Monday, December 30, 2013

The Untold Indian Heritage of Bob Marley

While some African traditions may have been passed down over the four centuries since their arrival in the Caribbean, chances are their spiritual practices were destroyed by Christian missionaries spreading gospels and building churches. The easiest way to indoctrinate an individual, and by extension their culture, is to capture their metaphysical understanding of the universe. This can be done through physical intimidation and forced education, though the most effective means is through language. Africans went from having a rich philosophy that taught regeneration of existence, as well as a deep respect for all aspects of nature, into a specific form of religion that explicitly states that no matter what you do in this life, it is only preparatory for what lies after.

What the Indians brought with them, and what changed the psychology of lower class islanders, was the concept of karma. The word comes from the Sanskrit karmen, and implies that your actions affect what happens to you—they leave imprints on the present moment that essentially create who you are. When these imprints become a pattern, the individual is habituated into believing their way of reality is a reflection of how reality is 'supposed to be.' Through right action and effort, you can liberate your mind from dangerous cycles such as this.

This philosophy that Indian workers brought with them, which empowered Afro-Jamaicans to form their own communities, was the notion that liberation was available right here, in this lifetime. To a culture bred into 400 years of mental and physical slavery, this opened their eyes to a fresh way of existing within their newfound social freedom. This did not downplay the obvious African connection that future generations of Rastas felt towards Ethiopia, their imagined homeland—many traveled to that land thinking utopia awaited, only to return to Jamaica discouraged. Yet the influence of Indians has been forgotten over time, which is a shame given the beautiful merging of cultures that took place on this island and the profound influence that one reggae musician has had on the world.

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