Friday, December 25, 2009

Yamuna Bridge

I just found about this event, which takes place today, in only an hour's time. Unfortunately, though right minded, it sounds to me like too little too late. Millions have already been invested by business and government interests in this project and I doubt that a few idealistic lovers of Vrindavan will be able to do much at this late date. I have heard that construction has already begun. I already wrote about this back in 2005, so everyone has known about it for at least four years. But the idea in India right now, the Zeitgeist, is that development, development, development will solve all problems.

The same thing is going on in Rishikesh, but perhaps not quite to the same extent--partly because of the protection that has been extended to the northern side of the Ganges, but the south side is an ever increasing mess.

The sad truth is that the very qualities of the Dham that make it attractive are being destroyed by virtue of so many people being attracted. A victim of its own success, as it were. This is not understood ANYWHERE in India, it seems. I just saw an article in India Today about Mount Abu, where at least they are trying to put a halt on new construction in order to preserve something of the sacred character of the place.

In Delhi recently, on my way to a conference at the Bhogilal Leherchand Institute of Indology, I noticed a billboard in the Jahangirpuri metro station. Since this part of the line is fairly new, all the advertising spots have not yet been sold. The poster showing there had a quote from Joseph Campbell which immediately attracted my attention: "Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” But, true to desecrators everywhere, this was turned into a sales pitch: "This space is available for people to find your company and your products again and again."

So this is what it has come to: the sacred places are for sale to the highest bidder. But if you cut off the branch on which you are sitting, then where will you sit?

On the same trip, I was in Noida talking to a young IT worker, who seems to be doing very well in the new economy. His brother is doing a PhD in Benares on Kashmiri Shaivism. When I saw him last, he said that he liked Shaivism because of its virile assertion that we are all god. I had to laugh because this is precisely the disease that affects not just India, but the entire world.

In Osho's book "Nari aur Kranti," probably written quite some time ago, he talks about the necessity for giving women and the feminine equal status to males as an absolute necessity for the world. Men have been given free reign for the last 5000 years to create a history of wars and exploitation. And women, unfortunately, have bought into it. But now, the history of the world has come to the point where we can destroy ourselves over and over again. With atom bombs. And now, even more pressingly, with our development, development, development to environmental destruction.

It is all rajo guna at best. But it is really tamo guna because it is not creative, but destructive. Indeed, this mindless development is tamo guna because as soon as something is built, it is immediately neglected. The Delhi Metro has been open for one month in Noida and it still looks spanking clean. No one spits, pisses or throws plastic bags on the tracks, but I looked up and saw Delhi's desert dust gathering on the metal struts. What are the chances it will ever be cleaned? Perhaps between now and the Commonwealth Games next year, a concerted effort will be made to keep things looking at least faintly "first world," and then the Delhi Metro will revert to India.

Without sattva-guna, what is the point of development? Sattva-guna is the domain of preservation. One person told me that in America, most lottery winners end up bankrupt after a few years. A researcher found out that the reason was because no one calculated the cost of preserving the things they purchase. If you buy a 10 million $ home, it costs hundreds of thousands per year to maintain, to keep it beautiful, to preserve its value. These people spent their winnings on the beautiful home, but after a while, found it impossible to keep.

The developers line their pockets building their fancy projects but where is the profit in preserving something? It is only a negative on the books. And so India is filled with half-built, half-tumbledown temples and palaces. Private interests can keep isolated oases of beauty behind high walls where only the monkeys can wreak occasional havoc, but the public spaces are occupied by the gods of Neglect, NIMBY and Who Gives a Damn?

Robyn Beeche told me that the Friends of Vrindavan and others tried to stop the paving of the Parikrama Marg way back when that was the immediate danger. They even lay down on the road when the bulldozers came. But to no avail. The Vrindavan municipal council had received some federal money for development and influential council members had connections with contractors. So a few ecologically minded tree huggers did not stand a chance. They will not stand a chance this time either.

There are still enough dehati pilgrims who will faithfully do japa and kirtan on the Parikrama Marg even while being honked repeatedly into external consciousness by careless visitors from Delhi who are in a big rush to... do what, exactly? Soon there will be, I expect, shopping malls, water parks, maybe even a goddamned Krishna theme park Disney World, a Krishna statue higher than the Eiffel Tower, a curse and a pox on all these ideas, which will only bring even more bahirmukhas in their SUVs to do parikrama the easy way. To completely miss the point.

And all you sadhus who think that the way forward is to build big big skyscraper temples, have you forgotten that Vraj is Madhurya Dham? If you want Aishwarya, go and destroy Dwarka for God's sake!

Until the Brijvasi business interests come to understand where their bread is really buttered, they will do everything they can to destroy their environment. Until the Swamis and Goswamis of Vrindavan recognize that Vrindavan's sacred character needs to be preserved, even at the cost of their immediate prosperity, there is no hope.

Close Vrindavan to car traffic. Create open spaces around temples. Make Vrindavan clean and green and keep it that way. Vrindavan's real wealth is in the sattva-guna, without which there is no transcendence and without which it will be turned into just another version of hell.

Jai Radhe!


Anonymous said...

It certainly is too little but not yet too late. Not yet. otherwise certain influential individuals with hefty connections inside the government would not be in on it to stop the project. The land across the Yamuna from Keshigath should also be preserved as a state park. We should not lose heart, and should keep fighting for this preservation of the dham. What else is there for us to do now?

Osho said...

A passionate and inspiring article.
However, I don't understand why devotees would complain about the development idea now? Why this usless rant now?

Wasn't building temples, skyscrapers in Vrindavan, shooting rhinos (bag a rich follower) etc., just an ouverture for this? Were majority of followers of the worldly success of great and famed GV institutions actually wanted this in the first place and loudly clapped their hands to this decades ago? Isn't this just a concretized idea of theirs?
So why a rant against local government now? This form of Disneyland spirituality was seeded by thousands of fanatical followers and those construction workers and a few paper clips are just making it real.

If sadhus were conscious about what Braj is, and tried to do something substantial, this wouldn't have happened.

Jagat said...

Dear Osho,

True enough. But part of it is that you need to approach development intelligently, with the sattva-guna predominating. As far as possible, you need to preserve the qualities of the Dham that give it its attractive qualities.

The paving of the Parikrama Marga was a mistake, because more than anything else, it has destroyed one of the most spiritually potent and wonderful traditions of the Dham.

You simply cannot do parikrama peacefully any more. But rather than enhancing the parikrama experience, they destroyed it in order to permit cars and those in the cars to rule. The same thing is happening in Radha Kund, where people in SUVs honk their way around Radha Kund and Shyama Kund, while the genuine pilgrims jump for their lives.

I talked to the Panchayat in Radha Kund and to the Mahanta of Radha Kund and everybody just throws their hands in the air as though there is nothing anyone can do. Make the big bellies get out of their cars and walk.

I even joked that they should fit all vehicles with horns that go "Radhe Radhe!" At least that would be better than making people jump out of their skin. The Delhi drivers are so in the mode of passion they honk just out of habit when they have to stop. There may be fifty cars in front and no way of knowing what is holding things up, but they honk as though this is a magic sound that will make the bottleneck disappear.

But you bring this juvenile attitude into the Dham and you are simply committing offenses to those who have made the pilgrimage in order to feel some genuine spiritual community and inner life.

So yes, they have become victims of their own success, but these things are too mixed up to pigeonhole. The thing is that NOW, if we have any proprietary spirit at all, it is time to push, to get the Dham we want, basically.

Jagat said...

There are more comments on this article on Facebook:

Bridge Over Yamuna

In particular, the following comment from Vaishnavacharya Chandan Goswami is noteworthy:

We have been protesting since day one and asked everyone to join with us. Sad to say all the gurus agree that this construction is wrong, but no one wants to protest against it. In a couple of days we are having a meeting with Satish Chandra Mishra, who is the second strongest person of the state because of whom Vrindavan got the package of reinnovation.

According to the law of the archeological department of India, the area up to 100 metres from a monument is designated as
a prohibited area and up to 200 meters as a regulated area.

“No development is permitted within 100 metres of any monument preserved by the State Archaeology Department or by the Archaeology Survey of India."

There is a Jugal Kishore Temple which is situated on the back side of Kesi Ghat. [I assume he means that this is designated as a monument.] Because of this law now we have made them stop the construction work and filed the FIR against them.

JP Group, the contractor, has called back his project manager and half of the labor has left.
Now three things can happen:-

1. Either they make bridge after 300 meters radius which will make this bridge far from Kesighat.
2. Or they can stop the work altogether.
3. Or they can work on our idea which we have proposed to them.

The result will be out in few weeks as we are taking serious actions against them.

Anonymous said...

I hope a second, stupendously coordinated rally happens in Braj. It seems in this all vaishnavas are united. Its only a matter of better communications.
To save Braj! Ah, if there ever was a cause to march for.
Devotees should hold protest harinams in front of every Indian embassy around the world, demanding the removal of that ugly bridge. And no more honking, while we are at it...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jagat said...

It is my policy in most cases to just post whatever comments people make, but I fail to see the relevance of this last comment. What is the point of wantonly insulting people, who for better or worse, simply act according to their particular level of advancement?

As the Bhagavata says:

yaH prazaMsati nindati
sa Azu bhrazyate svArthAd
asaty abhinivezataH

If you praise or insult a person's actions, which arise out of his or her nature, then you miss the real point of life because of your absorption in the temporal. (11.28.2)

But in this case, in particular, the person insulted is not related to the Yamuna bridge business at all. Indeed, he may even become a powerful ally in the fight, so why needlessly insult him?

Anonymous said...

What you call "level of advancement" is no advancement at all. Its quite possibly the type of mentality which brought Vrindavan to the sad state it is right now. The mentality, still running strong in Iskcon, that Krishna Consciousness is ONLY theirs to give is not simply a glitch in the system but the ruin of it all. If you fail to see the bridge between vaisnava aparadha and dham aparadha then I don't see how you will prevent the material energy from taking over what is most sacred in our lives.

Jagat said...

When you try to accomplish anything in this world, you are automatically called on to compromise. Not your greatest values, but your demands for others to adhere to those values absolutely. This is always a matter for much hand-wringing--at what point can someone be an ally and at what point must one "spit him out."

On the whole, in the world, one is engaged in politics, the "art of the possible." On a global scale, you are right, Vaishnava aparadh and Dhama aparadh are partners. But change is incremental, it takes leadership, and one cannot expect people to suddenly transform their conditioned attitudes overnight. If one waits for that, the immediately possible becomes an immediate impossibility.

In this case, the issue of stopping the immediate danger of this bridge--which from the looks of photos I have seen is already underway--is a battle that is far from being won. As a matter of fact, it looks like the odds are stacked against it. Nevertheless, at some point we have to decide that something is more important for US than sectarian differences. And if we can persuade someone to put aside the sense of entitlement, egoism and self-superiority that accompanies sectarianism in order to participate in actions that benefit the wider community, both in terms of time and place, then why should we not put down our tendency to criticism and see them for the true spiritual creatures that they are, after all, attempting to become.

The first rule is always to remember our own pathetic incapacity to really achieve anything important alone. And once we recognize that, it is not long before we, publicly at least, give up our heroic intransigeance about whatever our pet issues happen to be. At least where our immediate goals happen to lie.