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I wrote this toward the end of our seminar in India. It was primarily in response to my growing discomfort with my own feelings of entitlement, which I feel are the residues of colonialism. Perhaps I over-simplified the meaning of "Guest is God," but hopefully the poem likewise exposes some truth (with a lowercase "t").

Guest is God

The proverb is odd: Guest is God. But I guess Guest guessed that he earned the job, or at least the title: Boss. He felt entitled so he took the game and changed the odds,
He became shameless – first he took riches, now he takes pictures, the fixtures of orientalism create divisions. Make the Hindu hate the Muslim, make the Christian hate the Jew. Imagine what faith could do to abate religious riots like in 2002. Or, maybe it has to do with Guest is God. Because the hostess gets roasted by Colonialists who robbed and cheated create tension between the temple and the mosque, between Allah and many gods, to turn inner peace-seeking people to angry mobs. Don’t you see the reverse psychology? In America we call them FOBs but here in India, Guest is God. And that’s pretty prob-lematic if hierarchy is automatic then when your guest comes with that Automatic you automatically retreat, accept defeat, submit to a higher power even if guest is god is really supposed to mean guest is family, I still see extreme vulnerability with that approach or maybe it’s the Western reproach that I need to wrap my mind around a rational reason to be kind otherwise you’re the only one encroached upon and it’s like self-defense that touch me or my loved ones and see how quickly I reject the precepts of non-violence. Because I see the world as full of humans. So I guess my proverb stated best is Guest is Human. Or, Guest is Guest, by definition, nothing more and nothing less.

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Thanks, Jeff, for writing and sharing these thoughts.
I love your poem, the rhymes and plays with words are beautiful and clever, makes me want to hear it out loud. I would be interested to hear more about what made you notice or recognize your own feelings of entitlement while in India?
Hi Shara, thanks for the message. It's actually a spoken word piece, so your desire to hear it out loud is perfect! I don't have much more to add about my feelings of entitlement in India, except that I have worked for years to create internal awareness. I quickly felt myself becoming someone whom I do not resonate with spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise. In India, I felt small, but I was treated as if I were big. By small, I mean concerned with the pettiness of daily activities instead of the grandiosity of humanness, which often can be found in "small" interactions. My frame of mind was agitated and impish, and what really hurt was that I was getting a much different message externally - people approached me with concern, grace, love. That type of internal and external dissonance is a jarring mixture. I don't know if these thoughts get at your question, but hopefully it provides some more perspective to my experience!
Hi Jeff, I wrote this response a while ago but forgot to post it.
Wow, I feel like I know what you are describing. I asked the question because I had a hard time overcoming my own constant intense feelings of guilt at the life I happened to be born into, a very privileged life as a white middle class American, that I had done nothing to deserve, while most people in the world are denied all the opportunities I have had my whole life. This really came to a head for me when I spent two weeks in a batey, a migrant labor camp of mostly Haitian workers, in the Dominican Republic during the summer after my junior year of high school. I went with students from my school on this "service-learning" trip that had all the right ingredients, though I didn't fully see this until I returned, to become one of those self-congratulatory missionary style trips in which the visitors do not do much in the way of making a difference in the lives of those they went to "help" but feel very good about themselves for having given two weeks of their lives to this vague and misunderstood cause of "helping those less fortunate." We raised the money for the house we had gone to build in this community, but our actual labor was not needed by the men of the community that have been building houses for a long time and know how to do it, whereas we had no experience with building. So we spent most of our time talking to people and learning about their initiatives to bring running water into the town, to generate money for their visas (without which they were in even more grave danger of deportation by the Dominican military, even though they are legally citizens), etc. and helping with little jobs like picking up trash or washing dishes with the residents of the community. The point is we made absolutely no impact besides having funded the building of a house (and it is true that this family did really need this home), but the community made an enormous impact on us, or at least the experiences I had completely changed me, how I view the world, and how I think about activism and service. Namely, that change has to come from within the community and those on the outside cannot help from a position of authority but only from a position of solidarity. i think this quote puts it beautifully: "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
Jeff:
Just read your poem and want to echo what you and Shara have already stated. great poem. You should do a you-tube video performing it, if you haven't already!
Dear Jeff,
The "Guest is God" has profound implications, I see your point, that you would like to see Indians be more independent in their thinking, perhaps more self-respecting in regard to the 'other'.
Of course there is a lot of discussion here as to the origin of the 2002 riots, some observers feel that outside hired mercenaries were involved to incite violence and communal hatred, among a people that generally, are simply interested to live.
I would like to offer you another view of the ideal behind the principle of the "Guest is God."
My teacher, Amma, also known as Mata Amritanandamayi, has touched on the subject of 'Guest is God' several times. Her teachings reflect the understanding that Gandhi held towards Truth, as God, towards life and death. From what I can gather of the translations, the understanding is that, whether or not we choose to be aware of it, we operate in an interdependent ocean of Oneness. Differences have to do with our lack of perception of that oneness, and identification with our own individuality, as separate. The "Guest is God " principle extends not only to a visitor who comes across our path but also to the whole of creation, which, as part of the One, the great Truth or God, is imbued with a deeply inherent sanctity. That sanctity arises from the part of us that goes on from here, from this experience called life on Earth, that which is Truth or God, that which is worthy of reverence and honor, that which we truly are. It is that which is honoured and served in the ideal principle behind "Guest is God."
Hope this helps in understanding this very metaphysical teaching, "Guest is God."
Best,
Aunty Kamala

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