To an essentially homeless person like me, the San Francisco Bay Area is as much home as any place ever gets to be. A few days ago when I arrived at the SFO immigration counter, the INS agent said, “Welcome back home.” Made me more acutely aware than ever before that I was a wanderer without a permanent home address. Not given to extended self-pity, I soon reminded myself of the advantages of not being rooted to a place.
One of the most fundamental truths of our existence is that of impermanence and change. The root of all suffering is an attachment to what is impermanent. The realization that all things are impermanent is the first necessary step towards liberation, or moksha. Over the decades of wandering around (voluntarily or involuntarily), I have been getting persistent practice of letting go. It is not easy but with time the lesson becomes more firmly embedded into the soul. Intellectually that lesson is easy to internalize but emotionally very hard to accept.
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All travel is an attempt to better understand who we are. I believe it goes like this: you go out in search of something and then with time you come to understand that whatever it was that you were looking for is inside rather than out there. As the Moody Blues sang on their In Search of the Lost Chord:
Walking through that door
Outside we came
Nowhere at all
Perhaps the answer’s here
Not there anymore
What tickles me is the fact of an American rock band reaching out to ancient Indian thought to write their songs. Though currently materially poor, India’s spiritual heritage is the richest in the world. Increasingly, intellectuals and scientists around the world are reaching out to that wisdom to better comprehend the world. An example. Just a few weeks ago, The Economist (Sept 2nd, 2006) carried an article on cryptography, “The non-denial of the non-self,” which talks about the concept of a negative database and the work of Yale University computer scientist Dr Fernando Esponda. The article concludes with a quote from him, “In Hindu philosophy, to find out who you are, you ask what are you not. Then you are left with what you are.”
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The SF Bay Area is not home–just like all the other places that I have been to have not been home. So the search must end where it began. There is no home out there. Home is right here. I am home.