Skip to main content

who am I? & the Spoilt+Selfish Westerner




train from chennai to trivandrum.

we loll along the intensely green and wet paddy fields studded with colourful sariclad women, bent double in an uncomfortable-looking position.

we see mountains, covered mystically at the top by clouds that seem to reluctantly desire to hug the mountain.

i ask myself- is this tiruvannamalai, where the saint ramana maharishi resided? it really looks like it! and shut "sri ramana maharishi?" to the workers outside.

instead the three men from the train compartment behind me come to sit next to us and start a very interesting conversation. they initiate by explaining the story of this particular saint and the precise location.

the conversation goes on. we have much in common. me, a recent student of indian religions and philosophies, them, three current students of theology.
we discuss the problems of the dalits- the untouchables- and how this religious institution of the caste system is oppressive for many thousands of people. we discuss sati, the horrible custom of widow-burning, where the woman who has lost her husband should follow him to death, and burn with him on his cremation heap, because the man is her master, her true devotion in life. we all agree that religion is the cause of many problems in indian society, and that it is not a fair and equal religion in those respects.

we disagree, however, on one strong point. to these three students, the answer is CHRISTIANITY. convertion to christianity. convert india and all will be free. convert to jesus, as he saves.
i do not think replacing one religion with another is the key; nor do i have a good answer to what the replacement should be. my lines of "free thinking", "freedom of expression, soul, opinion" sound like bleak attempts of some hippie-rose-couloured-glasses westerner travelling to india. typical, stereotypical. what IS the answer?

then i have to answer. i am put to the test. the older one of the three asks me a series of very direct questions, and i answer honestly. embarrassed at my own replies, i see how spoilt i am, how much choice i have in life, how easy my life is.

1. what do you do for a living in your country?
- i take care of old, sick and mentally ill people

2. you get paid for this or this is volunteering work?
- i get paid

3. what do you do with your money?
- i save them for myself, to buy the things i think i need for my future studies

4. how old are you?
- 30

5. and you will start your studies?
- yes, i wasn't sure before what i wanted to do for a proffession

6. where do you live in sweden?
- at my father's place

7. do you help your father with money?
- no

8. you keep your whole pay to yourself?
- yes

9. what are you doing in india?
- trying to learn more about indian culture and the religious implications on society

10. do you come here to help the people?
- i try...ehh.... i.... try to give to the poor...a little bit..........er..

and the guy sums up. so you are 30. you live at home. you work for money but you keep all the money for yourself. you are going to start studying despite already being way into adulthood. you come to india to learn about indian culture. you don't volunteer or help in your own country. you keep your money to yourself. you do not help your parents. you do not give much back to india.

i feel like i deserve. like a pancake. flatly stuck to my expensive havaianas flipflops. what a spoilt, selfish westerner i am, deluded by my view of the world, deluded by my dislike for where i come from. why? why am i here? WHO AM I?

by the way, that question, "who am i?", was the one and only thing that the saint sri ramana maharishi ever taught his disciples to contemplate. always and forever this line. WHO. AM. I.

Comments

  1. Ramana Maharshi also said this:

    "D: What is the significance of the Crucifixion?

    M: The body is the cross. Jesus, the son of man, is the ego or ‘I-am-the-body’-idea. When the son of man is crucified on the cross, the ego perishes, and what survives is the Absolute Being. It is the resurrection of the glorious Self, of the Christ — the son of God.

    D: Should I not try to help the suffering world?

    M: The Power that created you has created the world as well. If it can take care of you, it can similarly take care of the world also .... if God has created the world, it is His business to look after it, not yours."

    via http://prashantaboutindia.blogspot.com/2009/05/ramana-maharshi-about-helping-world-and.html

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Linda meets a "real" sadhu on the banks of the Ganges

So it's early morning, before sunrise, in Varanasi. i'm staying at the Yogi lodge in goudalia, the old, smelly, labyrinth of Varanasi old city. my travel companion, Katja, is sleeping sweetly on her thin, stained mattress, bundled up with a trillion dusty blankets.
i'm hunting for a real Aghori baba.
I did my dissertation at uni about the Pashupatas- the really nasty, crazy renunciates, who follow Shiva. they eat dead flesh, they live at the burial grounds, they smear their bodies with ashes from the funeral pyre. they drink water from a human skull, and they behave in different funny, weird ways, to be like Shiva. they scare people and they give respect.
apparently, these sadhus only exist today in Nepal, in the Pasupatinath.
but, I had read and heard, that another, related tribe of sadhus, called "Aghoris", still could be found in Varanasi, close to the burning ghat, where human bodies were burning day and night.

So I was walking, early that morning, toward…

the "fake" aghori baba turns out to be "real"

ok. I wrote this blog a few years ago. the moment was one of December 2008- so a while back.
I was up early, sunrise, just me and the monkeys and the pilgrims and the babas and the chai-wallas...and i guess yeah, it's normal to be up at sunrise in Varanasi, despite the fog, despite the cold- or maybe precisely BECAUSE of these things. No point staying in bed. The monkeys wake us up anyway and it's goddamn freezing, so let's get a warm, energizing chai, and let's pray that we get out of this suffering called life- where it's cold, foggy, and the annoying monkeys steal our bananas.



So I was on the lookout for this type of dude. I had written my dissertation at uni (SOAS, amazing SOAS!) about these kind of babas, admittedly not existent anymore in India, but in Nepal, in the Pashupatinath, yes. I had been told by my Hinduism professor that yes, some of them did still exist in Benares, eating dead flesh, and doing their weird laughing. I love it! How weird and creepy…

getting drunk on absinthe in Bar Marsella

Absinthe
Also called the Green Fairy, from the French- La Fee Verte. Others called it the Green Goddess or the Green Muse.
But the Green Fairy isn't just another name for absinthe; it is a methaphor for artistic transformation and enlightenment. It opens up the mind to a freer state, a place where exploration of poetical pathways and new inspirational ideas can grow wildly. To the Parisian bohemians of late the 1800's, the Green Fairy was a guide into their artistic world, where new, groundbreaking art was created. Absinthe was to the artists of the time what smoking weed was for the hippies in the 60's; their "revolutionairy guide" and what they believed was the substance that "opened their minds".
Artists, poets and writers reached for a glass of the Green Fairy for inspiration to their creative works and during "the green hour", in the late afternoon, many glasses were consumed in Parisian bars and cafes- but not just that, apparently, s…

I finally went on that life-changing trip

I first came to Puglia in 2008, I think it must have been early October. I'd had an awesome time in Tuscany and Rome and Calabria and was arriving there by train, filled to the max with beautiful experiences and electric connections, not really expecting much else than just a half-boring yoga teacher training that I had signed up for, not really knowing what else to do with my life after finishing my degree in Indian Philosophy at SOAS, University of London. 

As the train cut through Basilicata and into Puglia, the amount of olive trees that swooshed past started to be shocking. After a while, I realised that it just wasn't going to end. Endless amount of them, large, proud, thick. Planted in perfect rows, with no sigh of the end, or the horizon. 

My eyes widened as I started to think I was hallucinating. Was I going insane?
It went on for hours. Endless olive trees. I felt as if there was a movie on repeat outside of the train window. 

As the train finally stopped in Bari, I wait…