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28 August 2006

Prout Research Institute of Venezuela begins




Namaskar from Caracas!

For me, the most exciting project of my life is just beginning. I have been permitted by Proutist Universal to work 50% of the time in Venezuela to open a Prout Research Institute, and 50% of the time in Europe. So I arrived here in Venezuela yesterday on a 3-month ticket. Dharmapal, an LFT from Hungary and an architect by training, was supposed to arrive the same day, but the one-year ticket he bought had a 2-and-a-half-hour layover in Miami, and he was not allowed to board his flight because he didn’t have a US visa for those 150 minutes! He is now struggling in Lisbon to overcome this political obstacle!

Instead of renting an office and residence, we are buying a house, which we should be able to completely pay off with four years of rent money. More news on that in the coming days after the contract is signed. Simultaneously we will legally register PRI as a foundation. We have started constructing a web site at: http://www.ve.prout.org/

For the first three months we will create a team of from five to ten full time volunteer interns, some from abroad, some from Venezuela. The focus of our research will be on cooperatives. We believe this is the most valuable practical contribution that Prout can make in Venezuela at this time, due to the extraordinary number of 120,000 co-ops that have been started, and the insufficient training, evaluation and support of them. Our plan will include:

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Review national and international research on cooperatives and cooperative training programs.
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Study Sarkar’s writings and those of other Proutists to compile a clear Prout model for ideal cooperatives.
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Implement a needs assessment of cooperatives and related public institutions that would examine current conditions of cooperatives.
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Analyze available public and private documents in the country, including statistical analysis of quantitative data.
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Interview and consult with key leaders in the cooperative movement in Venezuela, in both public and private organizations, to discuss their experience and opinions.
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Make a representative sample of Venezuelan cooperatives randomly chosen that include different sizes (both large and small numbers of members), different duration (years of operation), different locations (large city, small city and rural), different sectors (transport, handicrafts, agricultural, food production, manufacturing, etc.).
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Set up focus group meetings with cooperative and community members
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Design a survey questionnaire to get a representative view of the challenges and needs of Venezuelan cooperatives, and also to assist in the categorization of cooperatives for analysis purposes.
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Analyze and triangulate data from diverse sources in order to determine precise needs and perspectives of public agencies, cooperative members, and affected communities.
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Consult with cooperative experts in Venezuela and in other countries to discuss the analysis of data and identify effective and culturally-sensitive components of a cooperative training and evaluation program.

During the fourth month the following “deliverables” will be produced in both Spanish and English:

1. A press release announcing the opening of the PRI Venezuela and its initial projects.
2. A “Frequently Asked Questions” with short replies to the above questions.
3. An academic article submitted for publication to university journals outlining the reality of Venezuelan cooperatives and recommendations.
4. A popular article on the same subject submitted to progressive magazines and newspapers.
5. A project proposal to develop a cooperative training program for Venezuela that can be submitted to various foundations and government bodies to request funding.

I would like to invite interested people to join this historic project in one or more of the following ways:

1. Be a volunteer intern! Come and help for a period of two months to a year or more. The benefits include:

* Intensively study Prout and apply it, by working in a team and sharing ideas daily via telephone and email with some of the best Proutist thinkers and activists around the world.
* Learn Spanish and/or English, with 90 minutes of daily class time according to your level, and total immersion.
* Experience the “Bolivarian Revolution” of President Hugo Chavez, one of the most exciting political, economic and social transformations taking place. See first hand what happens when the consciousness of poor people is raised and they are empowered to overcome poverty through education at all levels, free health care and cooperatives. Review the successes and critically question the failures. Personally meet and discuss with key leaders of this historical process.
* Work collectively in a professional environment that is respectful of all, where every idea counts.
* Strengthen your meditation and daily practices in a supportive and caring spiritual environment.

Expectations:

* Every applicant will be interviewed by telephone.
* Those who are accepted will have to provide their own transportation to Caracas.
* PRI will provide sattvik vegetarian food, accommodation and money for your local transportation.
* You will be expected to work 40 hours a week on specific tasks that will be monitored.
* PRI will try to fairly resolve any problems, grievances or difficulties you may have while you volunteer with us;

2. Be a PRI research assistant at home! We need help to research on the Internet very specific questions and tasks. If you can spare a few hours a week, we’ll send you the list. Your job will include finding, reading and analyzing significant articles on the topic.

3. Donate in cash or kind! The Institute needs a library of good quality books and periodicals related to Prout and social sciences. If you have a motor vehicle in good working order that you can donate, we’ll arrange the shipment. If you can donate funds, please remember that every little bit helps. If you are in the USA, we can arrange a tax-exempt receipt for your donation.

4. Come visit! See the project and the country first hand. We will ask for a minimum donation of US$5 or €4 per day to cover food and accommodation costs. We are hoping to organize a global Prout Convention in late March 2007. More news will come on this soon.

Please write me if you are interested in any of the above: maheshvarananda[at]prout.org

Brotherly,

Dada Maheshvarananda
Director

19 August 2006

Translation of Finnish article

(English translation of the article that appeared in the Finnish magazine of the Service Center for Development Corporation ("Kepa") For more about Kepa, see: www.kepa.fi/English

Lifestyle: Volunteering

Dada Maheshvarananda, 53, who travels constantly around the world, describes himself with the words "lifetime volunteer". The monk, who is originally from the U.S.A, is a true global citizen. "I have travelled around the world for the last three years, and previously I lived for many years in Asia, Brazil and Venezuela."

Maheshvarananda tries to connect universal, spiritual values to social change in the developing countries. He is involved in different school projects in the developing countries, for according to his opinion education is the best way to alleviate poverty. "I have written dozens of articles about the need for social change, and the book After Capitalism was published in 2003." Maheshvarananda is not content with just writing, but teaches yoga and meditation to prisoners in Brazil, the Philippines and in Portugal. "Empowering communities is needed."


"Helping others has always been my number one priority, and I have decided to help others throughout my whole life by doing volunteer work. It has given me more happiness and love than I could ever have imagined possible."


"One of the most significant experiences I have had happened during my training in Nepal. I did not know the language and I did not know anyone, but the inhabitants of the local poor village helped me. Sometimes I had wondered who would take care of me, if something happened. But from that experience I realized, that I will always be taken care of as a response to my own efforts as a volunteer."

An inspiring visit to Helsinki

I just returned from six days in Finland to publicize the release of the Finnish edition of “After Capitalism: Prout’s Vision for a New World”. Didi Annapurna with the help of Mitra translated it with great struggle. This edition includes contributions by two famous Finnish writers, psychohistorian Juha Siltala.and Heidi Hautala, Finnish Member of Parliament and former EU Parliament and Green Party presidential candidate.

The Finland national development agency Kepa published an article in their national magazine www.kepa.fi/kumppani/arkisto/2006_5/5004 and requested the book for their library. In addition, Mitra helped deliver a review copy of the book to the editors of nine newspapers and magazines, and Amrta has sent them faxes and phoned them to follow up. Another freelance journalist is writing a review of the book now. Email announcements were sent to 200 activists and sympathizers, and 80 leaflets were distributed and posted around the city. Didi Annapurna is now successfully selling the book door-to-door and has so far convinced two bookstores to carry it and a cooperative café to advertise it. Shantatma is selling it on the Internet.

With only a few days to prepare, a successful two-hour Prout lecture was given to 16 people in the public library. Professor Tapani Köppä, who has coordinated and taught about cooperatives for 40 years, came and explained about the 3000 existing worker-owned enterprises in the country. The major alternative radio station recorded a one-hour interview with Didi Annapurna and myself. We also took part in a peace march.

10 August 2006

The History and Future of Finland According to Sarkar’s Social Cycle

The recent discovery in Susiluola (in the Southern Ostrobothnian municipality of Kristinestad) of stones worked by the human hand suggest that people were living there over 100,000 years ago, after the discovery of fire. The mental color of those early human beings was shudra, struggling to survive and longing for physical enjoyment. Their minds were almost always absorbed in material thoughts.

About 10,000 years ago the last Ice Age came to an end and the Finnish land surface began to re-emerge from under the receding ice and to rise up from the sea. Humans then came from Estonia across the Gulf of Finland, and from the Ural Mountains of Russia, and began to make settlements. These people lived in tribes, and had already developed sophisticated fishing nets and hunting weapons. Their safety and successful hunting depended on the strongest warriors (ksattriyas) leading the tribe. Their descendants gradually spread out, forming new villages even into northern Finland, and developing agriculture and animal husbandry.

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The evolution of some viprans (intellectuals) during this early tribal period can be seen in the shamans, wise and respected spiritual leaders of their tribe who were believed to have healing abilities and a special relationship with the spirit world. Their search for knowledge is expressed in some of the older epic poems of the Kalevala. However, the tribes for the most part continued to be led by warriors. The population of Finland as the Iron Age drew to a close about 1000 AD has been estimated at around 50,000.

The transition from a ksattriya-led to a vipra-led society started with the introduction of Christianity from Sweden and Russia in the twelfth century and the later takeover of the country in the thirteenth century by the Swedish Empire, which was dominated by the royal family, court ministers and the Catholic Church.

The publication in 1765 of Anders Chydenius’ book, The National Gain, proposing free trade (11 years before Adam Smith’s famous book, The Wealth of Nations), is a good indication of how capitalists (vaeshyas) were increasingly becoming the new power-brokers in Finland. Gradually the Industrial Revolution arrived, and in 1860 the country’s first own currency was introduced and the paper and ship-building industries began to boom.

Starting in 1918 with the class war between the Red Guards and the Whites, some disgruntled ksattriyas and vipras tried unsuccessfully in various ways to lead shudras on a Communist platform to overthrow the vaeshyas. Despite the Soviet Union’s hard efforts to manipulate Finland since its beginning, through the armistice agreement in 1944, and until its own fall in 1991, the majority of the Finnish people resisted this and the society continues to be capitalist-led.

According to Sarkar’s social cycle theory, Finland, like the rest of the capitalist world, is today in its last days of capitalist control. Multinational corporations from throughout the European Union and the United States dominate ever larger shares of the economy. The welfare state is weakening, the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, and a materialist and consumer outlook is indoctrinating the people.

A fundamental change of consciousness is needed. Courageous fighters (ksattriyas) and thinkers (vipras) should lead a radical, grassroots popular transformation to establish a more orderly, disciplined and ethical society based on economic justice and solidarity.

Prout's message for Finland



With much happiness, I will return to Helsinki for a week on August 11 to "launch" the Finnish version of my book "After Capitalism". The following remarks are from the introduction I wrote for the Finnish edition:


Finland has certainly benefited from capitalism. The country made a remarkable transformation from a farm and forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy, with a per capita income on par with the rest of the European Union. But the truth is that capitalism works well for some people, but not for everyone. The existence of marginalized long-term unemployed in the country is a sign that this is true even in Finland.

According to the Finnish Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT), the top 10 percent of the population owns almost 40 percent of all the property and share capital. Much more economic inequality appears when calculating the wealth of the few thousand millionaires and billionaires, whose holdings are widely spread through nebulous financial networks. Greater tax breaks for the rich means the welfare state is weakening.

During the last 20 years, a large portion of the Finnish economy has been taken over by international investment funds, who own major shares of Nokia and the other large Finnish companies. Why is it that the majority of stores in Helsinki today seem to have American names? The profits they reap are not reinvested in the local community, they are sent to international banks overseas.

Unfortunately capitalism does not work very well for Finland’s beautiful natural environment either. Air pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributes to acid rain. The water is being polluted by industrial wastes and agricultural chemicals. Wildlife is threatened by the loss of virgin forests.

Finnish people experience the psychological side effects of global capitalism. The materialistic, consumer outlook, where everything seems to have a price tag, supports the existential outlook, “I buy, therefore I am!” Yet I believe the Finnish people, like most people in the world, long for true peace, happiness and unconditional love, which are not really satisfied in a consumer culture. Instead, working ever harder just to increase their income, or just to survive, under increasing stress, people experience alienation, loneliness and depression. Tragically, the suicide rate in Finland is the highest among the developed countries according to the World Health Organization. Among males aged 45-54, 50.4 per 100,000 people committed suicide in 2003.

We need something better: a holistic approach that fulfills the physical, mental and spiritual needs of each person. A world where nobody suffers poverty or hunger, where the resources are shared for the welfare of everyone. Where every human being is encouraged to develop their creativity, their talents, the higher dimensions of their being. How to do this is Prout’s vision for a new world.