March 2011 Archives

Population of Bahrain: approximately 700,000 or about the same as Suffolk, England--my rural home county.  How can such a tiny nation win democracy without a global outpouring of care and support?


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Average per capita income in Yemen: around $1,300, or about the cost of Alandi Ashram's annual water bill. Schoolchildren in Yemen complain that their schools have no desks, chairs, books or even toilets. How can a poor country like Yemen fulfill its democratic aspirations without steadfast support from all who care about humanitarian values?


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There is a simple way to provide genuine support for protesters in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya. Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are active in monitoring the situation in these countries, offering information and advocacy for those who undergo arbitrary imprisonment, unjustified attacks, rape, torture and silencing of the right of peaceful assembly. And they are active not only in these countries but around the world in places like Dafur which are not garnering media attention.

By making annual donations to these organizations, we can materially support the advocacy work we cannot personally carry out. By connecting to human rights organizations via email and social networking sites, we can obtain unbiased and accurate information about rapidly-evolving situations where human rights are threatened.  Information is power. And by contributing our voices to petitions and similar actions originated by human rights organizations, we can create a global voice of decency and common humanity.

We have been hearing a lot recently about the "international community." Yet beyond  the community of nation-states--many of of whom are not themselves democracies or who actively suppress the rights of their own minorities--there is a much vaster and more powerful community, that of all men and women of good will. Coming together through organizations which represent our deepest aspirations for the welfare of all, we have a voice seven billion strong which cannot be repressed.


http://www.amnesty.org/
http://amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/bahrain-ensuring-accountability-excessive-force-and-protection-protesters
Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/

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Syria: Our Ancient Mother

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Height: 18.5 cm. Width: 12 cm. Depth: 13 cm.

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With all that is going on at the moment in Syria, as citizens struggle peacefully for a life of dignity, I thought I would take a few moments to remind us all that, far from being the "Axis of Evil," Syria is the cradle of civilization and an Ancient Motherland to Europeans as well as people of the Levant.

In his brilliant book, The Seven Daughters of Eve, which I recently finished reading, geneticist  Bryan Sykes portrays the seven clan mothers of all Europeans alive today. One of them, whom he names Jasmine, is the Syrian clan mother, ancestress of 17% of modern Europeans including many  Spanish, Portuguese, Cornish,Welsh and Scottish people.

As a key home of  the Neolithic Revolution, Syria is the place where wheat and lentils were domesticated and also goats and sheep.  It is the home of the delicious pistachio nut, a staple food of Jasmine's people. Syria is the land of the Great Mother Atargis or Astarte, origin of the Greek Aphrodite and Roman Venus. Many of the world's great religions have deep roots in Syria. Jews lived in present-day Syria from the time of King David on. Later, after the expulsion of the Jews  from Spain in 1492, the Sephardic refugees found safe haven in Syria.

Antioch of Syria was one of the first homes of the Gentile Christian community. Indeed, Luke states that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians (
Acts 11:26). Great saints such as John Chrysostom flourished in Antioch. And Syria was one of the earliest places where Islam flourished and spread. Under the reign of the great Ummayads, Damascus was capital of a land that spread from Andalusia to the Indus. The Ummayads were enlightened rulers, tolerant towards Christianity. Jews too were protected by the Ummayads, and arts and sciences flourished.

Whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, worshipers of the Mother or Humanists, we are in some sense children of Syria,  cradle of civilization, land of the Ancient Mother. Every time we bite into a piece of bread or sip some milk, we are enjoying gifts that originally came to us from Syria. Today, as our brothers and sisters in Syria struggle for freedom and dignity, receiving bullets in return for cries of, "Peaceful, peaceful," let us remember the debt we owe to the Great Grandmother of civilization-- and pay it in solidarity for her Syrian children. 

 

 
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Dear President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron and all people of good will,

As innocent children in Bahrain light candles in memory of martyrs killed by their own government, let us take a moment to shine the light of awareness upon the root causes of the unrest spreading across the Arab world. Violations of human rights in these countries did not begin with the horrific images many of us are seeing  on our television screens and YouTube.  Human rights abuses including arbitrary imprisonment and torture, along with pervasive corruption, are the causes rather than the result of protest movements sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. Once their grip on power--and the immense wealth corrupt power brings--is threatened, Presidents and Kings have resorted to killing and imprisoning unarmed protesters in violation of any standard of human decency. Now the world can see the yoke of terror and oppression under which citizens of Libya, Yemen and Bahrain have laboured for decades. And all the while, we in the West supported these regimes, expressing surprise and hurt when American flags were burnt.

Today we see no flag-burnings. Instead we hear desperate cries for help from protesters who aspire to the freedoms we enjoy. The No Fly Zone in Libya has enjoyed support even from those who usually oppose war. But in the light of awareness, let us admit to ourselves that we would not need to spend our blood and treasure in protecting civilians in Libya had we not supplied the regime with the very arms which now have been turned against its own people.
 
As a tsunami of freedom sweeps across Muslim lands, let us stand on the side of freedom. If we do not support the innocent children of Bahrain, who will? If we do not stand with Yemen's child protesters, what kind of future will they inherit? Who will they blame?



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Please, speak out against Presidents and Kings who stifle dissent. Please support those who are putting their lives on the line for the fundamental values of democracy.  And support too, the human rights organizations who strive every day to bring an end to torture and arbitrary imprisonment. Please put human rights ahead of our perceived interests--or we will lose both moral authority and, eventually, our interests too.

Follow the links to read a heart-rending appeal from the people of Bahrain and also to sign a petition from Amnesty International on their behalf.

I pray for a bright future of peace for the children of Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Syria and the entire region.
Alakananda Ma

Letter from Bahrain
http://wlcentral.org/node/1505

Amnesty Petition http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/bahrain-ensuring-accountability-excessive-force-and-protection-protesters

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By the end of 2010, I was feeling quite dispirited about humanity's prospects. With barely a decade left to turn things around before climate change pushed us into extinction, it looked as if we would simply do business as usual until doomsday.

Then twenty six year old Mohammed Bouazizi  immolated himself in Tunisia, kindling a flame that would set the Arab world ablaze. Although I had deep misgivings, since suicide is forbidden in Islam (as is all and any killing of civilians), I was profoundly inspired by the events that followed, as peaceful protesters in Tunisia and Egypt removed decades-old dictatorships, soon followed by initially peaceful protests in Libya, and steadfast nonviolent resistance in Yemen and Bahrain. For years I had waited for the Great Awakening of humanity, a rising of peace, love, compassion and solidarity that would lift us from our apathetic drift to global catastrophe. Now, the new consciousness of humankind was taking birth in blood and pain--and it was taking birth, not in the New World, as I had naively imagined, but in the ancient heart of civilization, among the people of the Seal of Prophecy, latest-born of the great world religions. Without a shadow of doubt, I knew, deep in my heart, that humanity was awakening.

 The young protesters of the Arab World have deeply challenged all institutions and individuals around the world, from CNN to the United Nations to Obama's administration to the European Union. We have been forced to reconsider our pursuit of stability before freedom and profit before humanity, for we have seen that such dichotomies will in the end rob us of both stability and profit. We have been invited to let go of our centuries-old Islamophobia, faced with humble citizens praying in front of tanks in Tahrir square.  We have seen the strength and voice of Muslim women, far from our fantasy of the harem. The awakening youth of the Arab world have shown us that true martyrdom is not the path of the suicide bomber but rather that of the unarmed citizen who sheds her or his blood for the sake of generations yet unborn.

For youth to shed their blood is not unusual. Many a generation of young men has been sacrificed, from the trenches of the Somme to the devastated jungles of Vietnam to the desert of Iraq.  Now a generation has arisen who sacrifice themselves freely, without a draft card, without orders, without a gun; heroes, heroines and martyrs of an unprecedented outbreak of peace.

And for those of the Boomer generation who have ears to hear, our hippie slogan, "Make love not war," has translated itself into Arabic as  chants of "Selameh, Selameh; peaceful, peaceful," that have echoed across squares and streets in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. Our Flower Power has come to fruition in Yemeni protesters facing tanks with upraised flowers. As the youth of the world's youngest religion give their lives for the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis, let each of us--especially the Hippie generation--ask ourselves what we can give, what we can sacrifice, what we can offer, to support the great awakening. In the season of heroism--what have we to offer? Can we take our world back as our young sisters and brothers are taking their countries back?




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The painting depicts the battle of Kurukshetra...

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In this talk we examine the  highest teachings of karma yoga and how to apply them to our daily life.
http://alandiashram.org/audio/Bhagavad Gita 7.MP3

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Light on Sexual Health 2

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NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Loving Coup...

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Here is  second of two  recordings of the introduction to my workshop "Light on Sexual Health and Vitality: An  Ayurvedic Perspective."

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Light on Sexual Health 1

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NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Loving Coup...

Image by wallyg via Flickr

Here is  first of two  recordings of the introduction to my workshop "Light on Sexual Health and Vitality: An  Ayurvedic Perspective."

http://alandiashram.org/audio/Sexual Health 1.MP3


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Open Letter to President Obama

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Image by messay.com via Flickr

As spiritual leaders of our community, we are deeply concerned about violence against peaceful protesters in Yemen, including credible medical reports about the use of neurotoxic agents in violation of the Geneva convention. Although you did not create the policy of befriending corrupt dictators who kill and torture their citizens, you will still be held morally accountable for the suffering inflicted by those the US befriends.
For years your predecessor in the White House told us that hostility towards America in the Arab world arose from the fact that "They hate our freedoms." Now we see peaceful civilians around the Arab and Muslim world who are giving their lives for free and fair elections, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, habeas corpus and the right of free association. If we truly support these values, not only for ourselves in the privileged West but for others around the world, we cannot stand silent when unarmed protesters are attacked by the army, security forces, riot police or thugs. Please speak out in protection of the people of Yemen and Bahrain. The war crimes must stop.

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Gaddafi and the Centipede

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House Centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata

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The centipede and  I had long coexisted, although we often startled each other in the bathroom at night. But this morning, as soon as  I turned on the shower, I noticed him, clinging to the shower tile. Appealing as a hot shower was to me, Brother Centipede was  clearly unnerved by the idea. I hadn't slept well, concerned about the earthquake in Japan, possible nuclear reactor meltdowns and Gaddafi's atrocities in Libya--and now there was a centipede rescue emergency.
I turned off the shower and stood, damp and shivering, trying to think of  a  strategy that would work for both of us. I held out a sponge. To my surprise, the centipede accepted the rescue offer, sitting obediently on his damp raft until I dropped him off close to the dryer,  a favourite hideout for my arthropod room-mate. For today, tragedy was averted in Alandi Ashram and all residents were safe.
The love and care extended to the centipede contrasted starkly in my mind with the cruelty and callous disregard Gaddafi was showing towards Libya's protesters. If the very idea of a centipede getting wet was unbearable for me, no wonder I couldn't sleep thinking of children being killed in Libya. It is a sad fact that the whole world would be a better place if we could all extend to our fellow humans around the world the measure of tolerance and care that one little centipede received--the chance to live in peace in his own way, full autonomy over his life--and a helping hand in time of need.


 

 
 

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Logo of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (...

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You cannot make peace with a sword
You cannot make peace with guns
You cannot make peace with bombs and drones
you cannot make peace with a wall
You cannot make peace with nuclear arsenals
You cannot make peace with secret deals
Between a weaker party and a stronger
You cannot make peace with a treaty
Written in the blood of innocents.
 

The  peace that is kept by lies and coercion
Is not peace, but a festering wound.
The peace that is kept by spying and torture
Is not peace but a rape.
The peace that is kept with guns and bombs
Is not peace, but the swoon of a slow haemorrhage.
The peace that is kept with a wall of separation,
Is not peace but suffocation
As we drown in a pool of tears.
The peace that is kept
By a balance of nuclear warheads
Is not peace, but the catatonia of fear.

To make peace, we must bring a new thing into the world.
We shall find peace by adherence to truth
We shall find peace by open dialogue
We shall find peace by soul force
We shall find peace when we are ready to die for her
But not to kill
We shall find peace
When we desire the happiness of others
As much as our own
We shall find peace
Beating our swords into plowshares.
 
 

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The Lion Capital of Asoka, originally erected ...

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What has an Indian Emperor who ruled twenty four centuries ago to do with the uprising in Egypt that overthrew Hosni Mubarak? The answer--an idea whose time has finally come.

Chandragupta Maurya, the first real emperor of a united India, was a ferocious ruler. Yet at the end of his life he embraced the teachings of a sect little known outside India--Jainism. In so doing he renounced all forms of violence for a life of radical harmlessness. His change of faith set the stage for Jainism to become a dominant philosophy in India for a thousand years, permeating Indian life and thought with the doctrine of non-violence.

Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka, took things further, renouncing violence after experiencing the horrors of war and embracing Buddhism. More than two thousand years ago, he knew that war was obsolete. Using the websites of his day, stone pillars set up at key points around his empire, Ashoka promulgated his doctrine of tolerance, non-violence and  protection of wildlife and the environment across his vast domain, which spread from Iran to southern India. With the Maurya emperors, a great idea was born--a just and peaceful society based on principles of non-violence and tolerance. These ethical teachings came from Buddhism, Jainism and Bhagavad Gita, but it was the genius of the Mauryas to apply these teachings to statecraft.

It was into a society permeated with this rich legacy that Mohandas Gandhi was born. His teachings on non-violent action and satyagraha--soul force--were a modern expression of the ancient teachings of tolerance and non-violence planted, like Ashoka's pillars, in the soil of India.

Gandhi's ideology deeply influenced Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. Gandhi also influenced a little-known American academic, Gene Sharp, author of From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation. This book was the textbook for the Egyptian Revolution. Protesters chanting, 'Salameh, salameh, peaceful, peaceful," embodied Gandhi's teachings on Soul Force. And along with the non-violence that originated in Jainism and Buddhism, today's protesters bring the tolerance first promulgated by Ashoka. Posters in Egypt show the cross and crescent together, signs in Bahrain say, "Shia and Sunni are one," and  recent tweet from embattled protesters in Iran: @: Before the regime, ALL Persians lived together peacefully, Christians, Muslims + Jews. We will again. .
These echo the ancient Vedic teaching, "Truth is one, the wise call that by many names."

The ideas taught millennia ago by Krishna, Buddha and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, the ideas first brought into the political arena by Ashoka Maurya, have been passed from hand to hand, from one simple human being to another, until at last they have found their way into the minds and hearts of the world as a whole. With technology much more far-reaching than stone pillars, we as a human family have been able to see and be inspired by Soul Force in action, as the Arab world awakens to claim the freedom and justice many of us take for granted. Truly, an idea whose time has come! 

   
 
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This page is an archive of entries from March 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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