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Mirabai Bush speaks on her stay in India and Guatemala Project (Part 2)

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mirabaiBy Nithin Sridhar

In a time when people across the world are struggling hard to manage work-related stress and balance professional and personal lives, Mirabai Bush has helped thousands to harmonize their lives and optimize their outputs through contemplation and mindfulness practices.

She is the co-founder of The Center for Contemplative Mind and Society and teaches contemplative practices and develops programs that apply contemplative principles to organizational life. She had also helped Google create its ‘Search inside Yourself Program’, and was one among those who introduced Buddhist practices in the West in the 1970’s.

She traces her spiritual practices to her root-teacher, Neem Karoli Baba and other masters in India from whom she learned various Hindu and Buddhist meditation practices. In an exclusive interview with NewsGram she spoke about her life, her work, and her stay in India way back in 1970’s.

Interview with Mirabai Bush- Part 2

Mirabai Bush and the Seva Foundation’s Guatemala Project

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Mirabai Bush was involved with the Seva Foundation’s Guatemala Project for 10 years. When asked to share about the work done in Guatemala, she said that when she and her group were in India, her guru Neem Karoli Baba had sent Larry Brilliant to WHO to work for the eradication of smallpox that eventually became a success. After they returned to the West, when Neem Karoli Baba died, many in her group felt that they should do something to give back to the people of the Indian sub-continent.

The medical people in her group decided to work on treating cataract using non-conventional methods in Nepal and till date, Seva has managed to help more than 3 million people in Nepal, Cambodia, India, etc. Meanwhile, said Bush, in 1980’s there was a terrible violence in Guatemala and some people had come across the border to Mexico as their villages had been burned down.

When they met the widows who had crossed the border into Mexico, they felt that they should do something about it. She said: “When we heard what was happening, we just thought- ‘this is so bad.’ We thought ‘look what we were able to do in India and Nepal, so of course we could do something here as well.’ We then did not know anything about the kind of community development that was required in Guatemala. But, the next year or so, Guatemala had their first democratically elected president and the country became more open….

We went down there into the villages and sat there on the ground listening to people, mostly women as most of their men had been killed. We listened to them and tried to figure out how to help them build their villages. They had no money, no animals, no seeds or tools.

“We wanted to help them by empowering them and not by disempowering them by saying ‘Ok. We have come from the north and will provide you with everything.’ We created amazing partnerships with the villagers there (and helped them to rebuild). One of the villages El Triunfo in which we had worked was also awarded by UN for being a model village. So, we worked there for 10 years until the peace accord was signed and then we turned over the work we did to the Guatemalan agencies.”

Mirabai Bush, her Catholic background and her first visit to India

Neem Karoli Baba. Photo Credit:
Neem Karoli Baba. Photo Credit:

Mirabai Bush had visited India for the first time in 1970’s. When asked about her stay in India, Bush said that she had originally thought of staying in India for only two weeks. She had come to India overland through Europe, Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She stayed in different places to try and understand how other people were living. She said that at the time, the US was at war with Vietnam, and she was trying to discover a different way of seeing the world.

The very first day after she had reached India, she heard about a meditation course being taught at Bodhgaya by a Burmese meditation teacher. When she went there, she says: “It was very powerful. I had never done anything like that before. It really showed me things that I had never glimpsed before. Then, I stayed there for a couple of months doing meditation. Shortly after that, I met Neem Karoli Baba; that further changed my life and I continued to stay in India for another 2 years.”

Regarding her Catholic background and her first impressions when she had visited India, she said that she was raised up as a Catholic and studied in a catholic school right up to Georgetown graduate school. She continued: “I loved God and used to attend every mass. But, after I divorced my then husband, I was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. So, I was very disappointed. I had not been practicing as a Catholic for some years before I visited India. I was just disenchanted with that.

“I was not looking for another religion, but I was looking for a way to understand the world that made sense to me. Many people in America identify themselves as religious, but it is a very secular society. What I loved about India is that, when I had got to India, I felt like the spirit was everywhere. I found that people were devotional and non-judgmental, and they were very welcoming.

“And then, I met Neem Karoli Baba and he was so amazing. He was of course a Hindu and was devoted to Hanuman. But, most of the time, he seemed to exist in this realm that seemed completely beyond us. He just seemed present for all of us. We would sit for hours and hours with him and it just became a part of who I was. I was always a kind of person who was drawn to service. So, Maharaj-ji’s (Neem Karoli Baba’s) dedication to Hanuman was totally right to me.

“I did not feel like I no longer had this Christian upbringing as it would always be there. Maharaj-ji used to talk a lot about Jesus. He used to say ‘you should meditate like Christ. He lost himself in love.’ Then, we all used to kind of melt. Maharaj-ji was really an embodiment of unconditional love. I was sitting there and I could feel myself changing without a word being exchanged.”

More in the Series:

Mirabai Bush speaks on Mindfulness and its application in Google (Part 1)

Mirabai Bush speaks on Yoga and its uprooting (Part 3)

Mirabai Bush speaks on Right Livelihood & Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (Part 4)

Mirabai Bush speaks about her root-teacher Neem Karoli Baba (Part 5)

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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

Government invites entries for first National CSR Awards VOA

At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)