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"Baksheesh and Brahman" consists of diary entries chronicling Campbell's six mon th stay in India in 1954-55.

The work is divided chronologically into three peri ods: The first two months are spent more or less in the company of Swami Nikhila nanda and reach their climax when Campbell witnesses the great Durga Puja, as he meditated upon the theme of the Sacrifice that was so essential to his later wo rks. During the following two months, he encountered in Bombay the art historian Alfred Salmony, who led him through a series of Buddhist and Hindu temple caves . Finally, Campbell's wife, Jean Erdman toured the country with her popular danc es, performances that led him through a labyrinth of artistic circles. What will most surprise readers familiar with Campbell's veneration of Eastern w isdom is his disillusionment with its modern culture. By 1954, Campbell had beco me so saturated with Indian culture that, as he would later say, he practically felt like an Indian. Until he actually visited the country: "Nothing is quite as good as the India I invented at Waverly Place, in New York," he wrote to Jean. Campbell claims early on in the diaries that he had come to India seeking spirit ual instruction, or at least confirmation of his own interpretations of its phil osophy, but that he had found only politics instead. "We are witnessing the birt h of a new, patriotically oriented religiosity," he wrote. We must recall that India, during the period of Campbell's visit, was undergoing a crucial epoch of transformation. The British had been chased out by Gandhi sc arcely ten years before Campbell arrived there, leaving the country in a conditi on somewhat analogous to that of a drug addict who has recently broken the habit , but still suffers withdrawal. India, that is, had become so used to outside ai d that it could not quite resist the temptations of American machines and goods. Campbell perceived the larger pattern of political and economic dependence repea ting itself in microcosm in the form of beggars, fake sadhus, and other con-arti sts persistently attempting to swindle him. Their incessants cries for hand-outs --"baksheesh! baksheesh!"--leads Campbell to identify the larger political patte rn with the smaller sociological one. His term for the whole pathology is The Ba ksheesh Complex, i.e. something for nothing. Furthermore, the sophisticated metaphysics of classical Indian culture which he studied earlier was by then all but extinct. Instead, classical Indian religiosi ty in its more refined forms--as articulated by Vyasa, Nagarjuna, Bodhidharma--h ad been degraded, even by its professed gurus (including Nikhilananda) to the le vel of mere bhakti, the way of devotion to a god or person in the form of mere w orship. Such a mode of religiosity was all too common in the West, and Campbell had come to India to get beyond it, but what he found disappointed him. "The clue to the Indian psychology of 'spiritual superiority,'" he writes, "is s upplied by Nikhilananda's statement that Vivekananda was a proud man and did not wish to receive something for nothing: he saw that India required the machinery and organizations of the West. He therefore determined to give the West the spi ritual goods of India in return. The fact was, however, that the West did not ne ed these 'spiritual' goods as badly as the Orient needed the West's 'material' g oods; also, that the Oriental spiritual gift was not quite as great as Vivekanan da had to pretend to himself to bolster his pride. The pattern has been to prete nd that the West is without native spiritual fare, so that the exchange will see m to the Indians themselves to be a fair one." On the other hand, India's spirituality was far too complex for Campbell to dism iss it altogether. Recognizing a general environment of reverence for all things sacred with a mode of ubiquitous spirituality absent from the West since the Mi ddle Ages, he tells of an episode wherein he witnessed an Indian waiter touch wi th reverence the shoes of a man sitting quietly by himself reading the Upanishad s. "It was precisely the kind of reverence brought to the feet of the swamis," C ampbell writes. "I think there is something here that can hardly be matched by a

nything known to me in the West. No effort was made to touch the feet of the cha p reading V. Gordon Childe." The value of Oriental thought and life ideals to the West has been much debated by Western thinkers. Campbell's narrative descriptions of his outward social exp eriences are counterbalanced by his reflections on the nature of this valuation. "The Oriental psyche," he writes, "is structured so differently from that of th e West...that the guidance of an Oriental guru cannot but mislead the Westerner. ..we cannot yet speak therefore of the Orient having something very important to teach us." The central revelation to Campbell during his travels in India was that the stru cture of the Oriental psyche is based on completely different first principles t han those of Occidentals, and what those axioms make possible for Hindu culture, such as yoga, reincarnation and karma, cannot produce similar results in our ow n. Likewise, the postulates of our own physics--the laws of motion, the calculus , universal gravitation--make possible the proficiency with which we are able to make and produce machines. Campbell insists that the Indian concept of the psyche lacks the critical, judgm ental function that mediates between the Freudian id and superego. In India, the re is only the "I want" and the "Thou Shalt,"; there exists no "I think" or "I o bject." Consequently, Campbell sums up the differences in outlook: "Every instan t of traditional Oriental life is one of sati, wherein the claims of the individ ual personality are immolated." For the Westerner, on the other hand, "Every mom one of personal decision, wherein a consciously considered choice is ma de: the individual takes upon himself the responsibility and does not assign it simply to his dharma." Culture forms which result directly from these contrasting ideas of the psyche a re the Western tragic drama, on the one hand, and the idea of reincarnation on t he other. Their concepts of destiny (one unfolding from out of the individual wi ll, the other from the impersonal Will of the cosmos) are mutually incompatible (no matter what Ken Wilber tries to get you to believe). The climax of the book comes when Campbell finally visits a sophisticated holy m an, Shri Krishna Menon of Trivandrum. Seated before him, Campbell asks: "Since a ll is Brahman, all is the divine radiance, how can we say 'no' to ignorance or b rutality or anything?" Shri Krishna's answer: "For you and me, we must say 'yes. '" Though Campbell vows in these diaries "never to speak or write again for India," his love for its culture and wisdom did not end with his journey there in 1954. What Campbell admired about India was the refined teachings of its classical pe riod. Indeed, Campbell's experience with modern India and its political insecuri ties, poverty, and impersonality, turned him away from the culture as a whole on ly for a while. Campbell did find much to admire in India during his stay there, after all: the beauties of its ancient, crumbling temples; the sophistication o f its elegant cultural elite; its beautiful dancers and musicians. I pointed out that Campbell insisted that the West had nothing to learn from the East. Later on, however, when asked about the positive value of what we could l earn from the East, he spoke from a more matured viewpoint: "I would define the great value of the Oriental instruction for us as this: the translation of mytho logical symbols into psychological references. We have read our own mythological symbols as historical references...The same symbols come to us from the Orient, however, read as having a psychological reference, representing powers within t he human spirit...which are to be developed and which can be evoked by contempla tion and meditation on appropriate symbolic forms. The symbols then point to thi ngs that are in ourselves. This is what the Orient is telling us."

--John David Ebert, author of "The New Media Invasion."