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Rishikesh is orange

Rishikesh, India


Rishikesh is orange. Nearly everyone is wearing orange garmets, the cumin-spiced food is orange, the blazing afternoon sun is orange, and even causes the muddy Ganges river to take on a hue of orange. Many buildings are painted orange, the corn is not yellow, but orange, and even my pee is orange from the dehydrating heat of the orange sun.

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Every cell in my body is born, serves its function, and dies. During it's lifetime, each cell remains unaware that it exists within a larger common entity, called "Mark". LIkewise, every person is born, lives a life, and dies. Most of us remain completely unaware that each of us exists within a larger common entity, called "Earth" or "Nature". Personal experience and continued awareness of this fact is the path to peace and freedom. We must remember, as Krishnamurti often liked to say, that "the observer is the observed".

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I just had a chai and a smoke with an elderly Indian man who pulled me aside on a crowded street in the Rishikesh market. I recognized his intellect at once, and he explained about how he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and the myriad challenges he has encountered in life. I was struck by how fragile the balance is in our minds.

He ended up being the only Indian I have met thus far who agreed with my viewpoint that having one family more or less in power since the independence of the country isn't particularly democratic. Like many others I've spoken with, he likened the situation to that of the Kennedy dynasty in the U.S. But, he then proceeded to point out the legitimate reasons why Caroline Kennedy wasn't able to muster a run for the NY Senate seat, and I was flabbergasted. That's the exact argument I've been using. This man looks like the quintessential "average" Indian, but proved to be much much more. It is unlikely encounters such as this one that has formed my very high opinion of the Indian people.

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I'm staying with a wonderful family here in Rishikesh. It is nice to sit on my front porch and watch the comings and goings of mom, dad, their three beautiful daughters and two sons, the dog, or one of the two cows (who also roam the nearby crowded streets). It has been very hot here, so the excitement was pointed yesterday when the first rains of this year's monsoon arrived in the afternoon. When it rains during the Indian monsoon, it really rains. The moisture came down in slanted sheets, blown about by the strong accompanying winds. The cooling effect was most welcome after several days of constant sweating. Apparently the monsoon arrives into Rishikesh, like clockwork, just about this exact day every year. How will climate change alter this pattern? What will be the effect on the crops and the economy in this area? Like the mind of the schizophrenic man that I met, our Earth also hangs in a fragile and beautiful balance. We're compromising that balance.

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The past couple of mornings, I've been attending meditation sessions at an Osho center. Osho was a very famous spiritual teacher who pioneered many new meditation techniques designed specifically for the modern/Western mind that is accustomed to a fast pace and lots of noise. So, it is very different from the silent sitting meditation I've been doing (Vipassana). This morning we did "laughing meditation", which was, well, hilarious. This technique comes from the Japanese Buddhist tradition. Osho also incorporates techniques from Hinduism, Sufism, Gurdjieff, and others. Kundalini (chakra) yoga, sound therapy, and Tibetan Nadabrahma meditation are others I've sampled and enjoyed while here. It has been most helpful in helping me to BE more in my body, and not only in my mind. And, to further recognize the relationship between the two.

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In the afternoons, I've linked up with an awesome personal yoga teacher. His name is Ravi Yogi, and we practice for a couple of hours each day. On my final day here, we'll travel together to meet Ravi's "guru" or "master". He describes his master has a "perfect Sadhu", meaning he has attained full liberation/consciousness, complete alignment with the Creator. Needless to say, I'm very curious and excited. This will happen on the Fourth of July, and I definitely anticipate some fireworks. Ravi describes that his guru lives in a treehouse of sorts in the jungle, completely alone, and in complete harmony with the tigers, leopards, snakes, monkeys, insects, trees, plants, etc. He is 79 years old, and has spent the last fifteen years preparing to go into the high Himalayas where he will live in the snow with the most meagre provisions. He is a modern day ascetic.

It is funny how I stumbled into this situation, and we'll see where the path leads from here. I'm both open and somewhat skeptical, but if this Sadhu actually happens to be God incarnate, I'm not sure I'll be able to recognize the fact. A real life Buddha, perhaps the rarest of all creatures on this Earth. Would you even know if one passed you on the street?

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I'm beginning to see the same theme in what I'm reading in a number of different books from Jung, Brunton, Krishnamurti, Osho, and Trungpa. It can be called the "Conscious", the "Overself", the "Observer", the "Mind", the "Great Spirit", among many other misleading names. They all contain the message that the ultimate answers lie within; that there is a higher Mind that, if we become aware of It, is perfectly aligned with all things in all of space and time. This is what I've been calling "Nature", and could also be called "God". It is fascinating that the very best in Western pschology (from Jung) only begins to approach discovering the secrets of the mind which have been revealed among yogis and sadhus and buddhas for millenia in the East. The books I'm reading by James George and Paul Brunton do a brilliant job of relating some of this Eastern wisdom to a Western frame of mind. It is all about knowing thyself. Self-mastery.

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I read in the newspaper today that India has grown by 700 million people (roughly twice the entire U.S. population) in the last 35 years. That is what I read. If this is true, and we continue on this path of growth as humans, we're sure to wipe ourselves out as a species. Perhaps this is our destined course, as Nature would have it, to restore Her health from this homo sapien cancer. If this isn't our desired course as a species, it is time, now, to evolve to a higher Being.

Last week, when 221 members of the U.S. House of Rep. vote against putting a price mechanism on the emission of carbon into the atmosphere, I wonder if there is any hope at all. Most of these Congressmen are still finding ways to reason around the scientific fact that humans are changing the natural atmospheric process. They do this because their interests (and the interests of their constituencies) are not preserved or furthered in the prospect of an entirely different economic system that factors in the price of pollution into our market decisions. Indeed, most of industry (particularly big industry)today would not benefit from this potential market shift. Sooner or later, as we continue along our current course, we'll hit a tipping point where enough people will demand a new system. It probably won't all happen at once, and in fact, many people are effectively already living in this new economy that is ready to pay for pollution.

The reaction in India to the passage of the climate bill in the House was that it will harm the Indian economy because taxes/tarrifs would increase for everything that they ship to the U.S. This is because there is a clause in the House bill (which will hopefully be omitted from the Senate version) that sets an additional import tariff only on countries that have not signed an international treaty pledging to reduce their own carbon emissions. Of course, China and India have been arguing that only developed nations which have been contributing to the problem of climate change for many decades should bear the cost of fixing the problem. They view any international climate treaty as a ploy by the U.S. to prevent China and India from becoming the new world superpowers. Needless to say, if the U.S. were to take radical action to reduce emissions, and China and India stay on their current course of economic development, our efforts will be more than nullified. So, the big showdown will be in December in Copenhagen, regardless of what happens to the current version of the House climate bill. This is a global issue. That said, the U.S. must take the lead in bringing about a new era of climate responsibility. It just so happens that the largest and most powerful industries in India and China are some of the dirtiest. This is going to be a fight. Perhaps the biggest fight mankind has ever seen. The "freedom fighters" of our generation will have to warriors of simplicity, spirituality, and sustainability. I've met many Indians who are already living in accordance with this global movement. Now, we just need to find some leadership...

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How do you start an organization that helps people to consume less and better by finding contentment and satisfaction from within instead of constantly searching without? The economic proposition: Save money by spending less. The spiritual proposition: Instead of throwing money and consumption into the personal void within, seek peace and satisfaction thru simple living and connection to Nature/the Overself/Great Spirit/God. We'll consume through every last resource on this planet and still not realize whatever it is we're after. What we're really after is beyond the consumptive ability of our body or our mind. We must rise above the desires of the body and the mind to a higher conciousness. You cannot consume your way to the satisfaction of the soul. What are we really after when we buy our third car? Happiness? Status? Who has more happiness or higher status than an enlightened person? We must recognize that our activity of profligate consumption has no endgame. That is exactly what makes it so unquenchable and so destructive. How do you start a business that sells to people's soul? The soul is not for sale. No commodity can cater to it. This would require an entirely new type of economy. Putting a price on pollution would be a good start.

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A quote from James George: "Can we change ourselves? Can we wake up? Or is all this talk of 'awakening' a romantic dream? The answer depends in large part on your point of view. If you are stuck with the common view that 'you can't change human nature', then you probably can't, since you assume this to be true. If you think that such a change is easily within your grasp, you will also likely be disappointed in due course, because it is not easy. But if you take a look at the great leaps that have already occurred in human evolution and human consciousness, from the African savannah, through the hunter gatherers to the agricultural settlements and on to our own times, there seems to be no reason to doubt that we are an unfinished species, endowed with some degree of free-will, and therefore with contradictory capacities for both self-destructive behavior and for extraordinary breakthroughs of creative energy and intelligence. As the present expression of this contradiction, humanity seems to be at the most crucial crossroads of its long history: we have the power to make the planet uninhabitable, and we also have the potential for a New Renaissance that would be not only sustainable but would begin to use the 80 percent of our forebrain that we seem not yet able to use today...This means that, if we awaken to the realization that we have to change, we will find that we have the capacity to go beyond what we thought were our limits, as individuals and as a species. If we must, we can. And now, if we can, we must. It is not for us to know the Master Plan...but this just might be it."

permalink written by  Katy and Mark Lewis on July 2, 2009 from Rishikesh, India
from the travel blog: India and Nepal
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Katy and Mark Lewis Katy and Mark Lewis
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We are two siblings from Colorado (aged 24 and 26) who find ourselves simultaneously between a job and a graduate school program. We both came down with a case of itchy feet, so we're going searching for the cure while we've got the chance!

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