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Sadhu: Varanasi, India ~ 2009 John David Becker

If at first you don’t succeed…  The Sadhu’s set themselves apart from other holy men in the Hindu faith.  Living lives of poverty and wandering, they do not collect earthly possessions and do not care about money.  Their bodies are not cremated at a burning ghat on the Ganges; rather they are sunk into the river.

In Nepal, there were supposedly real Sadhu’s and fake Sadhu’s.  The business of being a holy man was too good.  We found Sadhu’s to be hawkish and even more relentless about asking for money than the hawkers selling goods.  They would walk up to you and place flowers on your head and mark you with a bindi: promptly asking you for rupees after.  Not just a token amount either.  If you had a camera, Sadhu’s were more aggressive.  Photo?  200 rupees.  Oh, and you can bargain for less.

In Varanasi, we found the Sadhu’s to be less in-your-face.  I don’t know if they all requested money, but they didn’t actively look for it.  I did get some pictures of a less intimate nature, but I finally found the one Sadhu that I wanted a photograph of.  10 rupees.  Ok.  Get some shots.  Walk away.  Within 20 seconds, I realize I didn’t get the exact shot I wanted.  Went back for round two.  Did you forget me?  10 more rupees.  So I get the shot.  Cost me $0.50USD total.  Such an insignificant amount, but where’s the holy?  Tit-for-tat I guess.

Sue Fan in Pondicherry, India

Sue Fan, Sri Aurobindo Ashram

They say, one of the oldest methods of healing
Is by breathing deeply.

They say, while walking over grass,
To breathe in the colour green;
Which gives you a deep feeling of
Harmony with the environment.

They say, while walking alongside the sea
To Breathe in the colour blue;
Not only will the water energise you
But when combined with the colour blue,
It quietens your mind.

They say, green is one of the positive colours,
Suggesting an abundance of what we need
And generosity with what we have.
Green is associated with giving and receiving freely,
So that all may be in balance.

Green also relates to qualities of the heart,
Like sympathy, kindness, and compassion.
They say, it is good for the eyes
To walk bare feet on the grass.

I got on the E train at West 4th heading home from a seminar. When I stepped on the train, I think I was listening to “Welcome to the World” by Bobby Weir and Ratdog. There was something savory in the bass line, something bluesy in the guitar. The lyrics weren’t beautiful or poetic beyond measure, but they had heart. I wouldn’t concede that my musical taste is the highest form of absoluteness or that the tunes that fill my iPod would be considered classics to all. I think I can concede that, when I heard that song – like many songs – I felt that I wasn’t missing something. There wasn’t the emptiness of pop or the trendiness of hip-hop, the tragedy of emo or the angst of punk. All that was left was a feeling that a thought had been completed. An appreciation was born. A need to fill a void didn’t exist.

So how does this transpire to a new age of enlightenment? My thoughts that follow targeted the people surrounding me on that train, pondering their levels of consciousness.

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When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. -Barbara Bloom