AYUDH USA 3rd annual retreat

The members of 3rd annual AYUDH USA with Br. Dayamrita

The members of 3rd annual AYUDH USA with Br. Dayamrita

The third annual AYUDH US Youth Exchange, “Give Peace a Chance,” took place from December 26 to 29, 2009 at the M.A. Center in San Ramon, CA. Led by Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, the exchange included a multitude of spiritual, cultural, and service activities for over 65 attendees. Besides daily yoga and meditation, one of the retreat’s highlights was preparing and serving breakfast and lunch for the soup kitchen at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. The Church was featured for its hospitality in the 2007 movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Each meal served over 1,000 needy individuals. AYUDH’s positive attitudes and spirit of channeling Amma’s message of love and service was evident. “Helping at the soup kitchen made me realize how much attention and awareness is needed in doing seva. It was nice to see how we could serve Amma through different ways,” said Lizzie Corley from New York.

Serving food: each meal served over 1000

Serving food: each meal over 1000 were served

Given the youth pledge to support Amma’s Green Year through ‘Growin‘ One Seed at a Time, AYUDH members learned about the benefits of organic farming and the potential harm of using pesticides with an inspiring activity led by Kalesh, an expert in the field. Members planted fava beans and built a compost structure in AYUDH’s organic garden.

Another feature of the retreat included a scriptural class on the 12th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Bhakti Yoga, and a bhajan class, both led by Br. Ramanand. He taught the Mahishasura Mardini Stotram in a unique and lively tune. AYUDH also learned the retreat’s theme song, from Sharani Eastman and Swarna Iyer. “Give Peace a Chance” was written and tuned by AYUDH Europe.

organic farming

Organic farming by AYUDH

AYUDH members watched clips of Embracing the World’s humanitarian initiatives, pledging to support ETW activities in creative ways. Anu Iyer gave a touching account of her experience meeting children in Amma’s care home in Kenya. Local AYUDH member Shivesh Rameshbabu later shared, “This taught me about some of the problems in India and around the world. It made me want to help and think harder about ways to help. I may not even have to go out of my way to do this!” Ideas included eyeglass donation drives, holding benefit concerts, and using the Internet as a venue to both publicize and fundraise for ETW initiatives.

Each day, AYUDH members led the nightly bhajans and arati.

To conclude the exchange, all were treated to an interactive and inspirational class via webcam with Swami Amritaswarupananda, in which he gave valuable advice about rising to the challenge of being Amma’s youth. Following an enjoyable outing to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, AYUDH USA members returned home, enthused and energized to give peace a chance in 2010.

– Das

Make your life a celebration

Thousands of people gathered in the Ashram Main hall on New Year’s Eve with Amma to welcome 2010.   The celebrations began at 11pm with a series of cultural performances.  A group of children began with a song “I am the light of the world, I am wonderful, I am beautiful…”  The second performance was a monologue in Sanskrit by an Amrita University student on the benefits of advances in technology vs. advances in human relationships and compassion.

Next a spectacular fire dance and juggling performance entertained the gathering followed by a traditional Indian dance, a classical piano solo, and a short play put on by children.  The cultural performances ended with a beautiful rendition of one of Bach’s violin concertos.

As the hour of midnight approached,  Amma asked all to pray for world peace and then led everyone in chanting ‘Lokah Samastah Sukinau Bhavantu.’  After the changing Amma gave her New Year’s message during which she explained the true meaning of celebration.

“Celebration is forgetting oneself. It is an attitude. We need to have good control over the mind for that. The thought that ‘I am limited individual’, ‘I am this body’ will not help up us to forget our self.  The faith that the self in me and the the consciousness behind the universe is the one and the same is the basis of the celebration. ” Amma said.

“Just by the clock striking at 12.00 on 31st December, our life is not going to be celebration. For that our mind should be filled with love and compassion. When love and compassion fills our heart you find newness in every moment, you never get bored, always enthusiastic, always happy and life always become a celebration. ” Amma elaborated.

“We take various vows on New Year but how deep is it? We have to evaluate.” Amma asked everyone to introspect. “We have the ability to overcome our negativities. We sincerely have to try” she encouraged.

“We are not isolated islands. We are like a ring in the chain, connected to each other. Don’t expect others to change first, if we change ourselves others will also change,” Amma reminded every one.

Amma then led all in singing Khol Darwaza which ended with all chanting ‘Jai Mata Di’. Louder and louder, as it grew, everyone echoed Amma’s chanting, throwing their hands up in the air.  At the end, Amma said, “Amma’s heartfelt prayer is that everyone should be able to laugh and be joyful like small children and may divine grace bless us for that. May the darkness be completely eliminated and may the pure light of God shine.”  Amma asked everyone to raise their hands with their open-palms and shake them while responding to ‘Mata Rani Ki’ with a “Jai”.

And the celebration continued.

– Sree