Where did It All go Wrong?

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I was invited to go to a talk by a Sister Lucy from India and arrived with no particular SisterLucyexpectation. Clad in a colourful sari, a well-built Indian lady was standing in the hall completely at ease, smiling and radiating good will. It became obvious that her very ordinariness was extraordinary after hearing about what she is accomplishing for destitute women and children in India.

She introduced herself as coming from a large family in an Indian village. On moving to the city to earn money for her family she was shocked to see slums for the first time. A desire grew in her to help people. Later she became a Catholic nun thinking this would be a way to help people. But she discovered that a nun’s outfit made difficulties in working with people of different religions and that the nunnery kept the people out.

The pivotal moment that changed her life direction was when a woman asked Sister Lucy for help as she believed her husband wanted to kill her to bring another woman into the house. She was pregnant and frightened for her life. Sister Lucy could not take her into the convent as that was against the rules and couldn’t think of anywhere for her to go. She assured the woman that she would work on finding a solution and asked her to come back the next day.

That night in a drunken rage the husband had poured gasoline over the woman and set her on fire. Sister Lucy heard her cries as she died. She was devastated and wanted to run away from the world and its cruelty. But she did not turn her back on the world.

She took a deep breath, and said Yes!

She was fortunate to seek help from an open-minded Father. He heard her impassioned desire to help destitute Indian women and he was able to connect her with an Austrian musician who had offered money for a Project to help Indian women.

Sister Lucy founded the first refuge called ‘Maher’ for women in distress in 1997. Maher means “Mother’s Home” – a haven of hope, belonging and understanding, where women not only feel love and comfort but are assured of security. Irrespective of their religion and caste, all were made welcome, treated equally and given the freedom to practice their faith, and all religious festivals are celebrated.

In her talk and answering questions it was startling to hear of the difficulties that had to be surmounted to be accepted by the local communities and to avoid any form of corruption. In the early days her life was threatened as she was going against all the conditioned views of women and the caste system. On one occasion a group of men came to the Refuge to kill her. She happened to be away. The women and children at the Refuge were altogether having just finished evening meditation. The children greeted the men calling them Uncle and the women offered them tea as was their custom with visitors. The men were taken aback at their obvious happiness and friendliness. Inside they saw on the walls respect for all the religions. They left with a change of heart picking up their sticks and weapons hidden at the gate.

Apart from avoiding corruption within India, Sister Lucy spoke of an American who offered Maher a large sum of money, on condition that free bibles were given out and an annual report sent on Christianity within the community. She refused the offer.

Sister Lucy knows that the women who come to Maher have suffered terribly in life and carry the scars. She asks them to leave the old life at the gate and enter a new life at Maher. It’s not actually food and shelter that they really need, she said, they have already proved that they can survive on the streets and in the slums. It’s love that theymaher women working need.

At Maher, she says, we do not give them time to dwell on the past – their days are full and made up of school time, serving activities, gardening, painting, drawing, dancing, music, sport… The women also learn new skills.

What helps them most to deal with their suffering is meditation. Sister Lucy said that all the women and children (over eight) are taught the five precepts and Anapana meditation. They do ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening. This is long enough as they have not much concentration. Those who become more interested (particularly the house mothers) are supported and encouraged to go on ten day retreats and learn vipassana meditation. She expects everyone at Maher to follow a strong moral code and trains the children not to kill, steal, indulge in sexual misconduct, lie or take intoxicants.

Founded on the principles of compassion and service, Maher is a community that honours all religions. Community meditation and prayers are conducted without reference to specific deities or icons. The beautiful Maher emblem is an artistic depiction of the key symbols of the world’s major religions arranged in a circle, with a single flame burning brightly in the Centre, signifying the spiritual unity of all religions.

All come from One said Sister Lucy.

Since it was founded, Maher has welcomed over 4,000 women and children through its doors and has the motto “There is always room for one more.” The organisation currently runs 33 houses and continues to grow now having a home for elderly women and a hostel for boys.Sister Lucy offered traditional blessing

Visitors might expect a home for destitute women to be rather a sad place but at Maher they are surprised to find the women and children vibrant and happy! Sister Lucy reflectively ended her talk with “In as much you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

Maher serves as a living example of healing based on a foundation of ethics and love that transcends religious division and strife and thereby offers a model urgently needed in our world today.

More information:

Vipassana Meditation :
Visit Maher website:


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Passing by a butcher’s shop in an indoor market I was stopped in my tracks by the sight105218753
in a low-level window. The full-length body of a dead pig cut perfectly in half from nostril to tail. The one nostril oozing congealed blood, the one eye shut, white eye lashes curled, the one front leg and foot stiff, the one back leg the same.

A father wearing jeans and a t-shirt with tattooed arms had stopped with his two children to look. He said, “It’s good to see this, it shows you what sausages and bacon come from. You won’t see this in the supermarket.”

One child asked, “How was it killed?”

“Electrocuted,” the father answered.

He then said passionately, “When you see where your food comes from you will know for yourself what to eat and what not to eat.”

“Well said!” I exclaimed.

He turned around to see who had spoken and said, “I only eat organic meat because then I know where it has come from.”

“Really?” My astonished reply was lost on the father who had moved on to keep up with his children.

Whether a pig is “organic” or not, the pig is a living being and does not want to be killed. Knowing where the pig came from is not the point. It’s knowing the pig will suffer. We can consciously choose to live an ethical life that leads to the welfare and happiness of all beings by simply “not doing to any other living being what we would not like done to ourselves.”

Organic or not, the death trip to the slaughter house is the same nightmare of fear, dread, betrayal, suffering and violent loss of life.

To see with compassion the men who are paid to kill the pigs (and other animals) in the slaughter house. Because of human greed, such brutalising and dehumanising work is done and carries dire consequences for those who do the killing (as well as for those who perpetuate the suffering and killing of pigs).

The scale of suffering is formidable!

PIGS are unfinished business in the conscience of humanity. SEE suffering with compassion and understanding. UPDATE!  STOP eating pigs (and any other animal).


VIVA Vegan is a state of kind. Be kind to all kind.


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“The Royal Household is sensitive to criticism over Charles’ support for blood sports, which could potentially damage his green image, and the heir to the throne is rarely seen with a gun.

But he was today spotted on a shooting party he was hosting on the Queen’s 24,000-acre Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

It is believed to be the first time he has been pictured with a gun on a pheasant shoot since December 2008 and it came in the week that his elder son, the Duke of Cambridge, attended the Tusk Trust conservation awards and highlighted the plight of endangered species shot by poachers in Africa.

William, who is campaigning to save elephants, tigers, rhino and other species from extinction, faced criticism in February after flying off to Spain to go wild boar hunting only days before hosting an international conference on the illegal trade in parts from African and Asian animals.

Charles, 66, was out shooting today with a group of around eight friends.

He sent police to speak to the photographer – although they said the photographer was doing nothing wrong – and then got his officials to contact newspapers in an effort to stop details of the shooting party being published.”


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“The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk?

But can they suffer?
VERO banner (Voices for Ethical Research at Oxford)

I am looking at the scorecard for Sandringham for December 1st. 1905.
The weather was “Still & foggy”.

“The question is not, is it on the vivisection table? Nor, is it in the slaughterhouse? Nor is it at a shooting party at Sandringham? But do they suffer?” –Gnome.

BEAT                                                          GAME KILLED
Wolferton Wood                                     Pheasants        2221
                                                                    Partridges            55
PARTY                                                       Hares                  140
His Majesty The King                            Rabbits                 68
H.R.H. Prince Nicholas of Greece       Woodcock            14
The Duke of Devonshire                        Miscellaneous      4
The Duke of Portland                                          Total   2507
Earl de Grey
Viscount Valletort
Lord Dalmeny
Lord Herbert Vane Tempest

DAILY MAIL  December 18th. 2016

William and Kate are reportedly skipping Christmas dinner at Sandringham for an afternoon and a Boxing Day shoot with the Middletons.

The cut-price shoot arranged by Kate’s mother Carole will mean missing out on Prince Philip’s traditional shoot on the Norfolk estate where the Queen spends Christmas.

They can shoot up to 500 birds at £39 plus VAT a piece for a minimum of £9,360



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Looking at the image of the Universal Octopus and seeing everything: humans, birds, butterflies, fish, trees, mushrooms… emerging from the Centre, the Source of consciousness – I wondered about trees, “Do trees feel pain when they are cut down?


I recalled visiting the Findhorn Community in Scotland many years ago and being at a gathering in their Community Hall to meet an esteemed Tibetan Buddhist Lama. He and eight monks had been flown in by helicopter as invited guests for the afternoon.

This friendly looking Lama gave a talk on loving kindness and compassion. He then invited questions from the audience and someone asked “Do carrots feel pain when pulled from the ground?

He had answered simply “I don’t know” and then asked the questioner whether this was her own experience. She had replied enthusiastically quoting someone else who could hear carrots and cabbages scream! The Lama had smiled with good humour shining from dark oriental eyes and had encouraged the lady to investigate for herself and to let him know when she found the answer.

I have never heard distress sounds from vegetables or trees and was curious about whether there was any truth to such stories. I asked Brian Taylor, the author of ‘Centre The Truth about Everything‘ if indeed trees and plant life could feel pain when cut down or dug up.

“Though there is livingness there, it’s not the same as for example in a centipede, or a worm, or a cat, or a bird,” he had replied. “It’s more mechanical. You can cut off a branch and stick it in the ground and it will grow roots and make a new plant or tree. You can take a part of a leaf and culture it to grow. Similarly you can cut off someone’s hair which has a sort of livingness in it, or their nails and there is no pain. Plants and trees are the same.”

He went on to say “Plants and trees are the dwelling places of devas…”

This was awe inspiring to hear. It gave credence to the countless folk and fairy tales involving Nature Spirits that go back as far as can be remembered in the story telling traditions in all cultures on Earth.

In the book Centre the description of “Devas” is understood to cover all beings with bodies of mental construction – gods, angels, guardian angels and household gods (what the Romans called lares and penates). The gods and angels are described as inhabiting specific heaven worlds, though not confined there. The household gods remain in a particular dwelling place.

Other devas are described as spirit beings which move around quite freely in the parallel worlds of astral and material form. They inhabit trees, plants, streams, rivers, even flowers. Most of the English names familiar to us for this kind of deva derive from the Graeco-Roman culture: Naiads, nymphs of fountains, springs, wells and brooks. Dryads, the nymphs of trees. Anthoussai, nymphs of flowers.

Every spot on Earth is thought to be alive and imbued with a spiritual element that is accessible to a developed human consciousness. These are invisible beings. They can know what we think and feel. Our thoughts and feelings are part of their habitat.

In Centre an example is given of how in Buddhist Southeast Asia it is not bodhi-tree-with-deva-wrapunusual for tree devas to be seen. When seen a brightly coloured muslin-type cloth is wrapped round the trunk of the tree to indicate that it should not be cut down. Offerings are made to the tree deva such as lighted joss sticks, rice and fruit.

The effect of destroying the trees and bushes in which these devas live is that they simply lose their home, just as humans do if their houses burn down and they escape the fire. The devas are not destroyed. However, they can and do experience loss and sorrow. They can also experience anger. This may result in hostile actions aimed at those responsible but, as the author of Centre writes, they cannot normally impinge upon the physical human form directly. However, they can reach the mind and cause dreams and nightmares.

There is a story about a group of monks in the Buddha’s time who had taken up residence in a cave to meditate and were disturbed by ‘dreams and nightmares’. The Buddha instructed them to radiate loving kindness to the devas of the cave. This solved the problem.

So there may be some truth after all to the story of a sensitive who can hear a carrot scream but if it cannot be disturbed plant life they are hearing – might it be sounds from the “deva” world?

The Buddha’s advice to send out thoughts of loving kindness to all beings, seen and unseen, is as applicable now as it was over two thousand years ago. It is a reminder of the powerful effect of human thoughts and feelings. Flowers, plants and trees give us an opportunity to recollect this optimum response – here and now.

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poppies-on-crossesThe idea for a memorial emblem of the red poppy came in a moment of revelation to an American teacher, Moina Belle Michael. It was the Saturday morning of the 11th November, 1918 —the day the Armistice was signed. A young soldier had placed a copy of the Ladies Home Journal on her desk where she was on duty for a Conference of the Overseas YMCA at Columbia University in New York City.  She found time to read it and discovered the marked page which carried John Macrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’:

“I read the poem…  The last verse transfixed me:    

‘To you from failing hands we throw
The Torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields’.

This was followed by a spiritual experience. It seemed as though she heard the silent voices of the dead, whispering and sighing in anxiety and anguish. In a moment of high resolve she pledged to KEEP FAITH WITH THEM and wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance with all who had died.  She felt impelled to make a note of her pledge and, as she was hastily scribbling it down on the blank side of a used envelope, three men from the conference approached her with a gift of ten dollars to buy some flowers in appreciation of her work for the conference.  Looking up from her intense reverie of dedication and noting the coincidence, she had replied:

“How strange. I shall buy red poppies —twenty-five red poppies. I shall always wear red poppies of Flanders Field! Do you know why?”

Moina then showed them the poem by John Macrae and shared her inspiration. They were duly impressed and took the poem back with them to the Conference room. The conference were equally pleased and the men returned asking for red poppies to wear.

That Saturday afternoon Moina went poppy hunting in New York City and eventually found twenty five small silk red four-petaled poppies, fashioned after the wild poppies of Flanders. On her return to the university the men came crowding round for poppies to wear. She pinned one on her cloak collar and gave out the others.  This was the first group ever to ask for poppies to wear in memory of their soldier dead.

As a result of ‘The Poppy Lady’s’ tireless campaigning, her dedication to the cause and the inspiration her idea gave to others, the red field poppy has become an internationally recognized symbol of Remembrance and continues to draw heart-felt public support as a fund raiser to relieve distress among war veterans and their families.

Yet the revelation that came to Moina was that the ‘war dead’ were not dead. They communicated that they were in a state of “anxiety and anguish”.  Generating money from poppy sales gives much needed practical help to those who survived.  But can we help the ‘war dead’ who are trapped in the mental torment of violent deaths and the grief of unfulfilled lives? The poppy represents the sacrifice associated with two world wars and today many think of the lives lost in Vietnam, The Falklands, Northern Ireland, Iran, Afghanistan and Syria…

Moina’s heart had been stirred by a poem written from the heart of a poet. This opened an access point to the ‘war dead’ and she spiritually heard their grief and suffering.  We too can feel the heart open on reading the old war poems, or on hearing current war news (and not being entertained by sensationalism and human tragedy). On Remembrance Day (Memorial Day in May in America) the poppy can remind us of those who died in battle and is a point in time which can be used for heart communion with the ‘war dead’.

There is a recorded personal story of a soldier killed in 1918, ‘Private Dowding’, which describes his experience of ‘death’ in the battle-field. He had been sure death would mean extinction and he knew that many believed this. It was because extinction did not come to him that he was drawn to communicate his experience hoping that it would prove useful to some.

He did in fact ‘move on’ and describes inhabiting heaven worlds. The writer of this article mentions ‘Private Dowding’ because of a coincidence that happened one November morning. She had been reading this book when the author of ‘Centre’ happened to visit. She told him about Private Dowding’s story and how his book had opened the way to make sense of the soldier’s afterlife story. As Brian Taylor listened he had looked at his watch and quietly observed that it was exactly 11am – it was Remembrance Sunday (2012).

The ‘war dead’ have their suffering to wake up from; the living can recognise them when they come. We can share their Communion and unlock the meaning of that wonderful word.

Further Reading:

Flanders Field (11.11.12)

Centre: The Truth about Everything

Private Dowding

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