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Friday, November 13, 2009

Reflection - A day with Maya and Toltec people


The members of the Memnosyne Foundation and a few friends of the foundation took a trip to the Mayan cultural center in the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico between Nov 7th and 12th led by Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk.

The trip included visitation to the places of the Mayan and Toltec people; a great civilization ruefully reduced to mythology. It is sad that we all claim to be civilized and yet, we let the most un-civil acts transpire in our presence. The minorities, whether they are political, social, cultural, religious or other invariably get the shaft. The amassers and grabbers of the world resources are so insecure that they seek their prosperity on the blood of the weak and perpetuate unjust practices. They constantly live on the edge in a survival mode and their “me, me and me” attitude is the killer of civilizations and cultures creating misery for every one of conscience.

I hope every human understands the beauty and wisdom of their own faith, and for the sake of sustainable co-existence they would value the principles of “we, we and us” that religions inculcate so beautifully and learn the co-existence aspect of their own tradtion. I was reflecting upon the level of caring for minorities in United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, Pakistan, Mexico, the Amazon basin or elsewhere in the world.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a dream come true for Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk and Joshua Frenk, and through them my own vision of a world of co-existence. Memnosyne Foundation offers a ray of hope for mankind, it is an advocate for indigenous people who are the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the Globalized world. Their cultures, languages, spirituality and the traditions of healing are at risk.The Foundation has established seven centers to address the issue of the world, and one of them is the Center for Indigenous Culture.

The major objective of the Center is to provide indigenous cultures with the means to preserve their heritage through Ceremonies, Astronomy; Medicine practices, Culture, Arts, Architecture, Songs, Dances, and Languages and lend them a voice to their human rights and environment concerns.

The trip was to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Cultural Center. It was a joy to see the happiness and hope in the faces of children, women and men. They see it as a blessing from the higher spirits to bring about a revival of their traditions. We also visited a 110 year old Mayan Man in his home and what a blessing it was to see the radiance on his face when we visited him.

The Center is located in Felipe Carillo Puerto in the Yucatan peninsula, the legend says that when the Spaniards conquered the land, they asked the name of the place, neither could understand each others language, one of the Mayans said “we don’t know” in the Mayan language which the Spaniards took it as the name and called it Yucatan.

We walked nearly three fourths of a mile in dirt, mud puddles and pathways through bushes to reach the center. It was an incredible sight, built on an old decimated pyramid surrounded by lush green forest. Most communities around the world, be it your neighborhood or mine, is constantly witnessing a change happening or a development taking place to keep us talking and giving the hope. They Mayans in the region perhaps had not witnessed any change in generations. The center offers them that hope, a place for them to gather, further their tradition, learn their medicine and improve the quality of their lives.

The lunch was served in large leaves of Omarxhe plant similar to Banyan tree (India) leaves and the drink in half cut coconut shells, and it was a memorable indelible experience sharing the food and fellowship with our indigenous brothers and sisters. It was an environment friendly meal, no garbage and no worries of decomposition; no garbage in and no garbage out. After the lunch we enjoyed playing the drum and watching the people dance with joy under the thatched roof atop the old pyramid. I enjoyed my share of playing the drum as well.

We took the tour of Medicine Garden that Dr. Marin Columba is cultivating to teach medicine to the next generation. A place where there is no hospital nearby traditional medicine is the only source of healing for the people. Dr. Columba is one of the few native medicine Doctors alive who continues with the centuries old tradition of the Mayan people. We also visited her clinic with shelves full of herbal medicine for healing from itching to diabetes and even cancer. We were amazed with the number of people visiting the clinic, perhaps the only clinic for miles. I was particularly excited with the tour and recognition of many a shrubs, one of them was a Tulsi shrub that adorns every Indian home. I have one in my backyard as well.

My mind was raging with questions like what is a fuller life, can we measure the level of contentment, the God difference, and conflicts emanating from possession craze, survival of the fittest and the obsession of humans to claim superiority. At times I was lost in reverie of my 6 months retreat as a farm boy in Sitarampur, near Irgampalli in Kolar district. I have lived the simplest of life like our indigenouse brothers and sisters and have seen the luxuries of life Dallas offers. Thank God for endowing me with the spectrum of experience.

Mr. Aniceto Calolm, the spiritual leader for the Mayan tradition started the celebrations with an offering of gratitude to mother earth and the spirits and honoring the corn and the food that is the main source of sustenance and nurturance, followed by dances of joy in traditional costumes and interfaith prayers. The center for interfaith inquiry is another one of the seven centers of the Memnosyne foundation.

Prayers were recited in the following traditions: Mayan tradition – Mr. Aniceto Cacolm; Toltec Traditions – Mr. Ricardo and Irma Cervantes with their son Tona; Apache Tradition – Mr. Gregory Gomez; Shinto Tradition – Rev. Tanaka, Muslim and Hindu traditions – Mike Ghouse; and the celebration was capped by an expression of Gratitude to Mrs. Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk.

Since Mayan traditions resemble closely with the Hindu traditions, I recited the Hindu prayers in Sanskrit and rendered its English translation. Then I had to quench the curiosity about Hindu Prayers by a Muslim. If we were to write the Hindu, Mayan, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any prayer in Sanskrit, Maya, Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili or Latin by generalizing God's name - simply ‘God’ instead of Yahweh, Jesus, Allah or Brahma; then you do not see a whole lot of difference in each prayer. Try it, you may feel the serenity and the thin barriers may fall and you sync with humanity and feel the universality of your soul. If you put a noose around God, God gets constricted, but if you free God from your own imaginative clutches, God becomes free to be had and loved by every human. Let's disposses God.

The wisdom is same no matter what language or where it originates or what religion it appears. For nearly ten years I have been reciting the prayers of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Hinduism, Bahai and Sikh Prayers when and where they are not represented. God willing, I will learn the traditions of the indigenous people as well. The indigenous people focus on harmony ‘Armonia’ and balance as the centrality of their traditions.

A few asked me if it wasn't a conflict to recite Hindu prayers, heavens no, all religions want an individual to be peaceful with one-self and what surrounds him or her; life and environment. If you aspire for the spirituality, which every religion finally lifts you up to, then you do not see the conflict, but see the harmony, as the Mayans say "Armonia". I hope and request each one of the person reading this to be in others shoes and experience the essence of each beautiful tradition. Learning about other faiths does not mean infidelity to your own, indeed, it enriches your own faith knowing that all faiths bring freedom to one's soul.

The world is changing, people have been stuck with affixing labels to prayers, names etc, the change is coming; this is the century of co-existence aka Pluralism. By the way Pluralism is not a religion; it is an attitude of respecting the otherness of other and accepting the genetic uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us. People will appreciate the essence and beauty of each faith. It is difficult for a few to cross the line, they find comfort in confining the religion to be an exclusive idea, it' ain't. If you see the wisdom and beauty of other faiths without prejudice, you have achieved the Mukti, Moksha, Nirvana, Nijaat, Salvation or freedom.

I would love to write my full experience, due to time limitations, I will stop at this experience of one day, God willing, each one of us (or I) will update on the other three days of spiritual enrichment and a sense of purpose in life.

If you want to feel the freedom and joy of serenity, you can do it. Give 2 hours a week to serve in a homless shelter, serve food, give a ride to a senior, help others who need with blinders.

Face book has 60 pictures and some the same are repeated at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157622672259367/show/

An Album and Pictures: http://cid-b1c95cfc3922fb65.skydrive.live.com/play.aspx/ENCUENTRO%20DE%20MEDITACION%20DE%20HERMANDAD?ref=1

More details and reports will be available within a few weeks at www.Memnosynefoundation.org
and the www.FoundationforPluralism.com, www.WorldMuslimCongress.com and http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Please feel free to comment: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/reflection-day-with-maya-and-toltec.html#comments

Mike Ghouse


1 comment:

  1. Nice posting. Do you know about these Sanskrit books?