The month of October has passed in a flash of color, music, festivals, explorations, and insights – around every corner I’m reminded to think twice about each step I choose to take in life while also not being afraid to let life guide me. How this dichotomy works, I’m not sure, but it has been going well thus far. I have continued to be amazed by how much can be learned through making observations and discussing with others. Through the process of sharing with each other we can each grow individually in our understandings of concepts and situations that are inherently confusing, such as ideas on modesty, spirituality, gender divides, social, political, and religious norms and oppression. Ideas such as these have frequented conversations and my mind this past month.
Along with philosophical discussions, many other events have occurred recently. A friend and I traveled to Sarnath at the beginning of the month. Sarnath is believed to be the location where the Buddha preached his first sermon. There is a temple paying homage to the Buddha and a statue depicting the Buddha and his disciples. It was very interesting to be in a place that I have studied about in classes and readings I have done on Buddhism; although, one of my friends familiar with Buddhism from America reminded me of an old saying “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I believe I understand this phrase a bit more since visiting Sarnath. The most beautiful part of the area, in my opinion, was the green grass and trees surrounding the temple and statue as I have been missing open spaces and foliage in the small streets of Banaras.
Two big festivals in the month of October were the Ramlila and Navrati (Durga Puja), which brought many men, women, and children out of their shops and homes to celebrate. The Ramlila is a play of the Ramayana (Ramh-Yan), a sacred book in Hindu mythology. This drama lasts for around 10 days, each evening commemorating the victory of Rama over the demon Ravana. I attended one evening with a few friends and our landlord. The night we attended depicted a man dressed as Rama killing a giant paper-mache statue of Ravana. It was very exciting to be a part of the crowd, witnessing such a long practiced tradition. It is also worth noting that the Maharaja of Banaras was also there, riding on an elaborately decorated elephant. Another event, Navrati is a nine day festival for the Mother Goddess Durga. My landlord also escorted a few friends and me to walk to several different statues of Durga that had been put up across Banaras – it was a lot of walking. During this adventure I found myself in the most crowded area I have ever been in, I am lacking for words at this experience but it was quite memorable to say the least.
Overall, the month of October was quite eventful and now I am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Bodh Gaya and Diwali, the festival of lights. Classes continue – some more notable than others. My jewelry making tutorial takes the lead as I find great pleasure in creating something, pouring patience and time into a small piece of metal, and then being able to wear it. My research is also teaching me so much about the connection between religion and psychology and how experience drives people’s beliefs in amazing ways.