It has been nearly 50 years since I visited India. It was 18 years after independence.
The first generation of an independent India was just reaching adulthood. I am sure that
present day India is radically different from the India I saw nearly half a century ago.
There is something I witnessed and experienced in India at that time that changed the
course of my life. It was a very simple thing, but it profoundly influenced the people.
Even down to the tiniest village I visited there was a specific awareness present. This
was the personal understanding by each individual that they were immortal. This was not a point that was discussed. It was just the way it was. This awareness created in my view a pervasive tranquility and calmness. They simply had certainty that they were forever as themselves.
The business of life went on. Trucks, cars, bicycles, oxen carts, cows and humanity
riotously filled the city streets. Merchants haggled in the markets. Women in saris of every imaginable color graced the sidewalks and shops. Holy men walked among the people. There was a concatenation of pungent fragrances in the air. The sounds of prayer and honking horns and unmuffled motors and vendors announcing their wares combined in a constant din. Behind all this bustle and noise still was always somehow the awareness of each person's immortal nature, be he sweeper, cabbie, farmer or priest. Somehow that awareness pervaded. In the streets of Vanarsi, on the sacred Ganges, where people go to die, I felt it there as well. From the early morning when the men would come with their wagons to pick up and wrap in cloth the bodies of those who had died in the night to the evening when the fires would rise from the Burning Ghats where the bodies were burned, sureness of immortality filled the air with the fires of cremation.
For me as a 25-year-old American, this was a whole other world. Somehow,
back then in India 50 years ago the truth of immortality got into my spiritual blood.
My viewpoint of life and death and the immortality of the human spirit was utterly changed as was the course of my life.
He sees the world
With different eyes
He who knows what occurs
When a man dies.
This fact should come
As no surprise.
The senior human mystery
Concerns his own
And the honesty
Of his immortality.
When this is solved
He can be free
This means so very much
To me and thee.