Sunday, January 13, 2013

Death in Tiru, real and imagined

"Do not waste time with this and that. You can possess the authority of the Buddha. Of what use is it to enjoy this fleeting world? The body is as transient as dew on the grass. Life passes as swiftly as a flash of lightning. Quickly, the body passes away. In a moment, life is gone."
 ~ Dogen

A beautiful young woman came to India to learn about meditation. From what I'm told, she was lively, funny, and full of youthful vigor. She became sick, as people often do in India, but it didn't seem serious. After a brief illness, and without warning, she died.

It's a tragedy on all levels - for her parents and other family members, her friends, and the people who knew her on her last days. It made me think about my own temporary existence, and imagine that I might also die suddenly, with little warning. We all know it's possible for any of us. Or, we sort of know. Actually, we know but we don't know. In some theoretical way we understand it, but we can't quite wrap our heads around it. But it's still worth trying, because this is our reality, right now. We are temporary, frail, transient beings, and we don't know when it will happen to us.

You may have heard me talk about this before: now is the time. Are you living the life that you would choose in your heart of hearts? Are you acting in accordance with your deepest values? Are you being as kind and loving as you'd like to be? If you're not living the life you've imagined, when will you start? Maybe today's a good day to begin again.

Much love,

All the photos below are from Anandwan, the leprosy community where I was just volunteering for three weeks.

Oh, the people in Anandwan are so sweet and lovable, such gentle ... HOLY CRAP! Do you see this guy's expression?! I'm glad he's not holding a sword cuz he looks like he could use it. Yeah, OK, I exaggerate, as usual. I think he's the same guy as in this photo from last year.

Can you imagine your grandma sitting comfortably on a concrete floor? When I'm her age it'll be a one-way trip, and three beefy orderlies will have to help me up. I can't wait!

Yeah, bat your eyes, and put your hand on my leg, you little devil you! She looks so sweet, but when we couldn't find the nice shawl that Xulia gave Jyoti, eventually it came flying in from overhead. This one had it tucked under her own mattress. Stealing from Jyoti - not nice, Grandma!

These bike-chairs are great for people with disabilities but good arm strength. The right arm turns a crank to motor around. They're pretty useless going up any kind of a hill, though.

At one of the tea-parties at the chai shop.

I love this kid! His mom is in the background. She's deaf, and he hardly makes a peep himself.

I wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home. But then I thought, he'd probably want to eat or something eventually and I decided it was too much work.


On silent days Nathan led us on two-hour silent walks around the grounds of Anandwan.

This little girl, Sana, looks like she's really tracking in this photo, but she's pretty non-responsiveness most of the time. She quite mentally disabled, has advanced leprosy, is an orphan, and now lives in the hospital because there's no other place for her. Dang, that kid's banged up. I spent some afternoons with her and she was kind of a handful. She pulled at my hand like a Labrador Retriever.

This farming plot is just across from the old ladies home.

These guys crack me up. They were just hanging out and having a chat next to our guest house as I headed to breakfast.

One grandma helps another into the old folks home.

I was going to get some windshield cleaner for this guy's glasses. That's not a true story.

Some crazy looking caterpillar.

Carsten and Xulia walking with Jyoti. Baba Amte's grave is just in the background, and she always wants to go there. Then on to the chai shop, where she got her annual Coca-Cola. Imagine that - one Coke for the year. She wanted ice cream, too, but they were out. Maybe next year - cuz no one else is buying her Coke or ice cream.

One of the nurses in the hospital ward.

Christmas night bonfire and dinner.

Zohar holds up a candle to Dr. Amte, one of Baba Amte's children, to celebrate her 60th birthday.

A vendor at the weekly market.

As soon as this guy saw my camera he started posing with his chickens. Funny, I guess.

A Muslim man at the market.

Shaving clinic at the old folks home.

Saris drying in the sun.

Two baby cows at the dairy inside Anandwan.

The cow's milk in my chai? It's mostly milk from water buffalo.

Spices at the market.

I de-grossified this photo for the sensitive among you. It may not look like it, but trust me. I thought about looking away when he slit the goat's throat, but I realized he's going to cut it anyway, I might as well see what happens. It's part of my "alignment with reality" training.


How long does fresh fish last in the hot sun, anyway? The black catfish-looking ones in the foreground are still alive.

Fried stuff.

Veggies, chickens, freshly-slaughtered goats, cookies, fruit - we got ya covered.

Sweet toast, for dunking in chai.

A local man with almost blonde hair recognized us from the market.

Cauliflower, onions, eggplant?...

I like this photo that I took as it was getting dark.

The full moon.

The ladies dorm room that Jyoti lives in, on movie night. We were worried that Jyoti wasn't getting enough to eat, so I went in to investigate without telling people what I was doing. I pretended like I was watching the awful Hindi movie cuz I like them, when I was actually waiting for Jyoti's food to come. After an hour and a half I decided that she must have eaten just before I arrived. Oops. Good thing I really do like Hindi movies.

The colorful grandma's basking in the morning sunshine.

More color.

Here's the hospital, with Sana and Neesha in the distance, along with Carsten.

Lilly, from France, making friends with Neesha, who I wrote about last year. Neesha is blind and quite severely mentally disabled, though she is able to do some things - like hold her feet up to put on her shoes and feed herself if you hand her the food. She can also really give a great hug. That's her super-power, for sure.

An evening construction crew digs a ditch near our guest house using torches for light.

(The End)