Not so peaceful India

While traveling in India, a friend wrote to ask me if it was peaceful where I was. I had to ponder that for a bit, because I had not found India to be peaceful in the traditional sense. I thought to myself, India is quite obnoxious actually. This is what I wrote back….

There is the sound of car & motorcycle horns, packs of barking dogs, yelling people, bells, wistles, and all sorts of music and noise belted out through speakers unfit for anything close to what they are attempting to project. It is difficult to feel peaceful, in one of the most polluted, populated places on earth. There is trash, lots of it, everywhere,  cow shit under each step, and the unrelenting smells of all sorts of burning things, including the aforementioned trash. It is a chaotic bustle of people, autos, animals, and the occasional monkey trying to steal your shiny and/or edible things. Quiet and silence is hard to come by in the external environment. Between dodging traffic, which is moving at a ridiculous frantic pace, or the constant attempts of someone trying to hustle you because you are a walking American dollar sign, it can be a challenge to find a moment of peace amidst it all. Upon surface investigation it would be difficult to understand why anyone would come here by choice, it is infuriatingly frustrating at times. That said, it is strangely appealing and compellingly magnetic in all it’s complexity. I cannot explain this rationally, It is perhaps the small things, almost imperceptible things, amidst the sensory onslaught, that often boggle and amaze me that makes it so impossible to comprehend both on a reality level, and as to why I like it so much. Everything is amplified, like “normal” life in technicolor and surround sound at full volume. I recall a friend once telling me, “India is like lotus flowers floating in rivers of urine”.  I look back on the younger uncomprehending me at those words at that time, and  I now fully understanding what she was trying to convey.

The complexity of human life cannot be ignored here. The number of humans everywhere is mind-blowing, and incomprehensible at times.   “I am never lonely in India” an Indian taxi driver told me “there is always somebody around.” he said with a smile.  The disparity between rich and poor in India screams at you, as do the effects the human condition has had on our beautiful world. The amazing part is the ability of so many to live with and see through it all, and still thrive and create beauty and love.  It is the opportunity to witness that flower as our own inner potential manifested, floating in a sea of the worldly drama. India will test you to the point in which you realize it is not a test, but instead an unfolding of a process which reveals slowly as the flower opens to show the essence of you via the expression of your full nature. We are all a tiny part of the whole in which we have grown comfortable giving labels to, such as God, or Brahma, or Lord. India is a place where labels are both reinforced and disassembled at the same time.

There is discomfort in India, lots of it, it will push against you, and then push harder if you push back, you can resist, fight, scream, and struggle all you want, India will keep moving in spite of your protest. The urging proposal India presents is an opportunity to allow yourself to give into the process that is unfolding, while simultaneously holding true to your integrity, as it feeds you the essential tools you need to discover, recognize, and acknowledge your truest desires, and perhaps the understanding that your desires, are not really what you imagined them to be, but instead the purest of desire to unite with the world by allowing yourself to embody your form as an expression of the greater whole.

Here it becomes more apparent that we are all travelers on the soul exchange, bartering, hustling, wandering and exploring the manifest universe, piloting our meat suites along a spiritual highway to destinations unknown by our conscious mind. There are ancient maps, landmarks, signposts and guides to point the way. Here we exist as groupies, fanboys, and devotees pledging our appreciation and allegiance to friends, family, and allies disguised as spiritual rock stars, who have gone ahead on this road, only to return and say, I have seen where we are going, and it is good. 

There are small steps that are giant leaps, faithful plunges that are categorically insane, and inevitable mistakes that are ultimately necessary. India appeals to the higher self that suspects it knows something, other than what is apparent to the eye. If one pays attention to things other than the generally accepted version of reality endorsed by the consensus, one will discover an essence of reality that cannot be rationalized, explained, or even understood, but instead, experienced, as truth.

India is peculiar and asks me to engage her, as I would a woman, with passion and sensitivity to her, and my needs, while being carefully observant of the difficulties of her existence. It is a nudging towards being confident with my place in the mystery. It is the path of a warrior of love, defined by a quest, and strengthened by its challenges. It is the inevitable tumult as result of the union of opposites, and the growth potential disguised as drama. It is the simple smile of strangers and lovers that are like the candles burning in darkened windowed houses in back allies and deserted streets in which travelers often find themselves. It is the undeniable aspect of change coupled with the momentum of tradition, the impulse of progress, and the negotiation of chance. It is hungry dogs searching for scraps, primates faithfully leaping across the chasms between buildings and the unmentionable things I step in every day. It is privileged seekers in 100 dollar yoga pants paying for the ability to dismiss the obvious lessons, in exchange for a packaged answer. it is the discouraged privileged who perhaps learns to let go and finally see. It is my own privilege that surrenders to the inability to understand how I can dismiss a beggar immediately after not finishing a meal that cost me as much as they will spend in a month. It is slow when I am in a hurry, and in a hurry when I am slow. It is the observation of myself fighting my way through a line of people to acquire something I am no less or more worthy of apart from my ability to defend my position to do so. It is the tree growing from the cracks on the side of a building clinging to life and growing despite all odds. It is a life lived on the edge of the receding hairline of empire. It is the rhythm of all that is, in its immutable, acknowledging, inspiring, beautiful, disappointing glory.

As I sit here on the banks of the Ganga, in the foothills of the Himalayas, I can sense the source of all things pouring down from the mountains, embodied by this majestic river. I feel the river’s unattached yearning, and it’s faith that something can be known. It ’s existence enough to inspire its journey from its origins through the time carved valleys of the world, to witness the dramas of the physical, picking up the color and results of existence, as plants, animals, soil, bodies, feces, and all sorts of unknowns taint that accentuate its purity. Winding its way through millions of lives, witnessing its trials tribulations and triumphs as it makes its way back to source.

It is this cycle, the circle of life, the transformation, the birth, death, and return, that is India, this river which I experience, that is my reflection. I experience its rise and fall as me, like her, I flow to return to source through my own bargains with existence. Like her I carry things I pick up along my journey, sampling them, tasting them, digesting and dissolving them into their entropic forms, and returning with them to source. I am it, and it is me. There is no difference, only in the mind is there “other”. And we both exist together non dualistically as that which is peaceful India, and peaceful me.