Here, in the US, we have order and a certain life rhythm that we take for granted. Of course, we all know that ultimately, we have no real control. But we do hold things pretty tightly and at least on surface presentation things go much as planned. Or at the very least we can pretty easily sustain the illusion of control. When you travel outside of your regular surroundings and especially to a place like India, that illusion can be shattered.
In making a spiritual pilgrimage and traveling to India I think I hoped for some deep spiritual revelation to come. It is a trip I have anticipated for years. I traveled with a spiritual group with a focus on spiritual sights; temples, sacred grounds and the places of gurus. I believed somehow that I would feel closer to the roots of yoga, this practice that has been so meaningful in my life. That I might just understand something new or in a heightened sense that would solidify in some way the teachings that I treasure. And I do. But in a subtle way; and a way that I did not necessarily anticipate. In a way that, rather than solidify anything, perhaps just helps shed a bit more clearly some light on the path to non attachment. And that light was turned up not so much by the historical and spiritual context of the sights but rather by simply being present, in the small way I could be as a visitor, within the context of life there.
Daily life in India is seemingly run through with religion. Even for the non religious, the underlying spirit of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam is everywhere. And yes, there are a multitude of other religions represented as well. A new temple being dedicated means that an entire neighborhood is inundated with loud chanting and music played over poor quality loud speakers for days. Sick, I lay in a hotel room and wonder how anyone can stay sane. I recognize that not only is religion an important part of daily life and so perhaps this intrusion is more easily absorbed but that there is also a general sense of acceptance about the lack of control of environment that people live with.
There are people everywhere.
Still, beauty, everywhere: in the people’s faces, altars on the street, the piles of vegetables in all the colors of nature, those children laughing. Despite or maybe because of the lack of control, life happens and the flow continues on.
On the street, barely out of the pathway of the rush of humanity moving from one place to another, all the elements of life are occurring.
Children playing, fish being cleaned, stacks of vegetables for sale, a man being shaved, dogs and people sleeping, cows walking, someone urinating, garbage burning, chai being served. A wild cacaphony of movement and sound; sight and smell; pleasure and pain.
A small, elderly woman carries a heavy bundle on her back, moving past a small group of men smoking and shooting the breeze.
Children in matching school uniforms run alongside traffic breathing the fumes and dust that are making my eyes water on their daily trek to school.
Other children crowd the side of the tourist buses hawking trinkets or simply begging for coins.
Business men ride past in a rickshaw pulled by a man with holey shoes. He looks 60 but is probably 40.
Women in beautiful saris walk through muddy streets. How do they always look so clean?
India, a trip I have considered inevitable for many years. To go, to experience something close to the roots of yoga, to feel the spirit of yoga within the thread of daily life. A naive romanticization? Is the spirit of yoga part of that thread? I think so but it may take awhile to integrate it all and really have a sense of how. But hey, the Buddha searched for enlightenment for seven years. I have time!