Grandmother Mona reflects on the Grandmothers’ Official Gathering in Nepal
As I stand beside the Colorado River offering my prayers and hear the sounds of the mighty Colorado River rushing by me, I am preparing for our 13th Official Gathering to be held in Oyenano Village, Gabon, with my sister Grandmother Bernadette and my other sister Grandmothers of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, my mind and heart wanders to Grandmother Aama, our sister from Kathmandu Nepal.
I am recalling our recent telephone conversation; she is crying, asking for help from her Grandmother sisters! I assured her we will help.
It will be three years this coming November that the Grandmothers journeyed to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal in celebration of our Grandmother Aama’s Official Council Gathering. And, now, as we prepare for our last official Gathering to close out the promise we made to each other ten years ago to each host a Gathering in our home country, my heart goes out in particular to Grandmother Aama, whose country has suffered great devastation from earthquakes and aftershocks only two months ago.
As a sisterhood of Grandmothers we take refuge in our prayers, we take refuge in our honoring of all life on our beloved Mother Earth, we take refuge in all that the Great Spirit brings to us as a way to grow in love, devotion and humility.
And, yet in that refuge, we all, as humans inhabiting this blue orb that grants us life spinning amidst the cosmos, we are humbled by the suffering we see and feel each moment of each day – and, with each breath, with each step, with each prayer, we reach out to our brothers and sisters with an offering of thanks for the grace of wholeness that we experience.
We are about to celebrate and light the sacred fire in Grandmother Bernadette’s home village of Oyenano in her country of Gabon, Equatorial Africa. And, yet, still, many of Grandmother Aama’s people lack clean water, medical attention, food and housing.
As we embark on honoring our sister Bernadette, I also reach out to each and every one of our supporters around the world, you who resonate with the Grandmother’s vision, you who dedicate your lives to bettering our world, our environment, and all indigenous peoples and I ask you for your support to help Aama help her people in Nepal.
As we light the sacred fire in Oyenano Village we will think of all who are not able to participate with us. And, we will light that light in your good name, igniting that light that is in your hearts to bring peace and goodness and happiness and safety to all sentient life on our beloved planet.
Since the earthquake, we have received many messages from our supporters asking how they could help. Please consider contributing to our fundraising effort to collectively fulfill the provisions necessary for the Grandmother’s efforts. As a thank you in advance for your financial assistance I share with you my thoughts and experiences from our Council Gathering in Nepal in November 2012.
Together, we share an open and loving heart.
Support Grandmother Aama’s Earthquake Relief Efforts in Nepal
Grandmother Mona sharing with you her thoughts and experiences from our Council Gathering in Nepal in November 2012.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
I was blessed to go to Kathmandu, Nepal with the Grandmother’s Council. Grandmother Aama Bomba hosted us. It was amazing there – everywhere, are people who are in mindful meditation or in prayer.
The national government welcomed us with great enthusiasm – even the Vice President came to greet us and hosted a reception, and several Ministers of Nepal came and greeted us throughout our visit.
The city of Kathmandu, had a dignitary parade, the streets were crowded with people coming to have a blessing from us! It was very humbling – these people don’t have much, but they are happy and peaceful. They say they are happy and peaceful because every morning they face to the great Himalayan mountain range and receive blessings.
When we saw the mountains, I just cried, and took a deep breath. Never in my dreams did I ever think I would ever go to that part of the world – to pray. That is what we did – pray. One of the highlights was when an indigenous tribal elder lady came to see us. She had left her village up near the mountain for the first time to come see us. She was at least 100+ years old! Little, tiny, strong hearted. I took her around the sacred fire and burned cedar and she in turn burned cedar. It was so special. One of the Grandmothers said, “let’s bless her”, another Grandmother said, “We need to have her bless us!” So, she blessed each of us, we were in tears and on our knees – so beautiful. I gave her a shawl, and a little rattle.
We visited the most sacred sites of the Buddha, and went to ancient temples and monasteries. We went on top of mountains to Aama’s village, Kavre Khopasi, where we were honored. The Grandmothers had donated funds to the village some years ago for a Buddhist temple that Aama had started to build. The funds helped her get the construction done. They also didn’t have water so we had donated funds for a water pump for the school and for the village. The traditional medicine men and women came out and did their dancing and the Buddhist monks did their chanting and dancing. Then the youth/children did their traditional dances and songs. At the end, we were all dancing! Another heartfelt moment was when they brought the little orphaned children and the street children for a blessing. They were all so respectful – made us cry and pray even harder for peace in the world.
I’m adding my notes I had written while in Kathmandu so you get a better feel for my experience.
Blessings from the Land of the Buddha
Thursday, November 2, 2012
The Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, arrived in Kathmandu Nepal to a beautiful welcome from Grandmother Aama Bombo and her family.
We are in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, which is located in the Kathmandu Valley, in the Indian sub-continent, a major destination of pilgrims from the Himalayas, Tibet and Southeast and Eastern Asia.
Our friendly Tibetan run hotel is near the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, one of the most important places of pilgrimage for the Buddhists. It towers above a small Tamang village, known as Boudha or Boudhanath, meaning “Lord of Wisdom. The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is a jewel point in the center of a natural mandala, a store of sacred energy. It is also one of the largest and most significant Buddhist monuments in the world. The dome of the Boudhanath Stupa is approximately 40 meters in diameter, 1 hectare in width and 43 meters in height. On various auspicious dates, a thick layer of whitewash coats the dome and the form of a double lotus depicted in saffron water colors it. This is done annually on Dasain Purne occurring on the full moon in September.
First, was the challenge of getting oriented to the time and place.
In Nepal we are a day ahead of home [Arizona, USA], by about 13 hours. While I am still waking up at 4 AM, I have been able to sleep well and I am usually awakened by the tug of movement from home.
We are staying at the Hotel Tibet, which is very clean, and accommodating to the Grandmothers. They have a huge banner over the entrance announcing that the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers are their welcomed guests!
Welcoming Parade and Cultural Festival in Boudhanath
Monday, November 5, 2012
There were thirteen men who formed a delegation to honor Grandmother Aama and the Grandmothers … and they threw a huge celebration!
To begin, we were all taken by buses to a resort hotel for a beautiful lunch and then we came back to get in our finest clothing for the Welcoming Celebration – which was a street party where an estimated 10,000 people showed up!
In Kathmandu, 18 organizations welcomed the Grandmothers to Nepal in their traditional way. It is amazing to walk down the streets of Kathmandu and see banners and gates constructed with the Grandmothers’ pictures and mission statement. There is much excitement stirring as all prepared to welcome us. The streets were closed as we walked in procession to the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, where the Grandmothers were honored with a great celebration and acknowledgment of the indigenous peoples’ cultural song and dance.
The Grandmothers were presented to the public by parade in Aama Bombo’s Boudha neighborhood at the Boudhanath Stupa, where she is widely loved and respected by her Tamang people, the Newar people and the other people who live here in a spirit of great religious tolerance. There are 59 different indigenous tribal groups in the country, and all were represented.
It was wild when we were escorted out into the street from our hotel the streets were FULL of people! School children holding Nepalese flags, urns of flowers lined the street as we walked and rolled our wheel chairs under a huge bridge that had been built over the street with the Grandmothers photos on it.
We were all blessed with red tikas on our foreheads and katas, the scarves of blessing, hung around our necks. It was exhilarating and overwhelming all at the same time! The procession went through the huge carved main gate to the Great Stupa and we proceeded around it, accompanied by native dancers, women in their native dress, people sitting on the rooftops and in all of the windows. Even in the huge crowds we were well taken care of. Our group was ushered into a reception area for the Grandmothers to receive the speeches and honoring. Dr. Ganesh, the former Nepalese Ambassador to Japan, was the keynote speaker of the event. He gave a very moving speech acknowledging our mission and visit of the Grandmothers as such an important event for a country where the Buddha was born and prioritizes peace and compassionate action in the world.
An evening of dinner and entertainment was to await us and much gifting. A traditional honoring by dressing the Grandmothers in their Nepalese hats, jackets and plaques and gifts. I was wondering how we would ever get all of the gifts home! It was so beautiful yet humbling to be so held by this community.
Never before have we experienced such a welcoming parade and procession in our travels. An estimated 10,000 people lined the streets, balconies, on top of the Stupa, in front of their shops; all waving at us, taking pictures, smiling and feeling the love and power of this collective force of these Grandmothers and the power of their prayer for peace and action in this world. Many men from heads of government, cities, and tribal groups and families came to offer gifts, to dance, sing, and feed our whole group. It was so moving, with such honoring of our Grandmothers. At night we were on national TV for 20 minutes of broadcasting, which is highly unusual for the national TV.
Lighting of the Sacred Fire
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
The sacred fire was lit this morning marking the beginning of the 7 days of ceremony and prayer. The Hotel Tibet has created a space for our sacred fire on the balcony overlooking the back parking lot, giving us privacy and keeping the noise level down.
I was overcome with heartfelt humility, joy and appreciation as I stood before the sacred fire and the altar of Grandmother Aama Bombo.
With tears flowing, I gave thanks for this blessing to be standing in this place. I looked up to the heavens and felt the presence of my ancestors and their blessing smiles upon me. I watched as my grandmother sisters gave their offerings and prayers. Several of them, barely able to shuffle their way around, one just recovering from hip surgery, her hip broken from a fall, the others so frail from their aging physical being. Each Grandmother dropped their cane, and approached the altar with full confidence that the power of the spirit will guide them around the fire – and it did!
The Right Honorable Parmanada Jha, the Vice President of Nepal, gave the opening address at this 12th Official Council Gathering. Each day brings more and more blessings in this beautiful place of prayer. It is an honor to be here with Grandmother Aama and her family.
Grandmother Aama’s Village
Tuesday, November 13th 2012
We traveled with Grandmother Aama to the village where she and her husband lived for many years. It was a 2-hour ride by jeep from Kathmandu. The road up the mountain was narrow and rugged.
The community honored the Grandmothers with a feast and celebration for over 500 people! The villagers wanted to express their gratitude for the water well and monastery that the Grandmothers’ funds provided for them a few years ago, which have brought great benefit to the local people.
Additional funds, from this Gathering, have gone to provide upkeep for the monastery and to finish the steps leading up to it. The monastery is a simple and modest structure that brings a spiritual light to the village. Everywhere we go to these many events, there is a great spirit of joy!
An opportunity to pray in another part of the world is indeed a blessing.
With love and humility.