25 March 2019

Delhi, Buddha relics, models and markets - a visual essay

New Delhi is an almost beautiful city. It is filled with wide boulevards, countless trees and luxuriant public gardens filled with flowers. There are grand monuments and a wonderful culture; so why only “almost”?

Ruth and I came as guests of the Brahma Kumaris to attend a major conference on Spiritual Response to Critical Times. So this week, another Indian pictorial essay featuring why “almost beautiful” - including a visit to a glorious, old time market; but first - and in the light of the Christchurch tragedy, some timely words from one who knew…

               Thought for the day

     Darkness cannot drive out darkness
     Only light can do that.

     Hate cannot drive out hate
     Only love can do that

                       Martin Luther King

So this is the problem.
The air in Delhi can be difficult to breath.

Sometimes, the beautiful trees on the other side of the road can be difficult to see.

Delhi is reputedly the most polluted capital in the world.

One of its satellites, Gurgaon (or Gurugram) was recently voted the most polluted city in the world.

So there are plenty of trees, but to keep up with the smog, they would need to be growing in high rises like the people, or in multiple layers like the freeways.

We were fortunate to stay with relatives of Melbourne friends and they took us into one of the old style markets, Chandni Chowk.

The market is crowded and full of people and colour and delightful spicy smells  - and the odd not so delightful sights and smells - just enough to keep it interesting…

But also, myriads of fascinating small shops


      With many inviting and beguiling
     alleyways to explore

Wise to pick your toilet. The locals prefer the ones that are good for bowel health, but some may rather seek out the Western version

                    Pause for lunch?

The food is terrific, although avoiding chillies and hot spices can be a challenge

       Consult with the cook?

Maybe you prefer to bargain for the raw ingredients?

                Leave an offering?

     Take one of many opportunities
      for an arty picture?

Look up and no, it is not the result
of the All India spaghetti factory exploding,
this is Asian wiring in the streets at it best.

Need a new connection?


Simply run another wire…

We moved on amidst some fairly crowded traffic.

      Push bikes everywhere

Or a classic tuc tuc if you prefer

And some really classy transport vehicles; I want one of these!

People work hard here;
making a living can be quite a struggle

   And then we came across a model
   promoting the next best thing…

        So Ruth did her own modeling

We dropped in to the Delhi National Museum and marveled at the Buddha relics.

These are reputedly genuine pieces of bone gathered from the Buddha’s cremation.

They have been enshrined in gold and diamonds by the Thai Government and the thing that really puzzled me was why this shrine has not become a major pilgrimage site - very few people there while we were.

Seems not so many know about this…

In the evening our hosts took us to an out door sound and light show.

Only problem… no one told us before the show began that the lights had been out of action for 2 weeks.

We were so taken by it all we stayed for the sound - a great historical tale of Delhi’s genesis and many incarnations over the years.

When it finished, we were the only 4 left. Highly memorable and great fun, just like all of our Delhi experience.

Next week, a report on the groundbreaking Conference we spoke at
- Spiritual Response to Critical Times.

18 March 2019

Bodhgaya and the Bodhi Tree - a visual essay

In India, so much is out in the open. Not so much is hidden. In the streets you see life and death, wealth and poverty, hope and despair, joy and sorrow. In the West often these contrasts are hidden; in India it is all there to see.

So this week, a largely pictorial essay on recent travels in sacred India; starting first in Bodhgaya, place of the Buddha’s enlightenment; in weeks to come Mt Abu and Delhi, but first

              Thought for the day

                         Bliss is Brahman;

                         From bliss beings are born;

                        By bliss, when born, they live;

                        Into bliss they enter at their death. 

                                                The Taittreya Upanishad 

The Buddha started his life as a worldly Prince.

He trained to become the next King, married, had a son and then renounced the lot.

After serious ascetic travails, he ended up under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya and there sat until he attained enlightenment.

Two and a half thousand years later large numbers of pilgrims still flock to this place.

The original Bodhi tree was eventually destroyed by the Moguls. However, a sapling had been taken to Sri Lanka and a sapling from that tree was returned; so, many years later, this is the one you get to sit under if you go these days. Bodhi trees live for a long time!

Next to the Bodhi tree is the Mahabodhi stupa and temple.

Inside is a famous Buddha statue that is too hard to resist when it comes to spiritual tourist photos...

Visiting the great European cathedrals is wonderful, but sadly it seems tourists have virtually overrun many of these places, diminishing their presence and impact.

Bodhgaya is in a remote area and so here the serious practitioners overrun what few tourists there may be.

What stands out at this place is the number of pilgrims and serious practitioners.

They come from all Buddhist traditions.



 And old

With plenty in their middle years

Some seem like they might remember the Hippie days

And the place is also venerated by Hindus,
with some sadhus to be seen and talked with

There are many Tibetans doing serious practice.

Last time here - ten years ago - one Tibetan monk was close to finishing 20 million prostrations.

If you have done even one prostration you will have some idea of what that entails…

Almost unbelievable!

Some go for protection from the many mosquitos;

others offer themselves up to the feast :)

Ruth and I went to be a part of a Tibetan group practice and were fortunate to receive 2 days of teachings from one of Tibet’s leading women teachers - Khandro Rinpoche (you can link to one of her many Youtube teachings here where she discusses why there are so few women teachers).

We ended up being part of an international group of around 300

We went a little earlier than some others to make more time just to sit.

The atmosphere was extra-ordinary; that is, well out of the ordinary.

On the one level there was a good deal of activity.

Groups are coming from all traditions and nations, so it was common to have chanting in 3 to 4 languages going on around us at any given time.

Many people circumambulate the stupa - that is walk around it clockwise saying prayers or chanting

While many sit to meditate for a while then get up and move on.

Lots of activity…

But then, it is almost as if the activity and the place overwhelm the active mind and a deep stillness presents. We sat for hours. Sometimes 2 hours at a time. And something deepened.

The memory and the feeling; the experience will travel on with us...

Accommodation is basic, but we enjoyed it …

And at night there is a good deal of activity!

The streets can be confronting.

There are the beggars; often with significant disabilities or deformities

The dogs everywhere

The tailors almost certainly have no union,
but overnight and on the floor
make great kaftans :)

The food is varied and we found it easy to eat well (including no chillies!)

So maybe to finish... a cup of tea???

This is a journey that while not easy in many ways, is well worth making if you have a strong inclination.


RECLAIMING JOY - April 12 - 18 2019, Yarra Valley Living Centre.

Details - call the Foundation - 03 5967 1730 or link here for DETAILS

The legend of Meditation in the Forest lives on!

This classic 7 day meditation retreat is on again for yet another pre-Easter.

In 2019 it will be lead by Ruth Gawler and Melissa Borich.

Some will have had the good fortune to have shared time with Melissa in some of our previous retreats. Melissa is a highly accomplished yoga teacher with a wonderful capacity to tailor yoga for beginners or the advanced. Melissa has also trained with me as a meditation teacher and is one of the people I highly value and recommend.

These two women will present a wonderful retreat - lucky you if you get to be there :)