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Dagini Amba

Humanity in Unity -- Temple of Consciousness

Interview by Sarah Hautzinger

Dagini Amba wishes there were a better English word than "nun" for what she, as a follower of Sai Maa's interfaith, Hindu-based teachings, sees herself as being spoke with me after presiding over that morning's 7:00 public meditation and Aarti devotional expressions, while some students interviewed other Humanity in Unity residents, most students accepted the offer to sit in on the morning tai chi class. Dagini made tea for us, then we sat in a sunlit window in Trinity House, where she lives with three other women, and talked.

•  Can you tell me a bit about yourself, especially in terms of your spiritual or religious background, and how you identify today?

Always a seeker, but “The minute I saw Maa I knew. I didn't even see Maa, I only saw her hand and I knew… Tears came streaming down my face; it was a power – I can't even put it in words, but it was a rememberance of who I was, and what I was supposed to do in life. And the tears were mainly that I hadn't done it. I had forgotten my way.” Then, studied, went to India , sold everything she owned, created space for it. Went to study dance, but found Maa and stayed with her for a year. Then decided to take vows… “I look at it actually as a renouncing of certain aspects of myself, but really moving toward something… I turn the aspects of myself that I have to let go of toward the divine.” Not cutting oneself off; an “estatic way” of focusing desires, directed toward the divine. Finding my center, a really important thing for people here.” Desire and attachment have to be let go of.

•  Where are you from originally?

Philadelphia , in a liberal Baptist Church , open to homosexuals, open-minded. Experienced a lot pain in living in the world, and “used a lot of things to distract myself from what I was feeling.” Gradual process of realizing, “If I were to die tomorrow, I wouldn't have lived.”

Had gone to school in Naropa; “accepted by society,” passionate about nature and studied environmental studies with a spiritual angle.

•  Place: Do you remember how you first heard about this area?

“I actually knew Crestone a long time ago, when I went to Naropa, because they had land here. But actually, even before that, before I came to Colorado , and I was looking up everything on the internet, Crestone was one of the first places that came to me. And I just knew: I want to go there. And so when I first came to Colorado I came here, before I even went to Boulder ,” for a weekend. Then came to Naropa's land, which was given up, and lived on the land for a month. Even at that time I had such a drawing to Crestone; I know this was a place of high spiritual power for me. And I had no idea of how it would manifest.”

“Coming from a state of total renunciation in India , living in two sets of clothing, immersed in the divine. “To have had to come back and not have a place, like this, to come would have been very hard for me, so I am so grateful I had somewhere like this to go. It was a huge answer to the call of my spirit – I have such a connection to this place.”

“Out in the world, I feel too much. I am extremely sensitive, and more so as I go along my spiritual path…. It becomes hard for me to be in a place – at this point – that isn't a sort of container. And that ‘container' means a daily schedule of ritual, meditation, an environment that is clean and pure and open… Because the energy is just clear, it's just nature, which is pure… Again, I don't think it will always be this way for me; I feel this is just a stage… Eventually I'll be traveling and teaching.” Likens to most Eastern traditions need to go within to find who they are, in quiet and silence.

•  Could your community/practice be located anywhere – say, in another pristine, mountainous place in this region?

“Maa – as soon as she came here – she knew. She said this is one of the most pure places left on the planet, and that these mountains have a strong spiritual energy. We call it shakti – spitirual energy or power – and that shakti is so strong here, it's like electric. Quite often when I first came here, I didn't sleep at all at night – and this happens to a lot of people. I didn't know what it was, just this electric feeling.”

“The different organizations that are here, in prayer and concentration, and devotion to the divine in their different rituals, feed into that that's already present. And make it ever so stronger. And so it's a growing cycle: that energy feeds us, and we feed back into it.”

•  Family

“There will be one lineage holder, but there can always be many people that hold Maa's lineage.”

•  Politics

The world is becoming that place, I feel, where the spirituality is starting to filter into everything. As it will. The more human beings can find within themselves the divine… move into that place where there's spiritual life and love… We're seeing the urgency, and many traditions are stepping forth and making their voices louder, to even some coming into the mainstream, because of the urgency on the planet. And it does have to do politics but I think underlying politics is justour basic spiritual growth. Politics are a reflection of what's happening inside of us.

“When I was in school I used to be very involved in environmental politics. And, what I saw was what eventually didn't sit with a lot of me is that the activism was putting out such a level of anger, and stress, to the world. Intuitively I felt: we're putting this energy out there that's feeding into exactly what we want to stop, you know? I just had to step back and look inside and ask, what's the truth here? What's going to make the most difference? And it always comes back to spirituality. And, love. Loving everything on the planet. We're not going to fight wars over religion. We're not going to take peoples' land. We'll find another solution… For me, that's the core – the more of us we can bring into that awakening, if they're in politics or the environment, they're going to bring that into their work.”

“I think we can change any system, anything could happen, if we put our intention on it.”

•  Relations between activists and renunciates?

In our practice, it's different for every individual here. Except when we come together, like with Lorain , to work energetically on what's happening. A lot of what we do is energetic. And it's very powerful – we have found it to be – on the material level. We find that to be the most powerful gift we can offer.” Gives examples about personal finances, despite being a renunciate, has needs. Funny dance at first. Finally such a part of practice, “that inquiry into abundance.” What does abundance or scarcity mean? I found it was just two different energies inside of me, and it was a question of choosing where to put my energy – toward abundance. And I found in a very concrete way that when I switched my inner focus in manifesting abundance – not in money, necessarily, but knowing I am totally supported by the divine in every way. And that anything I need in my life will come to me, exactly when I ask for it and need it. I know, without any hesitation in my being, that I can manifest whatever I need in my life. Because I've practiced.” And on a collective level, “That's how we work with everything.” Women, and she alone have worked on natural gas drilling alone, but not yet with whole community.

•  Social Relations

What's a little different for HiU is having lots of people coming through that aren't as connected to this place, which makes it harder.

I'm grateful to the environmentalists. [Do they appreciate the kind of meditative political work you're doing?] I don't know. The ones I've talked to say yes. I don't know their true feelings. I know that when I was an environmentalist, I wouldn't appreciate that so much. I was very hard core at that time, ‘They should get off their butts and write some letters…' I think people in Crestone are a little more aware than I was at that time.

•  Why this challenge now?

Don't know, but karma enters into everything. I always know there's a reason, but I don't have to know what it is, but I know that it's tied to something I'm supposed to learn.

The common thread here is this land here in Crestone; it's a golden opportunity to work together and to learn how to bring all the different traditions together into… into finding our common power. And for some it means writing letters… for us it may mean to set all of our intentions on it, and focus our group meditations on that, to not bring that energy in. It may mean calling the dragons in, like we did at Shumei when we first gathered around this. But that we're all putting our common intention in what ever way, in whatever place our greatest power lies, is the key.

•  Sustainability

We've had to take so many other first steps, in terms of putting in structures, organizationally. There have been many conversations about, for example, putting in solar panels here, and we do compost, and we do grow a lot of our own food. That's our first step: really get our gardens and own food going. We do the best we can, and it's a slow process. For many of us I think the answer would be yes – we'd like to be as sustainable as possible. But everything has to be looked at in a relative way. Here we're very few and far between, and we get in out car to drive anywhere. I would say compared to most people our footprint is pretty damn low, the way we live here.

•  What does it mean to choose a tradition that is foreign to your own background? And what does it mean for Crestone to have so many “foreign” traditions?

“In this day and age, and what we're moving into, nothing is foreign. It's all the same. If we look at – in our tradition we believe in past life times, but even if you don't – we're communicating on such a global community now, it's a global community, it's not just the United States. And the US is made up of people from all over the world, anyway.

And on another level, if we do come to an understanding of past lives as our tradition embraces, I can say I've been this” gesturing to white clothing, “many more times than I've been American.”

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