LEVERETT — During the coronavirus pandemic the Ashram of Light, a small spiritual center in Amherst, pulled up stakes and moved into a house near the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett. With all the disruption around COVID-19, the leader of the group, GurujiMa, didn’t get the chance to formally introduce herself to the community.

Residents can meet the community’s newest spiritual leader on May 18 when GurujiMa, which means Teacher and Mother, leads a walk from Town Hall to the Peace Pagoda. The 3.2 mile trip will add emphasis to the warrant article GurujiMa proposed at Town Meeting. The last article on the warrant, passed by residents, called for a ceasefire in Gaza to end the suffering of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

“Why walk for peace?” GurujiMa said. “Because there is a human threshold that I believe people pass, a threshold of pain that others experience, that calls for a response … Ordinarily we have been focused more on an internal level of what I call inner activism. But this walk developed out of the need to stand … for the cessation of violence and the suffering of the Gazan people.”

According to the website of the Ashram of Light, its precepts blossomed out of the teachings of GurujiMa, who received a spiritual awakening by direct transmission from the divine Source. Light Omega, the group’s center in Amherst, began about 34 years ago, in 1990. The Ashram of Light, in Leverett, opened its doors in 2020.

The ashram is non-denominational. The teachings and philosophy of GurujiMa embody perennial philosophy, the mystical heart of all major religions. Mysticism suggests that a divine presence is immanent, a permanent part of us. Our primary challenge in life is to cultivate a relationship with the divine, the one true Self we all share, and to always act in accord with it.

The ashram, taking its generic name from a Sanscrit word for a monastery or hermitage, was prompted when GurujiMa was made to know her work involved the teachings of Hinduism. Hinduism, called the world’s oldest religion, began thousands of years before the Common Era. Nowadays, the largest concentrations of Hindu practitioners are in Britain and the United States.

“Things began to happen very quickly around that,” GurujiMa said. “I understood, or was given to understand, what the relationship was between India and the United States, and that I was meant to bring certain aspects of traditional Hindu philosophy to western culture.”

According to the ashram’s website, GurujiMa works to bridge the teachings of east and west. The western world has typically been outwardly focused, based in the physical world, and was the birthplace of the scientific method. Eastern philosophies often feature meditation and a search for a foundational presence in the world.

Clare Carter, a local nun associated with the Peace Pagoda, met GurujiMa at Town Meeting. She emphasized the Peace Pagoda is part of the Nipponzan Myohoji sect of Buddhism. The Ashram of Light is not Buddhist and is not aligned with a lineage of teachers. Carter took part in many walks sponsored by the Peace Pagoda, but this will be the first walk sponsored by the ashram.

“If you’re lucky you’ll catch some of the blossom smells, if the sun is out,” Carter said. “Some people in cars wave or toot the horn. It’s a little moment for them too.”

If you wish to participate in the Peace Walk scheduled for May 18, starting at 9 a.m. at Leverett Town Hall, register on the Ashram of Light website at https://lightomega.org/event/gaza-peace-walk.

A bag lunch is recommended. Walkers will be able to rest and eat on the grounds of the Peace Pagoda.

Arrangements should be made for a ride back to Town Hall after the walk, which should take two to three hours.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Carter concluded. “Walking … is a spiritual practice … We’re doing something the human family has done [for] however many millenia we’ve been on the earth. With a spiritual focus.”