Spiritual Blossoms
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Dear Reader,
All of us are so keen to be “modern”, in the process eager to copy the latest fashions from other places. What follows is an article about a remarkable group of people called the Amish. They live in America, often hailed as the land of milk and honey, El Dorado, the ultimate in modernity and all that. Yet, the Amish prefer to drive around in horse-drawn carriages, even though Cadillacs may whiz past. Not for them the business of “keeping up with Jones”. In effect, what the Amish tradition proves is that if the Mind is strong, one can practice ceiling on desires even when living next door to the greatest attractions in the world.

We thank Ted Henry for contributing this interesting article. Do you have similar things to report? Why don’t you get in touch with us?

Jai Sai Ram. SGH Team.

Ted Henry

Whether you are walking down the main street of Hartville, Millersburg or Sugar Creek, Ohio, invariably you will hear them coming. The galloping hooves of a single horse pulling a black buggy is a familiar sound in North East
amish aOhio. Inside those buggies are Amish people. The married men are always bearded, the women wear bonnets and dresses using hooks and eyes instead of buttons. All Amish men, women and children wear a basic style of clothing that was popular in the 1800s.

This part of America where I grew up is dotted with small towns and villages were many Amish live. The Amish are a conservative Christian sect that arrived in my hometown of Canton, Ohio in 1835. Like Sai Baba, they preach only love. They stress humility, family, community and separation from the world. Today there are Amish living in 22 states in America and in parts of Canada.amish b

The Amish in America live simple farm lives. Their strict religious beliefs do not allow them to use electricity, telephones, modern dress, cars, trucks or motorized vehicles. I first met the Amish in 1962 when my father’s hardware store was relocated from Canton to Hartville, Ohio. My first job at the new store was to construct an elaborate hitching post in the parking lot to which the Amish could tie their horses. It was a familiar site to pass slow moving Amish buggies on the highway and to see the warm dim glow of burning kerosene lanterns in their homes.

The Amish quickly became frequent and loyal customers in my father’s store and always paid for their urchases with cash. I found them to be kind, loving, intelligent and extremely dedicated to their Christian beliefs.

amish cAlmost always the Amish build their own schools, enabling their children to remain in close proximity with one another when they are away from the family farms and businesses.

Even in America there were serious differences among the Amish. These led to various schisms over the ears. In Hartville where I lived, religious differences resulted in these people becoming members of two sub groups. The Amish is the more conservative group and Mennonites, members of the Evangelical Mennonite Church have become the more liberal.

Most Mennonites I knew in Hartvile, did allow the use of electricity, phones, cars and trucks in their daily lives and it was a prominent local Mennonite by the name of Howard Miller who eventually came to purchase my father’s hardware store several decades ago. His family now owns one of the largest hardware and farm supply stores in America.

The pictures supplied for this article came from people I met at Spectrum Publications in Orrville, Ohio. Theamish d photographs depict a simple life lived mostly in the rural regions of one of the most industrialized states of North
America. This results in a cultural clash in some peoples eyes, but in this mix you can also find a special harmony and even beauty as lifestyles of the new and old peacefully exist together.

You won’t see any close-ups of people’s faces in these photographs because Amish generally don’t like to have their pictures taken. Permission was granted for these photographs as long as the camera was kept at a distance.

According to The History Of The Amish, by Steven Nolt, Our People, by Levi Miller, and other publications, the Amish are a private people who believe God has kept them together despite pressure from the modern world to change. The women never cut their hair, which they wear in a bun on the back of the head. They wear a white prayer head covering if they are married and a black one if they are single. No jewellery of any kind is ever worn.

Amish are pacifists and oppose all forms of violence, even self defence. They settled in Canton and other mostly rural areas of America’s Mid West after persecution and several congregational splits led them to leave Alsace-Lorraine and Bavaria.

amish eThe Pennsylvania Dutch Centre in America maintains a thorough history of the Amish. The roots of all current Amish and Mennonite groups go back to the Reformation. Originally they were part of an Anabaptist-Mennonite Christian group in Europe. The Anabaptist part of their name stems from the fact that they did not believe in baptism for the young. It was their belief that only adults who had confessed their faith should be baptized. Because of this, many early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and Protestants.

A former Catholic priest named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement. His writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups as Mennonites.

Because so many main stream Christians were against them, many Anabaptists and Mennonites fled to the mountain ranges of Switzerland and southern Germany. It was here that began the Amish tradition of farming and holding services in homes rather than in churches.

As a result of religious persecution many members parted from the core group under the leadership of Elder Jakob Amman of Switzerland. Because of Amman’s influence they soon became known as Amish Mennonites, although often they are simply referred to as Amish.

In matters of faith the Amish might be closer to the teachings of Sai Baba than to the practices of other Christians. A part of the Bible that is often quoted during Amish worship services comes from Romans 12:2. “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that it may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”.

The Amish are taught to live a life that is separate from the world. These private people don’t shun the outside world as much as they choose to focus more on the interior world, something that Sai devotees would readily understand.

The Amish follow a code of conduct called the Ordnung. It is the Amish blueprint for expected behavior and it relates to private, public and ceremonial life. The Ordnung does not translate well into English and perhaps the best way to understand this term is to think of it as an ordering of the whole way of life.

Another important way in which the Amish are different from others living in America is that the Amish do not pay Social Security tax. Self sufficiency is the Amish community’s answer to government aid programs and they are permitted by law to be exempt from this tax. The Amish have a long history of taking care of their own members. They do not have retirement communities or nursing homes and in most cases each family member takes care of their own.

The Amish live a simple life because they believe life is meant to be simple. As Christians they believe they are supposed to remain committed to peace and that faith calls for them to lead a lifestyle of discipleship and good works. They stress that belief must result in practice. The Christian faith for them is empty if it results mostly in doctrine. They succeed as followers by living their faith and by putting long standing Christian views into everyday practice.


Volume - 2 Issue - 13 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004