Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rainbow Gathering Tennessee 2012

"You said in your email you'd be surprised to see me here."
63 year old Vijay was one of the last people I'd expect to respond to my invitation to join me at the Rainbow Gathering.
"Yes, Vijay, I'm very surprised!"
He had already taken a position in the kitchen, serving kichari as people came forward with bowls and makeshift plates torn from cardboard boxes.
"Hold your plate here, is that enough? Come back if you want more."

"Shower the people you love with love"

A crowd gathered under our tent as the rain increased. A guitar player sang a James Taylor song "Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel." Repeating the chorus several times as the crowd sang along.  I joined in, singing a harmony. When the song ended, we sang a Hare Krishna Kirtan to the tune of 'Little Wing', a Jimi Hendrix song. With the excellent musicians on hand it went over better than expected. Lots of smiles and heads nodded in appreciation.

As the sun returned, our visitors moved on to explore other events stretched over the five mile muddy path.

I sat with Vijay during a quiet moment.
"What are they doing here? What is the event? Is a major activity planned?", he asks.
"They are here, simply to be together.", I reply "There are about 10 thousand people camping. They are here to share food, music, ideas, love and inspiration."
Rainbow Warrior shows his camp stove made from tin cans
Vijay runs an accounting firm in Cincinnati. He notices things I don't. Such a large event would usually require a huge expenditure.

One of the free kitchen
Food service, sanitation, security, housing and entertainment are all free, provided by volunteers. Multiple kitchens provide free meals for the pilgrims, everyone is requested to help dig latrines and carry out trash when leaving. This is what the Rainbow ethics stand for. I repeat to Vijay what I'd heard from a 'Rainbow Warrior'. Rainbow Gatherings were started in the early 70s by Viet Nam Veterans who wanted to heal from atrocities they had witnessed and taken part in during the war. Native Americans predicted a new tribe growing out of the frustrated western civilization, a nomadic tribe carrying few possessions, living in what is left of our forests.

Walking the muddy path in front of the Krishna Kitchen is a constant stream of this 'new tribe'. You occasionally see these people in town, with long, knotted hair, colorful, loose fitting clothes. Now we are in 'their town'. This is their convention.

  Some have come from California, Oregon, Maine and Florida. Cameras and electronic devices are frowned upon, pictures are taken only after receiving permission. I feel as if I'm in a scene from a distant planet in a Star Wars movie. People wear odd hats, some carry staffs with large crystals and feathers attached, some wear nothing at all.

"MYSTIC STORY TELLING, COME ON IN",  a sign on the side of the path invites us to sit beneath a large tent. Garuda, also known as Soaring Turkey, tells wisdom stories from multiple cultures. He has lived in the New Vrndavan community for some time and now hosts an ashram near Atlanta.
"Today is my last day here." he informs me, " I'm doing a marathon. Speaking until 4 AM tonight."
I take over for a half hour to give him a break.
Garuda, also known as Soaring Turkey
The group listens attentively, asking thoughtful questions. They are familiar with Sanskrit terms and we are able to cover a lot of ground before Garuda returns. The sun is going down, as he sets up candles, one of his guests brings the small fire to life and gathers more wood in preparation for the long night of hearing. I continue explaining that in our tradition, it is considered a blessing to have a thirst to hear and learn. Hearing wisdom stories is the way to water and nourish the plant of love in our heart.

As Garuda resumes his perch for the night, I run back to check on my guest, Vijay.
He has come unprepared for camping, wearing only a tee shirt and shorts. It's cooled down because of the rain.
"Vijay, are you going to be OK?"
He's been blissfully washing pots, cutting vegetables, serving whoever comes along looking for something to eat.
"I'm fine. Everyone is taking care of me. I could use a flashlight, just to get my bedding together."
"Are you glad you came?"
"Yes! These people are so nice! This reminds me of my childhood in India."
I agree,"This is a unique crowd. Ordinarily I may meet one or two people in a month that I can share a discussion on Bhakti. Practically all these people are on that level."
"Why do you think that is?"

 "They have little interest in gaining worldly possessions. They've seen the futility in that. They see love as something higher than possessions. That's a good starting point for spiritual progress. That is a lesson we can all learn."

A yogi demonstrates a pose to open the heart chakra,"Palms down, fingers together, arms in a straight line."

"I am eternal. My soul has been around since the beginning. I promise I will never die.My energy will resonate throughout the universe forever.  Peaceful Lion "

Lotus grew up in the Rainbow Family and is now a Krishna Devotee. He did a lot of the cooking and organizing. His wife and baby daughter were always as peaceful as you see in this photo.