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Mother India

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We always used to say that India would either accept you or reject you, take you in or spit you out. A land of intense extremes -- in climate, in topography, in mood, in levels of wealth and status -- India was the home of the Buddha's middle way, avoiding extremes both of self indulgence and of self mortification. "How did that happen?" we used to joke, when I lived there in the early seventies.

I had gone to India as so many had, to find a spiritual teacher, to find a meditation method -- really to find myself. India, with its intense generosity of the spirit, its frank inability to hide pain or loss, its kindness and its chaos took me in. It became my spiritual home, therefore my primary home. For years I couldn't imagine living anywhere else. I spent hours scheming over my visa extensions, trying to figure out how to accomplish my goal. India really became for me, "Mother India," the place, in a way, that I was actually born. India was the only place on earth that made sense to me.

Circumstances didn't allow that, of course, and I am very much a citizen of the USA these days, and an especially happy one these post-election days. (Last week, crossing back into the US at the Toronto airport, when the immigration official said, "Welcome home," I started to cry.)

Yet every single thing I learned in India points me to the understanding of how inextricably connected we all are. I've spent days following news stories of the tragic events in Mumbai. In years gone by, it literally could have been me attacked in any of those sites -terrified, hurt or killed. Figuratively, it was me, as it was all of us. One thing the truth of interconnection should tell us is that what happens "over there," doesn't just stay "over there." We are bound by so many threads to one another.

It's not just that next week it might be New York City or L.A. It's more that all of our divisions of us and them and self and other recreate the world where such violence is possible. These divisions seek to exclude rather than include, ignore others rather than pay attention to them, and fuel hatred as though it was our singular source of strength. We have to look as deeply as we can into what binds us together, and also what tears us apart. If we stay on the surface of things, we will go round and round cycles of helplessness and despair in perpetuity.

Maybe it is because I've had a big dose of hope realized recently that I, even in the midst of such pain and trauma, think perhaps we can look that deeply, both into our own hearts and into systems of government, economics and religion that discard others, making it ok to casually steal their future, or step over their bodies as though they don't at all count. If we are willing to look very very deeply, I suspect that we will discover that no matter where we started, everywhere can be, and must be, considered home.