My Trip to India

Each time I visit India, I'm like a fish in water. Why do I perk up, feel lighter, better in my body, and smile more? The past few weeks, I've realized why: in the parts of India I visit, the culture is fundamentally more satisfying than what I experience in the West. In Western culture, we often fail to see ourselves as souls, much less other people, or animals, rivers or mountains. With this mentality, we are able to exploit. But, as we practice yoga or sit in meditation, a new perspective comes. We learn to still the mind, and subsequently something mysterious comes into focus- a profound consciousness and capability for love that simply can’t be only complex brain functioning. We realize we are a soul. From this, we deduce that others are also souls. Interestingly, in certain parts of India, everyone already understands this. It’s the norm! And, as a result of this knowledge, a completely different culture reigns: instead of a narcissistic culture, there exists a devotional culture. We already know what a narcissistic culture looks like- it’s a culture where ‘me’ and ‘my family’ are in the center of everything. But what does a devotional culture look like? In Mayapur, a village in Bengal, devotional culture is evident on the banks of the river Ganga. People understand that the Ganga is a soul, so pilgrims visit her daily, lovingly, as one would visit a parent or grandparent to delight them; perhaps offering a small gift, a flower garland or ghee lamp. Ganga returns their love- by flowing abundantly, offering her waters, which cleanse not only the body, but the heart as well. In Vrndavan, a city four hours outside Delhi, devotional culture abounds in the temples. People understand there is soul who creates the whole Universe, and hundreds of temples have been lovingly built so that people can have darshan (viewing) with this Supreme soul. Not just a few people visit, but seemingly everybody- the temples are packed. If you ask, pilgrims will describe how the love they offer is returned to them- in mysterious ways, and exponentially. Even in the streets, devotional culture can be witnessed. I recall, in a busy street marketplace, I watched a beggar woman approach a Western lady, asking for rupees. The Western lady put some bills in the woman’s hand; after the beggar woman’ s hand closed around the bills, she grabbed the lady’s head and touched it to her own in gratitude, holding this position for some time. It was two souls, offering what they could to each other. So, acts of deep love are the primary activities in a devotional culture. This is what a soul-based culture looks like. I was immersed in this way of life for the duration of my trip, and I found I became happier, and happier, and happier. One day, one of my teachers commented that I looked downright blissful. But the explanation for this increased happiness is simple: at some point we realize our material possessions- car, house, physical appearance, popularity, wealth, job, etc. can’t really, truly satisfy- they’re actually empty, and a bit boring. The soul, however, is unendingly beautiful, deep, and interesting- and connecting with it is so, super satisfying. So, in a soulful society, who wouldn’t be happier? Having returned to the West, land of wealth, but a society perpetuating soullessness and striving to explain everything as chemical interaction, I have to remind myself that devotional culture is still a possibility- it feels like swimming upstream, like a battle. Sometimes life is like this. However, there are many ways to create devotional culture, even within this society. Reading yoga philosophy, and finding like-minded truth seekers (sat-sanga) to hang out with are two great options. But, it’s said that the most powerful way to create bhakti, or devotional culture, in one’s life is through kirtan- the chanting and hearing of a mantra. So, on March 29th, I'm collaborating with DJ Dru Ali of Mental Physix, creating a 2 hour yoga class with a live, mantra-music soundscape at Purple Long Beach! I’ll speak a bit about bhakti-yoga, mantra, and kirtan before we flow. If you’re interested in inviting some devotional culture, some bhakti, into your life, it will be a great introduction. I hope to see you there. I’m happy to be home at Purple- thanks so much everyone for such a warm welcome back.