I’ve been in India for almost a month now, at first guiding a tour of American first-timers mostly in our facility in Bangalore, but also on a guided trip to Kolkata, which ended about ten days ago.  I then joined Sri Sri and a smaller group, which was headed to the Northeast part of India: Tripura, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. This is a part of India largely populated by indigenous peoples and tribes, where Art of Living has done a lot of humanitarian work. As it turns out, we have two small ashrams there, one in Guhati and one in Arunachal, the construction on which was just being completed as we arrived. This was such an unbelievably beautiful part of India. Assam is where much of the world’s tea supply is grown, and everywhere you look there are vast tea estates, with lush, green tea bushes in neat rows growing in every direction as far as the eye can see. Arunachal Pradesh requires a special visa to enter…it’s been a sensitive area since India fought a border war there with China in the 1960s. Where we traveled is very close to where Bhutan, Tibet, China and India all come together. It’s one of the most sparsely populated parts of India, and the huge forests which once covered most of India are still largely untouched there. One feels surrounded by the power of nature everywhere, and you can feel a strong connection to it, especially when you close your eyes and meditate. The area’s dotted with lakes and rivers, including the Brahma Putra, which is the largest river in India and runs through Tibet and China as well. Indigenous people there look like Tibetans or Mongolians, although they also strongly identify themselves as part of India. They worship the sun and the moon in their native religion and still live lives extremely close to nature. I went mainly to visit some of our service projects there, including some schools for indigenous children. Even though AP, or Arunachal Pradesh, is still largely closed to tourists, its fragile culture is under an onslaught from a variety of forces, including Western material culture, a Maoist guerilla insurgency, and a sharp rise in Christian fundamentalist conversions. We were there to help the local people sustain human values amidst these influences through both our schools and service projects. People there were extremely friendly and hospitable and made us all quickly feel at home. We lived under somewhat primitive conditions, but everyone in the group looked after one another, and we all felt very happy to be there.

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