10/21/2004: 1941 Glass House on the
Today was a tough day. We woke around 6:30 AM, had a
nice breakfast, then sat on our deck overlooking the
The masseur positioned me looking upward, tied a band around my head just above my ears and covered my face with a cloth. After this hot oil (lower than the temperature used to discourage castle stormings) was poured from a wood bowel through a funnel shaped outlet on to my head. Once I was pretty well slimed, he swung the oil dispenser in short arks so that the oil ran on to my head from temple to temple in a continuous and repetitive motion.
The warm sliming lasted about 15 minutes at which point I had enough oil on my head to fry up a good batch of French fries, and I was very relaxed. The message continued for another 30 minutes and was very good except that my butt was starting to complain about being in motionless contact with the teak table. It was a new experience, and that is what we are here for.
When we got back to our room Retan was waiting. He
apologized for the problems during our epic the day before and wanted to take
us where ever we wanted to go. In our daze the evening before we had not
really considered what Retan, Cookie and the driver were going to do while we
spent two days in our lovely bungalow on the
Retan, Cookie, the driver and the two of us loaded in the
car and we headed to Rishikesh for the second time. When we got to
Rishikesh we first needed to get some money. This was the first town
since we left
Retan led the way and soon he found someone who thought he
could help us change travelers checks in to cash. We went to a small
white water adventure rafting shop. White water rafting is a big business
About 20 minutes of slalom driving later we pulled in to a
small dirt lot and parked the car. From there we walked down a shop lined
street until we came to small jewelry store. We were welcomed in by the
proprietor who fortunately spoke good English. Even though he was a
little short on cash he was willing to cash our check with no strings attached
and at a better rate than the bank had given us in
Rishikesh is the
The Rudraksha beads are seeds that grow on trees that are only found in a few areas of the planet including the Indian and Nepalese Himalayas. They are believed to possess great power in healing (especially lowering blood pressure) as well as protecting the wearer and assisting them toward enlightenment. The myth and power of the Rudraksha is very prominent in the Hindu way of life. To read more go to RUDRAKSHA BEADS.
Last evening as I read my Hindu book while listening to the
Stage 1 is called Student. During this phase you
acquire knowledge. You learn about the world including the spiritual and
the scientific. You listen and pay respect to your teachers and parents
(seems we have gotten a little off track in the
Stage 2 is called Householder or Domestic. During this stage you attend to raising a family. You marry, work and teach your children well.
Stage 3 is called Retirement or Going to the Woods ( I am not making this up). This seems to be where we are at in life. Once you have raised your family and worked you simplify your life. You shed many of the material trapping of life and travel to the woods to commune with nature and observe the world in a new way. During this time, a person contemplates their life and attempts to formulate an understanding of "what it's all about."
Stage 4 is the stage of Sannyasin or Enlightenment. Here we move beyond all the burdens of everyday life and form some higher link that brings us a true understanding of what it is all about. This stage also requires that you become an ascetic and are willing to deny yourself some of the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, sex and shelter. Often such a person goes to the extreme of rejecting all social norms and expectations. These last requirement may be the reason that Hinduism has not caught on big in our western culture or our house. All of us can achieve this stage in our given life, but the old Brahmin Holy Men are like triple set points in tennis. They are about to win game, set, match and the ultimate tournament. They have lived so many good past lives that they have ascended to the highest of the four casts and their entire life is devoted to enlightenment. Once their current life is complete they will transcend to the One and will not return to labor in the human form again.
Brahmin Holy Man on bridge over Ganges in Rishikesh
Wandering the streets along with the Brahmins were the first
western tourists we had seen in weeks, and the first hippies we had seen in
decades. Rishikesh and a couple of its neighboring holy centers are where
the people from the west come to drop out of the rat race and become
enlightened. The Beatles were here, Kate Winslet (recently) was here and
Richard Gere was here. Less celebrated 20 somethingish kids wander the
streets today in saris and beads trying to capture a piece of the mysticism and
maybe irritate their parents. The amazing thing about the true Hindus is
that they accept anyone. They make no judgment about their someone’s
level of faith or how they may chose to practice it. I on the other hand
experienced some very un-Hindu responses to the young people walking about
(which I later retracted). My thought was that it was somehow
disrespectful to pretend to share or live the Indian experience with out having
been born in to it and lived it your entire life. When I took the time to
consider my self at 20, I could see how I could have easily been caught up in
the romanticism of living at least selected portions of this ascetic life. I
could see my self with a beard and long hair wearing my loose fitting madras
shirt and pants with hardly an extra dime in my pocket…wait, that is what I was
doing, only I was in college in
Not to be a hypocrite, but we couldn’t leave Rishikesh with out doing a little shopping for traditional Indian clothing. We had a wonderful experience get Mo fitted and instructed in sari wearing by a very kind and patient shop keeper.
Mo getting fitted for sari in small shop in Rishikesh
Construction project in Rishikesh. The many ton concrete roof slab and rebar are supported by hundreds of wood poles and a Brahmin. The poles are propped up on stacks of bricks.
Tomorrow we head back to Dehli.