COMMUNITY SERVICE AS HIGHEST FORM OF PRAYER & KIRTAN
Dr. Vandana Shiva & Amma
In these uncertain times in the United States, community service will become even more important than in the past. Already many non-profits are seeing a dramatic rise in volunteers and donations.
Some people think that chanting mantras and doing rituals are the highest form of prayer and kirtan. These are only the beginning. The evidence that chanting mantras and doing rituals are effective is when an individual gets involved with community service. Mata Amritanandamayi (a/k/a Amma) is the hugging saint of India. She makes a great point when she says, " What the world needs are hands that are ready to serve selflessly. Seeing the extent of the pervading darkness, one should not withdraw."
In Hinduism we have this great prayer called Twameva Mata. It shows the idea of the Divine having different types of relationships with us, such as God as being a mother, father, relative, best friend, our wealth and All-in-All. The idea that we are truly living in a community comes through in this prayer. We are all related. In the Native American Lakota tradition, there is a similar idea. The phrase, "All are related," in Lakota is: Mitakuye Oyasin. It is the idea that there is a "oneness and harmony" with other humans and plants, trees, animals, insects, rock and rivers.
Community service can take many different forms. You can start with helping your own spiritual community, extending outward to the whole community, neighborhood, city, county, state or province, nation, the planet and the whole Universe.
In the New Testament section of the Bible, Jesus is asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" He says that there are two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. This is a high standard because the Self he is referring to is the Higher Self or Atman. So he is advocating to humanity that we should love our neighbor as our very soul! Very profound philosophy! All spiritual traditions have some form of this philosophy which is called the Golden Rule.
Role models are important for all of us. Inspiring people can bring about a lot of good in the world. Two great women who have been great role models worldwide are: Dr. Vandana Shiva and Mata Amritamandamayi (a/k/a Amma). Both of them have become great advocates for Mother Earth. Global warming and taking care of the environment are two of the most important issues of our age.
Amma or Ammachi Ma are names people call this great Mother of Hinduism. She was born Sudhamani Idamannel on September 27, 1953 in Paryakadavu, Kerala, India. She had little formal education and yet she has a philosophy and way of life which attracts many. Many scholars come to her ashram in India to ask spiritual questions. Her ashram is called Mata Amritanandamayi Math and is located in Amritapuri, India. There is a MA Center in San Ramon, California and there are Amma groups worldwide, besides an ashram in Pontguin, France. Her darshan is a hug and a blessing of universal love.
She is a great advocate for Mother Earth. She is so right on when she says, "When we come to see the river as God, how will we dump toxic waste into it? When we see trees as manifestations of the Lord, how can we disseminate our forests? When we see the very air itself as Vayu Deva, how will we allow poisonous fumes from factories to fill it?"
She donates to various charitable organizations who promote green projects. One of her projects was the United Nations Billion Trees Campaign. Her group, Embracing the World, has planted more than a million trees worldwide since 2001. People were encouraged to plant organic gardens and preserve seeds. In Kerala 1,000 seeds were distributed to women to grow organic vegetables. One thousand acres have been preserved for this purpose and training is also provided to these farmers. These are only a sampling of her environmental projects worldwide.
Recently Dr. Vandana Shiva has developed a great movie, Seed, on the integrity of preserving seeds. Farmers and seed bank organizers from all over the world are interviewed, besides telling the story of how Monsanto brought terminator seeds to India and pesticides to the United States. She had developed a section of the film on the topic of GMOs and their health risks. Non-profits are showing her film for fund raising purposes and to inform their supporters.
She was a researcher for the Chipko Movement of the 1960's. The movement was involved with saving trees from loggers in India. The women and some men hugged the trees to stop the logging of the forests in India. She collected seeds, like Amma did. People are growing organic food from the seeds. She protested construction of dams in the western ghats of Karnataka, on the Krishna and Ganges of Teri. She has also worked on preserving the Ganges (Ganga) River. I recently saw this movie at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theatre in South Minneapolis. It provides excellent information on the topic of Seed preservation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Representative John Lewis and Rosa Parks were great leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement. This week we have honored their great work on Dr. King's birthday. Both of these great women have followed in their footsteps of making the world a better place. Please join their efforts and start your own projects in your own community for our great Mother Earth.
JAI SHRI MOTHER EARTH! JAI SHRI MA! JAI SHRI SEEDS!