Taj Mahal


Feb. 15-Day two began with a bus ride to the palace referred as one of the so-called wonders of the world. And while this would seem to be a simple journey it is not. It is about 100 miles from Delhi to the palace, a simple drive of an hour and a half in the states, nothing is that simple in India. The drive is on one of India's new highways, what they are saying is their best road. It is four lanes most of the way, yet it becomes a process of speed up, slow down, brake for a speed bump, pothole, crack or some other kind of obstacle, speed up again, and repeat endlessly. By the time you reach Agra, a small town outside of the palace, two lanes becomes ten as there are so many vehicles, so many people, and animals that many smaller vehicles are forced onto the sidewalk. This is some kind of a holiday, and there must be a massive number of excess people passing through this town. I have the sense of being trapped on that bus. This is as close to gridlock as I have ever seen. It takes almost an hour to pass through. If I died in Agra, or became ill, I do not believe an ambulance could get to me.

The security at the palace is extreme, soldiers everywhere, many with automatic weapons. They are rude, arrogant and cold. They took this journal, a Velonews, a crystal and two bike lights. I did not handle this well. They took my words. While it is for Allah that they do this, I think that actually this would offend Allah. I did get them back when we left.

You then get in line with several thousand others, and pass through the palace, which is beautiful all marble, but the masses are discomforting, and by the time we leave the feeling of being trapped is extreme.

Feb. 16-Today we are off to Gaya. We will stay in a Tibetan monastery, and visit the Bodhi tree. I hope that this day goes better than yesterday. I have pretty much had it with Delhi, the huge number of people, the slums, the garbage. I am having trouble with my ego. I am uncomfortable with these conditions, and see little hope that this will change, despite this being, I am told, a day of huge change in India, as a new, progressive government has surprisingly won the election. So far I am not impressed, though perhaps this is why I am here. I feel as though I should have compassion for the woman and her child who again hound me as we are leaving. I am a little disappointed that I do not.

Again I see armed soldiers everywhere along the route. There is a big political rally in Delhi, and security is tight. I have not seen this many fully, automatic weapons in one place since Viet Nam.

India is building new, modern towns, and yet this just seems to increase the black and white of rich and poor. I don't know how much new wealth it would take to fix this. I am reminded of a kid last night in Agra. The t-shirt he was wearing said: "We all deserve better than this." I was surprised to see it in English, and to say it so well.

As we leave, I am feeling ambivalent about the prospects of awakening or enlightenment here. As I said, I am having trouble with my ego. I am not sure that I see the West experiencing a great spiritual awakening as a result of immersing themselves in Eastern religion, rather a merging of cultures, spiritual along with a "healthy" ego. Rinpoche talks about the West as being totally rational, intellectual, but lacking in spirit. He did mention Carlos Castenada the other day, and I need to ask him what he thought about him. I recently gave him a copy of Hesse's Siddhartha. He has not said what he thought of that either or if he had read it. Not that I think it is any more than fiction, just an example of Western sprituality.

I am tired, and having difficulty with edema in my ankles. It goes down over night, but the bus rides are the cause, and it sounds as though we will have many. I am a little worried.

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