World Voice: South Korean Women Fight Against Spy Cams

World Voice: South Korean Women Fight Against Spy Cams

Every person I know values their privacy, but what happens when you find out that your privacy has been invaded, or worse, been subject to scrutiny without your knowledge?

Women in South Korea are currently fighting for their right to privacy, especially when it involves spy cams in public bathrooms. The installation of these microcameras have been a huge problem for women who view these as a gross invasion of their privacy. Privacy in Korea is seen as an illusion since it is seen as a way of protecting their citizens from any crimes, but for Chung Soo-young, this was not okay.

Soo-young was a victim of being spied on in a public bathroom of a chain coffee shops last winter and decided to fight back by creating an “emergency kit” through a crowdfunding project to protect against “molka” or hidden cameras. This kit includes an ice pick to break tiny camera lenses, stickers with messages warning of illegal filming, and a tube of silicone sealant to fill up holes and stickers to cover them. Soo-young had no idea that her kit would become such a hit, and inspire women to fight for their right to privacy. Since its inception, 600 women have bought the kits which costs $12 and do their part in preventing illegal filming of them.

Women in South Korea have been fighting to keep their privacy intact, but it’s difficult when the laws exerted by the government to protect them are not enough to stop the rampant sharing of these molka videos by men. What’s worse is that these men then “share” these videos online as pornography and the women they target never know about it, unless they discover them by accident. These videos have become a new category of pornography, whereby the subjects have no knowledge of their involvement. Even the punishment of those caught is quite lenient and can be perceived as being favorable towards men. Spy cams have given license to digital peeping Toms, at the expense of women’s safety.

Punishment for illegal filming has also spurred women to fight the gender bias surrounding them. For the men who have been arrested for these crimes, their punishment has been less stringent than what should fit the crime. Of the men who were caught, only 31.5 percent of them were prosecuted and 8.7 percent received jail sentences. To highlight the gender bias, when a woman was caught sharing a nude photo of a male model, she was sentenced to serve a 10-month jail term, which in my opinion was unfair in comparison to sharing pornography. According to a report by the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report, Korea ranks 118th out of 144 with regards to how women are viewed and treated and it hasn’t gotten better in light of the current crimes against them.

In light of the #MeToo movement, one would think that women who speak out against their attackers would have the courts on their side, but unfortunately not. A recent case involving a former governor of South ChungCheong and his secretary shed light to the gender bias women in South Korea still face. When Kim Ji-eun brought up charges of sexual abuse from her former boss, Ahn Hee-jung, instead of being jailed for his crimes, was acquitted from rape and sexual harassment. Hee-jung resigned from his post, but not before claiming that the relationship was consensual. For Kim, the ruling was not unexpected and solidified the gender bias towards women.

Women are fighting back by holding protests, as in the one this past August in Seoul, when about 70,000 women called upon their government for tougher laws against sexual violence and hidden-camera pornography. While the government responded by doing regular sweeps in public bathrooms and providing support systems for the victims, these women believe that more has to be done.

For someone who lives in the U.S., I have been in clothing store dressing rooms where notices are posted to let you know that you are under camera surveillance while you try on clothes to prevent you from shoplifting. There are 13 states that prohibit dressing room surveillance:  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah. While I understand their policy, I do feel uncomfortable knowing that I’m being watched as I try on clothes in a public setting. The discovery of being videotaped without one’s knowledge could result in deep-rooted distrust of the authority who are supposed to protect them, and affect their outlook on how society treats them. This is what’s happening in South Korea, and while so many women are fighting back, I fear that they have a long road ahead until their government takes the matter of sexual violence and hidden-camera pornorgraphy seriously and create laws to punish criminals regardless of their gender. Here’s hoping that they continue to protest and hold their government accountable for the crimes perpetrated against them.

To read the article regarding this post, click below:

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/19/648720360/south-korean-women-fight-back-against-spy-cams-in-public-bathrooms

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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World Voice: Death Sentence for Sudanese Child Bride

World Voice: Death Sentence for Sudanese Child Bride

How do you feel about young girls who become child brides? If a young woman was tricked into marriage, raped by her husband and tried to escape a violent attack by killing him, should she face the death penalty?

A Young Sudanese Girl

A Young Sudanese Girl

In Sudan, 16-year-old Noura Hussein was forced by her parents to marry her 35-year-old distant cousin. Instead of going through with it, Noura fled from her home in Khartoum and stayed with her aunt for a few years to continue with her education.

After graduating high school, she had thought the prospect of marriage was no longer an issue. Three years later, Noura’s parents convinced her to come home with the promise of no marriage to her cousin, but she was tricked and forced to marry her cousin in April regardless of her protestations. Noura felt trapped and hopeless so she went along with the wedding. Her dream of becoming a teacher was dashed. In addition to participating at a wedding that was not of her choice, she had to find ways to thwart her husband from consummating their marriage.

Noura refused to have sex with her husband for several days after the wedding, but on the ninth night, he had his male relatives hold her down while he raped her. When he tried to have sex with her again the following night, and she refused, he threatened her with a knife. While struggling with the knife, Noura was able to wrestle it away from her husband and stab him to death before he could rape her again.

Instead of protecting Noura, her father turned her into the police and she confessed to stabbing her husband to death. She was sent to jail and because marital rape is not seen as a crime in Sudan, the court sentenced her to death, stating her action to be criminal, not self-defense.

Noura’s death sentence has garnered global attention that resulted in overturning the death sentence, but she was still sent to prison for five years and ordered to pay a fine of $19,000 to her deceased husband’s family. How was this just? Wasn’t it enough that her family betrayed her by forcing her to marry a stranger, only to be raped for not acquiescing to have sex with him as he thought was his right as her husband? Yes, she stabbed her husband, but for Noura, it was her only way out of a hopeless and dangerous situation. She should not be condemned for trying to save her own life.

I understand that every country has traditions and customs, but how can forcing a young girl to marry at the age of 16 by her family be agreeable, even enforced by law in that country? According to the non-profit Girls Not Brides, 1 in 3 Sudanese girls is married before the age of 18. How can any girl develop their potential if they’re forced into a situation where they have no rights and are treated like property?

As a mom, I can’t imagine my daughter married at the age of 16, let alone forcing her into a marriage where it wasn’t her choice. Yes, I’m coming at this as a Mom with a Western perspective, but also as someone who values a person’s worth. I believe that every country’s traditions and customs should be respected, but if it means endangering the life of a child or young woman, then I don’t support it. Is she guilty of murdering her rapist or was it self-defense? In my opinion, Noura did what she thought was necessary to ensure that her husband did not rape her again or endanger her life.

To read the articles about this post, click below:

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/justicefornoura-hussein-sudan-child-bride-rape/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US_May_15_2018_Mon_content_digest_actives_alive_180d

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/noura-hussein-sudan-forced-marriage-rape-case/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US_June_28_2018_content_digest

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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World Voice: Can Meditation Impact Gun Laws?

World Voice: Can Meditation Impact Gun Laws?

Sandy Hook, CT, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, FL, Great Mills High School, MD school shootings should be enough to make anyone frustrated and livid about all the senseless violence, but sadly, no. Even more disheartening was the most recent shooting at a Waffle House in Tennessee in which a semi-nude gunman walked in and proceeded to use his AR-15 and killed four people and injured two others.

Shootings have become commonplace since Columbine, and Sandy Hook. The Parkland school shootings have spurred renewed conversations regarding gun laws. With so many lives lost and no clear path of how and if gun safety laws will be revised, what can we do next?

In the midst of all this chaos and unrest, is it possible to attain peace and focus on resolving the underlying issues behind all this violence?

According to Victor Kannan of Heartfulness Institute, in Atlanta, GA, meditation is not only needed but necessary during this time. Per Kannan, “meditation is a conscious effort of going inward, trying to capture the silence. Meditation can be practiced by anybody that recognizes that one is not in the flow, or zone or has feelings of separation caused by chaos. Our normal condition is that feeling of being one with one’s own self. It’s when we are separated we begin to feel the existence of stress, the existence of pain, the existence of misery”.

A woman meditating

A woman meditating

In light of the recent #MarchForOurLives gatherings throughout the country, it was amazing to see how many men, women, young adults, and children went to raise their voices on the issue of gun laws. It is unfortunate but necessary to stand up and raise an alarm that gun safety must be addressed with the utmost urgency.

In every shooting incident, whether at a school or public venue, my first reaction has been shock, but as these incidents have become more frequent, the shock has decreased. It’s not that I’m less horrified by the violence perpetrated by these shooters, but the frequency and hardly any resolve towards it, has made me feel hopeless.

When I decided to interview Kannan, it was to see if this feeling of hopelessness could be transformed into hope by way of meditation. I’ve always steered clear of meditation for reasons that some people may relate to – no time, too tired to sit quietly, unsure that it works. But the main reason? I wasn’t sure if this could relate to how I felt towards gun violence.

Kannan points out, “If we want to feel normal, to find the unity within us, (not the separation), in that space, if we begin to create, then that creation is deliberate, goal-oriented and productive.” He believes that people who have achieved extraordinary heights of excellence have spent time on themselves, contemplating, introspecting, meditating.

In addition, he says, “Society needs to spend time on themselves in the morning: humanity needs it. We should not start a day without spending a minimum of twenty minutes on ourselves in a conscious way.”

It’s meant to look into yourself and see how you could change the world around you with the help of introspection. But is that enough?

Is there a way to feel compassion, and even love, when violence seems to be almost a daily thing that one falls victim to? How can we become less apathetic and more empathetic to what affects us all in the end?

It has to start with us who rally and march and speak against the atrocities that keep befalling us, in conjunction with taking care of ourselves first so we can be of service to others.

Meditation can be a powerful tool to ensure we are on the right path even in the midst of chaos.  

We can choose to practice peace and love, for ourselves and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

What do you think of meditation impacting gun laws?

Picture Credit: Pixabay.com 

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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World Voice: Akka – A Visionary Who Won the Hearts of Little Ones #WorldDayAgainstChildLabour

World Voice: Akka – A Visionary Who Won the Hearts of Little Ones #WorldDayAgainstChildLabour

The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them. Today, on World Moms Network, we commemorate this day by writing a tribute to Mathioli R. Saraswathy, a philantrophist who dedicated her life for the betterment of the lives of children.

Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi

Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi

Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi, who passed away on May 9, 2018, was fondly called as ‘Akka’  by her loved ones all over the world. She was a legend who not only looked beyond the ambiguity and challenges of every day but also foresaw the empowering picture of tomorrow for them.

‘Akka’ is an endearing word that defines a close relationship. In the Tamil language, it refers to one’s elder sister, who is supposed to be a step above the rest. True to this word, she who was held in high esteem, was actually an exception to this rule as she mingled freely them.

Akka established Nandalala Mission, a non-profit organization, in the early 90s in Chennai to nurture the fullest potential of children through educational, cultural, physical and service-oriented activities.

Age was no barrier for this 78-year-old enigmatic personality who was always befriending little ones all over the world. She believed that every child is bestowed with creativity and encouraged their latent talents.  She had no linguistic barriers and made them understand her love for them and they too reciprocated their abiding love for their dear ‘Akka’.

She loved being with them, conversing with them, playing with them and elaborating about this beautiful world around them. She could talk with ease about flowers, trees, birds, animal, sea, and stars. In her eyes, children reflected the finest blend of grace, charm, and beauty of the world. Just like the child in ‘Akka’ was alive until her last moments, she will continue to live in the hearts of the little ones all around the world.

Though this charismatic personality disappeared from their lives forever, the little ones still look forward to her visit at the Nandalala Temple, part of the Mission, located in Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in India.

The little ones are not alone. Their mothers, older sisters, and even grandmothers miss the frail figure who was more than a mother to every one of them. “She was our ‘Amma’ (meaning mother in Tamil) and will always be, they say.  On the day her soul left her body, one could see that it was a big blow to the women who were involved in various activities of the Samithi with their ‘Amma’.  “We do not know to live without her guidance. She was always there whenever we faced any problem, official or personal. Whom do we turn to now,” they wailed.

Mathioli R. Saraswathy

Mathioli R. Saraswathy

Mercifully, this image is sustained from anecdotes drawn from their lives. Anecdotes that prove that Mathioli Saraswathy was their mother in all ways throughout their lives.

For Vidya, who was plagued with a number of personal problems Akka was a good mother who internalized her. For more than a decade now, she has always helped her to tide over innumerable problems. She has counseled her like a mother and helped her to unleash her potential and become independent.

Says Vidya: Akka was of the view that external parenting always made a child dependent on its mother. But if you internalize and facilitate the child to be aware of its potential, the child will achieve greater heights. More than that it will not mirror its patent’s potential and this alone will help it to achieve its goal in life.

Mathioli R. Saraswathy

Mathioli R. Saraswathy

“Mathioli Saraswathy always believed that good daughters can become an effective mother,” said Seetha Nagarajan, who is a globetrotter and who has been associated with her for nearly four decades now.  She goes on to explain that it was because of this the Chennai chapter of Nandalala Seva Samithi began an activity called ‘Mathruseva’ (meaning service to mother) through which the underprivileged were given free food.

Seetha Nagarajan saw Akka open chapters in San Francisco, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. “They were all begun one after the year between 1997 and 1998,” explained Seetha.

She goes on to explain some of the activities in these places. In the early years, volunteers of the Mission took children to local museums, volunteering at local homeless shelters, talent shows, and quiz competitions.  As ‘Akka’ always believed in feeding the poor and needy, volunteers focused on services on a larger scale. They distribute sandwich bags, provide meal services at community shelters and soup kitchens. Children too are involved to make them undergo the joy of giving and bliss of social services.

The Mission also provides a platform for children to showcase their talent. “A youth concert series was begun to give a home-concert environment for budding artists. This has not only encouraged children to perform before an august audience but has also been well received by the residents. A concert is organized every month,” said Seetha.

“The Mission also distributes scholarships to well-deserving under-privileged students from India and also reaches out to children on a broader international scale. “Also, on an ongoing basis, the Mission has been donating books to school libraries in Australia, Canada, and India.

Philanthropic personality

Mathioli R. Saraswathy with children

Mathioli R. Saraswathy with children

Life of ‘Akka’ who was born in Puducherry on October 9, 1940, was entirely dedicated to philanthropy. With the aim of serving the needy, she began numerous trusts such as Nandalala Seva Samithi, Sri Nandalala Religious Trust, Nandalala Medical Foundation and Yogasaras Educational Academy in Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Tiruchy, and Tiruvananthapuram, in India.

She was always of the view that the trusts helped children not only tread the path of love but also instilled values-based systems and made them imbibe Indian culture.

Apart from the trusts, ‘Akka’ provided financial assistance for the underprivileged in India too. Economically-deserving students were not only given financial assistance to pursue their higher studies, but also uniforms and food. The summer camps held exclusively for children at various places in the city helped them to hone their creativity and learning skills.

Managed under the banner of Nandalala Medical Foundation, she had set up a low-cost dialysis center, clinics for ENT care, eye care, physiotherapy, and acupressure.

Lucid writer

‘Akka’ was also a prolific writer. She has penned innumerable poems, songs, prayers and stories for children and philosophical commentaries in Tamil. Some of her works have been translated into English as well. Art was an integral feature in all her books.

In 1998 and 1999, she was awarded the national NCERT award by the Indian Government for her work for children. She was awarded a gold medal in 1991 for her book on science “Vinnilirundhu mann varai” by the Children’s Writers’ Association.

Apart from this, she had the habit of releasing books on Christmas every year and has been doing so for more than three decades.  These books were published by Akka to showcase her love for children.

Yes, passing away of this legend has not dimmed her appeal. She still remains a friendly spirit, hovering around.

This is an original post for World Moms Network written by guest poster, Lalitha Sai, in India, as a tribute to ‘akka’. 

Lalitha Sai, Journalist, India

Lalitha Sai, Journalist, India

Lalitha Sai, is a writer based in Chennai, India. She is happily married to a police officer. Her son is an engineer in Europe, and her daughter is a doctor in Chennai. She has 25 years of experience in journalism and has held posts of senior editor in the leading news dailies of India, “The Hindu” and “DT NEXT”. She focused on women empowerment in her articles.

She is now working as the head of operations of content releases in a private company.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.

Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms

Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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Lumbini, Nepal: Buddha’s Birthplace, What Remains Now and the Ethos of the Heart

Lumbini, Nepal: Buddha’s Birthplace, What Remains Now and the Ethos of the Heart

THE BIRTH OF Siddhārtha Gautama

6th Century BC:

The old nurse looked at her radiant Queen, Maya Devi. She still had the same sweet smile on her face, and nothing seemed to have changed since the day she was born, the day the old nurse picked her up as an infant. Pregnancy only made her glow more like the full moon. She still insisted doing things her way in that same charming captivating way like now, when she went bathing all by herself in the Puskarini pool, even though she was about to give birth in a fortnight. Her nurse watched helplessly as Maya played in the pool, with her friends amidst the pink and white lotus flowers. The nurse sighed, and got up to ready the sleeping arrangements for Maya. Maya had wanted to leave for her father’s home for birthing her child as was the custom of those times. But instead of leaving earlier by a month, she spent more time with her affectionate husband, King Suddodhana, the leader of the Shakya clan. On the way to her father’s place, she wanted to spend the night at the beautiful garden in Lumbini, which meant ‘the lovely.’

Just as the nurse was about to walk away towards the tents, she could sense something waswrong. She turned to see Maya’s face contorting in pain for just a moment. Or did she imagine it? She squinted her near-sighted eyes, and watched intently for a longer moment, and noticed the same expression again. Maya met her gaze, and the nurse knew it was time. She waded mid-pool and quickly helped her out of the water. Maya insisted on walking all the way to the tent without support, wincing during every contraction, supporting her hips with her arms. She did not reach the tent. She took a quick detour and halted below a strong and sturdy sal tree, under the full and bright moon of the first lunar month Vesak, of the New Year. She rested for a moment, as her womb contracted in divine agony. Her nurse held out her hand, but the all-time-self-sufficient Maya supported herself by clutching a branch, and birthed her handsome Prince, whom she named Siddhārtha, the one who achieves his goal. The Gods from heaven showered a stream of lukewarm water to clean the baby, and then another cooler shower. She thanked the Gods silently. As she gazed lovingly at her just born beautiful new baby boy, Siddhārtha walked seven steps on the lotus in the pond, as the lore goes.

 

Nativity Scene: The Birth of the Buddha

Nativity Scene: The Birth of the Buddha

Maya passed away 11 days later, leaving Siddhārtha in the hands of her sister Prajapati, who was also the second wife of her husband. Prajapati’s motherly love for Siddhārtha never made him realize the absence of his birth mother. The court astrologers predicted that the Prince would either become a great saint of modern times or a mighty Monarch.

As the story of the Buddha goes, Prince Siddhārtha abandoned the palace and the kingly riches in search of meaning for life and wandered away to the forests, at the age of 29. Through the strictest of penance, he eventually attained Nirvana or enlightenment at the age of 35.

Just before passing away at the age of 80, Buddha told his primary disciple and cousin, Ananda, that Lumbini his birth place would be one of the 4 holiest places which would attract Buddhists for all time.

***

May 2018:

LUMBINI, BIRTH PLACE OF BUDDHA, UNESCO World Heritage site

2500 years later today, the Lumbini garden remains so, as predicted by Buddha. In my eternal quest for all things Buddhist, I was taken to the serene land of Nepal, which is adorned by the whitest and most beautiful Himalayan Range to the north, and by the rather nondescript town of Lumbini to the South. I won’t go into details of how to reach Lumbini by road/air, where to stay once you reach there, or the best things to do there. You can find all of that in travel websites and travelogues written by travelers and tourists who have visited the place before me and who would visit after me.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO World Heritage Site

For the travel-lusting curios, however, I am going to briefly share my experiences of visiting the Maya Devi temple in Lumbini. This temple is housed inside the Lumbini development complex which also has the Monastic zone and a Lumbini village zone. In 1978, many nations came forward to build monasteries depicting the evolution of Buddhist culture in their countries and I am going to share a few pictures of those different monasteries below. To confuse you further, when you visit, there are many gates to this complex, depending on how you plan to enter. Whichever of the 9 gates you choose, be sure to cover all the monasteries. They are absolutely lovely and unique and give you a flavour of their own respective countries.

A few of the monasteries below …

The Thailand Monastery

One of my favorite monasteries. It stands magnificent in snowy, pristine white glory; embodying purity. It is very well maintained with manicured lawns and neatly trimmed trees.

Thailand Monastery

Thailand Monastery

The insides of the Thai monastery is also very beautiful. The decorations of the Buddha, the culture reflecting in the ornate decorations, information on neat bulletin boards, and so on – all gave a very nicely organized monastery.

Insides of the Thai Monastery

Insides of the Thai Monastery

The Cambodian Monastery

This monastery reminded me very much of the Angkor Wat temple in its looks and structure. It is still work in progress with construction work going on, and dust billowing towards us, in the heat. We were forced to make a hasty retreat to the other monasteries, though this breath-taking beauty did not stop beckoning us…

Cambodian Monastery

Cambodian Monastery

The Myanmar Monastery

The Golden monastery from Myanmar decorated with green and gold paint, and a maroon balustrade to match, was a splendid sight from outside and inside too. It is a replica of the monastery in Yangon. My husband’s bucket list grew, with Myanmar as one of the places to visit, before the end of this year, as we breathed in the sight of this beautiful monastery.

Myanmar Monastery

Myanmar Monastery

The German Monastery

As we kept walking, we came across a circular lake, and on one side there is this beautiful German monastery called, ‘The Great Drigung Kagyud Lotus Stupa’. Do not let this humble, yet beautiful monastery mislead you, for you are about to witness wonder inside it.

German Monastery

German Monastery

As we entered this monastery, we were slowed down. There was not enough time in the world, to complete admiring the beautiful murals on the walls. There was a prayerful atmosphere which the monks tried hard to maintain inside the prayer room. It was simply splendid. I recommend, you sit down for a few minutes to meditate here. No photography is allowed inside, for which I am thankful, because our senses were already assaulted enough, just admiring the murals inside.

Inside the German Monastery

Inside the German Monastery

At times, I was so glad for these “No photography” signs because Nature was giving us a chance to just sit, allow the beauty to descend into you, both in a way of the senses and also into the heart. No more thinking about Portrait mode or Normal mode or other modes, light exposure, and all those umpteen photography things which my husband and son keep discussing about, but just a mind which needs to calm down, and a heart which needs to look inward.

Colorful Murals Inside the German Monastery

Colorful Murals Inside the German Monastery

And we moved on, because a noisy group of tourist arrived and were discussing with the care taker, as to how they could seek permission to take pictures inside the prayer room.

The International Nuns Temple of Nepal

On the right side of the International Nuns Temple, you can see that there is a place of stay for the nuns from Nepal, and is maintained by the Government of Nepal. It has a long courtyard where footwear was not allowed, and as our feet were getting burnt, we were reminded of childhood memories of playing hide and seek with our cousins, during summer break, on the hot terrace at midday. We had to make a hasty retreat this time too, because we could not bear the burning of the hot grounds on our naked feet.

(*If I did not tell you earlier, you are requested to leave your footwear outside most of the monasteries, as a sign of respect and cleanliness.*)

International Nuns Temple in Nepal

International Nuns Temple in Nepal

The Singapore Monastery

This was closed and we could not learn much about it. So we resorted to taking pictures of it and us.

The Author and her son in front of the Singapore Monastery

The Author and her son in front of the Singapore Monastery

The Chinese Monastery

The Chinese have built the biggest monastery in the complex. It is very well maintained and organized with a lot of information displayed. There was so much to assimilate about the culture and history of Buddhism in China and about the monastery itself.

Chinese Monastery

Chinese Monastery

The entrance of the Chinese monastery is guarded by their traditional ‘Four Heavenly Kings’ and other deities. There was even a Maitreya Buddha at the entrance. This is a very beautiful and colorful monastery.

Guardians of the Chinese Monastery

Guardians of the Chinese Monastery

Though the entrance looks not so huge, the courtyard was heavenly. The visitors who entered never felt like leaving. You would also notice that the entry and exit of the monastery is structured such that it makes you circumambulate in clockwise around the Buddha which is a holy practice of Hindus and Buddhists.

Courtyard of the Chinese Monastery

Courtyard of the Chinese Monastery

World Peace Pagoda

We were then directed towards a path by one of the tourists, saying it led to the Eternal Flame, The World Peace Pagoda and the Maya Devi temple. They are all in a straight line.

Inside the Peace Pagoda

Inside The World Peace Pagoda

As you walk on this path, you can find the golden Bodhisattva statue glistening in the sun. It is a fairly recent addition, in 2012. It is supposed to personify that image of the infant Buddha when he took the seven steps on the lotus, as soon as he was born.

Golden Bodhisattva statue

Golden Bodhisattva statue

The Maya Devi Temple

Our walk brought us to the Sacred Zone at the Maya Devi Temple. There was an ambience of tranquility in the atmosphere. But something else was also missing. I couldn’t quite sense what, yet. There is a pond beyond which the temple stands tall and majestic, in white serenity. It felt that the temple was celebrating Buddha’s mother rather than the Buddha.

Maya Devi Temple

Maya Devi Temple

There are rows of small stupas outside the temple. Excavations seemed to be happening continuously since the discovery of the Ashoka pillar in 1896.

Ashoka Pillar

Ashoka Pillar

King Ashoka in the 249 BC is supposed to have originally discovered Buddha’s birth place and built this iconic pillar with detailed inscriptions and the various stupas around it.

Details - The Ashoka Pillar

Details – The Ashoka Pillar

Around the temple building, there are numerous small stupas and they have been archaeologically dated back to the second century BC.

Archaeological Ruins Around the Temple

Archaeological Ruins Around the Temple

We entered the temple, and began walking on the wooden floor, following the signs. People were throwing coins below into the ruins, as offerings for good luck. We stood above and gazed from the railings, there were coins from different countries. As we kept walking, we finally reached the Marker Stone which marks the exact spot where Buddha was born. Devotees were praying, some tourists were gazing intently trying to capture everything in their memory, as you see, photography is prohibited inside the Maya Devi Temple. The path further leads to the Nativity sculpture where you can see mother Maya Devi holding the branch of a Sal tree and Buddha standing on a lotus. As we walked beyond, the path led to the exit of the temple.

The sun was very bright and almost scorching, and glared my eyes, because the temple was very dimly lit, like the insides of a movie theatre. I waited for a moment, for everything to sink in. Everything seemed like nothing.

I noticed the colorful prayer flags in the garden outside. There was a small pond, and a few monks were sitting around a tree, chatting. There were benches for tourists, and some were meditating on it.

I got the feeling that perhaps it was time to leave.

What did I seek in Lumbini?

As we made our way towards the exit, we halted for a drink of water at the watering pool. A few monks were filling up their plastic bottles too, and we waited patiently for them to move. It gave me a moment to reflect.

When we made this journey, all the way from Chennai, South India, what did I anticipate to find? I was allured to Buddha’s birthplace, but I couldn’t find him here. Lumbini is no doubt a very important and holiest of sites for followers of Buddhism and even followers of other religions and I appreciate the beauty of the Lumbini development zone and commend the effort of the Government to preserve this as place of value and heritage.

However, as I fill up my bottle, with the cool water from the tap, I wonder, “What did I get, which I sought from this visit to the birth place of Buddha?”

Did I get enlightenment like Buddha? But did I seek that? I don’t even know what that means…

Did I seek to find Buddha somewhere hidden in the beautiful monasteries constructed by various countries? Or somewhere near the Marker Stone, which claims he was birthed there?

I was not seeking his physical presence – surely not!

Was I seeking to find some meaning to the strong presence he left behind in this world? Perhaps…! But what of it?

Well, whatever I was seeking or not, I surely was trying to find some essence of Divinity in all of this. One could call it peace, or bliss or a meditative calm or any other word… and it all can be identified with something akin to Divine. But I was vaguely disappointed. I felt generally at peace at a superficial level in some of the monasteries, but I still was trying to figure out what I was searching, assuming that I would know once I found it. And here I was experiencing an anti-climax of having found nothing at all.

My water bottle overflowed and I sensed an impatient monk behind me who was being fidgety with his bottle, tapping it against the railing of the water taps. I closed my bottle and allowed him to use it. He smiled his thanks but I did not have the energy to smile back. I was drained by the heat and my own contemplation.

We walked back along the long path leading to one of the exit gates, each of us silent in our hearts and in our own world.

Long after I came home to India, and decided to write about my experience in Lumbini, I felt emotional about not having experienced Buddha’s presence. I just did not feel him or find him anywhere in Lumbini. It felt like ‘time’ had trapped all of Buddha back in the 6th century BC.

It just felt like memories of Buddha lost in time, accentuated by celebrated tales, and an active humanity in the future which tried to relive the enlightenment of a single man (or God) of the past. 

The Ethos of the Heart

As I was wondering about my experience, my friend texted me and offered to have a Heartfulness meditation session, where one meditates on the source of light in the heart. I could not say no. After the session, I felt lighter and peaceful in a general way. Later, I remembered something I read long ago, written by Daaji, the Global Guide of Heartfulness. This seemed to be a fitting climax to my experience.

“Imagine for a moment that we don’t have to go anywhere, or to do anything, except simply sit wherever we are, and allow ourselves to be found? Imagine that heavens are waiting to enter our heart, right here and now! What a powerful concept! How do we make this a reality and allow ourselves to be found? How do we create such a state where the higher presence naturally settles within our hearts?”

He goes on to explain as below …

“The answer possibly lies in cultivating the seeds of contentment within our hearts…

It starts with a simple suggestion that everything we need is already present within us. All the love of the world, the beauty of life, the seed of perfection is present in our heart represented as a source of light. This suggestion is strengthened through actual experience in meditation, as the idea of light leads to a feeling of an inner presence.  This inner presence becomes a reality as our consciousness expands, and we become aware of a wholeness of being. When we begin to experience this state of wholeness and perfection at our core, the clouds of discontent and ignorance start to dissolve. The heart regains its light and innocent nature.

Under such circumstances, the egoless heart, the humble heart, automatically draws the heavens towards itself. Such a heart is perfectly adjusted to its external circumstances.  It creates heaven around itself.”

Full article here. 

I felt light instantly. This seemed to be the missing puzzle to my experience-jigsaw. I had read this article almost 2 years ago, more or less agreed with it, and swiped away to the next article, devouring words and ideas. But the joy of the pudding is not merely in the eating, but in the conscious experiencing of the taste, or the sweet of it. The Universe is so vast, and the world of learning and experiencing is also as broad as the Universe and perhaps even more so. As the human soul tries to imbibe everything or parts of the universe in a quest which is directed external – to new places, new understanding of the senses, and new knowledge, there is something limiting to that, as the façade never fully lifts.

As I try to understand what he meant in the article, I also realize that perhaps humanity is unconsciously seeking an ethos of that content heart, which satisfies itself with everything within, which knows with confidence that indeed the Universe is present within. 

What do you look for, when you visit holy lands? Tell me, your experiences … 

Photo Credit to the Author.

This is the first in the series of articles by #WorldMom, Purnima from her travels in #Nepal.

You can read the series of articles from her travels in #Bhutan here.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .

She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .

She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .

She also contributes to Huffington Post .

Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
 
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.  

She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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A Global Day of Giving! #GivingTuesday

A Global Day of Giving! #GivingTuesday

Giving Tuesday was created to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It has become an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now synonymous with holiday shopping.

After the frenzied commercialism of Black Friday sales (that now last through the weekend) and the inundation of Cyber Monday e-mails, Giving Tuesday provides a way to make sure we give as good as we get.

Giving Tuesday has become an international phenomenon, and for North Americans it’s an opportunity to harness all of the grateful energy amassed over Thanksgiving and transform it directly into the spirit of helping others.  It feels like this year more than ever we are reminded that family, good health, a place to call home, security, access to clean water, and food to eat are not things to be taken for granted.  If you are reading this chances are that you have the good fortune to live in a place where food security, education, and housing are the norm. It is basic humanity to extend a hand if we can and there are so many positive ways to give back, and celebrate the true meaning of “The Giving Season”.

Here are a few organizations doubling donations today and working to make the world a better place on #GivingTuesday:

Heifer Project International

What We Do – Heifer International from Heifer International on Vimeo.

African Wildlife Foundation

The African Wildlife Foundation is having a GivingTwos-day! Donations will be doubled today and these animals need our help!

Shot@Life

Shot At Life – UNF, Honduras, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson

One of the greatest investments we can make in global health is to vaccinate children against vaccine preventable diseases. The impact is undeniable as demonstrated in this Impact Report by Shot@life.

MAM, has agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar to shot@life this #GivingTuesday and Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up to match up to $2 million in funds for nonprofits. To have your donation to Shot@Life matched, donate through Shot@Life’s Facebook Page.

WaterAid

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Water is life, plain and simple. This #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to double your impact an provide clean water to families and villages around the world who do not have something most of us take for granted. Clean water.

Save The Children

Children are our future and often the innocent victims in man-made conflicts and natural disasters alike.

Photo Credit: Save The Children/ Victoria Zegler

Happy Giving! What other organizations you are supporting this Giving Tuesday? Please let us know!

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.

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Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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