Last Tuesday, 36 hours of travel took me from the banks of Mother Ganga to my home in Boise. My month-long journey was filled with many life lessons that will take years to process. Nothing in life refreshes me more than immersing in the unknown without expectations.
At the end of most days, we gathered in the private garden of the spiritual guru in the ashram for Satsang. This is a very common Indian tradition where groups of people sit with enlightened leaders for conversation, meditation, and questions. No questions or topics were off limits. One of my favorites was a young lady that asked,”What is this? I was walking through the market and some guy told me to come here. Where am I?”
On a more serious note, one evening an inquisitive man opened with a statement about the beautiful nature of the Indian people. Casting a net can be dangerous, but the physical and spiritual beauty of the Indian population is contagious. The eyes tell the story. While the people exude beauty, the exterior pollution is obvious and overwhelming. Delhi is covered in a never receding cloud of smog, Ganga is the fifth most polluted river in the world, and half of the country does not have access to a toilet. The ultimate question was to locate the disconnect.
The leaders quickly acknowledged the external pollution and listed many ongoing efforts to improve the environment. Swamiji was intimately involved in passing national legislation banning the burning of rice husk. The annual accumulation now exceeded 4 billion tons of previous waste that is being used for environmentally sound projects like clean energy and compressed building materials. This is one of a plethora of projects aimed and improving the external world. Here is a link to another of their pet projects…. Global Interfaith Wash Alliance.
Environmental ignorance is rooted in Indian culture because for thousands of years the focus has been inward. The Hindus believe that the we are all part of a universal divine. Yoga and mediation are methods to disconnect the mind and engage the inner soul. They also have deep feelings that no particular religion teaches the only path to salvation and that all deserve tolerance and understanding.
Without being offensive, they began to identify a sharp divide with the Western World. Beverly Hills is carpet bombed with manicured lawns and ridiculously expensive shiny red Ferarris. Youth is coveted, porcelain veneers cover teeth, boobs and ass are filled with silicone, and bling equals status. Balance is the key to life and we seem to be skewed to the outward view.
Is it possible that our interior pollution rivals the piles of rotting rubbish along the streets of India?