report

FOUR FACES OF WOMAN

1st August 1998

Before an audience of 400 women at Global Co-operation House, International Centre of the Brahma Kumaris, Meribeth Bunch, who introduced the event, said that women could serve the world through their gifts of nurturing and intuitiveness. These are best developed in a framework of sisterly love.

Lynne Franks, described the Traditional Face as the qualities that are embodied in rural woman, who operates from a sense of community, mutual support and extended family values, which have largely been lost in the West. She recognised her own neglect of the traditional womanís wisdom whilst pursuing the Modern Face, and now feels the need to reconnect to Mother Earth and to her own intrinsic traditional qualities of woman.

Describing Dadi Janki as a 'woman short in stature, but taller than any woman I know', Meribeth called on Dadi to speak. Dadi expressed her pleasure at seeing so many women present, and described them as the 'Shakti Army who, with courage, will hoist the flag of peace and power throughout the world.' She then vicariously presented the audience with the gift of a mirror in which all our original qualities are reflected. 'A clean mirror will reveal our strengths and weaknesses and also enable us to discern right from wrong. Fear, nervousness and worry prevent us from doing what is right. One should never engage in wrongdoing, for whatever reason, as this causes endless damage. A wise woman has the qualities of knowing, and doing what is right, through her connection with God, and this brings benefit to humanity.' Speaking of jealousy Dadi said it inhibits freedom of action. 'To be free is to recognise our original form of peace, love, joy, purity and bliss. A Shakti acts independently and is not influenced by the world but is an inspiration through her divinity and truth.'

Meribeth invited the audience was invited to write down one quality that they would like to give as a gift to today's woman.

A beautiful song 'I AM' by Luce Drayton, created an atmosphere of stillness and calm, which led into the dialogue of the Eternal Face explored by Lenette van Dongen, Dr. Hansa Raval and Erin Pizzey. Tessa Maskell who facilitated the discussion described this face as that of childhood innocence, which, although often covered by tradition, always strives to manifest itself.

Lenette spoke of the courage she needed to transform her presentation as a comedienne and singer by renouncing the macho and embracing Jagadamba, the World Mother. Initially she feared that public opinion would brand her a loser, but the vision she had of herself as a sari-clad woman, standing atop a mountain over looking a valley and calling, 'children it is now time to come home - not to me - but to God' motivated her. Now with a vastly increased audience and growing popularity, she sometimes questions this new-found role of the pioneer, but the recognition that it is the energy of the eternal secretly hidden in her show keeps her moving on.

Dr Raval described her response to racial and gender discrimination at the outset of her career in the U.S. Her reaction was to request a transfer, but her professor advised her to stay and learn from the situation as she had a lot to offer. She remained and learnt not to run away but to keep to her goal. The oath she took in the army was to defend her country from the enemy. Her enemy however, was the negativity within - fear and lack of courage to face insults and discrimination. The benefit she gained from her experiences enabled her to develop the art of detachment and to rely on her inner resources.

Erin Pizzey spoke of her discovery of the Godhead, which was partly the result of rejection by both parents. Her work with womenís refuges involved confronting violent men whose relationships had broken down. These can only be mended when we face our responsibility to one another with unconditional love. Maternal love will sustain our children along any rocky road they may have to travel.

The Traditional Face was then interpreted through a presentation of harp music, poetry, song, dance and an audio visual depicting the many and varied roles of the traditional woman.

The afternoon session for the Modern Face began with a lively dance by Cassandra Adyiu depicting the energy and vision of modern woman followed by a mime by Marneta Viegas in which she humorously portrayed modern woman's dilemma in her search for beauty, forgetting that true beauty lies within. It is in silence that she will touch the depths of her beauty.

Tessa Maskell who introduced this face spoke of the pressures on modern woman to deny her inner qualities, citing her own case of being a single parent. This suppression led to expressions of anger and rage. Moyra Bremner who then interviewed Rohini Patel and Marietta Goco, saw them as representing two generations, four cultures and two contrasting family backgrounds: the younger Rohini from a traditional Indian, Hindu family born in Tanzania but educated in Britain; and the older Marietta coming from a Roman Catholic Phillipino family, and yet both achieving exemplary heights in their chosen careers.

Rohini's spirited nature made her challenge the traditional courses which young women were expected to take, and opted instead for a degree in Chemical Engineering, followed by one in Business Administration. Doors opened for her due to the achievements, she said, of pioneering women like Marietta. 'As we are never aware of the impact we make on others, we should always do everything to the best of our ability.' She disagreed with the trivial way in which women were portrayed in magazines and felt that they were not acknowledged for their financial, emotional and spiritual independence, which they had achieved for themselves. 'Lack of faith and courage cause women to lose their way in life, but finding one's spirituality brings clarity, which leads to real success.'

As dean of a college for undisciplined girls from wealthy backgrounds, Marietta felt the need to educate them in human values by showing them the extremes of poverty. She herself felt that she was not doing enough to alleviate the suffering of the poor. When she saw the inhuman conditions in which they lived, this led her to question God 'How could you create people to eat from garbage?' The answer that came to her was, 'Stay here and learn from it.' Her own inner voice told her that happiness lay in serving others. She later became a political activist during the repressive regime of the Marcos government and later, after its overthrow, was invited to head the President's Moral Recovery Programme. Knowing that the answer to the problems of corruption, crime and unemployment had to be addressed through spiritual measures, she was hesitant to accept, as she was uncertain of her ability to deliver. However, the president's assurance of his support gave her the courage to accept. Her satisfaction came through service rather than from the consideration of any reward.

It was finally time for the Shakti to emerge. This was dramatically expressed by Anna Jacobs dressed in a sweeping 30 foot orange and white gown which she skilfully and effectively used in a dance to convey the Goddessí qualities.

Opening the dialogue of the Face of Shakti, Tessa asserted that the Shakti Army is alive and well and that when the Shakti power is elicited it will transmute whatever is in disorder to something divine.

The first speaker, Dwina Murphy Gibb inspired us with a poem of her own creation in which she spoke to mother earth giving her heartfelt thanks and vision of a pure earth. She said that she has long felt like a warrior and that most of her life she had lived with the Shakti. Sister Jayanti recognised the Shakti as power that the soul acquires from the Supreme, enabling us to do something. 'A paradox of the present time was the combination of the masculine powers of strength and energy with the gentler qualities of peace, love and silence, causing amazing and magical things to happen. When all these qualities reach a critical point there will be a positive influence in the world as women become 'Shakti' - the power of love, of peace and of purity.' Abiola Ogunsola commented on the power she experienced in Global Co-operation House, which she felt was generated through positive thoughts and activities and that she felt it was touching people's lives. She described anger as an energy that can drive us to accomplish physical feats, but which can also disempower us. 'Anger is evidenced when there is a lack of detachment. The challenge is to transform it, firstly by being aware of it, and then rising above it.' She saw her power as not only personal, but also belonging to the whole community - herself, a woman who has been nurtured by her fellow Africans sharing a solidarity with her.

Meribeth Bunch closed the day by saying that it had been a celebration of cultures and lives as well as a communion of spirit. Sister Jayanti said that it is not without reason that the Shaktis have been remembered as goddesses. 'It is the woman who is able to surrender, to give, to nurture and to sustain. Being able to honour and play that role (the Shakti), together with going beyond the consciousness of being a woman (the Eternal), we as women have the power to be able to change not only ourselves, but to bring about a better world in the next millennium.'

The three most popular qualities, which had earlier been written as gifts for today's woman, were read out. These were love, courage and peace. On leaving the auditorium each woman took a card that another woman had written, as her personal gift. A meditation creating a peaceful and reflective note brought the event to a close. As the women left, the comment generally expressed was, 'we feel so nourished, we feel full.'

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