Amritapuri Christmas Play: The Loving Father

The Amritapuri Christmas play this year was based on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son; with the main focus being on the love of the father. No  names are used in the parable, so for the play the father was called Jonas, and his sons were Jeremiah and Matthew. Matthew was the son who left home.

Here are a selection of photos from the production. (If you click on the gallery the photos will be enlarged.)

There were so  many beautiful songs. I’m going to share the audio from my two favorites. This first one, “I Search My Soul,” was written by my son Sreejit. In it, Jonas, Jeremiah and Matthew are singing simultaneously as they look within themselves.

Most of the songs in the play are original. There was one song though, that is commonly used by churches in plays about the prodigal son. Some of the words were changed to fit the script for this production, but it is basically the same as When God Ran written by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  The song is so moving. I still cry every time I listen to it.

I feel full of gratitude for everyone that worked together to create The Loving Father.

Thanks to Chaitanya who wrote the script and co-directed the play.

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Thanks to Devapriya who choreographed the dances.

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Thanks to Devika who co-directed the play with Chaitanya and played the role of Jesus.

Thanks to Jani who spends countless hours designing and sewing the costumes.

In most plays in India, the actors are not actually talking or singing. There is a group of musicians and singers who sit to the side of the stage who provide the instrumentation and the voices. So a special thanks to all of the musicians and singers who worked night and day to create and learn the dialogue and songs for this production.

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And of course endless thanks to all the actors and dancers as well as those who sewed costumes, translated, created props, prepared power point slides, and set up and ran the lighting… and to anyone I forgot to mention.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri: Jan – 7, 2015

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(Note:  The dates on this post overlap with my January 5 post.  That is because there were some important events that I didn’t mention in  the previous one!)

 

Stopping Critical Self Talk

Visitors and residents at the ashram offer classes they think would be of interest to the visitors. It is a chance to raise funds for Amma’s humanitarian projects as well as give valuable information and experiences to those who take the classes.

The date and time of the class I was to teach on Stopping Critical Self Talk was changed four times so I had plenty of opportunities to practice patience, flexibility and detachment. I ended up holding the workshop on January 3.

When I taught a class two years ago 5 people signed up ahead of time. More registered the morning of the class. I think the final total was about 10. This year, the evening before the class 15 people had signed up and by the time it started there were 23!

Teaching here provides challenges I don’t face in Seattle because most of the people who attend Amritapuri classes are from Europe or other places around the world where English is not the first language. Conditions are also different because in India there is noise from the fans, and lots of noise from the street below; quite a change from teaching in America.

Attendees were very interested in what I had to say and participated actively in the various components of my class. They  expressed a lot of gratitude for the new information and experiences. I was very excited and look forward to teaching again next year. I felt and still feel a lot of gratitude for the two friends who helped me with the logistics of running the workshop, and the emotional support their presence offered.

 

Cast Viewing of the Play

A week or so after each year’s Christmas play, everyone involved in putting on the drama meet to see the first draft of the play DVD. I love participating in that event. Since most of the cast weren’t able to see the play at the time it was presented this is their first opportunity to see the final production. It is always a time of laughter and celebration.

Below are some more play photos:

To see photos closer click on the gallery.  To see the original photos I posted go to:

 

Then and Now

When I came to the ashram the first time in January 1990, there were a total of 30 Western visitors. At the height of the holiday season this year, i.e. December 2014, there were 1,800 Western visitors! Such a tangible example of the difference between then and now.

On January 7th I was in the dining room when people at the end of the room started standing up. I looked to see what was going on, but all I saw was more and more people standing.  When the senior Swamis (monks) enter the hall to sing or if they walk up to us we generally stand up.  But that doesn’t generally happen when they are just walking down a corridor. Besides, the number of people coming to their feet seemed bigger than a Swami’s presence would warrant.

I quickly realized it was Amma that was walking by!  She was on her way to the auditorium stage to do some bhajan (devotional songs) recording.  Seeing her in an unexpected way was such a nice surprise for us.  It must have also been a surprise for the people involved in the recording.  Minutes later, I saw three of the brahmacharinis (female monks) and one of the senior Swamis running for the stage.  It must have been an impromptu bhajan recording!  Amma teaches us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.  This looked like it was an experience in doing that.

It was also an example in the difference between then and now.  In the “old” days it was not unusual for Amma to show up at any time.  Now she gives darshan 14-21 hours on every public darshan day and spends time every other day doing scheduled activities with us.  She is no doubt busy directing all of the humanitarian projects during a majority of her remaining time.  We certainly still have spontaneous experiences with her, but it is rare to have her show up at unexpected times.

 

Preparing for the South India Tour

Early in the second week of January, the level of activity at the ashram skyrocketed as preparations were being made for Amma’s upcoming South India Tour. Everywhere vehicles were being loaded with the equipment and supplies needed for the tour. There are cities where 50,000 people or more will attend the programs on a given day. Imagine what it would take to feed that many people! Here is a picture of one of the pots they cook in!

Kanji Making

High numbers of ashramites, as well as the local devotees will do the work required to organize and carry out the programs. Twelve bus loads of Amritapuri devotees will be part of the tour.  All will work at the programs in one capacity or another.

 

Organic Gardens

A day or two after I wrote my January 5 post about the small Organic Gardens that have been popping up all over Amritapuri, I had an opportunity to visit two of the larger ones. Those are a fifteen minute walk south of the ashram. I had visited one of those gardens last year. Oh how it has grown! It started off as a tulasi farm but now contains so much more. I will be writing about it in detail for a GreenFriends newsletter towards the end of the month so will add the link to that article after it is published. For now, here are some pictures.

 

The other garden is called Amma’s Grace Garden. Amma’s goal is to eventually have all food served at the ashram be organic. The first step in reaching that goal is to have the meal Amma serves everyone at the ashram on Tuesdays be organic. This garden is producing a lot of the vegetables needed for that meal.

 

Gratitude Sunday: Chaitanya

I am oh so grateful for my daughter Chaitanya.  She was born on September 14, 1977 so today is her 37th birthday!  I feel so blessed to have her in my life.

Chaitanya has always lived life fully, whether it be playing with her friends, participating in drill team, running track or doing the many other activities she enjoyed during her childhood and teenage years.

She and her brother Sreejit have a very special relationship.  The pictures below give just a tiny glimpse into their life together!

Chaitanya went to India for the first time in 1993.  She felt so at home in that country, especially at Amma’s ashram.  Over the next few years, she visited the ashram several times.  On her 21st birthday she decided to move to India on a permanent basis, choosing to dedicate her life to supporting Amma’s humanitarian work.  For many years, she has overseen the work at the cafe and canteen that serves Western food to ashram residents and visitors.

Chaitanya and her husband Akshay met at the ashram and have been together since she turned 28.  They have so much in common and are blessed to have each other.

Her dad and I, of course, also have many memories of special times with her.

When she was a young adolescent, Chaitanya loved watching old Broadway musicals, especially if Gene Kelly was involved. Over the years, she created numerous short plays of her own.  Since 2009, however, she has written and directed hour-long musicals every year.  The plays are performed on Christmas eve in Amritapuri.  I recently wrote a post about one of them.

Below you will find the mp3 and lyrics for two of my favorite play songs; the first is from God is Able and the second is from A Guiding Light.

One segment of God is Able is about Rachel, the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment.  Rachel had been sick from childhood.  The first words on the recording are from the mother, responding to Rachel’s concern that she (Rachel) is such a burden.  Rachel then responds to her mother’s comments by singing this beautiful tune.  I still cry when I hear it, especially if I’m also watching the play DVD.

Rachel and mom

Mama you’ve given your whole existence
To serving this child plagued with illness
You look exhausted, your face full of strain
It’s I who should be easing all of your pain.

If I had strength in this body of mine
I’d cook and I’d clean till the walls began to shine
I’d put your feet up, tea in your hand
Let you enjoy the life God has given

This may be a fantasy, an impractical dream
I just long to return the love you’ve shown to me
I’ve known there’s no cure a doctor can give
Only a higher power can change what’s been destined.

I pray to you dear God, if it’s your will from above
Give me the strength to overcome.
There’s nothing I want more than to ease her weary soul
To serve her is all I’m asking for.

*****

One part of A Guiding Light is about the three wise men who traveled to Judea to honor Jesus at the time of his birth.  This song takes place at the beginning of that journey. (I recorded this song from the play DVD, using the voice recorder on my phone, so the sound certainly isn’t ideal, but it works!)

Wise men on camels

Wise men together:
High in the sky a star shines bright

Through unfamiliar paths it will be my guiding light
A journey I will make to a far off land
That I may greet God in the form of man

Wise man 1:
I shall bring to him this gift of gold

Treasure that never fades nor grows old
Gold represents his earthly kingship
In Righteousness he’ll rule, with love and virtue

Wise man 2:
I shall bring to him sweet Frankincense
These simple sticks hold great significance
They symbolize his priestly role in life
A burning offering of love and sacrifice

Wise man 3:
I will take this bottle of embalming oil
Though his body’s born, his soul is immortal
He is beyond both Birth and Death
Yet if he resides on earth life is surely blessed

Wise men together:
Yet if he resides on earth life is surely blessed

I am20130722_092640 so proud of you Chaitanya.  You have grown into a remarkable, adult woman whose strength, talent and wisdom I admire greatly.  Happy Birthday!

Love, Mom

 

God is Able

Every year, I spend the Christmas season in Amritapuri, Amma’s ashram in Kerala, India.  One of the highlights of the season is that on Christmas eve the Western residents present a Christmas play.  For the last five years, they have been Broadway style musicals.  That event is even more special to me because my daughter Chaitanya writes and directs the plays and my son composes most of the musical scores.  In addition, he works with the singers and plays the harmonium, an instrument that has a keyboard and bellows. Continue reading “God is Able”