17 November 2014

The Hero's Journey and the Spiritual Path

The spiritual path is in one sense very rational and scientific. We encourage everyone to meditate and improve their health with a natural lifestyle, and there is an ever growing mountain of scientific papers and mainstream media programs supporting the value of these techniques in reducing stress. At the same time, often hidden from the public view, there is tremendous fierceness, magic, and mystery on the spiritual path. I would like to point out the power of these mysteries by comparing them to the work of American historian Joseph Campbell.

Campbell (1904-1987) studied myths, religions, and narratives from around the world. His famous advice, “Follow your bliss”, came from the phrase satcitananda in the ancient Upanishads, which translates as “being, consciousness, bliss”, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence. Campbell said he wasn’t sure about “being” and “consciousness”, but he could understand “bliss”! He taught many years at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, at that time an all-women’s institution. He always told his graduating students, “Whatever you do, don’t do what Daddy says, because he is only interested in your security. If you bargain away your life for security now, you will never find your bliss.”

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08 July 2014

Letter to Korean Readers of "After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action", to be published this month

It is an honor to have this opportunity, through the kindness of the publisher, Hansalim (Mosim and Salim Institute), and the translator, my good friend Dada Cittarainjanananda, to have this opportunity to write to you directly.

In recent history the Korean people have suffered terribly from the effects of three ideologies: fascist imperialism, communism and capitalism. Whereas the effects of the first two are obvious, the third, capitalism, is a little more insidious. You live in what many would consider to be a very successful society, the world's 12th largest economy. And yet, consumerism, selfishness and greed are clearly infecting every society including Korea. According to Forbes magazine, at the time of this writing, South Korea has 27 billionaires, each with a wealth ranging from 1 to 13 billion dollars, and 10 of the world's largest 500 corporations. Sadly, poverty and inequality continue to plague Korea. Capitalism works well for some people, but not for everyone.

Capitalism has permitted chaebol to dominate the economy while giving little power to common people. The heavy concentration of population and resources in greater Seoul weakens the rest of the country. Greed has engendered cronyism and patronage.

A recent book in English by my friend, activist and scholar George Katsiaficas (assisted by his recently deceased wife, Shin Eun-jung), "Asia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century" (“May Spring” will publish the book in Korean in May 2015) explores the impact protest movements fighting dictatorships have had on Korea's society. From the Tonghak uprising, independence movement and anti-Japanese resistance, to the overthrow of Syngman Rhee, resistance to Park Chung-hee and Jeon Du-hwan, as well as student, labor, and feminist movements, these have all made profound changes in the collective consciousness.

The Gwangju Uprising, from May 18 to 27, 1980, is especially significant, as an example of how first students, and then hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, could unite in solidarity, compassion and cooperation.

This spirit of solidarity and cooperation symbolizes the way forward for Korea. And I believe that the Progressive Utilization Theory (Prout) is a socio-economic model that can improve the quality of life for all Koreans. As a practical alternative to both communism and capitalism, I believe it has the potential to reunite the tragic political division of the Korean people.

The history of the cooperative movement in Korea has an inspiring list of accomplishments that we can learn from: the Poolmoo school's incubation of co-operatives starting in 1959, Blue Cross Medical Co-op, the Yangseo Co-op, the consumer cooperative movement (with a total membership today of half a million). The new “Framework law on cooperatives”, passed in 2011 with support from all political parties and government, is a significant step forward, allowing as few as five persons to easily form a co-op with legal protection. I am especially honored that this book is published by Hansalim, the largest grass-roots co-op in Korea with half a million members.

You have great treasures that are also great tools in this struggle: your beautiful language, culture and landscape. As I explain in this book, "our culture is our strength", for it unites people and gives them the strength to overcome the greatest obstacles. For example, your expression, "uri nara" (which means "our country"), is significant, because in Korean, unlike most other languages, the emphasis is on "our" and not "my" country. Your land, your society, belongs to everyone. And this is a fundamental idea of Prout: that the resources, the land, the water, the air belongs to everyone and we need to share it, not privatize it, for the welfare of all.

Though I do not speak Korean, I would be happy to hear your critical feedback and suggestions. Please write to me in English at maheshvarananda@prout.org.ve or in Korean via my translator and friend, Dada Cittarainjanananda at dadacitananda@gmail.com.

19 February 2014

Speaking Tour of USA

It was a magical week in Ireland. After meeting the president and visiting beautiful Sunrise Farm Master Unit, I gave a presentation about Prout in downtown Dublin to 45 participants. One wrote, "Your powerful presentation and the discussions it catalyzed were a lovely reminder of the hope, potential and compassion that exists here in Ireland."

I'm now starting a four-week tour of the United States. My cellphone is: 336-567-6912. I'd love to meet or talk with you.

Fri 21 Feb Dudley, MA, Nichols College 3:45pm talk "Economic Democracy in Latin America and USA"

Sun 23 Feb New Brunswick, New Jersey, wedding of Ananda Mayii and Brahmadeva

Mon 24 Feb Washington, DC 8:55am and 10:20am American University yoga classes, Bethesda, MD 7pm Shanti Yoga Ashram presentation in Spanish "Democracia Económica en América Latina y EE.UU."

Tue 25 Feb Maryland, BCC High School Peace Studies classes at 7:25am, 8:30am, at Wilson High School 9:25am, at 1:10pm American University class

Wed 26 Feb Asheville, NC Warren Wilson College 7pm Cooperative Games workshop

Thu 27 Feb Asheville, NC, 4pm radio interview, 7pm talk at Skyland/Sth Buncombe Co. Library

Fri 28 Feb Asheville, NC 10am "Intro to Peace and Justice Studies" Warren Wilson College

Sat 1 Mar Asheville, NC 9am-5pm Cooperative Leadership Development seminar with Satya Tanner at Co-luminate, 69A Biltmore Ave

Sun 2 Mar Asheville, NC 3pm collective meditation

Mon 3 Mar Virgi college tour with Clark Webb

Tue 4 Mar Radford Universityudent Center (Bonnie Hall) 7-9pm "Using Meditation to Build a Cooperative World"

Wed 5 Mar Virginia colletour with Clark Webb

Th6 Mar Virginia college tour with Clark Webb

Fri 7 Mar Blacksburg, VA Virginia Tech 10 AM radio interview

Sat Mar Blacksburg, VA 10am-4pm SeminAkke's Yoga Place "Usineditation to Build a Corative World"

Sun 9 Mar Blacksburg, VA

Wed 12 Mar Chicago, 6pm Open invitation dinner party at the hoof Bill Ayers & Bernardine Dohrn, 1329 E. 50tt.

Thu 13 Mar Chicago, public talk

Fri 14 Mar Madison, WI

Sat 15 Madison, WI

Sun 16 Mar Terre Haute, IN Unitarian Church, evening talk on "Meditation & Yoga: Practicing Social Justice"

Mon 17 Mar Terre Haute, 6pm Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Tue 18 Mar Terre Haute, Indiana State University Human Rights Day speaker

Wed 19 Mar fly home to Venezuela

16 February 2014

Meeting with the President of Ireland

Meeting with President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland in Áras an Uachtaráin, the president's official residence, Dublin, on February 12, 2014

The military attache who showed us into the beautiful historic reception room set up with tea and coffee explained where I should stand and greet the president when he entered. When Niall asked him how long the meeting would last he said, "That completely depends on the president, but I would expect between 10-20 minutes." In fact the meeting lasted almost an hour.

The president had invited Ruairí McKiernan, a young social entrepreneur and self-described community troublemaker who had organized the Dalai Lama's visit to Ireland, to attend. After the photos were taken, the president asked the reception assistants to bring orange juice for me, and his attache to bring in his Prout books. The copy of After Capitalism that Niall had mailed him had several book markers.

He said, "I've marked up my copy a lot. I know Marcos Arruda who wrote the preface to After Capitalism. We met during the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro when I was minister for the environment. We made a documentary together."

President Higgins repeated several times, "This book is remarkable. It needs wide circulation." He expressed his gratitude to "this wonderful person, Niall," who had sent it to him. He explained that he had tried to find Niall's telephone but it wasn't listed, so I joked that he wasn't as "efficient" as the NSA. Then he suddenly asked Niall, "Why haven't you made this book available to the public?" The president then suggested various publishers and trade union leaders that we should approach this week while I am here in Ireland.

The president opened his copy of the book and read to us one paragraph: "The International Monetary Fund in 2009 estimated the total value of the world’s economy to be US$70.21 trillion. And yet the total world derivatives market in the second half of 2009 has been estimated at about US$615 trillion, more than eight times the size of the entire global economy!" And now it is even more than that, he emphasized.

He felt the second Prout book that Niall had sent him, "Principles of a Balanced Economy" by Roar Bjonnes is also very good, but it's more a handbook for cooperativists.

He talked about the discourse on language, how it has been subverted by the neo-liberal agenda. He said that the media throughout Europe now talks about "the tax burden" as though it should be avoided completely, not that it is part of our social responsibility. He asked me, how to change the discourse of institutions? How to get this into the discourse?

His experiences in Nicaragua, and El Salvador, with international human rights delegations. He said he knew one woman who was killed. He later stood with the woman's grandmother at the Monument to Memory and Truth in El Salvador that has the names of 47,000 names of people who lost their lives during The Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1992). Sadly, he said, the children who were refugees always made drawings of helicopters.

He said at the World Economic Forum that takes place each year in Davos, Switzerland, all the people "have ashes in their mouths". The politicians keep going, but they keep mouthing the same thing because they haven't got any vision.

I gave President Higgins a copy of "Notes and Recommendations on the Irish Economy" by the Institute for New Economic Futures (INEF -- see www.beyondtheeurocrisis.org). I explained that seven Proutist economists in different countries had contributed to this 13-page proposal how to make the Ireland more self-reliant and resilient to global financial crises. That 400,000 Irish, mostly young people, have left the country since the 2008 crisis looking for work in other countries is a tragedy.

He feels there is a great misunderstanding in Europe about Latin America.

He talked about the different religions that depend on their holy book and about the fatalism of India. I agreed that there are dogmas in both the West and the East that are divisive, and how spirituality, on the other hand, is all-inclusive.

He was very impressed about Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar and said, "Anyone who can fast for five years on only two cups of yoghurt a day must be very strong!"

After the hour passed with this charming conversation, President Higgins graciously apologized for taking so much of my time. When we said farewell, he embraced me.