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Published: April 4th 2011
Hollly and Mary with village children
Greetings from India! Our journey getting here involved a few challenges. After an easy flight from Boston to Amsterdam, we arrived to find that our flight from Amsterdam to Delhi had been canceled. We were rerouted through Vienna and landed in Delhi only an hour later than scheduled. Our bags did not arrive and after a long while filling our forms, we took a prepaid taxi through the middle of the night to Gobind Sadan where we were greeted by our wonderful host (and former next door neighbor), Mary Pat Fisher. Our driver had some difficulty finding our destination, as apparently, it is common not to have addresses. The directions we brought with us (in both English and Hindi) still required some cell phone input between our driver and our host.
We slept until 4pm Saturday afternoon (apparently setting the record for jet lag sleeping in!). Gobind Sadan is a spiritual community, founded by Baba Virsa Singh in the late 1960s. Mary, as she is known here, moved to India 20 years ago to work with Babaji in manifesting his vision of a community where all religions are welcomed and honored. This 100 acre site in the country south of
Delhi has been turned from a wasteland into a beautiful and fertile farming community where people of all faiths live and work together. Daily rituals honoring all faiths abound. Our first experience was to attend the evening gathering at Jesus' Place where children are the focus, along with the offering of prayers for anyone in need. The children sing a call and response chant that we were not able to understand other than the words "Jesus" and "Mother Mary". It was quite impressive to see Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christians singing and praying together.
Our host, Mary, took time at the end of the ritual to offer specific prayers for individuals. Those of you who remember Mary Pat know her to be a deeply spiritual person. Here in India, she is loved and honored by all whose paths she crosses. The children run to her, touching her feet and then reaching for a hug. The men bow to receive a pat on the shoulder. She has mastered Hindi and Punjabi, and it is delightful to listen to the array of challenges she helps to resolve each day in these languages, as if she had lived here forever. Many people
Bicycle laundry delivery
Innovative Indian "spiritual vehicle"
come to her asking her to pray for them or someone they love, as well as seeking her general advice.
Very quickly after sleeping all day, we were asked to assist in the ritual of the eternal fire, a beautiful square stone and marble building (perhaps 40x40), open on all sides with symbols representing all faiths. Centered in the structure is a large square firepit where the flame never goes out. People serve in 2 hour shifts to keep the fire going and to read sacred texts continuously. Several people are needed to do all the jobs. Our job has been to keep the reading going to the 4 deities in each corner: the goddess Durga, the god Hanuman, the great 16th century sage, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj, and the god Shiva. Little books, in several languages, tucked away with each deity are the readings. We simply study each one , re-reading the same book for the duration.
Today, several pandits arrived for 9 days of prayer honoring the goddess, Durga. Our turn with the eternal fire this morning became an even more extraordinary experience as the space became the focal point for the pandits readings, chantsand mantras. We threw special spices into the fire at specific moments along with special oil, while some waved fans. It was quite a busy place with many people attending for the visitors.
Yesterday, we attended a program for the children in preparation for the Durga holiday. In a lovely hall converted from a farm building, the children began with some yoga, followed by a lesson on the 3 goddesses: Durga, Sarasvati, and Lakshmi. Afterward, the children helped to carry bags of art supplies to the shrine of Shiva in the far corner of the property where they were encouraged to draw images of Shiva in his human form. Several children asked Holly to help them with their drawings. En route to Shiva's shrine, we stopped along the way to visit the shrine of Krishna and Radha, passing the mosque along the way.
The children here are utterly open and joyful. They have no toys whatsoever; rather their play is creative with whatever is available. In Jesus' Place, we watched a group of boys who had placed their shoes within a ring of garden hose. The rules of the game appeared to be that 1 boy guarded the shoes, keeping 1 foot within the circle, while others tried to grab their shoes. If a grabber got tagged, then that boy moved into the middle. So simple and so happy! The children love holding hands with us. Their energy is pure joy!
Our bags finally arrived yesterday afternoon after we returned from our outing with the children. In a way, it's almost as if we never needed them. Mary has outfitted us in native wear, and it really does feel more comfortable than our Western wear. This afternoon, we set out all the donated clothing we had brought along with things Mary had stored, and many people came to go through the items. For future reference, the children's wear was the hottest ticket.
Today was the beginning of feeling settled in. There are others here, as well, from Latvia and Russia (there is a Gobind Sadan project in Russia along with the USA). We are enjoying getting to know our fellow international guests who seem to be here for several months to our brief time. It is easy to feel how several months is really what is needed to become fully involved with the myriad services one can do here. For example, the Latvian guest has been tutoring several children in English. That statement alone summarizes the magic of peaceful diversity that is Gobind Sadan.
Tomorrow, we are taking a day trip to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. More soon, hopefully with photos. We were not able to successfully load them as the computers we are using here at the ashram are finicky with all sorts of challenges!
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