Friday, December 25, 2009
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.