Travel Report: India, February 2011
I am in India, at an ashram in the Himalayas where I will be meditating for a week. I arrived here by car from New Delhi. Because of the horrific traffic jams it was a twelve-hour ride punctuated by the endless honking of cars. But I had much to see and think about.
Upon landing at the beautiful and clean New Delhi airport, while waiting to pass through immigration control, I noticed a dozen sculptures over the immigration control booths: A dozen sculptures of hands, the thumb touching a different finger,
“Wow!” I thought to myself. “That corresponds perfectly with the material in my lecture on integration.” (See my TopLeaF DVD What is a Leader.)
The sculptures are a perfect metaphor for India, a country where (I) is dominant.
My insight about the high (I). It is a nightmare to drive in India, especially since the roads look less like roads than like an accumulation of potholes. I expected to see road rage of unimaginable proportions. But here in India, they just honk, smile, and keep going.
Wait. How did India develop this incredibly strong (I)? Where is it coming from? I would have guessed that India, with its twenty two official and many more unofficial languages, its multiple religions, its ocean of people living practically on top of one another in endless poverty, would lack (I); it would not have surprised me if the country’s internal relationships resembled those of the Balkans, with its never-ending wars. There should at least be a conflict, a fight for resources. They should all be killing each other nonstop.
In research experiments, rats that were crowded together in a small space started attacking each other. That is to be expected. But that is the opposite of what is going on in India. People are almost docile; there is lots of smiling, lots of head-nodding to communicate support and understanding.
So where did that (I) come from? I asked my Indian associate if he thought it had anything to do with Buddhism; Buddha was an Indian. Hm. But no one is a prophet in his own country, and as always happens; Buddhism did not catch on in India. Its popularity was confined to Tibet and its surroundings.
So what caused this (I)?
I started to think about duality, which I have written about in another blog but haven’t published yet because I am still working on it. The general idea is that there is no such thing as a semantic differential: love/hate, cold/hot, black/white.
The earth is not flat. Heading left, you will in time end up on the right; and going to the right, you will eventually reach the left. Extreme white is the beginning of black, and extreme hate is the beginning of love.
Aha! Is That it? Although the extreme conditions in India could have produced extreme hate, it produced love instead. Surrender. Acceptance. Meditation. Yoga. The word “yoga” literally means “integration,” or “connection.” And meditation is integration, too.
Now why did conditions that could have produced extreme hate, produce love instead? My crazy illumination is that it could be the result of the food they eat: They are vegetarian; they eat no meat. Fifty percent of Indians, I am told, are vegetarians. That is over half a billion people. Could the food be it?
I have noticed myself that since I went on a vegetarian diet, that I am calmer and more tolerant. You might say I am even more loving. And if almost an entire nation is vegetarian, for generation after generation, it makes sense that there would be some accumulative effect.
Look at how Indians treat their cows, their monkeys … even rats: with respect and acceptance––living in peace and tolerance with what is.
There are two interesting exceptions: Despite India’s abundance of (I), I did witness situations where (I) behavior was missing.
Let me give an example: During the journey to the Himalayas, my associate and I slept in a hotel. In the morning, I asked him, “Where did the driver sleep?”
“In the car,” the associate said.
“In the car!” I exclaimed in disbelief. “But the temperature was below zero. And he could not run the engine to keep the heat on because gasoline is so expensive. That is cruel!”
“Oh, they are used to it,” he responded.
After that I started to notice how workers are treated in India: worse than second-class citizens. Labor is cheap, and there is so much of it that workers are treated as an expendable commodity.
That demonstrates a diminished level of (I). How is high (I) reconciled with low (I)? With a high “Social” (A).
Every Indian, from birth, occupies a particular and rigid position in the social hierarchy––which amounts to a social (A); Everyone knows the rules and accepts their assigned place in society.
The (I) culture coupled with social (A) might explain why India does not seethe with hatred as the Balkans do, despite the poverty, the over-crowding, and the lack of a common language.
And it came to my mind, on that long ride to the Himalayas, bouncing from one pothole to the other, that Gandhi, with his peaceful non-violent revolution, was shooting fish in a barrel. He was preaching to the choir! His strategy worked in India because their culture supports that message. If he had preached non-violent resistance in the meat-consuming nation of Serbia, for instance, he would have been totally ignored or ridiculed at best, but more likely tarred and feathered and escorted out of town.
Now my question: How was this vegetarian culture born? Does anyone know??? Where did this (I) culture come from? I would truly appreciate learning from those who know more than I.
I am aware that my analysis is an oversimplification of a complex subject? I am eager to learn. I invite you to comment.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes