The Blind Man
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The Blind Man Who Saw It All

It was some years back, in India. Seeing Delhi for the first time was so overwhelming for me. I had lived all this time without knowing this place existed… Well, I knew it was a place on Earth, but I didn't really know it at all. I was completely delighted to behold the enormous sea of humanity, waves of vintage imagery, buzzing, humming, calling in the streets, rickshaws, saris and turbans, spicy exotic smells and every shade of color, the dirt and the flies. Life, raw exposed and unpretentious like the sparkle in the eye of a wise old woman. It had existed all this time without me, how could it be? All of a sudden, possibilities that I never comprehended confronted me at every turn.


India was so strange… Immediately, I fell into wonder. I felt so tender. The possibility that I was the stranger here, and not India, cleared my vision. This set the perspective correct for the next decade. Now Mother India could pour her story into my open ears. India gave me everything I could imagine and that which I could not expect. I had come home, like I had never come home before. Something very subtle from within was saying that this was so. My eyes were as big as saucers, and my heart was soaked with sentiment. Traces of these feelings are still with me today. The first days in India pointed me in the direction of Rishikesh and the Himalayas. On the way North, a stop in Haridwar, a city famous for its bathing ghats, classic Indian temples and beauty. It was there that I first watched a modest and simple Indian villager bathing in the Ganga (the holy Ganges River). He was upstream just a little. I could feel that he was drenched in his prayer, soaked in the sanctity of the holy waters. He reminded me of something I could not touch, but knew. He offered orange and yellow flowers from his heart to God, laying them gently onto the Ganga. As his flowers floated by, I could feel his worship in the scent of the marigolds. The rushing current swept away a part of me that I could not retrieve, I did not try. I could not imagine a moment other than now, life was telling me her secrets. That night covered me in grace, peace and deep sleep.


North of Haridwar, in Rishikesh, there again I met the Ganga. I sensed that we had been ancient together. Now she had come to this Earth in the shape of a river, a goddess in liquid form. Everyday was filled with sitting near her. We were like two old friends, she and I. Never did I tire of our visits or the intimacy we shared. We were always empty for each other, like a bird reflected in still waters, like a cup of tea, fine music or sacredness. Twice a day I would cross over the Ganga on the Ram Jhula, a beautiful suspension bridge that spans the width of the Ganges. From a distance, one can watch mule teams cross the Jhula at sunset… this is a meditation in itself. This bridge is a world of its own. There are monkeys, and humans, and cows. At times, there are so many people that one just gets swept along. There are beggars, there are motor scooters whizzing by. The bridge is like a planet in a way. Sometimes it is completely empty like all of space. Passing this way daily, one gets to know the faces that frequent the Jhula. Children are there; they sell little balls of flour dough for one rupee. The buyer throws the balls over the bridge and into the Ganga so far below. In a matter of an instant, great gatherings of large fish come to take the bait, and the people catch a view instead of a fish. Everyone is happy with this exchange. It is forbidden to catch fish from the Ganga. On the bridge, there are photographers taking snaps of the tourists. Couples pose: with the children, the grandparents, the cousins and so on. No one will disrupt this historical moment. No one minds to wait at all. All movement ceases until the shutter clicks. On Ram Jhula, the contrast is motion, commotion or dead silence. There are the beggars sitting on the bridge waiting for a coin to drop in their cup. This is music to their ears. Being a beggar is not easy. They work hard for that coin. A certain humility is required. Even the aggressive ones possess humility, for a beggar is always humble or humiliated. In some way, we are all beggars. I think of Gautama Buddha, born a prince among men. He gave up his kingdom to surpass earthly royalty, and he did. He gave his son, Prince Rahul, a begging bowl as his inheritance, for Buddha knew the kingdom was empty like the bottomless bowl of the beggar. He knew the gem within himself called enlightenment.


This is the story of a beggar king. Where I came from, if you didn't have, you had no chance for happiness. Where I came from, too much was never enough. Daily while crossing over the Ganga, one beggar continually caught my attention. He leaned upon a staff because his legs were weak… He was a blind man. And he wore a thin piece of very old cloth. He held his tin cup and with his head turned toward the sky, he would sing, "Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare." I always stopped to listen. He never knew that I was there. To watch him delivered more than a college diploma in social science. He told more about the human spirit than any church sermon could convey. As I observed him with great curiosity, I could detect joy in him, in his song, in his life. How could it be? He had nothing to be joyous about. Look at his condition, so pitiful! In my world, from what I had learned about life’s values, there was no slot for a man like this to be like that. He shook my ideas to pieces; they tumbled one after another. Standing at a distance, I watched him, neutral and receptive for the teaching. He opened my heart and broadened my understanding. Oh, how grateful I was to get caught by this image. His name was ‘Haridas,’ which means ‘servant of the Lord.’ Sometimes, I would go to Haridas and tell him in my broken Hindi that I had put a silent five-rupee note in his cup. Next to him, I could feel a fullness that I had not found in my concept of freedom. He was a freedom I had not considered. There was contentment in him. He was watching the world in his own way. I was beginning to see beauty through the eyes of a blind beggar more clearly than I had ever seen beauty through my own. Haridas did not know me, but I felt like I knew myself more and more because of him. I was beginning to know love. Once, after listening to his song, I stood in front of him so touched by his position in my heart, I said: "Haridas, you are truly a wealthy man." I left him then, on the Ram Jhula bridge. There he remained as I left the Himalayan Gateway. I was heading back to Jasper Park, Eugene, Oregon, to take up my work again as a park-caretaker. Often, I would tell people of this blind beggar that did not know me. Because of him, I knew me much better than before.


 Two years passed before fate turned me again in the direction of Rishikesh. I was so excited. I thought I would burst, nearly did. When I was flying into Indira Gandhi International, the blind beggar, so frail, appeared in my heart. I thought, "Well, India can be hard, it can be very tough to survive. Perhaps the heat evaporated his fragile frame. Maybe his song brought no coin, or perhaps his health just could not hold him anymore."


Fate brought me again to the banks of the Ganga. The crowd was thick that day as I was walking across the Ram Jhula bridge. In front of me, about half a crowd away, I saw a tiny little man. I could tell by the back of his head that he was blind. I called his name just to see, after all it was two years later. Was it him? "Haridas!!!" He called back in a flash: "ShantiMayi!!! ShantiMayi!!!" He knew my voice? My name? He had known me all along. I was so astonished, I could not move. I stood, hands fastened to the cables of Ram Jhula, staring into the Ganga as he dissolved slowly away into the crowd. I could not catch him, but in that moment, he caught me again, right by the heart strings. He showed me that we had always seen with the same "I". He taught me to love what I did not understand. He opened a way into myself. With him, all my concepts had to be silenced so that I could truly see. With him my heart could hold no prejudice so the true love, unconditioned and neutral could light the way to a deeper understanding. With him desire stood still and I found that a blind man can see what others cannot. And that the senses merge somewhere in a meeting of heart. There, the subtlest sense of being shines powerfully, unobstructed and unaided as it truly is.

From an old diary of ShantiMayi


<------- Love changes The Blind Man