I woke up this morning at 2:33AM with “Thank You” by Alanis Morisette blaring in my subconscious ear. It’s a song that my sister used to play in her disc player on road trips when we were young. I didn’t know all the lyrics, but I definitely remember the Chorus: Thank you India, thank you terror, thank you disillusionment, thank you frailty, thank you consequence, thank you thank you silence.
Yesterday we went to Deer Park where the Dhamek Stupa is located. Yes, there were deer at Deer Park, and feeding the bucks, babies, and does was magical; and yes, there were ancient ruins dating back to 528 BCE of a monastery and various holy structures; and yes, this is claimed to be the site where Buddha gave his first teaching after attaining enlightenment and where the first Sangha was formed; and yes, there stood at the edge of the park the huge Dhamek Stupa built by Ashoka in 249 BCE; YET the MOST beautiful experience happened in yesterday’s space and time, not in ancient space and time.
A group of tourists from all over the globe speaking all different languages having all different faiths and understanding God and reality in all different ways walked around that stupa clockwise three times praying in their Mother tongue for some form of happiness and freedom.
We lit candles for loved ones and prayed at the base of the stupa (just like I used to do in the St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th avenue in Manhattan on lunch break) next to an Indian family who smiled at us with warm, welcoming eyes.
After our time in the park, we walked to a local restaurant arm in arm, stopping by a Tibetan vendor to invest in a couple warm scarves. A child beggar of perhaps four years with a baby in his arms followed us across the busy intersection asking for money, not knowing we had already given our daily limit to two other women beggars at the stupa.
The restaurant was filled with smoke from burning incense on their altar. I love that smell. We enjoyed chai tea, garlic nan, soup, and dal... Although we have had this meal before, it somehow tasted much more nourishing last night.
On our walk home, we stopped in a shop to buy warm pants and shirts to wear in the cold weather. Sometimes our electricity goes out at night, so we just use blankets to keep warm. The store owner told us how he was a political representative of this area, but didn’t make it long because he refused to gain financial lead by corrupt means. He said the political and educational system is corrupt. So he is starting from zero with a small clothing shop and renting out guest house rooms. The man’s nephew consequently was coming in town from the US that night, and the nephew had recently attended college in Amherst Massachusetts, where Jed grew up. After explaining our wish to learn Hindi, he smiled at us with warm eyes and offered the opportunity to come have tea in the shop whenever we wished. He would teach us.
You know, in some cultures they say the early morning is when you can hear the angels whispering words of guidance, or it is when you can hear the local deities sing to you words of wisdom.