Finding a balance with life and work

10 March 2011, Fiji
Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya carried out a workshop for United Nations staff based in capital Suva, Fiji, entitled “Achieving a Work Life Balance: A holistic approach” at the UN’s request. The workshop was held at the United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre’s office on March 10, and the participants were from a range of United Nations agencies in Suva, including the Director of the Pacific Centre.

Shantamrita introduced concepts and techniques aiming to improve not only the abilities of the UN staff to manage complex projects, but also their ability to deal with the multiple demands of their personal lives in order to achieve a holistic success. Seeing life as a whole rather than divided in to personal and professional, and both the workplace and the home as places to grow spiritually and professionally was a theme that UN staff found refreshing in the interactive workshop. The participants commented that they felt better equipped to deal with stress, handle personal and professional demands, and grow spiritually and in their careers.

The world awaits true leaders in Fiji

Amma’s message has been spread to the South Pacific through a visit to the Fiji Islands by Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya from March 7 to 14, 2011 to conduct a series of seminars on Practical Spirituality.

Br. Shantamrita’s first program on March 9 was at the prestigious Fiji National University in the capital Suva where he spoke to diverse audience of indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians, expatriates, students, and professor’s on the topic of “The World Awaits True Leaders”. Based on Amma’s teachings Br. Shantamrita explained how true leaders speak through their actions, guiding and inspiring others with their love and selflessness and how such leaders, like Amma, can bring about tremendous transformation, even in today’s world. Touching on such topics, Br. Shantamrita discussed how we can invoke our latent leadership qualities and become the change that we seek in society. The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session.

The next day Shantamrita taught meditation to a group of enthusiastic participants at a private house in Suva. The session was held on the house verandah surrounded by a lush tropical garden creating a relaxing atmosphere for all. Many of the participants commented how peaceful and inspired they felt by the session.

Further sessions were held during the week, including a training session for United Nations’ staff, a satsang at a large Hindu temple, a conscious living workshop, and an introduction to meditation for children at a national park just outside of Suva.

 

 

Role of temples changed in today’s world

11 March 2011, Fiji

Br. Shantamrita addressed the crowd of 100 or so local Indo-Fijians on the topic of “the Role of Temples in Today’s World”. The program was held at Siva Mandir which is one of the oldest temples in Fiji.

In the talk, Br. Shantamrita recognized that these days many people often find it difficult to make time even for many important things in life and that there are so many comforts and attractions in today’s world, constantly fighting for our attention. At the same time, he emphasized that people experience a lot of stress and tension in their lives. In this context and with the audience’s participation, he addressed questions such as what is the age-old role of temples changed in today’s world and how should we understand the significance of temples in relation to the changing world around us? The local people were fascinated by the topic and could relate to it well.
The talk was followed by bhajans together the members of the Amma Fiji Satsang Group as well as distribution of prasad.

Dr. N.P. Unni to receive Amrita Keerti

23 Sep 2010, Amriapuri

On 27th September, the birthday of Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Dr. N.P. Unni will be awarded the Amrita Keerti Puraskar for his vast and important contributions to the cultural, spiritual and philosophical literature of India. The award comprises a cash prize of Rs. 123,456, an idol of Saraswati Devi crafted by the artist Nambootiri and a Certificate of Commendation from the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM).

MAM first began presenting the Amrita Keerti Puraskar in 2001.

Dr. N.P. Unni, former Vice-Chancellor of the Sri Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala (1996 – 2000), has made vast and important contributions to the cultural, spiritual and philosophical literature of India. He has further contributed to the preservation of India’s culture through his role as professor and lecturer in various governmental and non-governmental educational institutions, including Sri Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kalady and the University of Kerala, among others.

Dr. Unni is currently the author of 38 books in English, including critical analyses and commentaries of Sanskrit drama, scriptures and kshetra tantra vidya, as well as translations of classical Sanskrit literature and commentary. He has also translated numerous upanishads and puranas into Malayalam. He has contributed more than 150 papers to Indological journals, etc., and as served as a PhD advisor and mentor to dozens of Indian and foreign scholars.

Washington AYUDH youth exchange

The inaugural AYUDH East Coast Youth Exchange was held from August 14-15 at the M.A. Center in Washington, DC. Led by Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, the retreat brought together over 30 youth from around the United States for a weekend of activities revolving around the theme of “Embracing Life.”

The exchange commenced with a live webcast with Swami Amritaswarupananda in Amritapuri, who gave the attendees inspirational advice on how to embrace life as Amma’s children. Enthused, the AYUDH members cooked and served a 9-course meal for Mother’s Kitchen and participated in a park restoration project, as a way of loving and serving the world and Nature.

Ajay Ganapathy, who came to the retreat from Atlanta, commented, “This was the first time I prepared and served food at a shelter. At first, I was apprehensive about actually meeting and greeting the people at the shelter, but I saw that the people were happy to see me. I found that I was happy to see them as well, and that they were not out to judge me or hurt me as I had perceived. In a psychological way, they had served me as much as I had served them. As a person who is generally slow to trust others, this gesture of compassion got rid of my fear of meeting new people, and removed the cynical bent I held toward interpersonal relationships.”

That evening, after a lively bhajan set featuring AYUDH singers and musicians, a handful of attendees put on an amazing talent show with a variety of acts, including photography, Bharatanatyam, breakdancing, poetry, a capella, Indian classical singing, Jazz, and a vivacious rendition of “Lean on Me.”

One of the weekend’s highlights was Br. Ramanand’s bhajan class for “Meri Jhoppidi De,” which intertwined the talents of several AYUDH members. From guitar solos to girls vs. boys, classical Indian notes to a clarinet interlude, an alap and a spontaneous rap solo, each and every participant rejoiced in the song and the escalating tempo. Satya Valis quickly threw together a rhyming rap, playing on the meaning of the song. “No desire for the name/ no desire for fame/ I show no shame/ my love for Him’s like one and the same/ so I chant His name/ Oh Rama Oh Rama!”

To culminate a weekend of “Embracing Life,” retreatants tied a string around each of their wrists to symbolize one specific promise made to each other and to themselves to become more active AYUDH members and better individuals, so that, guided by Amma’s Love, they may be able to create a bright and sustainable future for their brothers and sisters around the world.

-Dev

Experience week for the youth

24th to August 1st, la Ferme du Plessis, Paris
GreenFriends-Europe held the “Experience Week”, in which 80 youth from all over the world invested themselves fully into an ecological project for the whole week. These projects were designed to encourage a learning-by-doing process. The Experience Week was awarded by the UNESCO the status of official project of the “Decade for Education on Sustainable Development”.

The participants of the “Experience Week” could choose from three different projects managed by youth themselves. The goal of these projects was to go deep into a concrete ecological realisation and develop self-confidence as part of a team. Many complementary activities were proposed so that the projects could really nourish the artistic and philosophical needs of the participants.

The first project was the construction of a traditional dovecote. Dovecotes are an important part of the French heritage because pigeon’s excreta are a perfect natural fertilizer. This project was the opportunity to remove the pigeons living in the main tower of the site, which will be renovated in the coming years. Youth learnt eco-building techniques with local materials: a traditional wood frame with professional carpenters, straw and clay techniques for the walls and the pigeonholes.

The second project was the continuation of the Seeds of Life project at la Ferme du Plessis that had been launched a few months ago. A new mandala garden aims at helping the French Center attain self-reliance regarding the use of seeds for the organic gardens. The participants were involved in the first seed harvests, which are both very technical and meticulous. A storage room has been started and will offer a seed bank to the Center, which will also be used for traditional seeds from the surroundings of the Center, as Amma had asked for. Many artistic workshops could help the participants develop an intimate understanding of plants and seeds.

The third project was to build an astronomy observatory on a small hill. A lot of different workshops were offered: stone carving for a solar cadran, mosaic work, building a wall with lime… The biggest part of the hard team work was in the construction of a wall with old tyres, in order to maintain the hill but also to create a new half-circular space to watch the sun set in the morning. Astronomy observations were offered during 3 nights, providing the youth with the opportunity to discover the magic of the stars.

Above all, this gathering marked a unique opportunity for youngsters with shared values and a common vision for a sustainable future to meet, exchange and inspire each other to work with their hearts and hands for the betterment of society.

– Dev

Youth meeting for a better future

la Ferme du Plessis, Paris
From July 24th to August 1st AYUDH and GreenFriends welcomed in la Ferme du Plessis more than 150 youth from all over the world to propose two different approaches of the various dimensions of ecology.

Entitled “Embracing Life – Living in the Respect of Nature”, the 6th European Youth Exchange of AYUDH welcomed in total 73 youth from 8 European countries and was co-sponsored by the European Commission’s “Youth in Action” programme.

The programme included inspirational talks by Br. Shubamrita and Bri. Dipamrita mainly focused on the values that can help us integrate our respect for Nature into our daily lives. Additional talks on our relationship to energy consumption by Mathieu Labonne, expert on carbon governance, and on water consumption by Pierre Taillandier and Clarisse Gimat made the youth aware of the complexity and origin of some of the major ecological challenges faced in the world today. Question and answer sessions complemented the talks and gave the youth the opportunity to enquire deeper and discuss both spiritual and scientific questions.

Four different workshop modules were offered to the participants of the youth exchange, and each participant could choose one workshop from each module, that were standing for the different dimensions of sustainability. They were called the “CARE” workshops, which stands for:

C – Community Service: In these workshops the youth could contribute to a sustainable community in different ways, like working in an organic vegetable garden, doing organic cooking or ecological restoration of the heritage site of la Ferme du Plessis.

A – Artistic: In these workshops the youth could develop and express their creative potential through painting, drumming or singing. Some youths were introduced to the ancient technique of tainted glass crafting, used in the cathedrals for times immemorial.

R – Revitalization: These workshops adressed the different dimensions of stress-management, enabling the youth to develop their creativity and productivity in study or at work. The IAM or IAM Youth Meditation, Tai Chi Chuan and Nei Gong, 5 Rhythm Dance, Non-Violent Communication or the “flow” workshop helped the youth find their inner strengths.

E – Ecology: These workshops were dedicated to environmental protection and maintenance of biodiversity, like building a “hotel” for insects, organic gardening on balconies and window shelves or recycling plastic trash into valuable fashion items.

For many youth this marked the 6th year of getting together for this European Youth Exchange. The deep bond that had formed amongst the youngsters through all these years was deeply enriched by the new participants who blended in the group seamlessly, bringing new inspiration and cultural enrichment to the group.

A cultural visit to the nearby cathedral of Chartres, bonfire, games and soccer matches gave the youngsters the opportunity to relax, recharge and enjoy the diversity of cultures, nationalities and languages of those present. The young participants were encourage to discover the diversity of cultures through international breakfasts, national country presentations and intercultural discussions.

The youth present held several project development sessions during the week to make their action for society more durable throughout the year.
To capture the spirit of the camp, the youth composed a song during the camp:

“Life is a chance, take it
Life is Love, share it
Life is a hymn, sing it
Life is a dream, make it real
Life is a must, do it
Life is a challenge, face it
Life is beauty, admire it
Life is bliss, taste it
Life is precious, protect it
Life is a mystery, embrace it
Life is a promise, fulfill it
Life is a fight, accept it
When life gives a hard time, smile!
Life is happiness, embrace it
Life is beauty, admire it
Life is joy, celebrate it”

— Dev

Rich hearted children

26 Jun, Albuquerque, New Mexico – 2010 USA yatra
Fifteen of Amma’s children in New Mexico ranging from ages 5 through 15 have been selling handmade art during the 5 day Albuquerque program. They have been making beautiful cards of many colors with their own drawings and cut out Amma photos from various free publications. They raised a total of $254.50 for Amma’s orphanages. Towards the end of the Devi Bhava Darshan they presented the money to Amma. Amma was very pleased and poured her compassionate looks over them.

abq-33

– Tulasi

We enjoy our planet earth

From May 22-24 about 40 children, age 5-13, with their parents, from Germany and Switzerland came together at the M.A. Center, Germany, to spend a children-retreat together.

The motto of the weekend was “Nature- we enjoy our planet earth!” With a playful and humorous approach it was made possible for the kids to dive into the themes about nature and also about human values. During the afternoon the children gathered in smaller groups to deepen the knowledge about human values.

The children had the opportunity to choose different workshops concerning “experiencing nature”. Under beautiful spring weather they build little hotels for wild bees, constructed nature-art-pieces and planted vegetables and flowers. In the water-laboratory they experimented with water, others learned a lot about taking care of horses. The older kids had the opportunity to learn meditation. The youngest met on the green to do yoga and play a lot of games.

The singing of bhajans in the evening was fully managed by the children.
It was an impressing experience for many adults to see and hear the children sing, drum and perform with such joy and devotion. The program also had theatre performances and a puppet show based on the native American wisdom, which enthralled the children. The day ended with an introduction into the life of bats and an observation of their flights in the night.

On Monday morning an ecological tour was organized in the woods and a the children collected things from the woods. And they decide to create a giant Mala (rosary). Every kid and every adult could create a bead with wood which was then put on a string. The beads were of different shapes and sizes, with beautiful decorations on them and even prayers. Forming a circle, the kids held the giant Mala with the prayer ” Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”, which was led by Br. Shubamrita. As each mantra was chanted, one bead after the other was moved. It was indeed a very moving experience.

It was a true gift for the children, which will surely stay in their hearts for a long time.

– Nirmala