Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal


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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story

PLAGUE: A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.

About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

The purpose of homosexuality

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"


"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?


Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven



Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves


Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality


 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice

Meditation

Historicity as Myth

Pilgrimage

No Stealing


Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
 
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles


The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists


Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash


 
Book Reviews


Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois


Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass

Our Travels to India & Nepal



(December 7, 2006) Kip and I have just returned from a two week tourist excursion to India and Nepal. We bought the tourist package from a travel agency called Postcard Destinations. We've been happy with their services and so I am pleased to recommend them. This is our second trip with Postcard Destinations. We did a Christmas time tour of Southern Germany and Bavaria a couple of years which we bought through Postcard Destinations. That was also a wonderful trip--Christmas in the Black Forest! (Just perfect, there as even "real Black Forest cake"). Nicholas at Postcard Destinations does offer just that: postcard-perfect vacations.

This recent tour was arranged by a company called Gate 1. The actual name of the tour was India's Majesty with Nepal. (Click on title for specific itinerary & brochure)

We certainly saw a lot of "majesty," not least of which, of course, was the famed Taj Mahal and the peak of Mount Everest. The trip took us from Delhi to Jaipur to Agra to
Khajuraho to Varanasi, then to Kathmandu.

We also saw a lot of squalor and human suffering. India is certainly a case study for the problem of overpopulation and human crowding. AND the injustice of Man to man.

Everywhere we went the busload of some 30 mostly American and Canadian tourists were beset upon by hawkers and beggars. The guide, a very lovely and intelligent and well-spoken middle-aged Indianmridulapunj Brahmin woman named Mridula Punj (who led us around with her blue & white parasol), warned us against giving too much money to the beggars because of the danger of attracting more and more of them and creating discord and fighting among them over the litlte pittances of alms we might give out. And she appropriately warned us that the hawkers couldn't be trusted with prices and the best way to buy from them was to wait till the bus was about to leave and she would present the various wares to us at the most reasonable prices.

So we certainly were given sensible advice about how to deal with the hawkers and beggars. BUT this advice -- and the hawkers' constant pestering and refusal to accept "no, thanks, I'm not interested" -- created an upsetting adversarial relationship with them and with India in general.

Prices for items would begin at $90 US, for instance, for a wooden flute presented by a young man who followed me throughout the entire visit to the temple square of one of the original cities of Kathmandu, the price constantly coming down and his insistence I buy the thing constantly increasing. I finally gave in and bought the flute for $1.50.

eyes of buddha
                    kathmanduAt the wonderful Buddhist stupa in downtown Kathmandu with the eyes of Buddha painted on the square finial at the top (featured in the movie "Little Buddha"), a site that felt truly holy to me, I bought two silver medallions with the eyes of Buddha from a hawker for $40. Later I bought the same medallion elsewhere for a hundred rupees, about $1.25.

It was hard not to feel like we were being cheated--and the holiness of the various locales "desecrated."

Mrs Punj explained that the "professional beggars" are sometimes children who have been maimed by their parents to make them good beggars and so giving them money only reinforces a cultural economic pattern that does more harm than good. Though to the boy with crippled legs or the lepers with stumps for hands, the alms would provide needed resources. (I think they didn't have the luxury of considering socio-economic dynamics.)

It also made us feel guilty that we weren't giving more. And I could imagine how the Indians must have felt resentful of us. Here we are Americans with enough money to fly to their country and walk around with expensive cameras taking pictures of them and not wanting to give away a few pennies here and there, walking past the poor lepers as though they were bothersome insects, not human beings wth complex conscious experience. No wonder the "wretched of the Earth" are resentful and angry with America--and easily turned to side with Al Qeda and opponents of the U.S. It isn't our "freedom" they hate, it's our "stinginess." And the stinginess is born out of fear and confusion and bafflement at what to do in the face of such suffering and poverty.

Kip and I came away with a realization that we'd handled this issue all wrong. We saw there was a better way. And so I'm posting this message of advice to tourists to India in hopes of making the next travelers' experience more satisfying.


THE ADVICE

Take about a hundred dollars -- the amount you'd donate to a politician without even thinking about it, the amount that a nice dinner would cost -- with you in small bills, $1s or $5s. And plan to give it away and buy the little trinkets freely. Maybe even buy more trinkets than you can possibly use, and gather them in a bag and leave the bag on a ledge someplace where somebody will find it. You might even provide some beggar the "capital" he or she needs to get started in small business. Almost like making a mini-loan that doesn't have to be repaid.

Don't let the adversarial quality of the hawking and begging get to you. Just give the money away generously. It will make YOUR trip better.


A SECOND PIECE OF ADVICE

We flew from Texas to Paris to Delhi and then back again. That's how airlines set up travel. The trip going was with the wind and took us just over a day. The trip coming back was against the wind and took nearly a full day longer. We should have kept flying east.

If we'd left Kathmandu for Bangkok and then flown home across the Pacific, we'd have "circumnavigated" the globe. That would have gotten us home faster, I think, and added a "notch" to our travel experience.


THE TRIP

taj mahal
The excursion to India and Nepal was a highlight of our lives, I think, though as I write this I am suffering with a cold I caught on the plane and still feeling a little jet-lagged.

We were with a group of about 30 tourists, most of them married couples of late middle age. We were one of three gay couples. (One of the other gay couples was on a buying junket for their Oriental gift shop in New Orleans, Silk Road Collection. They seemed to be having fun cause they were buying freely. They've posted a nice description of their experience of the tour.) It was nice being with nongay people on the tour. I think we all gave them good examples of what gayness really is. Travel is a good opportunity for educational "coming out." The gay couples in the group were all uniformly liked and honored by everybody.





MY READING

As it happened I was reading the most perfect book for this excursion -- The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's an alternative history of planet Earth, based on the hypothesis that the Black Plague that struck Western Europe in the 14th Century had wiped out the population entirely and took Christianity and European culture with it. The dominant forces in the world of Robinson's novel are Islam, Buddhism, and Native American culture.

What is especially interesting is how the novel follows a set of 4 or 5 characters into the bardo and through their stream of reincarnations from the time of plague to just beyond the present. So the book discusses reincarnation mythology again and again, becoming more and more sophisticated as time passes and culture develops. It's a real tour de force (and at 763 pages enough reading to last through many plane flights and layovers).

chisti's tomb
                    fatepur sikri



Some of the sites we visited -- specifically the Tomb of Chisti, founder of Sufism, at Fatepur Sikri between Agra and Khajuraho -- are actually in the novel. (This is the entrance to the tomb shown in the photo)



I came away from the experience understanding that what I am as a conscious ego-person is a fulfillment of the hopes and fears and struggles of all those people who've lived before.

The trip wasn't as "spiritual" as I'd hoped, because the hawkers created such distractions even in the most holy of places -- like Deer Park in Varanasi, the birthplace of Buddhism (and maybe the tomb of Buddha). But the spiritual wisdom shone through nonetheless and not in small part in the advice I have offered above about buying more trinkets and giving them back to another set of hawkers. Those poor people are me!

I hope you'll want to follow in our footsteps! Bon voyage!


 



Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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