Good News

Good News from Leonie van Gelder and Minor Lile

From July 10-13, we were honored to have the opportunity to lead the program for the 24th annual International Theosophical School at Paraiso na Terra in Brazil. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Paraiso na Terra is a vast Theosophical center (also called The Theosophical Institute) located in the center of the country, near the capital city, Brasilia. The place truly is a paradise, with an arid landscape that is punctuated with pools and cascading waterfalls that flow from several natural springs that arise from deep within the earth.

The three mystical elephants heads can be seen from the Institute

The focus for the program week was Dharma. This was a topic that proved to be quite engaging for the seventy or so participants in the program. A basic premise, that was considered from various perspectives, is that our personal dharma is rooted in the process of self-unfolding (swabhava) that is appropriate for our own unique individuality. And that a key for deepening our understanding of the appropriate next step in that process can be found in the ancient injunction from the temple of the Oracle of Delphi: “Know Thyself”.

Minor and Leonie in front of the “temple” ready for yet another sunset

We would meet twice each day, in the morning and afternoon. The afternoon program always ended in time for everyone to make their way to the temple (constructed on the property according to Pythagorian principals) to observe the sunset. As this was winter in the southern hemisphere, sunset came at around 5:30 in the evening. We learned that this practice has a long tradition and it was easy to see why. There was something very powerful and moving about sitting together in the silence and stillness of the vast setting and observing the sun setting in the west.

The Institute offers wonderful opportunities for walkers

One of the challenges that we anticipated ahead of time was that of not sharing a common language. As it turned out, there was no real difficulty with transcending this impediment. Many of those attending reached out to us with their sometimes limited, and sometimes fluent, English. No matter, there was a welcoming warmth and friendliness throughout our time there that brought with it a real feeling of connection with those we met.

Leonie at one of the many waterfalls

During the program times, we fell rather easily into the rhythm of saying something, waiting for the translation, and then continuing. One of the unanticipated advantages of speaking in this way is that we found that our words rarely ran ahead of our thoughts. There was a more methodical aspect to speaking in this way that allowed for greater consideration of what to say next and seemed, at times, to enable a deeper wisdom to emerge in the discussion.

Each morning began with a meditation and a simple song from Africa that everyone sang together, and with increasing strength as the time went along. Azima is a song that tribal people in West-African country of Burkina Faso sing as a way of praising and honoring our human connection with the earth. It is an infectious tune and over the course of the week we saw it begin to arise spontaneously as a friendly way of greeting each other. There were also numerous opportunities for small group discussion so that everyone would have the opportunity to share their insights or experiences.

Excellent food served in a well-organized restaurant

Happy kitchen staff

Meeting a friend outside the dining hall

 The center is very well run by a small and dedicated staff, aided by numerous volunteers. The accommodations are comfortable and the vegetarian cuisine, WOW – absolutely delicious. All in all, we had a great experience and would gladly return anytime!

All (smiling!) participants


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