They are one or two of the very few physical, hand-written letters that comes my way these years. Their importance however is unmeasurable, because they each contain a single, simple, shining thread steeped in the love of each of my sisters in India. The oversized envelopes bring a sweet missive of sugar, along with a few grains of rice and saffron.
If I were in their physical presence, the simple ceremony would go something like this. First, she would put a paste of saffron and rice on my forehead. Then, she would tie the thread that reaffirms the bond between brother and sister. An exchange of sweets would follow, and then I would hand over (fairly large) amounts of cash, or a gift that she has been dropping hints about. The entire ceremony takes less than five minutes. The import lasts a lifetime, because it reaffirms the brother’s commitment to protect the sister in all ways possible.
In his first speech to an American audience at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda opened with the seemingly simple greeting… “Brothers and Sisters of America”. These five words struck such a chord, as the audience responded with a standing ovation that lasted many minutes. It was perhaps his open, loving reference to the audience as “brothers and sisters” that evokes such a flow of warmth. It opened the communication channel between a hitherto unknown monk and those assembled, and they felt a kinship, a sibling-ship, with him.
What is it about the phrase “dear brother” or “dear sister” that evokes such strong feelings and memories? I wouldn’t want to assume that all these evocations are of joy, for there is often much pain and estrangement between siblings too. Regardless of the level of joy and pain that our siblings may evoke, this Indian holiday is about remembrance and opportunity.
Remembrance of our wider, deeper universal brotherhood and sisterhood. An opportunity to spread joy and take a step towards a healing, to ask for and give of forgiveness, and commit to a greater caring of our frayed threads of sibling-ship.
I close with this poem for all of my sisters far and near. It came to me while watching the full moon rise from across my front porch. A thank you, a small gift, from a brother, to all his sisters, old and new, and all my dear brothers and sisters in #SpiritChat ~
All my sisters in lands near and far,
I remember like a warm summer glow;
And as the moon rises and the stars watch with awe,
Sisters sing our Mother’s songs on the earth below;
Their mirth and laughter rings of truth,
Of an unearthly joy they somehow know;
Whenever my light has gone aflicker,
Their spark tends to bring it aglow;
If I could express enough gratitude
It would be as much water does into the ocean daily flow…;
They say that the divine takes form in them
so as to us mortal brothers glimpses show;
That love does not reduce when shared,
By that infinite math does it grow;
And the threads that come from near and afar
Shine on my wrist today –
binding me to higher love, I know!
P.S. Join us in a special celebration, dear brothers and sisters of #SpiritChat ~ I will bring some sweets and silken threads 🙂 Namaste.