By Barbara Briggs
India as a whole possesses a welcoming soul, a loving, open heart, and an infinitely tolerant persona, says Barbara Briggs.
In what other country on earth could this happen? Recently, I was visiting Uttarkashi, a hill station in Uttarakand. While there, I walked into a shoe shop and saw a pair of shoes I liked. They were perfect walking shoes and the exact colour I wanted. When I inquired about the price of the shoes, I realised I hadn’t enough money in my purse to purchase them. So I went and asked the manager if he could hold them for me until the next day.
He smiled broadly and looking into my eyes, said: “Take them with you. You can bring me the money tomorrow.”I was speechless. He didn’t even know me as I had never been to his shop before.
“Take them with you. I’ll be here tomorrow,” he repeated with a gentle wave of his hand. He put the shoes in a bag and handed them to me.I walked out of the shop amazed by what had just happened. THIS is India! This is why I am living here rather than in the USA or Europe! Where else would I be treated like this? Of course, this may not happen so easily in Delhi or Mumbai, but here in this hill station, a holy place, it can still happen, even today, in 2016.
Another similar incident which highlights the difference between India and the West occurred a few months ago. I was checking my bags into a domestic Air India flight. I travel frequently and my bags are usually overweight. On a recent trip from Switzerland I had to pay Â£200 for excess baggage. When my bags were checked in by the Air India attendant, he looked at me with a big smile and said: “Your bags are a few kilograms overweight. Would you like me to charge you or should I let you go for free?”I happily replied: “Let me go for free.” And he did! India is really quite unique. This was more apparent than ever when I returned last year after living in Switzerland for one year. When I stepped out of the plane at Indira Gandhi International airport, I felt like I had just stepped onto a different planet! I felt: “There is so much LOVE here!” It was remarkable how palpable the vibration of love was and how striking the difference between this country and the one I had just left. It was a relief to be back “home”.Some of my acquaintances in the West don’t understand why I keep coming back. When I told my brother I had booked my flight to India, he asked, in consternation: “Why are you going back to India?!”My reply was: “Because India is my home!”It might be difficult to fully explain this reply because it relates to my deepest feelings. Nevertheless I will make an attempt.
“There have been more saints, sages and fully enlightened beings in India than anywhere else in the world. This is an indication that the country supports the growth of higher consciousness.”
At the first glimmer of dawn, I wake up to meditate and then go to attend the aarti in the Anandamayi Ma samadhi in Kankhal, Haridwar, where Ma’s sacred ashes are enshrined. While the pujari performs the puja, an elderly Bengali man sings slokas, his voice resounding in surging waves of love and devotion. I am in ecstasy. My body is flooded with bliss and I just know this is where I belong. Sitting on the carpet in front of me are 30 angelic-looking pundit boys who live in the ashram and attend the school here. After the aarti, I sit silently in the temple. The ambience is so divine. I feel very grateful to be able to witness such a tender heart-stirring ritual.
On my way to my flat not far away, motor bikes whiz past me, too close for comfort and then a car speeds by, without even honking his horn. I have to squeeze as close to the railing over the River Ganges as I can to avoid being hit. There are also piles of gravel, mud and sand in small mounds along the road. The road is in the process of being repaved. I marvel that it is actually getting done at all! But it is and it is almost finished!
India is unlike any other place. Granted one may see a pile of debris on the street, or a family of pigs waddling their way down the road searching for scraps of food, or a huge bull resting regally beneath a shady tree, or a horde of monkeys screeching from a rooftop, but what one cannot see with the eyes is the ocean of love murmuring at the depths of life or the flood of kindness that beckons, or the songs of devotion surging in the hearts of the people. Of course not everyone is loving and kind but India as a whole possesses a welcoming soul, a loving, open heart, and an infinitely tolerant persona.In my eyes, India is the most spiritual country in the world. Some people say that India has lost its pristine glory and that the Vedic knowledge is being eroded. But I feel that the ancient Vedic culture is still alive and pulsating in the breath of India. What are the signs of an advanced society? There have been more saints, sages and fully enlightened beings in India than anywhere else in the world. This is an indication that the country supports the growth of higher consciousness.One can enter into the divine aura of India if one just allows oneself to overlook some of the inconsistencies and contrasts that one is confronted with everyday. Life is certainly not boring! This is an unusual country. It functions in a way that is not consistent with what the Western mind considers workable and yet things do work! One must just let go of some of one’s preconceptions and step into the new dimension of reality that is “India”. It may transform one’s world view in ways that one will never forget, and one may, like me, even find it difficult to leave India one day!
About the author: Barbara Briggs is a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. Her new book PILGRIMAGE ON THE PATH OF LOVE is available on Amazon.
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