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A Tribute from our South African Sangat
By Pritam Hari Kaur
When Yogi Bhajan passed in 2004 I was too affected. I was—as were we all—bereft, closed and distant, and didn't notice that when a great person passes the entire field feels it; it receives a bitter-sweet boost and resurgence!
This is what is happening at this very moment at Mandela's passing. And so we thank him for this gift and sacrifice at the end of a long, courageous and large life. Picture spontaneous Mandela tributes in the streets: people cry, embrace each other, sing and ululate, smile and toyi-toyi (the defiant, energy-rousing dance from the resistance).
A platform has been erected in the street outside his Houghton home in Johannesburg for speeches and sharing and is beleaguered with hundreds around the clock.
Mandela belongs to the world. With piercing intelligence, clarity, compassion and bigness of heart he marched, taught and fought against inequality, suppression and racism. We, the world, love him because he stated the obvious and the necessary so sure-footedly. We adore and absolutely crave a value-centered, integritous politician and leader who also humbles you through his modesty and humility.
We missed his magnanimous presence when he withdrew after 2004. We could have done well with a dose of Madiba Magic. And the suspense was hard when his health took a turn for the worse in June with little news forth-coming.
Already a world-famous freedom fighter before his release in 1990, Mandela is congenially known at home by his address, Madiba, or Tata Madiba, father of the nation.
When Yogi Bhajan first asked me to come here in 1987, I saw a society in the absurdity and dark ages of Apartheid. I am transported back to a referendum before Mandela's release where the public was asked to leave their headlights on if they supported the democratic process! Well, the break down services worked overtime that day to jumpstart people left, right and centre who had inadvertently run their batteries down when they failed to switch their lights off again—what an overwhelming YES!
South Africa is 1/8 the size of the USA and yet there is an ease of knowing people from everywhere. When Joe Slovo (at one time he was declared South Africa's most wanted man by the Apartheid government) perished from cancer in 1995, Har Bhajan Singh and I were invited to his memorial service at the town hall; we had served him with macrobiotic and organic whole foods from our health food store, 'Fruits & Roots,' in the time of his sickness.
I did not know what to expect. The fact is that all the streets around were cordoned off only allowing invited guests through. Madiba spoke of his personal friend Joe. Winnie Mandela was there and many other African leaders such as Kenneth Kaunda, the then president of Zambia.
Our constitution is famous and truly Aquarian. Based on the Freedom Charter from 1955, it shines South Africa as one of the deep democracies in the world, and so it should be! We needed a being of the ilk of Tata Madiba to unite frontiers, to give hope, to echo the incredible potential of this land. The TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) was heart-achingly beautiful; it invited sharing and witnessing and gave amnesty whenever perpetrators owned up.
The economy saw a boost as defense spending was cut during Mandela's presidency; investment flooded in and houses and schools were built across the rainbow nation.
Not everything healed; Mbeki had to face crime, corruption, xenophobia and on-going poverty in the next presidential term. 50% live marginally, 98% of those are Blacks. Mandela, from a meta-cognition level, roused the energy, was the consummate statesman, gave the collective hope that dialogue and reconciliation can happen, and categorically spoke out against suppression - NOT a given in the developed or the developing world!
Snobbism and elitism echo traditional entitlement with such subtlety in the West; in RSA your nose is rubbed into it a little more overtly! Check yourself with this column written by social activist Gillian Schutte aka Hari Amrit Kaur for the Mail & Guardian: http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/gillianschutte/2013/10/11/a-comprehensive-guide-to-white-privilege-in-south-africa-3/
I love Madiba's consciousness; he shines the clear and passionate royal courage Khalsas everywhere revere in the tenth Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realized. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” (defense statement during the Rivonia Trial, 1964, also repeated during the closing of his speech delivered in Cape Town on the day he was released from prison 27 years later, on 11 February 1990).
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
In the yoga class, we reflected what inspiration we took from him, and when we did the ‘I am Thine’ chant we meditated on owning and sharing that very quality. And so we walk forward, holding a piece of the heaven.
My friend from Sharp Sharp Media who also published my book, The Kundalini Yoga Fan, is creating little moleskin style booklets with Madiba quotes of excellence, sponsored for school children. Keep looking towards this land where the frontiers rub up and soften in a continuous design of learning and surrender. And come visit for White Tantric Yoga on May 24th, 2014 in Cape Town!
Having lived at Hamburg Guru Ram Das Ashram for 8 years, Yogi Bhajan asked Pritam Hari Kaur to join Har Bhajan pioneering Kundalini Yoga in South Africa in 1987. Their son Hari Bhajan runs the family business, Earth Products, in Johannesburg. Pritam and Har Bhajan are part of a sustainable farm community in the Western Cape. She created the KUNDALINI YOGA FAN, a picture book in yoga and is the lead trainer for South Africa; they continue to reach out through trainings.
For more information about Kundalini Yoga in South Africa, check out these blogs: