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Seeking Stillness by Elbina Batala Rafizadeh

Seeking Stillness


Bird calls wake me before dawn, an hour before Morning Prayer. I lie for a few minutes before rising from the protection of my mosquito net to enjoy that space of full emptiness. Fr. Bede also appreciated that pause before daybreak, meditating before Mass. And because of the day’s extreme heat, early mornings and evenings were invaluable. Having lived in temperate coastal California most of my life, this short detour from Santa Cruz made me wonder about the founders of this ashram, who also came from an industrialized lifestyle. Bede Griffiths was from Britain, and both Abhisiktananda and Monchanin were from France, both of whom had made the radical decision to move to the more primal life in India. The fruits of their journey, their answer to a call they could not ignore, resulted in the founding of this sacred place where thousands of pilgrims journey here in search of Truth.


The pilgrims return year after year from Australia, Europe, Canada, and America. They arrive individually, in small groups, or by bus tours. Each has either met Bede Griffiths personally or read his works. Some tell me they do not know what they experience in the ashram, but whatever it is, the place and way of life sustains them. Are they describing the inner stillness absent in their own world, where they are bombarded with marketing messages, political propaganda, and technological wizardry? Even with the lack of physical comfort, daily exposure to extreme heat, and relentless mosquitoes, do they prefer to endure all this because finding stillness overcomes earthly suffering?


On several occasions, pilgrims have expressed to me their longing to find fulfillment, which is met in some capacity through the ashram, which offers a life of simplicity and stability through the daily practice of prayers and meditation. In addition, the ashram’s social justice causes, supporting local Hindu and Muslim villages through providing sewing classes to women and daycare for preschool and kindergarten children, have found support amongst those who have expressed a desire to participate in humanity’s work through charity. For these reasons, pilgrims may have found their inner peace through both daily spiritual practice and purpose to help those in need. For this alone, I believe that Shantivanam will continue to flourish....January, 2008

Ashram scene by the river during my daily walk, 2008


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