Where is Matteo Tricarico?? Finally out of India, the intrepid Italian push bike rider sent me some more updates, which I turn upon you… may they inspire many adventures, and help Matteo bringing forward his message of peace and solidarity… Monkey approved!
Day 463, chronicle 079, Varanasi (N25°19.398′ E082°59.648′) India, 15 January 2011 04:25 pm -
Of all the Indian cities I visited, Varanasi is the most fascinating and where all the stereotypes associated with this incredible country are found. The maze of narrow streets of Old Town, which runs along the south bank of the Ganges, is an overcrowded web where human beings give way to the sacred cows that are king, while on the roofs and eaves of the low houses the monkeys are always looking for an easy snack. Every Hindu wants to bathe at least once in life in the purifying waters of the sacred river, which has the properties to cleanse the sins of a lifetime, and everyone wants to be cremated here, so as to ensure direct passage to Nirvana. Therefore, from all over India corpses are sent here and, before being burned, are stripped, washed in the river, wrapped in a cloth of white cotton covered with shiny gold or silver sheets and carried on the shoulder by the Untouchables through the narrow streets and to the golden temple. The piles of wood on the river banks burn continuously day and night, spreading a pungent and acrid smell of burnt flesh that spreads everywhere, including in my boarding house a few meters from Manikarnika Ghat, the largest crematorium in the country.
At Mishra, the guest-house where to stay, I became acquainted with Kristine, of Armenian nationality lives and works in Moscow, who with other Buddhist pilgrims from Russia came here to follow the lessons that the Dalai Lama in person was teaching in Sarnath (about ten kilometres from Vanarasi). So, I joined the Buddhist practitioners and for four days, with another 10,000 people, I found myself in front of their spiritual leader. I was captivated by the words of the holy man, not so much for the explanation of the Buddhist doctrine and of the greatest philosophical systems, which he clarified with simple examples, but for his humorous vein, his humanity and simplicity. The Dalai Lama amused us with anecdotes about his rich past life, said things like: “Marxism has done a great good to mankind, unfortunately Leninism and Maoism have distorted the original message” or “Christianity has the great merit of preserving and disseminating culture” or “G. W. Bush, who is a dear friend, would have to meditate more deeply before invading Iraq” and “do not take anything I say as absolute truth, but use your logic to contradict me.” The event was also the occasion for the annual meeting of the community of Tibetan refugees in India, who clearly regard the Dalai also as their political leader. A good occasion to meet up with country fellow men and women who have illegally crossed the Chinese, Nepalese and Indian border on foot. The vast majority of those present were monks with reddish tunics, numerically followed by Tibetans with their traditional clothes, but there was also a large delegation of Bhutanese recognizable for the women short-haired and the men dressed in large coats and their legs covered in thick yak wool socks up to the knee. We, westerners, were a thousand in all and I grouped with four Russians, an Africa-American from New York, a young Englishman who has spoken not more than a dozen monosyllables in four days and Ngawang Khechog (née Stuart Osborne) a muscular American monk in India for ten years, with a past in the Marines, still visible on the aggressive eagles and rifles tattooed on his arms. I feel enriched by this experience and I do not want to leave Varanasi tomorrow, but the journey must go on … Until next time.
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