A friend of mine, a journalist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, called suddenly telling me he had got a couple of invitations to the International Peace Prayer Day at Ram Das Puri, not far away from Española. I jumped into his old van and used the hour-long trip to find out where we were going.
As always in this area, the story was a mishmash of contradictions and people. Ram Das Puri is nowadays a Sikh settlement and apparently their main center in New Mexico. Belonging to a people with a long tradition as warriors, they found their place here as private-security providers. Without blinking twice, my friend added that the land was sacred to the Hopi, who used it for their Sacred Healing Walk around a 2km-long circle. Since 1990, the Sikhs have created the International Peace Prayer Day, basing it on the old Hopi tradition.
Not exactly knowing what to expect, we traveled north along Highway 285 and crossed Tesuque and the Pojoaque Valley, and, after reaching Española, continued north and then turned left into the Jemez mountains, through a dirt road. A shaky sign told us that our target was 8 miles ahead; along the dusty way, some very determined guests were trying to reach the site jogging while a security vehicle watched over their safety.
Climbing gently for a few minutes, we got to the gate, our invitations were checked, our names taken, and a VIP stamp was pressed on our hands. According to the hosts, the Peace Prayer Day brings together people of all faiths and cultures to forge positive change for the planet and to experience the magic of the sacred healing walk, evening chanting, live music and meditation circles.
Several huge white tents hosted the main events; beyond them was a sign stating that camping wasn't allowed, but next to it were maybe a hundred small tents belonging to some of the event guests. The main tent contained a stage were several speakers and singers belonging to the Sikh faith communicated to a large crowd. Another tent served as a big dining room and kitchen and a third was an improvised shop, selling mainly Indian (from the subcontinent - not the Hopi) products, CD's and DVD's, clothes, aromatic soaps, incense and stalls advertising other related events shared the limited space.
Looking for a chai, we approached the kitchen and were sent away, but not after receiving a military definition of the chai-serving hours. Tea had a different set of rules. I was afraid to ask about the coffee.
The formal program began around 4pm and included items as a talk by the Bioneers, the 2006 Peace Cereal Grant, Interfaith Prayers for Peace, the Izzat da Punjab – Bhangra Dance Troupe, the Chimayo Peace Flame Runners and a Peace Meditation with Yogi Bhajan. The sacred healing Walk began at 5:30pm and included a blessing with feathers and smoke performed by a Native-American and right after it, at 18:15 a performance by Bangra World Fusion Dance Mix began. An Evening of Sacred Music Concert followed it.
The way back to Santa Fe was great, as always under the dark skies of New Mexico.