Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Living Wisdom of Mirabai

Mom canceled our plans to go to a Patrick Ball concert last night, because she had been to see the Living Wisdom School play the night before and was so impressed she wanted to see it again with me. So we went to that, and I'm more than happy that we did. I would recommend that everyone go see it, except that last night was the final show.

Every year, LWS puts on an original play about the life of a great spiritual figure. In the past they've done Buddha, Jesus, Moses, St. Francis, Martin Luther King Jr., Kuan Yin, Yogananda, and others. This year it was Mirabai, a 16th century "mystic poet princess of India." I'd never known much (well, anything) about her, nor have I ever been particularly interested in devotional poetry such as she wrote, but this was a wonderful way to learn. What really struck me, though, was an overall sense of how truly uplifting the whole production was for everyone involved -- actors and audience alike.

The cast is made up of about 60 kids, ages 4 through 14. A few of the larger roles are played by more than one child -- there were five Mirabais, for instance, who would sometimes take scenes individually and sometimes work together (it sounds odd, but made sense in practice). This probably makes it easier for the littler kids to make it through a full length play, but it also lets more of them have more types of roles. And nearly everyone had multiple roles, even if they weren't Mirabais. The way Mom put it, this gives everyone a chance to experience lots of different ways of being -- they can express their royal nature, their devotional nature, their warrior nature, their peacock nature, etc., one right after the other. It's like the karmic actors concept I wrote about recently, but compressing multiple lifetimes into a single play.

And a lot of these kids really rose to the occasion in their roles. The three primary Mirabais, all age 10, were especially impressive. They tended to look kind of like you'd expect awkward 10-year-olds in costume to look, but it was amazing what they put into their performances once they started speaking. The smallest of these, in particular, had such a powerful presence that she seemed to be just absolutely channeling Mirabai herself when she was reciting some of the poems. Another of them sang a song in some Indian language, which of course I couldn't understand, but which was just so heart-achingly beautiful that I couldn't do anything but stare at her and cry the whole way through.

Of course, watching all of the kids was an absolute delight. They're all wonderful and they're all putting so much of themselves into such a good work that it's impossible not to just sit there and love them. Even crying through Mirabai's song, even during the treacherous or tragic parts of the plot, I just had an immense grin on my face and in my heart the whole time. And I realized that this is giving us a glimpse -- on a human scale -- of the sort of love God must have for us. We may be acting out all sorts of wonderful or ridiculous things here on Earth, being a priest in this lifetime or scene, and a warrior in the next. But He loves the souls behind all that, just like we love the children doing the acting, and a constant sense of joy and love permeates everything as the true core of what's going on.

I'll leave you with one of Mirabai's poems. Perhaps not the most typical of them, but the one that still makes me laugh when I think of the five little girls in blue dresses up on stage, reciting the last lines together.

Mira Knows Why
The earth looked at Him and began to dance.
Mira knows why, for her soul too
Is in love.
If you cannot picture God
In a way that always
Strengthens you,
You need to read
More of my poems.

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