Autumn has arrived in Johannesburg and behind the electrified, fortress walls of every suburban home the mannered lawns and summer gardens are under siege, buried under drifts of burnished leaves. We have just finished a great week of meditation classes, seven consecutive days, two sessions daily – a lunchtime city library course then an evening class, five consecutive nights at a yoga studio out in the sprawl of suburbs. Africa is such a challenge, an ancient continent awash in both problems and horrors but filled too with such heart and promise.
Growing a centre here is uniquely challenging – and for those living here there is the powerful spell of a city that captures you with the enchantments of wealth, oppresses many more with the harshness of its poverty and suffering. In this environment the mere fact of a centre at all is a triumph – success is measured not by the number of disciples but rather in those thousands of lives that have been touched and in some way inspired through classes, the spiritual life re-introduced into the forgetfulness of those who excessively have or into the hopelessness of the impoverished, of those who have not.
Balarka and Abhijatri – civil engineers by day and divine warriors after sundown – have just renovated a new centre that has a beautiful new second level meditation room and large downstairs class space. Plus a garden large enough to toss around a frisbee. Plans are afoot to launch a large J.’Burg Festival of Meditation later in the year - this might include a concert, a Jharna Kala exhibit, guest speakers, yoga and meditation w/shops.
The task of bringing Sri Chinmoy's philosophy into Africa is at it’s very beginning, but when in those rare and random moments we sometimes feel our own soul’s promise to do something significant, something more, and open our hearts to the possibility that in some small way, in some far away place, we can bring our own love and our belief in Guru’s vision to bear, then what is not possible?
When invited to share the sweeping majesty of the veldt with this regal king of the beasts – a
stunning photo opportunity from our vehicle window – Balarka showed a disappointing
reluctance to leave the car, a rare lapse in his usual fun-loving nature.
Flying home last night, far below the great cities of Africa were sprawled out against the darkness of the continent, shimmering pools of light like smouldering prairies. Wedged into my narrow seat I was visualising the millions of unknown lives far below, thinking of the universality of all human experience, the great stations of life we all must visit as we play out the leading roles in our own personal melodramas – the great stations of desire and loneliness, poverty and plenty, love and lovelessness, the entanglements of attachment and ambition, the sudden or slow betrayals of the flesh, dying and death, and of how extreme these are in Africa. Wondering what it really is in our lives that has some enduring value or meaning, what lifts it up out of the ordinary and finite to bring dignity, clarity and purpose – and seeing that our discipleship, our God-quest and devotion are all we really have and will finally be the only measure of our life’s achievement.