Posts Tagged ‘family’

I have been delving into family history of late. It is, it seems a pastime of the middle-aged.

I did not have much to go on save a memory from the age of seven of meeting grand-uncle Larry who fought in the Irish war of independence. I got jaundice during that visit so I don’t remember asking any insightful questions, but rather being annoyed by the smell of turf smoke, the taste of sweets, and the presence of everyone I met.

A few years ago, with my mother’s help I started to meet relatives galore. My sister and I ventured to our family seat, an area I found out my family has been associated with from the 7th century. We recorded a 106 year old, filmed a 90 year old, and met the warmest and most affectionate people – all our own people.

I found out that Julia Roberts played my cousin in the film Michael Colliins, and we heard all kinds of funny, heroic, and tragic tales of people past. Maybe the most poignant was one during famine times when a relative, lost her husband and died in the workhouse. So much history, so many unmarked grave stones.

For me three people stood out especially, three nuns. My Aunt Nuala celebrated her 50th year of being a nun this year and invited me to read at her mass – even though I am a Hindu priest. And cousins Sr Stephen, 68 years a nun, impressed me with her humility and sharp intelligence, and Sr Kathy, 45 years teaching in Pakistan, with her dedication.

Three ladies of virtue have inspired me Lord. Three quiet and well-lived lives, expecting simple grave stones, but who have left a greater mark through their example of humility, strength, and commitment. May I follow in their footsteps. Hare Krishna.

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More Prayer’s For The Day, BBC Radio 4, Broadcast over a week in October 2009. It is a nice slot and an opportunity for me to meditate on life and on connecting it with Krishna, as well as practising writing.

Today is the festival of Diwali, an Indian religious festival that has become famous in this country as the Hindu festival, although it is a special day for other traditions as well.

Originally, it is said, this festival was a vaishya festival, a religious celebration for the merchant, banking, and farming communities. Thus the emphasis on the worship of Laxmi,  the Goddess of Wealth, and the end of the accounting year for so many businesses.  The generosity of the vaishya community is also shown at this time by generous gifts of gold and jewellery, especially to the female members of the family.

But Diwali now has significance in many communities and cultures, not only in India, but around the world.  Last week, Diwali was magnificently celebrated in Trafalgar Square in London.  It has also been a traffic stopper in other parts of London, and in Leicester, and Birmingham.

Only a few years ago we had the first Diwali celebration in the House of Commons.  Now the main political parties are hosting their own vote-winning Diwali events – a few years being a long time in politics.

While I get invited to all of these events, I can still discern, in the mists of memory, a festival that drew family together as no other.  It was a time to spend at home, to think of God, to think of good, to give and receive gifts, and to massage family relationships.

As the Hindu community integrates more in Britain the nature of the Diwali Festival has changed.  It is bigger, bolder, and brighter, but I pray that as we celebrate we will remember to think of God, to commit to goodness in our lives, and to earn the respect of our family. Hare Krishna.

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The youth of today, that’s the problem. They have no respect, not like we had in our day. Not for old people, the law, our leaders, religion, anyone. How many times have we heard, or even spoken words like that?

The unfortunate reality is that for some young people it’s true, but it’s also true for people of older generations.

Recently a good friend of mine shared an experience he had – and a lesson learned. He was visiting his parents for a family reunion. All was well until his father started to do one of those things that always got his back up. As was his usual habit he became intolerant of what he saw was his father’s intolerance and made an issue of it. The exchange became vocal and loud. No one backed down and his father left the room. It was only then that he became aware that his four and six-year old boys had also left the room.

My friend’s wife sympathised with him but reminded him that his father was older now and may be finding it difficult to see his role in the family. This could excuse his father’s insistence on position and respect. She also observed that the boys were upset by the conflict and that they may grow up to treat him as he treated his father, if that’s their example.

My friend was appalled at his behaviour and apologised to both his father and to his boys for the incident. And so I pray,

Please Lord help me to cultivate respect. When I meet those who have more than me, let me be very happy; when with those who have less let me help them achieve more; and with my peers let me praise them and not have to compete. Hare Krishna.

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A needle in a haystack

Broadcast on BBC Radio2, Pause for Thought, 2005

Some of my relations are farmers and every summer we would find ourselves camped out on one or another of their farms. One summer, when I was eight years old, my two older brothers and I charged up a ladder to crest a twenty-foot haystack. It was one of those silly competitions boys seem to have to see who can get to the top first.

Anyway, my older brother got to the top first, jumped in the middle and covered himself with straw. He told me to hide so when my other brother got to the top we wouldn’t be seen. I flung my body over a pile of straw only to fall twenty feet down on the other side. I landed on my face, on concrete. By some miracle I wasn’t really injured apart from a bit of a bloody nose.

My whole family came running out to the farmhouse, including my six aunts on my mother’s side, two of whom were nurses. The sudden drop gave me a bit of a shock, so I started to cry, which brought some welcome maternal fuss. This was confounded by the aunt-nurses who told me I was all right so I should stop crying, which I begrudgingly did because I loved the bit of attention.

After getting my face squashed and my emotions patched and blessings from everyone, my father took me by the hand and brought me out to the haystack and stood there looking at it and asked if we should climb up? I protested, why would I want to climb up that haystack again? He insisted so we both climbed up to the top of the haystack and my father and I sat in the middle and he looked at me and said it was important to climb up and sit here because He didn’t want me to be afraid of fun, haystacks or heights.

I often reflect on that little moment, that little bubble of wisdom. And as the years have passed I have appreciated my father even more for taking that time with me, just a little thing but it has meant so much in other areas of my life since. There are many times when something unusual, comic, or tragic may happen to us, but we must not be afraid to revisit the circumstance in order to resolve it in our hearts. Sometimes it is very easy to run away from a circumstance or relationship, when we could instead climb our haystack and find our courage again.

Hare Krishna

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