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lunes, 1 de diciembre de 2014

Interview with Chaturika Sakhi - Living in the Los Angeles Har Krisha Temple

Today we will go on a spiritual journey to the heart of a community in the Los Angeles Hare Krishna Temple, accompanied by Mercedes Barrios or Chaturika Sakhi, who left a life of opulence and appearances to find her way to faith, to tranquility. We will enter with her into a world that is completely unknown to many. Open your mind, set aside prejudices, and through these words enjoy the path that she is going to share with us.

What did you do in your previous life?
For 22 years, I did theater and voice-over dubbing in Venezuela.

What do you do in your current life?
I currently live in an ashram. I am completely dedicated to my spiritual development. I live in a Hare Krishna community; from when I wake up until I go to bed, I render service to God.

Why did you make this change and how did it come about?
There was a stage in my life, when I was 28, when I had a very close encounter with death. There were many deaths of dear friends, relatives, and teachers; all were young people. It was then that I began to reflect on life, to search for what made sense to me. It could not be that life was just eating, sleeping, mating and defending. It could not only be working to go shopping. No, that did not make sense to me and still does not.

In the 90’s, I started reading self-help books and I read them like crazy. I remember reading “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay. I devoured it and did all the exercises she
suggested in the book and cried a lot. Then I started going to one of those self-help bookstores in which they had lectures every week. I went to all of them and got acquainted with different processes, leaders of different methods or therapists; a host of new things. Therapy with angels, tarot, crystals, astrology, pendulum therapy, rebirthing, macrobiotics, yoga, naturopathy, “A Course in Miracles”, homeopathy, “Men are from Mars”...women are not, the work of Byron Katie. I went to the Center for Dianentics or Scientology. Siddhartha. I did everything! I became a vegetarian, quit smoking, quit drinking, had a serious confrontation with my mother, and a reuniting with my father. I did therapy with my brother and sister, and left my husband. In conclusion, I was, and am still, a very passionate woman.

But, uncertainty persisted. Depression followed. Nothing made sense - there were doubts, existential crises, and anxiety. I never had to do anything for money. I always did the things I loved and did well. But...”India is the soul of the earth.” I do not remember where I got that phrase, but I remember it there, persisting in my mind.

Departure ticket: Caracas - Delhi. Buddhist temples - temples of Shiva - temples of temples. Camels, elephants, nights in the desert, traffic congested with animals and all kinds of mechanical devices. New sounds. New smells. Another light. But nothing was there. I did not understand anything. I could not see God anywhere, until I reached Vrindaban, the holiest place of the Hare Krishnas. Everything was more tranquil -
pilgrimages, mantras, and saris. Then - “You have to do that in this way.” No! Why?

Oh, no! How can you live with so many rules? No, I’m leaving! But, I returned.

Service, meditation classes, singing, dancing, good food, and Krishna, “The Thief of Hearts.”

After meeting several gurus, I met the one I wanted for myself. Here were the answers to my doubts. Here is where I felt, and still feel, that I had reached the pinnacle. After this, there was nothing. My Spiritual Master, in a careful and patient manner, undertook to answer, one by one, all of my questions. Commit to change old habits that have always been seen as “normal”, but they are the cause of suffering. This process is like going to the doctor - you have to follow the prescribed instructions - total lifestyle change; a commitment to the good and happiness. You could say that “I sold my soul to God.”

Will you tell us about your beliefs?
I believe that God is a person, not an ordinary person, but a Supreme Person with an intelligence that is beyond our comprehension. A person capable of creating everything that we see and do not see, who can create the planet we know, and life forms that we do not know.

I believe that God, Krishna, is that Person with the intelligence capable of creating things that do not fit in our imagination, from planetary systems that man has of yet to discover to even a simple seed that contains the genetic information to develop a fruit tree with thousands of seeds like her. I believe that God has tastes, feelings, and desires. If God were not a person, how could we have a loving relationship with Him? How can you have a relationship with a light, or energy, or the entire universe? I believe in the reciprocity of love with God. I think that beyond this life there are other lives, other worlds. I believe in the existence of a spiritual world, which is where we really belong, that death is simply the leaving from this world and the entering into another one, and that the soul doesn’t die when the body dies.

What is the Bhagavad Gita?
It is like the Bible of the Hare Krishnas. The book is a practical manual on how to live “as God intended.”
It tells the story of Arjuna, a great warrior friend of Krishna, who is about to start a war in which he will confront family and friends. Seeing them all on opposite sides, he doubts and enlists the help of his friend Krishna, who at that moment relinquishes being Arjuna’s friend to become his master teacher. And so begins a conversation in which Krishna explains what is the situation of the living entity, why there is suffering, how it is controlled by the material nature, and how to get out of this entanglement. It also explains what is the soul and describes the Supreme Personality of Godhead. “The Bhagavad Gita As It Is” tells us what to do to avoid our own suffering and that of others.

What is your daily routine?
I get up at 2 in the morning. I go to the Temple to chant mantras until 4:30 am, which is when all the devotees come to our first morning ceremony. At 5:30 am, I go to my room and rest. At 7 am, we have the second Temple ceremony with
singing and dancing, and at 7:30 am, a class is given about the scriptures. Breakfast is at 8:30 am and then I cook for my Spiritual Master and his wife. At 10:30 am, I do service in the
Temple gift shop. I don’t have the same schedule nor the same service every day. For example, on Fridays at dawn, I go downtown to buy the flowers used for the garlands offered daily to the Deities on the altar. On Sundays, I wake up the Deities, and on Tuesdays, I dress Them and do a fruit offering and arotik, a ritual in which flowers and incense are offered. Usually by 7 pm, I go to sleep.

I am also in charge of the ashram of women brahmacharinis, the celibate female students. Not everyone in the community follows this structure. Women with children, for example, are not able to attend the Temple programs every day. There are
different professionals among the devotees. It is a community with a variety of people that all have a common goal, to serve God.

Do you feel at peace now?
I think when you have faith, inevitably you have peace, peace of certainty. When I was uncertain, when I didn’t know what was the point of what I was doing or why, or where it would take me, then I felt lots of anxiety. Now everything makes sense. Yes, now I feel at peace.

What is the position of women in your religion and your community?
According to Vedic culture, the female body is designed to have children, to raise them, to educate them. A woman must
be provided with everything that she needs for this great responsibility. It is her responsibility to teach moral values to help build a decent society. Nowadays, women have had to do manly things and vice versa. However, in general, men have greater facilities for certain things and women for others. In my community, the talents of both are respected. There are very learned women who are dedicated to education, preaching, and business. In fact, one of the main sources of
income in the Temple where I live is the Gift Shop, which is managed by a woman. She is the one who purchases all of the goods and travels to India several times a year.
People who have been to India know what it means to deal with vendors in India, which is not an easy task. She is very meticulous and well-respected.

What do you like most about your current life?
I have never felt so protected. I live in a world that is inside another world. I live in a world that is more conscious and compassionate. I have a different destiny.

What do you consider to be your major achievement?
Being close to a holy person, a person who is very special to God, my Spiritual Master.

What is femininity to you?
For me, the feminine part is what leads the search for the sublime. The feminine, for me, is what intuits. Femininity is the caress that comforts us in misery.

A woman?
The saints, the anonymous, they who have completely surrendered to a higher mission, they are the ones to whom I offer my humble obeisances.

Your favorite song?

The Maha Mantra here by Nina Hagen

What message would you like to share with the world?
”One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul within the destructible body are ever destroyed, actually sees.” Bhagavad Gita 13.28
The material body is just a vehicle, an opportunity to advance. The soul is eternal and evolves. God is the partner of the individual soul. We seek knowledge through a genuine spiritual master. He will give us direction and guidance to leave the entanglement that signifies this material world. Without the help of someone who can truly see, we are like the blind leading the blind.

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