India

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There are three countries I feel like I've been waiting my entire life to get to. Countries that mesmerize me and also intimidate me.

Tomorrow we will land in India. Over the course of the next month we've dedicated our minds and our time to living under Ghandi's teachings at the Ashram he built in 1915, Manav Sadhna. Our commitments are to practice daily meditation, learn and develop a tolerance for all religions, volunteer with some of the 8,000 men, women, and children cared for by this center, practice vegetarianism, sobriety, and most importantly experiment with truth to test our own moral and spiritual understanding. 

We are lucky to be accepted into this Ashram to volunteer. We are lucky to have the opportunity to be taught, first hand, Ghandi's way of life - and to be trusted to devote ourselves to better the people in the Gujariati community of India. Each day I will be writing reflections on the experiments we face, challenges, discomforts, and rewards. Feel free to tag along. 

Written: January, 30, 2017

Leading up to us volunteering in Ahmedabad, I have been reading The Story of My Experiments with Truth, by Mohandas K. Ghandi. In it, Ghandi writes an autobiography of his life, told by his experiments of determining his own spiritual beliefs and developing his own moral code to live by. Below are some of my favorite quotes thus far. 

"There are inimitable definitions of God, because His Manifestations are innumerable."

"I have not yet found Him, but I am seeking after Him. I am prepared to sacrifice the things most dearest to me in this quest. Even if the sacrifice demanded be my very life, I hope I may be prepared to give it."

"A reformer cannot afford to have close intimacy with him whom he seeks to reform."

"True friendships identify souls rarely to be found in this world."

"I am a Hindu by birth. And yet I do not know much of Hinduism and I know less of other religions. In fact I do not know where I am, and what is and what should be my belief. I intend to make a careful study of my own religion and, as far as I can, of other religions as well."

"It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate Son of God, and that only he who beloved in him would have everlasting life. If God could have sons, all of us were His sons. If Jesus was like God, or God Himself, then all men were like God and could be God Himself."

  • The Ashram was a human laboratory where Gandhi could test his moral and spiritual hypotheses.

  • All volunteers must attend Prathna (a multi-faith prayer) everyday. 

  • All volunteers must attend volunteer meetings.

  • Abide by the vegetarian diet, and volunteer in the Seva Cafe' where the vegetarian meals are offered

  • Set time aside daily to meditate, pray, or simply spend reflection time alone. 

  • Make living without addictions in your life including: smoking, alcohol, drugs, and practicing celibacy. 

  • Experiments with Self:

    • Experiment with your own thoughts, actions, and reactions, your own way of living.​

      • Keep a journal, meditate and reflect daily.

      • Fast, experiment with your reactions to fasting. 

      • Experiment with showing gratitude, selfless giving, and compassion to one individual daily.

      • Experiment with practicing silence. Connect with yourself. 

      • Sit in front of a tree and mindfully breath in the oxygen it is giving you. Be aware of the carbon dioxide you are giving it. Practice Oneness.

      • Simple living. Detach from normally luxuries.

      • Aside from selfless service and connecting with the community and peers through various projects, we are encouraged to introspect and connect within. 

        • Do you feel life is driven by purpose, or are you drifting? 

        • Why are you really here? ​


 

The purpose of me volunteering is just as much selfish as it is selfless. I volunteer for the sake of feeling good. And by definition, volunteer is then not completely selfless. I have an ulterior motive. A motive of discovering something unknown to me - and of feeling good by my actions. Of fulfilling my own spiritual quest. 

 

By choosing the Ghandi Ashram in India, I'm not only giving my time and my effort to better a community, a project, and perhaps just one individual soul. But I am reaping the benefits of being educated first hand by people whose lives have changed because of Ghandi's standards of living.

 

Let me interrupt myself and say that being introduced to this Ashram was truly a blessing planted right in front of us by the Universe. A co-worker and good friend of mine, Amir Patel, connected us with his brother and best friend Nimo Patel. Nimo is a major influence of this Ashram. We are so fortunate and so grateful to begin our Indian journey with such a close connection from home. 

I believe one of the most important things in life is to determine your own beliefs on God and spirituality, and to create your own moral code to which you should live by. I believe that it is the responsibility and the choice of the person to determine their beliefs, regardless of birth place, race, or religion. As part of that belief, I have never been satisfied with only having known the religions practiced and preached during my upbringing. 

And I intend for this month at Ghandi's Ashram to be an even deeper quest to determine, express, and consistently practice my true beliefs.

-April Snow