When we first told Thay and Sister Chan Khong that Gitu was expecting a baby, they were so happy. With a big smile Thay said, "the baby has received the Dharma, the Pure Dharma," and hugged Gitu. We spent the first few months of the pregnancy in Plum Village. Thay gave us a teaching on how we were participants in the life of this new being and not to get caught in the concepts of "mine" and "ours." Occasionally, he would ask Gitu if she was talking with the baby and suggested we read sutras to her, especially the Lotus Sutra . One day he asked us to play a role playing game, in which Gitu played herself and I played the role of the fetus. It allowed me to touch the growing baby and the sensations and feelings of the expectant mother with a heightened awareness and understanding.
After six months we returned to India to be with our parents. A healthy baby girl was born in New Delhi on the 17th of March 2001 (St. Patrick's Day, much to the delight of our Irish friends, including the godmother, Sister Jina). She was 3 kilos (6.6 Ibs) in weight and 49 cms in length. When I saw her a few moments after the birth, she already had her bright eyes wide open, and had a mop of black hair on her head.
At a naming ceremony a month later, where all of Gitu's and my family were gathered, she was given the name Diya Nandini. Diya is an offering of light (usually in the form of an oil lamp in a clay container), and Nandini means delightful. It is also another name for Ganga (the river goddess) and Durga (the goddess who is often depicted riding a tiger and killing demons).
She is truly a delight, and besides teaching us the art of feeding, burping, and cleaning nappies she is already a mindfulness teacher. When we are in her presence, we are called into the present. If our mind wanders when we are with her, she can pick it up and lets us know. Being with her makes us realize in a more real way that not only we and our parents were babies like her, but so were Thay and the Buddha.
I arrived in Upper Hamlet a few days ago to prepare for Gitu and Nandini 's arrival. We will be with the Sangha for a few months, before returning to India for the winter. Even before her arrival here, there is the feeling that Nandini is a Sangha baby. She should arrive by the time the first lotuses bloom.
Shantum, True Path (Satya Marg), and Gitanjali, True Spiritual Harmony, live and practice in India and in Plum Village.