By Pavithra K. Mehta

I never notice agapanthus before she blooms. This lack of awareness allows for yearly ambush. A blue bombardment, like so many miniature firecracker displays in freeze frame, they seize the sidewalks, fully formed– their delicate globes fashioned from white or  lavender bluebell blossoms, balancing perfectly on very tall stems. Agapanthus rises above it all, as sublime beings do, transcending a close-to-the-ground commotion, a happy hubbub of green leaves. The perfect spheres of their heads seem poised to take leave of their lithe bodies, as if at any moment they might elegantly decapitate themselves, lift off lightly, a synchronized indigo flock of crystal balls. 

Ethereal guardians of summer gardens, parks and parking lots. Undiscriminating. I’ve even known them to stand gorgeously outside the dry cleaners, lending an air of nobility and charm to an otherwise nondescript neighborhood. Agapanthus from agape. The flower of love. 

The ancient Greeks knew there are at least as many kinds of love as there are directions on the Earth. There is eros for instance, love that flies on a trickster deity’s arrow tip, generating all manner of mischief and delight. And there isphilia, love like a hearthfire that draws minds close around the warming glow of friendship. But agape is love that drops your jaw, makes you stand agaping. 

Agape is love without reservation. Monsoon love, juggernaut love, love that cannot be staunched like a wound or undone like a hairdo. Love that cannot be pulled like a plug, diverted like traffic, dammed like a river because its beginningless quality is suffused without end in everything. Agape is the Infinite’s love for the finite — and vice versa. 

Does the symmetry of that astound you? Then we are a pair. Our unsuspected birthright– to stand on this small ledge of life and love on equal footing with Eternity. Why were we not properly informed? And who will answer for the sins of omission?

But wait– Look! Summer’s chariot hurtles across the sky. Purple bobble headed flowers recite old poems with perfect enunciation in scriptless tongues. The seasons are a floral tradition, an oral tradition, perennial and precise. They whisper in our ears a thousand times a thousand times a day withholding nothing.

But am I paying attention? —

Are you?

From “The Poetry of blog”

Botanical painting by Mally Francis

Posted in Awakin Oakland, Mindfulness, natural philosophy, poetry, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Es Tu Responsabilidad / It Is Your Responsibility

“Había una vez una mujer anciana. Ciega pero sabia.” ¿O era un hombre anciano? Acaso era un gurú. O un griot (sabio del Africa del Oeste) calmando chicos inquietos. Yo escuché esta historia, o una exactamente como ésta, en el saber popular de varias culturas.

“Había una vez una mujer anciana. Ciega. Sabia.”

En la versión que conozco la mujer es hija de esclavos, negra, americana y vive sola en una pequeña casa afuera del pueblo. Su reputación respecto de su sabiduría no tiene par y es incuestionable. Entre su gente ella es a la vez la ley y su trasgresión. El honor que y el respeto que le tienen, va hasta mucho más allá de su pueblo; llega hasta la ciudad donde la inteligencia de los profetas rurales es una fuente de mucho asombro.

Un día a la mujer la visitan unos jóvenes que vienen con la intención de desaprobar su clarividencia y poner en evidencia el fraude que creen que ella es. Su plan es simple: entran en su casa y le hacen la única pregunta cuya sola respuesta manifiesta la diferencia que tienen con ella, una diferencia que ven como una profunda ineptitud: su ceguera. Se le paran enfrente y uno le dice: “Anciana, tengo en mi mano un pájaro. Dígame si está vivo o muerto.”

Tampoco contesta. Es ciega y no puede ver a sus visitantes, mucho menos lo que tienen en sus manos. No sabe el color de su piel, de dónde vienen ni si son hombres o mujeres. Sólo conoce sus motivos.

El silencio de la mujer es tan largo que los jóvenes tienen dificultad para aguantar la risa.

Finalmente habla y su voz es suave pero severa. “No sé”, dice, “no sé si el pájaro que tienen está vivo o muerto, lo único que sé es que está en sus manos. Está en sus manos.”

Su respuesta puede ser tomada así: si está muerto, ustedes lo encontraron de este modo o lo mataron. Si está vivo, todavía pueden matarlo. En caso de que lo dejen vivo, es su decisión. En todo caso, es su responsabilidad.

Extraído del Discurso de Toni Morrison al recibir el Premio Nobel de literatura, diciembre de 1993 . Versión y traducción de Tom Maver

Toni Morrison

 “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.

In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.

One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”

She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”

Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.

The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.

Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”

Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.

Excerpt from:  — Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December of 1993

Posted in ARTivism, Awakin Oakland, education, fearlessness, nonviolence, soulforce, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged | Leave a comment

Leo Tolstoy on Kindness and the Measure of Love

By Maria Popova

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now,” Jack Kerouac wrote in a beautiful letter to his first wife and lifelong friend. Somehow, despite our sincerest intentions, we repeatedly fall short of this earthly divinity, so readily available yet so easily elusive. And yet in our culture, it has been aptly observed, “we are never as kind as we want to be, but nothing outrages us more than people being unkind to us.” In his stirring Syracuse commencement address, George Saunders confessed with unsentimental ruefulness: “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” I doubt any decent person, upon candid reflection, would rank any other species of regret higher. To be human is to leap toward our highest moral potentialities, only to trip over the foibled actualities of our reflexive patterns. To be a good human is to keep leaping anyway.

In the middle of his fifty-fifth year, Leo Tolstoy (September 9, 1828–November 20, 1910) set out to construct a reliable springboard for these moral leaps by compiling “a wise thought for every day of the year, from the greatest philosophers of all times and all people,” whose wisdom “gives one great inner force, calmness, and happiness” — thinkers and spiritual leaders who have shed light on what is most important in living a rewarding and meaningful life. Such a book, Tolstoy envisioned, would tell a person “about the Good Way of Life.” He spent the next seventeen years on the project.

In 1902, by then seriously ill and facing his own mortality, Tolstoy finally completed the manuscript under the working title A Wise Thought for Every Day. It was published two years later, in Russian, but it took nearly a century for the first English translation, by Peter Sekirin, to appear: A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts (public library). For each day of the year, Tolstoy had selected several quotes by great thinkers around a particular theme, then contributed his own thoughts on the subject, with kindness as the pillar of the book’s moral sensibility.

Perhaps prompted by the creaturely severity and the clenching of heart induced by winter’s coldest, darkest days, or perhaps by the renewed resolve for moral betterment with which we face each new year, he writes in the entry for January 7:

“The kinder and the more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness he can find in other people. Kindness enriches our life; with kindness mysterious things become clear, difficult things become easy, and dull things become cheerful”

At the end of the month, in a sentiment Carl Sagan would come to echo in his lovely invitation to meet ignorance with kindness, Tolstoy writes:

“You should respond with kindness toward evil done to you, and you will destroy in an evil person that pleasure which he derives from evil.”

In the entry for February 3, he revisits the subject:

“Kindness is for your soul as health is for your body: you do not notice it when you have it.”

“Love is real only when a person can sacrifice himself for another person. Only when a person forgets himself for the sake of another, and lives for another creature, only this kind of love can be called true love, and only in this love do we see the blessing and reward of life. This is the foundation of the world.

Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”

Posted in Awakin Oakland, WednesdaysOnFridays | Leave a comment

La falsa dualidad entre “trabajo” y “servicio”/The False Duality Between “Job” And “Service”

por Zilong Wang [English below]

Audio File

Alrededor de la época en que partí para Asia en julio, dos de mis amigos/profesores más queridos dejaron su dedicación al voluntariado a tiempo total para comenzar a trabajar a tiempo completo. Su decisión de volver al “sistema” realmente me sacudió, y me hizo revisar mis suposiciones en torno al trabajo y el servicio.

Hasta entonces, ni siquiera me había dado cuenta de que yo sostenía los siguientes supuestos: “Para servir plenamente, uno tiene que dejar su trabajo”; “Para ser el cambio, hay que desconectarse del sistema dominante”; “Cuanto más distante y opuesto al sistema dominante, más virtuoso se es”. En mi mente, había creado una dualidad innecesaria entre “tener un trabajo” y “vivir para servir”.

Tal vez por tener cerca a algunos activistas comprometidos, he sido influenciado por algún tipo de “fundamentalismo del servicio”: Para crecer realmente en el servicio, debes dejar tu trabajo, perder su visado, quemar tu pasaporte, regalar todo tu dinero y posesiones, mudarte a un vecindario empobrecido y violento, hacerte vegano orgánico y consumidor estricto de productos locales – y tal vez dejarte crecer barba; menos que eso no tendría ningún sentido.

Poco noté el ego sutil y la “carrera armamentista del purismo” que implicaban estas suposiciones; tampoco era consciente de la violencia en mi monopolización “lo que el servicio debería ser”.

En los últimos nueve meses de peregrinación, por casi por todos los sitios que voy, estoy siendo respaldado por la caridad de los propietarios de las casas, quienes satisfacen mis necesidades mundanas. ¿Quién soy yo para decir que mi camino es más virtuoso y puro? ¿Estoy subcontratando mi “trabajo sucio” a otros, mientras uso mi “desapego” como una insignia de honor?

Al abrir los ojos a las “mil maneras de arrodillarse y besar el suelo”, lo siguiente ha quedado claro.

Primero, es imposible romper todos los lazos con el sistema dominante, a menos que nos retiremos totalmente de la sociedad. Sería hipócrita medir la propia virtud por el grado de desconexión con el sistema.

Segundo, se necesita más humildad y habilidad para servir desde dentro del sistema. La humildad, porque no hay ninguna instancia moral suprema que sostener, ninguna afirmación sutil derivada de la austeridad. La habilidad, porque un@ se ve obligad@ a aprender a tener paradojas, a escuchar las diferentes voces, a desarrollar recursos apropiados, y a encontrar los rincones y las grietas para “colarse” con semillas de cambio.

Yo solía sentirme halagado pensando que había renunciado a mi trabajo porque la industria no se dirigía a la causa raíz: “¡Qué recto soy!”, Decía el ego. Pero ahora, me doy cuenta de que era yo quien no era capaz de “servir desde dondequiera que esté”. Si es posible que un carnicero respete el Tao mientras despieza bueyes, entonces se podría esperar de nosotr@s que al menos intentemos cultivarlo en una oficina agradable 🙂

En tercer lugar, hay grandes beneficios en “tener un pie en ambos mundos”. El trabajo convencional (trabajo remunerado en los sectores público / privado / ONG) nos ayuda a mantenernos en la realidad y desarrollar “herramientas de eficiencia”. El servicio / trabajo voluntario nos ayuda a recordar el propósito último de la vida, y desarrollar “herramientas del corazón”. Se complementan entre sí.

En última instancia, se trata de servir desde dondequiera que estemos. Ninguna forma de servicio es superior ni más santa que otra. Tod@s estamos en el gran plan por una razón.

Preguntas Semilla para la reflexión: ¿Cómo te relacionas con la noción de fundamentalismo de servicio? ¿Puedes compartir una historia personal de alguna vez que descubriste la santidad en una forma de trabajo que habías prejuzgado como carente de virtud? ¿Qué te ayuda a evitar la trampa del fundamentalismo del servicio?

Extraído de una entrada en el
blog de Zilong Wang

Around the time when I set off for Asia in July, two of my dearest friends/teachers both went from full-time volunteer work to taking full-time jobs. Their decision to return to the “system” really shook me up, and made me review my assumptions around work and service.

Until then, I was not even aware that I have been holding the following assumptions: “to serve fully, one has to quit his job”; “to be the change, one has to disconnect from the dominant system”; “the more distant and opposed to the dominant system, the more virtuous one is.” In my mind, I had created an unnecessary duality between “holding a job” and “living to serve”.

Perhaps by being around some hard-core activists, I have been influenced by some sort of “service fundamentalism”: in order to truly grow in service, you must quit your job, lose your visa, burn your passport, give away all your money and possessions, move to an impoverished and violent neighborhood, become a strict organic vegan localvore — and maybe grow a beard; anything short of that would be pointless.

Little did I noticed the subtle ego and the “arms race of purism” embedded in these assumptions; nor was I aware of the violence in my monopolizing “what service should look like”.

In the past nine months of the pilgrimage, almost everywhere I go, I am supported by the charity of householders to provide for my worldly needs. Who am I to say that my way is more virtuous and pure? Am I outsourcing my “dirty work” to others, while wearing my “detachment” as a badge of honor?

As I open my eyes to the “thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground”, the following has become clear.

First, it is impossible to sever all ties with the dominant system, unless we withdraw entirely from society. It would be hypocritical to measure one’s virtue by one’s degree of disconnection with the System.

Second, it requires more humility and skillfulness to serve from within the system. Humility, because there is no instant moral high ground to claim, no subtle affirmation derived from austerity. Skillfulness, because one is forced to learn to hold paradoxes, to listen to the different voices, to develop expedient means, and find the nooks and crannies to “sneak in” seeds of change.

I used to flatter myself by thinking that I quit my job because the industry was not addressing the root cause — “how righteous of me!”, said the ego. But now, I am realizing that it was me who was not capable to “serve from wherever I am”. If it is possible for a butcher to abide by the Dao as he carves up oxen, then we might be expected to at least make an attempt to cultivate in nice offices 🙂

Third, there are great benefits to “have a foot in both worlds”. The conventional work (paid work in public/private/NGO sectors) helps to keep us grounded in reality, and develop “efficiency tools”. The service/volunteer work helps us remember the ultimate purpose of life, and develop “heart tools”. They complement each other.

Ultimately, the practice is to serve from wherever we are. No one form of service is superior and holier than another. We are all placed in the grand scheme for a reason.

Excerpted from Zilong Wang’s blog post.

Posted in ahimsa, Awakin Oakland, fearlessness, Mindfulness, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged | Leave a comment

2019 is a Mineral Year

by Malidoma Somé

Mineral is the storage place of memory, the principle of creativity, resources, stories, and symbolism.  In the cosmological wheel, mineral is located in the west and is colored white.  It is the elemental energy that allows us to receive messages from the Other World, and to remember our origins and purpose in this life.  These functions are what the human skeletal structure, made of mineral, is all about.  In Dagara  (Ghana) physiology, our bones, not the brain, are the storage place of memory.  In the village it is not uncommon to hear an elder say, “This is in our bones as it was in the bones of our ancestors.”  In the West there is a similar saying, “I knew it in my bones,” which refers to a deeper, more elemental knowing than is possible through rational thought.

To the indigenous person, mineral is also equivalent to stone.  As they say, the bones of the earth are the stones and rocks we see.  To know the true story of our earth, including the story of ourselves, is to listen to the rocks.  They are the conduits through which earth passes information on to us.  Any creature that is born with bones is said to be born already possessing some knowledge.  This is where the indigenous derive their belief that no one comes into this world without a genius, and that this genius must be opened to the person shortly after birth, first through the name, and later on through initiation.  All those in Western culture who wander without purpose are perhaps stripped of their genius and are in exile searching for ways to remember.  These are people in need of mineral rituals, to repair their relationship to memory, which is symbolized in mineral.…This makes me wonder if many problems of the West are a result of forgetting. 

I wonder also if those in Silicon Valley who shave stones to their essence and put them in machines of memory perhaps already know somehow that stones have always managed information.  My sense is that those who experience midlife crises are responding to the pull and push of masses of information they have not been using because they can’t fully remember… 

I wonder also if part of the modern world’s fascination with the Internet can be traced to this vast memory gap.  People are searching for something, and when the information stored in our bones is neglected, one feels the urge to go outside the self in search of it.  If the information out there echoes the information inside of us, could it be that the great turmoil of unrecognized wisdom within us is forcing us to race along the information superhighway, hoping that we will discover what we already have?  The proliferation of various software to make the venture even easier would support this thought:  does Windows 95 suggest the promise of a peek into the Other World?

Indigenous people don’t learn by looking outside themselves; instead, they learn how to remember the knowledge they already possess.  The person who has a mineral nature speaks a great deal because mineral expresses in discourse what is stored in coded form within the bones.

Mineral people are storytellers, fascinated with myth, tradition, and rituals, versed in dealing with metaphors and symbols.  In Africa, they are the town criers who know what happens now and what has happened for countless generations.  They constantly remind us in stories, proverbs, songs, and poems the deep healing significance of staying connected.  They know how to praise and how to warn.

A culture weighted too heavily with mineral is frenetically involved with communication at every level.  In such a culture, language is an impressive instrument of power.  The problem with such a culture is in finding an audience, or someone to listen.  A mineral person’s love for argument, for different ways of saying the same thing, and for eloquent ways of saying nothing can baffle the non-mineral person.  In truth, a mineral person or culture is extroverted, almost bombastic, but almost always has a point.  The gift they present to their society and the world is the gift of remembering, through words and stories, one’s origins and purpose

Excerpt from ~The Healing Wisdom of Africa by Malidoma Patrice Somé

(West African Elder, author and teacher, came to the West to share the ancient wisdom, technologies and practices which have supported his people for thousands of years)

Posted in Awakin Oakland, education, Mindfulness, natural philosophy, soulforce, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Amante ilegal / The illegal Lover

por Francisco (Pancho) Ramos-Stierle [English below]

La Luna brilla en mi cuerpo
y así también el Sol y los planetas y las estrellas y las galaxias.
La luz hermosa de la eternidad está dentro de mí
pero mis ojos ciegos no pueden verla.
Fue entonces cuando decidí convertirme en tu amante…

Mi amor por tí, mi ángel, está escrito en la historia del tiempo
y no necesito papeles para mostrarlo.
Mi hogar es donde quiera que voy, incluyendo tu corazón
y no necesito permiso para estar en esta parte del Planeta,
porque te adoro.

La burRRocracia pidió un pasaporte verde
pero yo sólo tengo un corazón rojo
diciendo tu nombre, Bienamada, en cada latido.

Y puedes construir prisiones y fronteras y muros
pero ¿cómo el aire nota la diferencia?
¿Cómo las estrellas dejan de brillar en esa parte de tu país?
¿Cómo las corrientes del Océano paran de fluir en medio de líneas imaginarias?
¿Cómo las mágicas lluvias de estrellas discriminan las divisiones irreales de abajo?
¿Cómo la Tierra pasa la aduana para entrar en el SisteAMA Solar?
¿Cómo la Luna puede ser perseguida por “la migra”?
¿Cómo la Vía Láctea puede ser deportada del cielo de la noche?
¿Cómo el Sol enseña su pasaporte?
¿Cómo las nubes indocumentadas son bloqueadas para que no vuelen a tu ciudad?
¿Cómo sabes la nacionalidad de las moléculas de oxígeno que visitan tus pulmones?
¿Y cómo es que el huracán feroz de mi amor puede ser atrasado para llegar a las costas de tu corazón?

Este es mi amor ilegal e inmigrante por tí:
para bloquear proyectos de muerte y las puertas de las armas de odio
para liberar bibliotecas y ríos
para emancipar espacios públicos
para ocupar las plazas
para cerrar los puertos de la avaricia
para trabajar la tierra
para nutrir tu cuerpo
para apreciar tu alma
para encariñar tu corazón
con mi amor incondicional por tí, por tus hij@s y por l@s hij@s de tus hij@s.

Mi amor ilegal ha existido desde el comienzo del tiempo…
y, como las cartas de un amante, como tu primer beso,
vas a recordarnos así, como nuevos mundos son descubiertos.

Como campesin@s del Mundo, como ciudadan@s del Mundo,
nuestro amor ilegal ha existido desde el comienzo del tiempo…
cuando nos mires a los ojos, mi vida,
cuando nos miremos en los rayos de sol de cad@ un@
vas a entender cuánto te amamos,
porque este es un amor incondicional, sin tiempo y sin fronteras
que ha cruzado el Universo entero con el único propósito de abrazarte.

Como campesin@s del Mundo, como ciudadan@s del Mundo,
nuestras cartas planetarias van a penetrar las paredes de las prisiones
para demoler la deshumanización del imperio
con esperanza, verdad, desapego y amor.

Como campesin@s del Mundo, como ciudadan@s del Mundo,
nuestra visa es esa misma de las mariposas monarcas desobedientes,
serviciales que en cruzando polinizan
o esa de las ballenas grises subversivas y meditadoras.
Vamos a cruzar los océanos para sanar a tus niñ@s
y para traer sonrisas a tus comunidades.

En un Big Bang ilegal de servicio en calma,
nuestro humilde amor por tí, mi ángel,
está llenando tu Alma Suprema
con una felicidad, vivencia y alegría que se expanden por siempre…

The Ilegal Lover

The Moon shines in my body
and so is the Sun and the planets and the stars and the galaxies.
The beautiful light of eternity is within me
but my blind eyes cannot see it.

Then I decided to become your lover…

My love for you, my angel, is written in the history of time
and I need no papers to show it.
My home is everywhere I go, including your heart,
and I need NO permission to stay in this part of the planet,
because I adore you.

Bureaucrazy asked for a green card
but I only have a red heart
saying your name, Beloved One, in every heartbeat.

And you might build prisons, and borders and walls
but how does the air know the difference?
How do the stars stop shining in the side of your country?
How do the currents in the Oceans stop flowing in between imaginary lines?
How do the magical meteor showers discriminate the non-real divisions below? 

How does the Earth pass customs to enter into the SOULar System?
How does the Moon can be chased by “la migra”?
How does the Milky Way get deported from the night sky?
How does the Sun show her passport?
How do the undocumented clouds are blocked from flying to your town?
How do you know the nationality of the oxygen molecules visiting your lungs?

How does the fierce hurricane of my love can be delayed to reach the coasts of your heart?

This is my immigrant illegal love for you:
to block deadly projects and the gates of weapons of hate
to liberate libraries
to emancipate public spaces
to occupy the plazas
to shut down ports of greed
to work the land
to nourish your body
to cherish your soul
to tenderly enchant your heart
with my unconditional love for you, your children and the children of your children.

My illegal love has existed since the beginning of time…
and, as the letters of a lover, as your first kiss,
you will remember us as new worlds to be discovered.

As citizens and farmers of the World,
our illegal love has existed since the beginning of time…
when you look into our eyes, my dear,
when we look into each other sunshines
you will understand how much we love you,
because this is an unconditional timeless borderless love
that has crossed the entire Universe with the only purpose to hug you.

As citizens and farmers of the World,
our planetary letters will penetrate the walls of prisons
to tear down the imperial dehumanization
with hope, truth, detachment and love.

As citizens and farmers of the World,
our visa is that of the disobedient-servant-cross-pollinating monarch butterflies
or that of the subversive meditative gray whales.
We will cross the oceans to heal your children
and to bring smiles to your communities.

In an illegal Big Bang of service in stillness,
our humble love for you, my angel,
is filling your Supreme Soul
with an ever expanding happiness, aliveness and joy.


Posted in ahimsa, Awakin Oakland, fearlessness, meditation, nonviolence, poetry, satyagraha, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Violence and Nonviolence

by H.H. Dalai Lama and Victor Chan

“What is violence? What is nonviolence?” the Dalai Lama had once asked me in one of our interviews in Dharamsala. “Very difficult to make clear. It is related to motivation. If we have sincere motivation, with compassion and caring in our minds, even if we speak harsh words, use physical force, these actions are nonviolent. But with negative motivation, a friendly gesture using nice words and a big smile, and try to exploit others, it is the worst kind of violence. Because of the motivation.”  […]

“My approach: Today’s reality is whole world just one body. Everything is a part of me. Understanding this helps reduce negative emotions. Hatred comes because we don’t appreciate interdependence. Suffering comes because we don’t understand interdependence. We cause harm, sometimes unintentionally, because we are greedy for money, power. We think these things will make us happy. This is a misunderstanding. Real happiness comes from peace of mind. The only way to obtain is be altruistic, be compassionate.”

For the Dalai Lama, the essence of the Buddhist worldview can be summed up in two words: nonviolence and interdependence. Nonviolence for him is not passivity: the absence of violence is only part of it. We need to actively help others and we should do that with a genuine sense of compassion, not pity. At a minimum, we should not harm others. Not harming others is a logical extension of the idea of interdependence. Since everything is a part of us, harming others would hurt ourselves.  […]

“So, taking care of other,” the Dalai Lama told us in Delhi, “taking care of other part of the world, is actually taking care of yourself. Because individual future depends on the humanity as a whole. So that’s new reality – global economy and also population and technology and also the environment. So long as you have the feeling, you have the sense of concern about the well-being of others, then there is no room to cheat, no room to exploit, no room to bully. All is part of you, all part of me.”

“And it’s very important to make distinction: actor and action. We have to oppose bad action. But that does not mean we against that person, actor. Once action stopped, different action comes, then that person could be friend. That’s why today, China is enemy; next day, there’s always the possibility to become friend. And that’s why I have no problem forgiving the Chinese for what they’ve done to my country and people.”

–Dalai Lama and Victor Chan, in ‘Wisdom of Compassion

Posted in ahimsa, Awakin Oakland, fearlessness, nonviolence, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Por qué la migración es un derecho humano fundamental/Why Migration is a Fundamental Human Right

por Mohsin Hamid [English below]

Gran Bretaña y Estados Unidos no son, de ninguna manera, únicos en negar el derecho humano a la migración. Todas las democracias ricas hacen lo mismo. China y algunos otros países incluso restringen la migración de sus ciudadan@s dentro de sus propias fronteras.

Este problema debe ser enfrentado. La escala de migración que veremos en los próximos siglos probablemente empequeñecerá lo que ha ocurrido en la historia human@. Cambio climático, enfermedades, fallas gubernamentales, guerras: todo esto empujará a cientos de millones, tal vez miles de millones, a dejar un país por otro. Si no reconocemos sus derechos a trasladarse, estaremos intentando construir un planeta de segregaciones donde nuestros pasaportes serán nuestras castas, y donde la obediencia será exigible solo a través del uso cada vez mayor de la fuerza.

Hay soluciones. Podemos reconocer el derecho human@ a la migración. Podemos reconocer que somos nosotr@s mismos, todos nosotr@s, doblemente migrantes. Históricamente, somos migrantes: nuestr@s antepasados ​​vinieron de otro lugar y sus raíces de origen, de hace mucho tiempo, se migraron de África. Y nosotr@s somos migrantes personalmente: la vida es la experiencia de moverse en el tiempo, de abandonar cada momento presente por el siguiente, de la migración temporal.

Reconociendo esto, podemos aceptar que no tenemos derecho a prohibir o estigmatizar la migración. Solo tenemos el poder para tratar de hacerlo. Y debemos esforzarnos por utilizar ese poder lo menos  posible, cada vez menos a lo largo del tiempo, ya que lo estamos utilizando para negar los derechos human@s de los demás. Somos nosotr@s, quienes detenemos la emigración, quienes somos los criminales, no lo emigrantes. Y lentamente, a un ritmo que no nos aterra, pero cuya dirección es clara, debemos dejarnos ir gradualmente y permitir que las cosas cambien. Solo así podemos esperar construir un mundo de acuerdo con los valores en los que decimos creer -libertad, igualdad, democracia – y limpiar el sabor de la hipocresía que arde tan amargamente en nuestras bocas.

Me imagino que siglos después, cuando la gente finalmente sea libre para emigrar como les plazca alrededor del planeta Tierra, mirarán la historia humana y se preguntarán, al igual que nos preguntamos acerca de la esclavitud, cómo las personas que parecían tan modernas podrían hacer eso a sus semejantes, enjaularl@s como animales, simplemente por querer vagar, como nuestra especie siempre lo ha hecho y siempre lo hará.

El descontento de Mohsin Hamid y sus civilizaciones: los despachos de Lahore, Nueva York y Londres son publicados por Hamish Hamilton

Párrafos extraídos de The Guardian

Britain and America are by no means unique in denying the human right to migration. All wealthy democracies do much the same. China and some other countries even restrict the migration of their citizens within their own borders.

This problem must be addressed. The scale of migration we will see in the coming centuries is likely to dwarf what has come before. Climate change, disease, state failure, wars: all these will push hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, to leave one country for another. If we do not recognise their right to move, we will be attempting to build an apartheid planet where our passports will be our castes, and where obedience will be enforceable only through ever-increasing uses of force.

There is another way. We can recognise the human right to migration. We can recognise that we are ourselves, all of us, doubly migrants. We are migrants historically: our ancestors came from somewhere else, and originated, long ago, in the same spot in Africa. And we are migrants personally: life is the experience of moving through time, of abandoning each present moment for the next, of temporal migration.

Acknowledging this, we can accept that we have no right to forbid or stigmatise migration. We have only the power to try to do so. And we ought to endeavour to use that power as little as we can manage, less and less over time, for we are using it to deny the human rights of others. It is we, those who stop migration, who are the criminals, not those who are migrants. And slowly, at a pace that does not terrify us, but whose direction is clear, we must gradually let go, and allow things to change. Only in doing so can we hope to build a world in accordance with the values we claim to believe in – liberty, equality, democracy – and wash clean the taste of hypocrisy that burns so bitter in so many of our mouths.

I imagine that centuries hence, when people are finally free to move as they please around the planet Earth, they will look back at this moment and wonder, just as we wonder about those who kept slaves, how people who seemed so modern could do such things to their fellow human beings, caging them like animals – merely for wanting to wander, as our species always has and always will.

Mohsin Hamid’s Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York and London is published by Hamish Hamilton

Excerpt from The Guardian  

Posted in Awakin Oakland, natural philosophy, noncooperation, nonviolence, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Quest for Peace and Justice

by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external…

This problem of spiritual and moral lag, which constitutes modern man’s chief dilemma, expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of man’s ethical infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. I refer to racial injustice, poverty, and war.

The first problem that I would like to mention is racial injustice. The struggle to eliminate the evil of racial injustice constitutes one of the major struggles of our time. The present upsurge of the Negro people of the United States grows out of a deep and passionate determination to make freedom and equality a reality “here” and “now”. In one sense the civil rights movement in the United States is a special American phenomenon which must be understood in the light of American history and dealt with in terms of the American situation. But on another and more important level, what is happening in the United States today is a relatively small part of a world development.

…What we are seeing now is a freedom explosion, the realization of “an idea whose time has come”, to use Victor Hugo’s phrase3. The deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today is the thunder of disinherited masses, rising from dungeons of oppression to the bright hills of freedom, in one majestic chorus the rising masses singing, in the words of our freedom song, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.”4All over the world, like a fever, the freedom movement is spreading in the widest liberation in history. The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and land.

These developments should not surprise any student of history. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself…Fortunately, some significant strides have been made in the struggle to end the long night of racial injustice. We have seen the magnificent drama of independence unfold in Asia and Africa. Just thirty years ago there were only three independent nations in the whole of Africa. But today thirty-five African nations have risen from colonial bondage. In the United States we have witnessed the gradual demise of the system of racial segregation. 

Another indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in the United States. The American people revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, racism, and retrogression8. The voters of our nation rendered a telling blow to the radical right9. They defeated (in a nonviolence movement) those elements in our society which seek to pit white against Negro and lead the nation down a dangerous Fascist path.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.

Let me not leave you with a false impression. The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality for the Negro in the United States. To put it figuratively in biblical language, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt and crossed a Red Sea whose waters had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance. But before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead.

A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, it projects its nagging, prehensile tentacles in lands and villages all over the world…There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it. More than a century and a half ago people began to be disturbed about the twin problems of population and production. A thoughtful Englishman named Malthus wrote a book13 that set forth some rather frightening conclusions. He predicted that the human family was gradually moving toward global starvation because the world was producing people faster than it was producing food and material to support them. Later scientists, however, disproved the conclusion of Malthus, and revealed that he had vastly underestimated the resources of the world and the resourcefulness of man.

Not too many years ago, Dr. Kirtley Mather, a Harvard geologist, wrote a book entitled Enough and to Spare14. He set forth the basic theme that famine is wholly unnecessary in the modern world. Today, therefore, the question on the agenda must read: Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? 

The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. 

A third great evil confronting our world is that of war. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted, in spite of the Limited Test Ban Treaty16.

So man’s proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete…f we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war – God forbid! – will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.

Therefore, I venture to suggest to all of you and all who hear and may eventually read these words, that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. It is, after all, nation-states which make war, which have produced the weapons which threaten the survival of mankind, and which are both genocidal and suicidal in character.

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. 

All that I have said boils down to the point of affirming that mankind’s survival is dependent upon man’s ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony. Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.

This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.

Excerpt from the Nobel Peace Prize 1964 Lecture

Posted in Awakin Oakland, fearlessness, nonviolence, Peace Army, soulforce, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Devolverte, tierra / Return to Earth

por Lilianet Brintrup [English below]

No le hagamos más ruido

Cubrámonos con su polvo

Recojámonos temprano

Como buenos pájaros terrestres.

Busquemos su horizonte más lejano

Con ojos serenos.

Minas seamos

de minerals sólidos.

Árboles seamos

Para devolverle su sombra arrebatada

Montañas seamos

Para mostrarle nuestros vecinos

Aguas de lago y mar seamos

para lavarla del polvo

Que le trajina por su espalda

Viento seamos

para arrebatarle

sus basurales

de sus cuatro puntos cardinales

Y así solos vendrán

la lluvia

el sol

y la nieve

a tocarle la puerta

para que entremos todos

y abandonemos el velo atomizado

que cubre nuestros ojos

que por ser tanto

es peso en el pensamiento.

Devolverte, tierra

Lo que se te ha quitado-robado-restado-sustraído

Devolvértelo en polvo

En oro en polvo.

Seamos, por fin, caballos

que se encabriten

al roce de la nueva casaca y la peluca,

de los tenis, de los shorts

y de las tewas.

Return to Earth

Let’s not make more noise

let’s cover ourselves with her dust

let’s rise early

like good land birds.

Let’s look for her farthest horizon

with serene eyes.

Mines let’s be

of solid minerals.

Trees let’s be

to give back her ravished shadow

Mountains let’s be

to show her our neighbors

Waters of lake and sea let’s be

to wash the dust

that is moving on her back

Wind let’s be

to snatch

her landfills

of her four cardinal points

And so alone will they come

the rain

the Sun

and the snow

to knock on her door

so that we all enter

and leave behind the atomized veil

that covers our eyes

that for being so much

is weight in thought.

Return to Earth

What has been taken from you-stolen-reduced -subtracted

Return in dust

In gold  in powder.

Let’s be, finally, horses

that are rearing up

at the touch of the new coat and the wig,

of tennis shoes, shorts

and of the tewas.

Poema publicado en “El Libro Natural”.  Poem published in “El Libro Natural”: Poeta Chilena/Chilean Poet Lilianet Brintrup 

Posted in Awakin Oakland, meditation, Mindfulness, poetry, WednesdaysOnFridays | Tagged | Leave a comment