Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Musings on Varanasi - As I Leave Bodh Gaya

August 5, 2006 - 08:47 IND

As I expected it might, Varanasi came at me in ways that would make any man do some falling-out-of-love with a town. Of course I couldn't have seen it, I couldn't have known right away that every smiling face I found was only looking for another way to slip more money out of my pants pocket. But the men offering their services as ghat-side explicators of funeral pyres, the boys inviting us to tour silk factories, the endless stream of rowers wanting to show us the holy sites along the river - every one of them, and the countless others who subversively approached us about like services without initially being clear about their purpose, spent their time turning the Ganges into something like a theme-park river ride. Like an ecstatic saint who's given herself up as a whore, too much of Varanasi has turned its mystical, spiritual being into a cheap thrill - and quite frankly who could resist her, at these exchange rates?

I actually have more to say about Varanasi than that; I think I've managed to resolve my issues with Varanasi in large part. I just didn't have the stamina to churn out the rest of my thought when I originally sat down a couple days ago to write what you see above.

Here's a photo from Bodh Gaya, taken especially for my brother Jed, who lived in Japan for two years. This is at the Nipponji Buddhist Temple, where I did some interesting observations of the temple and the meditations there.

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