Metaphysically Speaking, Part One~The Varanasi Family Photo Album

I'm having a long distance conversation with a friend back in the states about what matters.  Does anything really matter?  Does everything matter?  Are there only a few essential things that matter, and everything else is inconsequential?  Sometimes we branch out into, What is Reality?  Do we make our own Reality?  Is anything, essentially, solidly, Real?  You know, small questions like that.

Being in Varanasi, even more than being anywhere else in India, makes a soul wonder.  Varanasi brings the metaphysical out of the closet and puts it right in your lap and says, "You want to find out what really matters?  What's real?  Let's look at some family pictures."

"First of all.  You are not alone.  You are part of a large tribe.  The Varanasi Tribe.  Look at all the seekers, your brothers and sisters.  They come in droves.

"Do you like that new airport?  We just had it built, to make all the Westerners feel at home, and to make the Indians feel like wealth is here for the taking if you are willing to make the pilgrimage to Varanasi....

"Because, let's face it.  Money matters.  Indians have finally embraced this idea.  Isn't that funny.  Westerners come to India to find out what matters after money, behind money, other than money.  They dress like Indians.  Indians who've been able to see for millenium what was more important than money have finally decided Westerners are right.  Now the Indians want the money.  Now they are starting to dress like Westerners.

"Oh, we park the planes at the old airport and make everyone walk in the sweltering heat to the new air conditioned airport.  It's a little joke we like to play.  Getting the seekers to question the Journey itself.  Some of them say...'Ah, I see what this is all's about leaving the old behind and getting to the new all on your own steam....right...I get it'.

"Silly humans."

"Prayer.  A lot of people think prayer is what matters.  And God, of course.  Any God.  In Varanasi we like choice.  It's like an American supermarket, only we are selling a million different kinds of God instead of a 100 different kinds of laundry detergent."

"Ooooh.  And Devotion.  Devotion matters.  Reaching for the divine.  If God(s) is so important then it's best to prove it with devotion."

"Giving thanks.  Gratitude.  Puja.  Celebrating life.  That's what this one's all about.  Gratitude.  Of course, ask each priest and spectator what they are thankful for, and you open a can of worms....big can of worms.  There are as many different answers to that one as there are dead bodies in the Ganges.

"Ok.  Wait.  I tried to pull one over on you there.  Sorry for that.  I said this one was all about Gratitude.  Celebrating Life.  That's kind of not true.  There's a puja down the river a bit that is about all those things.  But this one.  Well, this one just might be a little more about money.  Making money.  It's really more like a Puja Circus.

"But you didn't hear that from me."

"Oh, look.  We are back to God.  Prayer.  Though that chick in back seems to have something else on her mind.  She looks pretty happy.  She might even be having fun.....  I wonder what matters to her."

"Caste.  Social Status.  That matters.  At least to these young Brahmins.  Every morning they come down to the water to learn how to pray, cuz they are special, only they can pray the Brahmin way."

"Death.  Really, when you think about it.....all that matters in life is that someday we are all gonna die.  Right?  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

"Of course, I don't like to brag, but it is most honorable to die here, with me, Varanasi.  Everybody in India says so.  So, I guess, really, I matter."

"Family?  Well, ok.  It could be family that matters.  And sons.  Having a son.  That matters too."

"Food.  Tea.  Coffee.  Don't worry, be happy.  Hmmm.  Maybe nothing really matters."

"Cows.  This is one of my personal favorites.  Those humans let the cows shit everywhere.  Then they walk in it.  Seriously.  But that brings us back, of course, to God.  Shiva.  The sacred divine.

"Boy, willing to walk in shit for God.  God must really matter."

"Told you."

"Of course, to the monkeys, what matters is food.  Come to think of it, there are lots of humans who think that the world begins and ends with a good meal...."

"Good personal hygiene.  Clean clothes.  Very important.  But would it be getting too metaphysical on you to posit the question, How clean can those clothes be if they are washed in fetid water?

You are absolutely wouldn't be too would be, rather, deeply existential...if you think about it.  But no need to bring you down.  Existential pondering can lead to despair, need to go there.  Grief only matters a little."

"You know, a lot of people think a roof over your head is what matters."

"Looking Good.  Could be that is what matters.  Again, where did that man bathe?  In the river.  Best not to think about that."

"Then there is nature, the beauty of the moment.  Soak it in sister.  Lean back.  Look at the sunrise over the Ganges.  Could be that's what matters.  Especially if you don't think about how disgusting everything is around you.  And if you can forget about that little kid you just saw taking a dump on the sidewalk several feet to your left.  Focus on the BEAUTY OF THE SUNRISE!"

"Peace of mind, OF COURSE.  That's what matters.  Emptying your mind of all the worries, the dirt, the death, the "all" of this crazy planet and it's absurd humanity.  Empty your mind...."

"Ooohh we have a metaphysical hodgepodge here.  We got your boatmen sleeping on the ghats.  We got your yogi down there in the lower left.  We've got a good Indian family selling tea for all the tourists and pilgrims, doing their service...that's surely what matters.

"Oh, oh, or it could be, once again, God.  See all those wise men sitting up there looking out at the Ganges.  Surely the wise men know what matters most."

"This poor guy just wants to make a buck.  No clients.  He over slept and now everyone who wants to go out on the water has left him to sit all by himself next to the warf.  Him and the stray dog.  If only he were a better worker and he'd woken up an hour earlier....He obviously doesn't know what matters.  He doesn't know that money doesn't sleep.  He hasn't met Kundar, Kundar knows that Varanasi runs on money.  That's why Kundar isn't in this photo."

"Now this guy knows from work.  This guy got up on time.  He is hard at it.  Work.  Work is what matters.  Right?  He is washing those pillow cases.  Next he will wash the sheets.  Then those pillow cases, and the sheets you can't see, will be returned to the hotel where they came from.  Then these pillow cases and sheets will be put on the beds of travelers who won't touch the Ganges because it is frighteningly dirty, but, and here's the funny part, they are all sleeping on sheets and pillow cases that were washed in that sacred, germ laden water."

"Of course.  It could be peace that matters.  Real peace.  Peace for all of humanity.  That's what this guy thought."

"Now it might just be that what matters is the very same thing that brings all the pilgrims to Varanasi.

"The source.

"Isn't that a great word: SOURCE.  Especially when you are talking about The Ganges.  About the mother of life.

"Life giving Ganges, who also holds death.  Death and Life and Life and Death.

"It all comes back to the Source.  Now we are talking metaphysically, about the beginning of it ALL.  It's right here, folks...right here...Mother Ganges.  Mother Earth.  Life giving and Death receiving.

"It all comes back to the Source."

"It all comes back to the Source."