I want in some way to sum up the experience of my unexpected journey from the last two weeks. However I possess a large bit of difficulty in doing that mainly because of how expansive the trip was. Just uploading a couple hundred pictures to a photo-sharing account won’t accomplish that either. There is a larger sense in which what I experienced in India can’t be captured and regurgitated via any specific medium. But I don’t want to leave you with the mere “guess you just had to be there” either. Something must be said. For one, to me at least there seems to be two India’s. One is affluent, cultured, educated and wants to make the rest of the world believe that this is how all of India really is. Bollywood puts on a good show of this. The other India however is the far greater majority. Poor, dirty, uneducated, ignorant. They live in the slums and squallers of arguably the largest nation in the world by population. No one really knows the actual population because apparently the Indian government doesn’t seem to keep track. This second India is the real India. Still a developing nation, still living in the poverty of the slum. Still doing things the ancient ways as it always has, thank you very much. My guess is that these two India’s exist because of the caste system. The higher and more powerful castes get the better jobs and greater power, the lower castes are forever stuck with the recompense of being born poor.
Secondly, there is a spiritual vitality to the people of India that is palpable. You see it, you feel it, you taste it, you dream it. The gods of India are real, and the gods of India are false too. They are real in the sense that the people of India make them real. A brief excursion into an Indian city is an extended excursion into the temple of some three-hundred million gods, which by the way means there are more Hindu gods than there are American residents. Pick a place, need, topic, situation, desire or anxiety and there is a god to deal with that. The temples of Indian cities are more numerous and ubiquitous than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined in our cities. And so power is attributed to these gods. Worship is given to gods and goddesses that can do terrible things. The eyes of the Hindu are blind and spiritual forces hold them deeply in bondage. Every temple announces the demonic stranglehold, every deity possesses death, not life, for the faithful. And every worshipper is subject/slave to a higher power that they cannot release themselves from. The gods of India are very, very real.
The falseness of these gods, however, is obvious to most Westerners. We see statues built and laugh that a silly painted Monkey-Man would be considered a god. We see pictures of some guy that looks like André the Giant’s long lost brother and console ourselves that a guy who looked so ridiculous would be considered an object of power and worship. Yet for our apparent recognition of the folly of the objects of their worship how objectively false do our objects of worship compare? They are actually worshipping what they call “gods.” We functionally worship pleasures, food, wealth, power, celebrity, and ourselves. The Hindu’s of India are a bit more intellectually honest about what they worship all the while we Westerners can’t see our hands in front of our face.
Maybe we in the Western, “enlightened” world are really the ones in a deeper sleep. Maybe we are the one’s that have frittered away every idea or design of spiritual power because it just isn’t rational, it isn’t scientific. And maybe, in so being this way we are the ones in greater bondage and slavery. Maybe we are the ones under a greater death?
I will have more to say about India and my journey there in the following days (or nights depending on how long it takes me to get myself back on Central Standard Time) however this is the first impression. First impressions might be the best ones.