Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Spirit of God at work

I recently had the pleasure of spending the day at the Bhaktivedanta Manor--the Hare Krishna Temple and dairy farm. I’ve told you all about the cows, but there was much more to it than that.

Quaker Faith and Practice includes a section called Advices and Queries. They are a reminder of the insights of the society and are there to help us question ourselves and take stock of our relationship with the Divine--whatever we may call it. They help us to think about our lives and ask the deep questions of the soul.

Advices and Queries 5 begins with:

Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light.

My friend Gemma is a Hare Krishna. Her experiences are like mine and unlike mine. She has a deep and personal relationship with her God just as much as I have with mine. We spent much of the day talking about how God shines in our lives and how we want to know him better. She would tell me something from her Holy Book about Krishna and I could find a similar saying from the Bible. We were speaking the same language, just calling Him by a different name.

Advices and Queries 6 says:

Do you work gladly with other religious groups in the pursuit of common goals? While remaining faithful to Quaker insights, try to enter imaginatively into the life and witness of other communities of faith, creating together the bonds of friendship.

At school, I work primarily with Muslim children. I have found great strength in my friendships with them. Their faith is deep and abiding. Their love and devotion to Allah real and warm. We have often talked about our similarities --many Old Testament stories are in the Koran and Jesus is revered as a prophet. Children know they can speak to me about their love of God because I radiate a love for my God. Visiting Gemma seemed the most natural thing in the world. I wanted to participate in her devotional life for a day. I wore a sari and attended a service where we bowed down as the Muslims do with their forehead to the floor and then sang and chanted joyously to music. We spoke together of our common beliefs--that eating animals is wrong and that we must care for the earth. That we want a life where we spent time with God every day--hers chanting his name with the Hare Krishna mantra and me in quiet time.

We talked of the common feeling of sometimes not being able to settle into prayer. A distracted mind that wanders with each outside disruption and the gentle pulling back and gaining stillness again. 

Advices and Queries 12 says:

When you are preoccupied and distracted in meeting let wayward and disturbing thoughts give way quietly to your awareness of God’s presence among us and in the world.

We spoke of the need for simplicity. How many people hate their lives, hate their jobs? They work at something they hate and are angry and unfulfilled and try to fill that empty space with material possessions. This just brings about more debt and more feelings of hopelessness and hate. What they really need is God. Gemma is a nun. Her needs are managed by the Temple. She lives and works there tending the cows in exchange for food and a roof over her head. Spiderman and I have chosen to live simply. When we lived in Louisiana we had an enormous 3 bedroom house and 2 vehicles and lots of STUFF, but we weren’t really happy. We moved to England to change the way we lived. To tread lightly on the earth, to join the Quakers and to live within our means in a place appropriate for 2 people. We chose not to drive and are blessed to live in a town that a person can walk to work and to the shops. We don’t have a television or the internet at home and we don’t own a mobile phone. We do have a DVD player because we like to watch films, but to pay for  a TV Licence when there is so little of value to watch is a waste of money and time. I have chosen to dress simply to reflect my Inner condition and to avoid clothes made in sweatshops. Gemma wears a sari to worship but old clothes when dealing with the cows. It is not about how we look, but how we feel inside. We talked a lot about wants versus needs.

Advices and Queries 41 says: 

Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?

I found myself deepened into prayer as she deepened into prayer. I was greatly blessed by my time with her. We call him by different names, but God is God.

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