One Minute to Transform the World
If millions of people around the globe meditated together for one minute every hour, would it change the world? The Brahma Kumaris think so. This seventy-year-old Indian spiritual organization, with close to a million followers in a hundred countries, is launching a new “just-a-minute” campaign (just-a-minute.org) calling everyone “from stressed city executives to busy mums” to insert a one-minute period of silence into each hour of their lives. It’s a perfect program for this fast-growing organization, which in recent years has been deepening relationships with the business world and developing quite an influence behind the scenes among social and political movers and shakers—exactly the kind of people who often find themselves hard-pressed to make the time for spiritual practice.
For a campaign of silence, they’re kicking things off with quite a loud bang: a show at London’s Wembley Arena in September, featuring Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, Michael Timothy (formerly of Massive Attack), Bliss, Ulfah Collective, and others from the UK entertainment scene. The highlight of the afternoon will be when the Brahma Kumaris’ powerful spiritual leaders, Dadi Prakashmani, Dadi Janki, and Dadi Gulzar, take the stage. These three elderly Indian holy women, who speak no English and have little formal education, have set new standards for women in leadership, stirring the explosive growth of this dynamic movement through a deep understanding of how to penetrate the Western mindset. What’s their secret? Between them, the three matriarchs share “the combined power of 200 years of spiritual study and meditation”—living proof of the power of stillness and silence in the world of action.
American Idol . . . with a Mystical Twist
Stuart Davis, the Integral Institute’s resident bard and its only traveling musical ambassador, wants to tour the country shopping for enlightenment, document the trip, and make it into a reality TV show. “It’s a travelogue about a rock ’n roll seeker who travels around America,” Davis says, “and each week I’ll become a ‘student’ of a different lineage, another tradition. It’s called Spirit of America, except we’ll be discovering more esoteric or contemplative dimensions of our religions we didn’t even know were here. Not off in the East, not finding enlightenment in India, but right here in New York, in Los Angeles, in Minneapolis, there are saints and sages among us. I’ll be their guinea pig.” Davis is currently pitching his idea to the major networks, and we wish him the best of luck. We just have one story suggestion, a twist on American Idol: How about letting the viewing audience vote at the end of the season to decide which spiritual teacher, community, or tradition Davis should surrender his life to?
Dance Like a Dervish
Sting Like a Bee
Muhammad Ali’s legacy as one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century is well established, but with the recent unveiling of the new Muhammad Ali Center in his boyhood home of Louisville, Kentucky, fans from around the world will now have the chance to discover the Champ’s lesser-known spiritual side. This eighty-million-dollar, 93,000-square-foot museum dedicated to Ali’s life and boxing career was designed to motivate “current and future generations to achieve a higher sense of self and purpose while nurturing a respect for others.” And it features an entire pavilion dedicated to Ali’s spiritual journey, tracing the boxer’s footsteps from his early membership in the fiery Nation of Islam to his eventual embrace of a more tolerant and inclusive Muslim identity and his many humanitarian efforts for hunger and poverty relief around the globe.
“For many years,” says Ali, “I have dreamed of creating a place to share, teach, and inspire people.” Having lived with Parkinson’s disease since the early eighties, he’s an inspiration himself, still traveling over two hundred days a year in order to lend his name to the cause of peace and social responsibility. Where do his strength and dedication to public service come from? “He reads constantly,” says his daughter Hana Yasmeen Ali. “His life is like a prayer. God is constantly on his mind.” According to her, the Champ’s favorite author is none other than renowned Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan, one of the great spiritual luminaries of the last century and the father of another great Sufi teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Ali’s collection of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s writings is “old and yellow and the pages are torn,” she says. “He always says they’re the best books in the world.”
A Different Kind of Humanitarian
On June 3, What Is Enlightenment? founder and editor in chief Andrew Cohen received the seventh annual Kashi Humanitarian Award in honor of his twenty years of work for the evolution of consciousness and culture. Established by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, a world-renowned spiritual teacher, human rights activist, and trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the Kashi Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals who have made major contributions to humanity “through service, education, social action, or fostering global consciousness.”
Describing why she chose Cohen for this honor, Ma Jaya said: “Andrew’s passion is illuminating consciousness in people. Through his teachings, he is a catalyst in helping to elevate humanity in our responsibility to a collective conscience.” In receiving this year’s award, Cohen joins past recipients such as Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, leader of the Jewish renewal movement; Rev. Lawrence Carter, dean of Morehouse College; Dr. Jean Houston, founder of the Mystery School and the Foundation for Mind Research; Bibiji Inderjit Kaur, chief religious minister of Sikh Dharma of the Western Hemisphere; Rev. Father Centurio Olaboro, director of the Uganda Martyrs Orphans’ Project; and Dadi Janki, one of the spiritual leaders of the Brahma Kumaris.
For the full story, including a 3-minute video of the ceremony highlights, go to andrewcohen.org/kashiaward
New Age Disneyworld
Watch out, Stonehenge—a group of Cornish New Agers is about to give you a serious run for your money. They call themselves the Tree of Life Research Foundation, and they’re planning a seventy-acre theme park shaped like the kabbalistic Tree of Life: “the only symbol that is found in all civilized cultures, the one emblem that unites every religion and race.” Ten one-acre circular gardens, each representing a different aspect of ancient esoteric knowledge, will be linked by 200-meter-long pathways made of . . . you guessed it, crystals. Lots of crystals. Recycled crystals, in this case, salvaged from old mine tailings and now put to use to conduct pulses of sound and light (“the living energies of the world”) to and fro between the ten gardens.
Though physically located on the rocky moors of southwest England, the Tree of Life complex promises to transport visitors on “an extraordinary sensory voyage exploring the formidable powers that created our universe.” It will also be a renewable energy demonstration project and research center, complete with solar energy systems and hydrogen-powered buses. So if you like your esoteric spiritual journeys boosted by a healthy dose of modern technology, come relive the “age-old ritual of the Holy Grail,” get a snapshot of your body’s electromagnetic field, and write your loved ones’ names on Tibetan rice paper prayer flags and bury them for good luck in the Garden of Mercury. And all you neo-pagans out there take note: with upwards of a million people visiting Stonehenge every year and 20,000 Druids, Wiccans, and Goddess worshippers showing up on Midsummer Eve alone to ring in the solstice, it may soon be time to spread the wealth a little and give Cornwall a try.