Your attention is focused on the road ahead — you need to navigate all manner of vehicles and pedestrians, going in just about every direction. And then as you slow down for an intersection, your attention is shifted from the windshield to the “tap, tap, tap” on one (or more) of your passenger windows. You imagine the request: “Hey Mister Westerner, how about some change for me? For my family? Please?” It was hard for this girl to see into our car, since the windows were darkened. So she stuck her nose up to the glass and tried to see inside, as well as to make herself known.
This is Old Delhi — a spider’s web of streets overlaid on a predominantly Muslim population. (India also has the 2nd largest number of Muslims in the world.) We had been advised earlier not to roll down our windows to provide any money, nor to buy from the street vendors hawking cheap trinkets and eager to test out their English in hopes of a few rupees. “If you give to one,” we are told, “they will quickly engulf the car.” A very strange situation. Do you look? Do you ignore? Do you try to help anyway? What would you do?
This situation is surely not the most grim in the world, but at the same time, it is unmistakable material poverty. It makes me think of this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, quality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.And what is it that makes me see beauty even here? What else ... our humanity. If you do not see, how will you be moved to consider this situation —- to decide what, if anything, you would like to do about it. Perhaps only accept it. Perhaps only be present for the suffering, for the stark difference in material wealth in the world. Perhaps only to wish for something better. Or perhaps to consider the current realities and expect something better for our humanity. And then perhaps to take one step -— one beautiful step -— to acknowledge, to understand, to feel compassion, and to move us upward, collectively upward, as we are most certainly capable of doing.
-- Martin Luther King Jr.
I see beauty in that potential -— in that intention. Don’t you?
Intention is the core of all conscious life. It is our intentions that create karma, our intentions that help others, our intentions that lead us away from the delusions of individuality toward the immutable verities of enlightened awareness. Conscious intention colors and moves everything.
-- Master Hsing Yun, Describing the Indescribable