As time went by, the palace with all its luxuries and amusements made Siddharth bored and restless. All of King Suddhodana's efforts to shield his son from the outseide world only increased the prince's curiosity. So, one day Sidhartha summoned the royal charioteer, Channa, to take him for a drive to the town.
While in town, Siddharth saw an old man on first day, saw a sick man on other day and on a third day he saw a funeral procession pass by. His servant, Channa explained the meaning of each occurrence and told the prince that the death is the end of life and that is common to all who are born. Siddharth was devastated by this realization.
Then Siddhartha observed a very serene man wearing a yellow robe and whose head was shaved. Channa told him this was a sage, one who had given up all earthly things to pursue truth. Siddharth decided then and there that this was his true calling and renounced all of his material luxeries. He left home and studied with great teachers of the time and eventually wandered the land with 5 other seekers of truth. Together they meditated, fasted, preached peace and harmony.
After 6 years of practicing severe austerities, Sidhartha had reduced his physical self to mere skin and bones. In Gaya, he decided to meditate under a tree continuously until he attained enlightenment. All that night he was repeatedly assailed by tempting thoughts, but he remained unswayed and by morning he had become Awakened and was now a Buddha. Specifically he did not BECOME God- he simply became fully aware that he already IS God- just as we all are.
Sidhartha and his monks spent the next 45 years teaching the Dhamma (spiritual doctrine) to people throughout Northern and Eastern India. Sidhartha became ill in Uttar Predesh and before he left the earth he reminded his monks that all earthly things are transient and that spirit is eternal. "Be lamps unto yourselves" he urged. He died at the age of 80 and is regarded by Buddhasts as pure awareness that we ALL are one with the spirit of God. His influence on Christianity and Islam is very profound.
When we first meet Mary in the Gospel of Luke, we learn she is a virgin betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph. Soon the Angel Gabriel visits her, saying: "Hail full of grace. The Lord is with thee." He then announces she will give birth to a son who will be the Messiah. Mary, who apparently was intending on remaining a virgin for a while longer, asks Gabriel: "How shall this be done, since I do not know man?" When the angel assures her that it would be done by the the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary gives her consent.
Previously, the Angel Gabriel had appeared to old Zechariah announcing that his aged, baron wife, Mary's cousin Elizabeth, would give birth to a son. When Zechariah questioned the probability of this - the angel explained that it would be done by the power of the holy spirit then adding: "You shall be silent and unable to speak until the day the child is born because you didn't have faith in what I told you". It is worth noting that Mary was allowed to doubt and question what the angel told her without punishment. Not so with poor Zachariah who was made mute for 9 months. This certainly attests to the Bible's position that Mary truly was Blessed amongst women.
Mary soon set off to visit her now pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Upon Mary's arrival we are told that the baby (John the Baptist) jumped within Elizabeth's womb and she proclaimed to Mary: "Blessed art thou amongst women and Blessed is the fruit of thy womb!" Mary herself, in what is known as the Magnificat, proclaims: "Henceforth all nations shall call me Blessed".
Due to a census decree made by Caesar Agustus stating all must return to the town of their ancestral origins, Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem as they were both descended from the house of David. While there Mary gave birth to her son in a stable. Angels announced the holy birth to shepherds came and adored him. After eight days the child was circumcised and given the name Yashua, which the angel Gabriel had told them. Forty days later, Mary and Joseph brought the child to the temple for a purification ceremony. An old man, Simeon, took Jesus in his arms and proclaimed him a savior. Simeon also foretold Mary's share in the future sufferings of her Son saying: "A sword shall pierce your soul".
Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod wished to destroy the child, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus and remained there until the death of Herod.
When Yashua was 12 years old Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem at Passover time. Yashua became lost and after a desperate 3 day search they found Him in the temple arguing scriptural teachings with the priests. Mary asked Him why He had done this. In their first recorded dialogue, Yashua answered that He must be about His Father's business.
Some years later when Yashua began his teaching - he changed water into wine at the feast of Cana as a result of Mary's intercession. Later on Mary was in His company at Capernaum for a short time. Occasionally she followed Him in His ministry, and at least once she was used by Jesus to as a role model to his spiritual followers saying: “who hear the word of God and keep it.”
After Yashua was arrested and condemned for his inflamatory teachings, Mary stood beneath the cross on Calvary and was placed in the care of Yashua's beloved apostle John. Once Yashua ascended into heaven, Mary stayed in Jerusalem with the apostles until on Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit fell upon them in the form of fiery tongues. This is where all references to Mary end in the Bible.
From the start, there has been much contraversy surrounding Mary by many in the Christian faith. Some Christian denominations actually feel Mary should not be accorded such veneration as only Yashua (Jesus) should have that honor. However if one is to read the Bible and base one's faith upon It's Word, then one must accept the fact that the Bible clearly states that Mary is indeed a virgin who is "Blessed amongst women" who henceforth "all nations shall call Blessed. " Mary and her spiritual legacy were also prophecied in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:15 we read: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."
Another prophecy referring to Mary appears in Micah 5:2-3: "And thou, Bethlehem, Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall be come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in israel, and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. Therefore will he give them up till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth, and the remnant of his brethren shall be converted to the children of Israel."
Also this prophecy of Mary is found in Jeremias 31:22: "The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: A woman shall compass (lead/protect) a man".
The Virgin Mary also has rich spiritual lineage in ancient goddesses such as Isis (Egypt), Semiramis (Babylon), Minerva (Rome). The veneration of Mary and her son Yahsua (aka Jesus) that began in the new testament was actually a continuation of traditions from thousands of years previous. Certain Christian demoninations often say that veneration of Mary is "pagan"- which it certainly is. What it is NOT is "Satanic" or against scriptural teachings. Most Pagan traditions have never acknowleged the existence of an entity called "the devil" or "Satan". To call veneration of Mary "satanic" is the same as calling veneration of her son, Yahshua "satanic" as he too has ancient precedence in many cultures - i.e. Osiris, Horus, Dionysius, Scipio Africanus and even Alexander the Great.
Some religious scholars also argue strongly that Mary was not actually a virgin and that this information was fabricated by later biblical scribes. Yet, the same can be said of anything one reads in the Bible as both the Old and New Testaments have been edited, modified, translated and changed by many scribes over many centuries - and continue to be so. Diety or not, virgin or not, this does not make much difference as far as The Blessed virgin's lasting influence upon the world is concerned. She is presented to us as a loyal, thoughtful, patient and loving person. She shown as being focused on the Divine Light of God even under very trying circumstances (i.e. having to give birth in a stable and enduring the condemnation and murder of her son). The life and virtues of Mary have inspired the noblest creations of Christian art and literature throughout the world and she continues to be a spiritual role model for many.
The coming of a forerunner to the Saviour, John the Baptist, in the spirit and power of Elias, was foretold by the Arch Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:17). He also announced to Mary that the power of the Highest should overshadow her, and that she should bear a son who should rule over the house of Jacob forever.
According to the Gospels, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem where Mary gave birth in a stable. That night an angel appeared to some shepherds, and announced the coming of a Saviour. On the eighth day the baby was circumcised according to the law of Moses, and on the 40th day, was presented in the temple, where and old sage named Simeon pronounced Him to be the light of nations and the glory of Israel.
Learning that a great "king" was to born, King Herod ordered all male children in and around Bethlehem to be murdered. This sad event took place, but Joseph was warned in time by an angel in time to flee with Mary and Yeshua to Egypt. They stayed there until Herod's death and then moved to Nazareth in Galilee- which is why Yeshua is called a Nazarene. There is nothing written apparently about Yeshua's childhood. We only have one famous story about how he argued scriptures with the priests in the temple when he was 12 while his worried parents searched for him.
The Gospels then jump ahead many years and show Yashua at the age of about 30 (Luke 3:23). He was baptized by his cousin John in the River Jordan. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and a voice proclaimed, "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased."
Before his teaching ministry began in earnest, Yashua went into the desert alone for 40 days to fast and meditate. As described by the evangelists - Matthew 4, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4 he was tempted continuously but remained unswayed - similar to Sidhartha's experience 500 years earlier. Yashua was afterward transfigured in the presence of three of His disciples, when Moses and Elias appeared to Him from heaven, and His raiment became white and shining, and His face shone as the sun. On this occasion again, a voice came from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear ye him" (Matthew 4, Mark 4, Luke 4:28-36). As did Sidhartha before him, Yashua became fully aware that he always was and always will be one with God, as we we all are.
Scholors estimate Yashua's ministry to have taken place over three years. It was spent in acts of mercy - often healing people miraculously, in expressing a purer way of life, discussing more enlightened notions of God, and presenting a more elevated view of man in relationship to God than had been written about previously in the Old Testament. His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6) embodies his major points on spiritual awareness and purity- which includes what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer; as did His discourses to the Jews in John 5-8, and 10; to His disciples, chapters 14-16; and His intercessory prayer, chapter 17.
Yashua chose twelve apostles to join him in his ministry, to be witnesses to His miracles and to help preach His doctrine. The priests at the time were increasingly threatened by Yashua and what he stood for. They felt his philosophy would befome popular and undermine their power by luring away the public so they set about to have him tried as a criminal under Roman law.
Yashua was betrayed into the hands of His enemies by one of disciples named Judas Escariot. Later Yashua was denied by another disciple, Peter, and then abandoned by all except the one he loved the most, John. He was brought before the Jewish priests, found guilty, and then delivered to the Roman magistrate, Pontius Pilate, who alone had the power of life and death. Condemned to death for disorderly conduct, Yashua was nailed to the cross on Mount Calvary. In his agony, it is written that he still prayed for the forgiveness of those who were hurting him. Before he left the earth, he commended His mother Mary to His beloved John and asked him to care for her.
The Gospels say that when Yahshua expired on the cross the earth shook and the sun was darkened. The body of Yashua was taken down by Joseph of Arimathea and placed in a tomb which the Jewish priests carefully sealed and guarded. Despite these precautions, Yashua's prophecy was fulfilled and He was resurrected on the third day (Sunday). He first appeared again to Mary Magdelene and then He appeared repeatedly to His disciples to encourage, console, and instruct them.
On the 40th day after His resurrection, in the presence of his disciples, a cloud enveloped Him and delivered Him to the invisible realm. Then two men in white garments appeared and predicted Yashua would come. See the closing chapters of the four evangelists, and Acts 1:1-14.
Today, Yashua is revered by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhasts and other faiths as a great spiritual master and teacher - probably the greatest known Ascended Master. Even though he never expressed a desire to found an organized church or religion, Yashua is the inspiration of the world's largest organized religion, Christianity. Sadly, the most simple, yet pofound, teachings attributed to Yashua Ben Yosef often continue to go unobserved- even by those who call themselves devout Christians: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", "Judge not lest ye too be judged", "Turn the other cheek", "Love thy neighbor as thyself", "As you do unto the least of them, that you also do unto me", "The Kingdom of heaven is within", "Have I not said ye too are Gods" and "As I have done, so you too shall do."
Most of what we know about Mohammed comes from the Qu'ran and the Hadith which were oral traditions started after the prophet's death and written down centuries later. The earliest biography of Muhammad is a collection of Hadith: the Sirah Rasul Allah or, the Life of the Apostle of God, by Ibn Ishaq written well over one hundred years after Muhammad
died. Many scholars debate the validity of these records - though the same is true about any ancient sacred texts including Judeo/Christian Bible.
Mohammed preached that women were not as important as men and generally "unclean". He ordered that woman not be seen publicly and have no place in the mosc nor any place of power within the Islamic faith. He also proclaimed that men could have several wives at a time (Mohammed himself had 12 wives). Mohammaed urged Muslims to pray 5 times a day and to shun all other faiths as "false". These things, combined with his war activities have caused him to remain a contoversial figure. Despite what is written about Mohammed, I feel he merrits inclusion on this page as a great spiritual leader. His violent leanings and apparent bigotry must be viewed within their historic contexts just as the book of "Leviticus" must be viewed within its historic context. Mohammed was a product of his time and place and he strove to rise above the social turmoil he witnessed the best way he could. Words attributed to him in the Qu'ran are filled with compassion and forgiveness however. For instance, he is quoted as saying after the capture of those who had persecuted he and his followeres: "This day, there is no reproof against you and you are all free. This day I trample under my feet all distinctions between man and man, all hatred between man and man."
After his mother died in 527 BC, he went through an extended period of mourning and then began his odyssy as a spiritual teacher. He taught in schools and then travelled around the different states teaching small groups of disciples he'd gather to himself. He encouraged people to be educated, kind, honest, respectful and to return to the old traditions of art, ideals and refinement. The basis of his teachings was the tenet of "Acting Benevolently". Confucious taught everyone regardless or social caste, faith or economic situation. It wasn't long before Confucious' name became revered throughout the principality of Lu.
Much of what we know about Confucious comes from the Confucian Analects which is a collection of writings about him compiled years after his death. His teachings were passed down through history by his students including Mencius and by great rulers such as Emperor Wu-ti who applied Confucian ideals of peace and justice to their governments.
Confucian teaching spread throughout Asia and then was introduced to Europe by an Italian Jesuit priest named Matteo Ricci. It was he who latinized the philosopher's name to "Confucius" .
Although most scholars agree that Confucius did not actually write any books himself, he did edit several classics including the Book of Odes, The Book of Rites, The Book of Music, The Book of Changes and The Spring and Autumn Annals. This latter book had the most profound influence on Confucious' desire to encourage people to live peacefully and honestly.
The Great Peacemaker, sometimes referred to as Deganawida or Dekanawida (note that as a mark of respect, some Iroquois avoid using the personal name except in special circumstances) was, along with Hiawatha, by tradition the founder of the Haudenosaunee, commonly called the Iroquois Confederacy, a political and cultural union of several Native American tribes residing in the present-day state of New York. The union created a powerful alliance of related Iroquoian peoples in Ontario, Quebec, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other places.
There are numerous legends about the Great Peacemaker, some with conflicting information. It is reported that he was born a Huron, and by some accounts it was a virgin birth. Others say he was born an OnondagaMohawks. By all accounts, he was a prophet who counseled peace among the warring tribes, and he also called for an end to cannibalism. His follower Hiawatha, a Mohawk renowned for his oratory, helped him achieve his vision. and later adopted by the
According to archaeologist Dean R. Snow, the Great Peacemaker converted Hiawatha in the territory of the Onondagas; then he made a solo journey to visit the Mohawk tribe who lived near what is now Cohoes, New York. Initially, the Mohawks rejected the message of the Great Peacemaker, so he decided to perform a feat to demonstrate his purity and spiritual power. After climbing a tree high above the Ga-ha-oose, the cataract now known as Cohoes Falls, the Great Peacemaker told the Mohawk braves to chop the tree down. Many onlookers watched as the Great Peacemaker disappeared into the swirling rapids of the Mohawk River. They believed he had perished until they saw him the next morning sitting near a campfire. Greatly impressed by the Great Peacemaker's miraculous survival, the Mohawks became the founding tribe in the Iroquois Confederacy.
The vision from the Great Maker that peace would come to all nations led the Great Peacemaker to work all his life to bring this to fruition. The Great Peacemaker prophesied that a "white serpent" would come to his people's lands and make friends with them, only to deceive them later. A "red serpent" would later make war against the "white serpent", but an Indian boy would be given a great power. He would be accepted as a chosen leader by the people of "the land of the hilly country." The boy stays neutral in the fight, and he speaks to the people, who number as the blades of grass, but he is heard by all. After a season, a "black serpent" would come and defeat both the "white" and "red serpents". According to the prophecy, when the people gathered under the elm tree become humble, all three "serpents" would be blinded by a light many times brighter than the sun. Deganawidah said that he would be that light. His nation would accept the "white serpent" into their safekeeping like a long-lost brother.
The Great Peacemaker established a council of clan and village chiefs to govern the confederacy. Each of the tribes had a balance of power between the sexes. Most decisions were made by consensus to which each representative had an equal voice. Using the system of the Great Peacemaker and Hiawatha, the Iroquois became the dominant Native American group in the northeast woodlands. The oral laws and customs of the Great Law of Peace became the constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, established by the 16th century or earlier.The story of the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy is one of the most fascinating and wonderful that history has to offer us. It is the story of Deganawida and his disciple Hiawatha who single handedly brought about the unity of five warring tribes in America, many hundreds of years before Europeans settled the country.
Hiawatha (also known as Ayenwatha, Aiionwatha, or Haiëñ'wa'tha; Onondaga), who lived (depending on the version of the story) in the 1100s, 1400s, or 1500s, and was variously a leader of the Onondaga and Mohawk nations of Native Americans.
Hiawatha was a follower of The Great Peacemaker, a prophet and spiritual leader who was credited as the founder of the Iroquois confederacy, (referred to as Haudenosaunee by the people). If The Great Peacemaker was the man of ideas, Hiawatha was the politician who put the plan into practice. Hiawatha was a skilled and charismatic orator, and was instrumental in persuading the Iroquois peoples, the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks, a group of Native North Americans who shared similar languages, to accept The Great Peacemaker's vision and band together to become the Five Nations of the Iroquois confederacy. Later, the Tuscarora nation joined the Confederacy to become the Sixth Nation.
The story has so many variations, it is hard to choose just one, but all accounts agree that amongst the five tribes that lived to the east of the great lakes, a terrible war raged, for many generations.
Tribe fought with tribe, and in the tribes, villages fought with villages, and in the villages, families fought with families, and even in the families there was fighting. Fear and hatred reigned in the land and nobody was safe.
On the opposite shores of the
great lakes, amongst the Huron nation, there lived a woman and her daughter. One
night, as the woman slept, she dreamt that her daughter had a son called
Deganawida, who would bring a message of peace and power from the Chief of the
Great Sky Spirits to all the warring nations across the water. And sure enough
the dream came about. A son was born to her daughter and they called him
Deganawida. When he had grown to be a man, he told them of his desire to sail
across the water and bring his message of peace and power to the five fighting
tribes. His mother and grandmother consented, and Deganawida stepped into a
canoe of white stone and rowed across the lake.
When the people saw him floating in a boat made of stone they were filled with wonder, and when they heard what he had to say they became willing to abandon their weapons and adopt his peaceful ways.
Deganawida didn’t stay in any place for long; he travelled from one village to the next, always moving eastwards, telling the people his message of hope.
One day he reached the Mohawk tribe, whose chief was Hiawatha. Hiawatha was a fierce cannibal, renowned for being the best warrior in the land. But recently he had felt unable to fight and could not sleep at nights.
He was not surprised to see Deganawida and quickly called together his people to hear him speak.
"I come with good tidings from the Chief of the Sky Spirits," Deganawida said. "Fighting must cease in the land. The good Spirit never intended that blood should flow between human beings."
"But if we do not fight," one man objected, "we will be killed by the neighbouring tribes."
"The neighbouring tribes have already accepted my message of peace," said Deganawida, and Hiawatha’s tribe then accepted his message as well.
When the time came for Deganawida to leave, he gave Hiawatha a parting piece of advice. "There is one I wish to warn you of," he said. "He is the Chief of the Onondagas who lives above the lake. He will not listen to my words, and has great powers to use against those who do." So saying, he left for the east.#
Hiawatha had three daughters. The remaining daughter in the months ensuing Deganawida’s departure died mysteriously.
Suspecting the evil man he had been warned of, and filled with grief, Hiawatha abandoned his tribe and home, and left to find Deganawida.
After a long and difficult journey he found him, and Deganawida’s wise and kind words of consolation, succeeded in dispelling his grief. They spent many days together, at the end of which Hiawatha pledged to help Deganawida bring the tidings of peace to the five tribes.
They parted ways, and did not meet again until there was only one man left who had not accepted the message of peace and power: the evil Onondaga chief. They journeyed to his mountain together and found him in a cave above the lake. Hiawatha was shocked to see that he was more of a monster than a man, with a hideous face and serpents entwined in his hair!
They talked to him for a long time, and after many hours of discussion and persuasion, he began to smile. "I will accept your plan of peace," he said. His face lost all traces of ugliness and Hiawatha helped to comb the serpents out of his hair.
They returned down the mountain where all the tribes were gathered and began a great meeting. Deganawida proposed that they would form one nation and he told them the laws they should abide by, which became their constitution. They would be the Haudenosaunee nation (later known as the Iroquois Confederacy), and when the meeting was over, they buried all their weapons. Deganawida planted a tree above, and the tree became known as the Tree of Peace. Deganawida then left, leaving Hiawatha in his place.
The new nation prospered and was still strong when the Europeans came. Their constitution and democratic system of government was admired by the newcomers, particularly Benjamin Franklin, and this, along with its similarity, has given rise to the belief that the American constitution is based upon the constitution given to the Iroquois Confederacy by Deganawida and Hiawatha.
Lao-Tse (also spelled Laozi, Lao Tzu, Lao Tsu or Lao Zi) was a famous Chinese philosopher who is believed to have lived in approximately 604-531 BCE. He is credited with writing the seminal Taoist work, the Tao Te Ching. He became a popular saint and even a deity in the Taoist faith.
The philosophy of Tao (pronounced "dao") means "the path" or "the way." Taoism is a way of life rather than simply a religion and describes the limitless force that unifies all of creation, including human life. Lao-Tse felt that the workings of Tao are profound and largely beyond human comprehension. He taught that the key to understanding Tao is use of reason as well as intuition. Even though this form of philosophy had been around long before Lao Tze- it wasn't until he began his teaching that it really took hold as a major spiritual movement.
Little is known of the history
of Lao-Tse. Some scholars feel he may be a composite of
"old masters" of a philosophical movement that began in the sixth
century B.C. rather than a single person of that period. According legend he was a native of Ch'ü-jen, which is in the modern day
Honan Province, China. His given name was Li Erh; the name Lao-Tse
means "old sage" or "old boy". Lao-Tse is considered the first known Chinese
librarian. He was appointed keeper of the
royal historical records for the Chou rulers about 550 BC. His teachings based upon Tao became celebrated throughout the land and influenced many great students and emperors. Some historical records indicate that Lao-Tse was even an elderly teacher of Confucious but this cannot be verified.
Lao-Tse taught that "The Dao that can be told, is not the eternal Dao", as stated in his writings. According to legend, when Lao-Tse was about to retire from public service, he mounted a horse and began riding west into the desert regions of China. When the guardian of the pass requested that he write down his thoughts so that it could be passed on to mankind, Lao-Tse sat down for two days and wrote the "Dao De Jing" or Tao Te Ching. After turning over the works to the guardian, he rode into the desert, never to be seen from again. Most researchers agree that this is likely as it is consistent with the habits of the early Taoist recluses who left society behind to attain oneness with nature, thus oneness with the Tao.
As for the Tao Te Ching itself,
the oldest manuscripts, dated around the second century B.C., were
divided into only two parts, the Tao and the Te. The division into 81
chapters, or poems, seems to have been added later, perhaps due to the influence after the first century AD of Buddhism (1 being the square of 9, having
great symbolic importance for Indian mystics).
The teachings of the Tao Te Ching stress leadership through humility, tact, ethics and honesty and it continues to influence governments, spiritual and non-authoritation movements and revolutionaries to this day. Lao-Tse believed that a harmony exists between Heaven and Earth and that it can be found by anyone, at anytime- all they need to do is follow the natural flow of nature called the Tao or "the Way."
Sojournor Truth (ca. 1797-1883) was born Isabella Baumfree. She is considered one of the most celebrated American social activists, feminists and abolitionists. Most of the facts we know about Sojournor come from her own autobiography "The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave ". She was born into slavery on the Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh estate- a Dutch settlement in Ulster County, NY. She was the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree and 1 of 13 children. Isabella spoke only Dutch until she was sold from her family at the age of 9 to John Neely. Her new "owners" treated her with extreme physical and emotional cruelty. It was at this time that she found refuge in prayer and meditation.
Isabella was soon purchased by Martinus Schryver who owned a tavern. Despite the tavern's ill-repute, she still felt safer there than with the Neely's. In 1810, Isabella was sold again to John Dumont of New Paltz, New York. She was treated with cruelty at the hands of Mrs. Dumont.
Isabella became romantically involved with a fellow slave named Robert in 1815. But Robert's "owner" named Catlin, would not allow the relationship. Since Catlin did not "own" Isabella he would not be able to claim any children Isabella and Robert produced as "property". One night Robert visited Isabella, but he was followed by Catlin and his son. They beat Robert nearly to death and he never returned. 9 months later Isabella had a daughter named Diana.
In 1817 Isabella was forced by her owner Dumont to marry an older slave named Thomas. They had four children: Peter (1822), James (who died young), Elizabeth (1825), and Sophia (1826).
In 1799 New York began to legislate the abolition of slaves. Eventually this took place on July 4, 1827. Dumont had promised Isabella freedom a year before the state emancipation but he reneged on his promise. This was the last outrage for Isabella and so she packed her things, took her infant daughter and calmly walked away from the Dumont estate
As she wandered lost, she prayed for guidance and soon arrived at the home of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen (Wagener?). Dumont quickly showed up and threatened to take her baby when she refused to go back with him. Isaac offered Dumont $20 to go away an stop troubling Isabella- which Dumont accepted. Isaac and Maria asked Isabella not call them "master" and "mistress," but by their given names instead. Isabella in turn took their last name as her own.
Isabella immediately set out to retrieve her 5 year old son Peter who had been illegally sold in Alabama. When no slave owners would help her, she appealed to the Quaker community who helped her find her son and win him back in court. Her son did finally return to her scarred and mistreated.
While living with the Van Wagenens, Isabella had a profound spiritual experience -- she become, "overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence". She began attending the local Methodist church and, in 1829, left Ulster County to preach publically. She was soon revered as a remarkable preacher and became connected with a religious reformer named Elijah Pierson. He encouraged her activity within his religious community called The Kingdom. The community was soon taken over by Robert Matthias. In 1834 Pierson died and certain group members accused Isabella and Robert of poisoning him for his money, but they were eventually acquitted.
Isabella moved to New York City, resolved to support herself as a traveling preacher. On June 1, 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and told friends, "The Spirit calls me [East], and I must go." In 1844, she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Massachusetts which was founded by abolitionists, pacifists, spiritual seekers and women's rights activists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles.
Sojourner, shortly thereafter, began dictating her memoirs to Olive Gilbert, another Association member. The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave was published privately by William Lloyd Garrison in 1850. She was able to support herself with the sales and to book frequent speaking engagments. She spoke profoundly about anti-slavery and women's rights. In 1850Sojourner bought a home for $300 and in 1854, at the Ohio Woman's Rights Covention in Akron, Ohio, she gave her most famous speech:
"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place, and ain't I a woman? ... I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me -- and ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well -- and ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen most all sold off to slavery and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me -- and ain't I woman?"
Sojourner later became involved with the popular Spiritualism religious movement of the time, through a group called the Progressive Friends, an offshoot of the Quakers. She encouraged all to focus on the Divine Light that is within everyone. While speaking at a conference in Silver lake, Indiana in 1858 someone in the audience insisted that Sojournor was actually a man as she was roughly six feet. Rather than argue, Sojournor simply opened her blouse and revealed her breasts.
During the Civil War, Sojournor worked among freed slaves at a government refugee camp in Virginia and was employed by the National Freedman's Relief Association in Washington, D.C. In October of 1864 she met President Abraham Lincoln in October. After the Civil War ended, she continued working to help the newly freed slaves through the Freedman's Relief Association, then the Freedman's Hospital in Washington. In 1867, she moved to Battle Creek.
For 7 years starting in 1870, she campaigned for the federal government to provide former slaves with land in the "new West." In 1874, her grandson Sammy Banks developed leg ulcers and died after an operation. Sojourner herself became seriously ill soon after but recovered and continued her speaking tours. In 1879, Sojourner rejoiced as many freed slaves began migrating west and north on their own, many settling in Kansas.
Sojourner made a few more appearances around Michigan, speaking against capital punishment. In July of 1883, she became increasingly ill and returned home to her daughters Diana and Elizabeth, their husbands and children. She died on November 26, 1883, at 86 years old. She will continue to be respected as a model of great intellectual, spiritual and emotional strength and an inspiration for positive social change.
Ghandi (1869-1948), was born in Porbandar in the present state of Gujarat, India on October 2, 1869. He studied law at University College, London and was admitted to the British bar in 1891. He returned to India to establish a law practice in Bombay, with little success. 2 years later Ghandi obtained work as a legal adviser in Durban, and found himself being treated as second class citizen due to his ethnic background. He was horrified at the prejudice and overall lack of civil rights and liberties that Indian's were accorded in South Africa and so he put his efforts into attaining these rights for Indians.
Over the next 20 years in South Aftrica Ghandi was imprisoned several times. After being severely attacked and beaten in 1896 by a mob of white South Africans, he started to preach the policy of non-cooperation through passive resistance to South African authorities. Ghandi was further inspired by the works of Russian author Leo Tolsoy, the teachings of Yashua Ben Yosef (Jesus) and by the American author Henry David Thoreau, particularly Thoreau's famous essay “Civil Disobedience.” Ghandi soon created another term that he felt more powerful than "Civial Disobience" and "Passive Resistance", which was Satyagraha (Sanskrit, “truth and firmness”).
During the Boer War, Ghandi organized an ambulance corps for the British army and commanded a Red Cross unit. When the war ended he resumed his campaign for Indian rights and in 1910 founded a cooperative colony for Indians called Tolstoy Farm, near Durban. In 1914 the government of the Union of South Africa made finally heeded Ghandi's demands and legalized Indian marriage and abolished the poll tax levied at them. With this done, Ghandi returned to India.
Soon he became prominent in the social stuggle refered to as the Indian campaign for home rule. During World War I, he actively recruited support using Satyagraha, and afterwards introduced his movement of passive resistance to Great Britain. In 1919, Parliament passed the Rowlatt Acts, which gave Indian colonial authorities emergency powers to deal with "revolutionary activities". In response, satyagraha spread through India with millions of followers. Unfortunately a demonstration against the Rowlatt Acts resulted in the slaughter of Indians at Amritsar by British soldiers.
By 1920 the British government still refused to change their policies and Ghandi proclaimed an organized campaign of non-cooperation. Indians in public office resigned, Indians boycotted government agencies such as courts of law, and Indian children were withdrawn from government schools. Throughout India, streets were blocked by Indians who refused to move even when beaten by police. Ghandi was arrested, but due to public pressure, the British were soon forced to release him.
Ghandi's Swaraj (Sanskirt, "self-ruling") movement sought to create economic independence for India through the complete boycott of British goods. For years British Industrialists had been exploiting Indian villagers causing extreme poverty and the collapse of Indian home industries. Thus Ghandi encouraged a return to native Indian cottage industries.
Ghandi became the international symbol of a free India. Indians regarded him as a saint and gave him the "Mahatmas" (great soul). Ghandi lived a deeply spiritual and simple life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. His relationship with his wife became celebate. He let go of most material possessions and wore the loincloth and shawl of the lowliest Indian caste. Ghandi's diet consisted of vegetables, fruit juices, and some goat's milk. His Hindu-based philosophy of non-violence, ahimsa, he insisted would lead even Great Britain to see the futility of violence and to get out of India.
The Mahatma's political and spiritual influence on India was now so great that the British authorities dared not interfere with him. In 1921 the Indian National Congress, the group that spearheaded the movement for nationhood, gave Ghandi complete executive authority, with the right of naming his own successor. Sadly the Indian population did not fully comprehend the principles of ahimsa (non-violence) and a series of armed revolts against Great Britain occured resulting in terrible violence. In response Ghandi ended the civil-disobedience campaign in 1922 and was seized and imprisoned by the British government.
In 1924 Ghandi was released from prison and devoted himself to promoting communal unity. But soon he was again drawn into the struggle for independence. In 1930 he launched a new campaign of civil disobedience, urging Indian people to refuse to pay taxes, especially the tax on salt. Thousands of Indians followed Ghandi from Ahmedabad to the Arabian Sea, where salt was made salt by evaporating sea water. The great leader was arrested again and released in 1931. He only stopprd his campaign after the British agreed to his demands. Later that year Ghandi represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.
In 1932, Ghandi began new civil-disobedience campaigns against the British. He was arrested again and while in jail he began a “fast unto death” in order to stop the unjust social and economic aspects of the caste system that was being stoked by the British Government. The fast was extremely effective for, if Ghandi died, a major revolt would most certainly take place.
Meishu-Sama's loving vision continues to inspire hundreds of thousands of people worldwide through the religion of Johrei. Johrei is a manifestation of divine energy that can be transmitted through one individual to another for spiritual healing. The administrator holds his/her hand about a foot away from the area to which the spiritual power is directed. As the spiritual body is cleansed, the mind and body are also uplifted, healed and attuned to spiritual truth. Johrei embraces Seven Spiritual Principles of the Universe:
John Winston Ono Lennon, (October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980) was a British songwriter, singer, musician, visual artist and peace activist. He was born in Liverpool, England to Julia (Stanley) and Alfred Lennon during a German air raidn in World War II. Both his parents sang and played the banjo though neither pursued this as a career. Being a merchant marine, his father went AWOL for 3 years but returned in 1944 in time for his wife to give birth to another man's baby. The baby girl was given up for adoption and during his life John never new of her existence. Julia eventually became involved with another man who move in with her and John. Due to family objections over this arrangement, John was sent to live with his mother's sister Mary "Mimi" Smith. In 1956 John's father returned (again) and secretly tried to take John off to New Zealand but Julia found out and followed them. The parents forced 5 year old John to choose between them. John ended up spending the rest of his childhood and adolescence with his Aunt Mimi and her husband George who were childless. His mother did visit regularly and taught him how to play the banjo. She also introduced him to Elvis Presley records.
Thoughout his school days, John showed a flair for drawing humorous cartoons but soon found his "salvation" in the form of American Rock 'n Roll particularly Chuck Berry, Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly. His mother bought Lennon his first guitar in 1957, an inexpensive Gallotone Champion
Mimi was sceptical
of Lennon's claim that he would be famous one day, and often told him,
"The guitar's all very well, John, but you'll never make a living out
of it." Years later, when The Beatles were successful, John presented
Mimi with a silver platter engraved with those words.
John's Uncle George died in 1955. In march of 1957 Lennon started The Quarrymen, a skiffle (British dance pop) band, while attending Quarry Bank Grammar School. Their first engagement was on June 9, 1957 at an audition for impresario Carroll Lewis, known as "Mr. Star-Maker." On July 6, 1957, Lennon and his band met guitarist Paul McCartney. McCartney's father later allowed the Quarrymen to rehearse in his front room. Lennon and McCartney became great friends and played many practical jokes on the band members and on their teachers. They soon began writing songs with each other and separately. The first song that John completed was "Hello Little Girl" when he was eighteen years old. McCartney convinced Lennon to allow George Harrison to join the Quarrymen. After Harrison played at a rehearsal in March 1958. he joined the group as lead guitarist.
On July 15, 1958 John's mother Julia was struck by a car and killed. This traumatic event cemented his friendship with Paul McCartney who has lost his mother to cancer in 1956. Lennon named his first son Julian after his mother and later wrote the song "Julia" in her honor.
In 1960, the band changed its name five times before finally settling on "The Beatles". Lennon was considered the leader of The Beatles, as he founded the
The Beatles finally signed with Parlophone Records (EMI). Label Director George Martin replaced Pete Best with Ringo Starr on drums. They released "Love Me Do" on Oct. 5, 1962. During this time, Cynthia Powell discovered that she was pregnant and she and John married on August 23, 1962. On April 8, 1963, Cynthia gave birth to Julian Lennon. Later that year, The Beatles released heir first album was Please Please Mer. In the U.S. Beatlemania was reaching it's peak when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in New York City.
In November of 1963, Brian Epstein booked the Beatles onto the Ed Sullivan show for February of 1964. The show was a complete success, with an estimated 72 million viewers, setting new records for entertainment broadcasting. The Beatles popularity kept growing and in March of 1966 John remarked to a journalist friend Maureen Cleave that The Beatles were, "bigger than Jesus." This statement nearly destroyed the Beatles even though some religions leaders admitted the statement was probably true.
John soon began to experiment rather heavily with LSD and became involved in the art world. In 1967, Brian Epstein died and The Beatles began to be run by Paul McCartney, which John resented. In May of 1968, John and his friend, avant guard artist Yoko Ono became a couple after for divorce. On March 20, 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono weremarried n Gibraltar, near Spain. Between March 25 and March 31, John and Yoko spent their oneymoon t the Amsterdam Hilton staging their famous "Bed-In" for peace. John Lennon stated, We're taying in bed for a week, to register our protest against all the suffering and violence in theworld." On August 22, 1968, Cynthia filed
The couple continued to create experimental music, films and performance art pieces and most importantly to promote world peace. In 1970, John and Yoko recorded John's "Give Peace a Chance" with the help of a few friends and visitors. That same year, Paul McCartney left the Beatles. In 1971 John moved to New York City. His second solo album "Imagine" was released and the single became one of the best known recordings of all time inspiring many anti-religion and peace groups.
In late February of 1972, John and Paul met in New York reconcile. Soon after the FBI, spurred on by the Republican Party, started to track John's every move due to his outspoken views peace and ending the Vietnam War. Deportation hearings were held against him.
In April of 1973, John and Yoko moved into the Dakota building on the upper west side of New York. On October 7, 1975, a court appealed the deportation order against John and two days later, on John's birthday, Yoko gave birth to Sean Taro Ono Lennon. On July 27, 1976, John was granted permanent residence in America and his immigration worries were over.
On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to found her own nuns order, "The Missionaries of Charity". The order's main goal was to administer to society's most "untouchable" people- i.e. the sick, poor, emotionally and physically challenged. With the help of Indian officials, in 1952 Mother Teresa opened the first Home for the Dying in Calcutta in an abandoned Hindu Temple. This free hospice for the poor she named Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday). Those brought to the home received medical attention and were given an opportunity to transition from this life with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith; Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the Last Rites.
Pope Paul VI declared Mother Teresa's order an International Religious Family in 1965 and it has since expanded to include additional branches of Sisters, Brothers and priests. Today The Society of Missionaries has chapters throughout the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. They provide effective help to shut-ins, alcholics, homeless, the sick, victims of natural castrophes and wars in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, North America, Europe and Austrailia.
By the 1970's Mother Teresa's work had become legend and she herself was a celebriy. She was awarded the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972). She also received the Balzan Prize (1979), the Nobel Prize for Peace (1979) and the Templeton and Magsaysay awards.
In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Mother Teresa convinced the Iraeli army and Palestinian gurerrillas to have a tempororary ceasefire in order to rescue 37 children trapped in a front line hospital. She then crossed the war zone and personally evacuated the children. Later when the walls of Eastern Europe collapsed, she was able to reach out to Communist countries that had previously rejected her assistance and expand her Missionary chapters there.
While visiting Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1983, Mother Teresa suffered a heart attack. She received a pacemaker after a second attack in 1989. In 1991 she battled pneumonia and further heart complications. While she was being hospitalized, the Archbishop of Calcutta, Henry Sebastian D'Souza, believed Mother Teresa may be under attack by the devil and ordered an exorcism on her- with her permssion. Despite all of this, Mother Teresa continued her work as head of the Missionaries of Charity until March 13, 1997.
Mother Teresa was often severely criticized and denounced by many people over the years who claimed she was a self-serving, jet-setting celebrity and more interested in personal fame than in true charitable work. She remained unswayed by anything but her work which she did tirelessly each day until her death at 87. She stated: "No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work."
THE DALAI LAMA
His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama (1934) is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. The title "Dalai Lama" is a Mongolian term for "Ocean of Wisdom". His Holiness was born Lhama Dhondrub to a peasant family in village called Takster in northeastern Tibet. When he was two it became clear that Lhama was a unique child, gifted with rare intelligence and poise. The Tibetans soon recognized Lhama as the 14th Dalai Lama- a reincarnation of Avalokitevara, the Buddha of Compassion. According to Tibetan Buddhisma, when a Dalai Lama dies, his soul passes into the body of an infant. Lhama was renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, or simply Yeshe Norbu (the Wishfulfilling Gem) or Kundun.
Kundun began his education at the age of six then as a teenager, he trained as a monk- gaining much respect for his devotion and wisdom regarding spiritual and social matters. In 1950 at the age of 16, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power as Head of State and Government when Tibet was threatened by China. In 1954 he went to Peking to talk with Mao Tse-Tung and other Chinese leaders, including Chou En-Lai and Deng Xiaoping. In 1956, while visiting India to attend the 2500th Buddha Jayanti, he had a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nehru and Premier Chou about deteriorating conditions in Tibet. The Chinese saw His Holiness as only one thing- a nuissance- but a very POWERFUL nuissance that could stand undermine their goal of taking over Tibet and making it a part of China and thus they saught to elliminate him. Sensing this, Kundun fled the country disguised as a soldier in 1959. Sadly, Chinese troups swept into the compound where Kundun lived and opened fire in their quest to assasinate him- in the process killing 30,000 his followers.
Since 1960 The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharamsala, India, known as "Little Lhasa", the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. He wrote a first-hand account of his experiences, My Land and My People. Memoirs of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962, Reprinted, New York: Potala Corp., 1983, 1985
His Holiness continued his education studying advanced metaphysics, logic, theology and canon monastic discipline at Drepung, Sear and Ganden. He passed all of his examinations with high honors and received the Geshe Lharampa Degree (Doctorate of Buddhist Philosophy) when he was 25.
Soon after being exiled, His Holiness appealed to the United Nations regarding the plight of Tibet. The General Assembly then adopted resolutions in 1959, 1961 and 1965. In 1963, Kundun drafted a constitution for Tibet which assures a democratic form of government. In the decades following, His Holiness has founded educational, cultural and religious institutions for the purpose of preserving the rich cultural heritage and identity Tibet.
In 1973 His Holiness was the first Dalai Lama to meet with a Pope at the Vatican (Paul VI). Later he met with Pope John Paul II to discuss solutions for promoting world peace.
In 1981, The Dalai Lama talked with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, and with other leaders of the Anglican Church in London. He also met with leaders of the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities and spoke at an interfaith service in his honour by the World Congress of Faiths. He said: "I always believe that it is much better to have a variety of religions, a variety of philosophies, rather than one single religion or philosophy. This is necessary because of the different mental dispositions of each human being. Each religion has certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one's own faith."At the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1987 he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan calling for the designation of Tibet as a zone of peace, an end to the massive transfer of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, restoration of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for nuclear weapons production and the dumping of nuclear waste, as well as urging "earnest negotiations" on the future of Tibet and relations between the Tibetan and Chinese people. In Strasbourg, France, on June 15, 1988, he further proposed a self-governing democratic Tibet, "in association with the People's Republic of China."
Throughout his ceaseless work on behalf of his beloved Tibet, The Dalai Lama has travelled United States, Canada, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Greece, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Vatican, China and Australia. giving many teachings and initiations, including the rare Kalachakra Initiation.
Since the early 1970's, the west has increasingly recognized His Holiness' contributions to the world as a man of peace and great wisdom. He has been awarded many Peace Awards and honorary Doctorate Degrees based upon his teachings and writings, including the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Dalai Lama wrote his autobiography in 1990 Freedom in Exile. The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama. New York: Harper Collins, 1990. (The fullest account, written in English.). He continues to travel and preach peace and understanding amongst all peoples of the earth. I have personally enjoyed attending his talks whenever he is in New York City. His wisdom and humility are very striking. For instance, he admits to not being open to the idea of free sexual expression as in his Buddhast tradition this is frowned upon. However, unlike other religious leaders, The Dalail Lama openly welcomes discussions with various Lesbian and Gay organizations and seeks to overcome his own fears and prejudices.
It is ultimately his compassion for all humanity that sets His Holiness apart. He has said: "...Basically, universal responsibility is feeling for other people's suffering just as we feel our own. It is the realization that even our enemy is entirely motivated by the quest for happiness. We must recognize that all beings want the same thing that we want. This is the way to achieve a true understanding, unfettered by artificial consideration."
After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Nelson Mandela argued for the setting up of a military wing within the ANC. In June 1961, the ANC executive considered his proposal on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve themselves in Mandela's campaign would not be stopped from doing so by the ANC. This led to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years' imprisonment with hard labour. In 1963, when many fellow leaders of the ANC and the Umkhonto we Sizwe were arrested, Mandela was brought to stand trial with them for plotting to overthrow the government by violence. His statement from the dock received considerable international publicity. On June 12, 1964, eight of the accused, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment. From 1964 to 1982, he was incarcerated at Robben Island Prison, off Cape Town; thereafter, he was at Pollsmoor Prison, nearby on the mainland.
During his years in prison, Nelson Mandela's reputation grew steadily. He was widely accepted as the most significant black leader in South Africa and became a potent symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength. He consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom.
Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990. After his release, he plunged himself wholeheartedly into his life's work, striving to attain the goals he and others had set out almost four decades earlier. In 1991, at the first national conference of the ANC held inside South Africa after the organization had been banned in 1960, Mandela was elected President of the ANC while his lifelong friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, became the organisation's National Chairperson.
Mandela's words, "The struggle is my life," are not to be taken lightly.
Nelson Mandela personifies struggle. He is still leading the fight against
apartheid with extraordinary vigour and resilience after spending nearly three
decades of his life behind bars. He has sacrificed his private life and his
youth for his people, and remains South Africa's best known and loved hero. Still, he remains focus on our spiritual oneness. In his own words:
"We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just some of us; it's in everyone"
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1993, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1994
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book series Les Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom. The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Boston & New York: Little Brown, 1994.
Amritanandamayi (Sept. 27, 1953) is an Indian spiritual leader known worldwide as "Amma", "Ammachi" or "Mother". Many call her "the hugging saint". She was born Sudhamani to a fishing family in a small village near Killam, Kerala. Allegedly, because of her darker skin, her family held her in lower esteem than her siblings. At age 9 she was taken out of school serve as a full-time domestic for her family.
As early as the age of 5, Sudhamani displayed true spiritual leanings and would often be found in deep meditaion, oblivious to her surroundings. At this time she even began composing devotional songs of profound mystical depth.
Sudhamani regularly would help ease the suffering of her elderly neighbors. She washed their clothes, bathed them and even brought them food and clothing from her own home. She was regularly beaten and punished by her family for giving away the their jewlry and other belongings to strangers. She was eventually kicked out of the house and lived in a hole dug in the sand on the beach. None of this ever quelled her compassion for others. She later said, " An unbroken stream of Love flows from me towards all beings in the cosmos. That is my inborn nature."
Ammachi, as she is widely referred to, eventually founded her own ashram (spiritual community) in the late 1970's. Today the Ashram is still run by her disciples and devotees who manage the various activities there.
Since 1981 Ammachi has been tirelessly travelling around the world blessing masses of people with hugs (darshan)- sometimes for 10 hours at a time with no break. She also has been preaching love and peace and has written several books on this topic. She founded a worldwide charitable and spiritual organization, the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trusts. She is regarded as a major spiritual and social leader by the United Nations, Global Peace Initiative of Women, the Vatican,
When someone asked Amma why she receives every person who comes to her in a loving embrace Amma replied, “If you ask the river, 'why do you flow?' what can it say?”
For more information on Amma, please visit her website: http://www.ammachi.org/
Gangaji (1942) is an American spiritual teacher and author. She was born Merle Antoinette "Toni" Roberson in Texas. Throughout her life, Toni felt she was on a quest for spiritual fulfillment, if not enlightenment. In her desire to find a spiritual teacher, she experimented with various schools of spiritual practice.
In 1972 Toni moved to San Francisco with her first husband, hoping to experience deeper levels of being. She practiced Zen and Vipassana meditation and then she took the vows of a Bodhisattva (Sanskrit- "enlightend existence"). Those who call themselves bodhisattvas are motivated to inspire others to experience enlightenment.
Toni became a facilitator at a Tibetan Buddhist meditation center. Between 1981 and 1987, she was an acupuncturist, and worked in a clinic in San Francisco. Despite her success, she continued to feel unfulfilled and to pray for a teacher.
In 1990, her second husband, Eli Jaxon-Bear, traveled to India in
search of an enlightened teacher. He summoned Toni in great excitment saying that he had found a great teacher in Lucknow named Sri H.W.L. Poonja, or Papaji. Six weeks later, Toni travelled to India to meet with Papaji. She explained to him her deep sense of unfulfillment and spiritual unrest and asked for his guidance. His simple advice was, "Just stop". Not fully understanding him, Toni asked him how to do this. He answered, "I'm not asking you to do anything. I'm saying to just stop". Finally Toni understood what he was asking of her- which was to simply give herself permission to sit and BE STILL for a full minute- without worrying about anything or trying to decide anything etc. And that is what she did. Toni says, she experienced the fulfillment she had sought.
Papaji named her "Gangaji," after the river Ganga (Ganges). He felt she had, "the purity,
nobility and satvic nature to carry this transmission to the West." Papaji then sent her back to America to teach.
Since that time Gangaji and Eli Jaxon-Bear live in Ashland, Oregon. Gangaji has been holding regular satsangs (or public meetings) across the U.S., Europe, and Australia, sometimes together with Eli. In recent years, Eli has stopped teaching due to blood cancer.
The core of Gangaji's philosophy is traced to the Vedanta (ancient Hindu texts). She has brilliantly expressed that humanity's true nature is not the body, not the mind, but forever free awareness. Her first book, "You are That!,"after the Hindu term "Tat Tvam Asi" which refers to the Hindu concept that we need not do anything to achieve happiness as we are already that here and now. No matter what we may experience in our earthly lives, good or bad, our truth (i.e. joy, peace, love, freedom, limitlessness) is always STILL HERE. We need only focus on that which is here/now to experience that.
I have attended several of Gangaji's public meetings and I've taken the opportunity to thank her personally for sharing her great gifts of Compassion, Wisdom and Elloquence with others. Her message truly is the Wisdom of the Ages.
Please visit this site to learn more about Gangaji and see where/when she will be holding meetings and retreats throughout the year: