‘God created man his own image’. Talk about misinterpretations. And this one is a biggie.
The foundation of Christianity assumes that God, a man, did such a thing. This God therefore has to, amongst other gross acts, cut his nails, though with some of the things done in his name he must be biting them down to the knuckles by now.
‘God created man his own image’, if we’re to accept such a statement, surely means that God created man his own IMAGINATION. After all he was an expert quantum physicist, indeed the creator of quantum physics and so the sexist labeling ‘he’ created us all from his imagination, not from his image as a bearded paternal misogynist.
I get that he may have done this from boredom and maybe loneliness but taking this on board must mean that we are all one, desperately trying to get ‘home’ by realising that all we think is real and important actually isn’t and our purpose in life is to, well realise that. As Ram Dass once said, ‘we are all already enlightened, we’re just being busy thinking we’re not’ but death will sort it eventually and probably temporarily until we come back down for another lucid dream – aka life.
And that brings me to levitating Buddhists and the like. Really? I can get that levitation can be achived by meditating and losing attachment to the body that gives a feeling of such lightness that you feel that you are astrally floating but to bounce about with legs crossed to be seen as levitation when in fact it’s nothing more like being a contortionist on a bouncy castle.
This is not levitation, this is a man balancing on a stick
which leads on, in my mind, to drug taking – which is fine for having a great time at a party and discovering the secrets of the universe that are forgotten in the morning but if anything drugs delude one from the picture like going to a festival and staying in a 5 star hotel. You were sort of there, but not really, not honestly. Anyone can take drugs. All you have to do is be able to inhale or swallow which most people are capable of – but all drugs borrow from the future. Take MDMA (E). We all have a supply of serotonin, as we all have a number of breaths to breathe. Take E and you borrow a little from your future supply, take a lot and you borrow a lot and at some point along the line you will reach a drought or even a trench. It’s no surprise that so many of the ravers from the 80’s and 90’s are now depressed.
Similarly some Buddhists have commented that we have a certain amount of breaths and when they’re used up, so are we, so a secret to long life could be to simply do things that don’t make you breathe fast so yoga is good, jogging is bad (and for the knees, ask any nurse or doctor who sees all the runners and joggers for knee replacements in their 40’s and 50’s) being calm is good, stress is bad.
And finally, when I see or hear of people who shave their heads to prove their devotion to a guru or belief I become truly sorry for bald people. What are they supposed to do to show their commitment, wear a wig? And if not, how do the rest of us know that their not imposters?
so in short, the secret to long life is yoga, keeping your hair until at least it leaves you of its own accord, to avoid jogging and running and to immediately change to a stress free job and avoid drugs if you want to be free. And eat beetroot.
There was a time that before starting my day I would run downstairs and heat my clothes in front of an electric fire before running off to school. Eventually I would wake to an alarm, a quick wash and off to my factory job.
When I left the factory and became a salesman, my day started by eating breakfast in front of Anne Diamond on a 22 inch television set.
In time, like so many people, for whatever reasons, I was drawn to the hippy enclave of Glastonbury and set up home there, where my days so often started with a dog walk up or around the Tor and on to a friend’s house for a morning, super strength, anxiety inducing coffee.
Time moved on and the days’ beginning was making phone calls and skipping or speeding through breakfast to walk the pointless, eternal treadmill to serve the system.
But lately, with a renewed inner calling, my days more often that not begin by heading to morning prayers and a lyrical sing-song (Aarti) with a Bhajan (a Hindu Devotional song) or two thrown in for good measure followed by a half hour of silent meditation – all from 7 to 8.30 am.
I so now wish I’d have had this start to the day for most of my life because Anne Diamond doesn’t come close and all this in the town that I’ve spent the last 22 years which has had its very own Ashram for 15 of them, but only recently did I venture in.
Peace has never been so accessible and it’s completely free and nobody expects you to wear only a loin cloth or have a beard grown to the navel or hair that houses a entomologists wet dream.
The people there are dedicated and lovely and it is always busy with world travellers and seekers, yet hardly any of the ‘new age’ population of Glastonbury have ever entered.
Do check it out http://shekinashram.org/
The accommodation is healing, pure, vegan, homely and very reasonably priced and there is always something to do as evidenced in the daily program (at the above link) and with lots of different styles of yoga taught
And on a Friday evening is Kirtan – and that is a revelation for anyone with a love of communal singing that doesn’t involve Welsh choirs.
To get the gist of all of the above, check out one of the Ashram hits on you tube at
Shakespeare divided life into “seven ages”. In Hinduism, human life is believed to comprise four stages. These are called “ashramas” and every person should ideally go through each of these stages:
- The First Ashrama – “Brahmacharya” or the Student Stage
- The Second Ashrama – “Grihastha” or the Householder Stage
- The Third Ashrama – “Vanaprastha” or the Hermit Stage
- The Fourth Ashrama – “Sannyasa” or the Wandering Ascetic Stage
Brahmacharya – The Celibate Student:
This is a period of formal education. It lasts until the age of approximately 25, during which, the young person leaves home to stay with a guru and attain both spiritual and practical knowledge. During this period, he is called a brahmachari, and is prepared for his future profession, as well as for his family, and social and religious life ahead.
In western culture of course most young people don’t go off with a guru but instead learn about being on Earth, go throught the school, college and university shaping system and some ally themselves with foam clubs in Ibiza, recreational drugs, lots of alcohol but by around 25 they start to ‘grow up’ yet it is debatable where that ends, if indeed it ever does
Grihastha – The Married Person:
This period begins when one gets married, and undertakes the responsibility for earning a living and supporting a family. At this stage, Hinduism supports the pursuit of wealth (artha) as a necessity, and indulgence in sexual pleasure (kama), under certain defined social and cosmic norms. This ashrama lasts until around the age of 50. According to the Laws of Manu, when a person’s skin wrinkles and one’s hair greys, one should go out into the forest.
In western culture, when a person’s skin wrinkles and their hair grays, going into a forest is the last thing on their mind. It is more likely that they will go into a botox clinic or a sports car dealership
Vanaprastha – The Hermit in Retreat:
At approximately around 45 to 50 this stage of a human begins – when their duty as a householder comes to an end: One may have become a grandparent, the children are grown up, and have established lives of their own. At this age,one should renounce all physical, material and sexual pleasures, retire from his social and professional life, leave his home, and go to live in a forest hut, spending his time in prayers.
This is where western culture often heads for a bottle or anti-depressants or at best the formulation of the dreaded ‘bucket list’, as western culture doesn’t have a remedy for what to do at this time, so now we see news reports of 90 year olds jumping out of planes or 70 year olds frequenting foam clubs in Ibiza with aging DJ’s pumping out tunes whilst high on arthritic cream and deep heat.
It seems a lot of people, not exposed to anything beyond sports and soap operas still steer clear of things considered ‘spiritual’ such as meditation and buddhist retreats as that’s what ‘weird’ people do. The Assembly Rooms, in my home town of Glastonbury, which is run and owned by shareholders of the alternative bent, has tried on many occasions to attract the other 50% of the town’s non-alternative population, those not into ‘hippy things’ but to no avail as the non-alternative residents see the Assembly Rooms as a hippy stronghold and would avoid it even if Gary Barlow made an appearance and it seems that unless somebody has had a breakdown (or breakthrough) that has led them to look beyond the ‘norm’ then never the twain etc.
But then there is yoga.
Practiced now by so many sectors of social society from incarcerated prisoners to premier football teams and it currently being the fastest growing pastime on Earth, it seems that a crossover is definitely underway. People come to yoga for many reasons and indeed some stay within the realms of exercise and fitness and never venture further but I think that is the exception and not the rule. For those that attend more than just a handful of classes and become regular participants there comes a point when they start to look more closely at the whole thing, be it the chanting or the breathing or the meditation or simply the origins and that usually sparks the beginning of a change of life via an opening of the mind that yoga is not zumba. Western culture has a long way to go still. Yoga is relatively new. Although the popular view is that it was David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff that introduced the west to yoga only just over 40 years ago in the early seventies,
in fact it was Theos Bernard that brought it to us here in 1937 with the subsequent publishing of ‘Heaven Lies Within Us’ in 1939..
but still that is only just over 70 years, when yoga has been practiced for many thousands, so we are still at pre school and can be forgiven for desiring all the yoga accoutrements.
Ironically, as India clamors to be westernised, embracing the Macdonalds culture in a predominately vegetarian country, the West has yoga as its fastest growing industry and a huge move towards vegetarianism. Who knows where we will be in another twenty or thirty years as more and more of us reach that 3rd stage of life
more yoga related blogs at http://kevollier.com/category/yoga-2/
following on from http://kevollier.com/2014/07/25/rishikesh/
Rishikesh before the arrival of The Beatles in 1968 was pretty much unknown to Westerners but there is no doubting that it was indeed this visit by the Fab Four that put Rishikesh, Meditation and Yoga onto the current mainstream map.
The Beatles, simply put, is why Rishikesh is what it is today – the yoga capital of the world – and the number 1 spiritual backpacking destination on the planet – but – you wouldn’t know this when there. There are no shops selling Beatles memorabilia, and their songs from the White Album, which was mostly written in this town along with other of their tunes, are not blaring from every shop and coffee stop. There is a Beatles Cafe hidden away in an underground blaze of buildings outside of he main tourist zone but that’s it.
The greatest monument to The Beatles is not the Cavern Club in Liverpool nor is it the National Trust owned childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and neither is it Penny Lane or the zebra crossing in Abbey Road. It is the crumbling ashram that The Beatles briefly lived in with the Maharishi in Rishikesh. That’s the spot where the Beatles opened their hearts and minds and in the case of Harrison and Lennon, were never closed again. It is the must visit antiquity for any fan of the Beatles but it has to be done soon because in 5 years it will be likely be gone as the jungle is taking it over – and fast.
In the mid-1960s, the Beatles became interested in Indian culture after using drugs in an effort to expand their consciousness and in 1966 Harrison visited India for 6 weeks and took sitar lessons from Ravi Shankar.
The band’s visit was one of the their most productive periods. Their interest in the Maharishi changed Western attitudes about Indian spirituality and encouraged the study of Transcendental Meditation to the rest of the world. They first met the Maharishi in London in August 1967 and then attended a seminar in Bangor Wales. They had planned to attend the entire 10-day session, but their stay was cut short by the death of their manager, Brian Epstein. Wanting to learn more, they kept in contact with the Maharishi and made arrangements to spend time with him at his teaching center located in Rishikesh.
Along with their wives, girlfriends, assistants and numerous reporters, the Beatles arrived in India in February 1968, and joined the group of 60 people who were training to be TM teachers including musicians Donovan and Mike Love of The Beach Boys.
So today was an exciting day for me. We were going to find the ashram. Brought up on The Beatles – my mother tells me when I was born, and subsequently taken back to the ward, the first song I ever heard was ‘She Loves You’ as that was playing on the hospital ‘wireless’. I was even born on September 19th, the same day as Brian Epstein (and Twiggy as it happens but that has no relevance) and I have known every word of every song, verbatim, since I was 7.
We had to ask where the ashram was, as it isn’t signed or mentioned anywhere yet every resident knows where it is. It is a mile down from the Swarg Ashram village, within Rishikesh, beyond where the path ends and forays into the edge of the jungle, or actually where the jungle forays towards town. Even 100 yards away, we had to ask some westerners where it was..
We were met at the gate by a local guide who was recommended by a departing scouse Indian couple. Then there was an entrance fee, of 5op each. The guide was invaluable. The first thing we learnt was that there were 121 two storey meditation pods circumnavigating the huge ashram where people were left to lose their minds. The Beatles had, wait for it….pod number 9 (explains a lot doesn’t it?)
We were taken to the levitation hall which looks like it was made from Chesil Beach and our guide assured us that levitation was a regular occurrence
Taken on to the roof of a mediation room
and into the collapsing and fascinating Yoga Hall which has been left to the graffiti artists and apparently the odd visiting Tiger…
The weird thing was that if anywhere had a lingering spirit or ghost of the past then this was the place. The whole atmosphere of the ashram was haunting, a crumbling statue in time of the minds of people who were desperately trying to get out of them and although I debated why it was that the local tourist trade were missing a trick by not opening this up and publicising, what is, such a culturally historic place, the part of the Earth where the Beatles went in search of God/Love/ Self, I also got the beautiful impermanence of it all, the earth itself grabbing back what is its from the footsteps of the greatest celebrities to have ever walked its soil.
Then going to the accommodation building which was that of the Beatles, and of course Prudence who simply wouldn’t come out to play, added a spine shiver. I swear if you were still enough, you could get back and be there, maybe, to where you once belonged
all posts from this trip – ‘North India in 23 Days’ can be found at
and for other Yoga and Buddhist related posts as well as general randomness see
following on from http://kevollier.com/2014/07/02/beggars/
The bus from hell pulled in at Dehra Dun at 5 in the morning and still being 10 miles from Rishikesh allowed taxi drivers to take advantage, or try to at least. They should understand that after the last 14 hours my inner yogi had gone awry and I was left with a strong case of the fuck it attitude. The greedy smiles of the drivers saying that ‘there is no other choice than to take our taxi as the first bus is 5 hours away’ found my yogi free body waving a finger at my face and saying ‘do I look bothered ?’ which was lost on them as I can’t imagine they knew who Vicky Pollard was. In fact, nobody we asked, and we asked a few after the shock of the first blank face, had ever even heard of Madonna, so Vicky had no chance.
Standing our ground the fare halved when all the other passengers had gone on their way and soon we arrived at our hotel in Rishikesh, waking the receptionist asleep on the floor behind the counter who, bless him, rounded up some sleepy staff and got our rooms ready.
A few hours later we were up and out and immediately the senses were assaulted by more yoga posters than you could ever imagine. I confidently think that you could stay in Rishikesh a whole year going to a different yoga class each day without repeating one. The yoga posters though had stiff competition from the meditation posters. And it is a honey pot for westerners – most on month long courses and nearly all on a long term world hippy travel adventure – and of all ages – in fact the over 50’s were as abundant as the under 30’s.
We wandered down the narrow alleys to the first cafe – a chilled cushion seated affair called the Happy Buddha Cafe which afforded the first views of the Ganges. It maybe only a river in the same way the Himalayas are only a mountain range but breath is stripped from your body just the same.
I struck up a conversation with an English threesome who were at the back end of a Sivananda yoga course, one I’ve never tried but their recommendation to do so will be acted upon. They told us of a circular walk that takes in all of Rishikesh so that’s what we decided to do. Heading off we soon came to the defining Lakshman Jhula pedestrian suspension bridge but spotting, what truly has to be, one of the best sited people watching cafes in the world, the Devraj Coffee Corner and Bookshop hovering above it, we decided to have another rest – this time a Honey Lemon Ginger tea was the order of the moment to watch the constant drama unfold below.
To say this is a pedestrian bridge is pushing it to say the least. The only thing not allowed on it, and only because it isn’t wide enough, are cars and trucks. Motorbikes and scooters cross it and it seems as long as you ‘peep’ it’s ok to kill a pedestrian. I assume a death resulting from no peeping results in prosecution. But ‘peep’ doesn’t adequately describe the murder inducing sound that is emitted. Along with the motorbikes and scooters, also jostling to cross are cows, buffalos, dogs, the odd donkey and every sort of human alive, and constantly, the very naughty monkeys, who, looking all cute at first glance, are jumping down on to the bridge and then literally stalking and then grabbing and ripping any bags not held against a chest. There is no movie worth watching that is as enthralling and dramatic as the live action of Lakshman Jhula bridge.
Once one runs the gauntlet of this crossing you come into the area that is itself Lakshman Jhula. To picture this imagine the Green Fields’ cafes of Glastonbury Festival crossed with the High Street of Glastonbury town with a splattering of ashrams to a backdrop of Himalayan foothills and a turbulent Ganges running through it all, accompanied by scents of Patchouli, Sandalwood and Hashish with yoga and meditation being the main stay of business.
more posts on Rishikesh to follow…..
all posts from this trip – ‘North India in 23 Days’ can be found at
and for other Yoga and Buddhist related posts as well as general randomness see
Brian Cooper. Probably the most down to Earth, un-fluffy, says it how it is, yoga teacher on the planet ruffles feathers with the yoga science of the non – mat.
copied directly from
By Brian Cooper PhD and Chris Norris PhD
Much could be written about the psychological significance of rolling out your mat, with its implications of marking out your territory, creating your own space and perhaps saying something about your personality by the size and thickness of your mat. We will leave this for another article and focus on the anatomical error of mat-dependence.
If you are taking a yoga class and the teacher asks to put all props aside, away fly all the bricks, blocks, belts, bolsters and the whole paraphernalia of many yoga classes. But not quite all the props: Few would dream of also removing their mat. And yet they are the biggest, and in some ways, the most pernicious props of them all. They are both anatomical and psychological props, and they are pernicious because few students recognise the role they play in their practice. The general consensus is that props are useful for assisting in approaching a posture, but they should be discarded when it is recognised they are no longer useful and could even be holding a student back. But have you ever heard a student say ‘now I can finally discard my mat, I no longer need it’?
NO! Because students don’t consider the yoga mat as a prop, but a vital piece of equipment to, among other things, protect them from a hard floor, or an unclean or cold floor. Fair enough, but the trend over the last twenty years has been towards the STICKY MAT. Originally produced from carpet underlay to prevent whatever was being used from slipping on the floor, its purpose has shifted to preventing the student from slipping on the mat. One of the most frequent complaints of students who purchase a mat is that they are not sticky enough, and many mats come with instructions on how to get the optimal grip.
Let’s take a look at Adho Mukha Svanasana
Most dogs do this without rolling out a sticky mat. Humans using a sticky mat push their feet away until they are held by the mat, and use the reaction from this to lift the hips and straighten the legs. At the same time, they push their hands into the mat and exploit the hands being held by the mat to lift the hips and draw the head closer to the legs. Hence the typical upside down v shape much admired by humans but not so much by dogs.
The photo above shows the usual posture on a sticky mat. The arrows show the overall direction of horizontal force applied to the mat. This combined with a downward force of compression results in a ground reaction force which lifts the hips and provides the stability necessary to move deeper into the posture. The muscles stretched are the extensors which include the calves, hamstrings, gluteals and latissimus dorsi. The muscles contracted are the flexors which include the quadriceps, psoas and part of the deltoids. When you practice on a sticky mat, you use the reaction of the feet and hands to lift into the posture, and do not have to engage the flexors. You can hang out with very little work being done to contract them.
The effect of the sticky mat is amplified in the above photo by pressing the heels into a wall, a prop commonly used to move deeper into the forward bend. Again, the arrows illustrate the forces acting at the heel, which produce an equal and opposite reaction directed towards the hips.
So what happens if we take away the mat or the wall?
To make it clearer, let’s turn the posture upside down to give Navasana. Here we see that it is a mild forward bend where the anterior muscles need to be contracted to lift the trunk and legs against gravity. The arrows show the direction of action of the anterior muscles used to maintain the posture.
The same applies to the above posture being practiced without a mat. The arrows show the overall direction of the forces required to prevent the feet and hands from sliding. The flexors are now fully engaged. In addition, the slipping action of your hands and feet on a floor rather than a mat creates instability. Removing your sticky mat challenges your body’s proprioception to make it ‘feel’ the movement more. The result is a far more active and mindful movement. To prove this yourself, practice Adho Mukha Svanasana on a sticky mat, and then on a wooden floor. Initially you will find your hands and feet slip. Keep practicing however, and you will find they no longer slip as much. Your hands have not suddenly become sticky of course, all that has happened is that you have learnt to adjust your body subtly to produce the exact amount of muscle force to stop slipping.
By discarding the sticky mat, the extensors and flexors are working together in a coordinated and balanced action which teaches the body useful and healthy movement patterns. The sticky mat over emphasises one set of muscles and encourages a loss of truly integrated movement.
With the feet apart there is a natural tendency for the feet to slide further, shown by the arrows in the above photo, an action which is resisted by the sticky mat. In this asana we are stretching the hamstrings as we bend forwards and the hip adductor muscles because the legs are apart. We also use the quads and hamstrings to stabilise the knee. As we reach forwards our lats are lengthened and as we allow the body to draw down to the floor for the final pose our back extensor muscles lengthen. Many students, particularly beginners, use the advantage of the sticky mat to relax their adductors and take the weight onto the inside edges of the feet. The following variation-Baddha Padottanasana-helps us to explore the action of the feet and the adductors in a very stable position.
The mat is now replaced by clasping the hands behind the legs so the feet cannot slip apart. First push the legs strongly into the arms as you move into the forward bend which can be achieved with confidence. Go to your limit and now lift and activate the arches of your feet-you can do this by pressing the ball of the foot and big toe firmly downwards, and observe how much firmer your feet feel on the ground. At this stage, gently move your legs away from the arms as if you want to draw your feet together. This is the action we want to cultivate in the final posture without a mat. The adductors are now contracting, and the feet firmly planted.
Before moving to the final posture without a mat, let’s try one more variation to really feel the work the adductors should be doing in this posture.
Urdhva Prasarita Padottanasana
To move into a deep forward bend, you will have to engage the flexors and the adductors very strongly. It is these muscles which are being neglected in the usual posture done on a mat. Hold this position for 10 breaths, making sure the back is not rounding and you are lifting through the sternum.
We are now ready to take the final posture without the sticky mat.
The arrows in the above photo show the action required to hold the posture without the feet slipping. Again, as in Adho Mukha Svanasana, discarding the sticky mat will increase proprioception and enable muscles to work in a more balanced way. It teaches us to become more mindful or our body movement and limitations. If the above is not challenging enough for you, try it with socks!
Practicing this posture with a sticky mat encourages the front thigh to be pushed forward, and the weight taken onto the inside edge of the back foot, often with the result of bending the back leg. The posture can be explored further using the wall as a prop. This encourages grounding the outside edge of the foot with a resulting strengthening of the back leg. Again, these movements have to be cultivated if working without the mat.
The photo below shows the posture without a mat. Now there is a tendency for the feet to slip apart (increasing hip abduction) and so the adductors must work more, especially on the back leg. On the front there will be more emphasis on the hip extensors to resist sliding into hip flexion. The feet must grip more without a mat and so the feet need a greater contact area which is achieved as above by activating the arch and grounding the outside edge of the back foot. The front femur feels as if it is being sucked into the hip socket. The overall effect is that of drawing the feet together.
From the above descriptions we can draw some important conclusions highly relevant to the use of a sticky mat.
Essentially we are looking at synergistic actions which we learn as a motor program during walking and running. That is, hip and knee extension combined with plantar flexion of the foot / ankle. Although each muscle is working individually, the action is programmed into a single sequence (an engram) which is familiar to us and so requires less neural activity. Driving the heel down and lifting the arch of the foot combined with pressing the pelvis forwards to rotate the hip locks the lower limb joints more precisely – a sequence called ‘close pack’. During childhood we learn movement sequences such as lying, rolling, crawling, high kneeling, standing, side walk, forward walk, running etc. If we can lock into these sequences it becomes easier for a person to learn the action because the brain is familiar with the way the muscle groups and joints work together. What yoga is doing is to tap into these sequences and allow the body to function in an integrated fashion. If however we place too much emphasis on the use of a sticky mat, these sequences are blocked, leading to potentially harmful movement patterns which encourage unnatural movement combinations.
See also ‘Yoga Mat Death’ at
Brian has been practicing yoga for a long time and is mainly self-taught. He completed the Primary and Intermediate Series with Sri K.P. Jois In 1990. He is currently working on Kechari Mudra without a razor. He holds a PhD in Biophysics and loves researching yogic practices from a western perspective.
His book ‘the Art of Adjusting’ was published in 2006 and is used in training programs world-wide.
He is the founder of Harmony Publishing which publishes out of print Yoga Classics including ‘Hatha Yoga’ by Theos Bernard and ‘Pranayama’ by Andre van Lysbeth, an early student of K.P. Jois in the 1950s.
Visit Brian’s website:
Find out about the trainings Brian is involved with:
Chris is a Chartered Physiotherapist (MCSP). He holds a Masters degree (MSc) in Exercise Science and a Doctorate (PhD) investigating spinal rehabilitation. Chris is the author of twelve books on physiotherapy and exercise, including textbooks on sport injuries (Elsevier) Back Stability (Human Kinetics), stretching, and exercise therapy (Bloomsbury). He is director of Norris Associates, a private clinic in Northwest England.
Visit Christopher’s website:
following on from http://kevollier.com/2014/05/10/delhi-to-mcleod-ganj/
‘I am not a Buddhist’ were words I heard myself uttering at the end of our three day stay in the home of the Dalai Lama – the town of Mcleod Ganj not the big man’s house itself of course.
We dropped our backpacks into the Pink House Hotel, had a hearty breakfast of Mango Lassi, Chocolate and Banana pancakes and a Tulsi Tea and then went off to discover the town. After just 100 yards I was approached by a woman with a baby who told me that she didn’t want money, just food, for her starving child. How could one possibly refuse? – so I was led back the way I’d come, to a shop. It was at this time I realised that I’d become part of a scam I hadn’t come across before. The shopkeeper was well prepared for me as I assume the woman must do this as many times a day as she can get away with. The choice offered was rice or/and milk and I decided to pay my dumb dues and pick rice – at 400 rupees a bag which I later found was about 350 rupees too much. I guess that she gets a small commission and the shop owner, Mr Robin Bastard, gets the rest. I left muttering inner ffs’s and started back up the road only to met by another woman and a baby. I couldn’t tell if it was the same woman and baby and I entertained the prospect that today might actually be groundhog day. This time I said No. I learn fast.
Apart from gangs of babies clutched by women, McLeod is brimming with purple robed Buddhist monks and nuns and a hefty mix of dreadlocked Ohm wearers who fill the many groovy cafes and funky restaurants.
Most of the population are Tibetan non-monk refugees fleeing the on-going Obama and Cameron ignored atrocities of the Chinese which has been on-going since 1960 when the first refugees came and still do to this day.
Tibetans outnumber the Indians by at least 5 to 1
All of the buildings are built in Tibetan style which include the residence of the Dalai, the Tibetan Childrens Village, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute and hundreds more. I wasn’t sure about the Astrological one as I’m a Virgo and it’s a known Virgo trait not to believe in Astrology. There is the Library of Tibetan Works and countless yoga and meditation centres. It was in Mcleod Ganj that I discovered what I assume must be a Tibetan delicacy – French Toast. Everywhere does it and they all compete for taste. This is not Eggy bread, this is French Toast – the names don’t even sound similar.
What surprised me here was being in a restaurant and monks ordering chicken. I was always under the impression that sentient beings weren’t supposed to be eaten and apparently the Buddha himself died choking on pork which might have been his very last lesson on the pitfalls of eating a fellow sentient. But more than that, from what I understand, a monk dons his robes to renounce the world, but I didn’t encounter one who wasn’t holding a smartphone or an ipad where, rather than renounce the world, you can access all of it, 24/7 which makes becoming a monk bloody easy in my opinion.
I always wonder what Christ would think, if he came back, and allegedly he’s supposed to, of all the churches built in his name, each one with his murder hanging from every arch and alter and I do wonder what Buddha would think of all the golden statues of him, some small with holes in his head to hold joss sticks, some so big to rival a cathedral.
At least the Buddhists don’t have his everlasting image as a guy trying to cough up some bacon, so he got a better deal than Jesus.
And where does it say that to understand the teachings of the big B one has to shave one’s heads or don robes or prostate?
The philosophy and teachings of a tuned in being, once again, have been lost or side stepped into a religion of ritual – yet another case of fingers pointing at the moon.
The Dalai Lama was in residence when we were there, though I think he was having a lie-in and indeed the temples are certainly very impressive – as buildings and as symbols of devotion, and all of it with the majestic and mystical snowy peaks of the Himalayas as a back drop. It is a magical town.