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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Interviewing Nancy Sumari, #WorldMom, Miss World Africa, Miss Tanzania (2005)

Interviewing Nancy Sumari, #WorldMom, Miss World Africa, Miss Tanzania (2005)

Happy Women’s Month!

You may have read some of this phenomenal woman’s posts right here on World Moms Network. One of our own contributors, Nancy Sumari, has agreed to be interviewed for my Phenomenal Women Series, and it comes right on time as we keep celebrating Women’s History Month and women’s excellence (something, I believe, we should do every month)

#WorldMom, Nancy Sumari

#WorldMom, Nancy Sumari

Interview:

Sophia Neghesti-Johnson: So, Nancy, tell us a little bit about your self. Where are you from, do you have any siblings, and anything else you might want to add about your foundation’s details; so to speak.

Nancy Sumari: I come from a beautiful family of Arusha, Tanzania; one of the most beautiful cities of the world. I have 5 siblings – two boys and three girls. We grew up on a small farm house in Mererani, the world’s only known source of Tanzanite gem! It was filled with adventure, animals, and mischief and I loved it! My parents are both hard working middle class folks. My dad is a geologist naturally, coming from Mererani, while my mom loves to cook and runs her own catering business.

S: That sounds like a fun childhood! I know, you wear a few hats, and it seems there is much more to you than meets the eye. What are your favorite hats and why? (I’m referring to business, modeling, etc)

N: Hahaha I was about to say Berets… hahahahaha! (*I love Nancy’s sense of humor!*) I enjoy my family a lot, I am highly fueled by the work we do through our family foundation that promotes literature and technology through children and youth, I enjoy teaching, very much, and more importantly working with the dynamic team of content creators at Bongo5. As you can tell I enjoy service to children and youth because I also have been afforded chances and opportunities that have allowed me the chance to be the best of who I can be. I believe paying it forward is standard procedure for me and I enjoy it so much.

S: You were Miss Tanzania in 2005. How was it to be in such a pageant that year, in Tanzania? Was it much different than late 90s, much different from now?

Nancy Sumari, Miss World Africa, Miss Tanzania, 2005

Nancy Sumari, Miss World Africa, Miss Tanzania, 2005

N: I think it’s a lot different now because pageants are more frowned upon and viewed more as working against the women empowerment movement. In the 90s I think it had more flare and glam and overtime, especially here in TZ (Tanzania), it has not changed with the times and therefore lost a lot of momentum. We however have fresh leadership now and hope that with that we will get a fresh approach to pageantry altogether.

S: What has been your view of the business world, both locally and globally, as a woman and/or an African woman?

N: I try to focus on excellence and what I bring to the table in terms of my business-offering and my work ethics. Of course challenges are ever present in terms of stereotypes against women, challenges of equality and equal terms of pay etc. but I strongly trust and believe in excellence propelling one beyond the walls that man creates. I therefore focus on giving excellence and allowing that to fly open all doors of opportunity.

S: That is definitely a progressive way of thinking! A few years ago you published a children’s book, Nyota Yako, which was such a pleasure to read and own. What inspired you to write this book in particular?

N: I was uncomfortable to not have enough local content tailored to children on bookshelves in Tanzania. We didn’t have enough stories that honored our history and allowed these stories of our culture, color, vibrancy and awesomeness be told to children. I felt it was time to reach out to young girls and boys with stories of their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and women they know of, (or don’t know of,) but are from their communities, to awaken and inspire, and challenge them to rise above and reach their highest potential.

S: Now, you and your husband are both quite active in the community in one way or another. How do you balance marriage, parenthood, the many other responsibilities, and working together in the community?

Nancy Sumari's community, where she works for children's education

Nancy Sumari’s community, where she works for children’s education

N: I think we treat it as a way that we continue to bond and spend time together doing things that we are passionate about and drive us. We don’t always agree but we definitely count our blessings to be able to run projects together that we care about and bring impact. We involve our kids also in the work we do, so it also is very fulfilling to have causes we share as a family and work towards together.

S: If you could streamline the top three things you deem necessary in a successful relationship, what would they be?

N:

1. Unconditional Love
2. Friendship
3. Trust

S: Let’s switch gears a bit. As you have had the chance to travel, tell us, what has been the most pleasantly surprising thing you have experienced?

N: I am constantly in awe of the rich history of the cultures and peoples of different nations and the great effort and steps taken to preserve their history. I am captivated by stories and I think it I may take up anthropology at some point in life. I love traveling in Africa, Europe and Asia. There are many parts of the world I am yet to visit, but I certainly keep a rather long bucket list. I recently returned from Amsterdam which was really beautiful. I rode a bike down a highway and had way too many saucijenbroodjes, patates and poffertjes. It was surreal!

S: Hahaha! They are pretty tasty! With the varied experiences you have, what have you learned about your self?

N: That I am an old soul. I thrive through old stories, cultures, diving into the past with hope that it may inform and build up on my present.

S: If there was anything you could tell young African girls, what top three things would you tell them?

N:

1. Bloom where you have been planted – We don’t have the choice of our beginnings, but if we take charge of our narratives and focus on excellence of self and others, we bloom and consequently others do so too.
2. Trust in your journey – With the rise of social media, we often are enslaved with other people’s lives, their achievements, way of doing things, and often fall victim to questioning oneself. You are unique and so is your journey. Be the best, you can be, and let God do the rest.
3. Serve – in whatever capacity you are, we should all be able to give back. It is good for your soul and good for the world! Do everything in service.

S: The last question I have for you is this: if you could tell your younger self anything, what would you say?

N: Relax and stop worrying so much. Move with the flow of life and not against it. Pay attention, Show up and Show out and enjoy the surprises that await along your path!

~~End of Interview~~

Thank you once again, Miss Sumari, for allowing us in your world.

To the reader: If you’d like to see more of what Nancy Sumari does through The Neghesti-Sumari Foundation, Bongo5, JengaHub, and other exciting things, please click on the links below.

The Neghesti-Sumari Foundation

Bongo5

Nancy’s Instagram

Jenga Hub’s Instagram

Jenga Hub on Facebook

Photos credits to Nancy Sumari

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter

PUERTO RICO: Preparing For Maria

PUERTO RICO: Preparing For Maria

Shelves empty as people stock up

Puerto Rico is a US Territory an the Caribbean. There are 3.4 million American citizens living there and yet two months later many homes are still without electricity, and still some without running water. 

Maria came thirteen days after Hurricane Irma, another category 5 hurricane, passed north of us. Irma devastated some of the neighboring islands, and left us without power for three days. People prepared well. Our house was covered with storm shutters, we had collected water and purchased bottled water, batteries and non-perishable food. Irma came on September 6th and 7th, and by September 10th, the kids were back in school. At the university we were back as well.

All of the organizations that we belong to – the kids’ school, the university, the gymnastics club, the soccer club – arranged activities to send supplies to the islands of St Martin, Anguila and Barbuda. I donated different items to all of them. Like myself, many people donated things they had bought to prepare for Irma, and ended up not using. Although we had been hearing about Irma for a while, we were never in its direct path. The northern turn that was predicted happened later than expected and took it closer to us, but it still passed north of us.

Around September 14th, we started hearing that there was a weather disturbance that was a threat to Puerto Rico. On Saturday September 16th, citizens were told that the storm, still a tropical depression, might pass over the island. My father called me and said that we all needed to prepare. At 5:00 p.m., tropical storm Maria had formed.

On Sunday September 17th, I woke up before the rest of the family to buy more supplies, since we had donated much of what we had. The first stop was WalMart. Although it was only 8:15 a.m., they were already out of bottled water. I bought a few things and went to Sams Club. There was no bottled water there either, but I bought batteries for our flashlights. I went to Walgreens next: no water there either. At Ralph’s, a local grocery chain, I was able to buy one of the last five cases of water left. I went home and started washing clothes. By 5:00 p.m., Hurricane Maria had formed as a Category 1.

On Monday September 18th, classes at the university were canceled. The kids were in school, so my husband and I went to work to wrap a few things up. I then went to renew my car insurance which was due on September 30th. I got a message from my sister-in-law telling me that Sams Club had water. I went, and was able to get two cases as per the family limit. I went to WalMart in search of tank tops, knowing it was going to be hot, and I found a small battery-operated radio that someone had left behind in a cart. This $12.50 contraption was to become our best friend. I filled up the tank – gas stations had started rationing, but my ration was enough to fill the tank. I finished my shopping at a grocery store a quarter of a mile from our house: I bought things like Vienna Sausage, Spam, canned pasta, chicken, and corn.

Back home, I continued securing things around the house, washing everything including the bathroom rugs, and cleaned the house. I took my daughter to gymnastics practice and while there, the 8:00 p.m. news bulletin announced that Maria was now a Category 5 hurricane. My youngest brother called me and asked me for shelter, since he did not have storm shutters and has a three-year-old child. I welcomed them but asked them to bring pillows, blankets, towels, water and any food the baby might need.

Lineups grow as a gas shortage looms

My husband got cash, and topped his car up as well.

Tuesday September 19th. Almost ready. We finished cleaning the last corner of the house and washing all of the clothes. We made sure all of our devices were charged.

In the end we had seven people (four adults, one teen, one tween, one toddler) and one dog. For this we had about 150 bottles of water, rice, whole and refried beans, juice, rice, pasta, flashlights and the batteries, canned meats, and veggies and snacks. We also had our 450 gallon water reservoir and whatever water we could collect in empty containers. The freezer had four bags of ice, about fifteen bottles of water and ten quart sized Ziploc bags full of water.

At around 2:00 p.m. we thought we were ready. Little did we know…

This is a guest post for World Moms Network by Tania Malave. Photo credit to the author.

SaveSave

SaveSave

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle Plus

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.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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.

More Posts

USA: Today Is World Polio Day 2017

USA: Today Is World Polio Day 2017

Last year I spoke at the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Summit to a room of almost 200 advocates for global vaccines from all over the country. I had a story to tell, as many of us do, though you might not know it. The story of how Polio touched the lives of so many goes back a couple of generations for most Americans, people forget how terrifying it was, was but if you speak with anyone who grew up before the Polio vaccine became available and mention the word Polio you can watch their eyes grow wide at the memory of the fear that gripped this nation. Try it. Ask your grandmother or grandfather, and I bet they have a story for you about how it touched their lives. This is the story I told:

“Every story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a girl, a child, . Every story is a birth”….- Ishmael Beah Author of Long Way Gone & Radiance of Tomorrow & UNICEF Advocate

As a storyteller, and a mother to my four children that quote by Ishmael Beah really touches me. Because before I was a mother, I was of course a daughter. And the story of why I am here speaking to you today begins with her. my mother was born in 1922 , she was 45 when I was born, and a polio survivor. She stood all of 5’2” at a tilt, since Polio had left her with one leg slightly shorter than the other.

Eventually I would come to tower over her at 5’9″, and now that I am a mother myself I muse at how odd it must have been to have ended up with a daughter so much taller. While I was still a daughter, and before I became a mother, I was a traveler. I still think about the mothers who approached me as a westerner in my early twenties and held out their babies to me asking for medicine or a cure. If those babies survived they would be in their mid-twenties now, and surely not all did survive. Knowing what I know now I wish I could go back in time with a bag of medical supplies and give them whatever they needed, because the pleading looks in those mother’s eyes haunt me to this day.

I never was a mother and a daughter at the same time. My mother passed away four months before my own first child was born. Though she had told me stories about having Polio as a child it never really resonated with me in the way it did once I became a mother myself. How terrified my grandmother must have been of losing her. And to be honest I hadn’t really reflected on those mothers I met as a backpacker in my 20’s until I became a mother myself, and then I remembered that helpless feeling I was left with when I did not know what to do to help them. When I joined shot@life as a champion in 2013 I was so grateful to finally have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING. To honor my mother’s legacy as a Polio Survivor, and to help the mothers that I know are out there in developing countries desperate for proper healthcare, for lifesaving vaccines for their children that every mother should have access to.

IMG_6308

As excited as I was to join Shot@Life I have to confess that had I known that I was going to be visiting my government representatives on capitol hill that first year I attended the summit, I may never have joined. I had never done anything like that before. Yet, the next thing I knew I was hoofing it around capitol hill (in the wrong shoes…I might add…) advocating for Shot@life with my congressmen and Senators. I brought the messaging back to my community and realized how much work is still to be done just in terms of  awareness alone. There is so much misinformation and lack of awareness out there on vaccines.

In this country we take it for granted that our babies will not die from a simple case of diarrhea, but mothers in countries where they lack access to vaccines have lost, or know someone who has lost a baby to a vaccine preventable disease.

Every 20 seconds a baby dies from a vaccine preventable disease, mothers will walk for days to get vaccines when they can for their children. I realized there is a huge need to get the message out to the public.

So what can YOU do to make sure every child gets a fair Shot@life no matter where they are born?

  1. Become a United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Champion, as a Champion here are a few ways to reach out to make an impact in your community that can ripple around the globe:
  2. Contact or visit your local representatives and tell them that you care about their support of global health and global vaccines, and ask them to support these programs as well.
  3.  Hold a party to get the word out, if you don’t want to do it in your home there are so many companies that offer fun alternatives. In my community stores like Alex & Ani,  Pinkberry, and Flatbread Pizza will help you have a party on site to fundraise for your event.
  4. Speak to local clubs, a local new neighbors club, Rotary or General Federation of Women’s Clubs
  5. Hold an event at your child’s school or set up a booth during an international fair, take the opportunity to work the importance of vaccines into the broader issue of global awareness.
  6. Use social media as a messaging tool for good by following and sharing information through Shot@Life social channels, Write op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, or articles for your local paper or magazine.

For World Pneumonia Day in November of 2015 I was paired up with Pediatrician Dr Mkope from Tanzania and at the National Press Club in Washington, DC we did over 20 radio and TV interviews! It was a great feeling knowing that the message of the importance of vaccines, with real life proof of efficacy from Dr. Mkope, was being broadcast so far and wide. At shot@life we say “a virus is just a plane ride away”, and in a perfect example of this ever shrinking world, it turned out that Dr. Mkope is the pediatrician of the one friend I know in Tanzania.

Polio is still known to exist in only three countries in the world, the World Health Organization predicts that, with vaccines, it will be eradicated soon.

Every story is a birth, for my mother who survived Polio, for the mothers I met in central Africa with the pleading eyes, for my children and my children’s children, what I have learned as a Shot@Life Champion is that we have the opportunity to shape this narrative on global health, together lets write this story to end with no child dying unnecessarily from a vaccine preventable disease.

 

A version of this post previously appeared on Documama.org

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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.

More Posts

World Voice: From PranaPrathishta to Pranahuti – The Transformative Possibilities

World Voice: From PranaPrathishta to Pranahuti – The Transformative Possibilities

Gangai Konda Chola Puram, UNESCO World Heritage site in India

Gangai Konda Chola Puram, UNESCO World Heritage site in India

There was an air of pious anticipation, that one could almost hear the elephants trumpeting while carrying huge granite stones to build the temple, one could almost hear the hum of the 400 odd dancing damsels’ and their anklets tinkling, while dancing for Lord Shiva (as the lore tells), and one could almost envision the talented artisans carving out the beautifully sculpted figures. Gangai Konda Chola Puram is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and called as the “Great Living Chola Temples”. It is called “living” because it is still very much an alive place of worship. Perhaps it is also called “great” because of the rich heritage of the Chola Dynasty still palpable in the atmosphere. But wait, I was in for a surprise as I was just yet entering the temple’s premises.

History

The temple was built in the 11th century AD in a record time of nine years by Rajendra Chola-1, son of Raja Raja Chola. He was a mighty warrior, who won over major kingdoms in India up to the Gangetic plains in the North, and South East Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and so on. He had come back to Tamil Nadu State in India, and built a city as his ruling capital, and named it Gangai-Konda-Chola-Puram, meaning the capital of the King who won over the rulers of the Ganges.

The Welcoming Nandi Sculpture
The Welcoming Nandi Statue

The Welcoming Nandi Statue

The first thing anyone would notice in this compound is the huge 11 feet tall kneeling Nandi (bull) statue, Lord Shiva’s stoic vehicle. This is so similar to the Sphinx in front of the pyramid in Egypt. It is resplendent and majestic in itself, and one can gaze for more than a few minutes and walk all around it admiringly. The strength, virility, and controlled power in Nandi was tangible in the statue. This is one of the 12 monoliths of Nandis in India, carved out from a single granite stone.

The World Famous Dancing Nataraja
The World Famous Dancing Nataraja Statue

The World Famous Dancing Nataraja Statue

As I walked beyond the Nandi, there was a flight of stone steps leading up to the sanctum where Lord Shiva’s idol rested. The entrance was flanked by the dancing Nataraja sculptures, which was a trademark of the Chola architecture. The Chola dynasty was known for encouraging art, culture, dancing, creativity in the form of sculpting, painting, poetry, literature, scholarly debate as a way of expression and so on.

The dancing Nataraja sculpture which is world famous, with a presence even at CERN, Switzerland, originated during the Chola period.

Walking past this ancient relic, I wondered if the foot of the statue held any geomagnetic effects as the lore claimed.

Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode
Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode

The Long Walk – Entry into Lord Shiva’s Abode

The weather was very pleasant, not too sunny, just the right dose of sun for a summery South Indian morning. The entry into the doors of the temple gave me a tiny shiver. There was a man sitting just near the entrance giving out oil lamps for those who wanted it. There were some who walked in without taking his lamps. My attention drifted, searching for the idol. All I could see was a very long corridor, with the hope that there was the idol at the end of it. It was slightly darker inside. I wondered, why the King, Rajendra Chola, who built the temple, had to make the corridor so long? Slowly my son and I started walking onward. There was an opening in the left and right side somewhere ahead of us. But we could already feel a cool breeze from a draft somewhere nearby. We continued to walk. The gentle breeze was soothing. It was perhaps whispering secrets about the beauty of the art and richness of the culture of the Chola Dynasty. I looked around to observe the walls, trying to grasp all that I could from this one long walk. I also realized my mind was numbing me to stop my wandering focus.

We had made this trip to the temple, because we happened to be in the vicinity, and did not want to miss out checking a UNESCO World Heritage site. That was all. But here I was trying to squint my eyes trying to figure out what the idol of Lord Shiva looked like. Slowly I felt my eyes drifting close. I opened them, immediately alerted. I was walking after all. I could not close my eyes.

This was not like the regular temples. There was a special uniqueness here. We both could sense that.I wondered if Lord Shiva knew all the devotees entering this temple.

During all this train of thoughts, I felt the gentle chide of the breeze, nudging me to focus on the life essence of the Universe.

The idol was consecrated, I realized. The breeze was telling me that.

PranaPrathishta

The holy process of PranaPrathishta or consecrating a stone idol, which is an image of god, is done to infuse the divinity into the idol, the temple and the neighborhood too if the energies can be strong enough. So how is it done? In recent history, rituals, hymns, and mantras are used for the process thereby signaling the completion of consecration. However, in ancient times, the sages Agastya and Patanjali were known to perform PranaPrathishta by infusing life force or life energy into the idol. It was a very active and transformative process. They wanted to make sure that all of living habitation across the world should have an environment of holy life energy. Thus this also accounts for numerous temples across India.

Is there a modern day scientific explanation validating the process of PranaPrathishta, you may ask.

Fellow to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Professor Emeritus William A. Tiller, of Stanford University’s Department of Materials Science, spent more than three decades to validate this.

William A. Tiller says, “For the past 35 to 40 years, in parallel with my traditional science research and teaching at Stanford University, I have been seriously investigating the effects of human intention on both the properties of materials (inorganic and organic; non-living and living) and on what we call physical reality. From this research, I and my colleagues have discovered that it is possible to make a significant change in the properties of a material substance by consciously holding a clear intention to do so.”

More info here.

Our walk in the corridor, from the door leading to Lord Shiva’s abode, was almost ending. We were standing in front of the idol now. I looked at my son. He was silent for a change. His mind was not jumping into all sorts of science and math and mythology talk, which was a relief for me. I was enjoying these few moments of silence too. He had already commented about the similarities and differences between the trident of Shiva and Poseidon, as we were entering the temple.

After what seemed like a long lapse in time, in front of the idol, we looked at each other and then silently walked out.

#WorldMom Purnima from India with her son

#WorldMom Purnima from India with her son

The lawn around the temple grounds was well maintained, and we sat down and relaxed for a bit. There were a lot of sculptures all around, and some smaller temples for minor deities. We were in no hurry to check them all out.

“What just happened in there?” asked my son.

“It is a holy place. You felt the effects.” I replied.

“But what really is that, which we felt?” he asked again.

“You tell me,” I said.

“It was peaceful,” he said.

“So it was,” I replied.

“And something more, which cannot be explained,” he continued.

Transformation of man

I felt obliged to explain to him the holy process of pranaprathishta of an idol by pure intent and will, by the holy seers of the ancient.

“If they could transform a mere stone to god, they could do it to living things too, who are alive and receptive, and holy in thought and action,” he concluded.

“Yes, perhaps they could,” I smiled.

Bidding Goodbye to Gangai Konda Chola Puram

Bidding Goodbye to Gangai Konda Chola Puram

As our visit was coming to an end, I couldn’t help thinking that in today’s times, we are gifted with Pranahuti, or Yogic transmission in the Heartfulness Meditation system. The Heartfulness trainers are trained to impart this energy to the seeker.

In the words of the modern-day saint, Ram Chandra, “Transmission is the utilization of Divine Force for the transformation of man.” By such a transformation man is divinized, he says.

Kamlesh Patel, the global guide of Heartfulness says, “The best way to understand transmission remains to experience it practically… For many people, the experience of receiving transmission is so convincing that no further proof or understanding is necessary. I invite you to experiment and experience it for yourself.”

Extending the possibilities of the consecration of an idol through pranaprathishta to the transformation of man to make him divinized through pranahuti, is a giant leap of evolution in the history of mankind.

The beautiful thing about our planet’s rich past is that it has led us to the evolution of the present.

Tell me a little bit of spiritual revelations you have had, from your culture.

Photo Credit: The Author

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus