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In the political ferment of student life in Seventies Britain, a Socialist was someone who quoted Das Kapital like a Baptist quoted the Bible. The rest of us were a bit scared of both, Socialists and Evangelicals. At the time, it scarcely occurred to me that the caring society I was so proud of, the NHS I was training to work in, were major Socialist achievements.

Then the Eighties rolled around, bringing Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Compassion became countercultural and the mandate for selfishness replaced the call to caring. New words began to enter our vocabulary--'trickle down economics' for example. But as an immigrant to the US during the Reagan era, I never noticed anything trickling down to me.

America was full of surprises, not all of them good. For example, apparently there were only two political parties, and as far as I could see, both of them would fit into Britain's Conservative party. Liberal was a term of insult rather than the political party my parents supported, and Socialism was apparently synonymous with Communism. Universal healthcare was regarded with suspicion by those who most would benefit from it and 'Welfare' was a despised term rather than the proud achievement of health and housing for all.

It was while I was working to start a food Coop in Boulder that someone called me a lefty for the first time--and they didn't mean it kindly. I had never been called a lefty before for any other reason than being left handed! Meanwhile, I had begun to appreciate that everything I respected in a society-- 'each for all and all for each,' compassion and care for all, the Welfare State, was encompassed in the term Democratic Socialism.

As I watch Britain's Conservative Party dismantle all I admired and loved about my homeland--the place where my family lives--as I listen to America's right wing rhetoric growing increasingly strident, I've realized that, even though I'm very different from those orthodox Marxists I found so funny years ago, I am actually a Socialist. The Neoliberal economics of continuous growth on a finite planet are leading us towards a devastating endpoint. Already sixty-two billionaires own more that 3.5 billion poor people. The economics of caring and sharing may be a left turn--but they represent a turn away from certain destruction.

Thanks to Social media, people of compassion and integrity are getting an opportunity to be heard as never before within the political arena. Of course, the corporate media don't like them, giving them the smear treatment or worse still, the silent treatment. But Jeremy Corbyn is now leader of Britain's Labour Party and Bernie Sanders has become, despite all odds, a realistic candidate for President of the United States. Let's give all the support we can to those who stand up for a Caring Society.

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Greetings dear ones,

Of many events that took place for us this year, from a pilgrimage to Tunisia to an unprecedented expansion of Alandi Gurukula, by far the most momentous was the death, on 15th October, of my beloved mother, aged ninety. I'll be dedicating this year's letter to her legacy.

On 5th July 1948, Britain's NHS (National Health Service) was born. The world's first publicly funded single-payer universal healthcare system officially started when Health Secretary Aneurin "Nye" Bevan opened Trafford General Hospital in Manchester. At the time, my mother, then Joyce Board, was a medical student at London's Royal Free Hospital. She was to spend her entire working life as an NHS doctor, and at the end of her life was cared for lovingly by NHS Wales.

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Nye Bevan opens Trafford General Hospital

Joyce's personal legacy is inseparable from the vision of healthcare as a right, free to all at the point of use--a vision to which she dedicated her life. As a poor child growing up on Skipton Street, a South London slum, Mum became aware early in life of the challenges poverty brings. She vividly described the day she accompanied her father, a lab technician at Bart's Hospital, to a Christmas party at a doctor's house. When the little girl asked to wash her hands, she was brought into a beautiful bathroom with a claw foot tub. It was a far cry from the toilet she shared with several other families, and the tin tub brought out for a weekly bath. Immediately, little Joycey decided that she too would become a doctor and have a lovely bathroom! And despite poverty, the Great Depression and the ravages and dislocations of the Second World War, the young Cockney girl fulfilled her ambition.

The birth of the NHS paved the way for Mum to have a future quite different than that of doctors of previous generations. Instead of running a business and receiving payments from patients, Joyce was paid by the government as a public servant, free to provide care to all, regardless of ability to pay. Soon the NHS was to train generations of doctors and nurses who believed in healthcare as a right and found their greatest satisfaction in providing quality care on the basis of need.

In December 1951, two and a half years after the birth of the NHS, I was born in a small town in the Midlands as a member of the first generation entitled to receive cradle-to-grave care from the new healthcare system. In fact Mum, Dad and I all spent our first Christmas in St Mary's Hospital, Dad sick with brucellosis, Mum recovering from the birth and I, a tiny premature baby, in an incubator. I wonder how our little family would have survived without the NHS! A few months later, Mum was back at work as junior partner in general practice. However, she soon saw that the life of a GP was not optimal for a wife and mother--and began to shape her career within the NHS' nascent public health system. This started with infant welfare clinics and soon blossomed into care of children with special needs. Joyce would pay a home visit, assess the child and assign the needed services. Most of her work was among mining families in rural Nottinghamshire. The poverty of these families made a lasting impression. " The woman of the house makes her husband a bacon sandwich to take down the mine. She gives the children bacon rind sandwiches and she herself takes a bit of bread and wipes it around the frying pan for a taste of bacon," she told me.

Meanwhile, as I attended primary school in Melton Mowbray and Mum cared for the needs of children in the community, universal healthcare was slowly beginning to spread around the world, coming to Sweden in 1955, Iceland in 1956, Denmark and Japan in 1961 and Saskatchewan, Canada in 1962. The revolutionary vision of healthcare as a right, afforded to each on the basis of need rather than wealth, was beginning to become the norm rather than the exception.

In 1966, I announced to my parents that I had decided to become a doctor. Of course, Mum was delighted. A few years later I began my training at Bart's Hospital--the same place where my late grandfather had been a lab technician. London's diversity was thrilling to me and played out in unique ways within the fabric of the NHS. The hospital porters were, almost without exception, Sikh. On my midwifery rotation at Hackney hospital I also noticed that Italians did the cooking and catering, the senior nurses were Irish, the student nurses Philipina or Malaysian and the midwives Jamaican. Meanwhile, many of the resident doctors were Bengalis or Palestinians. Our different cultures and accents enlivened the workplace and everyone seemed cheerful and at home amid this 'London soup.'

Even more thrilling was the opportunity to provide the finest care to the homeless residents of the City of London. This came into clear focus during my Casualty (ER or A&E) rotation at Bart's. The police would bring in an elderly tramp found injured, coughing or comatose. Nothing delighted me more than to see the old man clean, warm and comfortable in a hospital bed, having his pneumonia or TB treated by world-renowned doctors. And then, since we were not allowed to discharge an elderly person to the streets, the social worker had to find housing for him!

While I studied medicine in London, Joyce was ascending to the top of her career, reaching the level of Senior Consultant in the new specialty of Community Medicine. Much as she enjoyed her professional success, the most important thing for her was the opportunity to help shape a caring society, ensuring the provision of quality services for special needs children and their families as well as for other vulnerable populations. Mum still remembered the 'bad old days' before the welfare state and took great pride in being part of the creation of a society based on the premise, 'Each for all and all for each.' Her chosen specialty led her to look beyond the confines of hospital care to the larger issues confronting the county, the nation and the world as whole. Britain's 'care for all' promise meant that everyone--the young, the sick, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled, as well as addicts--must be provided the opportunity to receive the needed services.

As the decades rolled on, Mum went from being a provider to a recipient of services. In the last months of her life, she received outstanding care from NHS Wales. I sat with her during an in-depth visit from the District Nurse, to determine what services and support she might need while ageing at home. Soon after, Joyce suffered a stroke. The EMT who arrived with his ambulance, very promptly despite the rural setting, made a careful assessment. Mum reached hospital quickly and was immediately taken for a CT scan. Thereafter, she got outstanding care in the Acute Stroke Unit at Bronglais Hospital. Not only was the care timely and compassionate, there were no worries or concerns about 'what is your insurance,' no copays or deductibles, no lingering bills to burden the family. Universal healthcare, free at the point of need--Joyce Hudis dedicated her life to it and benefited from it when she herself needed help.

In the US we feel uneasy about universal healthcare. After all, 'each for all and all for each,' is a Socialist concept--and until recently Socialism was a dirty word akin to Communism. Now that an avowed 'democratic Socialist', Bernie Sanders, is seeking nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate, perhaps we can break that taboo. I've lived in a country that had universal healthcare in an integrated health system and I've lived in one that doesn't. If there is a benefit to not having universal healthcare, I've yet to discover it. But this I do know. If, in the dying years of the British Empire, a nation with great poverty and a rigid social class system could reinvent itself in few brief years, out of the rubble of war, into a welfare state with universal cradle-to-grave healthcare--it can be done. It has been done and it can be done. All it takes is the will to care. Healthcare is a right; let no one deprive us of it. As neo-liberalism rushes toward its inevitable end of oligarchy and corpocracy, it's time to seek sustainability in a new approach.

Each for all and all for each,

A fresh new song is in the air.

All for each and each for all,

For a world of sharing and caring.


Since I wrote the Caring Community Song in spring, many remarkable developments have taken place in the sociopolitical sphere, and most have arisen from the grassroots. Not only has Bernie emerged as a potential presidential nominee--Jeremy Corbyn has become leader of Britain's Labour party, Justin Trudeau has become Canada's Prime Minister and Podemos has made a great showing in Spain's elections. The people demand the fall of the oligarchy! The people demand true social democracy! We are glimpsing the power we have if we stand together and call for caring community.

For a tear-jerking glimpse of Britain's NHS, listen to this beautiful rendition by the NHS choir.

Wishing you a joyous New Year and peace and prosperity during 2016!

With my love and blessings always

Alakananda Ma

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See Ma's speech on video!

See Ma's song on Video!

Honoured guests, faculty, staff, graduates and students, each of you in your own way a part of our Alandi family,

Today's graduation is a unique occasion, taking place, as it does, during our Silver Jubilee Year. Twenty-five years ago, we rented the little garden level apartment here. After looking at many depressing spaces, we felt sure that in this humble place we could make our dreams a reality. This vision has proved true--but not without challenges. When we first arrived we had a rock band, The Samples, as our upstairs neigbours. We had to listen to the same guitar riffs beings played over and over, all day and into the night! Next, a single mothers' collective took over. They were great neighbours--but children can sound like baby elephants when you are meditating and they are playing overhead. Finally, after seven years confined to the basement, we had the opportunity to take over the lease of the entire house and create the facility you see today.

We are located on a clay bank with no topsoil to speak of, so initially the garden yielded nothing but Canada thistles and bindweed. Then we discovered soil amendment and double digging. We created the garden patiently, by hand, lugging buckets of compost for the beds and wheelbarrows of rocks for the borders. We built the firepit according to Dr. Lad's instructions. We made our own ceramic vessel for bathing the shiva lingam--an Indian ritual honouring the union of form and emptiness. We started an Ayurvedic pharmacy from scratch.

Twenty years ago, we began weekly chanting for world peace and healing on Monday nights. Our initial inspiration was the then dire environmental situation at Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant--now Rocky Flats plutonium-laced so-called Wildlife Refuge. From our inception, we have practiced an engaged spirituality weaving justice and peace concerns with contemplative practices. The Ayurveda gurukula gives us the opportunity to pass this approach on to younger generations of seekers.

So today, we celebrate twenty-five years of caring community. And we honour the contibutions Larisa, Matt and Nicole have made to this community. Larisa has always been ready to step in and support with everything from a new peace rose to a vegan chocolate cake. Our caring community has been a vital source of support for her journey through metastatic cancer, as well as the painful situation with conflict in Ukraine, her native land. Aland is a spiritual home for Larisa for the six years now and I'm sure she will continue to find ways to stay involved.

Nicole and Matt arrived at Alandi just in time for the 2013 Boulder Flood Disaster. Despite the stressful situation--sitting in class surrounded by boxes, with the Shivalingam in front and pharmacy behind us, they were unwavering in their commitment and always ready to take on responsibilities. One of the first things Matt said to me was, "If you need any heavy lifting, I can take care of it." The second was, "I can help with shopping." Both of these have been much appreciated--but Matt's abilities as a community builder have been an even greater asset.

When Nicole was asked if she was willing to take over as pharmacy manager, she said 'yes' even before she found out that the position carried a full work-study. She simply wanted to be of service and be more involved with the herbs. Nicole has been keeping pharmacy going with ease and tranquility. She gently nurtures the students' medicine making skills. We are delighted that she will be continuing her studies up to the degree of Ayurvedic doctor.

In an age that rewards greed and celebrates selfishness, creating caring community is both challenging and counter-cultural. Alandi is a microcosm of the reign of love and loving-kindness--the radical solution to the numerous social and environmental problems that plague us as a nation and a world. If we care about drought in the horn of Africa, we will take strong action on climate change--and thus save ourselves. If we care about conflicts raging in the Middle East and North Africa, we will demand global economic justice--and solve terrorism by love, not war. If we care about species extinction, we will nurture a more diverse and beautiful world for our children. If we create a caring society, we ourselves will have happier and less stressful lives.

In honour of this special jubilee year, I have written a song for you. Here is, the Caring Community Song.

The youngest girls are just thirteen,

They work all day, they sob all night,

Until the little matchgirls strike

And set the world alight.

A new day has dawned for us,

A fresh new song is in the air.

Join hands in community

For a world of sharing and caring.

A man is walking to the sea,

To make the salt is forbidden,

And thousands more shall march with him

In soul-force for freedom.

A new day has dawned for us,

A fresh new song is in the air.

Join hands in community

For a world of sharing and caring.

The cattle cars roll through the town,

The German wives are weeping.

They pour the water for thirsty mouths

And take their daily beating.

A new day has dawned for us,

A fresh new song is in the air.

Join hands in community

For a world of sharing and caring.

On Selma Bridge with heads held high

They walk into a sea of blue,

The future held in bleeding hands,

They march for me, for you.

A new day has dawned for us,

A fresh new song is in the air.

Join hands in community

For a world of sharing and caring.

So come, my friends and walk with me,

Where King and Gandhi have gone before

And by the little matchgirl's light

Let us live each for all.

Each for all and all for each,

A fresh new song is in the air.

All for each and each for all,

For a world of sharing and caring.

A new day has dawned for us,

A fresh new song is in the air.

Join hands in community

For a world of sharing and caring.

26th December 2014

Once to ev'ry man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
'Twixt that darkness and that light.

James Russell Lowell

Greetings dear ones,

Yesterday we celebrated a remarkable centenary--the Christmas Truce which arose spontaneously in the first winter of World War I. The so called Great War was a defining experience for my grandparent's generation, leading some to cynicism and despair and others, like my grandfather, to a thirst for justice, a burning need to set things right.

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A cross, left near Saint-Yves in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914. The text reads: 1914 - The Khaki Chum's Christmas Truce - 1999 - 85 Years - Lest We Forget. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, in 2015 we will celebrate seventy years since the ending of World War II. For my parent's generation, the Second World War was the defining experience that shaped their adolescence. The war gave my mother a country experience as an evacuee in Somerset, living a life very different from her inner London childhood. My father contracted tuberculosis, apparently from sleeping in the London Underground side by side with strangers during the Blitz. And my adopted Uncle Henry, a kindertransport refugee, lost his mother and father in Bergen-Belsen. My parents came out of their wartime youth determined to create a peaceful and just society.

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Frank Meisler Kindertransport memorial (2006) stands outside Liverpool Street Station. Kindertransport (Children's Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940.

Fifty years ago, young Americans like Sadananda faced the prospect that yet another generation of young men was being wasted in war--a pointless and unjust war. Vietnam became the defining experience for the youth of the sixties. Draft resistance and antiwar protests, along with the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle to end segregation coincided with the discovery of LSD and the call to 'tune in, turn on and drop out'. These synchronous events gave birth to a transformative social and cultural movement--the hippie revolution.

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Martin Luther King Jr. speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul on April 27, 1967

Meanwhile, growing up in a small town in England, I experienced not war, but peace as a defining moment. Coventry Cathedral, firebombed by the Luftwaffe in 1940, rose again from the ashes as a twentieth century architectural masterpiece. I remember visiting the new cathedral with my parents it shortly after its consecration in 1962. Nationwide, something still more remarkable was happening. From the misery and squalor endured in the interwar years, from the ashes of the war and from the dying embers of an Empire, something new was being born--a Welfare State that provided cradle to grave healthcare and support for its citizens. "Each for all and all for each" was the mantra of this bloodless revolution. The intention was to create a society of unity, community, caring and sharing, a nation defined by the understanding that I am my brother's and my sister's keeper.

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Coventry Catherdral: Baptistry Font & Window

For want of a better word, let me say that I am a child of the Caring Revolution. I am a product of the caring and sharing society. I was reared by parents who believed in this new vision and worked for it. As a sixth-former (analogous to high school student) I attended seminars training teenagers to be the co-creators of the caring society. And as an NHS doctor (employed by the National Health Service) I worked as a public servant. The caring society has shaped who I am and how I see the world.

To every revolution there is a counter-revolution. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, neo-liberalism--by which the market runs the state--and trickle-down economics formed the counter-revolution to both the hippie revolution and Britain's caring revolution. In America, the wealth gap grew ever greater. In Britain, individualism replaced community and a mandate for selfishness took the place of a call to caring. Instead of "Each for all and all for each" the new mantra was "I got mine, you get yours."

Meanwhile, the year that Ronald Reagan was elected, an English former NHS doctor and an American former hippie met beneath the coconut palms on the shores of the Kaveri River in South India. Alakananda's deeply felt experience of the caring society met Sadananda's hippie Utopian ideals--and a vision was born. For twenty-five years we have been living our vision of community, caring and sharing here at Alandi Ashram in Boulder. From making chutneys for our neighbours to sharing our small abode with a homeless pregnant woman, bringing love and cheer to nursing home residents or attempting to start a Food Co-op in Boulder, we have done what we can in small and bigger ways to foster a sense of caring amid a society of rugged individualism, alienation and a growing wealth gap.

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O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

GK Chesterton, 1906

Today again we face a defining moment. There is a new world war, one fought in many theatres and under many titles. The enemy facing us as a species is the mutually exacerbating conjunction of global climate change, environmental degradation, hunger, displacement and the trend towards corpocracy. A term coined by David Mitchell in his novel Cloud Atlas, corpocracy--absolute rule by a vast corporation--is the final apotheosis of neo-liberal economics and corporate personhood. The misery caused by these invisible enemies leads many of us to scapegoat visible enemies in the form of people of another race, colour, ethnicity or religion. My Uncle Henry could tell us where such scapegoating of the other leads. ISIL, Al Quaeda, Taliban, Klu Klux Klan, Boko Haram, Al Shebab, National Front, UKIP, Golden Dawn, Freedom Party, Neo-Nazi--all these extremist, jihadist and racist groups and parties are the voices crying out in the wilderness of a planet undergoing degradation and a species in danger of losing its soul. We must indeed be radicalized--and this letter comes in full intention of radicalization. If we are not to splinter into endless war and terrorism between competing extremist groups--as is already the case in Syria--we must be radicalized to global humanitarianism and passionate care for our environment.

This summer, while in the UK, Sadananda and I watched Ken Loach's documentary Spirit of '45, about Britain's caring revolution. The final message of the film was a mandate to us, the elders, to talk to youth about creating a caring society. We did it once and we can do it again. For those who have never experienced a caring society, this may be a hard message to convey. I have lived it, and understand its importance. At this hour of global crisis, we need to create a caring world, knowing that I am my brother's and my sister's keeper, wherever in the world they live. I am the keeper of all species and steward of our beautiful Earth. As human family, we must stand "Each for all and all for each." Let it begin right here, at the dawn of 2015. Let it begin with me, with you, with us, the Alandi family.

wishing each of you a joyous New Year

with my love and blessings always

Alakananda Ma

Earth from Space

Earth from Space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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