This morning I was walking to the library after spending a couple of hours handing out CVs in all the possible bars, shops and cafes I could find in Wellington city centre, when a lady stopped me and asked me where I was from. She had a couple of books under her arm so I immediately thought she wanted to enlighten me about the holy word of Jesus/Mohammed/Joseph Smith/insert non-existent deity name here. So I played it safe and answered vaguely, quickly revising all my best comebacks about evolution, humanism and why you don’t have to be religious to be a nice person (after years of practice with Born-Again Christians at Stratford station, I sure know how to play my cards). But then she told me she was a yoga teacher from London, and that triggered an actually interesting conversation about being thinkers and questioning everything (just my kind of stuff). Her ultimate goal was obviously to sell me those books, so she promptly showed them to me explaining how Bhakti yoga inspires you to look for answers through meditation and playing the tambourine.
Now. I believe this young lady and I have a very different concept of what being a thinker means. From the leaflet she gave me, I take it that she gets all her answers from the “ultimate conscious source” Krishna (turns out that’s the deity, see? There’s always one). I, on the contrary, feel very strongly about using your own brain to do your research and being able to explain everything you believe in with scientific evidence.
In spite of this huge ideological divergence we managed to have a lovely, civilised conversation on cruelty-free food and connecting with people, so I did end up buying one of her books (the smaller she had, since I am jobless and only had two dollars in my wallet). When I explained my situation she said that because I’d just helped a spiritual organisation, my good deed would come back to me ten thousand times more powerful.
Needles to say that I immediately regretted giving away those two dollars. What does that even mean? That I will find ten thousand jobs? Sorry Karma, but you sound like total bullshit to me. How do you measure good actions?
I still smiled and walked away. When I got to the library I had another look at the leaflet and the book (which by the way I only picked because George Harrison was on the cover). The organisation this lady volunteers for offers affordable yoga classes, post-workout vegetarian dinners and weekly workshops. I let out a long sigh. I always have the same reaction towards yoga: I do enjoy the practice, but I can’t get over the fact that everything revolves around chakras and spiritual crap. But at the same time I appreciate the idea that the yoga community is always so welcoming and warm-hearted, that there’s no right or wrong in yoga, and that overall it just feel good to be there.
I don’t believe in Karma, but I do believe that helping people makes you feel better. And after all, this lady was nice and we did have a pleasant chat. I don’t regret buying the book –after all, I try to keep an open mind even for things that I would automatically reject, and if I really don’t find anything worth retaining I can always say I’ve used this book to educate myself in order to become better at arguing.