our minister-escort to change us into a smaller bungalow that stood near by, for I could not bear the sight -of my dear dark-complexioned colleagues being scornfully looked down upon, as they would almost certainly be. My request being granted, we found ourselves very comfortable and independent in a house of four rooms divided by cross walls and with doors of communication. In view of what was to happen, we may-as well have the ground plan. Thus;
A.—My room; used also as dining- room. C.—Pandit Gopinath L.V.V. Naidu, and T. Narain- swamy.
B.—Damodar’s D.—W.T. Brown.
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The next morning, at 10-30, the same Minister of the Durbar brought me word that His Highness begged the honour of my presence at the Palace. In our compound stood two elephants and four fine saddle-horses, richly caparisoned, with housings and saddle-covers of Kashmir-shawl work, and silver-mounted bridles and stirrups, awaiting my pleasure, with a guard of honor of armed sepoys. I chose the elephants, so we mounted the sagacious, kneeling beasts and went on our way, the sepoys in front to clear the road. I made the discovery that elephant-riding is not so bad when one sits on the pad in Eastern fashion, the legs crossed. I had tried it elsewhere in a howdah, or structure with raised seats, and in spite of its being covered with plates of silver and otherwise gorgeously gotten up, one rode most uncomfortably, shaken about like a bag of meal on an oscillating pivot. Again we threaded the narrow streets of Jammu, driving all wayfarers to the nearest shelters, and at last reached the Palace. There were the usual enclosing walls with massive gates, the outer compound with horses, elephants, camels, oxen, donkeys, heavy wains, light vehicles (ekkas), piles of straw, bags of grain, building materials, etc., all in confusion, armed sentries pacing their beats, and soldiers in untidy undress lounging about. Then came an inner court and the Palace gateway, through which we passed, mounted a wide staircase and found ourselves in the Presence Chamber. I forget after these fourteen years how it looked, but a vague memory of general
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untidiness remains in my mind. The Maharajah came soon and received me with an air of kindness and stately courtesy that showed beyond doubt that I was welcome. In compliment to him I wore the woollen dress of the better class in the Punjab—pyjamas, a sleeveless waistcoat with deep flaps, an outside choga, or long robe, striped Kashmir socks, and purple slippers embroidered with imitation gold braid—which, of course, I left at the door. His first expression to Pandit Gopinath, my interpreter, was one of pleasure to see me in his national costume. A carpet and back-bolster had been spread for him on a slightly raised platform, before which we were to sit on the carpeted floor: but he dragged the bolster from there, placed it on the floor, motioned me to sit beside him, called me his elder brother, and proceeded with the conversation, which he opened with the usual exchange of compliments and good wishes. He was a man of noble presence, with an intellectual face and the splendid eyes of the Hindu, which by turns can be full of pathos, blaze with anger, or penetrating with intelligent interest. His personality fitted the kingly office perfectly, which is more than can be said of some other sovereigns whom I have seen, and who looked rather like cooks or grooms than highborn rulers of men. I found him to be a thoughtful Vedantin, well acquainted with philosophical systems. He fully believed in the existence of living Mahatmas, and trusted in them to do for India all that her Karma made possible, but no more. He gently broached the
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subject of his own ill-health, said he knew of my cures and of the recent prohibition to continue the practice, but asked if I would not at least relieve the acute pain he was then suffering from. I consented, of course, and on his removing his turban, did what I could for him with mesmeric healing passes. He submitted to my manipulations with perfect docility, which, I must confess, gave me a peculiar sensation, for Americans are not in the habit of handling sovereigns like common men, however they may theoretically regard them as their equals. I had the pleasure of removing His Highness' pain, and when the audience closed he begged me to visit him twice a day during my stay, that we might talk of the high religious themes which equally interested us.
The same evening, when I was sitting in our bungalow, I saw a queer procession of men enter from the verandah. First came a Court official, attended by a servant carrying a pair of scales and another with some heavy bag on his shoulder, which was gravely laid at my feet. Then followed a string of twenty-one other dark-faced, turbaned servants, each bearing on his head a flat basket of fruit or sweets, which were piled on each other on the table, counted by the Court officer, and the men dismissed. While I was wondering what all this could mean, Gopinath was told that His Highness received me as a guest of the first-class, and, as such, twenty-one baskets were sent me; there were guests of three classes, of which the second received fourteen baskets, the third seven baskets, below that people
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did not count! He then opened the gunny-bag, poured the contents—silver coins—into the scales, weighed them, and took my receipt for Rs. 500. This, he explained, was "table money," though why he should give me that when our every possible and impossible wish was gratified, I could not imagine. However, it was the custom of the Court of Kashmir, and His Highness' honor was involved in doing things as they had always been done from ancient times by Indian kings.
I went twice to the Palace the next day, and resumed the Vedantic discussions and even the mesmeric passes. His Dewan (Prime Minister) was present with other officials, including the Chief Justice, and after the free Eastern fashion, dipped into the conversation from time to time. That is a thing that always astonishes Europeans: if there be a wrangle in the street and a crowd gathers, they will turn to listen to a side remark by a boy as readily as though he were an adult. Can it be because, by the accepted belief in Karma, only our encasing bodies are young, the Dweller within the one being as old as that within the other? It is an idea to be considered like any other, at all events.
In the afternoon the Maharajah presided at games and a series of animal combats, and took me to his pavilion and placed me at his side. It being an entirely novel experience, I stayed the thing out, but once was enough. There were fights between rams, elephants, and horses—the first laughable, the second
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tame, since the elephants were not angry; the third exciting, for the splendid stallions lashed out at each other, screamed and tried to bite. A cock-fight brought the affair to a close.
The Chief Justice spent the evening with me in pleasant talk, in the course of which he dropped the remark that the Maharajah was "so taken with me that he would give me anything I might ask for". I took this for what it was worth, but after the Judge had gone, young Brown, to my amazement, asked me to get him the appointment of Judge. "What!" I said, "you, who came to India to devote yourself to unselfish work; whom I warned by letter to expect naught but the chance of self-sacrifice; who have just been honored with a visit and letter from a Master, a distinction that has been withheld from some of the oldest of our members—you are ready, to snap at the first temptation, and take a post for which you are not qualified?" I explained to him that if indeed the Maharajah respected me, it was because he had become convinced that I would not take for myself or any private friend any present or favor whatever. He at last saw the point and said no more; but his character-gauge had been exposed to me once for all, and his subsequent career has corroborated my impressions.
I went as usual, the next day, to the Palace, and in the afternoon saw a review by General Prince Ram Singh, Commander-in-Chief of the Kashmir Government Service troops, which have since then behaved
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so splendidly in the various British Border Expeditions. This was all very fine, but an event occurred that night which drove the recollection of everything else out of my thought: Damodar disappeared from his room, and was not to be found when I looked there for him in the early morning.