Alakananda Ma's 2013 Graduation Speech

Honoured guests, faculty, staff, graduates and students, each of you in your own way a part of our Alandi family,

Today marks the graduation of Alyse, Danielle, Larisa, Mahmoud and Oana. Over the last two years, we have built community together in many ways. We have eaten together, meditated together, walked together, chanted together, studied together and faced life’s challenges together. The power and beauty of the experience of community at Alandi will stay with you in your practice of Ayurveda.

Yet all along, our small gurukula community has been held in the arms of a much larger community. The community of all beings, of plants and animals, rocks, trees, birds and insects has sustained and nourished us throughout our time together. Today, I want to look at some of the lessons this larger community offers us.

What do the ponderosa pines teach us? Plant your roots deep, be generous. Plant your roots deep and no winds can harm you. Sink deep roots into the ancient tradition of Ayurveda, and the controversies of the day cannot shake you. Be generous to the small and the weak, as the ponderosa gives unstintingly to the chickadee, the redwing blackbird, the mourning dove and the chipmunk. Feed everyone.

What do the mountains teach us? Remain unshaken and equanimous. Ice and snow, heat and drought, torrential rains, lightening storms, forest fires, all these conditions change and alternate, yet the mountains remain. In your journey through meditation, you have seen that all experiences arise, flower and pass away, yet the experiencer remains. Who am I? Abide in the question as the mountains abide on the earth.

What does the creek teach us? Nothing stays still, everything changes. Keep flowing, ever renewed. Honour the flow of life, the flow of prana, for where there is blockage, where there is holding, there will be disease. A poem I wrote on this theme —


Seven red apples and one green tennis ball
Bobbing in foam on the creek.
They float a few feet down,
Turn, sail back again,
Caught in an eddy current.

For a moment the tennis ball seems to escape—
Moves almost to the edge of the pool
But a bigger eddy catches it
And back it comes again.

Friends, beware the eddy currents of samsara.
Keep to the swift midstream
Go straight to the vast ocean

What do the spring showers teach us as they water the ground? The power of a tiny drop to nurture life.
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth a heaven,
Like the one above.

What do the deer teach us? Abundance is everywhere; clear water, soft beds, fresh forage. Abundance is everywhere, if we take only what we need. Consummate practitioners of aparigraha, non-clinging, the deer simply receive what is bestowed upon them in the moment, storing nothing up, taking nothing beyond the needs of the present.

What does the magpie teach us? Waste nothing. The illustrious bird, the knower of sorrow and joy, keeper of the sevenfold secret, eats whatever comes its way, including garbage. The wisdom of magpie reminds us to bring everything to the path, to let no opportunity for growth pass us by. As Antoine Saint Exupery said, “The tragedy is not that we suffer, but that we waste our suffering.”

What do the bees teach us? Together we are strong. As archebacteria came together in the nucleated cell, as cells came together in the sea sponge, as multi-celled organisms came together to create complex beings, so the bees have come together in wise community. The fragrance of their hive, the soft murmur of their tiny wings, invites us to the journey of community, for none of us can flourish alone.

What do the poppies teach us? In a few short weeks, around the time of the solstice, oriental poppies will bloom at Chautauqua as they have every year since the founders of Chautauqua introduced them in the eighteen-nineties. Brought from a distant land, they have made their home here in Boulder to grace us with their beauty. Today, Alandi sows seeds of Ayurveda across the Rocky Mountain region and beyond, as our graduates carry forth the teachings that will bloom and flourish, bringing healing to future generations.

What does the turkey vulture teach us as it wheels above, wings spreading six feet wide? Harm nobody, transform death into life. Feeding on death, turning death into life, the turkey vulture is the consummate healer, in tune with the cycles of decay and rebirth. Tender, precious lives fall and die, only to nurture strength, to nurture life itself. As Ayurvedic practitioners, we know of ritu as seasonal change, yet ritu is also the cosmic order, weaving life and death, growth and decay, seedtime and harvest, the fall of a leaf and the birth of a supernova, for to everything there is a season.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season -
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time of love, a time of hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

(Pete Seeger)

Photos from 2012 Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula Graduation (releasted May 21, 2012)

About Alandi School of Ayurveda

Our mission as a gurukula faculty is to combine the best of new paradigm medical education with the best of the ancient gurukula contemplative pedagogy. We seek to empower our students by placing in their hands the tools needed to garner and evaluate knowledge and information and by cultivating the seeds of stillness, altruism and compassionate service in their hearts. Honoring the multiple gifts brought by our students’ diversity of learning and experience, we see our students as both teachers and learners. We encourage the creation of a community of sharing and support on all levels.