Mount Kailas: Natural Consciousness of Cultural Memories, Places, and Time

Starting from the concept of the parallel between nature and human life, Hindu thinkers believe that the manifestations of nature can explain many things to us in the manifestations of life. Using this method, Buddha, fortunately for his Doctrine, retained the experience of this old tradition. ‘I shall show thee by comparison, because many rational people understand by comparison’ — such was the usual formula of Buddha. And this simple, vital approach lent to his Teaching vividness and conviction.” – Helena Roerich (Roerich [1926] 2003, 1)

The spontaneity of a free natural thought is not bound by nationalism, but extends beyond the human-centered borders and boundaries of the mind. As I wrote in my earlier essay, Buddhism in the cultural memories of our people is not determined by a religious doctrine but exists in the literary masterpieces, such as the works of Helena and Nicholas Roerich (Shugurova 2013). To me, Buddhism is eco-centric in consciousness that is far beyond the concept of nationalism and its socio-constructed identities; it is a part of the living culture of the Great Nature. 

In my dialogues, many people are fascinated by the idea of a pilgrimage to Mount Kailas. Mount Kailas is the Tantric Center of higher thoughts that benefit all beings. “When we travel to Mount Kailas and its surrounding locations of natural beauty, we feel connected with our indigenous pre-histories,” say Russian travelers. “The mandala of Mount Kailas reminds us about our ancient roots and the ceremonies of Culture. The ornaments of the Tibetan traditions are interrelated with our traditional ceremonial ornaments” (personal communication, November 2012). The image of Mount Kailas is present in many business firms in eastern Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus (personal communication, October 2012). 

Nicholas Roerich says that Culture is one and “the sacred flame of Culture does not tolerate ignorant limitations” (Roerich 1931b, para.1). When we, as groups of travelers, come back to the foothills of Mount Kailas, we feel the oneness of the

reality of Culture. It is embodied within the magnificence of Mount Kailas’s cultural landscape and its representation as the Center of the Universe. This center resonates with our hearts, and we feel the pulse of the Universe as self in unity with its spirit-Soul, Alaya

The Ukrainian-Russian founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky, was known for her synthesis of Buddhist philosophy, the Vedas, Pythagorean philosophy, and indigenous knowledge. She writes of Buddha Nature in The Voice of the Silence: “Alas, alas, that allmen should possess Alaya, be one with the great Soul, and that possessing it, Alaya should so little avail them! Behold how like the moon, reflected in the tranquil waves, Alaya is reflected by the small and by the great, is mirrored in the tiniest atoms . . .” (Blavatsky [1889] 2006, 12).

“Mount Kailas,” Mila Shugurova, 2004, acrylic on canvas. From Olga Shugurova
“Pagan Russia,” Nicholas Roerich, 1901, tempera on canvas. From Olga Shugurova
“Book of Life,” Nicholas Roerich, 1938, tempera on canvas. From Olga Shugurova

People turn inwards in search of roots, and the abstract notion of culture begins to re-emerge as embodied wisdom. This unity of time and space is the Diamond Way of the Buddha, the way of the Secret treasures hidden within the self. 

“What do people find and learn near Mount Kailas?” I wonder, and the sense of awe returns to me once again. Mount Kailas is not just a physical place: it is a sanctuary of mystery. I wonder at the feeling of wonder that overwhelms with a wave of light from Mount Kailas as though in response, in resonance with our forgotten and re-membered belonging. I am writing with the Place of Kailas as the living presence of Culture. “Mount Kailas is the center of miracles,” says one Russian lady, recalling her sacred voyage to Tibet. “I learned my sacred Mantra there.” “This place reminds us of our heritage,” say others. “We actually turn to mythologies and search for the forgotten gods and goddesses of our Place. So we remember the God of the Sun, the Goddess of Summer, Spring, and the God of Time” (personal communication, 2012). They are with us. People feel the ancient in the present, and this unity of time is not only sustainable but also empowering, enlightening, and liberating.

Nicholas Roerich suggested that we should become co-workers of culture and develop our understanding of world’s heritage in cultural places, histories, and art (Roerich 1931a). The way of cultural knowing is psycho-spiritual in the expansion of consciousness beyond the ritualized learning and teaching found in various religious institutions. Roerich writes: “The Great Gotama Buddha ordained in manifold ways the conception of Peace and Culture. Peace signifies an unceasing construction. Culture means an eternal cognizance and betterment of life through the foundations of glorious progress” (Roerich 1931b, para. 1).

What we find with the mountains is the truthfulness of our being in peaceful becoming. We follow the pathway of a circle and feel how mountains speak to us in the language of spirit, the embodied presence. As if becoming a part of Mount Kailas, we feel the deep time of this earth that stretches far beyond the borders of times and spaces to the very Infinite Ray of becoming. We are being touched and gifted by the Great Spirit of the Mountains, and their abodes lead us to the dawn of collective memories and cultural sanctuaries of the eco-centric cosmic consciousness of our Buddha Nature. 

The Great Culture invokes the inner wisdom of the Great Nature. The Dharma of Nature has been expressed as the selfless love to our Motherland and is foundational in our collective existential condition. Nature is the truth of our languages, visions, and hopes. It exists as the Dharma of inner life, the intrinsic knowing of peace, compassion, impermanence, change, and eternity. 

I would like to conclude this passage with an inspirational poem by Nicholas Roerich, “Sacred Signs” (Roerich [1918] 2014), which connects the embodied meaning of Buddhist thought with the inner life of the cultural history and memories that are within the selfless Dharma of compassion, love, and truth in the realities of living experiences of the Great Nature of One Culture.

We do not know. But they know.

The stones know. Even trees 


And they remember. 

They remember who named the mountains 

And rivers, 

Who constructed the former 


Who gave the names 

To the immemorial countries— 

Words unknown to us— 

They are filled with meaning! 

Everything is filled with achievements. 


Heroes passed. “To know”— 

Is a sweet word. “To remember”— 

Is a terrible word. To know and 

To remember, to remember and to know
Means—to have faith. 


Blavatsky, Helena. (1889) 2006. The Voice of the Silence. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press. Online Edition. http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/voice/voice.htm

Roerich, Helena. (1926) 2003. Foundations of Buddhism. New York, NY: Agni Yoga Society. http://agniyoga.org/ay_pdf/ay_FoB.pdf.

Roerich, Nicholas. (1918) 2014. “Sacred Signs.” In Flame in Chalice. New York, NY: Nicholas Roerich Museum. http://www.roerich.org/roerich-writings-flame-in-chalice.php.

———. 1931a. The Realm of Light. New York, NY: Nicholas Roerich Museum. http://roerich.org/roerich-writings-realm-of-light.php.

———. 1931b. “Peace and Culture.” In Roerich 1931a.

Shugurova, Olga. 2013. “From a trans-personal place on Buddhism in Ukraine.” http://newlotus.buddhistdoor.com/en/news/d/36654

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