Friday, February 25, 2011

Peace and Beauty at Gobind Sadan.

Thursday , February 24,
First full day at Gobind Sadan. Peace and Beauty! For the first time since arriving in India, last night I could truly hear only nature and silence. No car horns, no music or fireworks, no bells or chanting. It was nice. This place is beautiful – thanks Kate!

It is far away from the din of the city, and set in farmland. It is very green, and the trees and lawns are kept swept and clean.

Gobind Sadan is firmly based in the Sikh tradition, but their “guru of Biblical proportion”, Baba Virsa Singh taught about the beauty of every religion and made sure that his community would be a place for all faiths to unite in devotion to the one, common God. Gobind Sadan means “God’s House without walls”, and it has Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and of course Sikh holy places within it. It is self-sustaining, as they run a huge farm some 300kms from here, from which all the food comes from as well as the profit to run the place. There are some 200 full-time Indians working to run the place, and they serve free meals to countless locals in the daily langar, as well as the few foreigners that come and stay, and the bunches that come for special occasions.

I am trying to read up on the guru, and he sounds like a pretty beautiful person- clearly a real spiritual presence and saint, and even if all the reported miracles did not happen, many persons have certainly found healing, spiritual guidance and love via his presence, teaching and legacy. He passed away dec. 24th, 2007.

There are about 30 foreigners here right now, which is much more than they ever have, but I managed to come during a flux. The major part of their non-Indian devotees are Russian (or close) and right now a large group of Kazakhstani’s are here to coincide with the festivities around the guru’s birthday celebration: Feb 20th. I just happen to be here at the same time, which is kind of unfortunate, since I don’t get to have much privacy, but it is OK – amazingly none of them speak a drop of English. Like, not even hello. So I am left to my own, largely. I did get a tour of the place this morning from Allan, a guy from Detroit who was guided to live here permanently and now does the finances for the place. He is super and he answered all my many questions. Mary Pat is the saintly American woman who runs the place with her Russian assistant Priya, who I have not really met. Mary Pat is about 60ish, and absolutely radiates with love. The locals here touch her feet. She is wonderful. Somehow, she is a scholar as well and writes one of the most used university textbooks on world religions. There are two guys here who speak some English. One is a young Russian man from Siberia who is here for a few months by himself. The other is Eddie, a hip Latvian who is a popular singer there. He offered a sample of his music to me when he was showing me to my room (that I share with 7 other Kazakh men), and launched into singing “I’m never going to dance again”. Yeah, that one. George Michael, I think? 80’s, right? And this guy has tattooes and hip clothes and says that many of his friends are “all black guys in New York”. OK, sure. I didn’t laugh, of course. But really? Really? Well, go Latvia.

Yeah, so the common language here is Russian. Even Mary Pat speaks it fairly well at this point. I guess the guru had visions of having a big influence in Russia, and predicted a few things on national TV that later came to pass – so that is the connection. Anyway, he is huge there.

So, one of the things that I have to do while I am here is seva or service work – for the benefit of the community. I figured I would wash dishes or something, right? Actually, in the Sikh tradition, they have havans – sacred fires that can never go out. And sometimes sacred scriptures have to be read at them – again constantly. They have one main havan here that has been going non-stop since the place was built in 1969, and 3 scriptures have also been in constant repetition around it – a scripture about Hanuman, a scripture about Durga, and the Jaap Sahib – a short scripture in verse written by the guru Baba Virsa Singh. So, like everyone here, I was asked to take my turn reading and keeping the fire going. We do it in 2 hour shifts and I was asked to do from 4-6 and then from 2-4. Yeah, that would be 4-6 in the afternoon and then 2-4 in the wee hours of the morning. Um, OK? What am I going to say, no? Well I had my first shift this afternoon, and it was actually quite beautiful, stoking this fire, pouring ghee and Prasad on it periodically, reading, oh – and I actually have to wash the wood before I put it in the fire. Neat, eh? It can’t be unclean by having bird poop or bugs on it. Anyway, I am setting my alarm for 1:50am and I hope to heck I can wake up and drag this body to the havan for 2.

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