Travelling through India as a European you frequently come into contact with other Westerners seeking the state of ‘bliss’, a mental state they hope will come from performing yoga exercises, chanting and meditation.
Bliss-seeking might seem a very self-indulgent and typically 21st century pursuit. Nor does it come cheap.
£400 per day (+ travel expenses) is about the price you would pay for the privilege of attending an Eckhart Tolle 5-day retreat near New York in 2019. This is approximately £100 more than anyone earns in a whole week on the UK Minimum Wage rate. [£1=$0.77]
A typical 5/6-day retreat at an ashram in Rishikesh will cost you around £150, or about half the UK minimum weekly wage. Bear in mind, accommodation will be rudimentary and the food, while wholesome, costs the host very little to bring to the table. For example, an orange costs around 5 pence even from a market stall, while £1 buys a huge bag of rice or lentils. Plus, you may be expected to take on cleaning duties as part of your ‘karma yoga’! Also be aware that groups of around 50 people are typical, which amounts to £7500 going to the ashram, itself staffed in part by unpaid volunteers. Again, the attendee will have paid several hundred – if not thousands – of pounds in air flights and other fares simply getting to the place.
That anyone – let alone whole troupes of people – might think ‘bliss’ is a psychological condition there to be purchased seems quite amazing. And yet, in return for a financial transaction, there really is no shortage of individuals prepared to indulge you in your wish.
What kind of a world does a person inhabit whereby they pursue this mental state of ‘bliss’ as a goal?
Since when did any grouping of – already over-privileged – human beings ever believe they deserved anything of the kind?
Future posts will consider such questions.