india Tag

After a few weeks of Silence, two months living with just a small backpack, and having left India for Nepal and a couple of volunteering missions, one thought kept coming back to my mind: We often see the developing world and poor countries as places that WANT what we have. And also as places that don't have anything we want. From my time in Kolkata—where I felt and saw Joy even in the slums—to Bodh Gaya—where, despite terrorist bombings, people continued to live normally and thank God for being blessed—I keep seeing all the essential things we lost in our modern society. After months of travels and meeting the poorest of the poor, who are living in very simple places, traveling in packed trains or buses and struggling to find toilets or clean water, my view is now that we should give re-birth to what we have let go of in our rich and modern world. What strikes me the most about these past 80 days? The happiness, the joy and the smiles on so many faces, despite the hard conditions of life. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo! Now that I can see what they have and what we do not have anymore, and also the few things we have that they could benefit from, I wanted to share those with you.
One thing I wish I knew when I started practicing meditation is that even the most avid practitioners—Monks, for example—still don’t always fully control their mind, often having episodes of random thoughts jumping inside their head (we call it “Monkey Brain” for that reason). The big difference is that their training allows them to not “grasp” those thoughts. Rather, they watch them pass by like little white clouds in the sky; not  like a storm they cannot get rid of! Pema Chödrön says it in a great way:
"The path of meditation and the path of our lives altogether has to do with curiosity, inquisitiveness. The ground is ourselves; we’re here to study ourselves and to get to know ourselves now, not later. People often say to me, ‘I wanted to come and have an interview with you, I wanted to write you a letter, I wanted to call you on the phone, but I wanted to wait until I was more together.’ And I think, “Well, if you’re anything like me, you could wait forever!’”
What a big lesson coming from someone who has been a Buddhist nun since 1974 and has spent 7 months each year in solitary retreat! 7090041 So you get the point: no goal, no destination. It’s today, and it’s the journey that matters. The other major point obviously is to practice, practice, and practice. Going to meditation courses is great, reading books helps, going to seminar is awesome, attending a retreat is great support ... BUT BUT BUT the most important thing is to practice, daily and regularly.
Not far from Varanasi, the holy place I described in a recent post, is the small city of Sarnath. This is another incredibly important place on this planet; especially in India. Why is it so significant? Because in this small town, in 500 B.C., the prince Siddhartha Gautama, who had recently become a Buddha, came here to deliver his first teaching to his 5 disciples. It is 300km away from Bodhgaya (a place I will share with you in a post next week), where the future Buddha sat for six weeks under a tree watching his own mind, the site of his incredible breakthrough that allowed him to see the Truth and deliver this first teaching in Sarnath. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In this first teaching he revealed the four Noble Truths.  These truths can offer extraordinary support in your life regardless of your spirituality or if you even care about Buddhism. The first time I heard them, I was inquisitive and wanted to know even more, so I want to share the Truths with you (not as a scholar but just how I understood them) as we go through the photos of the historical site of Sarnath.
A few days ago, I brought you with me to Varanasi to discover the incredible Ganges ablutions, Varanasi prayers and the ceremonies that explain why Hindu pilgrims want to die in this holy city. The week I spent there has been incredible in so many ways. So let me walk with you today (with many photos), through the streets of Varanasi, from sunrise to sunset. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When you wake up at 5 a.m. to see the ablutions in the Ganges and end your day by Puja, the ceremony to offer Light to the river, you are anchoring your day with two spiritual and profound events that allow you to tolerate the intense streets of Varanasi; streets filled with cows (and cow manure), garbage, people, incense and the humid hot air of the monsoon.
If you are Hindu (and more than 900 million in India are), the holiest city in the world is Varanasi, considered to be the place where the physical world and the spiritual world meet. Also, if you are Hindu, there is one thing you want: to die and be cremated in Varanasi, and have your remains deposited in the Ganges. Hindus have come here to die for thousands of years, and it’s said that the cremation fires have never stopped! So as I arrived in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, I felt a profound sense of excitement and wonder. [caption id="attachment_14611" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]People gathering on the Ganges at the main Ghat People gathering on the Ganges at the main Ghat[/caption] Varanasi is such an extraordinary city at so many levels: not only because it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, but also because it concentrates every superlative you can use for India in one place! More cows in the street than people (another reason for me to love the city), more Pilgrims, more hidden temples, more stories... So here is PART I of a 2 PARTS blog posts on Varanasi.