April 1, 2009

108 beads, Ashrivad, Jesus, Jews and MTV ~ Piyarra Kutta.

Piyara Kutta Blog – Dharamsala, India March 2009

One thing that keeps coming to my attention is the fact that everyone here seems to value their spirituality. And not only do they value their own beliefs, they value yours and are respectful of that. It is a way of life as opposed as opposed to just something that they were born into. It is also a place where people come to practice their religion and hope to deepen their sense of themselves.

You first have the Tibetan Monks/nuns and the ever popular western want to be Buddhist. They are seen everywhere walking around with their japa malas (string of 108 beads.) These folks can be seen repeating mantras while fingering beads and doing one of the following; walking in circles around the main shrine in the Temple, walking in circles on a hiking path on the outskirts of the Temple, or doing what look like push ups in the main Temple. Depending on which activity they are practicing depends on how quickly they finish their 108 mantras. I was very impressed with the folks doing the push ups/prostrations. The western want to be Buddhists sit and drink a lot of tea while contemplating whether they will commit to a 10 day silent meditation course offered in the outskirts of Mcleod Ganj or if they will just stay in town and sit and drink tea and talk about Buddhism.

Next of course you have the Indian/Hindu population. Every neighborhood has its own temple that the community contributed their own personal money to have built. The sizes of each temple depends on the wealth of the neighborhood. I have seen simple dog house looking like structures with statues of Shiva inside. On the other end, I have seen a temple that is built somewhat like an amusement park ride with tunnels and such. The Indian population also seems to include blessings in their daily interactions with people. During a Hindi lesson the other day with Arvind’s wife, one of the first phrases to learn in the text book we were using was “May God Bless You.” or Ashrivad. Actually, the first word every tourist learns is Namaste. The typical greeting for every time of day which means ” The light within me honors the light within you.” or “I bow to that (divinity) inherent in you.”

I even experienced this practice during a recent visit to a the local superintendent of schools for grades 1 and below. The meeting was in hopes of getting permission to take some puppies into the local day cares to educate the children and their parents about rabies and dog welfare. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until my next visit to proceed with this plan due to the fact that many members of the community need to approve this project prior to implementing it. Security has been beefed up on who goes into these schools as many heinous acts towards children have become prevalent. However, the superintendent of schools was delighted with idea of the program and offered to assist to write a letter to the appropriate people. He spoke barely any English but what he did say to me was apparently a quote by Jesus, “Any act of service is an act of God.” Assuming that I was a practicing white western Christian, he spouted this out, even though I am a non-practicing cultural Jew. I was hardly offended.

Oh, and the Jews! Mcleod Ganj and the neighboring village of Bhagsu are swarming with young Israelis. Apparently, after serving their time in the Israeli army, this is the place to come PARTY. It is almost shocking at how many Israelis there are. I am not sure what if any spirituality they are finding here except for possibly finding God through marijuana. I do know of one Israeli who is here for service. He is a vet who is now volunteering with Arvind and HNS. He has performed a spay at this point and time and has hiked up into the mountains to treat a stray donkey with a horrid infection on his face. Tomorrow, we will be going to see the donkey with him to make sure the antibiotics are taking effect. I know, I know. What in the world is a stray donkey. Well, apparently, after the donkey is too old or weak to carry a load, they are let go and have to fend for themselves. This donkey is not fairing so well..

Ok.. so what does MTV have to do with spirituality? Nothing but I had to figure out a way to get it in this blog. Heidi Minx, my friend who is also in Dharamsala at this time, is a celebrity in the alt punk culture world. She has clothing lines, blogs, a book coming out, and a nonprofit called Built on Respect. Her non profit’s main goal in Dharamsala is to work with a group called “The Hope Center.” This group supports the thousands of Tibetans who live in India by teaching English so that more opportunities open up to these exiles in the world they live in today. While she is here, MTV Norway is running a blog on her experiences and she kindly put up a piece about Piyara Kutta.. check it out. I am on MTV!! http://www.mtv.no/mtv/?StoryId=70168&BlogId=9641&Offset=0#blog

She also shot a quick video and posted it on youtube:

Ok…since Heidi kindly gave me some free PR I am reciprocating. heidiminx has been working very hard to develop Built on Respect, anon-profit started in true DIY style that helps support young people who areworking towards positive social change!

Built on Respect is now one of three finalists in the MySpace Impact Awards; this is a
great opportunity! If Built on Respect wins, the charity receives a $10,000
grant, and AMAZING recognition on MySpace’s Impact channel! So, please, do me a favor and vote for Built on Respect by clicking on the link below..

Vote for Built
on Respect on MySpace Impact!

Enjoy the photos:

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