Friday, August 17, 2012

Finding Yourself in India

One often hears people talk about so-and-so "going to India to find themselves". Most of the time this phrase is said in a disparaging way, and sometimes this suspicion can be justified. 
But actually, the Self does not reside particularly in any place, and not especially in India. Also the Self cannot be found, because it cannot be lost. The Self is who you are, and you cannot cease to be the Self, even if the body dies. 
And when we talk about finding the Self, we are really talking about losing the ego, getting rid of the illusion that we are not the Universal Self; and India is a great place to do that (I can say that from personal experience); but not the only place, by any means.
In India, especially in rural communities, people have not developed the ego to the extent we have in the West. There may be other problems there, but that's a different story. And when you are there, this lack of ego rubs off on to you.
Ego emerged in human beings as part of the self-preservation instinct - if there is something that seems to be threatened, there is a greater motivation to escape from danger or suffering. But that "something" is really just a by-product of body consciousness, and is not the Self. The Self cannot be threatened.
In India, in the past, the weather was mild and the natural environment was fruitful, which meant that there was much less of a struggle for a human being to keep body and soul together, or compete with others. Strong communalism in villages, helped give this sense of security. 
Things are perhaps not so good nowadays, with deforestation changing micro-climates and making it harder to live off the land; also people are increasingly moving to big anonymous cities where the extended sense of self as community is eroded.
India also has some very sacred places where, in a sense, you could say that the awareness of Self is 'concentrated' in those places.
And of course, the legacy of many saints and Incarnations is also to be felt there.

Village dance in Orissa, India.

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