For Jelle

4th April 2013 0 By Nandini



Jelle, you went to Benares, Hardwar and Rishikesh and there you met and talked to people. Gurus, old men who were there to die there and be immersed in the Ganga; you met holy men who are scientists and scientists who are holy men; young and old people, disciples, folks on the street and a fortune teller who could read  your aura and assure you that everything will be fine. Someone on the street told you ‘Hinduism is a way of life ‘. You had a central question and that had to do with this thing called karma. You asked different people and you got different answers.


Like most of us who go to such spiritually loaded places, I guess you did some self-reflection. Or that is what it sounds like because you say to the viewers of the series From Bihar to Bangalore, over the image of the flowing river, “I have always been jealous of the carefree attitude of Indians. Maybe we in the west swim against the tide too much. We think we have it all in our hands. Everything can be constructed, like the weather forecast on the ‘buienrader’. But the idea that fate has mapped out the path for you is also dangerous. If you think you don’t have free will, then nothing is going to change. That’s maybe why there’s still a caste system and the position of women is so destitute’.

Jelle’s your take is what I call or-or

Or one goes the karma route and lives one’s life with destiny deciding for us all anyway. Or one takes the free will route and says, I decide.


A few weeks after I had seen your episode, I received this invitation, via email from a friend who is a yoga teacher in Amsterdam.

‘Swami Santatmananda is visiting Amsterdam from India for seminar talks at the VU on Vedanta. He has kindly agreed to drop by tonight at the yoga class at 20.00 for questions and answers relating to yoga, Vedanta and meditation.

A spontaneious and unique opportunity to meet and talk with this inspiring teacher from the Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh’.

I sat through the talk and when it was over, I asked the Swami a question. I said in the West, we believe in free will and in India we believe in karma. How do you see this? He smiled slightly and said, ‘the free will of now is the destiny of the next life, that’s all’. His smile broadened.

Jelle, the Swami’s take is what I call and-and.

And there is free will and it is destiny in time.

In my inter-cultural trainings, I use this idea of ‘and and’ with different examples. What many of us here in the Netherlands see as mutually exclusive, or – or , many of us in India see as non contradictory ones perfectly capable of presenting themselves as and – and.

Jelle, just thought I’d let you know.