Monday, March 24, 2008

on manners and banishing fear

The intelligent who do not lead others falsely
but lawfully and impartially
and are guarded by the law
are called dhammattha
“Those who abide by the law.”

They are not learned merely because they speak much;
Those who are secure, without hate, and fearless are called learned.
Dhammapada, 19:257-258

I read an article some months ago in the New Yorker about a man who suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a milder form of autism that resolves itself in all kinds of anti-social or asocial behavior. He had obviously made a lot of progress in dealing with the syndrome since he was able to write about it. He said that oddly, the book that helped pull him into the human race was Emily Post’s “Etiquette” because, he said, that book not only “offered clear reasons for courtesy and gentility,” but most of all it convinced him “that manners, properly understood, existed to make other people feel comfortable, rather than… to demonstrate the practitioner’s social superiority.” (Tim Page, “Parallel Play,” New Yorker, August 20, 2007)

I was thinking of some of the really noble people I have met in my life, that were so intelligent, perhaps wealthy, successful in business, erudite, sophisticated, and I must say the best of them have always been people like that, who made me feel comfortable rather than try to show off their superiority, never made me feel stupid for my lack of education, who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, who eased me through an uncomfortable social situation, who had no need to prove their superiority. Instead of talking down to me, I always get the feeling from them that they are pulling me up to their level.

I didn’t even know that William F Buckley had died until I got down here to the hermitage and started rummaging through the periodicals a few days ago. (I missed a bit of American news while I was on the road in Asia.) I was quite fascinated by him in my own what I’ve come to call “neo-con” days of the 80’s, when I was hanging around people who were pretty smart conservatives and pious Catholics (who considered themselves not conservative but “orthodox”). And I used to watch Firing Line pretty regularly in those days, mesmerized by his skill as an interviewer, his erudition and, of course, his vocabulary. My favorite shows, or moments in shows, are two. In 1986 when he was debating and interviewing all the Democratic presidential candidates during the primary season, there was a moment when Buckley found himself standing at a podium next to Jesse Jackson, and he glanced up, everyone could see, rather nervously. Jesse was kind of an imposing presence, and for the first time I thought something like a look of panic crossed Buckley’s face. The audience laughed, and they had a wonderful exchange afterward, certainly the meeting of two very different but equally eloquent speakers. The other was one of the times he interviewed Glenn Gould, which of course featured the latter performing Bach on the piano. They spoke at length about the differences between live performance and recording, and it was a magical almost mystical conversation. You could see how much appreciation Buckley had for the genius of this man, not to mention the glory of the music itself.

As much as I admired Mr Buckley’s intellectual integrity, I was also “confused,” shall we say, by a few of his controversial positions such as on the Jim Crow laws and his backing of Sen. McCarthy, for instance. And I was always amazed how he could consistently be held up as a model of orthodox Catholicism when he himself is oft quoted for his aphorism “Mater Si Magistra No!––Mother, Yes, Teacher, No” when it came to the Catholic social teachings, all the way from John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris through the bishop’s letter on Economic Justice in the 1980s. And of course there was his abhorrence of the Novus Ordo of Vatican II, especially in English. One priest (shame on him) is quoted in print saying, “Bill quite rightly loathed the liturgical changes in the Catholic Church.”

I’ve been happily pouring through the tributes to Mr Buckley recently, especially in the National Review, and the one thing comes up over and over again: though one might have gotten the impression of him as aristocratic or haughty or exclusive due to his ideology, acerbic wit and vocabulary, person after person mentioned about him that as an interviewer he was a self-effacing and almost invisible presence, that one left feeling enhanced, exhilarated, and a better person after being with him; and that in person he was tremendously egalitarian: he treated everyone equally, with equal dignity; he treated people with respect and inquisitiveness, and he loved to celebrate other peoples’ triumphs, from his cronies like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater to John Kenneth Galbraith and Ira Glasser of the ACLU, who were his ideological opposites, down to the lowliest first year law student who came to interview for a job. Again, in this way instead of talking down to people, he pulled them up to his level.

I heard someone say years ago that if he had been the one who had been raised from the dead instead of Jesus, he would have climbed to the top of the parapet of the temple and shouted, “Oh yeah? Who’s King of the Mountain now?” And yet in the Gospels we see Jesus appearing after his resurrection just as humbly as he walked the roads during his ministry. Some of the Patristic writers noted this especially: Peter Chrysologus, (in Sermon 76) wrote that Jesus, when he meets the women at the tomb and when he greets his friends, does not terrify them by his power but convinces and confirms them “with the ardor of love.” And St Jerome says that we always find this, both in the Old and New Testament, “that when there is an appearance of any majestic person, the first thing done is to banish fear, that the mind being tranquillized may receive the things that are said.” Jesus of course is what God is like, so he has told us, and I like to think of God in Jesus, pulling us up to his level. God in Jesus does not terrify us by his power, but convinces and confirms us by the ardor of love. Jesus, like God, pulls us up to his level.

Right away in the Easter season we need to start focusing on this: that not only in Baptism itself but in the feast of Pentecost toward which we are heading, when we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit of the Risen Christ into the depths of our being, we are celebrating the fact that Jesus is pulling us up to his level; where the head has gone the Body will follow. If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, then that same Spirit will banish our fear and give life to our mortal bodies as well through the ardor of love.

I’d also like to think that I/we could be so majestic, so gracious in our behavior toward one another, if for no other reason than in imitation of Jesus, to never exert any kind of superiority, but to always put others (and service to them) first, to banish fear and assure others of the ardor of our love, to strive to be at the same level of Jesus and invite others there too.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

nudus nudum

I ran into the famous aphorism of St Jerome again recently: nudus nudum Jesum sequi––“Naked, we follow the naked Jesus.” He was speaking of evangelical poverty, though sometimes the meaning is extended to include going beyond images in prayer and the purification of our faculties, but it struck me in another way in relation to the Passion of Jesus. As Spidlik explains, in Scripture and the rabbinic tradition being deprived of one’s clothes is a sign of loss of identity, or of freedom being taken away; it is usually applied to captives, slaves, prostitutes, the demented, as well as to the dead who were buried naked.

We often note the parallels between the gardens of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection and the Garden of Eden, the story of Adam and Eve. Here’s one of them: Adam and Eve were “naked and without shame,” the story tells us, with no reason not to trust the benevolence of God or the Universe that surrounded them; on the other hand here is Jesus, surrounded by malignant forces, with every reason not to trust, and yet totally exposed and vulnerable, somehow trusting that even death could not destroy his real self.

There is a moment in the reading of the Passion, at the mention of Jesus’ death, when we pause and kneel, and it has always seemed to me to be the most profound silence of the year––the whole world is quiet for a moment while we chew on this greatest of all mysteries––death. And in that moment, and throughout this celebration, we are challenged to face it, and to trust that our real selves, hidden with Christ in God, can never be destroyed if nudus nudum Jesum sequi––if “naked, we follow the naked Jesus.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

last thoughts for now, happily home

saturday, 8 march

Seconds, minutes, hours, quarters of the day;
Lunar and solar days make up a month,
Yet there are many times and many seasons;
One single sun runs through them all.
O Nanak, your Lord is likewise One,
However many his aspects are.
from the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs

I had kind of a day off yesterday. As is typical of my hosts here, they told me there was a change in the schedule that left me a day and a half off to myself, and then filled the day with things for me to do. The last concert of this series was here on Thursday, again a very nice and receptive crowd. Because I have stayed on I have actually gotten to know some of the folks here. I’m staying with the Redemptorist community; the house has seemed very homey to me.

Yesterday morning I was asked to do a session with the choir. It wasn’t completely clear what they wanted me to do with the choir, some general spirituality, some things about liturgical music and how to get people to sing better, or, perhaps, just a repeat of the concert for the elderly folks from the choir that hadn’t been able to make it the night before. I was, I’ll admit, groaning under the weight of it, trying to work up some enthusiasm even as the few people were gathering, but as soon as we got going it went well. We were about 30 people in a little auditorium. Even a small group of high school aged kids came who were part of the music ministry here. I did not now what I was going to say, nor did I have any inspiration of what to sing, but somehow it just got rolling. And I found myself talking about the connection between the Word and the voice, and how often I discovered in other traditions two things: 1) an essentially vocal music and 2) that they were singing their Scriptures. I brought in the example of the Brahmin priests at Tiruvanamalai first, and then Hafiz and the Jewish cantors, and then made the tie in with monasticism and liturgy in general. It is odd, not only here, but everywhere throughout the Catholic world that this insight tends to be rather surprising: that liturgical music is all about singing the Word, and that is what we have to learn form studying other traditions. I think I have my talk for NPM in the summer ready now.

I sang a few examples with them and was only sorry I did not have the Psallite stuff with me (what I do have here in Asia is back with my hosts in Kuala Lampur, arriving today). Well, that led to a few very interesting conversations, one in particular with a woman who has been married to a Hindu for years and told me that that was the first time she had ever felt some comfort about being open to his tradition. We talked about the difference between the faith and the cultural expressions of it, and I probably went on at too great a length about it, but it is exactly in a place such as this where that plays such a vital part of their life. Afterwards I went out for tea with four of the young guys, who show some of the mix of races and cultures here––Tamil, Chinese, Portuguese, and especially the mix of the latter two, Eurasian. They all speak Malay (Bahasa) which I compulsory to learn in school, but none of them are fluent in the mother tongue any more. It may be just this generation that is losing it. They were all musicians, and are frustrated with the Catholic Church for having such boring music, but are really attracted to––are you ready for this?––“praise and worship” music, Charismatic music from Don Moore (I don’t know him, an American) and music “like they have in the Methodist church.” They liked what I did but have already been steeped in what sounds to me like the worst of music in English (as in India) that it is very hard to break them out of the mindset of drums, bass, synthesizer, etc. I am not here to do liturgical music workshops, and was resistant to being dragged into one, but somehow this is all not far afield from my other work.

In the afternoon, I was given a tour of the two great caves by a man named Joseph. He himself is a successful Chinese businessman. He owns his own marble factory (though he told me it is actually limestone that they deal in). The first cave was far out of town, a huge cavern with stalactites and stalagmites, and a rive running through it way, way down deep. It was a guided tour as the place has been prepared for tourists and is maintained by the government for tourism, though our guide said that tourism has been low for this spot. Our guide was a Malay, who was most keen on showing us all the natural formations and water painting––owls, and seahorses, Kuan Yin and a woman’s head. The other in the group were four young folks from Indonesia who are here in Malaysia working in a microchip factory, and spoke little or no English, so he kept switching back and forth between English and Bahasa, with Joseph helping out a good deal too. Afterwards we went to another cave, closer to town, that I enjoyed even more. All along the hills near the outskirts of town there are temples built into the caves, and this was the biggest and most famous one. The front side was given to Taoism and Confucianism, and the back side (with its own entrance) to Buddhist. So at the front there was a statue of Confucius holding the I-Ching, and the three great sages of Taoism; at the back there were various statues of bodhisattvas, most prominently Kuan Yin and Maitrya Buddha. Then behind that there was a fabulous garden with a walking-running path and a huge lotus pool. I enjoyed that even more than the stalactites and stalagmites.

In the meantime I got another good lesson in Malaysia culture and politics from Joseph. The most poignant thing that I remember him saying was that even a few years ago he used to be able to socialize with his Muslim neighbors, especially those among them who were the most open. But that is almost a thing of the past for him, not for any loss of love for them but because it is so had on them, as the imams have gotten stronger and more influential, warning against being polluted by mixing with people of other faiths. He says most people have just given up and have learned to live quietly side by side without a lot of mix between the peoples. It is hard to separate the ethnic from the religious issue here, because this is a matter of ethnic Malays who are all Muslim, and who are being favored by the government as bumi putra, sons of the land, in a kind of affirmative action program. The only problem is that the affirmative action program, which has been in place 30 years, has not been helping the poor; it has been helping those in power, who seem to be keeping the little people in control through religion. Yesterday was Friday, and of course everyone was going to the mosque. Joseph said it was not accident that the elections had been scheduled on a Saturday because the ruling party, Barisan Nasional, was counting on the imams to urge their listeners to vote them in again.

* * *

9 march 08, Singapore

Well the big news that trickled into us as we ended our retreat Sunday noon was that the Barisan Nasional lost heavily in the elections, losing at least five of the thirteen states. I knew of the Chinese discontent with them––there has been a long standing rivalry do the Chinese’ great success in business––and I had heard on the BBC that the Indians were finally fed up, having also been on this soil for many generations. What no one was quite ready for is that the ethnic Malays themselves swung. The paper said that 80 per cent of Malays along with Chinese had turned against the BN and as a matter of fact in one state they themselves, who seem to be using Islam for power and control, actually lost to the Islamic party (PAS) in one state. Someone had said to me that there was a chance the “common people” among the Malays themselves were also fed up because the programs set in place that were supposed to be benefiting them seem to have only been benefiting the politicians. I am impressed with the courage of the “common people” among the Muslim Malays, and hopefully this signals a new chance for relations between the various races and some extrication of religion being used as in a divisive way. The excitement was palpable but tinged with anxiety. People were reminding each other to erase all their phone messages and be careful what they texted and said to each other via cell phones, because they are convinced the ruling party (it is still in the majority) will be tapping phones and invading privacy. And police are urging people not to celebrate publicly, because the last time the BN lost the public celebrations among the Chinese especially sparked off race riots and led to many deaths. It felt like an historic day to be there and I tore off the front page of the newspaper to keep as a souvenir.

12 march

My time here in Asia is done for now. The short retreat at St Anne’s in Penang went well enough. It had been cut short specifically because of the elections. Folks there are enthusiastically encouraging me to come back to Malaysia and “stay longer.” I’m of two (or three minds) about it. On the negative side I want more home time, but also I keep remembering a couple of folks in India especially who were very negative about people from the West coming in as teachers in the East. That opinion has a lot of layers of baggage, I think, I understand it but, on the other hand, I also think that the whole invisible wall between east and west should be dismantled at some point anyway. I found when speaking about music though, the same thing is still going on as in spirituality in general: many Christians in Asia are still steeped in Western European forms and concepts (including music), and not the best of Western European (especially in music!). So that inculturation has not happened yet. Nor has the bridge to other traditions been solidly, permanently constructed. There seem to be merely rope bridges thrown across swollen streams from time to time. Meaning, on the positive side, I always learn so much here and find that the “common people” are craving something that they are not getting from the their own, most likely due to a lack of resources and personnel, not a lack of good will, talent or depth surely. It occurs to me that these are still “missionary” times, or that they are missionary time again, but in a very different way then the colonial missionary times, even apologetic times but in a new sense of that word too. I find myself on the non-Christan side often trying to merely justify why Christianity is still vital and why it to is an expression of the perennial philosophy. And music and meditation still seem to me to be the two vehicles most suited to the task at hand for the global church in this globalized world.

May all beings be at peace.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

meeting mud

Held by the cords of love,
the swing of the Ocean of Joy sways to and fro;
and a mighty sound breaks forth in song.
See what a lotus blooms there without water!
And Kabir says, ‘My heart’s bee drinks its nectar.’

5 march 08

Three days now into my time in Malaysia. I had a very well attended concert again in Singapore. They amaze me at being able consistently to turn out such crowds there. That was Saturday, which left me Sunday for leisure, which I spent mostly with Joyce and Richard Koh, two of the group of young meditators with whom I had spent such a lively evening on my last time through. This was a little less intense. They took me first for a light lunch and then to the “primary forest,” that is, the original rain forest protected area, where we had a long beautiful walk in what is what Singapore would have looked like to the aboriginal peoples and the first settlers. Then we had a big Japanese meal for supper, which I thought might sit well with my poor innards. I actually have been sick to my stomach again since arriving in Singapore. I don’t know if it is a coincidence or if there is something about coming to Singapore from Delhi that sets off a chemical reaction in me, but for five days I have not been holding food in well.

Monday afternoon my hosts Patricia and Joseph arrived from Kuala Lampur to ferry me off to the Malaysia peninsula. It was quite an experience crossing over the border from Singapore. To everyone’s horror and surprise, a terrorist prisoner escaped from the infamously unbreachable Singaporean prison system last week and there has been a massive tri-country manhunt on. So every car–-this was rush hour––had to be stopped, passengers seen and “boot” (trunk) of the car inspected. It was not a long drive then to our first stop, Johor Bharu. We could still see Singapore from many points in the city across the straits. But I definitely knew I was in another country. Singapore consistently strikes me as odd; it is such a small country-state-city––still less than 5 million people on an island with a land mass 30 by 40 miles––and yet it has developed a very unique, booming, distinctive culture, especially as compared with its closest neighbor and parent land, Malaysia. It is far more sophisticated, richer, cleaner, more organized and powerful than the much larger Malaysia. That partition after the 1957 withdrawal of the British was not without its own controversy and bloodshed, but it seems that mostly ethnic Chinese stayed in Singapore, with some Tamilian Indians and fewer Malays, while in Malaysia the native Malays remain the dominant majority, with ethnic Chinese next and then Tamils, followed by Eurasians and expatriates of various stripes. John, Dominic and Clare had all told me just about the same thing, that I would love Malaysia, that it’s more laid back and friendlier than the high paced success conscious Singapore. And I could see evidence of that right away.

The first night’s event was in Johor Bharu, (Johor also being the name of the state), at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Chinese pastor there who greeted us is pretty young, Fr Peter, and is aided only partially by an elderly semi-retired French missionary priest, Fr Binet, MEP, who had just the day before celebrated one of his unspecified 80th birthdays. (He would only say that he was an octogenarian.) The bishop was also there at the parish, but only for a meeting. He is a Jesuit, a former secretary to the Secretary General of the Jesuits in Rome, a very affable and informal man. The concert was again very well attended, easily 400 people, many of them coming from the choir of the parish as well as from the WCCM, and they were wildly receptive and responsive, and afterward very gregarious in wanting to talk.

After the concert Frs Peter and Binet took me out to eat at a smoke-filled French bistro, and I do not know if I conveyed to them adequately how confused I was to be in that environment. It was not at all what I was expecting in Malaysia, if I expected anything at all. I had a delicious plate of pasta with almonds and goat cheese, and the best crème brulèe I have ever had. Alas, it did not stay in me long but it was fun while it lasted. The net morning Fr Peter took me to a small Indian restaurant run by a Keralese family for breakfast, delicious thick milk tea and a couple of dry chappati. I am telling you this to give you a sense of the mix of cultures I was already getting in my first 24 hours: a Chinese priest, a French bistro, a Keralese family. At this point it seems as if the only ethnic group with whom I will not have much contact is the native Malays. That is a very interesting phenomenon.

The indigenous Malays, the tribal peoples, are sequestered off a bit here on the peninsula, have their own language yet and are in large part Christian. But since the 15th century the Indonesian Muslims came who came up and settled here consider themselves the “people of the land.” Their language is still virtually the same as Indonesian, and they are for all practical purposes all Muslim. Each state is still considered a sultanate with a sultan and his crown prince, and each of these sultans takes a five-year turn at being king of Malaysia. Since independence, only a Malaysian Muslim can be prime minister (one of the reasons Singapore split off), it is illegal to convert one of them or for one of them to convert. They are also subject to the Islamic shariah law as well as civil law. (On our tour of the city of Johor Bharu after dinner, we passed by the well-lighted Islamic Center, mosque and mightily imposing Shariah Court Building.) This has not been imposed on non-Muslims yet. One of the recent edicts is that the Christians have been ordered not to use the word “Allah” in reference to God, even though it is a pre-Islamic word and is the word for God among many Asian Christians, particularly the tribal Malays. So I am told, some official Islamic government officials consider Allah to be “their God.” The Catholic bishops here are ignoring the order: though the Catholic newspaper may not use the word or else it will not be allowed to be printed, the official liturgical books are all replete with “Allah,” and one priest told me that they will not be stripped of this in speaking. There is a lively interfaith dialogue going on here among Buddhists (Chinese and Thai Theravadan), Hindus, Taoists and Christians, but the government will not allow an official representative of Islam because, I was told, they consider it to be beneath the dignity of Islam to dialogue with other faiths (though there are unofficial Muslims who participate in the dialogue anyway).

There is simmering tension underneath all of this and more than a bit of resentment. It is election time here right now and that brings a lot of stuff to the surface. Luckily people still feel as if they can talk semi-openly about it––there doesn’t seem to be any fear of a Taliban-like takeover––but many folks to whom I have spoken do not think that they are living in much of a democracy. For that matter, neither do some people in Singapore where, though not religiously controlled, there is a very tight control of the state and really only one political party has been in power since independence, though Singapore is fiercely a “meritocracy” while Malaysia unabashedly favors ethnic Muslim Malays who feel themselves deserving of a kind of “affirmative action.” Practically speaking that means that all administrative positions in the government, education and the military are Malays. I guess it all depends on how benevolent that ruling party is, and to you.

This is the reality of inter-religious dialogue, and life in a land of mixed cultures, and also the dark side of religion when it gets wedded to political and social power. Like the wake-up call from Pahmo from Burma at Gurukul in Chennai, I am not about to be cavalierly quoting the mystics of Islam, here where Sufism is considered a cult, or the Prophet (Peace be upon him) himself, or sunnily suggesting that co-existence is easily won. This is also where Pope Benedict is quite insightful, suggesting that often the dialogue that goes on is not a theological one at all, but an inter-cultural one. But I have been carefully telling the story of Kabir, re-kindled by this translation of Tagore that I am carrying around, and I must admit I love hearing the muzzein issuing the call to prayer across the city while I am murmuring my own chants and psalms in the morning.

* * *

6 march 08

Thursday now, and I am at my fourth and final concert stop, Ipho. It has been a fascinating week. After Johor Bharu I performed for a smaller crowd in Malaka, a small ancient town on the west coast, known mainly for its preservation of remnants of the Dutch colonial period and the site of the first burial place of St Francis Xavier, which is a big tourist spot. I was hosted there by Fr Deva, a lively Tamilian priest who appreciated my “program” a great deal. I had a wonderful conversation the next morning with him the next morning (at a Chinese kopitiam coffee house) regarding the use of Asian philosophy and universal wisdom in articulating the Gospel. I am still a little diffident about bringing up my Indian references, not to mention singing in Sanskrit and Hindi, in front of ethnic Indians, even if they have never been to India, but I am consistently consoled by their positive reaction and affirmation, and especially glad when and if they tell me that I am pronouncing the Sanskrit well. Then yesterday we––my hosts-drivers-dharma protectors Patricia and Joseph Lip from the WCCM and I––were in their home town of Kuala Lampur, which like Washington DC is the capital of Malaysia and considered a separate district and not in a state.

Kuala Lampur, I found out, in Malay means "meeting mud." It's the place where two rivers meet.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the Shuddha Samajam, the Pure Life Society. Like Sri Ram in Haridwar, it is an ashram that is also an orphanage, started in 1952, after the Second World War, when there was still so much devastation and destitution here in Malaysia (the Japanese occupied the peninsula) and many orphans. It was founded by Swami Satyananda, a Malaysian Hindu monk. He was originally a member of the Ramakrishna Order. but he asked to live out his monastic vocation doing this charitable work instead of the regular life of a sannyasi studying and teaching and meditating. The order said that he could not do that while remaining a member of their order but it was a friendly parting and he stayed true to the ideals of the monastic life throughout his life and on good terms with them. His focus, like the founder of the Ramakrishna Order, Vivekananda, was on the universality of religion and embracing all creeds and paths. The main attraction for the folks who know the tradition of John Main is that it is he who taught Fr John how to meditate, right there at that very same place, and it is that fortuitous meeting that led to Fr John’s ministry later in life, and eventually the founding of the World Community for Christian Meditation.

It’s a wonderful place, housing nearly 100 children with a separate housing site for senior boys (teenagers). It has been steered for years now by Mother Mangalam, who as the closest disciple of Swami Satyananda, helped found the place and carries it on in his same manner. Patricia had told her of my coming and her plan to bring me there to see the place and Mother wanted both a meeting with me and for me to sing for the children, both of which I was more than pleased to do. We met for about 45 minutes in her hut. She is about 84 years old now and has been laid up recovering from a broken shoulder which she sustained while helping one of her own invalid sisters who now lives with her. She had been forewarned of my recent stomach problems––which have been the talk of all of Malaysia––and so had a special concoction of tea made for me that included cardamom, turmeric, jaggery, cumin and Lord-know-what-else, and we talked at hurried pace about our many connections. She had been given and listened to a copy of Echo of Your Peace, and was anxious to tell me to the origins of the yantra-design on the cover which she recognized right away. It is the Sri-Chraka of a text called the Sri Lalita Trisati Stotro, a text in honor of Divine Motherhood, to be chanted on navratri puja, a nine day celebration that usually falls in October. She had also been to Shantivanam and had spent time with Fr Bede there and also in Chennai for a series of meetings, if I recall correctly, and spoke lovingly of him.

We then went up to the Temple of the Universal Spirit where the kids had gathered already twenty minutes before in anticipation, and we had a great time together, me singing for them, singing with them, them singing for me. I did the Jaya Nam bhajan with them and I must tell you, never before has that bhjan slipped so easily into the faster tempo; they just carried my guitar and I along with their enthusiasm and the clapping. After a half an hour or so we stopped and I met each and every one of them, they being pleased as punch to say to me “Nice to meet you!” and some of them also echoing me by saying, “What is your name?” There are two things I have grown to love in my middle years––children and India; and I am absolutely powerless over the combination of the two.

A few of the staff then gave me a tour of the rest of the place, the beautifully enshrined hut of Swami Satyananda, with even his clothes hung neatly in the closet and covered with plastic, and his Samadhi shrine where his ashed are buried. All around are various symbols and reminders of the world’s religions including large posters displaying Hans Kung’s great initiative, the Global Ethic. We reconvened at Mother’s where she had proper tea laid out for us, including homemade lime jellies, biscuits and curry puffs. As I left she presented me with leftovers from that, a stack of books, two loaves of bread, and a little jar of an herbal curry she had prepared just for me and my whacked-out stomach.

Then off to the parish, where I was to stay the night, and the largest attended concert yet, well over 500 people. Amazing, for someone virtually unknown. I was having trouble hearing due to sitting behind the speakers and the roar of the fans circulating the sweltering air, but Patricia and Joe said it was the best sound yet, and again the reception was very enthusiastic.

I got a run in for the first time since the first days of January this morning. Pat and Joe’s son Geoff fetched me and took me to a 6 km hilly trail. It felt awfully good, but it shook up forced out whatever was left in my stomach when I got home. It may just be that whatever it was is actually gone now as a result of that, because it feels better, though I have taken nothing but black tea, toast and bananas all day. They all gave me a tour of KL this morning and then put me on a coach (they thoughtfully bought me two seats so that my poor beat up Taylor could travel first class too), and I am now in Ipho where I will do the last of this series of concerts tonight. The pastor here feels like an old friend. He is an Indian Malaysian himself, an old friend of Leonard and Clare in Singapore (he actually married them), and a Redemptorist who spent time at Shantivanam with Fr Bede also. This is also, though far from luxurious, the most comfortable house I have stayed in in months. I am supposed to give a talk to the choir too in the morning (how they snuck that in I don’t know) and take a tour of the area in the afternoon, but at this point I would be just as happy to sit in this room and read and write and stretch and pray.