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Rising Up and sinking Down

“There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.” –Amanda Gorman

Personally, I was in awe hearing the 22 year old Amanda Gorman read her poem last week at the US Presidential Inauguration. A slight African American woman, the Youth Poet Laureate of the US, she grew up with a speech impediment, like President Joe Biden. First Lady Jill Biden, who is a teacher, is the one who found her. The First Lady invited Gorman to the inauguration where she read a poem she composed specially for the event called, The Hill We Climb.

To me, and to so many others, it was a profound milestone to see someone like her rise up, and be uplifted by eminent others. Someone who, as a black woman in our society, might have endured being demeaned, denigrated and discriminated against. Another milestone was celebrated as the new US Vice President Kamala Devi Harris, who is half black, and half Indian American has smashed the long-standing glass ceiling.

On the path of Bhakti, what does it mean to rise up? Is there a place for ambition on the path of Bhakti? In Bhakti, should gender roles be rigidly defined, or can they be more fluid according to one’s God-given talents and abilities?

We tend to think of chauvinism as thinking oneself to be the king of the hill, or king of the castle, and feminism as wanting to smash glass ceilings, and abolish gender discrimination. I believe that the path of Bhakti can harmonize these controversies as we begin to see ourselves as spirit, as eternal individuals (even feminine by nature!) and as tiny parts of the Supreme Spirit whole, the Personality of Godhead.

During this Covid lockdown, my son, Gaura Vani, has enjoyed learning to bake bread. He kneads the bread by the work of his hands, and somehow by the mysteries of yeast and grace, it rises. Bhakti rises in our hearts when our sincere efforts become coupled with Krsna’s grace.

Last year when we traveled in India, we visited an ancient temple in the conservative state of Gujarat. I was so interested to see there that men and women together were devoutly sitting and stringing garlands for the Deity, as apparently they’d done for centuries. When the Deity’s doors opened, all the ladies came up to stand in the front. Of course, this makes sense, doesn’t it? They are usually the shorter ones…

I believe that Bhakti means sinking down into the depths of prayer and humility. Then allowing grace to lift us up, to reveal how our talents may be used in sincere service, and yes, how even our dreams may one day rise up to become a reality.


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