POSTCARD #218: New Delhi: Jiab sent me this pic of the cow in Gujarat. There’s always something that ‘clicks’ inside me when I see the cow in the city traffic in India. The aloof separateness of the Gods. Something about the bovine ‘mother’, sacred cow that all Hindus are conscious of.
There’s also a memory of something from my home on the farm in the North of Scotland when I was a kid. I remember long nights and short days, aunties and grannies wearing comfortable wooly cardigans, porridge in a cracked bowl, coal and wood fires, cows in the fields, a black-and-white collie dog – and it’s this that I notice about the rural/urban Indian cities, cows sitting on the pavement, goats nibbling and chickens pecking around, the sound of a cockerel in the distance. It’s the farmyard scene where I was brought up that followed me here!
There’s a familiarity about it, pictures in the gallery of the mind, and yes I’d like to have a home surrounded by arable lands and farmyard animals, but for a very long time now there’s been only a series of temporary homes – all good, I share my life with Jiab and we’ve gotten used to the way things are. Living like a pair of migratory birds. In each place I have my favourite chair, books, and all the things I need. It works okay except sometimes I might spend a long time searching the bookshelves for a book I’m sure is there then realise it’s not in these bookshelves, it’s the other bookshelves, about 2000 miles away. So I have to let that one go, although I can see it there in the mind’s eye.
These days, reading is done mostly on devices and when I get on the plane I have my laptop like other passengers and when I reach ‘home B’ or ‘home C’ I get online automatically with the wifi there and plug my speakers into the socket on the laptop in its position there. And I hardly ever feel dispersed, or stretched, an okay sort of expansive feeling. In this context, it suits me well to follow the Buddha’s Teachings on going-forth, homelessness, non-attachment, no-self.
Whether there is a ‘self’, yes/no, is best not thought about too much because saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to it is, in so many words, identifying ‘self’’. Words identify things, language has a default mechanism that allows me to select what ‘I’ want it to be (also what I don’t want it to be) and the resulting attachment to all that I love and hate. I stay with it, see it happening, stay mindful about where the nearest emergency exit is located but very rarely needed – and just open the heart/mind citta to the world as wide as possible.
The presence of the cow wandering through industrialised Indian cities triggers something. The smell of cow dung brings me down to earth, generates a sense of groundedness for the time it’s needed for, then I’m up and away again. It’s also a pretty attractive life; the ability to just wander anywhere in benign foreign lands, live in the fortunate state of being without the tugs and pulls of desire and worldliness.
“Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.” [Swami Vivekananda]