Varanasi III

Somehow I suspect the whole of the western counter-culture scene in India has roots in combination of beat poets (YUCK!) fused with LSD via one highly dubious character named Richard Alpert a.k.a. Ram Dass. I recall reading his ‘Be Here Now’ in 1976, as it was recommended to me by a friend I knew from my high school days in Montana. By this time this friend was an enlightened dope dealer, so Jasper® cannot be considered unique in that regard. In fact it was this same enlightened friend had introduced me to the sisters, in 1979, and that’s no small coincidence. Think about it. An enlightened dope dealer in Montana introduces me to the sisters who introduce me to an enlightened dope dealer in India. Goes around, comes around. So, what jumped out at me when reading ‘Be Here Now’ was Alpert, while visiting India, had a yogi eat enough LSD to make five people high for 2 days. The yogi went on meditating and after some hours finally looked at Alpert and flatly stated “So, what?” What Alpert had done was like serving up five Big Macs® to a guy who’d eaten ‘The Texas King’ steak in Amarillo, Texas, in less than one hour (a deliberate bad metaphor.) And that was an ‘Aha!’ moment for Alpert. I happened to have a glossy photo of Alpert came with a magazine together with the book, and I hung Alpert’s portrait on the inside of the door into the rural slum apartment I lived in at the time; and drove slender steel darts into it from an aluminum tube converted to a blow-gun. Reading the book had been a waste of time. Or better said, Alpert writing the book had been a waste of time. Monty Python’s ‘Brian’ had summed it up best: “You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves!”

Ok, so I promised Jasper® would impress me and he did; here is how it came off. Following the evening of floating the Diwali candles, we had the next day off, nothing was scheduled. Mid-morning on that day, Jasper® invited me to take a walk to an open market and I went along. We arrived somewhat early, the area was not yet incredibly jammed with people bustling about business and Jasper® dressed in native costume of a sadhu and carrying his large set of fire tongs, gave a sermon. I had no idea what he was saying, as the sermon was delivered in Hindi, but people were stopping and listening, more and more people as Jasper® went on and on. After a little while, he had a devoted audience of more than 100. There was full confidence in the lesson he was delivering, it was obviously authentic, you could judge that from the reaction of the crowd. I’d never seen anything like it; this tall, thin Anglo-Saxon with full beard and long hair dressed as a native holy man and making it work, manifesting his knowledge of the Hindu scriptures to a crowd he pulled out of thin air. I doubt it crossed the mind of a single person present this was an opium junkie. Clearly, Jasper® had put a lot of sweat equity into his learning … and I could only wonder if this suddenly manifest, authentic Nath Sadhu, Ram Giri, was even aware of the other Jasper®.

That evening, the Tibetan and myself rented a small rowboat and went to the ‘Burning Ghats.’ It is here bodies are burned, day and night, prior to the ashes pushed into the Ganges River. In the Hindu tradition, this is a desirable place to end this existence; bodies are transported from far away, those who can afford it, to be disposed of here.  It was well after dark, and when about 15 meters (50 feet) from a funeral, I stopped our boat and we watched. We could hear some conversation and suddenly the Tibetan was translating for me. There was a body, its’ feet sticking out of the piled branches, about to be set on fire and the undertaker was telling a family member of the corpse … “Everything has gone perfectly, don’t mess it up by arguing the price now!”

The next day, we stepped onto a plane to Kathmandu.


My Madcap Adventure (all episodes)

Letter to the De Sousa clan of India