Holiday Musings on Indian Culture and Gratitude
This isn’t the usual holiday greeting though I wish you a Very Happy and Healthy and Loving Holiday Season! This email is more about reminding all of us of the blessings and full life we are privileged to have.
I’ve just come back from five and a half weeks in India. I have taken up saying that India is the land of EVERYTHING. Beauty, pollution, smiling faces, dirty, grimacing children, extreme wealth, ultra-extreme poverty, giant cities, 85% rural villages, birth, death, temples, more temples, lots of people everywhere and not a lot of anything that even looked like enlightened sex. The concepts brought to life by the Kama Sutra, and the more esoteric Tantric practices, seemed long forgotten in the India that I observed.
Of particular interest to me were the temples at Khajuraho. This out of the way small city once consisted of eighty-five temples built, within 200 years, by one dynasty. Most were built in the tenth and eleventh centuries and are covered in erotic sculptures, animals of the day, gods, goddesses and celebratory multitudes. The deity, to whom the individual temple is in honor, might be carved out of marble as well as limestone. They are exquisitely delicate yet powerfully present and alive. Today only twenty-one temples still stand. They encompass many branches of Hinduism yet they all have heavenly, voluptuous bodies adorning their architecture. At least the relics of the past point to the erotic under-structure of the culture.
And, as in Western countries, it seems that sex sells in India. It sells Indian ‘Bollywood’ movies. It sells its own history in the form of old and new paintings that depict the sensuous knowledge the people seemed to once have. It sells jewelry, cars and clothing, too. India is distinctly adulterated with Western thinking and lifestyle desires and this all left me wondering what India was like in the pre-colonization period before the British came. Is that when they lost their sensual nature?
As I wandered about and moved my way through Northern India I created a perpetual practice of trying to stay out of my own way. I had to constantly remind myself to not think like a Westerner. It was a difficult, but worthy, practice for a Tantrica.
The most difficult realization I had while there was that women are mostly less than chattel. Chattel – an item of personal property. They are not Goddesses with a capital ‘G’. They are slaves to be hidden, they are considered un-clean, women are rarely seen outside the home compound, they mostly live in villages, are uneducated and go to live with their husband’s family when they marry. This means that their own family puts very little energy into raising a girl though she is useful to her mother to help with all of the boy children the family will have. Girls aren’t educated because they will leave the family upon marriage. They often aren’t fed well, from birth. They are the last to get a pair of shoes. They are often in rags while the boys have jackets and shoes and socks. They are neglected.
And, worse, in all of my travels and in all of the villages, small towns and even big cities that I visited I only saw two families with more than one girl child in them. Both of these families were in cities waiting for the train’s upper class seating, so they obviously weren’t poor. In family after family, in village after village, I only ever saw one girl child per family of four or five children. She was often the oldest or close to one of the oldest. If you stop to think about this it doesn’t take long to understand that if a mother has four or five children and only one of them is a girl she has done something with the other girls she gave birth to.
In fact, this is born out in current population statistics in India. While there I read several alarming newspaper articles about how there are about seven women to every ten men and that the statistics are getting worse rather than better. It is a matter of life that female babies are either left to die or they are actively poisoned upon birth. This isn’t the place to get into why this is occurring. India, as I stated, is about everything under the universe. It is a complicated society that is emerging onto the modern economic scene with a driving desire and longing to be a leader in the world.
So, I am left with the realization that it is maybe the West’s longing to see woman as a symbol of the Goddess and man as a symbol of the God. One of the problems plaguing India is that women are taught to see their husbands as Gods but it isn’t a two-way street. Women seem worthless in India yet, in so many ways, they run the economy, the family, the household and the religious rituals. Are we at the end of a worldly cycle or at the beginning? Has India left behind what we need and desire to make us whole?
The Dalai Lama has said that the West is where Buddhism is the most alive and changing. He applauds this change. It is working for people. The same is true, I believe, for the West’s fascination with some of the concepts of Hinduism – the Goddesses and Gods, the ceremony and universal connection with the sacred, Tantric and Kama Sutra practices that increase awareness and loving presence, yoga and meditation practices, and, of course, our interest in the profound sensual/sexual healing aspects of intimacy.
So, we are actively changing portions of a much older philosophy that suit our changing lives and we are making them our own. I say “Thank you” to that ancient culture that cultivated these practices and I say to them “Watch us, see how we are transforming and find ways to embrace what we do here, in the West, because the ‘times’ are changing and women deserve to be equal and appreciated for their contributions to the world and our future.
Thank you for letting me rave on. May the very best of the season be yours. May happiness and blessings grace your New Year. May you know and embody your rightful place in the Universe. May pleasure and love find you everyday of your life.