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Last week Alandi lost a beloved elder. At eighty eight, Del Nett was one of the oldest members of our far-flung community. We initially met Del in 2004, when we visited Des Moines on our very first Midwest tour. Since then we have traveled to Des Moines once or twice every year for lectures and clinic and always enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with this unique individual. His wife, Sandy, has chaired our committee in Des Moines for ten years, working hard to organize our visits, so we had a chance to grow quite close to both Sandy and Del.

Del was born in Los Angeles in 1926. An author and film-maker, he was intensely creative and innovative. He had an unquenchable thirst for new ideas and was a voracious reader of esoteric and metaphysical literature. He was a great sportsman, playing tennis and golf right up to the end of his life. In  his elder years, Del was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He made a miraculous recovery with the help of Ayurvedic herbs and his natural enthusiasm for life.

It is hard for us younger folk to picture what our elders lived through-- the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Nuclear revolution.  Imagine being born in Los Angeles when Ben Hur was a new film and the first skyscrapers were being built!  Yet of all the historical events Del lived though, it seemed that the Hippie revolution and the birth of the Counterculture was the most significant to him.

Del passed away on Makara Sankranti, the most auspicious day of the Vedic calendar. It is said that one who leaves the body on this day will be freed from the bonds of rebirth. I hope Del will keep smiling upon us as he continues his journey on other planes. Please remember Del, Sandy and their family in your prayers and meditations.

 


The Prophets Weep

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Muhammed: Ottoman Miniature.

Prophet Muhammad one day took a nap among us and woke up laughing. We asked him: O Messenger of Allah, why did you smile? The Prophet said: A Surah was revealed to me before. Then he read out :"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful: Verily, We have granted you, O Muhammad, AlKauthar"...... Do you know what AlKauthar is?..... It is a river in Paradise Allah pledged to give me. It is full of everything good and my Ummah will aim at it on the Day of Resurrection. Its cups are as many as stars 
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In their beauteous abode in Paradise, the Prophets are weeping. They weep a river of tears, as copious as AlKauthar. Isa and Muhammad, peace and blessings upon them, are not weeping because people have ridiculed them. Prophet Isa taught us that all prophets are ridiculed and maligned for their message.
 
No, the Prophets do not weep for the actions of unbelievers. They weep for the betrayals by believers. They weep for those who forgot that Allah is mercy and compassion without limit. They weep for those who do not listen when they say, "How can you love the God you do not see, if you cannot love the brother you see?"

The prophets weep for the death of innocents--even irreverent innocents. The prophets weep over those who are killed and maimed in the name of religion--and they weep too over those who kill and maim in their names.

The prophets weep when those who claim to follow them abuse and enslave women. To them all women are their radiant mothers, Maryam and Amina.

The prophets weep for girls stolen from their families.
The prophets weep for the blood of children spilled in Peshawar.
The prophets weep for their beloved ones, the Yazidi, the first to welcome Isa to the world.
The prophets  weep for fathers shoveling snow off flimsy tents and refugee children shivering without shoes in the winter night.
The prophets weep for families huddled in the bowels of rusty vessels, upon the beautiful sea that once carried the preachers of the living word.

The prophets weep because they are hungry, they are cold, they are naked, they are in prison, they are bleeding, they are bereaved. For whatever we do to the little ones, we do to them. Whatever we withhold from the little ones, we withhold from them.

The prophets weep because their followers forget this.
The prophets weep for us--because we too forget
.

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Muhammad, Abraham, Moses and Jesus in prayer in Paradise.
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Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: The Three Wise Men" (named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar). Detail from: "Mary and Child, surrounded by angels", mosaic of a Ravennate italian-byzantine workshop, completed within 526 AD by the so-called "Master of Sant'Apollinare". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, January 6th, is the Feast of the Epiphany. As children we loved this day, getting the last sugar mice, chocolate money and little gifts from the Christmas tree. We enjoyed the final embers of the yule log as we sang favourite carols like,

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

According to the story related in the Gospel of Matthew, Magi or wise men traveled to Bethlehem for the sole purpose of presenting gifts to Baby Jesus. It remains unclear whether this incident was an actual historical occurrence. But it is a story of great significance that has captured the human imagination for two millennia.

The Roman author Tertullian  was the first to refer to the unspecified number of wise men as 'three kings'. Over time the legend grew. Much of the story as told today is found in 
the History of the Three Kings, attributed to the fourteenth-century cleric John of Hildesheim. Originally, the visitors from afar were portrayed not as kings but as  Magi. Some think these Magi were Persian Zoroastrian fire worshipers. However, it seems even more likely that the Magi were from Mesopotamia, present day Iraq. So it could be fair to say that Iraq's unique pre-Christian minorities, such as the Yazidi, are the real Magi.

Epiphany means the shining forth. Three incidents, the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism by John in the River Jordan and turning the water into wine at Cana are seen as the Epiphanies, in which the divine nature shone forth amid humble human circumstances. In the case of the Magi, the manifestation of divinity is evoked by generosity. The Magi bring the most precious items of the known world and bestow them as gifts to a little child who they will never see again and who has nothing tangible to give back.  By this act of generosity, divinity reveals itself in human form. There is a deep message here: generosity unveils divinity. When we give of our time, effort and treasure, the very act of giving opens us to the divine humanity and the human divinity. The timeless manifests within time, and infinite love reveals itself in our little lives.

Today, the Yazidi descendents of the Magi are suffering unimaginable horrors.  As I recall the beauty and warmth of my childhood Epiphany celebrations, I think too of the children of the Magi, cold and hungry, bereaved and forlorn in poorly equipped camps. Compared to them, we are richer than kings. I invite us to pray for the real Magi, holders of a four thousand year old wisdom tradition. Speak out on their behalf, donate to charities that support Iraqi refugees and keep them in your heart.  

This New Year, may you experience the power of generosity and the epiphanies that giving brings!
 
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Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





 




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Twenty-five years of caring community!

We invite you to join us in celebrating the Silver Jubilee of Alandi Ashram.

For 25 years now, Alandi Ashram has been touching the lives of hundreds of people around the world. Founded by Alakananda Ma and Sadanandaji at the behest of their teachers, Alandi Ashram is an independent, grassroots, contemplative center.

Deeply rooted in the bhakti tradition of the Poet-Saints of Maharashtra, Alandi is a sheltering tree whose branches extend to diverse traditions and lineages, embracing Sufi, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist practices, as well as those of other Indian lineages.

Among its offerings, Alandi provides:

·      Top quality Ayurvedic clinic with sliding scale options,

·      Unique Ayurvedic gurukula school offering the only four year program in America

·       Weekly spiritual events for world peace and healing

·      Authentic practices of diverse traditions

·      Support for homeless, troubled or searching young adults

·      Mentoring, meditation instruction and spiritual guidance

·      Life cycle celebrations such as weddings and baby naming

·      End of life support including nursing home, hospice and home visits

·      Memorial services, ash scattering and bereavement support

·      Humanitarian activities such as Peace PUSH to raise funds for Pakistan, stricken by severe floods in 2010

·      Spiritual activism for justice, peace and the environment

In this coming year of our Silver Jubilee, we will share stories each month highlighting various aspects of Alandi.  We will culminate with a Vedic fire ceremony and silent auction on September 18, 2015--the mahasamahdi of Raghudas, Alandi's original guru.

It's a year to celebrate, but we're not resting on our laurels. Alandi's teachings of community, caring and sharing are needed now more than ever. Help us continue and expand our offerings as we raise $25,000--just one thousand for each year that we have been serving the community.  Our board has already contributed 10% of our goal, so we're on our way and moving forward.

 

Ways to participate:

·      Sign up here for our weekly newsletter to stay in touch and get great recipes and health tips

·      Donate here to contribute to our silver jubilee fund

Contribute gifts or services to our silent auction: contact Jodi info@alandiashram.org

·      If you can't attend the fire ceremony in person, you can participate by sponsoring the event. Your name will be read out at the beginning of the event.

·      Check this page often. Each month we will have a special theme, and new ways to participate.

 

Silver Jubilee January: Spiritual Activism

This year will also mark 20 years of Alandi Ashram's spiritual activism, offering Healing Mantra and prayers for peace and healing every Monday evening. Join us at 7pm MST on Mondays in person or in spirit. If you cannot attend in person you can join in spirit by chanting mahamritanjaya mantra at home 108 times for world peace and healing.

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam

Urvarukamiva Bandhanan Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat.

Video to chant along with: 108 mahamritunjaya chanting.

 

Read about a devotee's experience !



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26th December 2014

 

Once to ev'ry man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
'Twixt that darkness and that light.

 James Russell Lowell

 

Greetings dear ones,

 

Yesterday we celebrated a remarkable centenary--the Christmas Truce which arose spontaneously in the first winter of World War I. The so called Great War was a defining experience for my grandparent's generation, leading some to cynicism and despair and others, like my grandfather, to a thirst for justice, a burning need to set things right.

 

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A cross, left near Saint-Yves in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914. The text reads: 1914 - The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce - 1999 - 85 Years - Lest We Forget. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, in 2015 we will celebrate seventy years since the ending of World War II. For my parent's generation, the Second World War was the defining experience that shaped their adolescence. The war gave my mother a country experience as an evacuee in Somerset, living a life very different from her inner London childhood. My father contracted tuberculosis, apparently from sleeping in the London Underground side by side with strangers during the Blitz. And my adopted Uncle Henry, a kindertransport refugee, lost his mother and father in Bergen-Belsen. My parents came out of their wartime youth determined to create a peaceful and just society.


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Frank Meisler Kindertransport memorial (2006) stands outside Liverpool Street Station. Kindertransport (Children's Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940.

 

Fifty years ago, young Americans like Sadananda faced the prospect that yet another generation of young men was being wasted in war--a pointless and unjust war. Vietnam became the defining experience for the youth of the sixties. Draft resistance and antiwar protests, along with the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle to end segregation coincided with the discovery of LSD and the call to  'tune in, turn on and drop out'. These synchronous events gave birth to a transformative social and cultural movement--the hippie revolution.


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Martin Luther King  Jr. speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul on April 27, 1967


Meanwhile, growing up in a small town in England, I experienced not war, but peace as a defining moment. Coventry Cathedral, firebombed by the Luftwaffe in 1940, rose again from the ashes as a twentieth century architectural masterpiece. I remember visiting the new cathedral with my parents it shortly after its consecration in 1962. Nationwide, something still more remarkable was happening. From the misery and squalor endured in the interwar years, from the ashes of the war and from the dying embers of an Empire, something new was being born--a Welfare State that provided cradle to grave healthcare and support for its citizens. "Each for all and all for each" was the mantra of this bloodless revolution. The intention was to create a society of unity, community, caring and sharing, a nation defined by the understanding that I am my brother's and my sister's keeper.


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 Coventry Catherdral: Baptistry Font & Window

 

For want of a better word, let me say that I am a child of the Caring Revolution. I am a product of the caring and sharing society. I was reared by parents who believed in this new vision and worked for it. As a sixth-former (analogous to high school student) I attended seminars training teenagers to be the co-creators of the caring society. And as an NHS doctor (employed by the National Health Service) I worked as a public servant. The caring society has shaped who I am and how I see the world.

 

To every revolution there is a counter-revolution. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, neo-liberalism--by which the market runs the state--and trickle-down economics formed the counter-revolution to both the hippie revolution and Britain's caring revolution. In America, the wealth gap grew ever greater. In Britain, individualism replaced community and a mandate for selfishness took the place of a call to caring. Instead of "Each for all and all for each" the new mantra was "I got mine, you get yours."

 

Meanwhile, the year that Ronald Reagan was elected, an English former NHS doctor and an American former hippie met beneath the coconut palms on the shores of the Kaveri River in South India. Alakananda's deeply felt experience of the caring society met Sadananda's hippie Utopian ideals--and a vision was born. For twenty-five years we have been living our vision of community, caring and sharing here at Alandi Ashram in Boulder. From making chutneys for our neighbours to sharing our small abode with a homeless pregnant woman, bringing love and cheer to nursing home residents or attempting to start a Food Co-op in Boulder, we have done what we can in small and bigger ways to foster a sense of caring amid a society of rugged individualism, alienation and a growing wealth gap.


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O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

GK Chesterton, 1906

 

Today again we face a defining moment.  There is a new world war, one fought in many theatres and under many titles. The enemy facing us as a species is the mutually exacerbating conjunction of global climate change, environmental degradation, hunger, displacement and the trend towards corpocracy. A term coined by David Mitchell in his novel Cloud Atlas, corpocracy--absolute rule by a vast corporation--is the final apotheosis of neo-liberal economics and corporate personhood. The misery caused by these invisible enemies leads many of us to scapegoat visible enemies in the form of people of another race, colour, ethnicity or religion. My Uncle Henry could tell us where such scapegoating of the other leads.  ISIL, Al Quaeda, Taliban, Klu Klux Klan, Boko Haram, Al Shebab, National Front, UKIP, Golden Dawn, Freedom Party, Neo-Nazi--all these extremist, jihadist and racist groups and parties are the voices crying out in the wilderness of a planet undergoing degradation and a species in danger of losing its soul.  We must indeed be radicalized--and this letter comes in full intention of radicalization.  If we are not to splinter into endless war and terrorism between competing extremist groups--as is already the case in Syria--we must be radicalized to global humanitarianism and passionate care for our environment.

 

This summer, while in the UK, Sadananda and I watched Ken Loach's documentary Spirit of '45, about Britain's caring revolution. The final message of the film was a mandate to us, the elders, to talk to youth about creating a caring society. We did it once and we can do it again. For those who have never experienced a caring society, this may be a hard message to convey. I have lived it, and understand its importance. At this hour of global crisis, we need to create a caring world, knowing that I am my brother's and my sister's keeper, wherever in the world they live. I am the keeper of all species and steward of our beautiful Earth. As human family, we must stand "Each for all and all for each." Let it begin right here, at the dawn of 2015. Let it begin with me, with you, with us, the Alandi family.


wishing each of you a joyous New Year

with my love and blessings always


Alakananda Ma


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Earth from Space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 



Alandi Ashram's candlelight vigil for the children of Peshawar was held on Monday 22nd December, the seventh night of Hanukkah. We chanted 108 mahamritunjaya mantras and also shantadurga mantras. It was a deeply moving event.

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A hundred and forty five candles
Each a mother birthing in pain and hope
A child reared with love and care
Each a youth full of promise
Each a pool of blood on schoolroom floor
A wooden coffin
Each the tears of fathers, mothers,
Siblings, cousins, grandparents
Each a family rent with sorrow,
A city, a nation, bereaved.
And above them all
The menorah
Speaking of truth that conquers falsehood
Light in darkness
Life triumphant over death
Hope in desolation.
Shalom, salaam, Shantih.

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I Can't Breathe

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The All-Nite Images / Flickr via Creative Commons


I can't breathe
Beneath the crushing weight of bodies
Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Jimmy Mubenga and so many more
And
I can't breathe in the stranglehold of police brutality
And
I can't breathe as long as our girls, our Nigerian daughters, are still missing and it's been eight months now
And
I can't breathe because I'm drowning in mothers' tears

And
I can't breathe the stench of Mexico's mass graves
And
I can't breathe because I'm being water-boarded to make the world safe for democracy
And
I can't breathe because black lives have never really mattered to the world
And
I can't breathe thinking of my ancestors in slave collars
And
I can't breathe because I'm choking on tear gas
And
I can't breathe as long as liberty and justice for all means liberty and justice for some
And
I can't breathe if I keep silent
So I open my voice and speak,
and shout the outrage
Calling for a world
Where all of us can breathe.



The Light within the Darkness

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At this dark time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, we light candles to bless the darkness--Hanukkah candles, advent candles. This year we also hold candlelight vigils for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner.

It has been an extraordinary, exhausting couple of weeks, from the moment we heard of the Grand Jury verdict in the Michael Brown shooting case.  Only a week later, the World Food Programme announced that it had run out of funds to feed 1.7 million Syrian refugees. Right after the news, Sadananda and I sat down for our lunch, looking miserably at our simple meal of carrot-ginger soup and roasted turnips--homegrown vegetables. It was hard to eat when our sisters and brothers could not. But of course, there was more to come. Two days later we learned of the Grand Jury verdict in the choking death of Eric Garner.

It's rare that I lack joy and optimism--but at that moment l simply felt exhausted and overwhelmed by events in the world and in my adopted country. In my journal I wrote: "I must feel the stress to be an authentic force for transformation. Feed on the darkness and bring forth the light. Blessed are they that mourn."

By Friday night I was hitting a place of despair. " What would be good news?" asked Sadananda. I replied, "The World Food Prgramme announcing they are going to start feeding the Syrian refugees again." Minutes later I turned on the BBC World Service and my prayer was answered! It was perhaps the fastest answer to a prayer I ever received!

Hanukkah is the light that comes forth from desolation and devastation. The temple has been desecrated--now it is cleansed and the menorah is lighted anew. Light returns from darkness and loss. It is the warrior light kindled by people who stood up and fought for their rights. The menorah is placed in the window for all to see because--so the teaching goes--it reminds all oppressed people everywhere to stand up for their rights, for justice, for truth, for equality.

Advent candles are the light we kindle as we await the birth of a new reality. They are lights of hope amid darkness.  Hope shone its rays into my heart when I read Bhagavad Gita with my students. "When righteousness grows weak, when unrighteousness prevails, I make myself a body."  The Lord sets aside his divine state, to  be born, suffer and die as a human among humans. It is in time of darkness that the Child is born who all the world awaits.
 
And who is that child?  What is
the divine  birth, the birth of hope announced by a new star? That divine child who shines light into darkness is us, all of us, when we awaken, when we stand up for our rights and the rights of others. The Prince of Peace is marching, protesting, facing riot police or security forces in cities around the world, holding a 'die-in' at Grand Central Station or London's Westfield Mall, shivering in the cold holding candles because 'black lives matter'. All lives matter. We all matter. Each of us has a part to play in the awakening for which we long. As long as my faculties remain and the internet exists, I will write this justice and peace blog, remembering the pen is more powerful than the sword.

As TS Eliot writes in Choruses from the Rock:
 

And we must extinguish the candle, put out the light and relight it;
Forever must quench, forever relight the flame.
Therefore we thank Thee for our little light, that is dappled with shadow.
We thank Thee who hast moved us to building, to finding, to forming at the ends of our fingers and beams of our eyes.
And when we have built an altar to the Invisible Light, we may set thereon the little lights for which our bodily vision is made.
And we thank Thee that darkness reminds us of light.

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Mitchell Vaughn | The Cavalier Daily





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Police officers point their weapons at Ferguson residents protesting against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 18, 2014.

When I was growing up in a small town in England in the fifties, guns simply were not a part of our life. Our local 'copper' walked his beat, wearing the traditional blue helmet and equipped with a truncheon. The first time I saw an armed policeman was when I visited Rome at the age of seventeen to study the antiquities. I wondered how his gun would help him direct traffic! But when I arrived in America, I was soon to lose my innocence where guns are concerned. In fact, I have been held up at gunpoint twice--both times by Boulder police.

On the first--and most dangerous--occasion, we were living near the university in the area known as "The Hill". One dark winter evening, we were coming home for dinner. As we approached the front yard we heard a shout. "Raise your hands above your head and freeze!"  Four policemen had their handguns pointed at us, ready to shoot if we made the wrong move. It was a terrifying moment and we could easily have lost our lives for a simple mistake. After some questioning--as we stood there, immobile, hands up in the chilly night--the police ascertained that they were staking out the wrong house. They gave us permission to leave, telling us not to return for two hours as there was a gunman in in the neighbourhood. 

On the second occasion, we were foolish enough to watch a sunset on a piece of waste ground in the company of a friend and his lab-retriever. Of course, we should have known that drug dealers often have dogs and that sunset-watching is a suspicious activity! So there was apparently probable cause for two squad cars to approach, one above and one below in a pincer action. One of the policemen started screaming accusations and insults at us and demanding our IDs, which we weren't carrying for a stroll around the block. This spooked the dog into barking. Now, let me remind you, she was a lab-retriever, not an attack-type dog and she was barking nervously, not growling or baring her teeth. And she was leashed." Shut her up or I'll shut her up," said the policeman. But she barked again.  The policeman decided to shoot the dog. So there he stood,  feet planted, holding the gun in both hands, pointed at the poor dog's head and our feet. He told  us to let go the leash so he could shoot her at point blank range; an action which would endanger the lives of all of us, dog and humans alike. Somehow, at  that moment, the dog fell silent. By God's grace we managed to talk the policeman down and de-escalate the situation. The dog's life was saved and so were our feet.

We were lucky. Michael Brown was not. Tamir Rice, the twelve year old shot by police for a toy gun,  was not. Trayvon Martin was not. Jonathan Ferrell was not. He was shot by police when seeking  help following a car accident.  Oscar Grant was not. He was shot by BART police at Fruitavale. Sean Bell was not. He was shot by police on the eve of his wedding, at his bachelor party. John Crawford was not. He was shot by police in Walmart while picking up and looking at  a BB gun which was for  sale in the store.  Renisha McBride was not. She was shot while seeking help after a car accident. Emmet Till was not. He was lynched for paying a white woman a compliment.

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Candlelight vigil for Michael Brown in Boulder

Sadananda and I may have long hair and, in Sadananda's case a long beard too, and look to some like 'hippie wierdos' who deserve to come under suspicion. But we are white. Michael, Tamir, Jonathan, Oscar, Sean, John, Renisha and Emmet were black. In every case, the colour of their skin signed their death warrant, rendering them an imminent threat, or even an object of hatred, in the eyes of those who shot them. And while most of those we have listed were shot in the recent years of our new century, Emmett Till was lynched in 1955. We are talking about a lifetime of repeated incidents.  We are talking about centuries of suffering since the first black slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619.

Racial prejudice and xenophobia, as well as anti-semitism and Islamophobia, are seen throughout the Western world and beyond. These phenomena seem to arise whenever people of different appearance, colour, religion or culture arrive in a previously homogenous society. The struggles, success and failures of creating multicultural societies across Europe bear witness to this, as does the rise of racist and anti-immigration parties like UKIP in Britain and the National Front in France. But here in America, we are in an unique position. As the lasting legacy of slavery and segregation, we have a type of institutionalized racism that I can only compare with India's caste system.

 What will it take to create  a society where
"the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood" ? For those of us of Caucasian origin, this requires us to care, and care passionately, about Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Emmett Till. For all of us to sit at table together, to break bread together in harmony,  we must understand that these deaths are not black tragedies. They are national tragedies, they are human tragedies. The pain of these mothers' tears is our own. With the killing of these young people we all, whatever the colour of our skin, have an empty seat at the table. We, as a society, cannot afford the loss of these young lives, so full of promise. With each death, with each life cut short, we lose a part of ourselves. And because this is our own loss, whoever we are, we must all wake up and stand up for justice, peace and the lives of our children.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less...
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee
.
John Donne

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Ma's 2014 Good Gift Guide

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Feasting together and giving gifts has been an important way of cementing bonds since Paleolithic times. This season, I'd like to focus on environmentally and socially responsible gift-giving. How can we give without cluttering our Earth with stuff, using unnecessary resources, creating financial stress and supporting multinational corporations?

  • Make it yourself. As a child I enjoyed long winter evenings cutting up glossy magazines and advertising material to make calendars for family and friends. Today Sadananda and I still make calendars, using some of our top photographs from the year and getting them printed at a locally-owned business. We also make jars of chutney for family, friends and neighbours.  You could also make jams, cordials or elixirs.                                          
  • Create a gift basket. We source pretty baskets at a neighbourhood thrift store and fill them with home made or local cheese, home made chutney, artisan bread and other local and regional goodies. I haven't ventured into soap-making yet (it's on my wish list of hobbies!), but home made soap, salve, potpourri etc. would make a lovely herbal gift basket. Some of our Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula students and graduates enjoy showcasing their new-found medicine-making skills by creating Ayurvedic herbal gift baskets.
  • Give services instead of goods. A pretty card offering a service you will render can be a heart-warming gift that saves money, doesn't generate more stuff and increases  interpersonal connection. Alternatively, offer a gift certificate for a massage, shirodhara, Ayurvedic Consultation, house cleaning or other service that would nurture the recipient.
  • Support your local bookstore. My adopted grandson always receives a book from Boulder Bookstore for his birthday and for the holiday season. And he enjoys the books immensely. If you are fortunate enough to have a locally owned non-chain bookstore still, please support them with your gift dollars or pounds!
  • Support local craftspeople. The years I go to Wales for Christmas, one of my treats is going to the craft fair at Aberystwyth Arts Centre to get unique gifts for family in the US. I also own quite a few treasured craft fair gifts myself! Visiting a craft fair is a way to support local potters, silversmiths, artists and artisans as well as purchasing a one-of-a kind gift.
  • Visit your fair trade shop. See my previous blog, Slavery and your holiday shopping for an extensive discussion of this topic.

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