January 2015 Archives

View along the River Thames towards smoke risi...

View along the River Thames towards smoke rising from the London docklands after an air raid during the Blitz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II, I'll be sharing a few stories from or about the ordinary people who were the witnesses of this global cataclysm. My parents' generation, people born in the mid 1920s, grew up in the war years. Many of them served their country either in active service or civilian war work. In these blogs, we will hear British, American, Jewish, German and Italian voices. The stories of the living witnesses form an irreplaceable oral history and their voices need to be heard. They share tales of tragedy and trauma, heroism and hope--and also of romance, not because war is romantic but because they were young and war or no, it was their time for romance. It is easy for us to ignore the voices of the very old. Some of those who we interview live in institutions--society's strategy for protecting ourselves from the Messengers--old age, sickness and death. Soon enough, these witnesses will be gone. The intention of these blogs is that their stories not die with them.


Peter Hudis, a witness of the London Blitz

My father, although no longer a living witness, carefully wrote us a memoir describing his wartime experiences. Peter Hudis, a reluctant Jew, was barely fourteen years old when Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939. He was prompty evacuated to the home of a devout Catholic family, an experience he found enthralling. Excited about his new discoveries, and eager to fit in with his hosts, he wrote home asking if he might have a rosary so he could join in family prayers. Of course, his parents were horrified. The danger to their only child's Jewishness suddenly became much more important than the dangers of war--especially during those days of the Phoney War, when no bombs were falling. Peter was immediately brought home to a city virtually emptied of children.

Thus, when the London Blitz started in September 1940, Peter was living with his parents in Cranley Mews, London. He was present on the fateful day, Saturday 7th September, when the skies filled with German bombers, a sight simultaneously impressive, exciting and terrifying to a teenage boy. While most London schoolchildren were evacuees in the countryside, Pete was in London during the entire Blitz. There were few teachers left in the city, and Pete would have gone to school part time, as the same teacher had to teach two batches of children each day. At first, Pete joined the masses who sheltered in the London Underground. Later, the family got an Anderson shelter.

An Air raid shelter in a London Underground st...

An Air raid shelter in a London Underground station in London during The Blitz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That December, and for every Hanukkah throughout the war years, the family menorah was lit behind blackout curtains.

Eager to be of help in the war effort, young Pete volunteered with Civil Defence as a fire guard or fire warden. This gave him the exhausting and responsible job of staying up all night patrolling the neighbourhood, watching for and reporting incendiary bombs and the ensuing fires. His father, Philip, was a civil servant working in the Ministry of Home Security. Philip was responsible for coordinating London's civil defence. He often had to stay overnight at the Ministry, situated in a building with turf on the roof to camouflage it. After spending sleepless nights at the ministry, Phil would tap Pete on the shoulder to send him off to bed and take over his night fire warden duties.

Peter vividly recalled the Longest Night, 10-11th May 1941, when
Luftwaffe bombers claimed 1,486 lives, destroyed 11,000 houses, and hit the Houses of Parliament, Waterloo Station, the British Museum and many other landmark buildings. On these nights as well as other nights when he was awake as a fire watcher, planes screeched, sirens wailed, explosions shook the air and flames lit the skies over London, an eerie effect that was both hideous and strangely beautiful.


Peter Hudis as a teenager in wartime

When he was seventeen, Pete began studying for his inter B.Sc. at Chelsea Polytechnic. Here he met a confident and ebullient young woman with sparkling eyes. It was love at first sight for Pete, who was determined to marry Joyce. He organized a philosophy club, to which he somehow forgot to invite anyone else except Joyce. With pluck, determination and a bit of strategic trickery, he got his girl. Having saved their son from the rosary, Pearl and Philip now faced the ultimate danger--their son's intention to 'marry out.'

Chelsea Poly.jpg

Joyce and Peter met here, in the chemistry labat Chelsea Polytechnic

Tragedy struck the teen's wartime romance when Pete was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. My father's next set of wartime memories--life in a TB sanitarium--were so traumatic that he spoke of them only once, on a private walk with me, his eldest child. Since TB was pretty much a death sentence, few ever survived to speak of these experiences. For an adventurous and self-motivated youth who loved to explore and find new experiences, the confined and tightly regulated life of an institution must have been torture. The young Pete was given the job of pushing the library trolley from ward to ward, a chilling experience that offered him a weekly glimpse of what lay ahead of him, as he visited the wards full of more advanced cases, thinking that he too was destined to progress from ward to ward towards death. After receiving an experimental pneumothorax treatment, Peter was sent home to die. This he stubbornly refused to do, just as his country had refused to surrender to Hitler. Victorious over La Belle Dame Sans Merci, consumptive pulmonary tuberculosis, Peter participated in his country's victory celebrations and went on to live a long and healthy life.

Related Articles:
Endings and Beginnings--Ma's Blog
Nanny, a deaf woman in wartime--Ma's Blog

Never Forget

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English: The main gate at the former Nazi deat...

"It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.
It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more."

- Diary of Ann Frank
July 15, 1944

How do we grieve when there has been no funeral? How do we find peace when the fate of our loved ones remains unknown? How do we remember those we have never known, snatched from us before we were even born? My relatives, Polish Jews, were killed in Auschwitz, leaving me with a lifelong quest to draw some kind of meaning from their death. For at least thirty years, I waited for a letter. Surely someone must have survived and would eventually contact us? My heart refused to believe that all of them were gone, irrevocably. My mind refused to be content without information of their specific fates.

In this complete lack of resolution, I have tasted a drop of the pain that tears at the heart of parents of Iguala's forty three missing students, the pain of survivors of the Boko Haram massacre in Baga, the abiding anguish of the relatives of those who perished in Sbrenica, Bosnia. In the loss of my innocent family for no reason other than their race, I experience a fragment of the pain of parents whose children have been shot because the colour of their skin rendered them objects of suspicion.

In the steadfast and lifelong effort to remember those I never had the chance to know, I find illumination in Ann Frank's words, 'people are truly good at heart'. I will not remember my relatives out of bitterness. I remember them with faith in basic human goodness.

Thirty years ago today, on the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I wrote:
This alone will avenge your blood, which cries to me for vengeance; the conquest of hatred by love, of racism by solidarity and fraternity, of warmonger by peacemaker. At sunrise and sunset, kinsfolk of mine, I will remember you, and offer you the fragrant incense of peace and non-violence. Guided by the flame of anger that burns for you, I pledge myself to venture into the Valley of Shadow, to confront, accept and transform the forces of darkness in the depths of my being, to experience within myself the transmutation of hatred to love, fragmentation to wholeness, conflict to union. Let the genocide perpetuated upon you not be the herald of suicide for humanity. Sisters of Rachel, I take heed. I bear the torch your deaths have kindled, the prophetic wrath of the peacemaker


Today I can say that I have fulfilled that pledge for these past thirty years. I have honoured my relatives the only way I knew--by love, by peace, by tolerance. I find comfort in the solidarity I feel with those who suffer so much today because of their race, religion, tribe or the colour of their skin. And I still aspire to the courage and faith expressed by an unknown Ravensbruck victim.

O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

The survivors of the Holocaust are leaving us one by one.
Their message must live on--the message of generosity and greatness of heart. The message that we are all one humanity on one earth, and whatever befalls one of us befalls us all. The message that I am my bother's and my sister's keeper, whatever their race, colour or creed.



Last week Alandi lost a beloved elder. At eighty eight, Del Nett was one of the oldest members of our far-flung community. We initially met Del in 2004, when we visited Des Moines on our very first Midwest tour. Since then we have traveled to Des Moines once or twice every year for lectures and clinic and always enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with this unique individual. His wife, Sandy, has chaired our committee in Des Moines for ten years, working hard to organize our visits, so we had a chance to grow quite close to both Sandy and Del.

Del was born in Los Angeles in 1926. An author and film-maker, he was intensely creative and innovative. He had an unquenchable thirst for new ideas and was a voracious reader of esoteric and metaphysical literature. He was a great sportsman, playing tennis and golf right up to the end of his life. In his elder years, Del was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He made a miraculous recovery with the help of Ayurvedic herbs and his natural enthusiasm for life.

It is hard for us younger folk to picture what our elders lived through-- the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Nuclear revolution. Imagine being born in Los Angeles when Ben Hur was a new film and the first skyscrapers were being built! Yet of all the historical events Del lived though, it seemed that the Hippie revolution and the birth of the Counterculture was the most significant to him.

Del passed away on Makara Sankranti, the most auspicious day of the Vedic calendar. It is said that one who leaves the body on this day will be freed from the bonds of rebirth. I hope Del will keep smiling upon us as he continues his journey on other planes. Please remember Del, Sandy and their family in your prayers and meditations.

The Prophets Weep

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Muhammed: Ottoman Miniature.

Prophet Muhammad one day took a nap among us and woke up laughing. We asked him: O Messenger of Allah, why did you smile? The Prophet said: A Surah was revealed to me before. Then he read out :"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful: Verily, We have granted you, O Muhammad, AlKauthar"...... Do you know what AlKauthar is?..... It is a river in Paradise Allah pledged to give me. It is full of everything good and my Ummah will aim at it on the Day of Resurrection. Its cups are as many as stars.

In their beauteous abode in Paradise, the Prophets are weeping. They weep a river of tears, as copious as AlKauthar. Isa and Muhammad, peace and blessings upon them, are not weeping because people have ridiculed them. Prophet Isa taught us that all prophets are ridiculed and maligned for their message.

No, the Prophets do not weep for the actions of unbelievers. They weep for the betrayals by believers. They weep for those who forgot that Allah is mercy and compassion without limit. They weep for those who do not listen when they say, "How can you love the God you do not see, if you cannot love the brother you see?"

The prophets weep for the death of innocents--even irreverent innocents. The prophets weep over those who are killed and maimed in the name of religion--and they weep too over those who kill and maim in their names.

The prophets weep when those who claim to follow them abuse and enslave women. To them all women are their radiant mothers, Maryam and Amina.

The prophets weep for girls stolen from their families.
The prophets weep for the blood of children spilled in Peshawar.
The prophets weep for their beloved ones, the Yazidi, the first to welcome Isa to the world.
The prophets weep for fathers shoveling snow off flimsy tents and refugee children shivering without shoes in the winter night.
The prophets weep for families huddled in the bowels of rusty vessels, upon the beautiful sea that once carried the preachers of the living word.

The prophets weep because they are hungry, they are cold, they are naked, they are in prison, they are bleeding, they are bereaved. For whatever we do to the little ones, we do to them. Whatever we withhold from the little ones, we withhold from them.

The prophets weep because their followers forget this.
The prophets weep for us--because we too forget.


Muhammad, Abraham, Moses and Jesus in prayer in Paradise.

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: The Three Wise Men" (named Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar). Detail from: "Mary and Child, surrounded by angels", mosaic of a Ravennate italian-byzantine workshop, completed within 526 AD by the so-called "Master of Sant'Apollinare". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, January 6th, is the Feast of the Epiphany. As children we loved this day, getting the last sugar mice, chocolate money and little gifts from the Christmas tree. We enjoyed the final embers of the yule log as we sang favourite carols like,

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

According to the story related in the Gospel of Matthew, Magi or wise men traveled to Bethlehem for the sole purpose of presenting gifts to Baby Jesus. It remains unclear whether this incident was an actual historical occurrence. But it is a story of great significance that has captured the human imagination for two millennia.

The Roman author Tertullian was the first to refer to the unspecified number of wise men as 'three kings'. Over time the legend grew. Much of the story as told today is found in
the History of the Three Kings, attributed to the fourteenth-century cleric John of Hildesheim. Originally, the visitors from afar were portrayed not as kings but as Magi. Some think these Magi were Persian Zoroastrian fire worshipers. However, it seems even more likely that the Magi were from Mesopotamia, present day Iraq. So it could be fair to say that Iraq's unique pre-Christian minorities, such as the Yazidi, are the real Magi.

Epiphany means the shining forth. Three incidents, the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism by John in the River Jordan and turning the water into wine at Cana are seen as the Epiphanies, in which the divine nature shone forth amid humble human circumstances. In the case of the Magi, the manifestation of divinity is evoked by generosity. The Magi bring the most precious items of the known world and bestow them as gifts to a little child who they will never see again and who has nothing tangible to give back. By this act of generosity, divinity reveals itself in human form. There is a deep message here: generosity unveils divinity. When we give of our time, effort and treasure, the very act of giving opens us to the divine humanity and the human divinity. The timeless manifests within time, and infinite love reveals itself in our little lives.

Today, the Yazidi descendents of the Magi are suffering unimaginable horrors. As I recall the beauty and warmth of my childhood Epiphany celebrations, I think too of the children of the Magi, cold and hungry, bereaved and forlorn in poorly equipped camps. Compared to them, we are richer than kings. I invite us to pray for the real Magi, holders of a four thousand year old wisdom tradition. Speak out on their behalf, donate to charities that support Iraqi refugees and keep them in your heart.

This New Year, may you experience the power of generosity and the epiphanies that giving brings!

Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Fili...

Adoration of the Magi by Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nellie's Graduation 5-7-2011 563.jpg

Twenty-five years of caring community!

We invite you to join us in celebrating the Silver Jubilee of Alandi Ashram.

For 25 years now, Alandi Ashram has been touching the lives of hundreds of people around the world. Founded by Alakananda Ma and Sadanandaji at the behest of their teachers, Alandi Ashram is an independent, grassroots, contemplative center.

Deeply rooted in the bhakti tradition of the Poet-Saints of Maharashtra, Alandi is a sheltering tree whose branches extend to diverse traditions and lineages, embracing Sufi, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist practices, as well as those of other Indian lineages.

Among its offerings, Alandi provides:

·      Top quality Ayurvedic clinic with sliding scale options,

·      Unique Ayurvedic gurukula school offering the only four year program in America

·       Weekly spiritual events for world peace and healing

·      Authentic practices of diverse traditions

·      Support for homeless, troubled or searching young adults

·      Mentoring, meditation instruction and spiritual guidance

·      Life cycle celebrations such as weddings and baby naming

·      End of life support including nursing home, hospice and home visits

·      Memorial services, ash scattering and bereavement support

·      Humanitarian activities such as Peace PUSH to raise funds for Pakistan, stricken by severe floods in 2010

·      Spiritual activism for justice, peace and the environment

In this coming year of our Silver Jubilee, we will share stories each month highlighting various aspects of Alandi.  We will culminate with a Vedic fire ceremony and silent auction on September 18, 2015--the mahasamahdi of Raghudas, Alandi's original guru.

It's a year to celebrate, but we're not resting on our laurels. Alandi's teachings of community, caring and sharing are needed now more than ever. Help us continue and expand our offerings as we raise $25,000--just one thousand for each year that we have been serving the community.  Our board has already contributed 10% of our goal, so we're on our way and moving forward.


Ways to participate:

·      Sign up here for our weekly newsletter to stay in touch and get great recipes and health tips

·      Donate here to contribute to our silver jubilee fund

Contribute gifts or services to our silent auction: contact Jodi info@alandiashram.org

·      If you can't attend the fire ceremony in person, you can participate by sponsoring the event. Your name will be read out at the beginning of the event.

·      Check this page often. Each month we will have a special theme, and new ways to participate.


Silver Jubilee January: Spiritual Activism

This year will also mark 20 years of Alandi Ashram's spiritual activism, offering Healing Mantra and prayers for peace and healing every Monday evening. Join us at 7pm MST on Mondays in person or in spirit. If you cannot attend in person you can join in spirit by chanting mahamritanjaya mantra at home 108 times for world peace and healing.

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam

Urvarukamiva Bandhanan Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat.

Video to chant along with: 108 mahamritunjaya chanting.


Read about a devotee's experience !




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    About this Archive

    This page is an archive of entries from January 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

    December 2014 is the previous archive.

    February 2015 is the next archive.

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