S: Messages from India
FC: Messages From India
1: As I write my dog is tucked cozily besides me. I listen to the gentle inhale and exhale of his breath. I am soothed. I am happy. I am sad. Each breath breathes a reminder. This too shall pass. Moments such as this are fleeting. Soon this precious instant will be a distant memory tucked away in my subconscious. I will leave for India and leave what is familiar to me. I will be in India, but my dogs, my cat, my family and my friends will be here. The world looks different to me now. I can now see that what I once took for granted has become a precious gift. I appreciate driving my car in a way that I never have before. I crank the music loud and I rock it. But this too shall pass. I look a little longer into my mother’s eyes at the close of a visit and I say, “I love you” because I really mean it. This too shall pass. I notice how small my father looks to me now and how old and how soft and how sweet. And at the | close of a visit when he says, I love you, I know it’s because he means it. This happy instant shall also pass. My love for all this will not pass. In the leaving, I am learning about presence. What I have ignored or taken for granted are the very things that I find appreciation for now. I have begun to awaken to the possibilities of now. When I live life regretting the past or worrying about the future, I have fallen asleep to this precious and sacred now. For I realize this too shall pass. My life is now. Living is not about location; not about where you are, but when you are and who you are. You come to know yourself in front of a computer typing an article, driving in your car, making love to your husband, or taking a trip of a lifetime to teach in India. Location does not matter. Being in the typing, in the driving, in the love making, and in the experiences of India matter. In the coming months, Joe and I will share our experiences and insights with you as we teach and travel in India. The next article will be coming from India. | This Too Shall Pass
2: From Erie to Bangalore | Greetings from India! What an adventure it has been so far. Right now I am feeling very whelmed. Not overwhelmed mind you, just very whelmed. It has been a whirlwind six days. Saying goodbye to the people at Unity in Edinboro on Sunday was very difficult. Since I first walked into the church four years ago, there has been no other place I wanted to be on Sunday mornings. Sometimes I had travel or meet other obligations that kept me away on a Sunday. But if I could be at Unity, I was. It was too exciting to miss. All of you make it exciting. Every time I was at church services, or meeting with you, I wondered: What would I learn today that will move me along my spiritual path? I expected things every Sunday, and you did not disappoint me. | Carmen Lespier drove me to the Pittsburgh airport, and it was quite an adventure. Ask her to tell you about it. I left the next morning for New York City, and from there I went on to Delhi and finally Bangalore. I lost a day between the air time and the time changes. When Dr Singh's driver met me at the airport, I was so happy to see him I nearly jumped over the barrier to give him a Unity in Edinboro greeting, but I caught myself and settled for a handshake and a smile. Even our trip from the Bangalore airport was exciting. It seems that the typical style of driving is to blow horns and go. It was all beeping horns, flashing lights and the traffic moved very fast. Once, at a stop sign, the driver almost slowed to 35 kph. Fortunately, he is an excellent driver and a really warm human being as well.
3: Sleep has not been plentiful this first week - maybe its jetlag. It could be that I am missing Connie and adjusting to all of the new surroundings. India is very different from the United States. I have met some wonderful people here at Trio World School. Dr. Singh and the staff have been very welcoming to me. I hope that you will keep Connie and me in your prayers. Remember the staff and children at Trio, as well. You will always be in our prayers. God bless all of you.
4: I am writing this at 7:15 pm on a Sunday and it is already completely dark outside. Connie is asleep. We have no television so there is nothing to distract us or keep us awake. If I were in Pennsylvania, I would probably be watching the Olympics. My thoughts keep returning to a familiar theme: “there is no place like home.” This is true at least for some of us who are like Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. She was in an enchanted land with people who loved her, but all she could think about was getting home. I, too, am in an enchanted land – India, not Oz. And I keep thinking about how good it would be to be home. With the time difference between Edinboro and India, I figure that you are getting ready for the Sunday Service as I am writing this. How I wish I could see your friendly faces and hear your familiar voices. This desire made me realize how often we fail to appreciate the simple blessings that flow to us from Spirit in the course of our everyday life. | I don't have magic slippers to get back. But Air India does have flights each day that will return me to the good ol USA. However, my desire to return home is only half of the story. Connie loves it here. She is not likely to return early. I feel like my desire to be with her and share this adventure is stronger than my need to be back in familiar surroundings. So, here I remain. I am hoping to rekindle the longing that brought me here in the first place. After all, it was my idea to live in India for a year. | You Don't Have To Travel Halfway Around the World To FInd Yourself
5: Since I was 8 years old, one of my heroes has always been Gandhi. What a model for service to people everywhere. He is perhaps the greatest example since Jesus. His legacy is one of the big reasons that I was drawn to India. I am constantly reminded of Gandhi here. One of his famous teachings was that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. So I go on to find myself here in India. Not that I believe that I would have to be in India to find myself, but because I am in India so that is where I will look. I know that there is a deep learning for me in this experience. Wake up. Be in the now. You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. | So brothers and sisters in Unity, please remember Connie and me in your prayers. You are always in our hearts. Remember to be kind to one another. Love one another. Minister to each other. Remember that you are Gods community on Earth. Peace and abundant blessings to all of you.
6: BANGALORE, India – A whole month has gone by since I landed in India. It is hard to believe. I have been so homesick this past month that it seems like I have been gone longer than one month. I really miss everyone and everything in the good old USA. Things like understanding what people are saying when you walk down the street, or walking into a store and finding what you want to buy or the food that you want to eat. | A Month of Homesickness, Of Growth, and of Sharing with you in Spirit | Actually, I am feeling better since I wrote the chaplains column for this newsletter a few weeks ago. I have been exploring the immediate environment, Shakar Nagar, which is a little village. I can go almost anywhere in the village. If someone tells me that a business is near Fine Foods or the Saha Restaurant, I can find it. Connie and I walked all the way to the Big Market yesterday. That is probably a mile and a half from our apartment. Connie and I are also becoming more comfortable with the people. Connie was probably always more comfortable with the people than I have been. She easily talks with the school’s housekeeping staff. They share stories about their personal lives and encourage her to buy items
7: of clothing and jewelry. They don't even come into my room if I am there, but I have observed how willing they are to work really hard. I have also observed countless examples of how helpful they are or how they will go the extra mile to make a stranger feel at home in their country. You realize that most people have really big hearts and are treating others with love and respect. Connie and I are also getting to appreciate and participate in the Hindu religion. This week has been a celebration for the elephant headed god, Ganesha. Ganesha is the remover of all obstacles; if you are starting a new venture or going on a journey, you invoke Ganesha. The celebrations include lots of music and fireworks. The culmination of the celebration involves taking statues of Ganesha to the nearby | lakes and immersing the statues in the water. Connie and I are anxious to see that. So the adventure in India continues. I often think about the congregation at Unity in Edinboro. Every Sunday about 8 p.m. my thoughts go back to the little village in northwestern Pennsylvania, and I know that you are gathering for meditation. I remember how much I enjoy these quiet times sharing the energy with others. I am still sharing that quiet time and energy with you. Then I think of the service and how you are probably lighting the Christ candle at that time or Joanne is sharing the message. I am there with you in spirit. I will close by reminding you: Be good to Yourself. Love Yourself, meditate on the Self, and never forget that God dwells in You as You. Peace and abundant blessings to all of you. You are always in my heart and in my prayers.
8: BANGALORE, India – Another month has flown by. I have actually been in India for two months. Connie and I are doing well. We are taking the opportunities to do new things that present themselves here in India. Recently, after my dentist appointment, we decided to visit the ashram of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. No – this isn't the Ravi Shankar who is the great sitar player and composer. This is the Indian spiritualist who is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation. The ashram teaches courses on the Art of Living, including part 1 “The Miracles of Breath” that Connie and I have decided to take. | Instead of First Impressions... Look for the Good
9: The ashram is beautiful and includes a large outdoor amphitheater and a lotus blossom shaped meditation hall. This is all very impressive, although it seemed too commercialized to me. Connie thought the opportunity for learning presented itself to us. So, despite my misgivings about the commercialized feel, we decided to get what we can from it and ignore the rest. This seemed like a good idea. Instead of closing my mind as I have often done, I decided to look for the good When I read more material I came to the conclusion that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his followers appear to be helping a lot of people in a great many circumstances. The concept of “seva,” or selfless service, is a key component in the program Connie and I decided to take during a weekend retreat. I’ll give you details of this retreat in a future column. Adjusting to life outside a government-controlled society The students at Trio World School are an amazing | collection from everywhere on the planet. One of my fifth grade students, Olinga, is a young man who was born in India but who has spent the last seven years in China. His mother, Lua, teaches first and second grade classes at Trio. She is a teacher in China as well and plans to return there next year to continue teaching. The family is originally from Iran, although Lua was born in Laos. A month ago she shared with us her reasons for coming to India for a year. She said she wanted to spend time with her mother, father and older sister who live here. She also wanted to give her children the opportunity to learn to read and write English. Lua was telling us how her best friend in China is a fellow teacher from South America. This friend had taught in China for more than 10 years. The friend decided to take a year and return with her children, both teens, to her native country in South America. Lua said that within two months, the family returned to China because the children could not cope with life outside China. Because of her friend’s
10: experience, Lua felt that she needed to make this move to India for a year while her children were young enough to adapt to different cultures. That said, Lua recently told us how unhappy Olinga is living outside of China. Olinga is having difficulty adjusting to the lack of order and structure that he experiences in India. He sees the chaos of people making decisions that are not always made for the common good, and asks his mother: “Why doesn't the government tell them not to do it. If the government says don't do it, they won't do it." That is what he experienced while in China. At this point in his life, he is willing to give up freedom for order. This made me think: How much of our freedom are we willing to sacrifice for order and stability? How important is it to us to feel safe and secure? Does living in a dictatorial state such as China guarantee “order?” Can we experience that order and safety in any other way? Does that feeling come from the outside or inside? | I worried about Olinga after hearing this. If he was he so willing to give up personal freedom after seven years in China, what would he be like after eight more years back in China? I have watched him closely the last several days. I am less concerned. He is a bright young man. He already knows 50,000 Chinese characters. Although he didn't read or write English, I believe that by June he will be reading on a high school level. I think that when the time comes, Olinga will know that order and security comes from inside and not from a government that dictates a person’s every action. Workers happy despite toil, rough living conditions. Thursday, October 2, is a holiday here, Gandhi's birthday. As I finish writing this column, I am watching the Indian construction workers build a huge house across the street. They have a motorized cement mixer, but all of the rest of the work is being done by hand – including passing large metal disks filled with concrete up three stories to the level at which they are working. Men and women were both taking part in this endeavor. As the disks reach the third floor,
11: workers, mostly women, place the disks on their heads and carry them to where needed, dump them and return for more disks. This continues all day from dawn until well after dark. I really admire the hard work they put into the task at hand. | These workers build beautiful buildings, private houses and apartments such as the one Connie and I live in. However, when they leave work and return to their own homes, those “homes” are typically huts made of cement blocks with tin roofs, or in tents made from plastic tarps. They work seven days a week, about 12 hours a day, for about $2.50 a day. They cook over open fires, wash their clothes the old fashion way by beating them on rocks and go to the toilet in the field across from us. Their living conditions are about the same as camping in a rustic
12: Music lessons here are serious business Connie is starting harmonium lessons soon. People are serious about lessons here. You cannot be late or absent, or the teacher will simply drop you. In addition to the music, Connie’s teachers will expect her to learn the language and the culture. I would say that with teaching and all of the other things we want to do, Connie's plate will be very full. I am sure that she would not want it any other way. That's it for this month. You are always in our prayers. I think of Unity in Edinboro and the congregation that I love often. God bless you all. | campground in the states. In the midst of all this, they seem happy and alive. The kids are beautiful. The adults seem healthy and fit. They sometimes try to talk to us when we walk by on our way to or from work. Unfortunately, we do not speak Kanada and they don't speak English. If they could speak English, they could get a much better paying job that would involve a lot less back breaking labor. Workers in other countries with more machinery might out-produce these laborers, but I don't think anyone will outwork them.
13: God is not a toy for your security or a concept for your convenience. God is love. God is the substratum of this universe, the basis of this existence. God is the space in which all things happen. Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
14: BANGALORE, India – Have you ever walked into a place and felt an overwhelming sense of spirituality, a sense that God is there in the midst of the place a sense that with a little concentration you could reach out and touch God, or have God touch you? We are surrounded by crowds of people here in India. The roads are packed – with trucks, buses, cars, auto rickshaws, and two wheelers of every size and type. People here use their horns more in one short trip than I used a horn in all my years of driving in the United States. | But you can find quiet here. One place to find quiet – and feel the presence of God – is in the temples. Usually after receiving a blessing from the temple priest, you circle the altar area three times in a clockwise direction, thus placing the altar on your right side. While doing this, I have experienced a strong sense of spiritual presence on my right side. I can really get in touch with the divinity represented by Shiva, Krishna, Ganesha, etc I have also experienced God's presence at the Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore. Although the Ashram it is in Bangalore, it typically takes more than an hour and a half to get there because it’s located in the southern part of Bangalore and we live on the city’s northern edge. But it’s worth the trip. The place is beautiful and peaceful. | Divine Presence is Where You Find It
15: I can easily get in touch with the Divine there. I breathe deeply and feel God's presence. I not only experience this presence, but I can see it on the faces of the people that I meet as I walk the grounds. People greet each other by saying, Jai guru deva. Roughly translated, this means: You feel like the guru, you feel your divinity. I have felt a similar presence when I have had the opportunity to go to Unity Village, in Missouri. The sense that God is there in your midst as you walk the grounds is palpable. The beauty and spirituality of the place fills my being. It is easy to feel the Spirit in such a setting. I also feel that abiding sense of Spirit at Unity in Edinboro. I felt it the first time I walked through the doors, although I really didn’t know what it was I was feeling at the time. As I have attended and grown in my faith, I have come to appreciate the people at Unity in Edinboro more and more. | I see God in each of you, and I feel God within myself. What a blessing it is to be able to be with people with whom you can share that feeling of divinity. God is in us. Wherever we are, God Is, and all is well. God bless each and every one of you.
16: BANGALORE, India – Joseph and I visited the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar School at the beginning of December. Two children carrying a silver tray with small dishes of red and orange powders warmly greeted us. They anointed Joseph and me by delicately placing small circles on our foreheads. Each said, “Jai Guru Dev,” which loosely translates as “greetings to you, my beloved teacher.” Our hosts eventually escorted us to the principal’s office, where we were offered coffee and welcomed again by two doe-eyed toddlers and their gentle teachers. The children gave gifts of a rose to each of us, but their teachers reminded them | to say, “Jai Guru Dev.” They joyfully obliged saying the words with all the gentleness and sweetness that can only be achieved when you are two years old. Mine was a burgundy-colored rose with the qualities of velvet. Small droplets of water rested on the surface of each petal, which seemed to be illuminated from the rose itself. Joseph’s rose was pink and several of its petals were open, giving it the initial appearance of being in full bloom. However, there was a marble-like | Young Students Share Their Hearts, Music, Smiles... And Masala Dosa
17: mass of bundled petals in the center awaiting the moment it will wake to the full joy of a potential achieved. We had been there only 10 minutes and I suddenly realized the questions I had regarding teaching methodology and theory had all disappeared; for questions are of the mind and my mind had been lulled into a thoughtless state by the presence of joy I felt in witnessing such a school Next, we visited each class-room. The children stood to greet us with all the respect and reverence they might give to their beloved guruji, Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, as if he was there himself. “Jai Guru Dev” the smiling choruses sang. The youngest groups of children sat on a large mat placed on the floor. In front of each was a desk that resembled a typical classroom desk, but with shortened legs. Children could sit crossed legged or otherwise when it was time to do assignments. The desk easily folded away if the children need a group space. This setup seemed to acknowledge children’s natural tendency to be close to the earth. | Our hosts offered student in each class to ask questions of Joe and me. Most classes declined. Instead, they just smiled at us or whispered to each other except those students in the second grade. The second graders offered up a song. They were exuberant in their singing “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare” while each joined their hands together at the thumb and pinky, emulating Krishna on his flute.It is said that when an embodied soul hears the melodies of Krishna’s flute, that soul gives up all worldly attachments and melts into the one great consciousness called Love. It was apparent to me these children were not merely reciting words for their guests to enjoy, but
18: instead were singing to the great beloved who dwells within them and bares witness to their joy, also known as Krishna. We left he room to continue the school tour. I was drawn back by the sound of singing, “Sa, Re, Ga, Ma ....” The Carnatic music scale! This was the same thing I was learning in my very own music lessons. Forty hours of lessons and countless hours of practice had come down to this moment. I was singing with the second grade! The children and I had something in common. We were all beginners and we reveled in it. “Pa, Da, Ne, Sa” I joined in – and loved every moment. The principal (who is foremost a teacher) decided to call an assembly. She noticed students declining to ask us questions in the classroom but knew we all had a lot to teach each other. She felt that everyone could benefit from hearing the questions and responses of each other. All of the children and teachers joined to ask questions and, in turn, to be asked question by Joe and me. | The principal carefully guided students’ questions away from “what’s your favorite color, favorite food, etc.”, to questions having greater relevance, such as those that begin with “what do you think about.” But before this could happen, one student asked my favorite Indian food, to which I immediately replied, “Masala Dosa!” Everyone smiled and nodded in agreement. The dosa is to India what pizza is to the U.S. After the assembly, Joe and I stood for half an hour signing autographs. You would have thought a Bollywood star had shown up at the school, as each child waited with a tablets and pen to receive our signatures. It was closing in on noon. This is the time when teachers gather daily to listen to a reading by guruji. Today’s reading had teachers riveted. We all listened with ears and hearts as though guruji himself were there for satsong (to come together in community and sit in “sat” or truth) teaching. Meditation followed.
19: Children sat cross legged chanting “ohm nah-mah shi-vay-ya” (salutations to that which I am capable of becoming) going up and down the music scale. An audio cassette of guruji’s voice led the chorus of children and adults. Joe and I were very pleased that we could join in. It was time for lunch. Guess what our hosts brought for us? Masala Dosa! | "The balance of focused mind and an expanded consciousness brings perfection" Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
20: BANGALORE, India – August, September, October, November, and December? Wow! Have Connie and I really been in India for five months? Our adventure is halfway complete. When people ask if we are coming back next year, I reply: “No, we have family, friends, pets and a house in America that we are anxious to see again.” Our journey in India ends In June. I never rule out returning to India in the future, though. The truth is, Connie and I have come to love India. There are moments when I feel as if I could spend the rest of my life here and be perfectly happy. There are other times when I could pack my bags and immediately head for Bangalore International Airport, without looking back. Often these competing feelings occur in a time span of a few minutes. So at the halfway mark of our adventure, here is a summary of why I love being in India, and also why being in India seems a little crazy. | 1.) I love the weather here. It is perpetually sunny and 80 degrees. We came here in the rainy season. Monsoons! What did we know of monsoons? Only what I saw in the movies, where it would rain so hard that you could stick your arm out in front of you and not be able to see your hand and the rain would last for days, weeks, maybe months. The truth is, the monsoons here are nothing like what we saw in the movies. Not in Bangalore, at least, which is susceptible to both southeast and southwest monsoons. During the rainy season it would often rain in the evening and perhaps throughout the night, but the next morning the sun was usually shinning. Connie and I walked to school in the rain only one morning. We bought umbrellas but we use them very little. I have never been in San Diego or Hawaii, but this weather is nice. Darn nice. 2.) I miss the change of seasons. The change of seasons is Mother Nature on parade. Fall has always been my favorite | Nearing the Halfway Mark on Our Adventure
21: season, although those days sitting in school looking out the window and daydreaming about what I would do once I arrived home messed it up. There is no autumn here, not like Pennsylvania. It stays green and flowery here all year. That’s really nice, but opposite values are complementary. It is hard to appreciate what summer means when you don’t have winter. I don't want to give the impression that I think this weather is boring, as I know you might be reading this after digging out from a foot of snow, but change can be good. 3.) I have met so many wonderful people here, and I am not a people person. Just think of all the people Connie – a real people person – has met. The staff at school has been great to us. If we are having a problem, we call on them for help, day or night. Our receptionist, Miss Harini, has often talked to people who had difficulty understanding our English. She has saved us many times, such as the time we had rented a taxi to go to the dentist and I could not get him to understand the office’s location. Harini explained it to him in Kanada well enough to get us there and back. Once, while | buying something from a vendor in the school lobby, Miss Catherine, the school business manager, came by and asked how much he was charging us. The vendor stated the price that he quoted us. Miss Catherine didn't say anything, but she raised an eyebrow in a questioning manner. His price immediately dropped by R50. And now he gives us a discount when we go to his store in the village. | 4.) India is crowded, really crowded – and not just with people. Animals are everywhere. Cows roam the streets. One nudged Connie off of a sidewalk while she was trying to pet it.
22: I’m a dog lover, but the stray dog population here is alarming. I hate to see these skinny and uncared-for canines. I have been feeding a neighborhood dog I call Sunny who has an injured leg. My goal is to find a home for him before I leave India. Then there are the throngs of people over a billion people in India, and the population is still growing rapidly. Indians don't have large families as they did in previous generations, but we are surrounded by throngs of people everywhere we go. You can get into a monster traffic jam at 2 a.m. School buses with our kids on board got caught in a massive traffic jam during a political rally a few months ago. Students who normally arrive home at 5 p.m. didn't make it home until 9:30 p.m. There are people everywhere. It is almost impossible to get away, except in the privacy of your own apartment. Even then we can usually hear our neighbors talking. People, people, people! Early in this trip it became apparent to me that Indians have a different social distance than we do in the West. They crowd you in traffic. They crowd up against you standing in line. They also have little compunction about cutting in front of you while in line. This really bothered me. I felt invisible. I wondered if it was racial, but have come to the conclusion that is has more to do with the large number of people they deal with all day long. | 5.) Indians are really hard workers. I admire the effort and long hours they put in. I watch the men and women here working on construction jobs. It’s amazing to see them put up these four- and five-story buildings with no machinery other than a cement mixer. Most of the work is done by hand (or carrying things on their head), including | getting tons of concrete from the ground to the fifth floor. I read in the paper how corrupt politicians often cheat these workers out of their meager pay. It does not seem to make them work less hard. I see that same work ethic in my Indian students. Rahul, a boy in my class, will beg me to give him more work, or more homework. The American and European kids shush him, but he keeps on asking.
23: 6.) Can anyone get anything to work around here? Often it seems like a relatively small problems simply go unresolved. Here is one example, with our newspaper, The Times of India. I have had it delivered every day starting in August. When we were on our trip, I stopped the paper and asked for it to start again on Jan. 1. When it didn't start right away after Jan. 1, I made a point to explain to the young man who collected for the paper that I had not been getting it. When the paper wasn't delivered Jan 2-5, I finally called the agency that provides the delivery. The man on the line said, "OK, OK Sir I will take care of it.” That would have solved the problem if it had been the Erie Times News, but not here. When the paper didn't come the next day, I called again. On Jan 7th, I called twice. On Jan. 8th, I called twice. Connie, tired of my complaining, got involved and talked to the man. On Jan. 9th, I asked Miss Harini to call and talk to him in Kannada. On Jan. 10th, I called again. On Jan. 12th, still with no paper, I decided to sit downstairs and wait for the paperboy. When he came, I showed him my receipt and rode up on the elevator to show him where to deliver the paper. Will I get my paper tomorrow? Experience tells me probably not. It is an example of how getting things done here can take a lot of time. | 7.) There was an outbreak of violence against the relatively small Christian community in our state, Kanataka, and a neighboring state, Orissa. For the most part the violence in Kanataka was against church property and not people, but in Orissa Christians were targeted with extreme violence. This can be disconcerting when you are a member of a tiny minority. I never felt my personal safety threatened, but I have wondered how the country that Gandhi gave birth to can resort to such violence. Except for our three-week holiday trip in the northern part of the country, most of our experiences in India have been limited to the city and state where we live and work. If I viewed our experiences in India as part of a human body, there we have really only experienced the tip of a finger. There is still so much to know, to see, and to feel. Would I recommend a visit to India to my family and friends? Definitely! If the opportunity arises, would I come back? Without reservation!
24: Up on a Rooftop...How We DIscovered Ambassadors of Goodwill | UDAIPUR, India – On the morning of Christmas Eve, Connie and I were sitting on the roof of a Hindu temple enjoying a cup of tea with Yogi, Ranu, and Gita, our new friends whom we had met the night before. Connie and I had just finished our dinner in one of the numerous rooftop restaurants that you find here in Udaipur when we were drawn to a temple by the sound of music coming from it. We peaked inside and saw a pooja, which is a reverence and worship ceremony, being performed. | A gentleman near the door invited us to enter so we took a seat with the other worshippers and participated in the ceremony. A young man in his early teens approached us after it concluded and invited us to tour the temple. conversation with Jerry, Susan and their daughter Amanda about how much we are enjoying our travels through India and about our lives back home. The bonding was instant, and we all felt as if we had known each other for years. Here we were on Christmas Eve – three families sitting on the roof of a Hindu temple. One of the families was Hindu, from Asia; another was Jewish, from Australia; and the third was Unity, from America. This was definitely a highlight of our trip.
25: Birthplace of Krishna Earlier in our holiday travels we visited Mathura, which is considered the birthplace of Krishna, the Hindu Deity. We were not particularly impressed with the town but we did visit a temple, Jai Guru Dev, that was very interesting. While the physical structure of the temple was imposing, what was really impressive was the gentleman who gave us a tour of the building and grounds. He spoke limited English but communicated with a kind and welcoming heart showing us how he cared for us. He was like a Yogi goodwill ambassador for his church and his faith The next-to-last-stop on our trip was in the tiny village of Ganeshpurri, which is north of Mumbai. We went there because it is the place where our teacher at Full Spectrum School studied. We felt that we wanted to experience the place where she had spent a great deal of time. We were rewarded for the effort as we met beautiful people, including Rosy who ran the house where we stayed. It was a wonderful experience of sharing meals lovingly prepared by Rosy and conversing with other travelers from around the world. | We met Jeanette and DaVee who are from New Mexico and are living in India for a year to run a retreat center. We spent one afternoon with them exploring the area and visiting their center, which is still a work in progress. We saw sadhus, dipped our feet in hot springs (really hot!) and simply enjoyed the company of some new friends who happen to be from America. I wanted to write about these experiences in the Chaplain’s column to illustrate how all of us are representatives of our faith, our church, our city, our country, etc. We all have an affect on the people who we meet. Be good to yourselves. Love yourself and others that you meet along the way. Remember that God resides in you as you. Peace and blessings.
28: BANGALORE, India – Today I witnessed one of our schoolchildren call another child “dumb.” But this did not cause a fight, argument, or any sort of disagreement. In fact, the child who was called a “dumb” merely smiled, turned, and walked away – apparently unaffected. I wish I could say this happened in my presence, or that my teachings caused such a positive reaction. Perhaps, you say, the child was deaf and did not hear the insult? Nope. One child called another child a name, and the other was unaffected because the message was sent in the Hindi language. We hear so much about the power of words but how much power is there in words that are not understood by the listener? It is said that before words are spoken they are a vibration, just energy in the body. As the vibration moves up, the vibration is transformed into thoughts and words. In turn, these thoughts and words are directed by intention and the willingness of the word's intended target. So, before a word is spoken, it is “inside” you. Spoken or not, the vibration of the words resides inside your body. | Need To Vent? First Consider Who Is Harmed
29: The child who called the other child “dumb” created negative vibration in her own body. She intended to share that vibration with another, but could not because there was no willingness of the other child to receive this negative vibration. Therefore, the one most affected by the word was the child doing the name-calling. In fact, venomous language directed at someone with the intent to “vent” has a detrimental effect on the one creating that vibration. The words you thought would make you feel better harm you by creating a negative vibration in you. So, the next time you feel like “venting,” remember who you will really hurt. Or the next time you feel the sting of someone else’s words, ask yourself: how affected would I be if the words were in Hindi.
30: Being Enriched By Those We Meet | came to return home we called Winkie and he cheerfully showed up and drove us home. On the long way home we learned something about his life and aspirations. His father had died recently and Winkie was supporting his mother and six younger siblings. It was only a couple of hours, but I felt like I had known him for a long time. He even stopped and bought me a cup of coffee along the way. We told him that we would call the next time we needed a ride from the ashram. The next time we saw Winkie was on our next trip to ashram. It was the first day of our class and we had not yet gone into silence. | BANGALORE, India – The time that we have in India is quickly passing. By the time this column appears in the April edition of the newsletter, Connie and I will have only about two months left here before we start our trip home. It has been a fantastic experience for us, but we are anxious to get back to family, friends and the familiar surroundings of home. We look forward to seeing all of you in person again and worshipping with you at Unity in Edinboro. Winkie is dead. That is what we were told in a matter-of-fact way by an auto rickshaw driver when we asked him if he had seen Winkie. Winkie was an auto driver in his late teens or early twenties who Connie and I had met on a previous trip to the Art of Living Ashram. Winkie had a super personality that would light up the area around him. He told us to call him when we needed a ride, and he was not deterred by the fact that we lived on the other side of the city – a trip of about two hours. When the time
31: I greeted him and gave him a hug. It was seeing a friend after a month apart. I told him we would call him Sunday evening when we would need a ride home. I saw him again on Saturday morning. We were in silence for our class, so I smiled and waved. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him. Winkie was killed Saturday evening when his rickshaw crashed. The drivers who told us this news said that he had been drinking. Winkie was another casualty of drinking and driving. Connie and I were stunned. We felt affection for this personable young man. We had known him very briefly, but had bonded with him. His fellow drivers seemed to be affected very little. In a land of more than one billion people it may be difficult to be personally affected by one death. | Our school, Trio World School, has been in a state of change. First the principal left; his name is Dr. Singh and he had hired Connie and me. Our new principal, Mr. Buchanan, seems like a nice person, but he was in a position where he had to make several cuts in staff. I thought that Connie and I | are so grateful to the board and administration of Trio World School for giving us this opportunity to come here and experience India. It has been an amazing learning experience for both of us. We have seen many different things, but the people who we have met have made the biggest impressions. Whether it is the staff here at school that we see daily, or people that we encounter for just a short time (like Winkie), all have affected us. When we leave India and return to the United States, we will take them with us. They will always be a part of our lives – just as you, the congregation at Unity in Edinboro, are a part of us and have been here in India with us. As individuals we are not individuals. There is no separation. We are all a part of that great Universal Energy that we call God. In the end, there is only God. I wish God’s blessings for all of us. May you recognize Christ in your-self and in everyone who you meet.
32: BANGALORE, India – As most of you know, Connie and I are dog people. We have missed our dogs Reggie and Casey very much while we are here in India. India has no shortage of dogs, most being homeless strays that live in deplorable conditions and subsist by eating garbage. They are dirty and ridden with fleas and ticks. Connie and I have decided to do what we can for these dogs. We can't provide them with shelter in our apartment, but we can give them love and food. The first dog to catch our attention was a young, yellow-colored dog we immediately named Sunny. We saw him every day on our way to work. Then he disappeared for a couple of weeks. When we saw him again he was not able to use his right hind leg. Connie and I were concerned that he would not be able to fend for himself on three legs, so we decided to feed him in the mornings on our way to work. He is getting stronger and can use | his injured leg a little. He does not look as if he will starve. Although I am the one who carries the food and gives it to him, Sunny always runs up and greets Connie first. Sunny knows that if Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy. Sunny is very smart. We also give treats to dogs we have named Dusty Paws, Shaky, and sometimes Scrappy Do. When we go into town we often see Sandy, a young female with a great disposition and a litter of puppies. We also see Sandy’s friend, Fraidy, and sometimes a dog we call Ratish. Sandy and Fraidy will follow us into town and will wait outside the stores for us to reappear. We make an effort to feed Sandy because we know she needs the nutrition to feed her litter. One day Connie spotted two puppies in the field across the street from our apartment. We took food to them, although the male was so leery of us that it was hard to get near him. We didn't see them for several days, but the next time we did see them, I ran up to the apartment a | We Are Struggling To Understand the Caste System
33: and got food for them. They seemed much too young to be away from their mother; we aren’t sure what happened to her. We saw the puppies hanging out four or five buildings east of our apartment. We decided that we would only feed them in that spot to discourage them from following us home. We also became aware that one of the laborer families were looking after these puppies by letting them sleep in their compound at night. | plan to feed them only in this one place seemed to be working until Gribble followed us to school one morning. We finally took him home in an auto rickshaw. Two days later he followed us again. This time we didn't have time to take him home. He hung around school until about 11 a.m. when the guards started chasing him and throwing rocks at him. I asked them to stop. I caught him and put him outside the fence. I was very relieved when I saw him at home later in the day. While the plight of dogs here is unfortunate, the bigger problem is the large number of people who live in poverty and miserable conditions. All the large Indian cities, including Bangalore, have throngs of itinerant workers who live in slums of block shacks or tents | We named the female Dribble after she wet on both of our shoes, and the male Gribble after the character on “King of the Hill.” Our
34: made of plastic tarps. They have no running water and no toilets. Some of the children are not in school. These families work hard but even the low wages that they earn are often stolen by corrupt politicians and gangsters. It seems at times that these are the “throwaway” people of Indian society. One of the most difficult parts of Indian culture, for Westerners like us, is understanding the caste system in India. There are five main caste divisions and thousands of subdivisions. I was eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge when our principal brought up the subject of the caste system. This started a lively discussion and I asked some questions I have wanted to ask since I got here: “How do you know what caste a person is? Can you tell by looking at them when you pass on the street? I have no idea what caste a person is." A co-worker, Suchitra, explained that you can't really tell caste just by looking at a person walking down the street, but that you could recognize the caste from the surname. This made sense since caste is inherited from parents. She said another way of | knowing is by looking at the jewelry women wear. Each caste has a different type of symbol on the gold chain women wear around their necks. I asked what would stop a low caste person from wearing the jewelry of an upper caste. Suchitra said that would not be done because people are proud of their caste. I think that this was a reflection of what she really believed. However, I should also point out that Suchitra is a Brahman, the highest caste. I have never asked anyone what caste they are because I fear that it might embarrass them. The only Indians who have volunteered that information to me have always been of the Brahman caste. Connie's music teacher is a Brahman. She believes her caste enables her to do many things that people of other castes cannot do, including singing certain musical notes. She has told Connie: "I can sing that note because I am Brahman. You cannot sing that note because you are not Brahman." I am not certain the caste system serves any good for India in these modern times. As an outsider, I think the caste
35: system does a lot of harm. Indians need to change some things for the good of their country, and ridding the country of the caste system is one of those things. A country might be able to withstand having throwaway animals like my dog friends here in Bangalore – but I am sure that they cannot afford to have throwaway people. That's it for another month. By the time you read this, Connie and I will be less than two months away from returning home. We are anxious to see all of you. In the meantime, meditate on the self and be good to yourself. Remember that God resides in you as you. God bless each and every one of you.
36: BANGALORE, India – Friday, May 1, was Labor Day in India so the school where we teach was closed. Connie and I tried to take an exotic side trip to a place like Singapore, but we could not make the connections. We decided to stay home and enjoy Bangalore. We went to see the movie, "Monsters Versus Aliens." On our way across town, Connie and I spent most of the time just looking out the window seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling the experience of Bangalore. I was thinking how soon it is until we leave Bangalore behind. I just wanted to absorb as much of the experience as I could. | The traffic was very heavy. The lanes on the road are clearly marked, but Indian drivers are not particularly concerned about observing these painted dividers. They crowd in so much that three lanes turns into five lanes, with only centimeters between cars. As you sit in your car, three wheelers (auto rickshaws) and two wheelers (motorcycles, motor scooters, and bicycles) crowd up between the cars, trucks, and buses like mud oozing between your toes when you walk through it barefooted. | Busy Bangalore Grows on "Auntie" and "Uncle"
37: When the signal changes, everybody blows their horns and takes off – sometimes at very strange angles to the intended line of travel. This is somewhat disconcerting for someone who is only accustomed to driving in the U.S. Somehow, it all works. The few accidents I have seen were not serious. All of this reminds me of a poem called “Busy Bangalore” that Abby, one of my fifth grade students, wrote. Here it is: | Round and round. Bus has stopped, bus has started. Twelve more rickshaws have departed. Hitting, spitting, knitting My brain is seriously splitting. Go, stop, stop, go, Go fast, go slow. Stop once, stop twice. Look at all the city mice. Tikka, chicken, dosa, roti. (All foods) A bunch of people wearing dotis. Lights are flashing, Cars are crashing. Monkeys swinging Bells are ringing. Finally, it all stops (poetic license – it really doesn't) Now I can get across.
38: As I have reported in previous columns, Connie and I have befriended several dogs in the neighborhood. Yesterday I was walking to the place where we have our clothes ironed. On the way, two of our dog fiends, Fraidy and Sandy, spotted me and started walking with me. A youngster on a bicycle saw the dogs following me and yelled out, "Uncle, uncle, there are dogs following you!” I replied that the dogs are friendly and there was no danger. He admitted that he was afraid of dogs. He began asking me questions about where I was from. When he found out that I was from the United States, he asked if I believed in ghosts. I admitted that I had never seen a ghost. He said that he had seen on Discovery Channel that there was a ghost in New Jersey. He told me that he had never seen a ghost because there were no ghosts in India. | Many of the youngsters in the neighborhood call Connie and I “auntie” and “uncle.” It is a title of respect to be referred to like that. One young man who works in a grocery store in the village goes a step further. He calls me Tata, which means grandfather. I just smile and think, “thank you.” I am grateful that they feel comfortable enough to refer to me in this way. I had hoped to get Connie to contribute some of her observations. She can entertain for a long time with tales about her music teacher, Veggia Loxme. Maybe with a little encouragement she will share these stories with you when we get back in July. Goodbye for now. Remember to honor yourself. God dwells with in you as you. Love and blessings to everyone.
40: BANGALORE, India – Friday, June 5, was our last day at Trio World School. What a wonderful experience Connie and I had teaching here. The school directors and administrators, the students, the staff, and the parents all made us feel welcome and appreciated. Teaching at a international school was a dream I had since I started teaching many years ago. I would tell myself I would teach overseas someday, and really experience the life in that particular country. Now thanks to our friends at Trio World School, Connie and I have both lived that dream. Fantastic. | While our experience in India has been great, we are both anxious to come home. Last evening the staff had a party at a club. Nearly everyone was there. We had fun talking and laughing together. At the end of the evening it was time to say goodbye. Most of the staff will be back next year, and will see one another again in August. For the four of us who will be going to another country, this is really goodbye. Connie and I have promised ourselves that we will return to India in June 2010 for a visit. I would like to get back before school ends on June 11. 2010, to see the staff and students again. One of the highlights of the evening was the music. It was a one-man live performance on unusual instruments such as didgeridoo. Watching the | Home Again Home Again Jiggidy Jig
41: musician play was a reminder to me that the music comes from inside. It is not the instrument that makes the music, it is the musician. That music is inside waiting to be expressed. It comes from the soul. When I left the club, I found myself singing. It was nothing I had just heard, but it was music from deep inside that wanted to be expressed. So it is with all of our life if we are centered and in touch with the Christ within us. It is not difficult. All of us have it. The difficult part for most of us is remembering we have it. Connie and I will have two more weeks in India and Nepal, and one week in the United Arab Emirates, before flying back to the United States. We will visit friends in Austin, Texas, and family in Nashville, Tennessee, and Akron, Ohio. We should be back in Erie by July 8th. We are anxious to see all of you, our families, and our pets. The year flew by for us. One of my students, Oliver, remarked as he was saying goodbye: "Mr. Joseph, I can't believe the year is over. It seems like we just started." So we will return to Unity in Edinboro the same two people who left almost a year ago. But we are forever changed by the love and friendship we experienced here in India. Friends, I close this column by reminding you to be good to yourself and everyone that you encounter ... for God dwells within you as you.
44: This book is lovingly presented to Joseph Briggs by Rev. Joanne Rowden to honor him as our December 2009 Heartfelt Thanks Recipient at Unity in Edinboro. The columns in this book were written by Joseph and Connie during their year long adventure in India and published in Unity In Edinboro's monthly newsletter. We are so grateful to Joseph and Connie for taking us along on their adventure!