Marie

Prior to this trip to India, I’d had a dream. It’s not easy to describe this sort of dream, an experience that actually does comes across as traveling back in time. In this dream I saw a far away place, not in physical distance but from the very distant past. There was a haze in the atmosphere of what appeared to be tropical landscape, a panorama. There was a single word spoken, Dravidian, and the sensation was profound. After, I had to look the word up. ‘Dravidian’ indicated a people of south Asian origin, I discovered, most of them located in India, indigenous Indians from long ago, if you will. If you took the modern aspect away from the landscape of India in 1984, the two panorama were essentially the same, the dream and the reality. It so happens, my great-great grandmother was Romani of (genetic studies have since determined) Indian-Dravidian descent. I don’t have a photograph of her or her daughter, but I do have a photo of her quarter Gypsie granddaughter, my grandmother (together with my grandfather.) If western civilization doesn’t blow itself entirely to bits, prior to environmental collapse, maybe we’ll have enough time left to sort there is much more to genetic memory than had ever been assumed by science, to now. I was completely comfortable in India, from the beginning, as if it had always been my home. And my great-great grandmother’s genes were turning me black in the tropical sun. Back in Delhi, in native dress, the street vendors were not giving me a second glance.

We’d visited Dehradun, made famous in the West by Kipling, and experienced the very excellent hospitality of a Tibetan community there. One wonders what had gone wrong with Western culture, when compared to people elsewhere, and the many non-European peoples ability to be so much more open, compassionate and welcoming. After a couple of days, back in Delhi again, we departed for Varanasi.

We checked into a small hotel whose proprietor was of the Brahmin caste. The one sister, our patron saint & guardian angel, who’d utilized this establishment in the past, and had earned some privilege for bringing business, clucked about like a mother hen while examining the courtyard inside; finally rendering her verdict .. with stating “I’m disappointed, it used to be cleaner here.” The Brahmin made a point of looking directly at Jasper® & Socket™ when replying “You’re right.” I saw it the Brahmin’s way, the hotel premises looked quite ok.

I knew practically nothing about Varanasi and the week spent there is the stuff of upcoming stories, there was much to experience. But first, our side trip to nearby Sarnath was interesting to me on account of having read Herman Hesse’s ‘Sidhartha.’ That, and the Tibetan and I were becoming quite good friends and he was able to inform myself on much of the history and culture surrounding Buddhism, an interest that was to continue, even if I cannot state I am a good Buddhist or even a Buddhist at all. But certainly some tenents integrated to my ‘practice’ of life are similar or identical to those of Buddhism.

My personal acquaintance Karl Schlesier, the well known ‘action anthropologist’ & authority on Cheyenne culture, once related to myself a conversation he’d had with a friend who was very well studied in Buddhism. Together, they’d arrived at a conclusion – with the exception of differing views on the transmigration of the soul, and a few cultural strictures – the essential underlying philosophies of Cheyenne culture & Buddhism, were remarkably similar, in fact nearly identical. The Tibetan and myself had a very similar experience; between us, we’d come up with around three dozen identical, or near identical, philosophical/cultural practices in day to day life – and related taboos – shared between the Buddhist Tibetan culture he was raised in, and (Cheyenne relatives) the Blackfeet culture I had been immersed in.

What some of my readers might not know is, Buddhism was born in India. Today, India has the 10th largest Buddhist population in the world at seven million. Buddhism once rivaled Hinduism as India’s major philosophy or religion, with Hinduism reasserting itself over Buddhism in India, due to certain historical factors, about 1,500 years ago. The two religions share a ceremony, Dwali, which was interesting to me, having participated in the Hindu tradition on my visit to Varanasi (more on that later) with sending a lit candle to float on the Ganges and 30 years after, having seen monks from Thailand fill a pool at a temple in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to float Dwali candles in the Hinayana Buddhist tradition.

At Sanarth, we walked around the ancient stupas and saw the Bodhi tree. The tree is, according to tradition, an offspring of the very tree Buddha had sat under, at that location, when giving his first teaching.

*

My Madcap Adventure (all episodes)