Day 073- Gull!ble !ndia
2008/11/16 § Leave a comment
Whenever you see Indians burn their loved ones on TV or on pictures- after they are dead that is- this usually captured in Varanasi. Varanasi is a wholly place to the Hindus and plenty of people come here to be cremated. The process itself has little resemblance with a peaceful and graceful happening. In fact it rather reminds of a busy fair or flee market.
However, completely unmotivated, Indian bystanders will inform you that “Cremation is education, and burning is learning”. I am not making this up, it has been told to me like that every time when I passed this place where they throw corpses into the smoking flames and where they jack butter and sandlewood powder into the fire to make the corpses roast well.
People never got tiered to add that I am guest in India and that we should all show respect. They probably could see my slightly amused but very little impressed expression. The phrase “burning is learning, cremation is education”, even though a poor rhyme, made me wonder what hides behind it. So I grabbed the next best guy and asked him what it means. “Learning about life”, he replied. “Learning what about life?”, I insisted. He explained that you would learn about life and dead due to the cremation. So you would be educated in spiritual ways.
Alright…sure… So, naturally I needed to know more. But all that happens is that they keep repeating the above phrase over and over again, like a mantra, until they maybe believe it themselves. I mean c´mon…if you want me to have respect you need to give me more. However, all the Spanish and British hippies standing around seemed to get into the groove of the human roasting, contrary to me.
Being the spoil sport that I am when it comes to spiritualism and religion I explained to my Indian friends, that it is bizarre to me how one can actually think this has any value. I mean come on, nirvana? It seems that they indeed believe that being burned in Varanasi can guarantee them access to what they call nirvana, and they pay real cash for it, loads of it.
I find it impressive, how complicated the myths have become that humans have invented in order to cope or deal better with their own mortality and their loved ones dead. Understandable and psychologically certainly useful. But sadly enough people all over the world hold their believes to serious and not only defend them against other believes but also attack other´s believes. Where is the tolerance in that? No, I cannot accept nor respect this. Though it is fun to watch, I must admit.
However, this explanation did not go down well with my Indian friends. So they became a bit “short” with me and offered me to make a donation to the 103 years old “mama” who runs the “hospiz”, as they called it. “It would be against my believe to make a donation”, I explained. Which caused them to become even less impressed with me. “Then come and see my cloths factory and buy a nice scarf of shorts”, they insisted.
Life and dead are so close at times. I walked off silently, without new scarf or shorts….
In an other conversation I asked a guy who bothered me with explaining the “meaning of life” to me, without me asking him for it, if he believed in reincarnation. Since he did I had found the victim that I wanted. I wanted to know if he would agree that people who do good are born into a good situation and people who do bad are born into bad circumstances in their next life. He agreed. Bingo!
So, most Europeans must have been really good in their formed life, considering our prosperity and our easy, wealthy living, and an awful amount of Indians must have done awful things in their last life, considering their poor living circumstances, I insisted. He indeed agreed. I explained to him that it then is strange how the Indians are the ones who believe in reincarnation while literally almost none of the noble Europeans believe in it. The rest of that conversation became very short.
It is not necessarily that I walk around trying to piss people off, not only at least, but really, does anyone ever think their arguments through anymore? I am afraid that as long as one argues with religion, you will find they will not think. Else the myths that build on thousands of years of mere story-telling would be identified as what they are: empty and at times not even interesting stories.
It is interesting to be here and see all this and hear the myths behind the temples, the stories behind the naked babas in the streets and the funky god-tales behind the rites, but it is sad to see once more that a tradition is stronger also in this part of the world that common sense, logic and human intelligence and able to substitute in one more society tolerance, sympathy and compassion for others. And that here, in such a diverse society as India with such a violent past and also present, which is based on religious hatred and intolerance. A real shame when one think about what this will mean for the future…