We have a very sweet and staunch brahmachari monk from Bengal who agreed, with very little persuasion, to go for an eight km walk. For the most part, he's staying in the ashram building and doesn't get out to see the world too much. I thought to do him the favour to go down the "David Balfour Park" trail to get the out of door experience, the fresh air, and all of that. His services or daily chores keep him indoors mostly but I'm bent on imposing a little change. I also thought of the 'bad outside' world is something to confront. Not to shy away from it would be helpful. After all, we were just down a nature trail.
Sure enough, although he's been in the west for a few months, cultural conditioning is deep I found. Some amount of culture shock still did exist.
He laughed at the pampering of dogs. A number of dog sitters came down the trail. To my defense I would have said that in India, dogs are so neglected, they are let to stray and are pathetically diseased. He was amused to see some of the iron sculptures as we passed by the Brickworks. With a background in fine arts, I found the rustic renderings to be rather creative. I didn't say much about it.
I pointed out the rich colours of the trees, being autumn, but our dear monk devotee made a comment, "They are all yellow." It sounded as if it looked bleak to him.
In reality, the stroll and all he saw was somewhat a fascination to him. Here's the one thing that really got to me and where I had to respond. When he saw a man pick up his pet dog's stool (responsibly), he remarked, "In India, if you touch a dogs stool you will take bath immediately." I said, "If this were India (meaning this trail) you and I would be sliding on dog feces all the way along because no one cleans up after."
To say something redeeming about impressions, he did pick up on the kindness of co-walkers on the trail. I was glad to have him as my walking companion over any one else. He was chanting and started to see the good in the things around him. I think the walk did him good and I'm going to invite another young brahmachari the next day down the trail. His duties also keep him in the ashram for too long.
When I think about it I spend considerable time encouraging our ashram dwellers and community members to get out the door, meet people, perform sankirtan (public chanting), distribute books on spirituality, take care of your health. The message is, "Let's get out, get out, get out!"