In the circle of life

Papis, Gunilla and Peter on the go.

It is the third and final seminary on our walk on the theme of ”Existence” at Mundekulla retreatcentre. We sit in a
circle under the trees in the meadow and listen and talk. The first day it was
Sadhu from India and Papis from Senegal who spoke about their life-journeys starting
from the religious contexts they grew up in. Sadhu’s grandfather was a Brahmin
(a Hindi priest) and as a child he followed him to the temple to pray four
times a day. And Papis who comes from a Muslim family grew up with five prayer
times in the mosque each day. Despite the fact that they have lived on two
different continents with two different religions you are struck by the
similarity of their stories. They are deeply rooted in their traditions and
carry them still with gratitude and pride. But they have both gone further,
seeking their own road away from a world dominated by religious conformity and
sometimes bigotry. They have walked a path towards their own truth, which also
seems to be a truth others can relate to.
The peculiar thing is not so much that their stories run parallel but that we
all in the circle recognized ourselves in so much of their stories.
The 12 spokes of the Mundekulla Window

In the Swedish summer-pastures we meet in
the circle and the Wagonwheel-window on the Mundekulla haybarn behind us is
given a renewed relevance. We all come from different directions but seek a
unified centre. “From faith and love till we find our place on the path
unwinding.” We smile when we recognize each other and hear the stories from the
other side of the circle.
In the singing and the dancing we find each
other without any kind of problems. There are no hindrances, only curiosity.
Words can be harder, they can be misunderstood. Sadhu explains, for us Northerners
odd concepts, of Hinduism; he talks of transformation of energies and chakras,
he talks about yoga and tantra. Despite a big willingness to understand and a
very keen listening some of the words fall on stony ground for some of us who
are listening.

Smiling Sadhu

In the evening we walk together from
Mundekulla to Långasjö to give a concert. When we walk side by side, the words
are no stumbling blocks, only confirmations that we are on the right road.
Sadhu walks at my side and we talk about our respective stories as children in
a long succession of priests.  I
recognize myself in a funny way in his stories. As if that bond brings us
closer to each other than we are with others whom we seem to have a lot more in
common with. And at the same time our obvious differences give us ample of
opportunities to learn from each other.
The concert in Långasjö becomes a blissful
yet peculiar concert. We sing down by a water-lily lake for a gathering of
people who have come out in the soft summer-evening. The sun gilds the
velvet-soft surface of the lake. The sky is painted in daring pastel. It is so
still, so perfect, so divine.
But for an ambitious choir-leader the
set-up is far from ideal. We are going to have a concert with a group of
nervous amateur-singers the first evening we meet without having had an
opportunity to check the material before. I have tried to handle my own demons
through stating that it is not a concert, but rather a sing-along, but a
concert it is nevertheless. We get a chance to run through the songs a little
in the day and Sadhu is there. He has never sung before in his life, he
confides, and when I hear his attempts to follow in the African songs I
understand he is speaking the truth. Not to mention the Swedish folksongs! But
put any average-Swede in a concert with traditional Indian Ragas the first
night he is in India and… yeah you get it… And then add a fussy audience of connoisseurs
and you have a recipe for real good comedy. Only with the little reservation
that we were not supposed to do a comedy…
But early in the concert when we sing
“There will be no heaven until everyone is there” on the old traditional melody
from Rättvik something wonderful happens. The choir sounds surprisingly well!
Above all there is a feeling of love streaming forth, overshadowing and
forgiving other possible musical defects and making the audience lapping up the
good vibrations with the last rays of the sun. What’s happening?
Then my eye catches Sadhu standing with
eyes closed and the most blissful smile I think I ever seen on human lips. He
is swaying back and forth in the music with his hands over the chest in some
kind of yoga-position. ”I just concentrated to transform the energy”, he says
afterwards. ”And it worked!” I could add. Don’t ask me how – but worked it did!
How many times have I not told my
choristers that the most important thing in the music is the beautiful thought
behind? If we sing a song of grace ungracefully, we should rather keep quiet.
But if we stand in the flow of it we need not even sing – we will still express
what the song wants to convey! Everybody will feel it. Intuitively and
warmheartedly! And there, in the middle of the most Swedish choral idyll, is
Sadhu showing us all, me included, what I meant! There will be no heaven until
we all are there.
We laughed warmly and well after the
concert as we walked home through Småland’s cow-pastures in the last dying rays
of the sun. Even the cows and the cats came running up to us and wanted to be
close to us. We did not even have to sing for them; they felt the graceful,
benign energy radiating from us, with Sadhu in our middle, as we walked home
happily with the music and fellowship still in our hearts.
The day after it was Ulla, priest in the
Swedish Church and Luigi, Maya-Indian, who was going to talk about their faith
and tradition, and the paths they have walked to get where they are now.  
I have to admit that of all stories in the
circle I had the least expectations on Ulla’s. I thought I knew that tradition
well already. So I sat behind Sadhu and interpreted in his ear and in that way
I got Ulla’s life-story from his perspective with his comments and
interjections added. And after a number of “Wonderfuls” and “Amazings” from
Sadhu at Ulla’s story even I started to feel that this is a fantastic story.
Sadhu, with generations of Brahmins in his
ancestry, said afterwards with glittering eyes and absolute sincerity: ”I think
the Jesus-energy is what has been the most important influence in my life.”
And I, from an almost similarily long row
of Lutheran priests answered that this thing of Hinduism is really something
I felt – absolutely sincerily – how my
chakras spun around affirmingly, rejoicing in pure bliss.

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