Fellow traveler Cryptic Fragments is living in Dharamsala when I’m still in my comfortable Dutch home. She wrote a post that sounded somewhat homesick on her blog and got the following as a response from a Tibetan or Indian reader:
PLEASE do my country a favor of not returning back! Leave those monks alone because they are not there to appease your desires or turn your world around! We do not want another German case happening in Mcleod Ganj. People like yourself are the ones who stay over polluting the place with your hippy like lives and ideas and corrupt the simpleton minds of the locals in India. So just go back, find a cozy coffee shop in your country and worship the Dalai Lama or the monks from there. The peace we’ve known here in Mcleod Ganj is being gravely disturbed by long staying foreigners like you who run away from their otherwise chaotic lives and hide in India-‘teaching English’! It’s high time that my government realizes and starts cleaning out.Why don’t you do the ‘teaching’ work in your own country or is everyone well taught there? If so then go to the African continent and help out. They need a lot of help there but PLEASE SPARE INDIA.I really hope that you DO NOT COME BACK HERE!
I responded to that rather concerned and Cryptic Fragments wrote:
Unfortunately there are a lot of angry young Tibetans who do not understand when westerners are on a true spiritual journey. I feel compassion for “Spirit”. This is obviously someone who is really hurting. I will pray for them to feel peace and compassion towards all sentient beings. Yes, there are many foreigners here who fit the description he/she gives but anyone who knows me knows I am far from hippy-like, and knows that I want peace and simplicity more than anything. Om shanti
Both are sides of a story one will not hear often in the West as one prepares for a trip to India. I’m still figuring out what to think about it. I certainly don’t feel like a hippie, but of course it’s true that when one goes from one country to another, one is traveling away from something as much as one is traveling towards something. Cryptic Fragments illustrates that well when she writes:
This life is so strange. I have called so many places HOME and yet I have never been at home…not since I was about 12 years old. I have lost everything…but mostly I have lost myself. I have no idea who I am. I keep looking for me in weird places. I have looked in England, Scotland, Ireland, France…I have looked in India and in this Tibetan refugee community. I have found pieces of myself everywhere, but the whole is still missing…Who am I? I am still lost and confused. It’s a very funny thing. I always talk about how much I am going to miss people, even places. But the truth is, what I really miss is myself. I lost myself when I was so young. I moved so often, surrounded by so many new people and experiences, that I never really developed an identity. I think I am a poet, a writer, a gardener, a cat lover who loves to color. I think I am a home maker who enjoys cooking and decorating and doing the laundry. But I live so far away from myself…running here, running there, like the world might end, like there is never enough time. I always “have to” see another set of ruins or learn another language before it is too late. I will run around in circles until I come back to my center and can breathe, again.
Which shows her unbelievably honest and conscious of her own inner processes I think. The spiritual trip, the pilgrimage, is an old religious institution with deep roots in both Western and Indian civilization. The trip to Mecca that Muslims are supposed to do once in their lives is only the most famous of current day examples. Europe is full of pilgrimage trails and destinations too. Within India the most famous spots are probably Varanasi (for the Hindu) and Bodhgaya (for the Buddhist). The point of such a trip isn’t just tourism, it’s to go inward by going out of one’s normal setting. It’s to become transformed through trial and perseverance. I don’t know whether that fits the hippie idea, it certainly isn’t merely about ‘teaching English’. A more worldly perspective is that India may be a super power and upcoming economy, but it still hosts a large amount of poor uneducated people. It’s no wonder the Indian government makes it easy for Westerners to give a bit of relief to that need. It’s also no bad PR for India itself, of course. Well – that’s just me gathering some thoughts in this first blogpost on my new blog 🙂