Sunday, June 19, 2011

A discussion of Mother India with friend Madhukar

 Madhukar brought up 'ADVAITA-SPEAK,' a frequent practice among the advocates of Advaita.  He contested that only those who practice what they preach have any meaning to their words.  Madhukar is an American with east Indian heritage, and a fellow traveler and Buddhist. 

  • Bodhi: I noticed in India that a popular pass time for devout men was to discuss the true meanings of the Sanskrit slokas. I found they discussed it ad nauseum, but didn't incorporate the meaning into their lives. I know India has changed a lot since I was there. Are the high minded men still doing that, Madhukar? You're there.

    When I was there, women would wake up before dawn, get the fire going, grind the flour, make the chappatis and aloo sabji, and in Kashmir, they heated up the water for the men's hot baths. Then she would feed the men, clean up after breakfast, immediately begin cooking lunch, and have lunch ready by 10:30am. Then they might pack a lunchbox, and send the children to dad's work with a hot lunch. After lunch she would sweep the floor, shine the cooking pots, and cow/deer dung the floor and walls. Then she would take the laundry to the water hole which could be a stream, a "tank," a government spigot in the middle of town, a well, or up in the Himalayas, a spring. She would wash the laundry at the water hole, bathe herself and her baby, then fill up several large jars. With the help of other women, she would stack the jars on a woven grass ring on her head 2-3 jugs high, grab the laundry with one hand, and the freshly bathed baby in the other hand, and haul the water & clean laundry back home, sometimes several miles. Then she might go shop for an ounce of oil to cook supper, and a few vegetables, and collect firewood or cow pods. While she did all this, men would sit around smoking bidis and playing dice, reading the newspaper and sipping tea, or reciting their favorite Sanskrit slokas to argue the true meanings with a friend. Is it still like that?

  • Madhukar: firstly---i am no longer in India; having returned a few months back to the States. but i did live there and in Nepal for 3 years. with 7 other trips before that as well....and---i would have to say that, YES--it is that way exactly still---in the hinterland. its fundamentally a patriarchal society--for all its Devi worship and Divine Mother worship. i have had to work my way thru all this --- one step at a time--reading, interviewing, cajoling, and making friends with folks---and at first accepting, then rejecting and finally resolving and blowing out the backside of the thing. to project my own system or 'mores' on another culture---is as totally bogus, as the presumptions that many have that in america the streets are paved with gold and that we are all depraved materialistic hedonistic sex maniacs. it is good to wrestle with all these things --- and see other cultures and the our own thru their eyes---which is an EYE OPENER as well. in many respects---in the hinterland of India---not much has changed for 5000 years---except they have cell phones now. and tractors. but when i first arrived 11 years ago--- i harvested potatoes behind a waterbuffalo with a wooden plow---just like it was 500 years ago.... India has changed more in the last 10 years---than in the previous 100. it will all trickle down as the middle class grows. yes---i can critique mother India --because i love her---just as i can critique my own country---- i just want a better and more just life for everyone.
  • Madhukar: ...and regarding these so-called 'men of religion'--- i understand and completely 'get' your point. i would feel the same if i saw that here in an american judeo-christian patriarchal society as well.
  • Bodhi:  Exactly!
  • Bodhi: My mom and dad came to see me in Budh-Gaya. They hoped to convince me to return to the USA with them. My meditation teacher, Anagarika Munindraji, took us for a walk to some smaller nearby villages. My parents were tired and rested on a low wall. Beyond the wall was a long stretch of paddy fields, each small plot with a rammed earth wall around it. There was an intricate system of gullies and spouts from higher fields to lower ones. On the high end near the wall, there was a well with a unique device for pulling up the water. There was a large fulcrum holding up a long pole, not centered. On the short end was bound a large boulder. On the long end, was a long rope with a 1-2 gal bucket fasted on. A withered and bent old man with a rag tied around his brow, was pulling one small bucket after another out of the well and pouring it into the top of the gully. In other words, this single old man was planning to flood acres of paddy fields bucket by bucket. My parents were awestruck!

    They sent me to ask him in Maghahi language if he would rather live in the USA? He replied, "What for? Life is good right here." (Btw, I can't remember not one single word in Maghahi.)

  • Madhukar: Ah! 'what for?--"life is good right here! i understand...♥

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