Even the Bugs in India Make You Think

by bria4123 on October 9, 2011

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Life forms in India proliferate and surround you, from elephants to mosquitoes and lots of species of ants. I brought a box of sweets to an office in Chennai, and put it on top of the refrigerator. I thought they would be safe there, but an hour later they were covered with ants.

Those suckers were much smaller and faster than the docile species in Silicon Valley. Other species are almost an inch long. Nothing stays uneaten for long. Life transforms quickly in India.

In Agra, two stray dogs panicked and bolted out of a deserted room in the Red Fort as a friend and I entered. They barely squeezed past us in the narrow doorway. It’s hard for anyone to have space to himself for long in India.

And India’s dense blends of life-forms enliven interactions between them. I was waiting for a train in Delhi’s main station just before midnight. It was jam-packed. Men slept on the concrete floor as dozens of others stepped over them. Monkeys spurted between the people.

Most monkeys were placid, but two suddenly began to fight. They screeched loudly for about fifteen seconds, then one gave up and darted away. He deftly dodged people as though he was jumping through a pipal tree’s branches.

Everyone laughed. The monkeys added merriment to a trying evening.

“How do you spell frustration? INDIA!” a native of Chennai said after returning to California. But I found that you’re usually not angry in India for long. Something quickly happens that causes laughs. Situations and emotions don’t seem as fixed as they often do in the West.

Neither are species. Those monkeys are as smart as whips. So are the elephants. They make our beloved dogs and cats seem as dumb as dirt. Ancient Greeks and Middle Easterners weren’t surrounded by animals that seem so human. It was easy for them to see people as categorically above all other species. The Greek and Judeo-Christian heritages have stressed this idea. But monkeys and elephants approach our level of intelligence, so in India, it’s easier to see life as a continuum of forms.

And because we’re not distinctly above the level just below us, it’s easy to think that species transmute into each other–that a life is part of a long chain of incarnations that’s determined by karma. Things in India don’t seem as distinct as they often do in the West.

It’s thus also easy to think that all beings emerged from the same abundant energies which generated all life-forms. Even the ants can teach what the Upanisads say–all beings share an inner oneness.


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