NICHOLAS P. BANYKIN
Special gratitude to the
WHITE MOUNTAIN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION,
Prescott, Arizona, United States of America,
for editing assistance in the book
"The Roerich Family"
Translation from Russian of the book "The Roerich Family"
by Ekaterina V. Koneva (Tomsk, Russia).
In the book "THE ROERICH FAMILY" you will read about the great family of a Russian painter Nicholas K. Roerich, which exercised a beneficial influence on the future of Russia and of the whole World.
A boy named Nicholas was born on October 9, 1874, in St. Petersburg, Russia, to the family of a notary, Konstantin F. Roerich. Four years and four months later, in the same town, in the family of an architect, a girl was born, who was called Helena. She came from a distinguished generation: Helena’s maternal great-grandfather was the great Russian general, M. I. Kutuzov, and her uncle was the great Russian composer, M. P. Mussorgsky.
The two children grew up in the same town. But no one at the time could have imagined that twenty years later they would meet and create a family that would exert a great influence on the destiny of humanity. This was known only by the Great Teachers of Light.
Nicholas spent his childhood in a house on the bank of the river Neva and at the suburban estate of his father, which was called Izvara. Everything interested the inquisitive boy: complex designs of the ship masts, a small boat ploughing the flat surface of the river, the words of an ancient song of the times about Tsar Peter the Great (which his grandmother would sing to the children).
He received even more impressions at the suburban estate, Izvara, seeing beautiful, patterned clouds floating in the sky; migrating birds adding to the hubbub of the lake (which lay near the estate and never froze over); a herd going to the pasture; the mysterious distant forests, fields and meadows; and in the estate itself — pictures. In front of one of them, especially, small Nicholas — the future Great Artist — often stopped. In the picture one could see high mountains, flaming in the beams of the setting sun. Later on he found out that it was one of the sacred Himalayan summits — Kanchenjunga. So from early childhood, his destiny extended a thread to the sacred Himalayas and to the great land of India, places that would be closely connected to the future life of the artist and his family.
The interests of the boy were quite diverse. He learned to read very early and was fond of literature, poetry and theater. The boy also painted with enthusiasm. At the age of nine Nicholas participated in the archaeological excavations.
Through his childhood he experienced great pleasure traveling. When he was five years old, he took his first journey with his parents to the ancient Russian cities of Pskov and Ostrov. This journey created a great impression on him, which he would remember all his life.
In the same years in St. Petersburg, in a house on the Sergiyevskaya Street, Helena was growing up. The girl was exceptionally sensitive and susceptible to beauty in all its manifestations. The beauty of nature, especially, imprinted itself on her heart. She loved every living thing and suffered from seeing any kind of cruelty or injustice.
When Helena spent the summer at Bologoye, her aunt’s estate, in the mornings when she would go out of the house, all the domestic animals and birds would rush to welcome her: a sick chicken; a crane with a wounded wing that needed to be dressed. All of them sought her defense and felt her care and love.
Helena learned to read independently at a very early age. Soon she knew her French and German ABCs; and at the age of six, Helena read fluently in three languages. From her earliest years, books became her best tutors and friends. Bending under the weight of the huge illustrated Bible, the little girl would carry it to her room and, with a sinking heart, contemplate the beloved Image of Jesus Christ. Among her favorite books were “The Story of a Slice of Bread” and “Travel Through Central Asia and the Far East.”
From early childhood, the girl showed unusual capabilities — she could see the things that other people couldn’t. At the age of seven, she saw a vivid and colorful picture in the sky. Helena cried out enthusiastically, “Momma, Momma! Look at the huge banner that is stretched across the sky and curled up into a loop!” But no matter how much her mother looked, she could not see anything.
At the age of six, Helena had an extraordinary vision, which became imprinted in her heart for life. Early in the morning, the girl ran toward a small pond in the park. It was an exceptional morning. Standing on the bank, the girl, with all her essence, absorbed the beauty and joy of life. She fixed her eyes on the opposite bank, and suddenly, against the background of a blossoming apple tree, Helena saw a tall man’s figure, dressed in white. She instantly remembered that somewhere very far off lives the Teacher of Light. The girl’s heart palpitated and her joy turned into delight; with all her heart, she reached for this Image so beloved and Beautiful.
Up until her ninth year, such visions occurred also during illnesses, which were accompanied by high temperatures. The girl saw two tall men, in Hindu garments, enter her room, sit at the foot of her bed and start to wind into a ball a thread that they extracted from her heart. Sometimes when they were close, she couldn’t see anything but their heads, which bent over the girl and looked at her attentively.
The time of childhood passed, then came the anxious time of adolescence. Nicholas Roerich studied in the gymnasia (in pre-Revolutionary Russia, the secondary school of the highest grade, a preparatory school for universities). At the age of seventeen, he started systematically to devote himself to painting, under the guidance of the famous Russian painter Mikeshin, who was the first to note the youth’s talent.
In 1893 Nicholas graduated from the gymnasia and began to think about entering the Academy of Arts, and also to take classes in the History Department at the University. However, his father didn’t consider painting to be a fit vocation for his son, and he wanted Nicholas to become a lawyer.
Nicholas enrolled simultaneously in the Academy of Arts and in the Law Department (at the sacrifice of the History Department) at St. Petersburg University. Even so, he continued to affirm before his father his choice of the Academy of Arts. With dignity, he found the way out of the first serious conflict of his life. Actually, in the University one could see Nicholas Roerich, the student, more often in the History Department, even though he had to complete his law exams. Later he successfully graduated from the University and the Academy of Arts.
In the Academy his teacher was the highly creative and renowned Russian artist, Arkhip I. Kuinjy, who became Roerich’s teacher not only in painting but also in life. Early on Nicholas’ student works were notable for their mastery and originality. At the time when he graduated from the Academy, he was already quite mature and well-known as an artist.
During his years of study, Nicholas Roerich not only had to earn a living but had to overcome many other obstacles in life that appeared before him.
Helena’s adolescence wasn’t without trouble as well. The destiny of any girl from a distinguished family was predetermined: get married and fully devote oneself to one’s family preoccupations.
For this it was sufficient to graduate from a woman’s gymnasia; it was the norm to do so. But Helena dreamed of a serious education, a dream that neither her mother nor her father were able to understand. She was allowed to continue her music lessons, but at home. She improved her knowledge of languages with French and English governesses, who had little knowledge themselves, — also at home.
When Helena was nineteen, she lost her father but remained with her mother. At that time she persistently devoted herself to self-education: she read a lot; seriously studied philosophical literature, which had been of great interest to her since childhood; and devoted herself to music.
Her successes in music were so great that professors in the Conservatory thought that she would be a famous pianist in the future. But the girl’s interests were much wider. For example, she had a faultless sense of form and harmony about paintings. Her deep and insightful statements about art are well known.
In her youth, Helena possessed a unique and astounding beauty and charm, which lasted all her life. Like any girl of a notable family, she was obliged to attend balls and parties. Many youths wanted to become her fiancé, but all of them were refused. High life with its balls and entertainment couldn’t satisfy her sensitive and deep nature.
According to people who knew Helena well, from her very youth she dreamed of a marriage to an artistic man, so that she could help him all his life, inspiring him to higher aims. Destiny had already prepared her for such an encounter.
In the summer of 1899, Helena and her mother visited Bologoye, the estate of her aunt. The aunt’s husband, Prince Putyatin, seriously devoted himself to archaeology. Nicholas Roerich came there on archaeological business, but Prince Putyatin was away. Nicholas spent three days at his house waiting for him.
From their first meeting, Helena and Nicholas felt a tremendous rapport with one another. They found many common interests in music and art. On returning to St. Petersburg, the youths continued to meet — they visited exhibitions, concerts, spoke of art, philosophy. Soon their rapport and mutual attraction transformed into feelings of deep love.
At first Helena’s relatives were against the marriage, but one unusual event helped them. Three times in succession Helena had a dream that her late father said to her, “Helena, marry Nicholas,” and in the last dream he added, “At the Ascension everything will come out right; everything will be well.” And so it was that many years later, Helena found out that it was her spiritual Father, the Great Teacher of Light, who had appeared to her in the aspect of her father.
The marriage was decided, but soon after, Helena and Nicholas had to be separated for some time. Nicholas Roerich had to go to Paris to complete his artistic education, and there was no money to go together. Only after his coming back — on October 28, 1901 — were they able to marry.
After that they went through life together, supporting and supplementing each other. In this way an amazing family was born, which set an example of an uncommonly harmonious union. Later on their children became the full members of this union. Every member of the family had remarkable talents, combined with a deep mutual understanding, love and respect for one another.
In the summer of 1902, the Roerichs were participating in excavations of tumuli. During this expedition, on the 16th of August, in the village Okulovka in the Novgorodskaya region, the Roerichs celebrated the birth of their first son, George.
Their younger son, Svetoslav, was born on the 23rd of October, 1904, in St. Petersburg. From their early childhood George and Svetoslav were surrounded by the love and attention of their parents. Helena Roerich devoted much attention, especially, to their education.
Svetoslav remembered his childhood in the following way: “From the very beginning, my mother, who was a wonderful woman, wife and mother, guided our lives in a very wise way: she observed our interests, impulses and feelings. She never insisted on anything, never tried to convince us of something, but she always gave us everything we needed. My brother, from his earliest years, was interested in history. That’s why she carefully gathered books that could help him, that were interesting to him. She went with him to museums, institutions, which somehow gave him direction…
“My interest in the natural sciences appeared early. Ornithology and zoology interested me to a great extent. Helena Roerich got me all the necessary books, which only she could find. She bought us stuffed birds and gathered for our collections insects and beetles. She also gathered for me all kinds of stones from the Ural mountains and others. So from my childhood, I already had a big collection, which included my father’s and his brothers’, who gathered it during their student years. Thus, our small world was filled with wonderful impressions. Before our eyes was opening a new and rich world. We always were present during the conversations of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, and we listened to what they said. This influenced us greatly…
“As a child I devoted myself to art: I drew and modeled. That might have been the most significant and important of my occupations.”
From these recollections one can see, how these thoughtful parents helped their children to find their own Path, their own vocation. But this doesn’t mean that the children had no problems. On the contrary, there arose very serious difficulties and obstacles on their paths that they had to overcome on their own.
The family traveled a lot to different cities and countries. And in such conditions the children had to learn, often studying in one year a program that would normally have taken four or five years.
From this story you will see that during their childhood and adolescent years, George and Svetoslav Roerich acquired a wide and diverse knowledge, which helped the entire family to complete a great mission in the future, which was predestined for them.
In 1916 Nicholas Roerich became ill with pneumonia. He was getting well slowly and was sent by his doctor to Serdobl (Sortavala), Finland, to recuperate. Nicholas Roerich went there with his family.
At the time Finland formed a part of the Russian Empire. In St. Petersburg, Nicholas Roerich was serving as the director of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. Because Serdobl wasn’t far from St. Petersburg, he was able to journey back and forth to take care of the School’s affairs.
In 1917 the October Revolution took place in Russia. Soon after the revolution, Finland separated from Russia, thus the Roerich family unexpectedly found themselves in a foreign country. The Roerichs stayed in Serdobl till the spring of 1919.
After graduation from the Academy, Nicholas Roerich continued to paint, and he was especially attracted to the themes of ancient Russia and the Oriental countries. The family began making plans to visit India, whose magnetic appeal had been growing during these years.
“From my earliest years,” recalls Svetoslav, “I remember that Nicholas and Helena were extremely interested in India; India occupied a special place in their lives.” Nicholas knew somehow that in antiquity Russia and India were closely connected, that the cultures of these two countries had common historical roots. He expected to find confirmation of this during his next trip to the Orient. Nicholas Roerich also foresaw a particular and exceptional role that Russia and India would play in the future history of humanity.
During the three years the family lived in Finland, there occurred an event that from the outside didn’t seem significant but was very important. Gradually, Nicholas and Helena felt a deep realization that there existed an invisible connection between their family and the Great Himalayan Mahatmas. They learned to receive and understand thoughts sent by the Great Teacher, and they also started to remember their previous incarnations. They clearly realized the aim of their present incarnation and the difficult Mission that they were to fulfill in their lives.
In 1920 the family moved to London. It was here that exhibitions were held of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings. The Roerichs became acquainted with famous writers and the cultural workers of the time. In London they met with the famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. From their first meeting Nicholas Roerich and Rabindranath Tagore became good friends, and their friendship and the correspondence between them lasted their whole life.
In London there occurred an event of great importance. Helena Roerich met with the Great Teachers, Mahatma Morya and Mahatma Koot Hoomi, who visited London in person, forming part of an Indian delegation.
It is not difficult to realize the importance of this event, because during the stay of the Great Teachers in London, on the 24th of March, 1920, the first lines of the Great Teaching were written — an event of exceptional significance for the destiny of our planet and for the whole of humanity. This Teaching received two names: Agni Yoga and the Living Ethics.
Thus the 24th of March became the birthday of Living Ethics. The first book was received and written by Nicholas Roerich, but all the following ones were written, composed and edited by Helena. This work, which was engaged in daily, went on till the last days of the earthly life of Helena Roerich. At present, many people have come to know about Living Ethics: the fourteen books of the Teaching are being reprinted now in numerous editions.
With all their heart the Roerichs wanted to go to India. In London they bought steamboat tickets, but the trip had to be postponed. On the Instructions of the Great Teacher, they went to the United States of America.
In December of 1920, the family moved to New York. At that time George was eighteen and Svetoslav, sixteen. In America Nicholas Roerich held numerous exhibitions of his paintings, which were shown in twenty-eight cities. He also held lectures. On the Indications of the Mahatmas, he established in America several cultural establishments, including the Museum, to which he gave 300 of his paintings.
But Nicholas’ main focus was to prepare for his trip to Central Asia. For this he needed to enlist the official support of the USA, because England, from the very beginning, impeded the Roerich’s travel plans to India and Tibet.
During the family’s stay in England and America, the children studied intensely. Svetoslav studied architecture and painting, and George and his father prepared for their future trip. For this he learned languages, the history of the people of the Orient, and studied military operations.
George began his studies at London University, then continued them in the United States where he attended Harvard. He completed his education at the Sorbonne University in Paris. To accomplish this he moved to France one year before the arrival of his family.
The phenomenal capabilities of the Roerich’s senior son boggles the imagination. By the beginning of the trip to India in 1923, George, who was only twenty, could speak twelve langages fluently and could communicate in ten more languages (making a total of twenty-two languages). In addition, he was already a famous scientist in Europe.
On the 8th of May, 1923, the Roerichs left America for France. On the 16th of May they arrived in Paris, where George was finishing his studies. And on the 17th of November, in the same year, the Roerichs sailed to India on a steamboat. The dream of many years was coming true.
On the 2nd of December, the Roerichs’ steamboat arrived in Bombay, and for the first time the Roerichs stepped onto the blessed land of India. So began their trip to India, during which they would come to know the people and to study the ancient culture of this wonderful country.
During one month the Roerichs overcame the difficulties of traversing 3,000 kilometers: they visited Jaipur, Agra, Sarnath, Benares, Calcutta, and at the end of December, arrived in the State of Sikkim, in the city of Darjeeling. Nicholas Roerich stayed in Darjeeling till September 1924, while his family remained longer.
When one becomes acquainted with the travel of the Roerichs to India with the help of the diary of the expedition, which was published in the book Altai-Himalaya, one may ask, why did the Roerichs stay in Darjeeling for such a long time? One may feel that much in the book was omitted or was not expressed. Not long ago the recollections of George Roerich became accessible, from which one may learn the astonishing details of this part of the trip.
Now it’s well known that the English authorities, with all their forces, impeded the travel of the Roerichs through India, and that they especially tried to do everything to prevent the family from going into Tibet. At that time the English held complete dominion over India and Tibet. The movements of the family were painstakingly observed, which caused them great disturbance. Despite all the obstacles, soon after the arrival of the Roerichs to Darjeeling, Nicholas Roerich had a meeting in one of the temples with one of the Mahatmas and the disciple accompanying him.
From the recollections of George Roerich, we know that later on the Roerichs managed to distract the English, and for a short period of time, three of them passed from Darjeeling into Lhasa (the capital of Tibet).
From there Nicholas and Helena Roerich, at the Invitation of the Mahatmas, visited the most sacred place on our planet — Shambhala. There they communicated with the Great Himalayan Mahatmas and received their Blessing and Indication for the further Path and for their upcoming travel to Central Asia. It is this fact precisely that makes it possible for us to understand the future actions of Nicholas Roerich.
In September 1924, Nicholas left his family in Darjeeling to travel to America and Europe. In America he received official permission to lead an expedition under the aegis of the American flag.
Then he went to Berlin and visited the Soviet Russian Embassy, where he requested an official visa to enter Moscow. In this official inquiry he answered a question about the purpose of his travel in the following way: to fulfill the Assignment of the Mahatmas.
Afterwards, Nicholas Roerich returned to India, and on his way he visited Indonesia and Ceylon. In the spring of 1925, the family reunited in Darjeeling.
In March of 1925 the Roerichs moved to the capital of Kashmir, Srinagar. From there began the famous expedition of Nicholas Roerich to Central Asia. The only unchanging participants of the expedition who followed the itinerary from beginning to end were three persons: Nicholas, Helena and George Roerich.
Some words should be said here about the Roerich’s youngest son. Svetoslav was with his family in India till the beginning of the expedition. He participated in brief scientific expeditions with his father in Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal. He studied and collected objects of art of the Oriental peoples and engaged also in the study of local medicine and the application of officinal plants.
But when the Roerichs and their eldest son went on the expedition to Central Asia, Svetoslav, on instructions from his father, returned to America to continue the Cultural Construction started by Nicholas Roerich. He remained in America till the spring of 1928, when the expedition ended. After that Svetoslav returned to India.
During his three-year’s stay in America, Svetoslav did a tremendous amount of work. It’s enough to say that, during this time, he was vice-president of the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York and the director of the International Center, “Corona Mundi.” Under his guidance, international exhibitions and contests were held, there were established relations between American, European and Asian museums.
In these same years Svetoslav painted a lot, and his talent as a painter quickly grew. All of this shows us that he was tremendously gifted. When Svetoslav returned to America, he was slightly more than twenty.
But let us return to the participants of the expedition.
Much has been written about the Roerichs’ Central Asian Expedition, which has now become legendary. In order to give a proper account of it, a whole other edition would be needed. In this narration about the Roerich family, only brief moments can be mentioned.
In the entire history of humanity, there has never been such a grandiose scientific expedition through the Central Asia. The great Russian travelers and explorers of Asia, Przhevlsky and Koslov, dreamed of traversing Central Asia from the north to the south, but their dream didn’t come true. The Roerichs did it twice: they went along the Tibetan plateau from the south to the north in the Occident and from the north to the south in the Orient.
Every step of the way a multitude of dangers awaited the travelers: deep precipices, slippery glaciers, steep paths, forbidding rocks. In the brush hid tigers, leopards, bears. In addition, the English colonial authorities were constantly placing obstacles in their way. There were also armed attacks of vagrant gangs of robbers. George Roerich was responsible for the defense of the expedition. In his childhood he liked military games; later he seriously studied the military and received a military higher education. So he was able to cope perfectly well with this task.
The Roerichs made it through all these dangers: they suffered from the cold, from hunger and relentless whirlwinds. Not a single artist had ever visited these places before, so difficult was the access. During this expedition Nicholas Roerich created about 500 pictures and sketches. No other artist has so many wonderful paintings that depict mountain views. Mountain climbers, who themselves had visited these places, would speak animatedly of how true the colors were that Roerich used. Not in vain were the following words said by the Great Teacher after Nicholas Roerich had finished his earthly path: “There has never been and never will be such a singer of the sacred mountains.”
The expedition lasted five years. The trek of twenty-five thousand kilometers was surmounted. Thirty-five mountain passes, as well as countless streams and rivers, were crossed. During the expedition they gathered and studied ancient books on Buddhism; patterns of Tibetan painting; and archaeological, botanical and geological collections. They wrote down local legends and traditions. Even today, the materials gathered during their expedition continue to be of great scientific value.
In May 1926, the first half of the itinerary was completed when the expedition crossed the frontier into Soviet Russia. On June 13, the Roerichs finally reached Moscow.
In Moscow Nicholas acted exactly like an envoy from Shambhala. He met not only with members of the government, but also with the representatives of the general public. Nicholas Roerich even had a meeting with Soviet Russia’s menacing Secret Service division. Even there, there was talk about Shambhala, the Mahatmas and about future world reconstruction. There was much interest in these meetings, and Roerich was asked many questions. Talks with everyday people had a great impression on him. While still on his way to Moscow, during his trip across the river Irtysh in a motor boat, he answered many questions (sometimes till dawn). Seamen, young people, school teachers — everyone had something to ask him; everyone wanted to know what was going on in the world. People were also interested in Shambhala and the Mahatmas. This thirst for knowledge brought joy to Nicholas Roerich.
It’s not difficult to guess that such an activity of the Roerichs would not please everyone. The political situation in Russia in those years was very complicated. The bandits and robbers were not only in the Tibetan mountains. Quite a few of the civilized robbers managed to penetrate into the State machinery of Soviet Russia. The Great Teacher had warned the Roerichs that in Moscow they would face great danger. So it happened that when the expedition was in Mongolia, there were instructions sent to detain the Roerichs. But they had been temporarily forewarned by someone who sympathized with them. So the Roerichs urgently left Mongolia, crossing the frontier into Tibet.
Their steadfast courage and equally firm faith in the help and support of the Great Teachers, with whom the family was always connected by invisible threads, helped them to overcome this rigorous test. The Great Teachers, from the Himalayan heights, observed every step of their Envoys, and in difficult moments gave them the necessary help.
In Moscow, Nicholas Roerich managed to get permission to explore the Altai, which was of great interest to him. Together with American friends, the Roerichs went to the Altai, reaching there in August 1926. Thanks to the diary of Sina Fosdick (from the USA; she was one of the first followers of Agni Yoga, who actively helped the Roerich family), we now know numerous details of this part of the expedition’s itinerary.
Here is one notable event described by her: Things like this happened often. Once the travelers were going in a cart carried by a horse. Suddenly, in one of the dangerous sections of the road, Helena Roerich heard the voice of the Great Teacher: “My son, hold to the left side!” In that moment, Moris, who was sitting on the right side, fell from the cart, fortunately without hurting himself.
From these records we know that in the Altai Helena Roerich was writing and editing the third book of the Teaching, Community. It was published in the capital of Mongolia, Urga (now Ulan-Bator), immediately after the arrival of the expedition. At the same time, Foundations of Buddhism was written and published.
In the beginning of September, the exploration of the Altai was completed and the Roerichs made their way to Mongolia. On the 9th of October, they arrived in Urga. Here began intensive preparations for the second, very hard pass across the Tibetan plateau. This time, from north to south, to India. In Urga the Roerichs said goodbye to their American friends, who were going back home, and new people joined the expedition. Among them were Doctor Ryabinin and two girls from a Cossack family, Luda and Raya Bogdanova. The younger of the two sisters, Raya, was only thirteen years old.
In Mongolia, like everywhere along the expedition itinerary, meetings and conversations with everyday people took place. In Urga there was a meeting with the representatives of the Mongolian government. On the 13th of April, 1927, the expedition left Urga, and moved in the direction of Tibet.
During this part of the itinerary, the doctor of the expedition, Ryabinin, kept a very detailed and precise diary. It was published only in 1997. Thanks to the records of Dr. Ryabinin, we now know even the smallest details of the stages of this passage, during which a deliberate attempt was made to annihilate the expedition.
During the summer and fall, the Roerichs expected to cross the plateau and visit the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, and from there to return to the starting point of their itinerary, Darjeeling. At first, everything went quite well. The greater part of the itinerary had been successfully completed. But when only a few days journey remained to Lhasa, the caravan was stopped at the Tibetan frontier post, despite the fact that thy possessed all the necessary documents. As it later became known, the caravan had been stopped by order of the English. Not a single telegram or letter sent by the Roerichs to various parts of the world had been received, but were sent back without any explanation. For five long winter months, the expedition found itself cut off from the civilized world.
The desert mountain plateau was blown by severe winds. Heavy snowfalls deprived the animals of forage. The supply of provisions was running out; it was impossible to find fuel. Especially exhausting was the cold weather. At night the temperature fell as much as seventy degrees centigrade, while the party lived in summer tents that were not heated.
During their stay there, almost all the animals of the caravan died: from one hundred two there remained only ten, all of which were exhausted, with only two of them fit for further travel. People were suffering from catarrhal diseases. Five persons, all of whom were indigenous Tibetans, died, unable to withstand this severe test.
Owing to great courage and extraordinary firmness of spirit of the Roerichs themselves and to the help of the Great Teacher, theys not only withstood this test, but with strength of fortitude, they powerfully supported the other participants of the expedition. Not until May 4, 1928, was the expedition allowed to leave. In order to continue traveling, it was necessary to buy pack animals and form the caravan all over again. The expedition wasn’t permitted to enter Lhasa, but it was suggested that they take a roundabout way through an uninhabited region.
Thus, the entrance to the capital of Tibet was closed, but what was opened was the entrance to the Stronghold of Light — visitations of which the dark governors of Tibet and their English hosts couldn’t even dream.
As Dr. Ryabinin wrote in his diary, when the expedition approached the valley of the river Brahmaputra, the Decree of the Teacher came at night. So on the next day, Helena and Nicholas Roerich, without luggage, left the caravan and went in a direction known only to them. The road led to Shambhala, where they were expected. Thus, on the next day George became the head of the caravan.
On May 28, 1928, the expedition arrived in Darjeeling, the place where the Roerichs had begun their historically unprecedented journey in March of 1925. Svetoslav came to Darjeeling, having completely and successfully fulfilled his father’s assignment.
The Roerich family gathered together once more.
The invaluable scientific materials gathered by the expedition needed to be systematized and studied. The Roerichs settled in the north of India in the Western Himalayas, in a very picturesque valley by the name of Kullu. There they created a scientific research institute, which was named “Urusvati” (from the Sanskrit: “The Light of the Morning Star”) in honor of Helena Roerich. This is what the Great Teacher called her. George Roerich became the director of the Institute.
The Institute carried on vast and varied investigations: the translation of rare ancient books into European languages; the study of half-forgotten dialects and the ancient art of the Asian peoples; the application of officinal plants, the search for a cure for cancer; the study of Tibetan medicine, cosmic rays, and archaeological excavations; the gathering of botanical and zoological collections — this is but an incomplete list of the work carried out at Urusvati.
The Institute maintained contact with many scientific establishments all over the world. According to the working plan of the Institute, in the years 1934 to 1935, Nicholas and George Roerich organized an expedition to Manchuria and China. Urusvati functioned successfully up to the beginning of the Second World War, when all international contacts were destroyed, and the Institute had to be closed down.
The family stayed in Kullu till 1948, except for Svetoslav, who had left the valley three years earlier, after his marriage to the famous film actress and producer, Devika Rani. He moved with her to a suburb of the southern Indian town, Bangalore.
Every member of the Roerich family loved India, which became for them a second Homeland. This love was mutual. The Indian people treated the family with great respect. Moreover, Nicholas Roerich was called in India Maharishi, which from the Sanskrit means “Great Saint.”
Both Nicholas and Helena dreamed, however, of returning to their Homeland, Russia. They had already been separated from it for more than a quarter of a century. The Great Teachers planned that Nicholas and Helena Roerich would return to Russia, but it was necessary to wait for more favorable conditions in the Soviet Union. The Second World War came to an end, but the tensions didn’t ease: the situation in the world was quite complicated, and Russia wasn’t an exception.
Before he was able to return to his native country, Nicholas Roerich left his earthly life on the 13th of December, 1947, at the age of seventy-three.sHis passing was especially difficult for Helena Roerich. She knew, of course, that after the death of the body, life goes on; and that in the future, they would meet again in the Supermundane World. But it is very difficult to live on Earth without your closest and dearest friend, the one who is ready to support you at any given moment, with whom you have journeyed side by side on the Earthly Path — for almost half a century.
In the beginning of 1948, she wrote to her friends in America: “My heart aches from intense anguish at the loss of my best friend of many years. He responded to the call of the Great Lord at three in the morning while sleeping, in the most solemn day of the Indian calendar — Shiva’s birthday!.. His heart couldn’t stand the latest tensions and the fierce anguish it felt for the oppression of all that is cultural, which brings salvation to the young, growing generation... He will come back in a better time, to a purified field, and will finish his sowing and service to his country and to all humanity.”
Nicholas Roerich left an enormous legacy of approximately 7000 paintings in many museums of the world and more than thirty books, not counting his numerous articles on art, culture, science and philosophy. He suggested an Idea and all his life fought for the adoption of an international treaty for the protection of cultural values during military actions. For this he proposed a special symbol: three spheres inside a circle. This international treaty was finally drafted and it was called The Roerich Pact, and the symbol received the name of The Banner of Peace. Moreover, Roerich communicated with Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of independent India), Indira Gandhi, and other outstanding people and leaders of India in such a way that the foundation of friendship between Russia and the new independent India was laid.
In 1949 Helena and George Roerich moved to Kalimpong, India, in the Eastern Himalayas. They settled in a small house, whose windows opened on a beautiful view of the five-headed summit of Kanchenjunga — a sacred mountain that tradition connects with Shambhala.
From the Great Teacher, Helena Roerich learned that soon she and George would move to Russia to complete the Mission entrusted to them. This move was planned for the beginning of the ’50s, but the conditions in Russia were still unfavorable for fulfilling their plans. Helena Roerich worked a great deal and in much tension in Kalimpong, sleeping not more than five hours out of twenty-four — for she wanted to do as much as possible. By this time, fourteen of the Agni Yoga Books had been already published.
In addition, correspondents from different countries of the world, who were reading the Teaching, were waiting for answers to their letters. Eight volumes of Helena Roerich’s letters have been published in our time. They are of enormous and invaluable help to those who study Agni Yoga.
In this way, without interruption, Helena Roerich accomplished a gigantic work. And on October 5, 1955, she left our earthly world for the spheres of the Fiery World. At the time she was seventy-six. Shortly before her leaving, Helena told her eldest son that he would be going to Russia alone and would remain there for three years. No one at that time understood the deep significance of these words.
The Great Teacher called Helena Roerich “the Mother of Agni Yoga.” All the great that she has done for our planet will be estimated for its true worth by others only after a lapse of thousands of years. Today we are able to understand only a small part of her Fiery Exploit. But even now there are sensitive people who, not so much with their mind but more with their heart, can understand it.
Here is evidence of this: The last eight years of her life, Helena Roerich led a secluded life; she very rarely associated with anyone. However, the bier that carried her body to the place of cremation was accompanied by a great many people, including Indians, Tibetans and Gurkhas. Nobody had informed them of the ceremony, nobody had invited them. Obeying some mysterious inner call, they came to accompany, on her last earthly path, this Russian woman about whom they knew almost nothing.
At the place of Helena Roerich’s cremation was placed a beautiful snow-white stupa. And on an area that was previously deserted just near the stupa, one can now see a beautiful Buddhist temple.
After the passing of his mother, George Roerich continued to live in Kalimpong. He did scientific work and taught at the Kalimpong University.
Two years later, he received permission to move to his Homeland; and in the fall of 1957, he moved to Moscow. At that time George was a world-renowned scientist and Orientalist, and a member of scientific societies in many countries of the world.
In Moscow he was the head of a department in the Institute of Oriental Studies, where almost from the onset, he revived the Soviet school of Tibetology. He wrote scientific works, gave lectures, and worked on the completion of a Tibetan-Sanskrit-Russian-English dictionary, which was voluminous. The latter was the work of his life. But the most important of his deeds was that he returned the name of the Roerichs and the Living Ethics (Agni Yoga) to Russia.
Before George Roerich’s arrival in the Soviet Union, almost nothing had been known about this great family. In political circles Nicholas Roerich had been considered an emigrant, and for many years people had remained purposely silent about him. Only a few people had heard that somewhere in India there lived such a Russian painter. George brought with him and gave to Russia 418 paintings of his father.
Seven months after George’s arrival in Moscow, the first exhibition took place, which he had exerted a great deal of effort to organize. Subsequent exhibitions were shown in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Riga, Kiev, Tbilisi and other cities.
George Roerich presented many lectures about his father, his painting, his literary works and his world outlook. There was great interest at the exhibitions, which were attended by thousands of people. Gradually, people’s interest in the artist’s personality naturally shifted to his philosophy and the Living Ethics. Since the books of the Teaching were still prohibited, one had to find them and make copies using various methods — most copies were made from those published in the ’30s in Riga (Latvia). The older generation of Roerich followers preserved them at great danger to themselves.
It wasn’t easy for George Roerich to be in Moscow. He had to live and work under the intense scrutiny of the ideological services, in the atmosphere of ignorance, suspicion, and often hostility from various officials and administrators. He constantly had to overcome various obstacles, which loomed one after another. On the other hand, ordinary Russian people treated him with love and warmth, and reached out to him as a source of Light and Knowledge.
On May 11, 1960, a personal exhibition of Svetoslav Roerich paintings opened in Moscow. The huge work of organizing it had been done by George Roerich. For the opening of the exhibition, Svetoslav and Devika Rani-Roerich came to Moscow. When the exhibition was in full swing, there were meetings that took place and conversations with friends, who had arrived from different cities. Often the meetings were held in George Roerich’s apartment.
Then suddenly and very unexpectedly, on the 20th of May, he felt bad and within several hours passed away. He left this world at the age of fifty-seven, in the prime of his creative life. The prophecy of Helena Roerich had come true — he had stayed in Russia for almost three years. And not in vain exactly at that time his brother arrived in Russia.
George Roerich, not long before his passing from this world, had said that the pre-ordained Task set before him concerning his Homeland had been entirely fulfilled.
The grains sowed by George Roerich in Russia, even though still invisible, were gradually bearing fruit. The Agni Yoga books were still prohibited, but they were being spread through manuscripts and copies. The interest of people to the “sown grains” grew quickly in the middle of the 1980s. At first, there appeared articles in magazines, and then later, books about the Roerichs.
From 1990 the books of the Living Ethics, the literary works of Nicholas Roerich, and the Letters of Helena Roerich were also being published. Like an avalanche, interest in the Roerich family was building rapidly. Soon travel from Russia became possible, and from there a strongly connected thread was created with the last member of the great Roerich family. Many people from Russia visited Svetoslav Roerich in Bangalore.
After the passing of his brother, Svetoslav Roerich, exhibiting inexhaustible energy, continued his creative and social work, and cultivated his skill as an artist. As an artist, Svetoslav Roerich worked in different genres, but was probably most successful as a portrait painter. He possessed an astonishing capability to reflect the inner, spiritual world of people on his canvas. The artist painted many beautiful portraits, but the best ones are the several portraits of his father, the portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru (painted in Kullu), and two wonderful portraits of Helena Roerich — one of which was created on the Instructions of the Great Teacher.
Svetoslav Roerich focused his social activity on the furthering of friendship and cooperation between different countries, especially between Russia and India. To achieve this he traveled a great deal, meeting and communicating both with statesmen as well as with ordinary people. He answered numerous questions, narrated about his parents and his elder brother.
Svetoslav repeatedly visited the Soviet Union. Each time his arrival in Moscow drew people from many cities in Russia. Not a single building had enough room for all who wanted to attend such a meeting. In the summer of 1989, he proposed to Mikhail S. Gorbachev (the ex-president of Russia) the creation of a Nicholas Roerich Center & Museum in Moscow, as well as a Soviet Roerich Foundation. The next year his proposal was accepted, and Svetoslav Roerich, in accordance with his father’s behest, gave to Russia the remaining paintings and family archives, including the unique and invaluable manuscripts of his mother.
Before leaving his earthly life, Svetoslav Roerich created, in India, the International Memorial Roerich Trust. According to his plan, the country estate and the premises of the Urusvati Institute in Kullu, which belonged to his family, as well as the country estate of Svetoslav’s in Bangalore and his personal heritage, would be used for the welfare of mankind. He dreamt about the resumption of work of the Urusvati Institute, where a real evolutionary center could be developed, and where scientists from all over the world could come and work. He carried on negotiations concerning these questions with the governments of Bulgaria, India and Russia. This task is still to be accomplished, and it should be done as a sign of gratitude to this wonderful family who toiled for the Common Good.
Svetoslav Roerich, the last representative of the Roerich family, went to the Supermundane World on December 30, 1993, at the age of eighty-eight. His wife, Devika Rani-Roerich, soon left this world as well. Svetoslav’s behest to us is “Let us always strive toward Beauty!”
All the members of this great family — the messengers of the Great Teacher — left the earthly plane, but not our planet. And today, together with the Great Teachers, they continue their selfless labor as they did during their earthly life, but in the World of Light. The closest disciple of the Roerichs’, Boris N. Abramov, was in permanent contact with the Great Teacher and his Messengers — who in the earthly world we called Nicholas and Helena Roerich — till his passing in 1972. The records of these conversations are accessible now (unfortunately, only in the Russian language), and they have been published in a series of books called “Facets of Agni Yoga.”
The Roerichs were, for us, a powerful shield against the dark forces. But we began to realize this only after the passing of Svetoslav Roerich. That’s when others appeared, from various places, who said that they were continuing the mission of the Roerichs on Earth by writing new books about Agni Yoga, because the books written by the Roerichs had already become obsolete.
Of course, this is a lie. Such people are either conscious servants of the dark forces, or are themselves being deceived by the dwellers of the Subtle World, who dictate them such texts.
But we know that the Great Teachers have given to humanity all that they wanted to through the Roerichs and their close disciples. In addition to the fourteen books of Agni Yoga, we have the manuscripts of Helena Roerich, which have not as yet been published.
But first one has to apply in their lives the Knowledge given in the books of Agni Yoga. At present there cannot exist any new editions. The cunning track of the dark forces is that they entice people with various false attractions and don’t let them study the real pearls of Knowledge — the ones that were given to us through the Roerichs in the Agni Yoga books.
The Great Teacher has given the Teaching of Agni Yoga for thousands of years, and therefore this Knowledge cannot become obsolete. In our century people are able to understand only a small part of what they will be able to understand in coming centuries as they read the Teaching of the Great Lord of Shambhala written by Helena Roerich.
What is the Agni Yoga Teaching all about? What knowledge did the Roerichs bring to us?
Owing to the Teaching and to the works of the Roerichs themselves, we know that other than the Earth, on which all of us live, there also exist other Worlds, which are invisible to the eyes of an ordinary person. These Worlds are called the Fiery World and the Subtle World. We already know that when a body of a person dies, he or she continues to live in the Subtle World. Every person is able to achieve true immortality through the development of a Fiery body — which allows them to live always in the Fiery World. This means that we become like Gods.
It is neither a fairy tale nor an invention, but the Great Reality, which the Roerichs saw during their visit to Shambhala. They saw these still-invisible Worlds with the help of the Great Teachers, who had achieved the Fiery World a long time ago and are able to live in the three Worlds simultaneously.
Agni Yoga was given to humanity to help it rise to a higher step of development. In the fourteen books of the Teaching, one can read in detail how to achieve this.
The Mahatmas tell us that the purpose of our earthly lives is to gradually advance toward the Divine ideal of beauty and perfection through the development of our spirit and our creative abilities, and deliverance from the bad aspects of our character.
That’s why people incarnate on Earth many times. One can not achieve this goal during one short earthly life.
Dear friends! In a small book like this one, it is not possible to relate all that the Great Teachers have told us through the Roerichs. For many centuries people have been asking themselves why there is so much evil, pain and suffering on Earth. The answer to this question and to many others can be found in the Teaching. The main cause of all the sufferings of a human being is his imperfections.
Many people still do not understand that all of us are closely united with one another. This means that one who thinks only of himself and doesn’t worry about others can never approach the ideal of beauty and perfection, or be really happy, or achieve immortality. It is impossible to be happy if we are taking advantage of other people.
The misfortune of our planet is that the most warlike egoists, who want to build their happiness on the pain and sufferings of the rest of humanity, were formed into an army of dark forces.
They were united and headed by a very powerful Spirit of the past, which had previously been called Lucifer (the one who brings Light). But after his fall, he became known as Satan, or the fallen Angel. Having abandoned the path of Light, he fell from a great height. His growing arrogance, self-esteem and envy of his Brothers — Great Cosmic Teachers, who had achieved more than he brought him to a solitary path and finally to treachery. This treachery turned into a great tragedy for our planet.
His fall serves as an example not only for our planet but also for other worlds of the Cosmos. Things like this happen to those who don’t want to improve themselves and get rid of their imperfections! There is no limit to perfection, but on the evolutionary Path, there shouldn’t be interruptions. It is necessary to always move ahead. Interruptions are very dangerous.
To save our planet and humanity, Great Cosmic Teachers came to the Earth from more advanced Planets. They created in the Himalayas an advanced post of the Forces of Light—Shambhala. The elder of them, Maitreya, is now the Lord of Shambhala. He is also known as the Great Teacher Morya.
For many centuries these Great Spirits have been instructing humanity, trying to direct people to the Path of Light and Common Good. All the Great Prophets and Teachers came from Shambhala, as did their Teachings of Light.
There are no contradictions between the Teachings of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, and other Teachers, which is as it should be, because they all came from the same source. Contradictions were introduced by the priests, who did not really understand these Teachings and distorted them, unaware of the fact that many of the Prophets were different Earthly incarnations of the same Great Teacher.
Thus all the religious quarrels about the best and true religion are absurd and dangerous for all of humanity. They provoke religious fights, even though the Teachers and the Prophets have always called people to Love and Brotherhood. One can read all about this in detail in the books of the Living Ethics (Agni Yoga) and especially in the Letters of Helena Roerich.
What is going on today on our planet at the beginning of the third millennium? During the twentieth century a constant Battle raged between the Warriors of Light, headed by the Lord Maitreya, and the camp of the forces of darkness, headed by Satan. This Battle took place in all three Worlds. In our Earthly world it manifested itself in two World Wars and in numerous military conflicts throughout different parts of the planet.
Helena I. Roerich wrote that in the year 1949, Satan was defeated in his personal Battle with the Lord Maitreya and was expelled from our planet forever. But his followers still remain on our planet. They feel their doom and with fervor they fight in order to prolong their sojourn on Earth. It is especially hard now for Russia, as the dark forces have concentrated their main thrust against this country.
In the recent past Russia was prospering, but now people, including children, die from starvation and crimes. Even more terrible is that the unprotected human souls, especially those of children, die from the propaganda of violence, lechery and evil.
Why have the dark ones taken up arms against Russia? Because growing there are the wonderful seeds sowed by the Roerichs. Today in Russia millions of people read the books of the Living Ethics (Agni Yoga), as well as the books about the Roerichs and the Teaching of the Mahatmas. Even children become acquainted with this Knowledge with the help of books that have been written especially for them.
There is not much time left for the dark forces to do their evil deeds. Ancient prophecies have spoken of the Coming, of the fact that the Great Teacher will come to complete the will of the Date and eliminate forever the evil committed by the dark forces. The completion of this prophecy is predestined for the Great Teacher of Shambhala and the Date has come now, in our time.
Little time is left for those to make a choice who still have not refused evil and have not entered the Path of Goodness and Light. All those who continue to persist in evil will be removed from our planet to Saturn. This includes all the dark ones and their servants, no matter under which cover they hide. There they will start their evolution all over again as primitive forms of life. Their souls will be destroyed, because they will have deprived themselves of the right to immortality. Cosmic Laws are immutable and severe but just.
A New World, a new beautiful life on a renewed Earth, waits for those who have already chosen the Path of Light. This world will be without wars, sorrow and violence against people. Human beings will live in friendship and mutual understanding. All the people of the planet will finally feel as friends.
This book is written on the threshold of the Great Coming. The future will show us how Events will develop further. But one thing is certain: the New World—the one without wars and violence, a world of cooperation and brotherhood of all the people of the Earth — will definitely come!
It is predestined that the souls of light on this planet will start to build this New World. So Affirms the Great Lord of Shambhala.
The Roerich family worked expressly for this purpose — to make this beautiful Future happen as soon as possible.
Dear friends! Follow the example of this wonderful family — accumulate Knowledge, work, create good, strive always to Beauty, improve your qualities of spirit, and follow the Path of Light!
You are lucky to have incarnated at the very beginning of the Epoch of Light, and with your own hands create the New World and a new life on our renewed Planet!
Be worthy of this great Mission!