Thursday, December 17, 2009

The aggregates of India

Sent from Delhi – 12.17.09


Intensity of senses; bright, acrid, crowded, colorful, filthy, glorious, riotous, psychedelic, exotic, difficult, mind-bending, heart-opening, ancient, pungent, poor, historic. A land of unending spirituality and horror and exquisite beauty; not segmented by neighborhood or region or time of day, but everything packed together, existing side-by-side, swirling together, ready at each and every moment to explode in the mind like a thunderbolt of consciousness. The aggregates of India, indeed.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve been there, and I clearly remember what someone told me on my first trip: India is a place where you are so happy to leave when the time comes to go home, and as soon as you get home you begin thinking about and planning your return. Yep, so true.

I am aware of the “back there vs. up ahead” of time one feels with each foot in a substantially different time zone.. It’s now 12:35am back home in Yalaha, and 11:05am of the same day in India – I’m sitting on Continental #82 from Newark to Delhi, somewhere 33,000 feet over Greenland – yes, the world IS a globe and it’s shorter to travel over the narrow curve rather than in a straight line.

It’s a completely free feeling -- time matters not, day of week matters not; now dark outside, soon it will be day, followed by the next night. And then we land. Twenty-seven days later it’s back on a plane for the long flight home. Between now and then . . . a palate of experiences.

From Plane to Train to Tuk-Tuk

After a morning in Delhi the overnight train straight east across the country to the state of Bihar, bordering Nepal to the north,very poor and recently pounded by monsoon flooding, disembarking at 4am in the sinister town of Gaya and then a tuk-tuk (small motorized three-wheeled rickshaw) 15 kilometers to Bodhgaya, as my dharma sister (and India/Nepal-traveling companion of past days) Maya calls it, the Vajra Seat, the place of Siddhartha’s awakening 2,500 years ago.

I spent a month in Bodhgaya two years ago, I don’t imagine it has changed very much since then (if you’re interested you can read some of the reports in the posts on this blogsite). It is a difficult place, immensely air and water polluted and very dusty, crowded, noisy and disease-ridden.

So, why there? Why the long trip to Bodhgaya again? Because shining through the difficulty of getting to and being in Bodhgaya is enormous opportunity for growth, both worldly and spiritual. Call it grist for the mind’s mill.

The Tibetan people are gathering there in mass, in this place of the Buddha’s enlightenment. There will be tens of thousands, in their November-March tent city on the fields near the Tibetan monastery. The annual Monlam gatherings will be taking place, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa will be in attendance leading prayer, practices and teaching, followed by five days of teachings and a long-life empowerment with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Nuclear dharma in this ancient little town on the Ganges plains. As Lama Zopa would say . . . unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable.

*** *** ***

At this time of year there are many acorns falling off the trees in my central Florida hometown of Yalaha. If you’re fast enough to beat the squirrels and pick one up and look at it, you may see many things, but what you don’t see is an oak tree . . . and even if you know you’re holding an insipient oak tree, you’ll be disappointed if you try to get any shade out of it.

Well, the Buddha said we are all like acorns, we have the ability and potential to be perfect, our minds have the ability to be completely clear and omniscient. We’re like acorns, needing the proper conditions to reach our potential . . . and that potential is there in every one of our minds . . . all sentient beings. There’s nothing mystical about it, it’s all rather scientific, actually. And it’s been spelled out, on a path that people have been walking for the past 2,500 years, a path that began with an awakening under a Bodhgaya full moon.

So, now I return to Bodhgaya, where for centuries thousands have journeyed through heat and monsoon rains to find enlightenment . . . I am amazed and honored to be a part of the lineage, to immerse myself in this rich and precious environment.

Having been there once, sight-seeing and soaking it up, I now come with work to do -- to refocus and deepen my dharma practice (karma allowing), which has become somewhat undisciplined and scattered of late. I do this for myself in order that I may become a more meaningful father, friend, partner, neighbor, co-worker, teacher -- in summary, a more meaningful and beneficial human being.

We all have minds capable of the truly magnificent. We all have the potential to do so much for those around us -- if this potential arises in my mind just a little bit more often, abiding with just a touch more understanding enabled by these upcoming days in Bodhgaya, the benefits will dwarf by millions any difficulties encountered along the way.

Thanks for reading, in the darkness below we just passed over Iceland. As a Tibetan friend says as he concludes his e-mails, I am stopping my fingers now.