Reflections on Sacrifice and Christmas

December 25, 2007 Anand Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

We want to wish you a wonderful Christmas. We are still in the cold climes, in Poustinia, where Christmas is celebrated. We are sorry for our lack of communications in the last few months, there were technological issues which we were not able to address, and we were rather caught up in all the activities here and when we could attend to them the internet was off, or busy or it was too late, or…. So we just let it go. It is a beautiful place here, a secret happy valley in the high lands. It is cold all year round. I hope everyone at some time, can find a place like this to retreat to. Here is unblemished Nature, revelling in her glory, harmony and joy of creation. The animals are all fearless of people.

On this Christmas day, we reflect on the great sacrifice that life has come to mean to us. Until we were faced with great loss, as the physical presence of our beloved Anni, we thought we had a life, directions and plans of our own, at least of some sort. They were good plans. We all wanted to love and serve, and be of actual help. We wanted to do it together. We had unparalleled joy in being together. We experienced divine Love with Anni is our midst, our thoughts and thinking patterns were the same, and we hope still are. However, the Creation of which we are an indivisible part has its own plan. We think we matter, and perhaps we do, but our wishes do not. That much is very clear to us. The following two quotes, from Gandhi and Amma have given us at least intellectual insight into the reality of our situation. In our hearts, we increasingly feel its truth. It all comes down to: ‘worry for nothing’ and ‘serve all’. ‘Yajna’ means sacrifice.

Gandhi said:
“…the Gita declares in so many words that yajna came with Creation itself. This body, therefore, has been given us only in order that we may serve all Creation with it…Yajna having come to us with our birth, we are debtors all our lives and thus for ever bound to serve the universe. What we receive must be called a gift; for as debtors we are entitled to no consideration for the discharge of our obligations…Our body is His to be cherished or cast away according to His will…This is not a matter for complaint or even pity; on the contrary, it is a natural and pleasant and desirable state, if only we realize our proper place in God’s scheme…”

Amma said:
“Children, that should be our attitude. Who are we, the debtors to demand or expect something from Him? Our giving is nothing but remitting. We cannot give anything to Him. We can only make a remittance of what we owe God. We call it giving, but that is wrong. To become spiritual, to become egoless, which is our goal in life, we should be able to feel thankful to Him for everything. Never let ‘I’ come in. Let there be only “You” the attitude that everything is ‘You’. Never ask for anything, never demand anything. Let Him decide what to give and what not to give.”

What is really amazing here are the hearts of our hosts. Highly intelligent people, who prefer anonymity, they have highly educated hearts. In opening their hearts to us, their sharing with us has been among the most complete that we have ever experienced. We didn’t even have warm clothes, and they have selflessly provided us with everything, even socks, soap and shampoo. This is the first time in my life that I have been in a home where there is no sense of ‘ownership’ of the food and resources. In most homes we have found that people are particular about their fridges and food stores. Its part of the animal instinct, to make sure we have enough of what we want to eat. This is a place where there is not a single sense of food ownership. When a food item is low or running out, everyone eats less of it, and often there is still some left when replacements arrive, if they do. It may seem a small thing, but its one of the very deep renunciations that are in practice here, that make this a genuine place of soul
retreat. In addition, the food is wholesome, low fat, no salt, whole grains, vegetarian, etc.

We have been in other places where people who live in the same apartment divide up the shelves on the fridge and label their foods with their names. Or have different plans for the food items, plans that they don’t want to change. It has always amazed us to see in the ashram, that the people who come from countries where all manner of food is available and plentiful, are less inclined to share their food. I have seen small children encouraged to feel that they ‘own’ their own bag of potato chips, or chocolate and not share them. People from these food plentiful countries will calmly stand or sit in front of someone, and finish off their piece of cake or other items.

In India, food taking is one of the five Mahavratas or great vows called brahmacharya. Within Brahmacharya, it is called “control of the palate”. The other four mahavratas being Truth, ahimsa, non-stealing, non-possession. There is an element of understanding in the psyche in India that food is ultimately for sustenance, ultimately given by the Creator, ultimately, not our own. Therefore, when a person is eating , if another person comes up to them, there is also the sense of ‘guest’, and the ‘guest is God’, so, with God standing in front of us, do we dare to eat and slurp away without offering? I personally find it difficult. If it is food that I would not share by reason of my own saliva, I don’t offer, and I don’t continue to eat it in front of them.

Thankfully here, they are aware of the contamination of saliva. In many of the cold countries, people are not. When we were growing up people shared their bubble gum, bites of sandwich, swigs of soda, ate off each other’s plates and spoons, etc. In colder climates, the harmful microbial levels are lower, all round health seems to be better, and so people don’t usually get sick from one another. Now, with AIDS, hepatitis, etc. and many other diseases resisting the cold, these attitudes are changing. I know that many people, educated and conditioned as they are to think that you can’t get AIDS from saliva will take exception to our mentioning it so here. I can only say, do more honest research on the subject, rather than blindly believe what you are told. Unfortunately, ‘educated’ India, educated in English medium, watching endless movies and reading western stories, aping western social habits, is changing. There are billboards now showing young people drinking out of the same coconut together, albeit with
straws. The media breaks down the wrong barriers. We see this less wise and healthful aspect of change in the upper and middle classes that throng the ashram and juice stall, among the students coming from wealthy backgrounds. Soon people will be able to eat food in front of starving people, and it won’t bother their conscience. That is the price of this type of modernity. Dead conscience. Anyhow, it just something to be aware of. Its definitely better to keep your saliva to yourself.

Each lungful of air here is clean and fresh, and despite the cold, there are so many birds here. I remember around 15 years ago, seeing in a colleague’s home, her deceased fathers collection of taxidermic little birds that had been common in Connecticut. In my lifetime, I did not see any of those birds. When the kids were little, we were only seeing, Blue jay, 2 types of woodpecker, chickadee, nuthatch, junko, sparrow…wrens and finches, robin, starlings, morning doves, partridge, wild turkey, and a few others. I was amazed in seeing that collection how many tiny and colourful little birds are no longer with us. Amma has said, that if we don’t take great care now, many of the species that are here with us now will be gone, in our own lifetimes. It’s a sickening thought, but how can it be otherwise as long as the wanton rape and pillage of the earth continues? As long as we cannot collectively agree that the preservation and conservation of this planet is more important and individual capitalist gains, we are
doomed for destruction.

In Poustinia, the houses are made with untreated hand hewn woods. As I child, I was some how conditioned into the thought that wood had to be treated with oils, varnishes, shellacs, and later polyurethanes, etc. The wood used on the kitchen floor in the main house is over 100 years old, untreated, going strong. It gets a water and soap scrubbing ever week or so, and daily sweeping. And, its fine. I was conditioned wrongly. Wood needs none of that treatment in order to last. It will last on its own accord. Those treatments are to provide glossiness, and maintain colours which are actually not natural, as they are forcibly maintained with chemicals. Or to keep the water away from the wood. In the laundry room in the main house, the floor boards are definitely rotting away due to the water. But, they are still going. In another 15 or 20 years they will need to be replaced. In the wealthy countries, without reason, except whims, people change the entire flooring and walls of their houses, often every few years.
So much of this is unnecessary, wasteful of the earths resources, and toxic to ourselves. In all ways the lifestyle here is very natural and close to the earth. So the house interior is browns melding with tans.

 Our little hut is surrounded by ferns and ever green trees. Many of the tiny colourful birds flit around in the ferns, outside the windows. These little ones are adorably shaped. They look like little colourful balls, that the Creator was having fun with, splashing colours in reckless abandon upon them. At the end, He suddenly remembered the tail feathers, and quick! stuck in the tail at a completely up ended angle.

 There are no lawns here, but there are open areas, some of them quite huge with carpets of golf-course style grass coverings, kept in shape by Natures expert gardeners, whose little mouths, ever nibbling, tend to the pruning of each and every blade of grass. It is exceedingly pleasant and restful to go on walks – there is no interruption of nature by the sicknesses and distortions in the human mind. Every now and then, two or three times so far, we have gone into the nearest town which is many miles away. Like trips into Vallicavu and Kollam from the ashram, it is exhausting to be where people have interacted with Nature without listening – creating their own orders, mess, dirt and chaos.

For right now, we are here. We shall see what the future brings. Last night Amma must have come out for the Christmas programs in the ashram. Today will hopefully be more quiet there. It’s one of the ‘high’ seasons in the ashram now, with lots of people coming from foreign lands during their Christmas holidays. I don’t have the strength at this time to deal with the urban scene there. To go back with the ashes of our beloved was difficult. People can only be people, and we all carry our own mixed up understandings of life and death, none of it Real. I don’t want to be subject to the garbage in people’s minds, their own fears, their own needs to see and understand their dreams of discipleship, faith, Vedanta, of what being a devotee means…None of this seems real to me. It fills me with distaste.

What is real for us there, is the moral fibre that is in the air. That is what is Amma. And that is the only important and real thing. It used to be all over India, but television is eroding it, and education which teaches corporate placement above all, has destroyed it for the last two generations. Only the grandmothers have it now, and they are gong fast. Their daughters and granddaughters have been educated to be textbook machines, and speak English….soon it may be Mandarin!…..India is the only bearer of the life of dharma on a mass level…but it is going. If Her daughters lose it, it is gone. No other country on earth has what India has. We miss that moral fibre of the ashram and it is drawing us back.

We’ll try to keep in better touch. Loving you,
Kamala, Anni and Link

One Response to “Reflections on Sacrifice and Christmas”

  • Ammayude Mon says:

    I have not been reading your blogs for a long time. Today morning, I happened to think about you: so checked up this site. Even now I feel sad to think about our angelic Anni. Kamalaji, you are the most blessed mother on earth to have children like Link and Anni. Few women can bring up their children the way you brought yours. You only taught them about loving and respecting others. And how much respect and love they have for you. Can we easily find children like Link and Anni? Amma is now more there in your lives because Anni is with Her now.

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