21 May 2006

“From Development Work to Social Change" Seminar

A ground-breaking trainer’s seminar was held in Manila, Maharlika (Philippines) on May 10-11: “From Development Work to Social Change: The Way to Establish a Proutist Society.” More than 60 participants came from each part of Maharlika and the other countries of Southeast Asia, including dadas, didis, development workers, political activists and project directors.

P.R. Sarkar (Baba) came to help all human beings develop spiritually. However people suffering absolute poverty or devastated by natural calamities are mentally unable to meditate or do other spiritual practices. Hence AMURT as well as many other service organizations set up disaster relief operations and long term development projects to help those in need.

AMURT has achieved some incredible successes recently. Following the Tsunami, it has channeled more than US$2 million into successful projects in Indonesia and earned one of the best reputations in the country. Baba’s Foundation in Mindanao island, Maharlika has provided successful microcredit loans to more than 2,000 small farmers. Similarly large development projects in Africa, Haiti and other places are extremely valuable.

Yet all the relief work on the planet is not stopping the increase of poverty. The global economy has been designed to make sure the rich get richer. For every dollar of “aid” that is given to developing countries, it is estimated that ten dollars are taken out in forms of lucrative contracts, interest payments, corruption, etc.

We need to raise consciousness about the myths that are being propagated and the reality of what the developed countries and the global financial institutions are doing. And our development work must be a stepping-stone for establishing a just society free from exploitation.

In 1988 Baba said to Dada Nirgunananda and other workers: “AMURT is the immediate solution, Prout is the long term solution. You should help the people to be economically independent. For this, Prout should start economic cooperatives. At the same time, AMURT should give immediate relief, because you cannot teach hungry people philosophy. Through selfless service, you can also attract the masses to our Ideology.”

Each presentation was followed by a discussion session in small groups to encourage questions and clarification. Then workshops based on geographical areas focused on how the proposals could be practically implemented in the field.

As this was a Trainers’ Seminar, every participant was expected to repeat the seminar, and more than 30 seminars were scheduled for the next phase throughout Southeast Asia. A CD of the presentations, background articles and additional materials was given to every participant. The Lanesra Foundation, directed by Sister Ashisa (speaking in the third photo, wearing a white blouse), paid for all the costs of the seminar.

The seminar is now being improved and will next be presented in Madhu Karuna, Wendelsheim, Germany during the three-day Prout Utilization Training Camp from Wed., July 26 to Friday, July 28, 2006 (The fee for food, accommodation and training is €50. To register, contact: maheshvarananda[at]prout.org.

Prout in Manila, Baguio and Ilocos Norte, Philippines

My 10-day visit to Maharlika was an incredible inspiration for me. In addition to meeting dozens of old friends, I got the chance to meet and share experiences with hard-working Prout activists.

The National Prout Board of Maharlika is composed of: Dada Gayatrananda, Diivakar, Vishva, Rajnikanta, Subhrata, Paritosh, Jayadeva, Ajiir, Arun, Mahesh, Iishvar, Surendra and Ramesh. Their recent accomplishments include renovating part of the Proutist Universal office in Manila, regularizing the legal registration of PU, holding a monthly study circle, organizing two successful one-day leadership training sessions and a regular radio show (tel. +63-9203225249).

Ang Kasama Samaj activist leaders who attended the seminar were: Dada Devapriyananda, Manorainjan (a labor leader from Clark Airbase), Iishvara (Central Luzon), Ram Prasad (Baguio), Jagatmitra (Secretary General), Lalit Mohan, Parvati, Jagat (Cebu, former editor of Prout Times), Japamala (Cebu, Maharlika Artists and Writers Association), Shiva (Ilocos Norte) and Nareshvar. (Ang KaSaMa office: 11 Union Village, Barangay Culiat, Tandang Sora, Quezon City, tel. +63-2-931-4882, mobile: 09197863739) See www.angkasama.net

During my last 48 hours, I took a bus to Baguio City in the mountains, where Arjuna and others organized a Prout talk for me in a beautiful art center call Vocas (5th floor of La Azotea Building). Forty people came with just a few hours notice, and I personally taught meditation to four people.

After seven blissful hours, I jumped on another bus to the far north of Luzon Island. Brother Shiva (see photo), professor of political science and coordinator of TIMPUYOG People's Movement, organized a lecture at Mariano Marcos State University. Their certificate of appreciation for Prout is above.

I found a very inspiring speech that Sarkar gave during his June 1968 visit to Maharlika. He said:

“Movement in the physical realm means the construction of a society led by spiritual revolutionaries [sadvipras]… Sinners will oppose you, but you will have to face the challenge... You are human beings, because you are fighting against immoralists.

“In the psychic realm you have to establish righteousness by removing the germs of crude mentality. Everywhere in the world today the crude intellect dominates. It is your duty to replace it with your righteous intellect…

“In the spiritual realm, your task is to establish Cosmic ideation… It is your duty to show the right path to society in those three spheres...

“Work with the Supreme’s infinite power and with infinite speed. Victory is surely yours.”

(from “Accomplish Your Work with this Body Only”, A'nanda Vacana'mrtam Part 23)

20 May 2006

The Last Empire

An empire is defined as: “A set of regions locally ruled by governors in the name of an emperor; a large, multi-ethnic state ruled from a single center at least partly by coercion based on greed.”

Empires began to appear soon after the first cities made the necessary administrative structures possible. Approximately 77 empires have existed in world history. Understandably, historians are not in complete agreement regarding the starting and ending dates of each one, and whether or not some should qualify.

P.R. Sarkar describes the psychological root of imperialism. When people become increasingly engrossed in materialism (what he called “carbonic pabula”) their mind gradually sinks towards crude matter. Greed increases, desiring the wealth of others. “Capitalism, state capitalism, communism, nationalism, communalism [groupism based on religion], parochialism [selfish pettiness or narrowness of views], provincialism [sense of superiority because of one’s province or area], socialism, caste-imperialism, male chauvinism, lingualism [that one’s language is superior]… are all the same psychic ailments in various forms and figures.”

The list below is arranged chronologically according to when the empire began. The present-day country where the seat of the empire was located is included if not obvious from the name.

  1. Abyssinian Empire (Ethiopia, 3000 BC–1974 AD)
  2. Elamite Empire (Iran, 2700-539 BC)
  3. Akkadian Empire (Iraq, c. 2350–2150 BC)
  4. Ur III Empire (Iraq, c. 2100–2000 BC)
  5. Old Babylonian Empire (Iraq, c. 1900–1600 BC)
  6. Egyptian Empire (1550–1070 BC)
  7. Hittite Empire (Turkey, c. 1460–1180 BC)
  8. Israelite Empire (c. 1000–922 BC)
  9. Assyrian Empire (Syria, c. 900–612 BC)
  10. Magadhan Empire (India, c. 550–350 BC)
  11. Persian Empire (Iran, c. 550–330 BC)
  12. Athenian Empire (Greece, c. 477–404 BC)
  13. Macedonian Empire (Greece, c. 338–309 BC)
  14. Seleucid Empire (Greece, 323–60 BC)
  15. Mauryan Empire (India, 321–185 BC)
  16. Teotihuacano Empire (Mexico, c. 300-700 BC)
  17. Chinese Empire (221 BC–1912 AD)
  18. Parthian Empire (Iran, c. 200 BC–224 AD)
  19. Goguryeo Empire (Korea, c. 100 BC–668 AD)
  20. Roman Empire (27 BC–476 AD)
  21. Second Persian Empire (224–651)
  22. Gallic Empire (France, 260–274)
  23. Palmyrene Empire (Syria, 260–272)
  24. Britannic Empire (286–297)
  25. Gupta Empire (India, c. 320–550)
  26. Byzantine Empire (Turkey, 330–843)
  27. Islamicate Empire (Saudi Arabia, c. 630–1924)
  28. Tibetan Empire (c. 7th–11th century)
  29. Bulgarian Empire (681–1018; 1185–1396)
  30. Ghana Empire (c. 750–1240)
  31. Khmer Empire (Cambodia, 802–1462)
  32. Holy Roman Empire (843–1806)
  33. Chola Empire (South Indian Tamil, c. 9th–13th century)
  34. Venetian Empire (Italy, c. 900–1797)
  35. Tu'i Tonga Empire (Pacific Islands, 950–1875?)
  36. Irish Empire (1005–1014)
  37. Kongo Empire (Congo, 1100-1884)
  38. Genoa Empire (Italy, c. 1100–1797)
  39. Danish colonial empire (c.1200-1953)
  40. Latin Empire (Turkey, 1204–1261)
  41. Trapezuntine Empire (Greece, 1204–1461)
  42. Nicaean Empire (Greece, 1204–1261)
  43. Mongol Empire (1206–1394)
  44. Mali Empire (c. 1240–1541)
  45. Majapahit Empire (Indonesia, c. 1293–1500)
  46. Ilkhanate (Iran, c. 1256–1338)
  47. Ottoman Empire (Turkey, 1299–1922)
  48. Serbian Empire (1345–1371)
  49. Siam Empire (Thailand, 1350–1909)
  50. Vijayanagara Empire (India, c. 1350–1700)
  51. Aztec Empire (Mexico, 1375–1521)
  52. Timurid Empire (Turkey, 1401–1505)
  53. Inca Empire (Peru, 1438–1533)
  54. Songhai Empire (Burkina Faso, 1464–1591)
  55. Spanish Empire (1492–1898)
  56. Portuguese Empire (1495–1975)
  57. British Empire (c. 1497—1960s)
  58. Mogul Empire (Pakistan, 1526–1857)
  59. Swedish Empire (1561–1878)
  60. Dutch colonial empire (1602-1975)
  61. Maratha Empire (India, 1674–1761)
  62. Russian Empire (1721–1917)
  63. Vietnamese Empire (1802–1883)
  64. Austrian Empire (1804–1867)
  65. French Empire (1804-1814, 1815, 1852-1870)
  66. Haitian Empire (1804–1806, 1849–1859)
  67. Mexican Empire (1822–1823, 1864–1867)
  68. Brazilian Empire (1822–1889)
  69. Belgian Empire (1865–1962)
  70. Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867–1918)
  71. German Empire (1871–1918)
  72. Italian Colonial Empire (1889–1943)
  73. Korean Empire (1897–1910)
  74. Japanese Empire (1910-1945)
  75. Soviet Empire (Russia, 1922–1991)
  76. German Third Reich (1933–1945)
  77. AMERICAN EMPIRE (1898- ?)

76 empires have ended. Only one remains. It began in 1898 when it stole Maharlika (the Philippines), Guam and Puerto Rico at the close of the Spanish-American War. See http://www.americanempireproject.com/.

18 May 2006


When I landed in Manila International Airport last week, the customs officer asked me if I had anything to declare. “Yes,” I said. “I declare that I am very happy to be back after 16 long years!” She looked at me and said, “I bet you looked different then, without your white hair.” “Yes, ma’am, that’s a fact!”

I had worked in Manila from 1981-1990, so this time I met dozens of old friends, and adults came up to me and told me I had performed their baby-naming ceremony! It was truly wonderful to see again the spirit of Bayanihan, the Tagalog word which means to move a house together. This is the spirit of solidarity, of making the impossible become possible (painting by Joselito E. Barcelona, 1993).

Of course I wasn’t happy about every change that had taken place. The World Bank reports that air pollution kills 2,000 Filipinos a year. In addition, in the cities of Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao and Baguio 9,000 suffer chronic bronchitis. Lost wages and medical treatment total Pesos 79.5 billion (US$1.5 billion) annually, 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). This means that every Filipino spends around P 2,000 ($40) each year for treatment and medication for illnesses caused by air pollution.

Automobiles create 80 percent of the pollution, reducing everyone’s life expectancy. Tiny particles (“particulate matter”) penetrate deep into respiratory tissue and directly into the bloodstream. The good news is that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables help to reduce the creation of “free radicals” in the body caused by this particulate matter.

Deforestation has also worsened. From 1980 to 2000 the total forest coverage in Maharlika was reduced by half! Today only 19 percent of the country is covered by forest. The tragic results are land degradation, erosion, flash floods, draught and mudslides. (Ian Coxhead and Sisira Jayasuriya, “Environment and Natural Resources” in The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies and Challenges, Oxford University Press, 2003.)

The West prides itself on its science and technology, yet it ignores the warnings of world scientists about the effects of pollution and global warming. First in 1992, scientists from around the world signed a joint letter asking world leaders to sign the global warming treaty at Kyoto. Five years later even more signed a "Call to Action"– 1,500 scientists from 63 countries, including 110 Nobel Prize laureates. Then in 2001, 100 Nobel laureates issued a brief but dire warning of the profound dangers facing the world from global warming and the proliferation of small arms: “…To survive in the world we have transformed, we must learn to think in a new way. As never before, the future of each depends on the good of all.”

Predictably, these compelling warnings have been for the most part ignored by the mainstream media in the United States because they are contrary to the policies of the US government.

I checked the Forbes magazine website (www.forbes.com) to see who are the richest Filipinos – as expected, the three billionaires were also the wealthiest people 20 years before:

  1. Lucio Tan, self-made wealth from cigarettes, liquor, Philippine Airlines and Philippine National Bank. Total worth: US$ 1.7 billion.
  2. Henry Sy & family, self-made, owns 23 shopping malls: US$1.5 billion.
  3. Jaime Zobel de Ayala & family, inherited, Ayala Corporation owns real estate, water and telecom: US$1.3 billion.

By checking the Forbes lists during the last ten years, it can seen that each one is two to three times richer. So I asked each audience, “Are you?” Invariably the reply came, “No, we’re poorer!”

Professor Arsenio M. Balisacan of the University of the Philippines in his article “Poverty and Inequality” in The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies and Challenges, Oxford University Press, 2003 gives many statistics demonstrating how the widening gap between rich and poor has resulted in most of the gains of national economic growth being eaten up by the rich, leaving the poor with very little benefit.

Of course Prout’s response to this extraordinary widening gap between rich and poor is to remind everyone that the world’s physical resources are limited. If individuals accumulate too much, there will not be enough for everyone. So every country should decide maximum salaries, wealth and land ownership. The only reason to pay more is to motivate people to make a greater effort to benefit society.

I had the pleasure of meeting again Alejandro Lichauco, a radical economist cited in the bibliography of my book. His most recent work is Hunger, Corruption and Betrayal: A Primer on U.S. Neocolonialism and the Philippine Crisis, Citizen’s Committee on the National Crisis (CCNC), 2005, 115 pages, available online for $12.00 from www.marymartin.com. He writes on Thursdays and Sundays for The Daily Tribune and many of his articles can be found online by doing a Google search. He was imprisoned for three months and then kept under house arrest for two years by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In an “Open letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo” published recently, Lichauco wrote: “The Philippines is now a case of humanitarian disaster. Late last year, the Food and Nutrition Research Institution of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) released a survey finding that "8 out of 10 households are hungry." This is the first time, to our knowledge, that the government, through an important agency, acknowledged the fact that mass hunger--and not only mass poverty--now grips the lands.”

02 May 2006

A Training Center for Spiritual Revolutionaries

In the silent pine forests of southern Sweden lies a most inspiring center of transformation. Fourteen brothers and sisters have come from around the world to study there – from Argentina, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Madagascar, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Singapore and USA. They are highly motivated, and are literally putting their lives on the line.

They are in training to become nuns and monks. The color orange that they wear means they are dedicating their lives to the service of humanity. Though it differs from person to person, most spend about three years in training. In addition to chanting, practicing yoga asanas, reading spiritual philosophy, they are sitting for silent meditation 4-5 hours each day.

They also intensively study the spiritual and social philosophy of P.R. Sarkar, the founder of Prout. After passing all their exams, they then travel to India and are assigned to work in another continent from where they grew up.

The center was started in 1976, and hundreds who trained there have gone to six continents to serve humanity. I deeply enjoyed giving them Prout classes for two days and doing long meditation together. I told them that I have come to realize after 28 years of working as a monk, I am very much still “in training”! Every day I am learning, discovering, struggling to understand and to realize the deepest truths.

Then I drove to Stockholm where I stayed in the home of Proutists Krsnadeva and Sumana. I recorded nearly 3 hours of their personal experiences with the founder of Prout – incredible. Sumana said that in their last meeting together, Sarkar said, “You know, there are two kinds of people in this world, those who give, and those who get. Which kind are you?” She laughed and replied, “The kind that give, Baba.” But ever since that day, she realizes that so many people, even those on a spiritual path, are always concerned about and often criticize the quality of seminars, programs, etc., without looking for ways to contribute, to make it better. These stories are being transcribed now.

Five trainees plus other employees and interns are working in an organic bakery in Stockholm (www.sattvanaturbageriet.com). It’s an incredible beehive of activity round the clock. I also gave them a class on Thursday.

Then on Friday night I gave a lecture on Prout and Spiritual Values that they organized for the public – 35 people, both young and old, came. These people fill me with hope.

If you are ever uncertain about what to do in your life, and how you could contribute more to making a better world, there’s a beautiful, quiet place in southern Sweden that I highly recommend!