“Karma” is a noun that means “everything that happens to you is something you have caused.”  A close friend of mine has built a very successful international practice by helping people dissect the issues they are having in their lives and then, through a simple process, discovering in the person’s life the exact moments  when that person caused these effects.  The remarkable truth of Karma then  becomes real as the current issues in the client’s life, as if by magic, resolve.

This happened to me:

While living in India from ’72 to ’74 I was well removed from the American culture of my youth, and from time to time would be compelled to make the  40 mile trip to Jaipur just to find someone who understood English in order that I might salve my loneliness.

You must understand that I was never without people around me – crowds, in fact, who were continually fascinated with my every move.  Many had not ever seen a westerner up close – much less talked with one.  I learned in those days that loneliness has naught to do with the absence of companionship,  but with not being understood.  Hence, my frequent trips to Jaipur in those early days.

Walking through the Jaipur bazaar is always a treat, and my mission there was soon given hope of accomplishment by the presence of a young Jaipur man dressed in a short-sleeved shirt, khaki pants and sandals.  His face lit up when he saw my “English” face. He turned from his course through the bazaar to intersect mine.

With studied motions he said, “Good Morning!”

I was thrilled that he clearly wanted to practice his English, and I was only too happy to oblige.

“Good morning!” I replied.  “How are you today?”

My question went passed him unnoticed as he was deep in preparation for the next thing he wanted to practice: “Do you collect stamps, please?”

Content with my role as his practice dummy, I responded with, “No, I don’t collect stamps.”

“Thank you very much,” he replied.  With an unwavering smile he moved to the next query:  “What color is your penis please?”


I introverted so fast that it actually pulled the atmosphere in around me.  I was shocked!  I was completely taken off guard by the rudeness of this total stranger – as sincere as he seemed to me.

Privacy, of course, is a Western curse, and we guard  jealously our various customs that prevent it’s invasion.  Such an assault in the middle of the bazaar was the last thing I expected.  I felt violated and suddenly very unsure of my footing. In my defense I attempted to divert this conversation to another subject:

“Look at that beautiful building!” I said with flushing cheeks.

He glimpsed where I was pointing and then came back with the still-unanswered question:  “What color is your penis please?”

He was completely without guile, a characteristic held in common with many in this beautiful country. It is why I believe we from the West have such a hard time understanding the Indian culture. Those trained in guile cannot understand the innocent, which explained my own response to his inquiry.  I was insulted by his unknowing assault on my privacy.

I finally discovered that these were the only two questions this young man understood in English.  I was frazzled for days as I recalled the encounter, and had all but forgotten it until my next trip to Jaipur when it happened again with another person!

These two questions were posed to me on no less than 30 separate occasions by different people over the following months.  They were always preceded by a certain avian cock of the head and delivered, always, with a smile and the utmost courtesy.

It was so consistent in it’s characteristic – this assault on my privacy – that it became my custom, when confronted with that certain fix of the shoulders and angle of the head, that I would launch in to discovering how to avoid answering the second question.  I’d often not answer the first question in my zeal to dodge the second.

I never answered the second question, in fact, and had developed a tick in my cheek and a flinch in my bearing whenever someone would suddenly cock his head and fix his shoulders in that inevitable “posture of insult.”  I’d grown horns in response to this now-habitual encounter, and had come to the conclusion that the Indian people were MOSTLY wonderful – with exceptions for these embarrassing lapses in their manners.

These social collisions went on for a year-and-a-half.  I became emotionally numb to them.  I was driven by a curiosity of how it was that so many people became so grooved to such a narrow and – to my mind – insulting brace of questions.

It happened one day that I was in my own village having tea with the school master from a neighboring area.   After some time had pleasantly passed in the local language he suddenly turned on the bench, facing me more directly, and cocked his head.

(OH, MY, GOD! He’s going to ask “The Questions!”  Not HERE!  Not in my own safe harbor!!  This just is NOT happening!!)

In well-practiced English he asked, “Do you collect stamps, please?”

OK!  THAT’S IT!!  NO MORE WILL I BE ASSAULTED LIKE THIS!!  I’M GOING TO FIGHT BACK!!”  I was not noticing, of course, that I was not being attacked.  The only battle here was in my own mind.

In to his smiling face I replied with rising anger, “No, I DON’T collect stamps!” And waited for his inevitable reply.

Still very pleasant and not even noting my rising temper, he said,  “Thank you very much.  What color is your penis please?”

“Well,” I said to begin my own assault on HIS privacy, “What color is YOUR penis??!”

He respoded with casual and unflinching pleasantness: “It’s brown.”

I was stunned.  I mean, I didn’t care about the color of his penis.  I only wanted  to cause the same damage to HIM that he was causing to ME!

His response, after all these prior exchanges in earlier times and other places, brought me to realize that it was my own unwillingness to experience the life around me that was defeating me, and not these innocent questions. I was projecting on this culture my own insecurities, and these amazing and mannerly people were compassionate enough not to make an issue of it.

For the first time I actually – and without concern or self-protection – replied to the second question:

“Well, mine is white.”

“Thank you very much! Would you like some more tea?”

I was suddenly liberated to another level of casual observation.  I was less defensive and more relaxed in my absorbtion of the world around me. I was more at home and, more to the point, much less lonely.

Now, to the purpose of this story;  I began with the remarks about my friend who runs things to their Karmic beginnings, and so it happened with me on this tale.

I was doing this “karmic” procedure some years after these events, rolling it back through a series of upsets that began, I thought, with that first time in the bazaar when the young Indian cocked his head to the side and asked me about stamps.  I recounted the experience to my friend and even laughed a bit at the memory, but was surprised when my friend asked me, according to this procedure, if there was an earlier similar experience.  This notion had never occurred to me, and when I actually tested my memory I discovered, to my astonishment, that there had been an earlier incident.

350 years prior, on a verandah near Jaipur in Rajasthan, there sat two British Officers bored out of their minds as there were no more lands to conquer. To satisfy their cravings for constructive purpose and to fill their afternoons, one of these lieutenants conceived a prank that would target the legendary pretense of English gentry.

He and his colleague gathered all of the Indian people who were connected with their garrison and trained them en masse in the manners required to show respect to the visiting population of Englishmen and business people connected with the various trading companies that pocked the land.

They stood these Indian people at attention in groups of thirty and, one group after another, demonstrated for them precisely what was expected.  They had their willing students mimic these words and postures until mastery was achieved. Then they were charged to go out and make these  Englishmen welcome with the manners they had learned.

It was entertaining for these lieutenants to imagine the effects this would create on tourists for the next few hundred years.

Such is the British sense of humor.

To the point of our story, you may have already guessed that I was that British lieutenant who hatched this mischief.  Once I realized this as a result of this karmic procedure I felt a huge surge of relief as the mystery discharged, and laughed for weeks at the realization that I had become the dupe of my own prank.

Surely, in all of the years following that training in the Rajasthan sun,  that prank had never played out more spectacularly  on any of the gentry for whom I had intended these humiliations than it had on me. I had, in fact, caused my own embarrassment many years later.

Such is Karma.

I highly recommend, therefore, that you seek out someone who can assist you in this process to unearth the beginnings of your own condition.  You will discover how comedic is this game of life, and how such complicated and twisted emotional situations and inabilities had their beginnings in simple decisions you made some time earlier.

May you discover the source of your own travails, and make them vanish!

Happy New Year!

The Lieutenant

Categories: General | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Karma

  1. Great story Mark. Thanks for posting it. I have to apologize for not keeping up with the blog these past few months, but I’m settled in now and shall be frequently returning. Doug

    • Hi Doug!

      Good to hear from you! I’m glad you enjoyed the tale and I’m fixing to do a couple more, so your return will be well met! What have you been up to?


  2. Well, I’ve become nicely acclimated in my new career here in Minnesota and feel a great 2013 is in the works. I’ve also managed to find someone up here like Wendy and will resume my karmic journey this weekend! Perhaps I may have similar stories to share very soon. I shall keep you in the loop. Doug

    • I also need to figure this bloggin’ thing out so I can get one up soon myself. I think I’d like that.

    • I would say getting acclimated to the Minnesota winter would be my first order of business! Very happy to hear you have found someone to share your igloo with! Wendy and I have ended our thing as we are just too far apart. You need to have very close proximity, I reckon, to have a workable scene. She and I are half a world apart! But your journey holds great interest for me, so do keep me in that loop!

      • I’m sorry to hear about Wendy, but I certainly understand. Let’s keep on putting something more workable in place…Yes?

        As far as the weather goes, although I grew up in Michigan where cold weather is common I spent the better part of the past few years in Arizona and turned in to a bit of a wimp. I am; however, rebounding nicely. In the event I ever get stranded on the road I have enough warm clothes in my trunk to mount an expedition to the North Pole, which I think must not be too far from here.

        How about a recent win from my journey? We’ve all had good “reasons” to not communicate with others or be more open in social settings. Believe me I’ve made up some doozies, but I had an important realization about that because someone helped me using a process such as you described.

        It occurred to me that I grew up in an upper middle class family, had great parents, lived in a small town with a solid sense of family, have a college education and beyond, have never went hungry, have never been in a major accident, and other than some hairline fractures in a finger or two have never broken a single bone in my body. WHAT PLAUSIBLE EXCUSE COULD I POSSIBLY HAVE FOR NOT COMMUNICATING? My, my I’ve been thinking all this time it has been because I’ve lived such a hard life, when truthfully that has been my consideration only and a complete fabrication.

        This has opened up many new possibilities for me including a deeper respect and desire to assist those who have lived a far tougher life than I. The beauty is, even though we each are on our own individual journey, these processes will work for them as we’ll.

        Cheers, Doug

  3. Lana M.

    What a superb story! Thanks Mark!

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