The Story of Siddhartha


Buddhism is a child of India. It was born in the form of Prince Siddhartha. It was also born out of desperation, because the Vedic system had become a prison, encapsulating every living being in a fixed and unchangeable form. You are born a beggar, so you will be a beggar until you die and then are reborn as a gnat.

So the great achievement of Buddhism was this: humans can change.

The prince himself was changed numerous times and every time this change brought him great pain. He went out of the palace of his parents, a pampered youth, somebody who believes the world is at his feet or in the palm of his hand. Up until this day he had known nothing but riches, three lavish meals a day, soft clothes and the beauty or anger of his own thoughts. This image is most of us, who have not seen suffering or have never been forced to change…we live in a prison of our own thoughts, beautiful and frightening mirages that we take to be our lives.

The first time the prince went out he saw a beggar. What did he do? Probably ignored him or did not know what to do with the man clutching his hand with such a hard grip until some attendant shooed him away, kicked him maybe, berated him or gave him a coin to get rid of him. But he couldn’t understand. Weren’t all people rich and well-fed? The gaunt and hungry face and the burning eyes of the man followed the prince deep into his own dreams. He felt unwell until he understood that he had begun to accept the beggar’s suffering. He had taken it into himself. This could be us, if we begin to accept what we don’t want to accept. We will suffer, yes, but this is simply change.

The second time the prince went out he brought coins with him and distributed them to the beggars. Then he saw a woman with sores, gruesome wet and slimy-looking wounds over her legs. She refused his coins, just looked at him with eyes full of pride and pain. So again the prince returned and again his dreams were troubling and painful. He looked at the bodies of those around him and saw on them those wounds, blooming like the most frightening of flowers. They came out of nowhere and caused such great pain. He went to the palace doctors, obsessively so, and had himself checked over and over again and took pills and tinctures with him. This could also be us, if we accept suffering but become afraid of it.

The third time the prince went out he had with him coins and medicine and was awfully nervous and fussy, making his caravan stop anytime he saw someone malnourished or pale so he could give and give in order to feel better. On this trip he came across something that would frighten him very badly: a woman holding a bundle. He went up to her, inquiring whether he could help her and her child and he saw the empty face of the woman and realized that the child she clung to was no longer living. He hurried away, full of fear, but this was one fear that he simply could not conquer by fussing about it or by changing himself to accommodate it. Gradually he lost all interest in the beautiful pastimes of the court, stopped smiling at the young women who visited him to talk to him or hear him recite poetry and lost himself in gloomy, pensive moods. This is us, if we get lost in what we call today a depression.

The prince realized that would have to change something else. Not the clothes he wore, not the words he said, not the things he ate. No fasting and no gluttony would help him, no drugs and no medicine. He would have to change himself, be a prince no longer. So one morning he left his name behind the way other people leave a finished book on the bedside table.

He left the woman who was his wife behind, too, and that is something many women rightfully complain about. Couldn’t he have explained himself to her? Maybe she would have understood. Maybe she would have come with him. At least she would have deserved a choice.

Her name, by the way, was Yashodhara. But this is as it is. He did not give her that choice. He also left his son behind and that, perhaps, is damning, but it is what he did. Could Siddhartha have become Buddha if he had gone with his family or would he have had to give up his quest in order to take up a plow or learn a trade to feed the two?

I wonder what a woman would actually say to this…Yashodhara, in her material situation, probably wouldn’t have been too bad off. The son, especially if he was fond of his father, might have been a problem, but she could have lived a comfortable life even without Siddhartha. I wonder as well if women consider all that talk about giving up your desires about as silly as they consider men’s talk about going to war and about honour.

Perhaps his mother and wife got together after he left and talked about how silly he was just to comfort each other…of course this wouldn’t bring him back, so eventually they would have to reconcile themselves somehow.

Anyway, what was his quest? This quest that drove him from all comforts his world offered to him? What made him give up food and sex and warmth?

To understand life and death. To understand change. To understand now and forever.

Is that a worthwhile trade? Perhaps…perhaps not. After all the ultimate fates of a man who chooses a life at home with his family and the man who remains alone in order to gain understanding don’t differ too much.

Whatever you or I may think, Siddhartha – although he was no longer Siddhartha, but just some guy named either Nobody or That One, depending on whom you believe – chose that lonely path and went into the woods to meditate.

Meditation back then meant a lot of physical self abuse. Punch nails through your tongue, eat dirt, hang on one limb from a tree. The same stuff that an old one-eyed wanderer did in Europe’s North when he hung himself from the ash tree. Denial of the body – asceticism.

So That One lost a lot of weight until not even his wife and mother could have told the difference between him and a skeleton. He also gained a lot of scars. But he was none the wiser for it.

After a few years of that he decided to start eating rice again and he found that he genuinely liked it. He could have eaten a hundred bowls, but he moderated himself. He realized that if he stopped doing something he liked at a certain point the enjoyment didn’t overtake him completely, nor did it disappear entirely. That was something to remember.

He made himself a robe of old linen that was given to him by a petitioner and wore it comfortably. He clumsily carved himself a bowl and ate from it. After all this self-torture and constant pain such small things seemed an inestimable comfort to him.

Some people say he was fasting and meditating for fifty days, but really it came quite suddenly to him. He had found a tree that he liked and sat underneath it and rested for a bit.

Actually he had given up meditation by this point or – as more romantic souls say – everything had become meditation to him.

Very dimly he remembered a wife and a son, a young man who would by now have become a prince and he felt at peace.

The animals speaking to him? Now that’s a tricky bit. Just like St. Francis…are they meant to represent something, perhaps the lower urges of men that he had learned to curb? Or are they actually animals because he has become so silent that he now understands the speech of all things?

So under that tree a curious thing happened to him. He hadn’t fallen asleep yet – and he really liked to sleep because he was becoming older – but all of a sudden he woke up. How strange that was. He knew so many things he didn’t know and contrariwise there were so many things he had thought he knew that he actually had no clue about.

He had finally changed and That One became Buddha – the Awakened One.

In his heart perhaps he preferred to be That One or No One, but now there were so many things to do and the world was so full of people that he got up from underneath the tree and started walking again, trusting his feet to know the way, his tongue to know the words and his eyes to see what was truly there.

Teaching Yoga (in MacLeod Ganj)

I met Jogesh in Lung Ta, the very pleasant Japanese restaurant in MacLeod Ganj’s Jogiwara Road. Jogesh is one of three brothers, all of them yoga and reiki teachers from Bhopal who have been travelling the best-known and most lucrative yoga centers (Rishikesh, Manali, Goa, MacLeod Ganj) always on the lookout for students. Jogesh and his elder brother Amrit, who was the unofficial leader of their three-headed group, were relatively partisan in their tactics of finding students. Mostly they were sitting in the most popular cafes and restaurants of MacLeod Ganj and struck up conversations with people, winning their trust and handing them information about their classes. It wasn’t hard to find anyone interested. A good sixty percent of Westerners in MacLeod Ganj were looking for such classes, but the competition was fierce. At the lower level, where the two operated, it wasn’t so noticeable. The struggle here was to get noticed. Their youngest brother, Aryan, was approaching things a little differently. Like his brothers, Aryan had rented a room in one of the countless guest houses springing up along the hillside and like them he went out and hunted for students, but there was a more permanent air to his endeavour. “Aryan Reiki & Yoga School” – it was a bright red sign on a post that he had standing in the corner of his balcony, it was somewhere between proudly proclaiming and half-forgotten. His room was a large workroom plus bedroom that he shared with his brothers whenever they didn’t have rooms of their own. A large bookcase and a small shrine indicated that he wasn’t just on the way through. His room was the office of the three brothers as well and most of my contact with them went through Aryan. I wasn’t a student of his, but during my conversation with Jogesh the topic of yoga had (inevitably) come up and he had offered me, very kindly, to teach in their studio. I have been a teacher of Hatha Yoga for several years. I have studied with teachers in India and Austria, but because of my solitary nature most of what I knew was self taught and, as the Indians would say, acquired in solitary retreat. That was a strange hurdle in every conversation that we had about teaching and courses – I didn’t know how to tell them that. I imagined, rightly or wrongly, that for an Indian the relationship with his teacher is one of the most important things and for me to say that I had no fixed teacher and that experience and a broad range of interests were my best teachers would seem disrespectful and would probably disqualify me in their eyes. In short, I felt quite insecure about my lack of official proofs of my qualification. So I dodged the topic whenever possible, probably causing a little bit of distrust that may have been avoided with a more direct approach. Their idea was to set up a center with changing teachers and they had done this sort of thing before, so we quickly arranged a deal. Everything was rather informal and by word of mouth. They told me to put up notices and hand out flyers and, above all, talk to people in cafes and restaurants.

My motivation was not entirely clear to myself. I had stopped teaching in Austria before I left and was toying with the idea of giving it up entirely. There was nothing for me in teaching anymore – I didn’t feel that I had made great impressions with my students or taught them anything of use and I drew no satisfaction from playing the teacher in front of an audience. After working in the world of yoga for a few years, most of the expressions of that world had become uninteresting for me. The various names of asanas were more interesting as a base for learning a few Hindi words. I found the attitude and the pomp that masked the insecurities of teachers and students alike annoying. The idea that yoga would, in any form, accelerate one’s mental growth had become laughable and all the self-centered discussions about ego and enlightenment were off-putting. The joy of movement was and is my main motivation to do yoga. I felt overwhelming joy at being able to move in those strange, undulating and exhilarating ways. There were psychological side effects, obviously, and there is an interesting correlation between physical injuries and muscular hardening and mental blocks that can be worked against with certain asanas, but yoga had never held any potential for mental development, in my mind. To sit quietly and enjoy or contemplate was one thing, but to weigh down this enjoyment and levity of the moment with overly complex mental constructs was something completely different…I can be overly intellectual so yoga, to me, always meant relaxing this rigid intellectuality. I can also be very detached and fearful, so it also meant accepting this fear and developing, curiously enough, more attachment. Early on during my teaching it was clear that everyone approaches yoga with a different idea in mind and as a teacher there are two ways to progress with that – you either find out what this idea is and then help the student find fulfillment within it or you make it clear that all approaches are mental constructs and try to get rid of them. The first way holds more sympathy and warmth, so it was always more attractive to me when dealing with other people. For myself I have usually used a monkish approach – to be very strict with myself and develop a kind of ascetic mindset. This mindset helped me continue practicing and increasing the difficulties of my practice. I have never paid a great deal of attention to the rigidity and the mechanics of joy that are publicized in books by teachers and yogins, for me it was a direct way to experience that joy. I could be, in some ways, a kid again, and find joy in breathing, existing, simple thoughts, dreams. This state is obviously harder and harder to maintain once the demands of the world increase, but a simple and pleasing thought is that we have only eighty years to live, if we are lucky, so why do we weigh ourselves down with so many useless things. Being a wide-eyed child for eighty years…in historical terms eighty years are nothing, in cosmic terms even less than nothing. So why not enjoy this gift of perception and combination for as long as it lasts? Yoga has, if it has done one thing for me, made me aware that I am alive. It’s strange to me, now, that one needs a reminder for that. My motivation to teach in MacLeod Ganj, however, remains as unclear to me now as it was then. Curiosity, perhaps. Something to put on my CV. Having a beautiful studio to practice in. The possibility to meet people – to meet women, of course.

I got to know just how much of a motivation that can be to some people while talking to Aryan. He struggled a great deal with the strains of his Indian upbringing and the availability of Western women. During a longer conversation with him talk would always veer towards women. He was asking with the strange naivety and earnestness of a young adolescent how he could get a woman to like him. He was a good looking young man with an honest face and his position as a teacher of reiki was an ideal one to meet women. He had a very split personality, though. He said numerous times that he disliked India and Indians and that he wanted to live more like Westerners, yet when a Western backpacker appeared before his door and asked him in almost perfect Hindi whether there were room to be had, he was impressed. Maybe he saw in him a mirror of his ideal image – an Indian who can confidently and naturally fit in with the European world of his imagination. He wanted to have casual sex with women but was wishing for the tightness of an Indian relationship. It puzzled and hurt him that relationships with Western women were both more fulfilling and more frustrating than those he imagined with Indian women. He had never been with an Indian woman – being the youngest of his brothers he had the comfort of being able to follow them out of Bhopal, were he was born and raised. Their choice was to stay in Bhopal and run a small school for children and the few Indians who are curious about yoga or to go to the hotspots for Reiki and Yoga, teaching there and forming connections. I remember a long story that Jogesh told me about a woman who had been receiving Reiki from him. As it turned out she was a general executive of a large Swiss bank and she later helped him receive a European visa that he had used to travel across Europe and teach in various countries. They were not short on customers and had learned to use their reputation relatively well. Between themselves the three managed to make a comfortable living. Visits to their parents in Bhopal were sporadic. Aryan wanted to live in Europe but thought that the few travelers he had met were an accurate representation of the West. He was so earnest in his wish that I didn’t want to dampen it with tales of racism and xenophobia. He was obviously attractive to women – I saw him walking with different female students a number of times and an Israeli friend of his was “hired” as his teacher of seduction and had long conversations with him, which, I imagine, mostly consisted of the man telling Aryan about all the women he had seduced – but he never seemed to be able to decide on anything and ultimately the women went away unsatisfied. He had a good heart and was friendly and welcoming to everyone, but that great split in his mind drove him to dark moods and depressions. He told me that he wanted to scream, often. That he wanted to go into the forest for a silent retreat. When he said these things he was laughing, but it was an uneasy and tense kind of laughter. On his wall and in his studio he had hung photographs of his graduation as a teacher of yoga. There was an image of Amrit teaching children pranayama breathing techniques; the three brothers together in various configurations, performing asanas; Aryan in classical pose, the lotus seat, a waterfall in the background. “Sometimes during the treatment (Reiki), water comes out of the people’s eyes”, Aryan said once. “Those are tears, but they don’t have the pain that comes with tears because the pain is dissolved and those old tears can flow.” He was caught in a stasis between being naïve and wise, a monk and a gigolo. For a while he was interested in Samata, a journalist from the British isle of Guernsey, but she soon said that “he hasn’t learned much about how to behave socially from all his spiritual books.” There was a directness about him that was both charming and off-putting. I took it to be something child-like rather than genuinely offensive. A yogin isn’t the most social of creatures – it’s a certain monastic type of person who can enjoy sitting in the forest without distractions and a type that I understand quite well, so I cannot pass any sort of judgment on him. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him, even though the inevitable aim of many of his discussions was “how do I get a girl”? He was writing a book on yoga, his own course book. As far as I saw the most individual thing about it was the design and the rest was copied from other course books, but that, too, is an essence of teaching yoga. You copy the traditions, not necessarily aim to add yourself to them.

Admittedly, there is no real difference between all the styles, simply because they all follow the same blueprint laid out several thousand years ago. Much of what goes on in the yoga community is, again, advertisement. Power yoga is simply an exercise plan, the various stretches that make up the asanas can be seen in techniques as various as martial arts and ballet and are not unique to yoga. It’s a peculiarly cultural art of movement of body and thought…a very good development in modern yoga, in my opinion, is to mix it with other techniques, especially with looser forms and forms that are more demanding as far as conditioning goes, like dances and martial arts. It’s a syntax of movement and as such yoga offers itself to be the integrating part of a larger language of movement. It’s an introvert’s art and science. Advertisements distract from the spiritual aspects of yoga (and vice versa) and so the moral, ritual and human obligations that make up the other limbs of yoga are generally discarded or severely limited when teaching in a Western context…I have limited them in my own lessons, because I am not good at preaching without developing a form of self-disgust and because there is an immense barrier in the minds of most people when it comes to accepting certain fundamental things about human life. Or, a more likely danger, it seems exotic, either too exotic or seductively so. A person feels ridiculous, practicing something that has hitherto had no basis in his cultural existence and is rarely mirrored in the outside world. Or they will feel seduced, but without understanding anything about the whole process, which has its attraction, certainly, but could well end up adding to meaninglessness. Much has been done to establish fundamentally Eastern concepts in the West, but as long as this just swings between the two extremes of mysticism and commerce nothing will be achieved. If I go to a yoga shop and buy myself yoga pants for my two hours with the sweet and wise Indian teacher, I have already commercialized, sexualized and estranged the whole procedure. Likewise if I sit there like a monolith and the only mental movement coming from me is a complaint, I might as well be a lifeless piece of rock. It is important to correctly identify emotions and thoughts and then let them exist without interfering with them…whether this is expressing them or passively watching them doesn’t matter. It is, however, important not to attach them to the wrong thing or the wrong person. You are responsible for your thoughts and emotions, not the person standing in front of you doing their job, nor the person teasing you or making fun of you, not the person loving you, nor the person hating you…

Hatha Yoga, which consists of the asanas, the knotted bodies and inverted poses that many people picture when yoga is mentioned, means – liberally translated – “the yoke for the stubborn”. The word yoga means yoke and there is room for interpretation whether the yoke is the body itself or the exercises inflicted upon it. The asanas (postures) are a way to create tapas (heat) inside of the body. This is done by various breathing techniques, some coming close to hyperventilation, and the exercise of various postures in order to stimulate the organism, supply blood and organs with ample oxygen and keep the body toned and flexible. If somebody says that this sounds suspiciously like exercise he is absolutely correct. The same thing is achieved by sitting on your bike and riding it or by lifting weights and any good trainer or teacher will tell you that for every sport a certain kind of breathing techniques are required in order to focus better. The one unique aspect is that yoga is not performance-centered. Again, it’s an introvert’s art – if the body is still, the mind can roam. You can treat it like a performance sport if you want to and I am aware that there are yoga competitions, but there is no way to do an asana better than the person next to you. You are not competing against anyone. The word yoke implies submission and the only thing you are competing against is your own desire to compete. In order to perform a posture correctly, you submit to the posture. This is not about change and growth by all means, but change and growth by the means available to us at the given moment. At the core is, yet again, a deeply pragmatic view. This is the philosophy behind yoga and a reason why many people have taken to it is that it offers an alternative to the growth-based philosophy prevalent in a society dictated by business interests. All things in the world are subject to an ebb and flow, growth and recession, birth and death. More than just living in the moment and milking it for all its worth, this philosophy aims to teach the students to understand the moment they are living in and to understand that it, too, will change and that wringing every ounce of possibility from the present moment might limit the chances in moments to come. It aims to teach perspective and to do so without the feeling of cosmic dread that a nihilistic approach to science and the world can induce.

In fact, yoga has become far more popular and widespread in the West than in India. It is one of a long line of exports that the West has taken to and modified to suit their needs. For me this is a very curious thing – while the Indians are immensely adept to adapt to situations without compromising their core, Westerners are immensely adept at turning situations and circumstances to suit their needs, even if it means remaining oblivious to the core or changing it altogether. There is an endless line of detractors for any of the “spiritual imports” from the East, although the resistance seems to have weakened a bit once it could be watered down and marketed. I think that Western modifications to techniques such as meditation or yoga and even to religious traditions like Buddhism have been so substantial that genuine Western traditions are starting to come into existence. Whether the techniques are used for recreation or deep seated spiritual healing, the centre of such techniques has, I believe, already moved far away from India, if it has ever really been there at all. Whether it is the rediscovery of shamanic techniques or old lore of plants and herbs, the West has a rich repository of spiritual traditions that have been often engulfed by the long overlay of Christian power politics but sometimes preserved in pockets that were genuinely spiritual. Not all of the imports are good or meaningful – an impossibility in an environment dominated by a competitive market – but unique schools are beginning to form and a large number of possibly fruitful combinations are being attempted.

Image Selection – Blue, Red, Green, Yellow

An attempt to create a photograph that looks like an Orientalist painting. The mountains, receding into light or the sky. | Ein Versuch, eine Fotografie wie ein orientalistisches Gemälde aussehen zu lassen. Die Berge verschwinden im Licht oder im Himmel selbst.

A sternly meditating Buddha with a red shape passing by in the background.  | Ein Buddha, versunken in strenger Meditation, dahinter ein roter Schemen.

The mountains never seem as verdant and lush as around a village. Everything else is desert. | Nur in der Umgebung eines Dorfes wirken die Berge so grün und lebendig. Der Rest ist Wüste.

A utensil used by monks in a monastery. I don’t know what it is, but the shadow fascinated me. | Ein unbekanntes Utensil in einem Kloster…der Schatten hat mich fasziniert.

Image Selection – Himachal Pradesh by Sylvain Durand

Another selection of images from a colleague and friend of mine – Sylvain Durand, educated painter and self taught photographer from Dijon.

Food is a communal affair in this small village, near Manali. Women, Men and Children sitting together, eating together – they do not possess much, but the rice bowl is one of their treasured posessions. | Gegessen wird in diesem kleinen Dorf in der Nähe von Manali gemeinsam. Frauen, Männer und Kinder sitzen beisammen. Die Menschen hier besitzen nicht viel, aber die Reisschale zählt zu ihren wertvollsten Besitztümern.

The style of houses is unique to the areas around Sarahan and Reckong Peo, where amazingly detailed woodworks like no other in India can be found (although it certainly is not the topic of conversation of those two ladies). | Diesen Baustil findet man nur in dem Gebiet um Sarahan und Reckong Peo – er charakterisiert sich vor allem durch wunderbar detaillierte, in Indien beispiellose Holzarbeiten (den Frauen, versunken in ihrem Gespräch, ist das natürlich gleich…).

The strong Tibetan influence makes some regions in the Western Himalayas almost “more Tibet than Tibet”. | Der starke tibetische Einfluss im westlichen Himalaya macht manche Regionen “tibetischer als das heutige Tibet”.

Kungri Monastery held one of the biggest festivals, gathering almost two thousand people from the outlying villages. The surroundings are, as you can see, utterly stunning. | Die unglaubliche, aber menschenleere Landschaft rund um Kungri macht es umso erstaunlicher, dass sich zu diesem Festival knapp zweitausend Menschen zusammengefunden haben.

Image Selection – Dharamsala by Simon Villiger

This image selection is a choice of images from my friend, the Swiss photographer Simon Villiger, who has travelled, photographed and recorded sights and sounds of India extensively.

Two monks on their morning stroll through Jogiwara Road. | Zwei Mönche auf ihrem Weg durch Jogiwara Road, MacLeod Ganjs Einkaufsstrasse.

Where tourists gather, beggars are sure to follow…an Indian beggar, trying to make a living from the charitable visitors of the temple in MacLeod Ganj. | Wo Touristen sind, muss man nicht lange auf Bettler warten…ein indischer Bettler auf seinem Platz vor dem Haupttempel in MacLeod Ganj, wo er auf die Freigibigkeit der Besucher hofft.

Youn girls infestive dress, waiting a little tensely for the start of their dance performance. Today the Dalai Lama will be their audience. | Junge Mädchen in festlicher Kleidung erwarten nervös den Beginn ihres Tanzdarbietung…heute wird der Dalai Lama ihre Schritte sehen.

These monks protect their heads from the sun, while they wait for a white car, carrying the Dalai Lama. | Mönche schützen sich gegen die Sonne während sie auf den Dalai Lama warten, der hier bald in seinem weißen Auto vorbeiziehen wird.

Socioeconomics and Solidarity Economy


After writing an earlier and rather angry article about the way poverty is perceived in the West, I’d like to look at some of the actual remedies that are being used in India…this is more about concepts that about examples. Anyone who is interested in knowing more can have a look at Wolfgang Bergthalers (and formerly Stefan Meys) Website which deals with startups in India as well as a broad analysis of Indian versus Austrian mentalities and ways of making business.

Solidarity Economy is a concept that anyone on this world should have a look at. We can no longer work entirely growth-oriented and entirely profit-oriented. Sustainability is an overused and eroded word today, but I think its original meaning conveyed something like creating a system which is capable of taking care of itself. A system which is flexible and which can be adapted to situations because situations do neither conform to a system nor are they solved by trying to make them conform to a system.

Usually the distribution of a product begins like this: you have to create the need for it. Manufacture it. Out of thin air (and hot air). Now that in itself is a deeply perverse thing in a global society with so many needs. We simply create more needs, distracting needs, unnecessary and ultimately harmful needs instead of focusing on the basic necessities and attempting to fulfill them.

We have to create structures that do not create new markets, but allow those markets to adapt to circumstances. We have to understand people not in order to manipulate them more efficiently, but to actually fulfill their needs. For this you have to understand a few things:

You can run a business that has a primarily social objective.

You can run a business that balances social, economic and environmental responsibilities.

You can offer products for people who have barely any disposable income – those products, however, need to be tailor-made to fulfill those people’s needs.

Those are all generalities. Let’s take the story of SELCO, the Solar Electric Light Company of India. SELCO provides rural communities with easily affordable solar panels. Their main focus is not on a nicely designed, state of the art product that can be sold for the best possible price (the best possible price meaning the maximum possible profit for the vendor). It is on integrating their product with the part of society that it is made for. It is on listening to the needs and possibilities of people and to make their life easier.

Disposable income equals trash money, money spent on valueless, glossy products. We buy because we have a low self-esteem and we are encouraged to buy to increase our status and self-esteem or to escape from our self-imposed and limiting self-image.

There are similar trends in India, among the middle-class, and of course nobody is completely free from spending their money on impulses – alcohol, sweets, cigarettes, magazines etc. But India has another market – low income families, rural communities, people living very near the poverty line and in many cases below it. How much money is necessary to live a humane and satisfying life is a hard question to answer. Is it enough to have a roof above your head, three meals a day and a bed to sleep in? Or do we need to choose from seven different kinds of insulations, the cuisines of seven continents and seven silken pillows for our weary heads? Low income is an arbitrary and temporal value, but for our purposes it is enough to say that those are people without savings who live from their daily work.

This is important because many Indians have no concept of saving money. What is there needs to be spent, today if not tomorrow. It is easier to calculate with short-term budgets – a woman-shopkeeper investing in solar panels could not afford to repay 300 rupees a month but she decided she could manage with a repayment of 10 rupees a day. She calculates in daily expenses and was paying 15 rupees a day for gasoline cans. 300 rupees were never available in one big pile, but 15 rupees were. In this way she managed to afford something which was – or so reason would argue – way above her price class without disappearing in a black hole of debts.

Debts have become currency in our economy and are – literally – a form of ownership. People barter debts, speculate on debts, find ways to increase debts in order to increase their value to them. We experience the feeling of being owned by someone if we owe them something. The control, however, should not be exclusively with the person giving the money but should be shared with the person receiving the money. A bank or a money lender should also be aware of his own responsibility in not giving out credits he knows are impossible to repay. There is a social responsibility that comes before any responsibility to business and this social responsibility creates – ideally – a socially responsible economy.

Image Selection XIV – MacLeod Ganj

If you look across the hills from Jogiwara Road, you will see small outlying settlements, not even large enough to be called villages, where prayer flags are draped across the trees like living things and some of the long-standing refugees from TIbet live. | In den umliegenden Hügeln von McLeod Ganj findet man kleine Gruppen von Häusern, wo Gebetsfahnen sich fast selbständig in den Bäumen auszubreiten scheinen – dort leben einige der ersten Flüchtlinge aus Tibet.

Ngwang Tashi, a sherpa from Namche Bazaar at the foot of Mt. Everest who has spent a lot of time as a monk in Himachal Pradesh, is now a tour guide, leading interested visitors on tours through Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. We have travelled together for quite some time. | Ngwang Tashi, ein Sherpa aus Namche Bazaar am Fuße des Mt. Everest, der eine lange Zeit als Mönch in Himachal Pradesh gelebt hat und jetzt Fremdenführer in Nepal, Bhutan und Tibet ist. Wir sind lange zusammen gereist und planen das auch in Zukunft zu tun.

The first Himalayan peaks that can be seen from MacLeod Ganj. Compared to the really big guys Triund is a mere foothill at 2,970 metres, but the view onto the snow-capped Dhauladars is astonishing. Triund is a favoured camping spot for tourists climbing up from MacLeod or Bhagsu. | Die ersten Himalayagipfel, die man von Mac Leod Ganj aus sehen kann. Triund stellt mit seinen 2.970 Metern nur einen kleinen Vorhügel dar, aber die Blicke, die man von dort aus auf das Dhauladar Massiv weren kann, sind atemberaubend schön. Triund ist ein beliebter Camping Spot für Wanderer aus Mac Leod oder Bhagsu.

A group resting on top of Triund… | Eine Gruppe bei einer Rast am Gipfel von Triund…