Things are Heating Up

Warm weather is finally here in Chandrapuri, bringing with it a flurry of activity. The government seems to have realized that monsoon season is quickly approaching. Road construction is going on everywhere, finally with heavy equipment and an influx of new Indian workers. Our construction has picked up again too with the arrival of two experienced supervisors from Kerala, Shiva Das and Ramakrishna. Nine houses have now been bricked to a level above the doors.

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Today was “all hands on deck” as we carried pans of sand and gravel to mix the concrete by hand. Once started, we can not stop. The entire form must be filled in one continuous pour for maximum strength.

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Today we learned about lentels. No, not lentil as in dahl. You know the concrete shelf above the windows in most of the ashram flats? That is a lentel and it has a function besides storing unwanted items. It is the band of steel reinforced concrete providing needed strength to brick construction. This is what will give our houses earthquake resistance.

-Scotti

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Posted in Disaster Relief0 Comments

Call of Nature – call for Awareness!

Amma always reminds us how important it is to have awareness in each and every action of ours.
The following incident reminded me just how important it is to put Amma’s advice into practice in everyday life.

It was during a spiritual programme with one of Amma’s disciples in Dublin, Ireland. It was my duty to pass around the wireless microphone to people in the audience who wanted to ask questions.

As the session went on I suddenly felt the urgent call of Nature. I figured that in between two questions, while the response was going on, I could easily sneak away to the bathroom, do my business and be back in time for the next question, without anyone noticing it.

I thought this was a great idea. But before I sneaked away I made sure to switch off the microphone and slid it into my pocket. The bathroom was right next to the event hall, so I could perfectly hear what was going on next door. I was very happy that my plan worked out so well. While I was relaxing and releasing I could hear the speech continuing. But then, all of a sudden – the hall fell silent. To my surprise the answer was too short for me to even finish “number one”. In a rush I quickly washed my hands, grabbed the microphone and ran back into the hall.

As so often in spiritual life, the things we want to keep secret the most soon become known to everyone.
I burst into the hall with the microphone in my wet hands and very casually – as if nothing has happened – asked who would want to ask the next question. Obviously the situation was a bit embarrassing, so people smiled at me in a big way. However, as the programme went on I sensed that there was something in the air, and I could not quite figure what it was. People kept on giggling and looking at me in amusement and wonder. I was thinking to myself ‘well, I understand that it was funny that I came in late, but was it really THAT funny?’

Only after the programme was over, when I went to the bathroom once more, I realised what really had happened. Upon seeing me in the bathroom, the guy next to me started laughing, saying: “Hi – here you are again, but this time without the microphone switched on!!!” I was shocked – while sliding the microphone into my pocket I must have accidentally flipped on the switch so that the whole audience could hear the sound of tender rainfall while listening to the spiritual discourse. And that was followed by the sound of a strong waterfall – while I was washing my hands.

At first I was kind of embarrassed by this realisation, but very soon a feeling a deep gratitude welled up inside of me. I was thinking to myself: Thank you, God, for not having had to attend to “number two” – I think the sound of rolling thunder would really have been too much for a spiritual programme. Imagine – you decide to spend an inspiring evening with spiritual insights about purity and love, but what you get to hear is a symphony of the most elemential expressions of the human body.

This incident made me realise how important it is to be alert and aware in every single action of mine. Even though I was very cautious to switch off the microphone before running to the bathroom, I lacked the same kind of shraddha (alertness) while sliding it into my pocket. If even the tiny switch of a microphone can cause so much of amusement, think of the consequences that our words and actions can have, if done without the proper awareness.

We need to remember that awareness, as all of spirituality, is not a part-time business. No matter where we are and what we are doing, it is this awareness that will bring beauty and completeness to each one of our actions.

- Nath

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Posted in General1 Comment

GetGrowing!

At a recent beach meditation satsang, Amma spoke on the factors contributing to cancer, emphasizing the need for a balanced lifestyle complete with daily exercise, moderation in diet, ample sunlight exposure, and regular medical check-ups. She discussed heredity and stress as possible determinants, as well as the increasing influence of contamination in our environment, including pesticides sprayed on crops, growth hormones in meat, and pollutants in water supplies. These contaminants may accumulate in the body, year after year, making the immune system weak and prone to disease.

Amma advised Her children to do their own organic gardening in order to counteract the negative effects of pesticides. She said that each person should be able to eat vegetables one day each week from their own garden.

getgrowing1At the time, I was in the midst of taking a five-day course at Amritapuri called GetGrowing, which ramped up my excitement all the more to dig my hands in the earth and plant! This program was developed by the GreenFriends initiative in Ireland with the goal to provide the basic knowledge needed to grow healthy food in whatever space available – be it a piece of land, garden, paved yard, terrace, or balcony. It’s basically organic gardening for dummies (like me!), perfect for those with all the desire, but little to no hands-on experience “in the field.” The course is outlined in a well-researched, comprehensive guidebook that takes the novice or expert step by step through the adventure of gardening. From seed to fruit, the guide details garden bed design, crop rotation, sowing seedlings, transplanting, soil care, mulching, worm and waste compost, pest control, and finally, harvesting!

It has been truly amazing, getting some real, first-hand experience digging and raising new beds, seeding chard and broccoli, transplanting tulasi and amaranth, sifting through worm compost, constructing mini-tunnels and green houses, and much more. In addition, we were blessed to tour many of the gardens around the ashram, soaking in the farmers’ wealth of knowledge in the methods they have employed to grow successfully with the limited water and resources available. We also paid invaluable visits to the ashram’s waste and worm composting facilities, learning how to reuse and recycle to create something beautifully useful and sustainable for generations to come.
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In light of Amma’s words and this fresh perspective on gardening, I am so inspired to just GetGrowing!, start at whatever level of experience I have, and “try, try, try,” as Amma’s says. With the risks of modern farming practices, increasing crop shortages, and rising food prices, I pray I am able to do my part to cultivate a deep, nourishing bond to Nature, helping to restore the harmony of Mother Earth.

Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

by Vinodini (USA)

“Even if we have only a tiny plot of land, we should try to grow a few vegetables using organic fertilizers. Spending some time with our plants, we should talk to them and kiss them. This relationship will give us a new vitality.” – Amma
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Posted in AshramDiary, Seva2 Comments

Love is divine

Love is divine, Love is divine, Love is divine,
Beyond th’ expression of mere words an’ sublime.

Let’s learn to silence the turbulent mind,
To feel the presence of the Love inside.

Love is divine, Love is divine, Love is divine,
Beyond th’ expression of mere words an’ sublime.

Compose a poem or sing a song along,
For th’ lover awaits to whom you belong.

Love is divine, Love is divine, Love is divine,
Beyond th’ expression of mere words an’ sublime.

O! Maa, Thou art the embodiment of purity and love,
Mayst Thou e’er shine within, with effervescent love.

Love is divine, Love is divine, Love is divine,
Beyond th’ expression of mere words an’ sublime.

O! Maa, Mayst Thou with th’ healing balm of Thy infinite love,
Alleviate all my sorrows, an’ reveal th’ Self, th’ effulgent One.

– by Sridhar

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Posted in Poems1 Comment

Fabric Painting Classes

Out of all of Amma’s relief programs in Uttarakhand, the Vocational Training Centers have been the instant success story. Standardized curriculum from Amachi Labs, delivered by laptop made it possible to implement the classes so quickly. This week I attended the final session of the Fabric Painting Class in Guptakashi. This was the second batch of 20 students to complete the course there.
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The ladies were obviously enthusiastic about what they had learned and lined up to show off their finished products.

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Some were for their own use and some were working samples to show local shopkeepers.

Fabric Painting is also being offered in our Ukimath and Augustiamuni Centers. The next Guptakashi Class will be Basic Computer Literacy. I believe all 20 seats are already spoken for.

- Scotti

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Posted in Disaster Relief0 Comments

Chandrapuri Village Before and After

Chandrapuri where we have started Amma’s housing projects, is actually two villages on opposite sides of the Mandakini River that were once connected by a beautiful cable bridge. Batwadi Village, where we are building houses, is on the east side and Chandrapuri Village is on the west bank.

This week, a family has shared rare photos of what Chandrapuri Village looked like before the flood. I have tried to go to the same spots to show what it is like today, but many of these spots have been washed away. This is as close as I could get.

 
Before & After

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#1 The beautiful cable bridge and a huge swath of land beyond it was simply swept away. The damaged blue house visible today was actually set far back from the riverbank, protected by walls, a wide walking path, and mature trees. It is partially visible beyond the left bridge
tower.

 

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#2 Upstream from the blue house, everything for the next 200 yards is gone; homes, businesses, and a popular Durga temple.

 

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#3 Looking down from the hill above, you can see how wide the path of destruction was.

 

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#4 Behind the riverfront houses was once fertile farm land. Today they harvest only sand.
More on Chandrapuri tomorrow.

- Scotti

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The sprouting of the seed

Never, not in this lifetime did I ever picture myself rising before dawn to a cold bucket shower, sporting the occasional sari, mentally offering flower petals at the feet of the Divine Mother, chanting Ma-Om with “each cell of my being dancing in Divine Bliss” around the tropical palms of a little fishing village in India!

Going on nearly 20 years of “knowing” Amma, receiving Her blessed darshan each year since I was five years old, it has been a surprising journey discovering how spirituality has finally bloomed in my life. Though the seed was planted in me early, growing up in a hippie-dippie, crunchy-granola community, complete with a full variety menu of flavor-of-the-week spiritual modalities, I admit I rejected it all for a long time. This is not to say I didn’t appreciate my upbringing, but it was over-saturating to be raised on mantras, chakras, and yagyas the way the local kids ate Wonder Bread. Where the norm was auric field cleansing, jyotish gem charging, and crystal wand waving, I proudly claimed myself an agnostic in the face of my parents’ “guru crazes,” seeking hard evidence while writing off all of spirituality as blind faith that everyone around me had somehow fallen prey to.

It wasn’t until last year, traveling to India on what at first was just a tourist backpacking trip after college, that I really saw the amazing validity and worth of my upbringing. It was discovering spirituality on my own, through this connection I’ve had with Amma from a distance since childhood, that I was able for the first time to really tap into something beyond myself, the Divine. Words cannot do justice to the experience of my first darshan at Amritapuri, as many witnesses to Her presence can attest to. It was as if I was meeting Her for the first time. No longer was I just receiving a cuddly hug and a Hershey’s kiss from an Indian lady in a crown. It was Her seeing me on that primeval level of understanding, shining on me with all Her Love. It was in this fresh inner space, where those values I was brought up with were ready for Her Light, that I felt the shell of the seed of spirit crack within me and begin to sprout, melting me in tears. Six months later, and now a year later, I still find myself in the ashram, the course of my life turned down a much different road than I’d expected.

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My outlook has completely changed, unrecognizable from the skeptic I was growing up. And now that I’ve had this first-hand experience, I feel as if I’m backpedaling to lost time I took for granted as a child, re-learning from scratch how to tune in, listen, and meditate, as a beginner. Though I often feel as if I’m fumbling more than treading water in these early stages, I am so incredibly grateful for my initial declination to spirituality. I may not have been able to kindle this newfound desire for true growth and understanding without the thirst coming from my own empowerment to know for myself, drawing from those once tossed aside, now treasured values I was raised with. And now I am ever-happy to be back again this winter, on a journey that will hopefully continue to blossom and guide the rest of my life…

- Vinodini (USA)
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Posted in AshramDiary, WithAmma2 Comments