15 November 2008

technical information about chaplaincy

part of what we do is called the "ministry of presence".

i like that.

i'm trying to move the building over to mangolandia.org

to consolidate and so on. so if you check here, and could figure out a way to check there, that would be great. there are a few different categories. i'm still figuring out the technology.

let me know if you have any suggestions

ankurbhai at mangolandia dot org

one love

a note from denali in ahmedabad...

and second, from the book, For a Pagan Song, by Jonny Bealby, which i
found on the shelf in the ashram house and read.. a guy's account of
his journey from rajasthan thru pakistan to northern afghganistan
following the trail of some rudyard kipling characters, searching for
the last non-islamic pagan tribes of the remote northern mountains.
very well written. he went just as the taliban was about to take
power, too. this is from the first chapter, where he is on a train
across rajasthan which mysteriously stops, he sees a lot of nervous
chattering among the train officials, and the train backs up a half
mile to find the body of a guy who fell asleep in the door, then fell
out and split his head open. after a furious debate between the
conductor who says it's bad luck to bring the body on the train, and
the TC, who argues that after all he has a valid ticket to jodhpur
still in his pocket, so he ought to be entitled to use it even if he's
dead. plus, he might have a wife waiting for him. the TC wins, and
he is plunked back in a seat until jodhpur. this prompts our author
to say:

But that's India- anything can happen and usually does. As one fellow
traveler put it to me: "It's the only place on the planet where
everything that has ever happened in the history of the world is
happening every minute of every day, right under your nose." He's
right. I mean where else could I have watched a cow casually give
birth in the middle of a three-lane inner-city ring road or seen
vultures swoop to pick the flesh of recently deceased humans? Where
else could I have observed a camel wandering the streets under a
mountain of straw while being shaved by a blind man on the pavement?
And where indeed at 3 in the morning after a riotous midnight dinner
could I have abandoned my dangerously drunk taxi driver in favour of
an enourmous elephant called Rubkali with "STOP-HORN PLEASE!" painted
across her arse? Though not always pleasant, travelling here is about
ten times more intense than anywhere else I've been; a vitality

14 November 2008

pivotal moments in chaplaincy: for the love of the dharma

Pivotal Moments #1

It's out there, in a Fine Balance, somewhere:
An abusive cop
Beating our heroes
and taking bribes
Just to get lessons
for his daughter to play
the violin

Which of my luxuries
rest on terror?

Waves of great comfort
Lightness of load
When I get it,
there is no away from it.

We are made of violence,
and it's the suffering that binds us

Pivotal Moments #2

In the movie about sacred trust
and patients falling in love with their pastors
One monk, she said,
"they think they are in love with me,
but really it's the dharma they see"

Afterwards, after words
and silence besides,

I said without thinking --
"Do you think we ever really love each other,
or are we always in love with the dharma?"

She thought without saying --
"Now let's not think on this one..."

Then said to me, tearing --
"When I learned
as a child
that our fingerprints are all different,
I felt so incredibly alone."

11 November 2008

pilgrimage reduction

as an ode to reconstructing education, i'm here in the house of my highschoolenglishteacher, amidst the wind and the fury of a port city extended gingerly on the quimper peninsula. there are sleeping dogs and humans upstairs and my body pulses warm from yoga and delicious hot water. we worked for 10 hours yesterday, going over the "sometimes we walk alone" manuscript with shears and curiosity, melting pats of better and looking out for the confused reader. we got through 10 days (of the 26) and have another four hours this morning before i hitchhike back to sequim to teach a four-course cooking class on squash.

ironic perhaps that the buses don't run on veterans' day, when most of the regular passengers out here seem to be down-and-out veterans.

but i'm always thankful for an armistice, and even hopeful this season to see a few more.

last night, before we cooked dinner (pumpkin in a guajillo sauce, made into enchiladas) chris assigned me to take a chapter of the book and boil it down into a poem. a reduction he said. he's trying to speak my language, you see. so i tried -- the chapter was about an old man i met, 91 years old, who had met gandhi on the same road 76 years before, had his life changed, and spent the rest of it fighting for freedom, against the dictates of family and caste. i've probably posted that excerpt sometimes in the past.

march 14th : matar : reduction

This can't be real
Pilgrims are supposed to be hungry,
 touching the feet of their elders,
Hopeful, humble, invisible amidst the hubbub.

This can't be real
To walk into a foreign land
be trumpeted and garlanded
after long meditation on my unworthiness

They take me to the statue.
They take me to the fair.
And they take me to our grandfather

In India, family is life.
J. gave up his life to begin it.
To midwife a nation, besides

Beaten, tortured, and scorned
A shadow of a son's pain
of being a son, no longer,
to his father.

There's no turning back
The future is jail,
struggle, revolution, triumph

As our grandfather defines ahimsa


That's the poem and if I could boil it down to a sentence it would be "I mean, God Damn!". But chris liked it and maybe wants to destroy the book and replace it with poetry. But he's just like that and we've both known it for years. He has a friend and colleague who saw life and everything else in Rwanda, came away with a book of poetry that includes a poem that includes some sayings he learned there, including

"Let only laughter scar your face"

Which, I think, is even better than everything else.


30 October 2008

artists for ahimsa

A note from Gandhiland to Mangoland. The famous Sonia de Otto, our dear sister, is holding a

"SynergicTraining Seminar for Artists of Ahimsa"

(english | spanish)


Like everything Sonia does, it should blow all of our minds. Do go if you happen to be in Gujarat this December...

~ ankur

29 October 2008

diwali greeting

it's the indian new year, or one of them, and i don't particularly know what to do other than what my elders tell me. this time it was, predictably, calling my elders ("superiors") and asking for blessings. which i find altogether natural, so yesterday night and today my mother and i spent a couple hours on the phone dialing india and new jersey and california and texas, calling on uncles and aunts and flute teachers and cousins and jayeshbhais (mentors) and friends and brothers and sisters.

it was incredible. pleasing. a rush. high. maybe from all the blessings. i had a vision of what hallmark, in its heart of hearts, beyond all the corporatism and commerce, is really aspiring towards. what if on national secretary appreciation day we really went and visited or called all the secretaries we ever knew, thanked them, and asked for their blessings and best wishes for the coming lunar year. lunacy. lunocracy. philocracy.

getting closer.

there was some sadness too in the long dark house with the sliding doors pointed south towards snow-covered peaks. warm days and clear nights in late october (as predicted). it's gorgeous september weather. perfect for scything and coming home to mulled appled cider. my mom had lit a few candles after the cooking class calmed down and i realized only when going to bed that Diwali is the festival of lights and lighting a candle is an integral part of the ritual. i can only imagine the other parts. big feasts and visiting families, special dishes and all night dances. it's big news everytime i go to india, six months before and after the party. and here we had a couple of sad vanilla candles and no dancing and no drumming and no flirting and certainly no marriages being planned. to the relatives' collective dismay.

so i recalled my cousin telling me it was only proper to make a "rangoli" (that is, a sort of intricate design) out of flowers, in the shape of an om, and place candles around and within it. so, in a desperate act of acculturation, i tenderly tore all the red flowers off my mother's only flowering houseplant, and assembled them into an anemic om on the checked tablecloth. with a vanilla candle a little to the left.

we're all doing the best we can. at home and in the hospital. for the new year, the new light, and the new love.

i just saw a patient, slightly confused (we say "demented" in the hospital). he thought we were in portland and was reminiscing for that great harborview hospital back in seattle. he said his son just left a 5-10 year career in a national professional sports league and was now a chaplain. we should talk. and he loves gandhi. he even told me "I love that man. Gandhi has a big heart. Like a lion.". And he was proud "Most people follow [Gandhi's] philosophy, his theology. All the American Presidents. Like Martin Luther King Junior."

I'd be proud, too. I'm proud that most people are into the Love if you have the angle light and the shimmering glare of ego and suffering don't blind you to what's really going on. I'm proud of the work everybody in this hospital is doing, proud of lovers driving each other to separation and partnership at airports, at comings and goings which reveal the strength of the ties below.

Blessed are the filmmakers and the rappers (you'll see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of5OJpEladg)
Blessed are those who cook for the homeless and the winos
Blessed are those who imitate the shadows and those who seek the flame.

After a short lifetime of worshiping the beauties of freedom and choice, independence and aspiration, I came yesterday face to face with the gorgeous surrender to duty. A woman thousands of miles away asked me to visit a friend of hers -- just because we're both in the same state, hours and busy schedules apart -- and I shocked myself at being So Damn Eager to perform the slightest service, to honor this woman who had treated me so well, took me in as a hungry son, taught me how to sort mangos. You get the idea. As Vanessa says in her yoga teacher training, "I stand ready to obey your least command".

ready and willing here we are. festival of vanilla candles and wilted pink flowers. doing the best we can. a poem to end with, that i read earlier to the gentleman over there:

(by Mary Oliver, from _Thirst_)

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird --  equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.


17 October 2008

a poem by becca hall



They declared war tonight. Already

guns assemble in that desert far away.

And here where it is raining good California rain,

here where spring knocks at the ground's door,

eager, nervous, bringing flowers; here,

where the air swoons with roses, wearing jasmine

in her hair, I wish I could say to you, Love me.


We've gone walking.  It is night.

Street lights make hollows for the rain

to fall through, and even the cars

spray as gently as your hand would feel

in mine. But your hands are your own

and you have made them fists.

One thing we agree – this night is no place

for war. The question: our part.


Violence has its time, you say,

speaking I think of some righteous

revolution.  Everything its season.

I say, look at the buds just forming

on the thorn branch.  Look how we walk

as if we love each other.  How tender

the night is, each light a silver armful.


All across the sidewalk the snails come,

woken by rain, leaving moon-trails

over the damp concrete, seeking each other. 

They are so many, I cannot keep

from crushing them.  Their shells shatter

under each guilty, tender foot.

03 October 2008

the prison/hospital/ashram context

This morning I got to see a patient who needed medical care during her
time at the King County Jail. There's a hell of a story but the
important parts is that she is smart enough to be writing books about
her life instead of living it. She meditates when she's not too
connected to the vices to do so, so I'm going to bring her one of the
little books on meditation that Reverend Heng Sure gave me a few
months ago, at the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. And then I remembered
this passage from Vinoba and couldn't help typing it up...

Prison Life

It was in jail that I experienced real Ashram life. All I had were a
few clothes, a tumbler and a bowl. What place could there be for
following the vow of 'non-possession'? Bathing, eating, working were
according to rule, going to bed and getting up by the bell -- a
perfectly regular life! One was not even allowed to fall ill! The vow
of control of the palate was practiced every day; even the Ashram was
not a better place for that. There was also plenty of time for thought
and reflection. So even the jail could be made a part of the spiritual
exercise of Ashram life.

I was even given a period of solitary confinement in a cell measuring
nine feet by eight. In one corner was a stone hand-mill and in another
an earthenware piss-pot. There was no work to do, no book to read, no
pencil or paper, no chance even to go out. It was enough to drive a
man mad.

However, I drew up a daily timetable for myself: ten hours for sleep,
two or three hours for meditation, about three hours for eating,
bathing etc., and eight hour for walking up and down. I covered at
least ten miles each day, reckoning my speed at about one and a half
miles an hour. As I walked I sang all the hymns I knew by heart.

Once I was pacing to and fro like this at about one o'clock at night,
engrossed in thought. The warder came on his rounds, and puzzled at
seeing me walking about, he knocked on the door. As I was completely
absorbed I failed to respond, and the poor man became alarmed. He came
in and shook me and asked me what was the matter. I tried to explain
what I was doing and what the fruits of such contemplation might be,
and he was very pleased. The very next day I receive a real boon - he
arranged for me to walk a short time daily in an open place.

I felt quite at ease in that cell. During the night I would meditate
for about three hours, and one of the warders, who noticed this, would
come and sit near me. One day he came with a lantern, and found that
my eyes were closed. After waiting for some time he said: 'Babuji, may
I speak to you?' I opened my eyes and he said: 'I am leaving tomorrow.
Please give me some teaching to guide me.' Seeing me sitting every day
with closed eyes he thought me some sadhu or yogi. So I gave him a few
suggestions to satisfy him, and he went away happily.
I was kept in that cell for fifteen days, and during that time I
realized the meaning of that verse in the Gita, which says: 'One who
sees non-action in action, and action in non-action, is truly an
enlightened being.' Finally, seeing that solitary confinement was no
hardship for me, the gaoler sent me back to the 'general ward', and
there too I felt equally happy.

In 1932 I was in Dhulia jail for six months. Many of my companions
there found jail life very dull, because they had not learned the art
of acceptance, and were feeling very rebellious. I decided that it was
my job to cheer them all up. There was no question of seeking pardon
or release from the Government, so I set to work to help them not to
lose heart, and to find some interest in life in jail.

During that time of imprisonment I had to take it on myself to control
all the political prisoners; conditions were such that if I had not
done so there would have been no discipline at all. They were bent
upon rebellion and would listen to nobody. There were about three
hundred of them, all 'freedom-fighters'. In my view, a solider of
freedom ought to do some bodily labour every day as part of the
discipline of freedom. The jail discipline was to require every
prisoner to grind thirty-five pounds of flour a day. I told the
authorities that these political prisoners would refuse to do such
work in obedience to an order, even if they were put in iron for
disobedience. 'Please don't insist on it,' I said. 'Instead, we will
voluntarily supply the whole prison with all the flour this needed,
and we will take responsibility for all the kitchen work also.' They
agreed to this proposal, so my next job was to tackle the prisoners.
Everyone, I said, ought to grind at least twenty-one pounds of flour
daily. They did not all agree at once because they suspected that I
might be letting them in for something which I would not do myself.
But when they saw me grinding, they all began to work
enthusiastically, old and young, seniors and juniors. They not only id
their own full quota, they ground also for the sick and the aged. As
we worked we talked, discussing ideas and extending our knowledge. The
place was no longer, a jail; it became an Ashram.

- Vinoba Bhave, from "Moved by Love"

and with reference to the "new" financial crisis

doug henwood's book _wall street_ is now available online in it's entirety. it's the best anything i've read about the function of the modern financial markets. and well-written to boot.

you can support mr. henwood and download the book here, and another copy of the pdf might even be magically attached to this post.

one world economy,

02 October 2008

happy gandhi, birthday

The Guilty One (Pablo Neruda, from _The Hands of Day_)

I declare myself guilty of never having
fashioned, with these hands I was given,
a broom.

Why did I not make a broom?

Why was I given hands at all?

What purpose did they serve
if I saw only the rumor of the grain,
if I had ears only for the wind
and did not gather the thread
of the broom,
still green on the earth,
and did not lay the tender stalks out to dry
and was not able to unite them
in a golden bundle
or attach a wooden cane
to the yellow skirt
so I had a broom to sweep the paths.

So it was:
I do not know how
I lived m life
without learning, without seeing,
without gathering and uniting
those elements.

At this hour I cannot deny
I had the time,
but not the hands,
and so, how could I aspire
with my mind to greatness
and not be capable
of making
a broom,
not one,

* * *

That's for you Gandhi. And for the importance of sweeping away the old egos that pile up within us, of purifying within and without, of joining hands "to raise the lowliest" and adopt the work we fear most.

When I go back to Sequim in a couple of days, I will make a gift to accompany this poem. I will try to make a broom.

the hands of the night

It's my second night in a row on call and the shell has begun to crack a little bit. I kind of knew this would happen so I gave notice at the farm earlier this week and in general am going to try to put my commitments on a crash diet (with the same implications -- they will revive immediately of course) so I can focus more on Chaplaincy. It's one month into the program and I feel very half-way.

Half-way to nowhere and everywhere at once. The essence of the long-distance relationship. Or commute. Whatever. Three days in Seattle and two in Sequim the other two fall somewhere in between. And I feel half-captivated by this experience and half-repulsed by this environment; The hospital seems a whole lot less healthy than the mountains...

But I'm committed, I know that much. Not in the psych-ward sense, necessarily, but in that I know there's a reason I'm swimming here in exploration, and I have no intention of calling the test off. It's fabulous getting to know the city and its people again, spending so much time around people so sick, so connected to AIDS and IV drug use, and long histories of sadness. I learn so much.

Today I went to see a woman who didn't look like she would be going much further. She was small and dark black and frail and dying of abbreviations I haven't yet understood. And she wanted to pray and was laughing through the tubes in her face and had an ease (nothing dis- about it) of movement and smile and faith in the Good Lord. So we lifted our hearts in prayer to the Good Lord and I held her small hands in mind and she chorused every prayer I gave with hoots and hollers and hallelujah. I could feel the inspiration, had no idea what I was asking or thanking her Lord, but it just kept coming. A climactic AMEN at the end and shaking and shivering and she told right then she could FEEL the holy spirit. Feel it. And there she was, dying with the AIDS and everything, and perhaps more hopeful and confident than I have ever been.

Those were the first hands of the night.
Then I went upstairs to follow-up with a patient from last night, a teacher recovering from a disastrous collision. He watched a friend die and we're talking about her upcoming memorial service. It's the first time I forgot to bring the flute and I finally meet someone who would really appreciate it. So I bring the copy Reed gave me of Neruda's _Hands of the Day_ and start reading, in English. The patient loves it, ignores the TV and closes his eyes, keeps asking me to read more. So we go through the stars and the guilt and the use of the days. As I leave he pulls my proffered hand down to the cot for a giant hug. No greater love, no greater mercy, no greater reward.

And Neruda says:

O sun full of fingernails,
animal of gold, bumblebee,
sheepdog of the world,
our going astray,
we have arrived, we return,
we are already waiting
all together
in the corral of day.
Say we disobeyed that night,
say we left it to the sleep of the moon
to solve the mourning and the planets,
say we withdraw into ourselves,
into our own skin hungry
for love and a meal,
we again are
in the sheepfold,
your long spatulas of light,
your fingers that reach into everything,
your cohabitation of seed.

Soon everyone set about moving,
hurrying. Citizen,
the day is short and there the sun is like a bull
kicking in the sand:
hurry in search of your shovel,
your lever,
your kneading trough,
your thermometer,
your whistle,
your paintbrush or your scissors,
your plaster,
your freight elevator, your political bureau,
your potatoes at the market:
hurry, Ma'am, hurry
over here, this way, put your hands to good use,
we are running out of daylight.

The sun, with stakes, pierced joy,
hope, suffering,
it traveled from one side to the other with its rays
parceling out, attributing lands,
and everyone has to sweat
before it leaves
with its light for somewhere else
to begin and begin again,
while those on this side remained
motionless, sleeping
until Monday morning.

back at harborview

on the way here, on the commute (tending towards epic) across three buses, one ferry, and thirty blocks, i have been reading a book by richard seltzer entitled "letters to a young doctor". there's a lot going on with this older surgeon writing about the beauty and terror of the profession, but it's this passage that seems to mirror Vinoba that i'd like to share... a passage that, I would opine, is true for a great many people and professions outside of surgeons and surgery...

It is so difficult for a surgeon to remain "unconscious," retaining the clarity of vision of childhood, to know and be secure in his ability, yet be unaware of his talents. It is almost impossible. There are all too many people around him paying obeisance, pandering, catering, beaming, lusting. Yet he must try.

It is not enough to love your work. Love of work is a kind of self-indulgence. You must go beyond that. Better to perform endlessly, repetitiously, faithfully, the simplest acts, like trimming the toenails of an old man. By so doing, you will not say _Here I am_, but _Here It Is_. You will not announce your love but will store it up in the bodies of your pateitns to carry with them wherever they go.


Alexander the Great had a slave whose sole responsibility was to whisper "Remeber, you are mortal" when he grew too arrogant. Pehraps every surgeon shold be assigned such a deflator. The surgeon is the mere instrument which the patient takes in his hand to heal himself. An operation, then, is a time of revelation, both physical and spiritual, when, for a little while, the secrets of the body aer set forth to be seen, to be touched, and the surgeon himself is laid open to Grace.

This bit about "love of your work" is what I've been so amazed by the few and true workers I've seen on this planet -- they have dissovled the boundaries between being and doing such that there appears to be no work, no worker. A prodigious ratio of happening to effort and worry. And it reminds me, too, of Gandhi's words about Vinoba -- how he could do so much, how he could do anything, because he let God shoulder all his burdens...

Meanwhile, on the home front, I am still very slowly and carefully going about this learning, this work. There is a lot of subject and object going on here, like the first few times one uses a hoe, slow deliberate movements full of fear at killing a desired plant. It's full of too much unneeded weight and effort. It's full of missed spots, practical perspectival lacunae. I know the scene. Today I jumped a bit, sharpened my tools, by hanging out at a nurses station. Talking like a human being, joking and unstifled by my tie and office. We joked until I pulled out the on-call pager to show them the number, and it rang.

So I went to see a gentleman who knew he wasn't yet feeling the trauma he experienced. And he was worried he would get surprised, blindsided and thrown into the water like the vehicle that hit him. I'm always so impressed. Impressed at the awareness of the patients -- the woman who asked me if she should commit suicide and immediately answered herself, knowing that God wouldn't approve, that her heart whispered "no". I'm so blessed to be there with these humans as they heal, as they heal deeply not just from their acute ailments, but from the years and memories and guilts and sorrows that have built up to throw them in this sterile beeping prison of compassion...

01 October 2008

a salutation, a namaste, of sorts

a friend sends me these lines from ezra pound:
O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.

24 September 2008

still figuring out religion

It's my third week here as a chaplain at harborview. I'm still astounded by the beauty of their weapons, as l. cohen might say -- the bright lights and electronic equipment, the hundreds of calmly suffering patients, the intense amount of healing, the intense lack of healing.

I'm blown away by the size of the project, the hospital in general, the mission to serve -- about all else -- the inmates of the county jails and the indigent and the non-english speaking poor, and all the rest of us that the statue of liberty still welcomes (i think). This place is a long way down the red road from "small steps" and "one person at a time". You can't have machine that bring back people's breathing and electrical currents with that kind of change. I think. Maybe.

So that still says nothing about chaplaincy and this experience and that's probably because I feel too green to do anything. So instead I'm going to share some passages I've read in the past few weeks. Some offerings I shared with fellow chaplains and fellow patients, during prayers and reflections, ministries of presence and compassion. They all run together towards their true nature as one.

That's perhaps the only surety I have in all this -- that separation from our true nature, our true nation, what I can, in my little jargon, the "One Love" -- is illness. And in that sense we are not well -- perhaps joyously and aware -- we are separated from our true selves, we are sick, we are in a giant late capitalist hospital. It's with that understanding that I record the gospel raps of brothers in the psych ward and hold the hands of recovering crack addicts crying about our future. It's only that handspun cord that makes all the shaking and tears and prayer make sense and not jumble.

So there's that. Johnny Cash whistles in the background.

1) from Neruda's _Hands of Day_

From so many rough hands
descended the tool,
the wineglass,
even the famous curve
of the hip that then pursued
the whole woman with its design!

The hand that forms
the wineglass of the form,
it conveys the pregnancy of the barrel
and the lunar line of the bell.

I ask some mighty hands
to help me
change the profile of the planets:
triangular stars
the traveler needs:
constellations like cold dice
of square clarity:
those hands that extract
secret rivers fro Antofagasta
until the water rectifies
its avarice lost in the desert.

I want all the hands of men
to knead mountains
of bread and to gather
all the fish from the sea,
all the olives
from the olive tree,
all the love not yet wakened
and to leave a gift
in each of the hands
of the day.

2) from Wendell Berry's _The Unsettling of America_

Some prominent agricultural economists are still finidng it possible to pretend that the only issues involved are economic, but that possiblity is diminishing. I recently attended a meeting at which an agricultural economist argued that there is no essential difference between owning and renting a farm. A farmer stood up in the audience and replied: "Professor, I don't think our ancestors came to Ameirca in order to rent a farm."
'Nough said.
3) from Brother Lawrence in 1666
Having found in many books different methods of going to God, and divers practices of the spiritual life, I thought this woul serve rather to puzzle me than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly God's. This made me resovle to give the all for the all; so after having given myself wholly to God, that He might take away my sin, I renounced, for the love of Him, everthing that was not He, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world. Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without trobling or disquieting mself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.
4) from some Advaita text, possibly Sankara, quoted by Ken Wilber
The world is illusory
Brahman alone is real
Brahman is the world
Not much explanation necessary, I think, but I'll step on that by pointing out I've come much further with Christianity understanding the talk of God in 3 as shorthand for the understanding so clearly present in 4; that is, that by considering ourselves in a universe that only includes me and god (atman and brahman) we are effectively considering everything we see, from the homeless woman in the hallway to a dysfunctional google calendar, to be god.
And it's worth nothing that the instructions on meditation are, well, exact. That's all we need, really, if we can follow it.
one love from the department of spiritual care,
ps to sign up for these updates, you can go to:
and choose "ministry of presence"

15 September 2008

haymaker lisa in action, again

[ it may not be obvious that the scythe has contains farsi writing. but it does ]

haymaker lisa in action

[ it may not be obvious that the scythe has contains farsi writing. but it does ]

10 September 2008

from "the hour of trial" in "my non-violence" by mahatma gandhi

I just want to sit for a minute and witness the faith displayed in the following lines of Gandhi. His total immersion in faith -- the clarity and firmness of his vision, his faith in humanity, his faith even in Hitler --

"Non-violence is not a cloistered virtue, confined only to the [saint] and the cave-dweller. It is capable of being practiced by the millions, not with full knowledge of its implications, but because it is the law of our species. It distinguishes man from the brute. But man has not shed the brute in him. He has to strive to do so. This striving applies to the practice of non-violence, not to the belief in it. I cannot strive to believe in a principle: I either believe in it or I do not. And if I believe in it, I must bravely strive to practice it. Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and Ahimsa do not go together any more than water and fire. It is that Ahimsa that every [person here] has to make a conscious effort to develop in himself."

[NB: When Gandhiji talks about Ahimsa, it is the ancient yogic principle of total non-harm, at the level of intention. It can be translated as "non-violence" or "Love". When translated as Love it is most closely connected to the Greek concept of agape -- ankurbhai]


"You cannot build non-violence on a factory civilization, but it can be built on self-contained villages. Even if Hitler was so minded, he could not devastate seven hundred thousand non-violent villages. He would himself become non-violent in the process. Rural economy, as I have conceived it, eschews exploitation altogether, and exploitation is the essence of violence. You have, therefore, to be rural-minded before you can be non-violent, and to be rural-minded you have to have faith in the spinning wheel."

[written october 29th, 1939]

06 September 2008

2008 fall quarter status report: clinical pastoral education

here is an update i wrote for the general private a few days ago. i'm
in the process of developing some new internet writing forums, to

a) new recipes and information about fall cooking classes
b) experiences with death and transcendence through "clinical pastoral
education" and other kinds of flute music.

clearly there might need to be some separation, as much as i'm a fan
of the nth root of unity.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: ankurbhai
Subject: 2008 fall quarter status report

dear investors

as in, friends and lovers and colleagues invested in the development
of the world, the soul, and this particular human incarnation of both.

i have a little bit of news to report for the fall season.

1. baby turnips are in season at nash's. i've attached a recipe.

2. i bought a scythe and will one day learn how to use it. there is an
instructional video that has been a great inspiration to me.

3. i received some lessons in the spinning wheel and plan to make that
an important daily meditation in the coming months, as part of a
renewed commitment to gandhian ideals.

4. i applied and was accepted, and have now begun, a course of study
called Clinical Pastoral Education. those are capitalized words
meaning i am in training to be a chaplain. a chaplain is someone who
listens and offers presence to the suffering, frequently in hospitals,
hospices, prisons, and militaries. at harborview hospital, where i am
working, we are in the department of spiritual care. i have a business
card and pager that say "spiritual care". it's pretty interesting.

5. i plan to be in washington studying the CPE program until jan 16 of
2009. it is essentially 3 days a week and i will be working at nash's
produce another 2-3 days a week. i am also teaching a series of
cooking classes (on tuesdays). you are welcome to visit. encouraged to
visit! you can help me teach a cooking class.

6. there are various and other writing projects i'm working on, but
those burners have been set to simmer, along with the watercolors. the
flute and meditation still hit a rolling boil each morning, as it
should be.

7. i apologize for sharing this wonderful news in this non-wonderful
way. things have moved very quickly. i told my mom just a week before
and haven't had a time or phone line to call all the people who i
wanted to tell on the phone. please accept my humble apologies. there
are a number of blessings i wanted to ask for, and some i think i just
took without permission. however it shook down, the wheels were
greased and it seems i slid into this new trajectory without even

lots of love as always

chaplain and haymaker
new dorky pager at 206 . 540 . 2091

of chaplains and haymakers

so there are some directions on the mango trail and i'm going to
publicize them soon. i've turned without turning into a old pastime of
humans. it's called "chaplain" or "chaplaincy" or "hats off to you
mark, god knows it's been a difficult summer" or something like that.
nothing to do with wooden boats or surreptitious lifts of the old
flask. so they say.

brother sushil sends me the following quote which sums up, perhaps
exactly, what impels me in this direction --

"It is precisely through the onset of old age, through loss or
personal tragedy, that the spiritual dimension would traditionally
come into people's lives. This is to say, their inner purpose would
emerge only as their outer purpose collapsed and the shell of the ego
would begin to crack open. Such events represent the beginning of the
return movement toward the dissolution of form. In most ancient
cultures, there must have been an intuitive understanding of this
process, which is why old people were respected and revered."

pg 285, A New Earth.

From a book by a gentleman named only "mr. eckhart trolle".

which of course reminds me of that other meister eckhart, from the
13th century --

"that which we take in through contemplation we must give out in love"

which is what i'm trying to do, i think. about time to start the stage
of productive work, to segue out of studies. of course in my case the
studies were informal and meandering ("tripper graduate school") and
productive work means going to school (Clinical Pastoral Education)
and getting called over hospital intercoms to arrive in a patient's
room and listen. that's what they say at least. my first shift is

formal update to follow.

salt march redux

this from a march version of an american style magazine, Gentleman's Quarterly:

Beginning tomorrow, artist Joseph DeLappe will begin reenacting
Gandhi's 1930 240-mile Salt March on a treadmill inside New York's
Eyebeam gallery—all of which will be reproduced in real time on Second
Life. Yes, the self-parody is (kind of) deliberate. "I'm a spoiled
American computer artist paying tribute to Gandhi's life and
philosophy by taking on certain aspects of his march, like the
walking," he says. "But at the same time, you know, I'm not going
anywhere." Indeed. The inspiration came from DeLappe's last project, a
series of virtual anti-war protests inside the America's Army video
game that led one blogger to say he had a "Gandhi complex." Well, at
least he's not wearing a dhoti, opting instead for "sweats, a white
T-shirt, maybe, and either running shoes or Jesus sandals." Sounds
like a whole new complex might be setting in.

Reenactment: Gandhi's March to Dandi—The Salt Satyagraha Online,
tomorrow through April 6, Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st St., NYC, (212)
937-6580, eyebeam.org, saltmarchsecondlife.wordpress.com

[ http://men.style.com/news/blog/2008/03/virtual-insanit.html ]

03 September 2008

more photos from the famous mr. werner

the second image, notably, is a drawing by mr. mansuoba fukuoaka in
the visitor book of baskarbhai save, the amazing old gujarati farmer
who developed (indepedently) a similar technique to fukuoaka's,
primarily with fruit trees.

it is to represent the difference between chemical farming, organic
farming, and natural farming (at the top of the hill).

"i guess i miss you / i guess a forgive you
i'm glad you stood in my way"


15 August 2008

[cooking can be god] farmshare recipe for 8/15 (box six)

as part of reintegrating into the farm community, i've begun to write for the farm newsletter again. here's the first taste:

Fennel and Dill, the Saga Continues

After centuries of misunderstandings, I am still bombarded with eager confusion between fennel and dill. So, let's take a few moments to set it straight. According to the British "Fennel Disambiguation Society", in a small pamphlet first published in 1861, fennel is a large perennial herb, indigenous to the Mediterranean and now found all over the world. Some cultivars of fennel -- like what you see in the box before you -- develop a large succulent bulb, while others are prized for their seed, licorice in flavor and often confused with anis. Both dill and fennel come from the Umbelliferae family, and share a scandalous tendency to hybridize, given the opportunity. Dill, a small annual plant, was considered "A wretched smelly thing", fit only for spicing soups, pickles, and salads.

Remember, our information comes from a group of die-hard fennel-heads. Now, on to the recipes. One kind reader asks, somewhat meekly, "Can I bake it? Is that okay?" The answer, as the answers to most questions, is a resounding YES. You can bake it, broil it, braise it, fry, jump it, steam it, and grate it. It is in the box for you to do Anything You Want.

Simple Grilled Fennel and Carrots

Your oven is already on, at 400. Since fennel's flavor is strong, especially as freshly harvested as yours, it needs little combination on the plate. I would lay the bulb flat on the counter, with its long tresses hanging over the edge. Trim the greens where the tubes hit the bulb and thinly slice through the crunchy white zone to the hard root zone. Toss the slices with a teaspoon of olive oil and dashes of salt and pepper. Lay the dressed fennel on a baking tray and slide it into the left half (very important, the left half) of your hot oven. Do not stack or crowd the fennel: they deserve our respect.

Return to your laboratory to wash and trim your carrots. They are small, sweet, and tender. What you're about to do may not work as well with larger (and slightly tougher) table carrots, or even the bunches later into the fall. Take the whole carrots, washed and un-peeled, and toss in the same bowl where you had the fennel (fewer dishes, happier cooks, peaceful world) with a teaspoon of olive oil, and dashes of salt and pepper. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar without telling a soul.

Now the tricky part. Trim the fennel tresses such that any frayed or unhappy ends at the top and bottom hit the compost, and you are left with a few tray-length feathery green stalks. Lay the stalk on another baking tray and place the whole carrots over them. As the carrots roast, the greens will release their sweet perfume into the over air, penetrating the tender carrots.

When you put the carrots in, ask the fennel if it needs to be flipped. It is done once it has slightly browned on each side. The carrots will take somewhat longer -- perhaps more than half an hour -- and may be black and blistered when you decide to remove then. At that point, after they cool, you can rub the skins off and use the carrots As You Wish -- whole dabbed with salt, blended for a soup base, sliced and dipped in hummus or pesto, or diced to throw in salad dishes. It's now your toy, and up to you.

A Quick Dilly Salsa

This is the essence of summer flavor. Cool cucumber, pungent garlic, and the warm spice of dill. It's easy and serves as a salad dressing, a side dish (mixed into plain yogurt), a dip (for roasted vegetables), or to mix into a potato salad.

Chop together with love and attention to the small details:

2 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of dill
Half your cucumber

The cucumber should be peeled if the skin is tough, and diced into small cubes. Mix everything with standard salt and pepper and a little bit of lemon juice (if you're opposed to stepping out of our climatic range of possibility). If you want to extend the sauce into a side dish, take your salsa and stir it into some yogurt, dusting with paprika as you finish. The Bradfords will go crazy.

Eat the Flowers

That's right, the calendula. Take it back from you beloved, turn off the television, sit on the back porch looking up at the mountains, and pull the petals out, each by each, tossing them atop your already prepared salad of shredded spinach, torn lettuce, and grated golden beets. You peeled the beets before grating them, if I recall. If there are any of the sumptuous Sunny Slope nectarines left by the time dinner rolls around, you could slice one up and fry it in melted butter for a minute or two, and top the salad with that. So much for "I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit", Mr. Jeffers; Here in Dungeness, we have it all.

Posted By ankurbhai to cooking can be god at 8/15/2008 08:46:00 AM

26 July 2008

where did the cows go?

it's perhaps worth noting from the western hemisphere that at multiple
points in the day my mother has told me i should have remained to
settle in india. not in the, "i would like you to live in the home
country" kind of way, but more in the "christ, you're so weirdly
indian" tone of surprise. this after i relax into ecstacy hearing
pandit jasraj on her astropod or sing impromptu krishna ditties.

to which i just responded, "yes of course, but my teachers have
mandated i go to the west"


"spreading a message of peace and love"


"starting with you!"

it's all in good fun and we're both laughing.

"it's a tough start, i know. but my teachers are good"

which is the only true part. last night's bedtime reading, some sort
of treatise on how the sacred play (lila) of krishna and radha is
nectar (amrut) to us mortals, mentioned that in every stanza of poetry
we are behooved to include the name of god.

i'm trying to remember, grandmother.

until then the west wind on the delta and the east wind on lost
mountain are doing me well. there is a lot of slow transcription
happening but by the end of the week there will be updates on the
following projects

* sometimes we walk alone (being sent to a publisher)
* mangolandia travel agency (in website design phase)
* something constructive consortium (finally coming together)
* cooking classes and homework potlucks (for the good people of sequim)
* 100-mile diet weekly escapades (with local friends)

just trying to keep the noose tightened. also, 2nd edition bigode
finally got some website updates, please check them out and as always,
"tell all yer friends". i have now actually seen the new cookbook and
it looks very spiffy, thanks to donald knuth and chris gregori.


upper dungeness,

13 July 2008

administrative update

ankurbhai is back in sequim washington

can be reached at either

360 . 582 . 3152
360 . 683 . 5398

depending on the wind direction.

is working on a variety of projects which will slowly emerge from the either

encourages you to come visit and work on the farm or just your own (bad) self.

[ with love ]

83 lost meadow
sequim, wa 98382

12 June 2008

god is

a mango(-)playing fruit.

26 May 2008

the cpu is getting hot

says some sort of nagging software. as if there were any way to turn
down the heat.

we have come to interesting juncture here in mangolandia, and i, for
one, would like to share. a crossroads of a sort.


on one axis we have the typical pattern of development in the Trip:
from escape through exploration to communication, and eventually,
sharing. by Trip i mean the basic unit and form of the growth
experience, as noted in various sorts of developmental experiences,
including but not limited to international travel, road trips, jobs,
schools, non-formal learning endeavors, altered states of
consciousness (bring back our memory bring back our memory),
friendships, relationships, and any sort of dynamic interaction,
evolving itself and You in the process.

at least, that's the best definition I can give at the moment,
brownbelly full of mangos and about to faint from the exhaust. cf the

generally, in the Trip, i first experience a phase of solitude (the
escape), during which i think i planned the trip (what a joke) and
that i planned the trip to get 'away' (as if there existed such a
place) from it all, to become a new self, to shed old identities and
patterns. i have observed myself spending more time silently working,
praying, and practicing various arts during the phase.

the second phase sees me inevitably drawn against my ego and in
concert with the true nature of the AllOneLove consciousness to a
happening social life with whatever humans, plants, and animals are
around. i am engaged in lots of work with my surroundings, organizing
and decorating, making gifts for people, building love, and generally
forgetting to meditate.

the third stage -- and I have NO IDEA if this is any way universal or
just One Ego's projection of the Trip (i suspect the latter, heartily)
-- shows itself with increased communication with past lives (read:
other people and places from previous Moments), a desire to
communicate and share in the (generally amazing) observations and
sensations and (significantly more banal) thoughts and ideas taking
place around me. it's when i write to mangolandia and when I post a
lot of aerograms, when I write the text on the back of all the
postcards i drew in the first phase.

the fourth and last phase is when the people i have been organizing
(this always seems to happen) come to visit and the life, through its
expansion into the consciousness of my dearest friends, acheives a
sort of completion and is ready to be relaxed aside (for the moment).
there is learning, connection, lack of novelty, promises about the
unknown future, sweet sorrow, and saudade.
but, as we have long known, the Road goes on Forever and the Party never ends.

this Trip, I might add, is fractal in nature, is always happening, and
is always happening many times at once, overlayed with different
time-periods, like some sort of harmonic wave conjuncture. so I am in
the latter half of phase 3 with the mango farm, but have been through
the cycle numerous times already this trip to India, and am still
crossing from two to three in terms of the general indian arc.

this Trip, I might also add, is deeply connected to the nature of the
Amazon and how we view Death. more later on that.


on the other axis we have the undeniable M factor of the mangos. this
cannot be overestimated, and i'm about to explain why.

i've been trying to express something more profound than "damn there's
a lot of fruit here" in these silly posts about mangos everywhere.
yes, it is true that rather like a surrealist fruit fantasy, everyone
has a mango in hand at all times, people enter the scene to talk,
argue, or work with a mango in hand, and the only people i ever see
who are not eating mangos are the customers ("mango lovers" is how
karunaji refers to them) who are coming to by some. yes, it is true
that most people immediately comment it's the best mango they've ever
had, and that last week some sort of insectiside-factory mogul drove
here with entourage of servants and family to personally thank the
Futane's and buy more fruit, because he had never had such mangos in
his life.

but the point is elsewhere.

the point is about need and excess. fear and relaxation. contraction
and expansion. last night after a beautiful woman with a beautiful
voice taught me to play "Pyogi meine" (one of my favorite devotional
songs) on the flute, Karunaji came down with a bowl of half a dozen
plump ripe Grade A awesome Dashari's (illustrated elsewhere). halfway
through the second one it occured to me that, hunger and desire
permitting, i could have as many as wanted. i couldn't possibly eat
the number of ripe mangos we have upstairs. i've both deduced and
induced that fact. the rate at which the mangos we have already picked
are ripening vastly exceeds our (family total) capacity to consume
them, in terms of eating, juicing, and selling combined. it's
inevitable at this point that many delicious ripe mangos will go to
the cows. who like them.

there is no end. there is no end. there is no end. the road goes on forever.

something about that clicked with a deeply felt vacancy i've carried
with me for years. i still don't know what it is, but the abundance of
mangos has showed me -- like a casts shadows -- its existence. maybe
it has to do with being indian growing up in mangoless amerika or
maybe it has to do with my family or maybe it has to do with the
creation of need in late capitalism. i don't know and i've never
imagined such a deep ethereal need to exist somewhere in me. but it's
there and i know because it's being filled by mangitude.

there's more but i'll spare us. i apologize for the me nature of this
writing. i know it's supposed to be about how indian people are so
devoted that 30 people who barely know me threw me an incredible
birthday party yesterday, ripe with love and appreciation for the
little time weve shared together, and how i ate so much mango juice i
didnt need the fruit for almost two hours.

but the reason I'm writing dear mango lovers is because i sense a sort
of completion nearing, something with the end of my time in
mangolandia. maybe that means india and maybe it doesn't. maybe it's
just the Mangolandia Trip, but something is landing and something
else, selon newton's air traffic control avatar, is bound to be taking

24 May 2008

may 25th

happy birthday to kevin panozzo and guadelupe de azkue and maybe miles
davis and j. krishnamurti. it's hard to know.

they tell me if i draw a mango out of the rough sands of my
imagination. they can produce it. so i do. and they do -- a mistaken
kesar whose stem rises askew and _voila_ this morning as brother
chinmay is shaving me (with the straight edge no less; something i
have dreamt of learning for years and now, too, that is fulfilled)
karunaji (mother compassion, literally) brings me a beautiful fleshy
fiberless number with the painted colors and the stem humbly off to
one side.

for today's birthday festivities i was going to make payasam but
really there is nothing better than just eating mangos. so that's what
i'm doing. back to the moustache reality and a mouthful of mangos.

it's been 29 short years on the planet and about time to draft some
sort of official document for the way forward. it's in the works.
there's going to be some changes around here.

mark my words.

23 May 2008


details. i am here at a farm in maharastra that is developing into a community and learning center of sorts. its been happening for the last 20 years and now they're formalizing just a tad. enough to ask me to make a brochure. which i did. and i would like to share so people can have some idea of what this place is about, besides the silly emails about mangos that are basically overdetermined at this point (both the necessity and the content).

i will make magic links to the layout (page one and two) and include the text below.

Samvad (text from brochure)

"Mother Earth can satisfy every person's need but no person's greed."

- M.K. Gandhi

We have to rebuild this society.

What will be the process? Communication is our first tool. The governments may plan, implement, legislate, and administrate without consulting their citizens. But only through proper communication can we realize a just and sustainable future.


means 'communication' in Sanskrit, and is used in many Indian languages. Samvad is a group of volunteers working in the Gandhian way for sarvodaya, "the upliftment of all."

Samvad and Farming

Farming is our main activity. We are inspired by "The One Straw Revolution" by Japanese Farmer and scientist Masanobu Fukuoka, and continue working towards the principles of Natural Farming.

Modern chemical farming holds short-term economic prosperity as its only goal, often without regard to the lives of animals, plants, and microfauna, nor even those humans who work the land.

Natural farming seeks to understand and to adapt to the natural processes of all members in our biological community. It asks us not to till the soil, pull up weeds, over-irrigate, use pesticides nor chemical fertilizers.

At Samvad we practice sajiv kethi — organic farming — which considers every living organism to have its place and role maintained. There is room for all of us. We work towards Natural Farming as a goal and are committed to organic techniques: mulching, companion planting, crop rotation, compost, vermicompost, natural pest and disease prevention, and absolutely no use of chemical fertilizers or poisons.

Samvad has almost 10 acres of fruit trees, including 6 acres of mangos and 2 acres of an incredibly bio-diverse "food forest". In our orchards other species — including sindhi palm, guava, neem, and sivan — are encouraged to grow, providing food for wild animals, habitats for insects and birds, and much-needed shade for young plants.

We emphasize enriching the soil, groundwater, and atmosphere with our work and love. We firmly believe in Gandhiji's idea of trusteeship — rather than owning the land, it is our duty and service to care for it tenderly, handing it over in good condition to the coming generations.

Samvad and Society

At Samvad, we also work with the holistic aspects of farm life.

We cook and eat healthy food from our own fields and orchards, according to climate and season. We maintain a medicinal herb garden, study the local wisdom regarding the medicinal properties of wild plants, and treat ourselves with natural cures when possible.

Samvad has also worked for five years with women from the surrounding villages in anti-liquor campaigns. The women now provide themselves with income, confidence, and personal development through the co-operative production of added-value products such as amchoor (dried mango powder), aachar (mango pickle), and hair oil.

Samvad conducts research and training on watershed management with local farmers, and serves as an informal learning center for people of all ages and cultures. They come to learn and to share experiences with conservation bunding, seedling tree planting, traditional mud-house construction, organic farming practices, renewable energy, natural living, and Gandhian values.

Samvad also provides vacation camps for students from both towns and villages, affirming the beauty and necessity of farming and rural life for India's future.

Through such activities we hope to build a new generation of farmers and volunteers who give their lives in service to our land and people.

Samvad and You


welcomes earnest, committed people to contact us about visiting or volunteering.

Vasant and Karuna Futane


at Rawala, post Satnoor

taluka Warud, district Amravati

Maharastra, 444907


07229-238171 / 202147


22 May 2008

drawing for shaytal

some people visited the other today and introduced me to this concept
called "shading". so ima try it out.

it's getting hotter ever day and we are consuming conspicous
quantities of mango. this morning i sat back in the courtyard to asses
the damage, a veritable mound of pits and peels between six of licking
our hands contentedly. as each person sat down he or she brought
another pail of mangos in water -- the better to rinse as we eat.

the mangos are everywhere and ripe. on the ground during my morning
rounds. on the trees. in peoples' hands. all over the kitchen. stored
upstairs and outside. the dogs are evening eating them (with relish).
people come all through the day to buy them -- the foyer is the new
storefront, the chambers are the new warehouses.

even on the computer desk, by the scanner and under bad printouts of
the new brochure i am designing for samvad, you can find a few ripe

hard to believe but im telling it straight.

20 May 2008

more kids' drawings

remember these are all done with natural colors. charcoal, flowers,
leaves, and fruit. fruit!

16 May 2008

waiting on scanner

i win i win i win i win. such a blessing all of it. today, here at samvad, the official name of the mangolandia futane mango farm, of which i am now somehow an integral part, we started another kids camps.

kids camps -- one of the activities of the mango makers while theyre not busy with their godgiven duty, along with antiliquor campaigns, womens cooperatives, village constructive work, and watershed management -- happen here more than monthly, it seems, and accept 20-50 kids for 3-7 days from surrounding villages, to show them the good life of natural farming, fun work, songs, games, and organic food.

i didn't realize when they asked if i would be here for the camp that i would be in charge of the kids activities, until today. as it should be. so we started at 4, talking about color. and how brushes and paints cost money and one day i was in AMERIKA but wearing a lungi so i had no money but hell man i really wanted to paint.

all of this, by the way pulling your ear, is in the most american accented english i can muster, just barely toned down so chinmay futane, my mango brother and unofficial translator, could get it across. and the 10-14 year old village kids, some of whom are aadivasi (tribal) and some more classically marati (from the state of maharastra) just love it. they love american english. and i keep it clean, (un)naturally.

i tell them my friend bhoomi (some indian languages for "earth", also a name) comes up and offers me some color. so we touch the earth around our toes and shout "good afternoon bhoomi" (good afternoon being in english) and then i unwrap a newspaper full of natural color i had collected that morning -- different fruits, flowers, and leaves we could use to paint.

we divide the groups into chaotic and uneven brigades of village kids eager to prance barefoot over hook and crook to get their assigned plant matter. my group went down the dusty village road to get bael, a new favorite fruit with no good english translation. aegle marmelos in latin, used frequently in ayurveda, a hard wooden shell and a sweet orange pulp inside. related to wood apple if that helps at all.

and there one in on the side of the road. we gather around it and say, in english, "dear bhoomi, thank you for this fruit", with 11 pairs of small brown hands (that may one day grow to play the bansuri) around a sad cracked bael on the side of road, touching our friend the earth with earnest joyful kid devotion.

sometimes its just too much. too great. too powerful. the rest was now and is history and, armed with a scanner, i cant help but scan my pride into a few images. we played all kinds of games and tag and stories and music and dancing and im a little amazed that from a place where i was once afraid or indifferent to kids, ive turned into some wizard who is running childrens camps and taking care of charges in central america and strange twists of fate like that.

but the kids here are so beautiful, the eyes are so big and full of trust. they copy everything you do with innocence and devotion. after kannavu style dancing and drumming which we instigated before (currently in progress, i can almost hear them over the cowbells) i started stretching a little bit (2.5 hours picking mangos from the ground this morning, you know, a lot of windfall) and i opened my eyes three asanas later to find all the kids (who werent still drumming with bamboo and bricks from the last game) copying me. and we did yoga together there for 15 minutes in total silence, under the moonlight. they copied every inhale and exhale, every moment and twist. there is no need to speak. the heart listens and the heart speaks.

and then the prayers -- this beautiful prayer from one of the teachers i will try to record, about how everything is god -- the birds and the colors and the smells. and it is.

so there. it's not just mangos. and as vinoba says, work is worship. the days pass and i have no idea, no recognition, no cognition even, perhaps, that i am working. i am just tending my garden (hoping the little seeds sprout) and playing with children and walking under the trees, eating mangos with my friends.

one love open university

14 May 2008

paradox winds

its the night time, nine at night, and i am to type a poem from the dalai lama, i am told, for the futane family farm brochure. so here i am. the cloud is sky-y for once, hazing over the rainbow luminesence of the waxing moon. gibbous, even, perhaps.

the book "the secret life of plants" -- which i finished today, for the first time, and remain astounded, not for the first time -- includes a section on scientists who take aerial photos of large tracts of farmland and treat the photographs with natural poisons for the pests who inhabit the land. does that make sense? the beetles are in the fields, they apply the remedy to the photograph. there is some sort of "radionic" black box that goes along with it, some modification of what the famous Dr. Abrams developed and for which he was crucified.

anyhow, according to the experiments, and the company the three gentlemen ran for a few years (before they were run into the ground by the insectiside lobby) and the book, the technique worked. which brings up all sorts of interesting thought experiments and loopholes in spacetime bodymind and other aspects of the Consciousness.

but really, what im thinking is about the stories of native americans not letting people take their picture because it would "steal their soul". and how, well, they're right. if even having a picture of someone allows you to work miracle cures or, presumably, bad mojo, then their very soul is a silty loam in your hands. n'est-ce pas?

anyhow. one more piece of ancient wisdom for the postmodern stew.

faux swamiji 43b

12 May 2008

vinoba on mangos

from vinoba:

How could one imbibe vairagya (non-attachment). We say that a mango is sweet. But is sweetness really a quality of the mango? No. Sweetness is really an attribute of the Self, and a particular thing tastes sweet when it is infused with that sweetness. One should, therefore, learn to taste the sweetness within.

And this, my mangophilic friends, is what I have been saying all along. We do not love mangos because they are sweet, for sweetness is already within us. We eat mangos -- ripe and raw, green and orange, sweet and sour -- because they are mangos, because of their intrinsic mangoness, what we have come to call "mangitude" in the technical literature. That, dear friends, is not an attribute of the universal Self, found in divine man and all other being. That, dear friends, that mangitude, is only in the mango.

vinoba, thank you

I am also learning from Vinobaji, the "spiritual disciple" of Gandhi and leader of the Bhoodan and Gramdan pilgrimages, walking India for many years in search of moral purity and land reform. In his talks on the Bhagavad Gita, which he gave extempore in jail, he writes:

Once a gentleman wrote to me, 'we have decided to recit lord rama's name a certain number of times. please join us and inform us how many times you are going to do daily.' the gentleman was acting according to his light. i do not mean to disparage him. but should we count how many times we have taken the name of the Lord? It is not a thing to be counted.

a mother cares for her child. does she publish the report on it? were she to do so, we could just say 'thank you', and be free from our obligations to her. but a mother does not submit any report. she rather says, 'what have i done? i have done nothing. it this a burden to me?" karma ceases to be karma when one does it with full dedication with the aid of vikarma (purity of intention in mind). karma then becomes akarma (actionless action, renouncing the fruits of the action).

it is impossible to describe this state. one can at best give a rough idea. the sun rises daily. but does it rise to remove darkness, urge the birds to fly and set men working. it just rises and that is all. its very existence makes all the world go round. but it is not aware of it. if you thank him for dispelling darkness, he would be at a loss to understand what you are saying. he will say, 'have i really done so? please bring a little darkness. if i could dispel, then only i would claim any credit for doing so.' can we carry darkness to the sun?

im reading this in the light of the recent cycle yatra with europen velophotographer tomas werner and the incessant maddening kindness we were shown. at every point our hosts -- none of whom expected us -- would refuse the idea of a thank you. this is of course very common, perhaps even definitive, of indian culture. they never use the words please and thank you. until now i had understood this practice as acceptance that actions were done out of duty and did not necessitate judgement or approval. but vinoba goes deeper. he says that our actions cease to be actions, to bring karma upon us, when they are included in our being, when they cease to be outside of us.

i have friends so kind, so compassionate, that talking to kids on the street or brightening peoples' days or giving away everything they have is not an action. it is not something to be remarked upon or even noticed. only after they have taken care of the starving old woman will they even note they are two hours late for whatever evening plan they had. it is not karma, it is inside one, it has become, vikarma.

or as my flute teacher, who is 80, says in his scratchy baritone when i thank him (im not learning i guess)
"thank you"

as in:

"thank you, sir"
"yes, hmm, thank you"

bharti sanskruti

In the "ah, so this is culture" file, i am pleased to report overwhelming evidence indicates touching people is ever-so-common all-the-time here (between people for whom sexual rapport is thought to be impossible). that is, people will crowd you on the trains, sit basically on your lap at the public benches, ram against you in line, elbow you getting on a bus, tug your arms, put their babies against your bosom, hold your hand, touch your head, stroke your beard, grasp your side, etc.

but! if anybody accidently steps on you or brushes you with their Feet, there is an immediately apology in the form of touching your feet with their hand and then touching that hand to their heart or head. as in, touching you with their feet (as opposed to babies or elbows) is denigrating and disrespectful and begs for immediate atonement.

so that's cool. or, at least, what it is.

secret leaves of plants

an experiment. i am reading at long last, "the secret life of plants". easily of the most fascinating and life-philosophy confirming books i've ever read, echoing, in its own journalistic/sensationalistic fashion, the primal reality of the one love and the deep truths many mystics share with us:

existence is consciousness (ie sat is chit)
matter is energy (inc. electromagnetic and sound)
everything affects everything, perhaps immediately

so it's good. one of the experiments related tells of a human plucking two leaves from the same plant and leaving them on his or her bedside table. every morning the person tells one leaf he or she loves it and wants it to live. the other leaf he doesn't address at all.

after two weeks one is fresh and green and the other is dry and decayed.

total mind magic. and very simple to confirm. if any mangoland lovers out there would like to do this, i would love to hear of the results. i will start today.

with mango leaves of course.

09 May 2008

bathing in mango juice.

not yet. but they promised me it will soon be true. a few notes on the mango reality:

the word mango comes like from the malayam manga from the tamil 'mangay'. in north indian it is known from some derivation of the sanskrit 'am', curiously similar to the primeval 'ma' of mother. the mango is indeed deeply embedded in our consciousness.

there are 40 species in the mangifera genus besides our favorite mangifera indica. they grow wild in the jungles of assam, through bangladesh and burma, and into malaysia and indochina. some of the fruits are edible, some are not. none is the king of fruits. that is for the mango alone.

yesterday morning i woke up and did my daily walk of the 6 acres of mango trees. there are perhaps three or four hundred trees, some branded varities (grafted) and some from seed (desi, or native varieties). mangos cross pollinate so if you wanted a fruit like the father, you have to do a graft. so all these alfonso and kesar and whatnot mangos you get in the market (after they have been chemically insta-ripened for your tasting enjoyment) are actually from the same genetic stock. with all the weakness that implies.

after picking up the fallen green mangos and nosing around for any ripe mangos or half-eaten fruits (which indicate the tree is ready for the picking; the birds and monkeys always know before we do), i walked a little with Karunaji (the mother of the family, her name, Karuna, means compassion) to pick 10 kilos of special kesar mangos for sale and storage. she walks here and there in the orchard, picking a few fruits from each of the 10 Kesar trees. each mango is personally selected, checked, and caressed before being plucked. Its quite amazing. she then told me which trees were ripe enough to pick all the fruit and i got to work.

first picking all the mangos i could reach, then climbing the tree to get all the interior mangos, then using the mango-picker-tool to get the high mangos. there is of course the set intersection of too-high interior mangos or too-too-high exterior mangos that remain for a better picker or, equally like, the birds.

by 10 it's hot enough to get ill and i stumble home with 40-50 kilos of mangos on my back. it's a good load to hoe.

get home from breakfast (always accompained by some form of mango chutney) to sort the mangos into:

ripe to be eaten now
mature to be ripened
green to be pickled
green to be made into mango powder
green to be made into drink
damaged or small to feed the cows

worth noting is that india loves cows and cows love mangos. they love small green mangos they can get a good crunch on. and we love giving them the small green mangos and hearing them crunch. its so good.

after sorting i can help make peel mangos to make pickles or just sit around eating mangos. we have a grandmother here, she is old and dying and confined to her bed, so i try to paint and play music in her room and hold her hand. she calls me 'maharaj' (which means priest or holy man or servant) even though nobody told her that everyone calls me swamiji (holy man, renunciant) here. it's a funny subconscious world. all one. doctor bronner style.

the point is that between 10 and 5 you should be in the grasp of the sun. so i run outside after lunch to practice flute under the shade of the mango tree, a good 10 degrees colder than the house. the sun is by the by, a good 45 degrees strong. its really dangerous. i have to think of it like acid rain, that acid rain is falling on my head and killing me, everytime i step into that midday jaguar sun, in order to take it seriously.

those are some mangoed notes. i should break to, yes, eat another mango.



03 May 2008

home, home at last.

so who knows what any of this means but i appear to have found this
mangolandia i've been headed towards all along. i created this whole
"brand" and idea and email address when first i came to india as a
musafair (traveler) in nov of 2005. ostensibly to study ayurveda,
classical music, and gandhiji.

and now, 2.5 five years later, mangolandia has found mangolandia. its
a farm, an organic farm, headed towards a natural farm (meaning
fukuoka style), in maharastra. district amrawati. taluka warud.
village rawala. family of vasant and karuna futane. six acres of
mangos and then a lot of food forest type land and six acres of
gorgeous cathedral bamboo and then some straight row crop and as well.
and people who have drunk deeply of gandhiji and vinoba bhave, karuna
who grew up with the latter -- a hero for me.

when i came to visit last year for the shikshantar farming conference,
it was january and delightful. but no mangos. and i was hungry to come
back. and thery had invited me "swamiji, you may always return to eat
mangos". so here i am and so naive and childishly happy, taking care
of the trees, picking up the fallen fruit, building a hut in the
grove, eating mangos. carving mangos. juicing mangos. and its not even
proper season yet. things havent really begun -- just one or two trees
that are providing a few threshold ripe mangos every day. one or two
trees out of 400, out of 50 varities, most of them traditional
unbranded types.

so, mangolandia has arrived. and these kind people, well, weve fallen
in love with each other and its quite possible i could come and stay
here every year, be part of this simple community living honestly and
fruitfully with the earth, trying experiments with diet and natural
farming. fulfill our dream of a meditation center, mud huts amidst the
fruit trees. it could happen here.

so there's that. i just wanted to share. kind of a powerful thing. if
im always ahead of myself and moving forward, it means i should change
this email address pretty soon.

one love

We on the rise...

[ a note from agent ava of mexican and amerikan fame. her productions,
i repeat, are the best i have ever seen in my short terrestrial life,
and are not to be missed. gods willing, i will pilgrimge down from
sequim this fall to attend ]

Dear Friends

I am thrilled to announce that We Players have received the necessary
permits from the National Parks Service to mount our next show! We
will be working at Fort Point, an incredible stone fort, built towards
the end of the Civil War, that is situated directly beneath the Golden
Gate Bridge.

I'm attaching a donation request letter, that describes a bit more
about the location and the project, that I recently sent out to the We
Players mailing list.

If you are willing, please help us out by forwarding this letter to
friends and family, anyone who may be interested in the work We do.
If you yourself have $2 or $5 or $10, literally any amount will help.
For real. For this show we have some pretty serious budget goals,
unlike any of our previous projects. The major obstacle to this event
is the very large sum in overtime Ranger fees we must pay for the
dates of performance. Without at least this, the show won't go.

I can guarantee this will be our tightest, most impressive show yet.
And of course, a truly one-of-a-kind journey through this amazing
space...henceforth know as Macbeth's castle.

With many thanks for your support.


donation and information letter below:

Dear Friends,

This summer, We Players is bringing its unique combination of
theatrical spectacle and community celebration to one of the most
majestic and bizarre spots in San Francisco.

Fort Point, the "third system" Civil War era army barracks that sits
in the Presidio, directly underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, has been
preserved almost without modification since it was completed in 1861.
It never saw battle, and after being underutilized for several
decades, has spent most of the last century under the administration
of the National Parks Service, who preserve it as a National Historic
Site and keep it open to the public on weekends throughout the year.

The building is breathtaking. Three stories of balconies look out onto
a central courtyard. Stone archways, partially covered in moss, open
up into cavernous rooms full of dark corners. Slitted windows provide
occasional peeks out onto the bay, as the sound of waves breaking
against the stone fills up the whole space again and again, before
being lost in the wind. Fort Point is the perfect setting for We
Players' presentation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Continuing in our tradition of creating interactive, site-specific
performance events which transform public space and provide
opportunities for communities to gather and celebrate their
surroundings, Macbeth will bring actors, musicians, dancers, and
designers together with the National Parks Service, a Civil War
reenactment troupe, spectacular architectural lighting, and the wisdom
of one of Shakespeare's starkest and most incisive plays. The
performances, which are free and open to the public, will occur during
the first two weekends of September 2008.

In order to do this work, we need your help. While our collaborators
donate their time and resources, mounting a production of this type
does cost money, and We rely on contributions from those people who
value what We do to help make it possible. We need money for permits
and insurance, to create costumes and props, to provide lodging for
our guest collaborators, and to pay overtime wages to the NPS rangers
who will be our liaisons to the fort.

In order to cover these expenses, We are embarking on a fund-raising
campaign that will include Salon-style discussions with our core
collaborators, a dinner event featuring previews from the performance,
and a dance party. We have also applied for several grants. In
addition, we are aiming to raise $4,000 in direct donations from those
of you who have a special connection to We Players. You are friends or
family, have been a patron or a participant, have stumbled across our
public performances, come across our website and said hello. Somehow,
you have become part of our circle, and therefore you are already a

Contributions of any amount are helpful, tax-deductable, and greatly
appreciated. Please make checks payable to CounterPULSE, the
non-profit fiscal sponsor for
We Players. Write We Players in the memo line of your check and mail it to:

We Players
attn. Ava Roy
776 Cayuga Ave.
San Francisco, CA

You can also contribute online. On our website (www.weplayers.org) you
will find a link "support we" which will allow you to make
contributions using PayPal and credit cards. If you are donating
through PayPal, please make a note in the 'comment' box that you would
like your donation to be tax deductible. Credit card donations are
greatly appreciated, but are not tax deductable at this point.

With our deepest thanks

on behalf of all of WE,

Ava Roy
artistic director

Randall Cohn, project co-director
Cara DeFabio, project co-director

For further information about We Players: www.weplayers.org
Please feel free to contact us there with any questions or comments.

For photos and further information about Fort Point: www.nps.gov/fopo/

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