Saturday, December 26, 2009

More Ranting about the Sitch

I created a Facebook group Stop the Yamuna Bridge this morning after getting a little riled up by this latest slap in the face to those who love the Dham. Advaitaji wrote me, making the same general point that Osho did in the comments to my previous post. So I just continue my general rant here.

Advaita:
Jagat, I became member of your club but I must make a note here that some individuals and big institutions that participate in the protests are themselves very guilty of destroying the environment of Vraja elsewhere with posh ashrams and temples and guest houses. The protests may be hijacked by such orgs that want to just lobby for more followers in this way...

First of all, let me say that this is not my "club." I just set up this Facebook group in the hope that it would be useful for communication. If the people interested in this issue make use of it, it might make developments and actions more widely known and make it possible for more people to be mobilized for demonstrations and protests at short notice.

But of course you are correct that many of the ashrams and leaders are complicit in the development because they too are profiting from it. Their donors come by car, will stay in their ashram or guesthouse, and so on. So these spiritual leaders tend to become compromised by such arrangements. But if you think about it, it is rather like the global warming situation. There comes a time when it becomes so very clear that things are so urgent that it requires a rearrangement of everyone's priorities.

The spiritual leaders of India must become the environmental leaders also. The essence in all this lies in reviving the concept of the sacred. If we say "God is everywhere" it is the same as saying God is nowhere. If we say "everything is sacred" it is not long before nothing is sacred. And I am afraid that this is the situation in India today.

We start by defining the sacred, by designating the sacred. Sometimes it is something that cannot be explained, but if Vrindavan is sacred, we must learn what that means. Times change and the way we relate to the world and the sacred places must of necessity be adjusted. But if we don't make that adjustment, we are in danger of losing everything.

So those who hanker for the Braj of 500 years ago, or even 50 or 20 years ago will have to recognize that they will likely never have that again. But those who are building their luxury hotel ashrams, catering to the dhana-durmadandhan (kasmAd bhajanti kavayo dhana-durmadAndhAn?), they will also have to revise their priorities and start thinking about what the French call the "collectivity."

India, because of its fractured, splintered caste system, has murdered its sense of collectivity... just like the world as a whole in the face of global warming. Nobody wants to give up their "acquis," or accumulated gains, for the sake of the general good. It is like the famous "prisoner's quandary," we play playing chicken with the world's destiny--should we sell each other out or act altruistically in our common interest?

Clearly, the situation in India has reached a state where practically no one will act for the common good. There is no sense of the public space as there was traditionally in Europe, with the village or town square. Everything is behind walls, behind gates, everyone is hiding from the Red Death, while outside, even the poor are so disenfranchised and so condemned in their self-awareness that they will not even pick up a broom or a shovel to clean the filth from an area five inches from the perimeter of their own tiny fragmented place.

As I passed Raiwala on my way to Rishikesh the other day, I saw the overflowing drain passing under the fruit stalls. The owner sat in his plastic chair barely inches from it, sipping his tea, totally unconcerned.

Caste consciousness has made cleanliness a sin. So how can godliness be close by? Some think themselves pure because they clean their anuses with clay and water three times after bathing, and their left hand 10 times and their right hand seven, but they have to hire someone they barely consider human to clean the toilet. So do you think this benighted Epsilon will do a good job? His revenge is in leaving the toilet only half clean, the cobwebs hanging on the ceiling, the dirt hidden under the rug. Or in sweeping the garbage into a pile in the middle of the street where the rickshaws and automobiles will spread it around again like a fan.

If cleaning is shameful or a sin, will anything ever become clean? If there is no sense of the common good, will there every be humanity? What is the use of one isolated saint if there is no society? And what is the use of an isolated sect if they are only to be saved behind their protective walls while the rest of society floats away in a fetid open sewer?

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