Table of Contents
Also on this website:
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the
Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of
Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe
MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edtion from Lethe Press
with Afterword by Mark Jordan
LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE
A NOVEL ABOUT HEALING.
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into
Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San
Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate
Why gay people should NOT Marry
Wedding Cake Liberation
Gay Marriage in Texas
Shame on the American People
The "highest form of love"
cause of homosexuality
What is homosexuality?
What Jesus said about Gay
The purpose of homosexuality
What the Bible Says about
Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men
of Gay Spirituality
Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality
as Artistic Medium
"It's Always About You"
The myth of the
Joseph Campbell's description of
Not A Wave
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
Toby Johnson Believes
The Joseph Campbell Connection
Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy
The Nature of Religion
Gay is a Blessing
Gay Spiritual Functions
The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.
"The Evolution of Gay Identity"
"St. John of the Cross &
Dark Night of the Soul."
Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.
Let Me Tell You a Secret
Religious Articulations of the
The Collective Unconscious
Driving as Spiritual Practice
Prostitution and the Nature of Evil
Hu: "God is present here"
The Life is in the Blood
retirement and the "freelance monastery"
Seeing with Different Eyes
are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?
experience at the Servites' Castle in Riverside
Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis
The Techniques Of The World Saviors
Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the
Part 2: The
Part 3: Jesus
and the Resurrection
Part 4: A
Course in Miracles
Secret of the Clear Light
Understanding the Clear Light
Finding Your Tiger Face
Souls Get Reincarnated
About Alien Abduction
In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke
and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.
Michael Talbot, gay mystic
About Guy Mannheimer
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 Indian 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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
As it happened I was reading the most perfect book for this excursion
Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's an
alternative history of planet Earth, based on the hypotheosis 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).
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
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!