July 20, 2012
Our final day here in Delhi. Tsering had organized a trip to the Ramakrishna Ashram near our motel for a time of meditation. We left the comfort of our air conditioned hotel and a refreshing sleep to step into 91degree heat even at the early hour of 6:30. Things were a little bit slow in the streets but the trash was being swept and people were starting to fill the streets. We walk by beds out on the street and a group of men sleeping on the ground. Flies are everywhere—it is a harsh walk but what truly brought us face to face with the harsh realities here was a dead man set out on the side of the road. Flies swarmed around his eyes in a black cloud. We paused briefly Tsering says, “many people die in the night.” We walk on, but how can we meditate after seeing this? Certainly there can be no peaceful easy feeling beside an honest conscience.
Yet death is often the first thing I think of when I pray; my son, Casey, is always very near the start of my morning prayers. A prayer that he will be taken care of, lifted up and embraced—today I joined the prayer for him with the prayer for this man, exposed, seemingly alone. Together our small group sits in the hot temple and sweat starts to roll down my back. A young Indian praying at the front of the temple gets up, prepares to leave and (thankfully) switches on the overhead fan. We make out way back to the motel. The man has been covered up with a piece of tarp, his legs stick out. A woman is now beside him crouched and begging. Maybe it is his wife. I don’t know. Something must be done it seems—but nothing can be done much. I offer her a small bit of money—we move on.
Delhi is city of (I believe) 16 million people. On any given night about a million of them are on the street and homeless. On our arrival in Delhi, we saw hordes of people sleeping on the median in the street. I had intended to end the blog of the India trip on a positive note and to talk about the Tibetan practice of “dedication of merit” but the jarring realities of the start of the morning here cannot support that. Later today we will visit the Gandhi museum—seeing the suffering of India seems a fitting way to begin a visit to Gandhi’s home—the one who strove so mightily to address the troubles of a nation.