One thing I have always loved about South Africa is that it is made up of such a variety of different landscapes, beautiful faces of nature that somehow join together to form such an exquisite natural tapestry. Each one on its own seems perfect, but when you bring them together that standard of perfection seems to rise to a new level. Of course, we all have our favourites and for me the ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park of Kwazulu-Natal is one of those places.
Some of us might only know of the Drakensberg as that far off line of mountains just visible from the N3 as we zoom down to Durban for sun and waves, or perhaps glimpsed from the air as we jet across the country. From a distance they can seem cold and obscure, from closer up they often appear immense and foreboding. Yet when you really start to explore the high and remote places of the Drakensberg, the overwhelming experience is one of sacred beauty and purity.
For me, the natural world, the world of untouched and remote landscapes has always been a sanctuary for spiritual rejuvenation. I do love to meditate and meditation is at the core of each day of my life. However, I don’t always meditate as well as I would like to. Sometimes I find that the chatter of my mind destroys my initial hopes of deep inner calm and poise. Yet, in spite of this, whenever I bow my head to end my meditation, as if by some kind of magic, I somehow feel inwardly replenished.
Over the sweep of time, spiritual masters have often spoken of the mystical phenomenon of grace, a spiritual power that a seeker or devotee attracts into his or her life just by virtue of a sincere longing for the spiritual treasures of inner peace, inner happiness and divine love, to name a few. Sri Ramakrishna, the great 19th century mystic of Calcutta once said that, “the winds of God’s grace are always blowing, it is for us to raise our sails.” And amongst a very large collection of aphorisms entitled, Seventy Seven Thousand Service Trees, Sri Chinmoy writes:
When I pray and meditate,
I feel that I am only
There is some other power
That is coming to help me,
And that power is God’s Grace.
When we first begin our journey of meditation we sometimes feel discouraged because it seems to require such personal effort and discipline and appears to yield so little peace. Yet, when we persevere, our perseverance is often rewarded by inner blessings, divine inner gifts that we intuitively know are far beyond the realm of our ordinary human successes and achievements. The secret seems to be not so much in whether we can master the art of meditation with our mental capacity or intellectual power, but rather in the depth of our sincere hunger for the inner spiritual treasures.
This is just how I feel when I head out into the wilderness, that temple of nature in which my seemingly insurmountable human worries and anxieties seem so petty and insignificant. Each time I melt away into that vast landscape of the Drakensberg, no matter whether for one night or several nights, I always come away feeling that I have been unconsciously blessed by an inner grace – as though I have truly entered into a temple and received a tiny portion of the spiritual energy that dwells within that sacred space. There is such divinity in the mountain landscapes – rivers of pure silver, hillsides cloaked in green and decorated with tiny wild flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours, sheer rock faces reaching up towards the sky and views that literally take your breath away – such power and majesty on the one hand and such delicate simplicity on the other. It humbles me and reminds me of that idea that was once expressed to me when I first embarked on my journey of meditation, that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.
Balarka Robinson is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Johannesburg. In May 2012 he was part of a team that carried the World Harmony Run (a global relay for world peace) Torch to the summit of Mafadi, the highest point in South Africa. He is shown here (left) with his brother Abhijatri, also of the Johannesburg Sri Chinmoy Centre.