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Published: February 5th 2017
Missing my friends and family today so I thought a little blogging to connect might help😊
Varanasi has been an incredible way to start this journey. It has given me some real insight into Indian culture and Hindu religion. I've been really lucky to meet a few Indian residents who have explained many of the customs in detail for me. I was also very lucky in that my first hostel bunk mates were exceptionally friendly and welcoming, so I had a lot of fun exploring with them. They were two Australian women and a man from New Zealand, we had a great time swapping stories and experiencing the intensity of Varanasi together. The funniest part of staying in this city is that it seems people never sleep. All through the night you can hear traffic horns, mooing cows, yowling dogs, people celebrating or advertising their shops and restaurants. Today at 8:00am you could already hear a man hollering the names of dishes on his menu's restaurant. When you're trying to sleep, it's annoying but still pretty comical. I love the diversity of this place. Many religions live together peacefully. Just now I can see Sikh men smoking, a Muslim man on his prayer rug, and a Hindu family all waiting for their planes (I'm writing this in the airport terminal).
Yesterday I spoke to two Hindu women who explained to me the basics of their religion. Hindus believe that each life has seven reincarnations, and the ease or comfortable nature of each life is based on your karma. For example, if you do many good deeds in your human life, you will likely be reincarnated into your next chapter with a lot of money, health, or love. If you've done bad things to others, you could be reincarnated into someone with a deformity or an illness. These things can also happen to someone based on the movements of the planets, so it is not totally in your control. Even in a single life, if you do good, good will return to you, if you do bad, bad will return to you. This concept is called karma, and is extremely important to Hinduism. After your seventh life, if you have a natural death and good karma, you will be cremated and your soul will reach Nirvana (heaven). If you die of means that are not natural (such as murder or suicide) there is a place in between life and heaven that your ghost will be trapped. Your family and friends must chant mantras to free your soul from this place, eventually bringing it to peace. It's relatively similar to the Christian concept of purgatory. This is why it is quite interesting that many wish to die in Varanasi. They believe they are ready to head straight to nirvana and do not want any more incarnations. It's a heavy question to ask if someone is ready for that.
These girls also told me that women are not allowed to attend the cremation ceremonies. There is a story of a woman who became so emotional at this service, that she threw herself into the fire. Afterwards women were banned. I asked the girls if this rule bothered them. They said that it does, they would really like to be allowed to attend the funerals of their friends and family, and they do not understand why they are blocked from this. They said things are getting better for women in India, but very slowly.
Another interesting concept they introduced to me is the idea of yogs. A yog Is a cycle of life on the earth, and it will last hundreds or thousands of years. At the beginning of a yog there is very little crime. When the crime becomes too much, everyone will die: Shiva (God) will destroy the cycle and cleanse the earth before introducing the new yog. The girls said that we at now nearing the end of a yog which is why things are so bad for humanity right now.
The perpetual cycling of Hinduism is so different than the singular nature of life in religions of the book (Islam, Judaism, Christianity). I've really enjoyed learning about it.
Now, for my guru session. I should mention that this was my first time seeing a clairvoyant and I really had no idea what to expect. I also had to allow a certain amount of blind trust to go on this endeavor. A basic reading with this guru, whose name I will not share for confidentiality purposes, cost 3100 rupees which is around 50 USD. So, ridiculously expensive. My hostel friends and I had already found it a tad suspicious that the guru needed 24 hours between my giving my name and our reading session. Was he just going to check out my Facebook? When I arrived for my reading, the guru was wearing a loin cloth and smothering the room in burning sage. He burned about three pots of it and still chain smoked cigarettes for the duration of our session. He was a tall, overweight man with many tattoos, and greasy hair that he kept combing back. His assistant placed paint in between his eye to open his third eye chakra (chakras are energy centers, there are seven that are found in different spots on the body, the third eye is the most powerful and existential of these). As I can't disclose the exact contents of his reading as per his rules, I will tell you my general opinion. There were certain things about my personality that I found it uncannny that he already knew. Almost every explanation of my personality was accurate, which was crazy because it's not like anyone could have clued him in. When he guessed the nature of my work, the number of members in my family, etc, I was skeptical because that information is clearly available online. He also explained what my four past lives were, if I had good or bad karma, and Whether my tattoos and piercings were helping or haunting me. The weird and uncomfortable thing was the amount of time the guru spoke about things of a sexual nature. He never touched me, but i was definitely uneasy with the focus he seemed to place on my sex life. I honestly think he might have been a bit of a creep. Luckily I had asked an Indian friend to wait for me outside, and he kindly did for the entire hour and a half, treating me like a sister. I think the reading was worth about 10 USD overall. I'm deducting $10 for my skepticism on the chance of him researching me and $30 for his being a creep. He even started the session saying he was "not going to misbehave with me". He also told me that if a woman is raped and alcohol is involved, that isn't rape--it's "pressure sex". That totally pissed me off because I'm obviously a big feminist and so being, an advocate for sexual health and consent. I'm a little annoyed that I dropped so much money on this, but I do believe in the worth of the cultural experience even if he turned out to be somewhat of a scam artist. Needless to say I will not be returning for the 8-10 healing sessions he thinks my soul requires. I was also clued in by another Indian man that healing work can be ill-intentioned and is often an excuse to get a woman naked. So F-- that.
I'm expecting to have many different interesting experiences along this journey but I've learned my lesson about this particular experience. Anyhow my plane is boarding, see you in Rishikesh!
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