Hepburn Shire Women’s Honour Roll 2007
Reverend Jeanne Dara De Murashkin (Ananda Tara Shan)
The life of the Reverend Jeanne Dara De Murashkin, or Ananda Tara Shan, as was her spiritual name, was one of unswerving dedication to the ideals around which she lived her own life and with which she sought to encourage and inspire others.
In three decades of work as a spiritual leader and teacher, commencing in Denmark in 1975 and continuing here in Australia after she emigrated in 1982, Ananda Tara Shan strove to share her skills and knowledge in the field of spiritual education for the sole purpose, as her nomination states, ‘of fostering peace and helping the earth and humanity'.
Like many of the women we are honouring here today, Ananda Tara Shan grounded her work for the wider community in a strong personal sense of the importance of family. She was a wife and a mother, raising two daughters and three sons.
As her nomination says: ‘Her leadership and sharing were of necessity, practical - it was equally important to her that meals were healthy, that children were educated, that parents took their responsibilities seriously and that the ill were cared for, as it was that people learned to meditate and studied spiritual development.
Ananda led by example - she planned community meals, wrote letters to the editor, gave money to worthy causes, established businesses, looked after those in need and cared attentively for her own family.’
In later years she also showed her grace under pressure, enduring the toll of increasing ill health by focusing on the work which was so important to her.
This work involved the establishment of three spiritual organizations that are international in scope and continue to thrive today: the Society for Maitreya Theosophy, founded in 1999, The Theosophical Fellowship, founded in 1994 and Heart Flow Worldwide, founded in 2000.
Ananda was an ordained Minister of Religion and founded two churches, the Church of the Resurrected Life and the Church of Maitreya For All Faiths.
As the names of these churches and organizations might suggest, the spiritual philosophy of Ananda Tara Shan was both simple and accessible to all. She believed in ‘right human relations’, in exploring ways to deal in harmony and love with the day to day situations we find ourselves in. She felt that all faiths and all religions had something to offer in this regard and as a result, none should be excluded from the table. Or as one co-worker put it: ‘Thank you for your open hearted acceptance of an Anglican priest.’
Above all, Ananda Tara Shan believed that failing to put spiritual wisdom into practice in everyday life can be the source of many if not most problems we encounter. To this end she wrote Guidelines for a Spiritual Life, often using these guidelines to prompt those trying to work through their problems into re-examining whether these teachings were truly being lived.
Ananda Tara Shan was a woman of enormous patience and persistence. In the face of the difficulties she encountered in finding acceptance for her work, she focused on the positive aspects of the work, seeking always to establish openness and dialogue within the community.
She created many meditations, mantras, prayers, journeys, church service forms and vigils dedicated to the quest for world peace. ‘She always reminded Fellowship members that the Fellowship is just one of the many groups working in the world for peace and harmony.’
Ananda sponsored numerous visiting religious leaders and speakers and performers of many points of view, and initiated an annual Spiritual Forum in the Christmas period, bringing hundreds of people together to share in a diverse program of events and discussions aimed at reflecting on global approaches to world peace and harmony.
In keeping with her belief that teaching should be free where possible, these were offered without charge so that everybody, irrespective of income, could participate and share.
Despite the loss of her passing in 2002, Ananda Tara Shan’s inspiration and leadership lives on through her work. Today, there are affiliated centres based on Ananda’s work in Melbourne, Canberra, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway and Denmark.
Visitors from within Victoria, as well as interstate and abroad, continue to come to Daylesford as the international centre of her work, in order to study and work with the organizations and churches Ananda created.
Many tributes were received upon Ananda’s passing, amongst which two brief comments may serve to express her qualities, firstly as a teacher, in the comment: ‘It is said that one can tell a great teacher by the qualities displayed in her students’, and secondly in the warmth of her presence: ‘You taught me that joy and laughter are the best remedies to see us through the hardships’.
Ananda Tara Shan believed in the possibilities for change, and in grounding those beliefs in voluntary service and practical solutions. The responsibility for change, she insisted, rests squarely with the individual. Her simplest expression of this is also the most challenging:
‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.’
[Text compiled and read by Lynn Sunderland, local historian, from the nomination form written by Mary-Faeth Chenery]