Peace of the Basket Weavers
It was in Myanmar on our last trip there that this amusing trifle took place.
Sri Chinmoy was hosting a visit to our hotel by several of Myanmar's most senior leaders and the evening included a wonderful peace concert and special tribute songs for our eminent guests. At one point in the evening Sri Chinmoy asked representatives from each of our countries to file past the microphone and announce both their country of origin and the word 'peace' in their native language. We each wore a colored sash embossed with our country name and formed a long procession of some forty-five nationals.
I decided to use the Maori word for peace just for a change and consulted Uddipan, our sole Maori speaker, on the correct word and pronunciation. Uddipan coached me briefly in the word 'rangi marie' and when my turn came, standing before our guests in a hall filled with about five hundred people, I delivered it with what seemed a judicious blend of confidence and fidelity to Maori vowels.
As I returned to my seat I noticed Uddipan grinning from ear to ear and knew something wasn't quite right. My pronunciation had been at fault he informed me. Instead of 'peace over the earth' as the correctly pronounced word would mean, I had declared 'rangi marie' to my audience in such a way that it meant 'peace of the basket weavers'.
I still enjoy getting up on such occasions and delivering my 'peace of the basket weavers' – it has a nice homely touch – and the New Zealand students are all conspirational smiles now that word of my transgression is out. Basket weaving seems very tranquil and meditative to me – sitting in the sun, at rest in the here and now, calmly braiding the long strands of flax. May all of our lives be filled with the peace of the basket weavers, always.