“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!
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