Friday, September 18, 2009

Reflections of India

I am back from India. It was a difficult and trying journey and no pleasure cruise… that’s for sure. Yesterday I was telling people at hospice about the trip and as I was speaking I realized that I didn’t sound very positive and I’m sure they think that I didn’t have a good time. While that’s true, it wasn’t a pleasure cruise, it was the trip of a lifetime. There was nothing alien or foreign to me. I felt like I was home from the very first moment when I stepped off the plane.

My sense of familiarity could have come because physically India and Israel share similar attributes in architecture, climate, and attitude. But, beyond that, I felt like I had come home. I feel that I have spent many lifetimes in India. There was a sense of karmic debt being paid, especially in Varanasi and on the Ganges. I did a pooja with the help of a priest to honor my ancestors and that small ceremony helped fulfill that debt. I had a sense of closure while it was all happening. However, it was only upon reflection later that I realized that there was a deep sense of completion and a closing of the circle to the entire event.

The Taj Mahal is the most beautiful man made thing I have ever seen. It is pure perfection and inspiration. It is balanced. The marble glows. It is everything that I thought it would be and far beyond. I loved it even though it poured for much of the day.

Varanasi was my favorite part of the trip. Varanasi is crazy and chaotic. I have never seen so much commotion and chaos on the street. Horns are blaring, cows are everywhere, rickshaws, dogs, ox-drawn carts, motorcycles, pedestrians, commerce, trucks and cars… all on a street that is no more than a side street here. At first, I wanted to run back to Delhi, I felt a sense of panic being trapped in this riotous traffic. It took about a day for me to settle down and to realize how incredibly normal this was for everyone around me. I settled in. Soon, I came to enjoy it and to feel a part of it all. Even when Martha and I were almost run over, it seemed like fun.

Indians have a sense of karma that pervades everything. They first and foremost want to do no harm, so if a cow is lying in the middle of the road blocking traffic, everyone finds a way to go around the cow. No one moves the cow. This is where the cow needs to be and they will allow it to have its destiny. If the cow gets killed then it was its karma and the karma of the person that killed it. No one will harm anything else intentionally or out of frustration… it just is as it is. I found this to be Indians most endearing quality. Let it be sums it up.

While in Varanasi we took two boat rides on the Ganges, both in the early morning. One as a tour and one Martha and I just rented the boat and went out. I loved both of them, but especially the one that we took with our lovely boatman, whose name I have forgotten. I may have forgotten his name, but I will never forget him. He was a marvel. His English was poor, but his energy and spirit was perfect. He worked like a horse, when he had to and coasted when it was at all feasible. He took us all the way across the river, which was really hard to do given the breeze and the current. He was playful, splashing Martha when she balked at getting into the water. I would not go in. But, Martha bathed in the water and was blessed.

I loved that boat ride because we were in a part of the river that tourists don’t go. There were only Indians bathing, and being in community with each other. I know we were the anomaly, yet they accepted our presence just as they accept the cow in the road.

The Shiva temple was amazing. Again it was chaos. Worship happens so fast that I found it difficult to garner a sense of spirit in the fray. People flow into the temple, they pour milk over the Shiva Lingam, place flowers, touch the lingam, touch their heads, lips and heart and move on. Fast, fast. Not more than thirty seconds elapsed. To my Western mind that is used to quiet and thoughtful meditation and prayer it seemed more like being hustled and jostled. Indian women can compete with any linebacker in the NFL, they can move mountains if they want to be in the spot that you are in. So, my milk got dumped before it ever made it to the Shiva Lingam, my flowers never hit the mark and I couldn’t understand what the hell was going on anyway. It was just too fast. The deep sense of spirit that I hoped to feel was not to be realized. I never found God there and I was sure I would.

What I learned primarily, is that God is with me no matter where I go. I need look no further than the tree outside my window, in the eagerness of my dog or in the mirror to be in touch with the Divine. Yes, of course, God is in India too. But, I did not need to travel thousands of miles to go look for him, he is here, right now and never leaves. All I need to is to breathe and I am there. Spiritual journeys are journeys into self. Journeys that never need go anywhere. God is with me… always. And God is present in every moment, whether it is sitting in my own backyard or getting pushed around by Indian women that want me out of there way, God is there.

So, India was all that I thought it would be. I found my karmic home. I loved the people and the cows and the chaos. God was with me. But, I love being home too. I feel so blessed to live here. As the astrologer said, ‘You were very saintly in your past life and you earned much good karma for the life you live today.” I feel blessed that my karma is good and that I live the life I live. Like Dorothy said in the Wizard of OZ, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

That being said, I’m already planning my next trip to India. Next time, Dharmasala and the Himalayas and Jon is coming with me…

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