Amritapuri Christmas Play- Part 3

Surprise! I’m able to write the third post about the Amritapuri Christmas play after all. Enjoy!

***

As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s Christmas musical was about the nativity story as told by a 9 year old child named Grace. Grace was living in a school for girls. She is the second child from the left in the first photo below. She is wearing a blue dress.

In many Indian plays, the actors don’t speak or sing, they lip sync. The musicians and people singing or speaking for the actors are out of sight. In this play, they were sitting on the left side of the stage.

The children were amazing. They had practiced their roles so thoroughly that you couldn’t tell they weren’t saying anything.

***

In Grace’s version of the nativity story, one of the wise men came from Africa. She named him Tsabo Babatunde. Tsabo was very, very old. When he received God’s direction to follow the star to Bethlehem, so that he could welcome another great soul to the world, he obeyed.

Tsabo was able to talk to animals, and they talked to him. One of the songs in the musical was Come Awake Africa.

[Note: You can enlarge the photos in this post by clicking on the photo galleries. To hear the songs, click on the audiofiles.]

***

Joseph and Mary sang and danced with their friends before they traveled to Bethlehem.

***

One of the  most intense scenes of the play occurred when it was time for Mary to give birth and no one would give them the couple a place to stay. I think you will get a sense of the intensity by listening to the song. I still get goose bumps when I hear it.

***

An angel was present during the nativity scene. As you look at the photos and listen to the music know that she was 30-40 feet above the floor!

***

One of the most touching scenes was near the end when Mary let Grace hold baby Jesus.

Throughout his journey, Tsabo had visions of what the adult Jesus would do in his life. Those visions were enacted. The photo below is from one of the last scenes in the play when Jesus was talking about love.

It was a wonderful musical. I hope you were able to get a sense of that from the photos and songs in this post.

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

We Had a Great Month Thanks to You

Last night, Sreejit posted the summary of his Rage Against the Machine event. He did it in a new way in that for each post he included a quote and one of the comments that a reader made. I think that is a valuable way to help new readers choose which posts to look at, so I’m passing his summary on to those of you who read my blog.

The Seeker's Dungeon

We made it.  30 guest posts in 30 days.

As you may have noticed, the Rage Against the Machine series was not so much about rage as it was about figuring out how we can be productive global citizens, and what we can do as individuals and collectively to make this world a better place.

Everyone brought different perspectives – including the ever present To Rage or Not to Rage question – and different issues to the series.  One of the most pleasant surprises was that not only were the guest posts exceptional, of which I’m grateful, but we had a lot of interesting discussions in the comment section.

So, to recap the articles that you might have missed, or to remind you and encourage a second look, I will share both a snippet from each article and also one comment from the discussion, to give you a taste of…

View original post 5,577 more words

The End of a Powerful and Informative Event

At 5:00 a.m. this morning, the last entry in The Seeker’s Dungeon Rage Against the Machine Month was posted. The posts by 30 guest contributors were all so different from one another and each person had important things to say. I looked forward to reading a new post each morning and am sorry the event is over.

Some of the event instructions were:

Your post doesn’t have to be about the United States or even politics, but should be about what is keeping our world in darkness and your own solutions for shedding light. Talk about where your own passions lie, your own causes, and the glass ceilings you are trying to break on through.

I’ve listed all of the posts below so that you can read some or all of them. I suspect you will find them as thought provoking as I did.

 

The Rage Against the Machine Contributors:

 

 

Day 1: Thank You for Your Service Mr. Trump by Kevin (Rudran) Degnan

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Pistol Shots at the Past by Levantine

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Creating Light in the Darkness by Karuna Poole

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4: Rage Against Racial Prejudice by Sanaa Rizvi

 

 

 

 

 

Day 5: Let’s Choose Love by Mark Paxson

 

 

 

 

Day 6: An Unexpected Journey by Jagati Olson

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7: Letter to the Editor by Vince Horan

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8: The Dictatorship of the Clock by Carl D’Agostino

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Lost and Found by Lori Bonati

 

 

 

 

 

Day 10: Anecdote or Antidote to Rage by Kathie Arcide

 

 

 

 

 

Day 11: Earth Grief by Sherry Marr

 

 

 

 

 

Day 12: Searching by Oliana Kim

 

 

 

 

Day 13: Instead of raging… love and compassion by Leigh Gaitskill

 

 

 

 

 

Day 14: The Hip Woman by Ana Daksina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 15: On Being a Lady by Kripa Gressel

 

 

 

 

Day 16: Hear Me Roar by Trevor Washington

 

 

 

 

Day 17: I don’t understand… by Amy

 

 

 

Day 18: Stemming the Tide by Amar Gressel

 

 

 

 

Day 19: Into the Depths by Chitanand Nass

 

 

 

 

Day 20: #BeKindToElephants by Monika

 

 

 

 

 

Day 21: Finding A Way by Bertie Hutchins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 22: Fated by Rebel Willing

 

 

 

 

 

Day 23: The Trauma Lives for Years by Sreejit Poole

 

 

 

Day 24: The Skin I’m In by Dr Noreen Nguru

 

 

 

 

Day 25: Enough is Enough by Jessica Cypher

 

 

 

 

Day 26: Coming Out by Elmari W.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 27: What Sort of Men by Gary Maxwell

 

 

 

 

Day 27: Just One Word by Sonya Kassam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 29: Rectitude by Tobe

 

 

 

 

Day 30: The American Dream Needs an Update by Hugo Groenendyk

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Grief

During the month of November, The Seeker’s Dungeon is publishing posts by guest authors on the topic of Rage Against the Machine. The articles have been so interesting and varied. Today’s contribution is titled Earth Grief. I resonate with everything she said and was struck by how articulately, passionately and from her heart she said it.

I hope you will take a minute and read Rage Against the Machine Day 11: Earth Grief by Sherry Marr.

While you are there consider taking a look at some of the other posts. I have appreciated every one of them.

Creating Light in the Darkness

My contribution to Sreejit’s new event was posted today. I called it Creating Light in the Darkness. You can find it at:

Rage Against the Machine Day 3 by Karuna Poole

I thought the first two articles in his series were excellent.

Rage Against the Machine Day 1 by Rudran

Rage Against the Machine Day 2 by Levantine

I hope you will go to The Seeker’s Dungeon and read my post… and consider reading all three of them… and maybe even those that he posts throughout the month of November!

Some of you may want to write and submit a post of your own. You are welcome to do that. Here is part of the event description:

Your post doesn’t have to be about the United States or even politics, but should be about what is keeping our world in darkness and your own solutions for shedding light. Talk about where your own passions lie, your own causes, and the glass ceilings you are trying to break on through. Your essay should be between 800 and 5000 words.

You can learn more about the event Here. 

From Darkness to Light

Sreejit, from The Seeker’s Dungeon, is offering a series of Guest Posts during the month of November. Writers will be sharing their opinions about what is keeping our world in darkness and their ways of moving towards the light.

I will be participating and thought that some of those who read my blog might be interested in writing for the event as well.  You are welcome to submit a post whether you are a blogger or a non-blogger; liberal or conservative; religious or non religious, interested in politics or not;  from the United States or anywhere else in the world. In other words, everyone is encouraged to participate.

Here are the details of the event:

To celebrate one year since the election of arguably the worst president in the history of the United States, the month of November will be Rage Against the Machine Month here at The Seeker’s Dungeon. The entire month will be guest posts on topics about how we should or could be doing better. Rage here shouldn’t be misconstrued as hate speech, but rather as passion speech – passion for life, passion for equality, passion for humanity, passion for the environment. I won’t be posting any hate, so don’t bother submitting it – strongly defined passions, however, I will certainly post. Keep in mind that you don’t have to agree with me, or my own unabashedly liberal agenda or worldview, but also understand that I don’t moderate the comment section. I’m not interested in creating a platform for exciting violence, but calling it out. In the comment section I allow people to represent themselves.

Your post doesn’t have to be about the United States or even politics, but should be about what is keeping our world in darkness and your own solutions for shedding light. Talk about where your own passions lie, your own causes, and the glass ceilings you are trying to break on through. Your essay should be between 800 and 5000 words. You can send them to sreejitpoole927@gmail.com and write Rage Post in the subject line. Please include a header image, a profile picture and a short bio, along with your blog address, or whichever other form of social media that you would like your name to link to. Also, be sure to edit your submission before sending it. I’m eager to hear what you all have to say, so let’s say it well.

To see the Guest Posts from Sreejit’s past events click here.

I hope to see you in the Dungeon!

A Bridge Between Worlds

Sreejit’s directions for this week’s Dungeon Prompt were:

If the journey of your life could be boiled down to a particular mission, what would it be?  What has been the primary focus or purpose of your particular birth?  You may believe that all of life is on a big picture path, but I’m asking about your particular journey.  Is there any lesson or goal that has defined the majority of your life?  What is your life’s mission?

I once used the process that Stephen Covey described in his book First Things First to develop a personal mission statement. The document I created that day is as relevant and alive for me now as it was on the day I created it. (My mission statement can be found in this blog post: Living with Purpose.)

For this prompt, I decided to look at my life’s mission from a different angle. Throughout my adolescence and young adult years I believed that I didn’t “belong” anywhere. That belief developed, at least in part, because I grew up as an army brat. I generally moved every three years, and if I wasn’t leaving then my friends were. No place or group felt like “home,” I always believed I was an outsider.  Continue reading “A Bridge Between Worlds”

No Matter Time Nor Place

Sreejit, as always, picked an interesting Dungeon Prompt for this week; one worthy of considerable contemplation. His instructions:

Which truth do you hold no matter the time or place? This isn’t a prompt about whether you believe in God or not, or in science or not. This is a morality question. For example, most of us can say that we believe in the commandment, thou shalt not kill, regardless of religion, but would you be able to stick with that even while witnessing your mother or sister being raped? Would you feel that it was wrong if another person, in that kind of situation, killed an attacker to save someone else? So the question here is, which of your values do you hold so strongly that it wouldn’t matter the time or place? Explain.

I did my personal therapy with therapists who used a process known as corrective parenting psychotherapy. When I finished my therapy, I decided I wanted to become a therapist. After obtaining the necessary education, I chose to do the same kind of therapy with my clients.

All corrective parenting therapists and their clients use a set of six self-care contracts as guiding principles in their lives.  The contracts are:

  • I will not hurt myself or others nor provoke/allow others to harm me. I will stay safe and honor the safety of others
  • I will not run away. I will stay and work through my problems.
  • I will not be sneaky or lie. I will be honest with myself and others.
  • I will not make myself sick or go crazy. I will stay sane and healthy.
  • I will not be passive. I will be proactive.
  • I am responsible for my feelings, thoughts, actions and attitudes.

There is no expectation that anyone will keep these contracts perfectly. In fact, if we look closely, we probably break one or more of them every day. By using them as guiding principles, however, we learn to become conscious of our actions. When we break one of the contracts, we look at how and why we broke it and determine what we will do to prevent ourselves from breaking it again.

I still place great value on these principles, but since I have no expectation that I will keep them perfectly it would not fit into the “no matter time nor place” criteria.

Since Sreejit mentioned the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses, I decided to take a look at those. They are:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
  2. Thou shalt not make any graven idols.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. Thou shalt not covet.

I found it interesting to reflect on the list. Some I have broken at some point in my life either overtly or subtly, intentionally or unintentionally (3, 5, 8, 9, 10). I know there are people who would believe I have broken two others, although I would disagree with that opinion (1,2). One of the ten I have broken because it is not part of my belief system (4). There are two I have not broken and can’t imagine ever breaking (6, 7). When I ask myself if I would I kill in self defense or to save someone else,  I conclude that I can’t answer the question without being in the situation. I don’t see myself as someone who would ever commit adultery, but I am always leary of saying “never” about anything. All in all, I see that I cannot give “no matter time nor place” status to the ten commandments either.

I place very high value on my path with my spiritual teacher Amma. However, I don’t do many of the spiritual practices that she instructs us to do and even though I may ask her questions about my individual practice or my life, I don’t ask her for advice unless I am willing to do what she suggests I do. I clearly am not committed at the level of “no matter time nor place” even though my process with Amma, in many ways, is the center of my life.

I place great value on my relationship with my children, Sreejit and Chaitanya. For the purposes of this prompt, I reflected on whether I would give my life if it would save theirs. I would like to think so, and I think in almost any circumstance I would, but after recently rereading the book 1984, I recognize that when tortured, a person can be made to betray even those whom they love the most. So, while I think that this would be the value I would most likely hold on to “no matter time nor place” I cannot even be sure of that.

So after much consideration, I have come to the conclusion that there is no value I hold that I can say, without a shred of doubt, that I would be 100% committed to regardless of the time or place. I wonder if it is possible for any human being to stay that committed to anything.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: August 28-31, 2017

Ganesh Celebrations

I have continued to attend the Ganesh bhajans in the Kalari from 9 to 10 each evening. I love, love, love the high intensity, ecstatic music. The only reason I’m not sad that it will end on Sunday is that Onam and Krishna’s birthday are coming soon.

I love participating in the procession that goes to a nearby temple on Krishna’s birthday. The college students and brahmacharis do the same style of singing on that occasion that I’m hearing during Ganesh’s celebration, so I have that to look forward to. However, I’m also keeping in mind that the last time I was in Amritapuri on Krishna’s birthday, my back went out a few days before the big day and I couldn’t participate. I frequently remind myself that tomorrow’s not promised and do the best to make the most of today.

Onam

A few days ago, I heard someone say that Onam is like a combination of New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving. I liked that way of thinking about it. Daily pukkallams are still being created near Amma’s house in honor of Onam. During my last “Living and Learning” post, I shared photos of the first three. Here are photos of the four newer ones. (The artwork is all made from flower petals.)

Healing

The skin near my eye is completely healed and I’m off of all medication for that. I am able to take my wrist splint off part of the time I’m in my room. There is too much chance I will get bumped when I go outside so I almost always leave the splint on when I leave the flat.

I am focusing on using my right hand more. When I do anything with my left hand, I’m making a point of having my right hand participate whenever possible. The strength and flexibility in my injured hand is no where near “normal” but I think my recovery is progressing well.

Rain

It has been raining several times a day for the last week. The rain makes everything so much cooler. I have no doubt that people in Seattle would like to have some of this rain.

Temple

The public program on Wednesday was held in the temple rather than the auditorium since the crowd was smaller than normal. When we are in the temple, it brings back so many memories of my early visits to Amritapuri. Here are some temple photos from 1990. (Click any of the galleries to enlarge the pictures.)

Darshan was held in a small hut in those days. Everyone didn’t fit inside so there was a line of people waiting outside to get in. It wasn’t a long line though. This is a picture of the darshan hut.

Most visitors lived in a small guest house above a print shop or in rooms in the temple. The residents lived in thatched huts.

For many years, we took a taxi from the airport to Vallikavu, the town across the backwaters from the ashram. We then boarded a canoe to get to the ashram. This was the view we saw as we got close.

The construction of the first four floors of the temple was completed just before I arrived in 1990. I remember sitting in the temple on days when there was no public darshan and noticing that we all fit into the first third of the room. I wondered why Amma built a temple so big. It didn’t take long for me to realize Amma knew what she was doing. This is what the crowd looked like by the mid-90’s.

Eventually, Amma built an auditorium and flats to accommodate the growing number of people coming to Amritapuri. Here are a few views of what the ashram looks like today.

Current Events

I am looking at CNN as much here as I do at home, or at least close to it. I sense it is important for me to stay aware of events that are happening in the world. I was at the ashram during the 2004 tsunami and during Katrina in 2005. The flooding in Texas is bringing back those memories.

I feel so sad about the loss that people in Houston and other areas in my country and the world are experiencing due to Harvey and other natural disasters. I feel many emotions around the fact that so many people in power in the U.S. can see the magnitude of these storms and still deny the existence of climate change.

Tai Chi

Thursday was my last day of Tai Chi as the teacher was returning to Barcelona. I am sorry that it ended, but feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to take 12 classes with him.

Quote and Photo from North American Summer Tour 2017

The circumstances of life will always keep changing. Change is nature’s unchanging law. However, it is we who make experiences bitter or sweet — our mind and our attitude. As long as we are unable to bring our mind under our control, sorrow will continue to hunt us down. However, once the mind comes under our control, then no problem or tragedy can devastate or paralyze us. In reality, the foundation of happiness is gratitude. When the mind becomes filled with gratitude, we will spontaneously become happy.” -Amma in New Jersey, June 29, 2017.

 

To view the previous posts in this series click here.

Dungeon Prompts: Moral Authority

Last Thursday, I received notice that Sreejit from The Seekers Dungeon was re-starting his Dungeon Prompt series. I was intrigued by the topic for the week, Moral Authority. I began to think about what moral authority meant to me.

The next day, I read that the Trump Administration had 1) stopped a study of the health effects of a mining practice in Appalachia, 2) disbanded the federal advisory committee on climate change, and 3) decided that the Environmental Protection Agency would work on building partnerships rather than focusing on regulations and enforcement. I felt despair when I read that information. It occurred to me that I was seeing examples of what moral authority is NOT, at least in my world view. 

I accept that President Trump has some authority over me because of the power of his position, but due to the things he says and does on nearly a daily basis, I do not believe that he has moral authority, or it least none that I will accept.

Since those were thoughts I had on the spot, I decided it was time for me to learn more about moral authority.

Wikipedia stated:

Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws. As such, moral authority necessitates the existence of and adherence to truth. Because truth does not change, the principles of moral authority are immutable or unchangeable, although as applied to individual circumstances the dictates of moral authority for action may vary due to the exigencies of human life. These principles, which can be of metaphysical and/or religious nature, are considered normative for behavior, whether they are or are not also embodied in written laws,[1] and even if the community is ignoring or violating them.[2] Therefore, the authoritativeness or force of moral authority is applied to the conscience of each individual, who is free to act according to or against its dictates.

Moral authority has thus also been defined as the “fundamental assumptions that guide our perceptions of the world”.[3]

Theodore Brown wrote:

Put the phrase “moral authority” into a Google search, and you will get back something over 670,000 hits.  Clearly the expression gets used a lot.  But what do people mean when they use it?  Many people seem to think that it means the right to weigh in on discussions involving what to do about some tough issue.  Other uses suggest that it is a measure of virtue; those who live exemplary lives have moral authority.  Or, that one can gain moral authority by having been put through a trial: the John McCain effect.  One simple definition is that moral authority is the capacity to convince others of how the world should be.  This distinguishes it from expert or epistemic authority, which could be defined as the capacity to convince others of how the world is.

When I found the diagram at the top of this post, it occurred to me that reflecting on those positive and negative behaviors might help me identify those people who I think have moral authority. From that exploration, I came up with a list of  behaviors that I think those who have moral authority have in common.  In my mind, people with moral authority:

  • love all beings in the world
  • love and are committed to nature
  • live lives of service
  • speak the truth
  • teach others to live in integrity
  • teach others healthy principles of living
  • teach others to love and respect one another
  • value unity over division
  • live lives that are true to their teachings, i.e. they walk their talk

As I pondered who the people were that I think have moral authority, Jesus, Amma, Martin Luther King, and Pope Francis came instantly to my mind. Amma is clearly the person whose moral authority has impacted my life the most.

I believe blind faith may come in an instant, but mature faith develops from experience. I have been in Amma’s presence for 28 years- watching her, learning from her and seeing the impact she has had on my life and the lives of my friends, family, and other devotees. I have no doubt that she has made a massive difference in the lives of millions of people the world over.

Many years ago, I wrote a song, and had a friend translate it into Malayalam, that in a way reflects my decision to accept Amma’s moral authority. I titled the song, Only for This I Pray.

This is an audiotape and lyrics of that song.  Please pardon any pronunciation errors.

amma ende karangal ennum ninne sevikkatte
amma ende manass˘ mantrathāl nirayename
amma ende vākkukal ennum ninne pukazhthette
ende hridayam ānandam kond˘ nrittamādatte

ende sneham prakāshamāyi ennenum thilangatte
amma ende vishvāsam valarnnu kondirikkatte
ennenum ammayepole āyi varename
amma itinnu vendi mātram nyan prārthikkyunnu

Mother, may my hands be in service, my mind fill with mantra
May my voice forever sing your praise, my heart dance with joy
May my love shine ever brighter, my faith ever grow
Mother, may each day I become more like you, only for this I pray
Only for this I pray

That prayer is as true for me today as it was the day I wrote it.