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Journal 2008-08-25

I spent the morning walking around Rishikesh. I found a tailor and got her to shorten my white pyjama pants, as well as to make me a new natural cotton colour kurta, to match a pair of pants I had purchased. Then I went up to look at the Swiss cottage complex - looked at about 3 hotels. Then I walked all the way along the high road behind Sivanand Ashram, and at the bottom checked on Omkarananda guest house (expensive) and Yogananda guest house, less expensive, but not especially attractive. Then I walked across the bridge, turned right and kept walking till the end, reaching the old Maharishi Ashram, I guess. On the way I had stops for food and drink. Afterwards I walked all the way up the eastern shore, back to my hotel.

At one of the bookshops on the way I stopped and bought a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, 'The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching'. I had been intending to get a Thich Nhat Hanh book. This seems to be a good one.

I think I will stay here at Aadi Badri - it is comfortable enough, and quite a good deal, actually, compared with what is around. And I think I will stay in Rishikesh. My main purpose and responsibility, since I have made this such a long vacation, should be to do something spiritual, for my soul, to recharge my batteries, and so forth. Rishikesh is a suitable place for this. But I am not so inspired these days by contemporary Indian spiritual culture (as mentioned). I feel like I am getting a grip on what is necessary. I have realized that whereas Indian philosophical systems point to an escape from mundane consciousness, Thich Nhat Hanh is talking about a transformation of it. Whereas others are talking of a way out, he is talking of a way through. And this is more attractive to me, at this stage of my development.

Is my desire to study TNH now just a way of justifying my time, and convincing myself that I am doing something useful? It could be if I do not attempt, at the same time, to put what I am learning into practice, and live mindfully during this period. It's a little hard without relatng to others, and there are not so many opportunities for that here. But I should try to do what I do do in a mindful way while here, practice slow walking, mindful eating, etc. Perhaps to take a long walk each day along the river, in one direction or the other.

There is one aspect to my relation to spirituality which I can't get away from. My existence on this earth is fairly two-dimensional. Or it seems to be that way to me. I am monkish and reclusive in my disposition, even if I am not completely reconciled to that. I do not so easily find company. The examples and paradigms offered by TNH do not always apply well to me because I do not have a well developed sociability.

Later

There are different ways of viewing the same situation. I said earlier that maybe I am using the reading of spiritual books to justify my long stay here. but it would be more accurate to say that, having found that I had assigned too much time to this vacation, and having discovered that I am not so interested in visiting more Indian towns, I am simply trying to make the best of my time here. And, who knows, maybe something good will come of it.