"I wish everyone would get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that its not the answer."
~ Jim Carrey (Yes, THAT Jim Carrey.)
"Only contentment can make you happy - desires fulfilled breed more desires. Keeping away from all desires and contentment in what comes by itself is a very fruitful state - a precondition to the state of fullness. Don't distrust its apparent sterility and emptiness. Believe me, it is the satisfaction of desires that breeds misery. Freedom from desires is bliss."
~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Happy people, I've been enjoying the groovy vibes of Rishikesh, one of the more famous yoga centers of India, for the past month. It's not an unreasonable question, but I'm never happy to hear it: "So, what are you DOING?" What is it with all these questions, like it's the frickin' Inquisition or something! Hence the title of my post. Now quit asking.
Though I barely have any ambition remaining in this body, I'm trying to shed what little I have. It probably sounds like nonsense to the majority of you, but it's not exactly a joke. It's actually a practice, and not such an easy one, to live, brace yourself: a free and unencumbered life. To see through the notion that there is a set of conditions that I can avail myself of, where, once those conditions are met, I Will Be Happy. You know how happy you can be when you finally have something that you've longed for? Some say that it's actually not the "having" that is the source of your delight; it's the lack of longing that accounts for it. That fits perfectly with what the Buddha said about the nature of life and its "unsatisfactoriness": it's caused by clinging desire.
Hold your desires loosely, and see what happens. No need to trust in the teachings. See for yourself.
I wondered how they get the paint into the deep cracks of these statues. Now we know.
It kind of made me want to have a go. Maybe next time.
A Belgian couple had ridden this tandem bike from somewhere like Hungary. Google Maps tells me the most direct route would be 8,000 kilometers, or 5,000 miles. Some people are tough! This is the patio area of the Vishnu Rest House, with the Ganges River just in front.
A vegetable seller in the lanes of Varanasi.
Revisiting the "Holy Sidewalk Dentist Baba from Varanasi" as I referred to him in this 2006 blog entry. The sharp-eyed among you may notice that he's cleaned up his act a bit: haircut, trimmed beard, and a shirt! (Maybe an IPO is in the offing?) But he's still working, hard, on the side of a busy street, at the gutter. The people standing up are in the waiting room. I arrived just in time to see a bloody tooth being yanked with a pair of pliers. The guy in the far left does that type of work.
Baba builds dentures and the like, while you wait. I don't know his story, and who gets the money, but he is really busy and working hard. He looks to be doing good work, too.
Nearby, I thought to let this guy know that his roots are showing. But I thought, heck, why burst his bubble?
On to holy Rishikesh, an 18-hour train further upstream on the Ganges. This giant statue at a big ashram is the monkey-god Hanuman, opening his chest to show that Sita and Rama reside in his heart.
I'm so not a hippie, but you might not think so if you saw the people I hang out with. This is the rooftop of my $5/night hotel in Rishikesh, where it turned out there was a big dance party fundraiser ($6 a ticket!) The Ganges runs through this valley way below, and you can make out the towers of the walking bridge in the center right.
This is the Original Choti Wallah! He's the mascot for a big Indian restaurant. Sitting a few feet away is the other Original Choti Wallah! Two brothers, apparently, had a falling out years ago and split their big restaurant in two, each of them calling themselves the original. I always go to the Original one myself - cuz they have ice cream.
Holy men and unholy men and miscellaneous stragglers line up waiting for handouts from generous Indian pilgrims.
Lovely Lucie, from the Czech Republic. I met her two years in Dharamsala and bumped into her this year in Tiru, in the far south, then again in Rishikesh. That might sound improbable but it's not uncommon. Her hair is growing out after she shaved her head recently - also not uncommon!
A kid and his sister had to be coaxed out of their house for these photos. I'm not always successful, but I'll give it a good try.
The little sister, who makes me melt.
My friend Jen volunteered six years ago at this orphanage in Haridwar, about an hour downstream from Rishikesh. She's there again this trip, and I came to visit for two nights.
Field trip! Taking a farm tractor and trailer to a nearby Hindu temple.
These adorable and healthy kids have really excellent care and look happy as can be. Their stories before they came to the orphanage, though, would curl your hair. Unless it was already curly, and then it would straighten it.
I love these two! I helped them on the monkey bars for a long time. They were just small enough that they couldn't quite manage swinging across on their own. Or maybe they just liked telling me what to do!
Yeah, OK, I love this kid, too! How could you not...
I'm not used to seeing water buffalo used to pull wagons, but here you are. I find it fascinating that this method of transportation hasn't changed much for thousands of years.
I forgot - I love this little girl, too.
We took another field trip the second day, to a nearby national park where there are wild elephants, plus these working elephants.
That's quite a load. That's all food for the elephants. We were surprised to see that they stripped off the leaves and only ate the branches.
The trunks are so dexterous. They're amazing animals, and I didn't like to see them chained.
This beauty's mom is a German woman who came to the orphanage to volunteer. She ended up staying, and has lived in the orphanage with her Indian husband (and two beautiful kids) for 17 years!
Through the bus window. We were parked for a bit while the kids went for a walk, and Jen and some kids were waiting in the bus. A BIG male monkey climbed through the window and sat down on a seat and started going through a bag. Jen said all she could do was yell, "MONKEY! MONKEY!" Monkey wasn't bothered, but eventually left.