We can’t see a single white-man in this image I know, but see those green rubbish bins? They stand for foreign presence.
Ramana attracted foreigners. One local myth has it that a three-day special pseudo-magic ceremony officiated by a famous devotee was held at Skandashram once for this very purpose, but this is a myth and even if there is some truth in it, the significance now relates more to the attitudes of the surrounding yokel locals to the bramanical ashram.
During Ramana’s lifetime foreigners came in dribs and drabs and for some time after, but swanning now at top speed as we are through KaliYuga, present witnesses to this Cult Hotspot are stunned at the yearly influx of foreigners gender-inspecifically known as White-Men.
White-Men are expensive: we use more water and electricity, eat more food, take up more space, buy up more agricultural land, consume more fuel: we are primarily consumers even though many of those who come here from foreign do not barrack for capitalism.
Despite this, many foreigners claim to be here for quietening the mind, hence they are – as the early famous foreign devotees were, entirely disinterested in the local culture and people. This is an unfortunate consequence that nurtures the envy and greed of the locals – in natural contrast to the wealth surrounding WhiteMen throughout the ages of domination on the sub-continent by foreign powers, which enables justification for local flagrant exploitation of white-men, including women.
Whether a foreigner is attracted to the presence of the mountain or to the social scene and pizza in local restaurants, all visitors are imbibing the atmosphere of the sacred mountain in incomprehensible benign ways even though those of psychological instability are advised not to remain here long. And foreigners are in various ways contributing to the local community even if (perhaps especially) when immersed in meditation – some also in not so benign ways, we hear. The overall financial contribution coming from foreign to local NGOs – of which there are an unusually high number in this district – has been increasing substantially over the years and the sharing of wealth between those visitors from the well-heeled west to needy local individuals on a day to day personal basis is undoubtedly beneficial within the community also. So with the acceleration into the Age of Iron, one significant feature is a fertile cross-cultural interface impacting this small community with power and influence.
The influence is not just financial and not by any means entirely sympathetic since the amalgamation described as Western Culture is here confronted with as diametrically different a culture as is imaginable: traditional Tamil. One very simple talisman for this difference would be for example that although everyone in my village knows my nickname, the villagers refer to me both among themselves and in my presence also, as White Man; on the other hand I call everyone by their name, I expend considerable effort to remember everyone’s name and take pleasure in using them, however on both sides lies a serious cultural offence.
But we can live with it. We like each other.
There might be occasional insurmountable barriers hurled over concepts of truth, in particular, since the Folk Culture doesn’t really seem to have one; there is a plurality in concepts of truth . . . There are Many Truths! In other words, you simply have only to chose the one that is most lucratively in your interests – which kind of, like, monkeys with our directed-thinking, rock-solid lip-service Truth, the-whole-and-nothing-but variety. And also over Reliability; Punctuality doesn’t exist here, but reliability can be encouraged even demanded by those in power although highly unlikely any locals ever really get it. It is a concept dependent on correct time and other such amorphous foreign amenities.
Instead there’s a Loyalty Program in place here that has the strident consensus of a national lottery, which is intimately related to the ubiquitous forbearance for corruption – itself a giant lottery: all families hold tickets, no matter how tattered and torn. This is as totally a different culture as you could wish for where the famous cross-cultural fertilisation becomes contorted, twisted in loopholes and misunderstandings, punctuated by little explosions of intricate meaning, funny little dog-eared attempts at regulations, exhaustive attempts in explanation of what ‘relevant’ means, wild guesses, expansive gestures, loud arguments about procedures, topped with the overwhelming in-congruency of the total lack of meaning content in school language acquisition. Like everything else: just accept it; it’s good for you.
We foreigners carry about this truly crazy notion that we need to know what’s going on.
There’s a well-paved avenue of cross-cultural-fertilisation in the dynamics between the many layers in the extensive hierarchy of psychological sophistication present in the plurality of local culture and the input from the primarily educated orientation in foreign visitors – very much a two-way current.
One quite frequent occurrence is the communication of enhanced life-strategies to locals of relatively low status who are confronted with excruciatingly difficult situations not supported by the folk culture, such as a woman trying to manage as a sole parent, or not wanting to marry, or wanting to pursue an unorthodox career. I only have experience in secret women’s business.
And in the other direction, for example, my own psychological sensibilities have received substantially rich and profound inputs to broaden my understanding of human nature, particularly from engagement with highly sensitive, perceptive local families.
This is all true and something else is too.