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INDIA | Sunday, 7 February 2016 | Views [279]

I was sitting in my room earlier today and reflecting on the last few days. The word 'rattled' came to my mind. Rattled as in fazed but also literally, as if something in my chest has been shaken loose and is bouncing around within the confines of my skin and bones.

My meeting with Guru rattled me, Puri rattled me and yesterday, wandering the markets of Bodh Gaya, the beggars rattled me.

I had come up with a plan to keep whatever small notes I had in a pocket separate to my wallet, to save the embarrassment and awkwardness of having to open this up, and to give these to beggars that presented themselves until the wad run out. 

The problem being that having given 10 rupees to a succession of beggars the next in line took umbrage at receiving nothing and started pursuing me down the road, begging pot clanking and voice indignantly demanding. Ignoring him did not work so in the end I about faced and went back the way I had come. All this left a pretty bad taste in my mouth and an uncomfortable feeling in my body (somewhere). My carefully laid plan, an attempt to be 'generous' but as likely an attempt to stave off feelings of guilt had failed.

So, I have been rattled. My efforts to control myself and my environment, to hold chaos and disturbing emotions at bay have failed. A good thing too!! I probably need to rattle a lot more.

Later, sitting on my balcony and listening to birdsong, I reflected on the story of the Buddha going forth from his princely life of plenty in a secluded palace to become a wandering mendicant. I had been enjoying the song of the birds and thinking that here or on retreat or in my father's garden it is one of the great pleasure of my life and, I think, of life in general. Where would we be without it. I was also thinking how much I felt in need of the nourishment of the song, the garden and of being on my own after my experiences of the last few days. But I also thought that it would not be enough. Outside the gates lie beggars and poverty and dirt - death, illness, old age in the Buddha's language - and this cannot be avoided. I could imagine why the Buddha had to leave, even his wife and child, given who he was.

Today I went out again, this time not to the Bodhi Tree but in the other direction towards temples 'from every nation' to selectively quote Billy Bragg. Bhutanese, Vietnames, Thai, Tibetan and Cambodian and with the ultimate aim of finding the Triratna Buddhist Centre, my own Buddhist community. Once again I was armed with small notes and once again I was confronted with the same problem. Once I started to give, expectations rose. This time, however, the boy who missed out did not follow me down the road. 

I did reflect on why I was giving, did I even want to give, who do I give to given the sheer number of beggars and, the perpetual question, how can I justify spending hundreds if not thousands of rupees on myself or on gifts (with no problem) and give so little? At the moment, for example,  I am contemplating buying a vajra (Buddhist ritual 'diamond thunderbolt') I really like for several thousand rupees and would dearly like to buy another thanka (painting) that would cost even more. No answers yet.

I did not find the Triratna Buddhist Centre, by the way (or anywhere else for that matter) but am not too worried. Tomorrow I meet with Manidhamma and no doubt will be nearer to if not back in the fold.

Otherwise, I went for another tour of the Bodhi Temple complex yesterday, spending some time in the gardens and repeating to myself 'I cannot believe I am actually here! How lucky am I?' I also finished both 'The Sea of Poppies' and 'Oh Shit, Not Again'. Ultimately I was disappointed with the former, which is harsh considering how well researched and written it is. My disappointment has something to do with my feelings for the characters as I intimated in my previous blog. Although I am interested in them and care for them, I don't love them. Should any of them die, which I am sure they will in the next two parts of the trilogy, it won't break me up. As for the latter, I can admire the verve and boldness of the author but at risk of being prim (well, being prim) there was not much that was edifying in the story. I'm glad to have finished both books.

I can't bear to read '50 Shades of Grey' at the moment so have been continuing with the Bodhicaryavatara, a couple of verses on focusing the heart and mind on a task once decided on and until completion, and the biography of Dr Ambedkar, which I am enjoying.

So tomorrow, brings my meeting with Manidhamma and another chapter in my Indian adventure, which, currently rather like my books, I want to end as soon as possible. Not that I am having a bad time, on the contrary, I'm just rattled.. 


Tags: beggars, enlightenment, peace, temples

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