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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

A Silent Burial for My Family Who “Disappeared”

by Maria del Sol Crocker, guest contributor

Fernando Ramiro Curia
The author’s brother, first on the left with leather jacket, at wedding with Peronist Youth shortly before he disappeared. (courtesy of Maria del Sol Crocker)

I was born in Argentina, and came here after my marriage. Crocker is my married name; my original surname is Curia. My sister, Gloria Constanza Curia, and my brother Fernando Ramiro Curia, as well as my cousin Horacio Ponce, were kidnapped and killed by the military junta government in Argentina. They disappeared in 1976 and, like Mercedes Doretti says in her interview, my whole life froze.

I was unable to finish college. My mother went into deep depression. My little sister left our home and moved in with her boyfriend’s family.

We could not stand the silence in the house, a house that had been filled with music and joy, since both my brother and my sister played the guitar. We all used to sing together — mostly Argentinian folk music, Brazilian bossa nova, some tangos, Mercedes Sosa — and our friends would drop by in the evenings just to make music with us.

Gloria Constanza CuriaWe were submitted to a subtle kind of torture: every once in a while there would be an anonymous phone call with “news” from our siblings. I will never forget that one year we were told that they “would be back for Christmas.” That Christmas Eve night (in Latin America, the big celebration happens on the night that Christ was born) my mother refused to eat, to drink, to talk, waiting and waiting. Finally, she went to bed, heartbroken. After that day, we dreaded Christmas, because my mom would fall into her depression again.

After about ten years, I told my mother that they would not be coming back, and I offered to go through their belongings and decided what to do with them. I felt like I was burying them — going through my sister’s make up, her ballet clothes, my little brother’s shoes (so big, he was 17 when he was taken and had been growing so fast), his overcoat. So much pain, so little justice.

No, I do not hope to find that my brother and sister are alive. I am sure that they are in some mass grave in an unmarked location. It would be a wonderful closure to have their remains identified. The worse part is the uncertainty and the waiting.

As I try to understand, heal, and integrate these painful experiences, I have found that only Vedanta has a clear and acceptable explanation for what has been called the problem of the existence of evil. In the first place, there is the law of Karma, which basically is the law of cause as applied to our actions (and thoughts too!). That accounts for why “bad things happen to good people” and also gives me a larger overview on the concept of justice — meaning that no deed goes unpunished (or unrewarded). So I have come to accept that my siblings, my cousin, and all my “dissappeared” and dead friends had some karmic influences that were working themselves out.

Sometimes a soul needs to experience certain things in order to evolve in a particular area. And what may appear to be very negative occurrences turn out to be wonderful learning opportunities. I pray for the next incarnation of my siblings, that it may be a good one and lead them ever closer to the Goal.

Thank you for remembering them. Thank you for the poetry and the splendid music from my beautiful and wounded country.

Maria del Sol Crocker lives in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

We welcome your reflections, essays, videos, or news items for possible publication on SOF Observed. Submit your entry through our First Person Outreach page.


The Animated Avadhuta

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

This animated short is a bit of a mind-bender — but a tranquil, meditative one. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, Aum-like presence wanders through a labyrinth of fantastical illustrations bedded with sitar- and flute-playing and fused with narrated passages of ancient Vedantic wisdom such as this opening:

"Truly. You are the unchanging essence of everything. You are the unmoving unity. You are boundless freedom."

Avadhuta is a Sanskrit term that refers to a type of mystic who has surpassed his ego and is pure consciousness in human form. As such, he has little regard for social norms and etiquette, and "roams free like a child upon the face of the Earth." And this film tries to capture that quality of not being of this world while living in it.

The movie is based on single piece of artwork, a 20-foot-long illustration that was hand-drawn over a year’s time. The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are “its backbone” and are connected with complex mazes. In the interstitial spaces, portraits of all types of characters and phrases and symbols like the all-seeing eye or the star of David.

This video, according to its creator, is “a creative attempt to synthesize the manifold patterns of mankind to the unified vision of emptiness as our real nature.” I’m not sure what it all means, but I find it a liberating ten minutes for interior contemplation and a beautiful object to observe.

Now if I could only find the source document illustration in high-res! And, if anybody would shed some more light on this topic, I’m all eyes and ears.


Vedanta’s Introduced to the West

Shubha Bala, associate producer

Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) is known for being one of the first people to bring the message of Hinduism to the West. He was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, and a follower of Vedanta. I recently picked up Vedanta: Voice of Freedom, a compilation of Swami Vivekananda’s speeches, that I had read when I was a teenager.

The book touches on many aspects of Vedanta. For example, he explains that there are three variations among Vedantists: dualists, qualified nondualists, and Advaitists. He explains that Advaitists believe God is “both the material and the efficient cause of the universe”:

"Sometimes a sick man lying on his bed may hear a tap on the door. He gets up and opens it and finds no one there. He goes back to bed, and again he hears a tap. He gets up and opens the door. Nobody is there. At last he finds that it was his own heartbeat, which he fancied was a knock at the door.

Thus man, after this vain search for various gods outside himself, completes the circle and comes back to the point from which he started-the human soul. And he finds that the God whom he was searching for in hill and dale, whom he was seeking in every brook, in ever temple, in churches and heavens, that God whom he was even imagining as sitting in heaven and ruling the world, is his own Self. I am He, and He is I. None but I was God, and this little I never existed.”

Later in the book he reinforces this explanation with another image:

"When Vedanta says that you and I are God, it does not mean the Personal God. To take an example: Out of a mass of clay a huge elephant of clay is manufactured, and out of the same clay a little clay mouse is made. Would the clay mouse ever be able to become the clay elephant? But put them both in water and they are both clay. As clay they are both one, but as mouse and elephant there will be an eternal difference between them. The Infinite, the Impersonal, is like the clay in the example."

Heritage sign
Swami Vivekananda’s house in London, now a heritage building (photo: Shubha Bala)