Monday, December 29, 2008

Bliss - Verses inspired by Thirumandiram

29 December 2008

Senses five draw down the blinds
Unceasing waves of thoughts slow down
The pond still, sounds of the forest pervades the being
Soothing winds calms the inner universe
Stars unfold as the being finds connections and relatedness
Quest leads to the place where six paths meet
Illumination at this junction helps see the treasure within
Knowledge merges with the Knower
Impregnating the Knower with Divine Silence
An act of Grace, this Bliss

Inspired by verses from Thirumandiram

In that
Jnana (Divine Knowledge)
The Six Ends merge;
That Knowledge in the Knower (
Jnani) merges;
When Knowledge in the Knower merges;
Then dawns
Mauna (Divine Silence)
That is Siva-Bliss.

Tantra 8, 2382, Thirumandiram)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thirumandiram - Keys to Consciousness - Being with Shakthi

28 December 2008

Sounds of the enchanted inner-scape is lit by Thirumandiram, a Tamil Scriptural classic. The infinite possibilities of inner transformation and emancipation is what this book is all about. Here are a few words of wisdom from it.

Knowing not your Self
You deemed body as Self;
When in Turiya you entered,
You realized the Self;
Even though you realized Self,
Birth's cycle will leave you not;
Therefore, ascend further upward
And unite in Lord,
Pervasive and Pure.

(Tantra 8, 2279, Thirumandiram)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Art & Peace - Exploring Structure

19 December 2008

Structure is another concept that is becoming more widely used in peace & justice work. In capacity building workshops facilitators often use the "conflict tree" to help people see the connection between belief, structure and manifestations. In other words ideology, institutions and outcomes. Participants are then encouraged to explore how certain beliefs have created structures and mechanisms that consistently delivers expected desired outcomes (until challenged).

In one of the workshops that Che and I co-facilitated we began to think about taking this "conflict tree" idea a bit further. What if we acknowledge that the field, the environment in which decision making happens on type of structures to nourish -is seen as a chess field in which multiple actors strategically work everyday to protect their life, livelihood, interests, profits, accumulation, consumption, and control over the rules of the game.

The field when it is part of the chess board of neo-colonialism or market-fundamentalism for example has already transformed itself into a predatory field. Just as farms becoming sites in which the cycle of production happens using seed, fertilizers, pesticides, and water purchased from the market the arenas in which decisions get taken have come under heavier influence of forces whose general principle is "greed, over-consumption & accumulation trumps over justice, human rights & human dignity." This general principle though morally and ethically wrong has many rewards and compensations. It allows us to be part of a game of high-stakes from exclusive clubs catering to every possible want, and the club rules are clear that it is okay to flaunt. Warnings are often whispered about the need to invest in building bigger walls and gates to keep the victims and agents of change out of sight.

Through a complex process of law-making, law-interpretation, adjudication, arbitration, agreements, schemes and manufactured consent the power elite work on changing rules wherever they go. The broad strokes of the rule is that it ensures that the top 10-20 percent can obtain legitimacy to desire to take and hold control over 60-70 percent of resources, even at the cost of impoverishing, displacing, and denial of fundamental rights to billions of people worldwide.

Apart from excessive and obscene consumption, efforts are taken to change peoples knowledge and understanding of things. People are taught and trained to value certain things, possess certain things, consume certain things. They are taught to remember certain things and forget certain things. While media assaults their senses 24/7 there is much that is also not-told. Their right to know what they consume, to know how much toxins are present in what they consume and how much growth hormones are getting into their system through what they consume - are denied. Such knowledge is not released into the common domain, such knowledge is often privatized and held in secret. It is the cost, the externalization of costs that is often buried deep and very difficult to dig out.

The old owl sitting on the tree seems to ask:

How many have to pay with lifetimes of dispossession, displacement, destitution, hunger, malnutrition, dehydration, loss of habitat and livelihood - so a few can live as kings and queens once did?

How to overcome this deception, this betrayal?

How to build peace when we are sowing greed?

(Art work by Che, from Process & Structure series)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Art & Peace - Perspectives on Process

18 December 2008

The word process can be understood more deeper when we do something with what we know. This doing gives the needed experience for learning, unlearning, reflection, initiative, and a better sense of the micro-level things that needs to be done to bring about macro-level changes.

Che and I feel that process is often compartmentalized, boxed to such a degree that people often miss the big picture and turn themselves into specializing within certain compartments or boxes. Facilitating process aimed at non-violent social change can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience (frustrations are a big part of it too). And at times it can jail us in a golden cage. It is only consciousness and intent to be free from many chains, that help us to see the bigger picture and act with wisdom.

Imagine how much human intervention has changed the habitat of the tortoise/turtle. It is a slow process: every second, minute, hour and day effluents affect the habitat of many species. Many of the changes are irreversible and many species are affected adversely. The rate at which we are polluting, degrading and destroying land, water, air and atmosphere - is a process in which we are all participants willing, unwilling or ignorant. A crisis of such magnitude requires process clarity on part of all governments and all people.

If humans become indifferent to conducting a slow genocide on all species that in the opinion of "experts" is not economically viable, valuable or profitable or even worse seen as a pest - our children and great grand children will read about our life times as the era when Crimes Against Earth & Diverse Life Forms was done at an industrial/global level. We would be the equivalent of the Nazi sympathizers and supporters who tolerated and allowed the injustices to increase and unfold.

"Let them Be. We are all inter-related. Proclaiming victory from a mountain of skeletons or the void left by extinct species is ugly, shameful and foolish."

A piece of art has the capacity to evoke thought processes - the structure, perspective, colours, strokes, framing, highlights, backdrop, icons, cultural symbols found in Che's work is an amazing feat in balancing, layering with room enough for anarchical impulses that sometimes takes over an artist upon completion of the work. What do we do with what we have created? More recent painting of Che highlights the blood-spill that occurs all around that often goes unnoticed. Che felt that violence has reached a saturation level in our societies. It is so obvious that it requires distraction from reality to not see it, he often remarked.

When i first saw the painting it evoked in me images of how fast i have been running in comparison. It helped me slow down. For long i have held the tortoise/turtle as characterising wisdom, endurance, instinct, adaptability and many other significant qualities. The slowing down also helped ask a more important question of what i was running after, and was it necessary and important enough?

Many months after asking that question the introductory class with Rashid Omar where he had asked all students to introduce themselves using only 7 words, came into my consciousness. Two years after that class session, i feel what those 7 words are for me.

Question, Devotion, Wisdom, Justice, Peace, Love and Harmony

These words carry hope for me in re-inventing and evolving. As i said before, some processes take time, and they become almost invisible, but then as some wise woman from Manipur once said to me,"Necessity is a Mother of Evolution."

(Art work by Che. From Process & Structure series)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Self, Dialogue, Conflict, Mastery

11 December 2008

Passion fuels, lures
Desires and often wrath
Self endures a storm within
Leaving behind a feeling, a question
"What compelled me to be swayed?"
And the learning begins
"Can resistance rather than quiescence be the way forward?"

Sin, when a stranger to the Soul
Endears itself, little by little, through the senses
Taking deeper roots in crevices within
Transgressions of thought, word and action follows next
Heart weeps at this change
The soul-flame lends a listening ear

Winds of mind - restless, strong and unceasing
Disturb and often defile the sacred space
Samurai then awakens within
Contextual clarity, training and practice unfolds
A new sword is born and unsheathed

"Giant trees start as tender shoots,
As thoughts germinate, leading into action, so beware!"
Then it proclaimed, "Under the heavens, let Peace prevail,
Face the sword of Justice or earn Grace."

Yet the mind wanders, distracts itself
"One small transgression, once in a while seems okay," it justifies
"A small step in the wrong direction is just that," replied the Soul

"I am just going with the flow, why single me out?" mind reasoned
"It is of Love, through Love and for Love," the Soul embraced.

And a whole new journey began.

(Art work by Che, from Envisioning Peace)

Monday, December 8, 2008

An Ancient Tamil Poem

9 December 2008

Recent episodes of violence and despair in India moved me to reflect on what i feel, what others feel in these times. Then the question came up, "How did my ancestors feel in such situations?"

I began to re-read a poetry related book by George Hart (he is a Professor of Tamil Studies in Berkeley, California) and found an apt poetry from ancient times in a Tamil kingdom.

A warrior's grief during the monsoon is captured very eloquently in this poem.

The rattling royal drum sounds in the morning
and the King, fierce in his wrath
has begun the business of war.
On soft lowlands jasmine flowers blossom
and the monsoon has begun
with pattering drops from seething clouds.
And I,
every time I think of her
whose hair is thick
have begun sleepless confusion.

(Ainkurunuru 448)

From The Poems of Ancient Tamil by George Hart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is this India's 9/11 - some thoughts

2 December 2008

The terror attacks in Mumbai, India has shaken the subcontinent. India's vulnerability to terror attacks is once again made starkly visible. But is this India's 9/11? That is a question being debated currently in academic, political and civil society circles.

Here is my take on the subject. Terrorism is not new to India. People have suffered different types of collective violence including terrorism from many invasions, colonizations (sometimes in active collusion by some local elites). It has its share of terrorism by different groups as well as the state or political parties. We only have to read history and listen to the voices of the victims to know who all have engaged in terrorizing in different times against different people.

Even the Mumbai attacks can be viewed from different angles. There is the attack at the train station, attack on the Taj, Trident hotels and Leopold Cafe, there is the attack on the senior counter-terrorism officers who were investigating the Hindu terror groups. It would be fair to expect professional investigation would be carried out to find out the actors/organizations/agencies behind the different attacks. I am sure high-powered committees will do their job for lobbying for more unified command over intelligence gathering and analysis; securing of all porous borders; setting up of special and more autonomous units to combat with terrorists; and the ever present possibility of carrying out attacks on some training camps within Pakistan.

Some politicians have turned the heat on the angered and vocal civil society and common people who dare to point out the systemic failure and holding responsible political leaders and bureaucrats who refused to act on intelligence provided or did not have sufficient preparations or equipment despite the terror warnings received. Though the armed forces and the marine commandos did their job well given the constraints they faced, same cannot be said about the collective failure on part of the police, internal security arrangements, port operations and resources available for managing crisis situations. The coming weeks and months will open a can of worms that would be very hard for citizens to digest. The unwillingness to pursue some leads to its logical conclusion will definitely hamper the process of uncovering all actors.

Political parties are busy fighting elections and it would take a mammoth effort and great restraint from all parties to not exploit the nations vulnerability to terror attacks to undermine democracy, secularism, checks and balances and consensus based politics that is required in the age of coalition politics. Any attempts to fast-track procedures that actually require consensus among major political parties and civil society will only serve to undermine substantive and procedural democracy. Action, hot-pursuit and the forces required to handle such situations is definitely a priority issue and much rhetoric and some action are expected. As important to discuss is the need to ensure constitutional principles, rights and freedoms. On this regard it would be foolish to attempt a "War on Terror" approach as outlined, authored and prescribed by the USA.

Many in the civil society are hoping that good sense will prevail. Time will tell if India is able to take its own path in handling terrorism. If India is not impacted as much as some of the Western nations in the economic-tsunami unleashed by the casino-capitalists and banksters - it is due to the good sense that prevailed decades ago to put in checks on banks, insurance firms, and regulations over the market forces and safeguarding of employee rights. A similar measured and balanced approach that is based on sound judgement, strategy, precision and professionalism in action and contextual clarity is the need of the hour, more than buying a blue-print of action from elsewhere, especially the USA.

Currently the military-industrial complex is not a major stake-holder in determining strategies in combating terror in India, and one can only hope that it remains that way.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Interfaith Dialogue - A Vedic Hindu -Tamil episode

19 November 2008

In 2004 i met Jasmin Nordien, a friend from South Africa, a peace builder, a compassionate human, spiritually evolved person, also a Kroc Alumni, introduced herself thus:

"My work is an expression of my spirituality." That is the key that she brought for me from South Africa. Since then the concept began to take roots in me. She had cautioned about the inner work that is required, the healing that is required, the justice that needs to be experienced, the need to be in touch with realities of past, present and future and take sufficient risks to bring about change within and around.

Che and I began talking about this as our starting point of the journey we were about to take. Working on papers, doing writing and all that comes with that was far from what we could do. I knew Che since 2000. He had accompanied Jubita (another women scholar-practitioner also from Manipur) to a peace workshop. He ended up becoming one of the most active participant/resource person in the workshop on Inter-group conflicts. But after my interaction with Jasmin in 2004, my relationship with Che deepened spiritually. I found in him someone i can trust, confide, and a willing companion on a spiritual journey that can be deemed inter-faith. Che was most familiar and insightful on the wisdom one could gain from Vedic-Hindu spiritual texts, Shiva and Vaishnava aspects of later day Hinduism, the indigenous spiritual traditions such as Maibi culture among Meitei, as well deeper understandings of richness of other religions and insights he had gained from friendships with people of different paths.

"Perspectives", "Insights", " - in Action" were some of the key conceptual and practice work that Che was much interested in. We both agreed to adopt the most preferred approach in this inter-faith journey. It had to help us practically. It is something that we must do and then analyze. We had gained sufficient real friendship and brotherhood that we could carry on the quest for over 3 years. We met over 10 times sometimes in Hyderabad, mostly in Manipur. We had also taken some pilgrimages together, each with ones one belief, plus nourished by insights gained from sharing and listening to the other. We had common interest in Shiva. So we journeyed to sites where ancient temples across India. Sometimes the journeys would be seperate but we would always bring it up for sharing every time we met. He was most interested in talking about Atma Lingas.

He was also interested in knowing about the Thamizh/Tamil spirituality related to Shiva and Muruga representations of God. He was also very keen in listening to a subject that I began to explore more after my interactions with him. I later figured out that i began to get more thirsty and more often thirsty to drink from the spiritual rivers that were flowing in this part of the world. Each time we met it was like bringing to a friend some gifts one was able to dig out from a culture one is familiar with and has some experience/practice in. Among the insights he shared was " - in action" concept. "-" would be somethings like - Love, Compassion, Wisdom, Justice, Non-Judgmentality, Observer, Yearning, Freedom etc.

So the path he had walked made him realize that unless an "action" was applied to a concept, it was fruitless endeavor. This was the key he provided to the journey that i began into collecting wisdom from Tamil sources. The Siddhar tradition of Tamil land had firmly believed that "Justice" was the concept associated with the Third-Eye of Shiva, the other two being Devotion and Wisdom. It was because of this that legend has it that when Shiva/Sivan opens his third eye - injustice is punished, burning to ashes those who have walked the unjust path for too long, making many others suffer under their tyranny or due to their wayward indulgences. The practice of Devotion, Wisdom and Justice is what we both agreed to do. And we decided to practice these using our Freedom, Liberty and Creativity. Let me explain the Creative part. We both felt that we can do mediocre, average and get along or opt to do intensive, in-depth work and get-ahead, not of others, but ourselves. It is we who have to create an Opportunity out of daily work life.

Deeper level dialogue would include sharing what one has discovered about Self, as a result of applying the wisdom we found in Jasmin's words - "My work is an expression of my spirituality". Che and i found that since both of us were self-proclaimed workaholics, the best option was to consider our work as the area in which we would practice our spirituality, that way would get close to 8-10 hours of practice. We were clear that there would be a significant chunck of time during working that we may not be aware or conscious about the journey we had set out on, and that insights may be gained also through hindsight that comes upon rest or reflection amd that there may be abundant times to be consciously applying "- in action" process in day to day work. In doing this, I began working with my team of peace builders with whom i work month after month - openly sharing that the concept shared by Jasmin and Che would be the standard or norm by which i would like to function while working.

So sometimes it would be "compassion in action", "empathy in action", "fairness in action" "loyalty in action", "participation in action", "visioning in action", strategic in action", "observation in action", "understanding in action", "guiding in action", "facilitation in action", "reaching-out in action", "listening in action", "embracing in action", "introspection in action", "healing in action", "non-judgmentality in action", "respect in action", perspective-sharing in action", "capacity-building in action" etc. My practitioner-scholar approach got strengthened through this process. Che's later artistic works too, began to offer great insights, perspectives, standpoints, illustrations, illuminations, on justice, peace, freedom, life and connections between life forms, connection between human and God, connection between life and Earth, and the complexities that have come about.

We would also talk about how difficult it is to take some values seriously and struggles we face in walking the paths we chose to walk. It was like a walk in to the world. The turning inward process helped us both to see that what was out in the world is within us as well. All the glory and all the filth, the treasures and the trash. In walking this path we had to literally be aware of the mind and body most of the work time and live as much as possible by a code that we called "When in doubt, Do the Right thing".

We did acknowledge that there were times when there was no doubting. Certainty also leads us to make errors and misjudgments, we agreed. We had to face out inner Mara, the character Buddha describes as the one that offered allurements, seductions, power, empire and wealth to make Buddha give up the path towards Enlightenment. These were not abstract concepts to either of us and we were able to see in small dosages the practical and real challenges one faces if one decides to act their spirituality out. It can be a very threatening experience to confront the inner and it might take a lot of energy to process, sort, and trash, as well as require lots of courage and risk to integrate spiritual insights into work area, especially a work that involves co-creating a saner, fairer, peaceful and just society.

The more we talked and listened, we felt we were moving towards a river that nourishes and fills our souls. But we also felt that the fortress has pores and the nourishment sometimes drains away, leaving the soul vulnerable. But each time we shared we felt that we were emboldening the other to continue to walk the path and continue to be of support to each other. "Man this path is not a easy one", was often the opening remark when we met. "And how rich it is, when it happens", would invariably be the next remark.

Che lived well and died early. But he remains one of the sparks that ignited something in me, as i walk the inter-faith dialogue/relations path. I am almost tempted to say this, "With friends like Che and Jasmin, who needs Gurus."


Friday, October 31, 2008

spider and building peace - some reflections

1 November 2008

i took this picture in Karbi Anglong, an autonomous hill district in Assam, India. It reminded me of what John Paul Lederach was teaching about the need to learn from spiders' ability to design and innovate its web-weaving based on the context, coordinates etc.

The context of the work in Karbi Anglong was widespread rumors of impending inter-community attacks, which reminded people of their previous losses, their vulnerabilities and the insecurities experienced first in 2003 followed by almost yearly disturbances. In the area i visited many indigenous tribal communities such as Karbi, Dimasa, Boro, Garo, and Kuki reside and ethnic tensions is fairly a new phenomenon. Some analysts feel that "access and control" over the bio-diversity rich and fertile land as one of the key element of the conflicts in Karbi Anglong.

After several years of mass mobilizations for autonomy, and some years of armed struggle from among the Karbi and Dimasa communities, a new district emerged from the state of Assam. Armed groups still operate in the district and some have ceasefire agreements with Government of India. According to a recent study, Karbi Anglong ranks 23rd among the 23 districts of Assam in terms of poverty. i was shocked by the statistics and ranking. It brought back memories of stories of Amazon, other tropical forests and people residing in them. i began to wonder how is it that people who own these forests, the bio-diversity rich land and water resources came to be classified among the poorest.

i ask myself, "How is it that economic models and development models deny the rich tribals who live in ancestral domain end up sacrifcing the most precious of their resources to predators who strip them, mine them, pillage them and refuse to share benefits? How is it that they are legally stripped of their rights and entitlements? And a bigger question formed in my mind... Is it possible that what might be legal may not be always operate on priniciples of justice? What name do we have for such laws and such legal stuff?

Widespread corruption, deception and manipulation in the past has led to illegal land transfers from tribals to non-tribals (something that is proscribed by the Indian Constitution) over several decades, silently. Some argue that the rise of awareness about their rights, popular mobilizations for the protection of their rights as one of the triggering factors for third forces to create civil strife, leading to fractures in well-cemented relationships between communities spilling into violence and causing displacement from their lands. The relief and rehabilitation packages have been critiqued for being unjust in the sense that people who owned large tracts of forests and lands have after the conflict - been reduced to settling into small plots and farming on a few acres of land.

It is against this backdrop that the inter-community conflicts play out quite often displacing thousands of families, who fear to return to their ancestral domain after the violence. Cross-community relationships have eroded and inability to trust neighbors for security is a current issue. Unconformed reports from media professionals indicate that both the army and police have amongst them trouble-mongers who have been part of rumor peddling between villages about impending attacks. What was amazing was that the villagers were able to call the bluff in time, but only time will tell which villages will succumb to the rumors and arm themselves against another community. Another unconfirmed report suggests that the police which called for a "peace-committee meeting" ridiculed the villagers of coming to the meeting un-armed. They were asked sarcastically by one of the police officers if they had come to sing bhajans (hymns).

Against the backdrop of communal violence that is rampant in different parts of India, the presence of "communal" elements within the state's armed forces, police and administration is a big worrisome reality. This gave rise to another question, "What do we call such people who are part of the Adminstration, Police and Armed Forces who act with bias, are willing to see several thousands homless and destitute, for whatever gains they have in mind?"

In such a context as a peace-builder i begin to ask myself, "What coordinates are key, to work in such a context? What pedagogy will be effective in transforming the hearts and minds of those who are willing to abuse power and predate on people whom they were entrusted to protect and serve?

It has been my experience that there are many sincere, hard-working and socially useful and productive men and women who are honest and committed in all arms of the state, but there is sufficient evidence emerging that the states arms do have elements within it - actors (individual, groups or cartels) who are often motivated by greed for accumulation, entrenching themselves in positions of power and privilege that reminds one of the feudal past that preceded our transformation into a independent, democratic republic, with parliamentary democracy and all the procedures that come with it to ensure that elected and recruited members function to protect and serve the people.

Yesterday there were talks of "Right to Recall" as a means to pull out an elected member for failing to honor the commitments made to the state and people - failing to do the job one was elected to serve. Though Shashi Tharoor felt it would bring chaos, there were other luminaries with abundant experience from legislature and judiciary who felt that with some adaptations a suitable model will definitely assist in transforming the politics. On the Judiciary side the existence of colonial legacies of vacations, not filling up the positions, not creating enough mechanisms and resources has led to crores of cases in District Courts, lakhs of cases in High Courts, and tens of thousands cases in the Supreme Court. This gross inefficiency or lack of capacity to process all the cases is a big hindrance that makes millions of people in this country experiencing justice.

Another trend in the field of politics is the communalization and creation of enclaves and ghettos which has become the most favored approach among some actors in administration and legislature and it seems to be penetrating into the Armed Forces too (as recent investigations into some terror attacks indicate). Transforming politics, administration and military as well the civil society and regulatory institutions, businesses and public institutions is a felt need to overcome some of the crises that have been traumatizing the sub-continent.

It is in this context that peace-builders work along with social workers, development workers, human rights activists, social movement activists, religious institutions and actors, public-minded intellectuals, cultural activists, alter-globalization activists and theorists, and those working for transformation of societies and world so we can experience some equity, equality, freedoms, rights, respect, tolerance, justice, peace, and harmony. It is our right to taste such an experience. It may need much sustained efforts on all our parts but unless we do something about it, we are only contributing further to the problem by being silent or intellectually dishonest. If we are unable to read the signs of time and weave what must be woven with full awareness that a more peaceful and just world in not only possible or desirable but is the norm that must be established if we are to get off the slippery slope we are on.

the spider can inspire us to begin weaving our little webs, by teaching us how to take the terrain, formation, conditions, and functional requirements when designing its web. though complex its simplicity and functionality is admirable and i feel that John Paul Lederach had something going when he shared about learning from spiders. i am glad that the experience in Karbi Anglong has given reference points, evidences, facts, perspectives, trends and observations to understand the power of imagination and practice of vocation.

i feel that i have taken a few steps towards integrating practice and scholarship and it is a fun road to walk. the biggest gifts on this road is meeting with many inspiring people be it women farmers, village leaders, mission home staff, peace activists, human rights activists, musicians, journalists, social workers and others who bear gifts of inspiration, nourishment and signboards of hope and assurance that we are on the right road. i am greatly indebted to staff of Kroc institute for providing the intellectual arena for excercising the mind to read, reflect on data, information, theories, inconsistencies, models, engagements with non-like minded people who are situated in different strata of societies and the world. And without the experience of living in peace-house 1 & 2, all the changes that are unfolding in and through me would not have been possible in such time-frames. Thanks to all who have been part of my growth as a practitioner-scholar and supporting me in walking this road.

a spider however insignificant to the common eyes sure can inspire as people who observe them and learn from such an experience. thanks Lederach.

Friday, October 17, 2008

turning back from the Precipice

18 October 2008

Wisdom when buried by arrogance
Knowledge when controlled by power
Information when manipulated by greed
Experience when conditioned by hegemony
Transform earth into Hell.

Fishes will die out
Forests will be erased
Water will be imprisoned
Animals will have no home
And extinction will be daily news.

Starvation and dehydration as norms become
Land-alienation and displacement, billions shall endure
Mighty fortresses and island-homes
Shall float over the blood, sweat and tears of humanity.

When you begin to see this
Know that you are at the edge, at the precipice.
Leaping into the abyss to reach the fortress, or island-home
Is the road to Hell.

Turn back - embrace life, humanity and richness in diversity
Commit not, crimes against nature or humanity
And the generations to come shall not spit on your grave.

Turn back
Walk the right path.
Every step you walk comes with blessings
And you shall see God come running to embrace you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

a question for our times

15 October 2008

The global financial crisis caused by banks in the free-market capital of the world (US) through excessive debts, leveraged speculation, toxic financial instruments, credit default swaps and 'casino-capitalism' which the "banksters" engaged in - is of much bigger scale and is likely to last longer than economic-crises the world has seen before. Trust got eroded, banks stopped lending money to each other causing panic, and no one really knows the magnitude of the problem and even if they knew are unwilling to disclose the true extent of damage or causes of implosions and explosions that are unfolding everyday. One thing is certain - that it runs in trillions of dollars and there is widespread disagreements over how the crisis can be managed or overcome.

The meltdown of financial system caused by adopting "one-model-fits-all" single paradigm economic hegemony taught primarily in US business schools for several decades is now under the scanner in several "developed" and "developing nations". It is in our interest to know what is happening when some financial leaders of the world discuss about "stability of system as a whole" or taking "coordinated action within a common framework".

On 11 October 2008, finance ministers from G7 countries met, deliberated and took decisions on dealing with the global financial crisis that is unfolding.

While there was a consensus on the severity of the problem, there were rifts and differences of opinion on 'coordinated action' between major economic powers. The US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called for coordinated action within a common framework. His appeal was, "We must continue to closely coordinate our actions and work within a common framework so that the action of one country does not come at the expense of others or the stability of the system as a whole."

The French Economy Minster seems to have served the first diplomatic volley of disagreement on 'coordinated action based on common framework' by stating, "We should not imagine that we will have a harmonized response that will be the same for everyone, quite simply because you cannot apply the same method to market situations that are different." The French position reveals their aversion to a 'common framework model' and insisted on reaching "agreement on common principles."

The German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck also voiced similar disagreement to the "common framework model' by stating, "We will have to coordinate internationally, but beyond that there should be room for nation-specific solutions."

The US position was supported by Britain and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, said governments needed to "move on from simply agreeing on a general approach". Britain also pledged 50 billion pounds to recapitalize its banks and offered guarantee of 250 billion pounds interbank lending to get credit flowing again.

However the German Finance Minister clearly stated that "What Great Britain has been doing is one approach, but that does not mean that it should be transferred to any other country."

While the G7 nations diplomatically negotiate agreements on how to deal with the crisis, the less economically powerful nations need to be asking some serious questions. A question that many nations need to be asking now is, "Can the mantra of deregulation, liberalization and privatization be questioned, critiqued and deliberated upon in our respective parliaments and other public forums, now that we have enough evidence that excessive deregulation can and has caused a disaster of this magnitude?"

Perhaps it is time to question the fundamentals the economic fundamentalists have been propagating and preaching.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

adoration - climbing the mystic tree

12 October 2008

Adoration - Climbing the Mystic Tree

Doubtless and bereft of distracting thoughts and emotions
Ascension that seeks the Creator begins
Snow-clad mountains welcome the seekers
Who have shed distracting passions
Infinite is God's Grace they realize
When they stood gazing at His eyes three
Drums and lutes, bells and gongs they hear
And smell the subtle scents that wild-flowers emanate
Nothing goes by unnoticed, yet they engage not
The horses are bridled and fed Ambrosia, that flows within
And the World of Creator blooms before them
In this world they see all - all relations past, present and future
All eight directions welcome them with treasures
Who hold thoughts of Creator in the flowing breath
Their blemishes removed - a new life begins
With love and meekness they perform the ritual of adoration
And dance, blessed by Grace - that is as bountiful as the monsoon rains

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

secrets an old man shared

2 October 2008

the knocking never ceased said the graffiti on the wall
it is you who made the choice, to not hear the call.

when you withdraw those tentacles
that fed you blood-stained pleasures and wealth,
when you begin seeing the pain and misery you have caused
and the innumerable riches and rights you have robbed
the thieves who run the city will offer more allurements
for you to remain a predator or a parasite
fear this moment, for it is when your soul is traded,
and God weeps.

there is but one flag-mast in this earthly body
which flag is unfurled from it, is your choice
when awareness unfolds, seize the moment
and God shall weave a rainbow flag with love and compassion
and while the weaving begins you are called again
to the "going-out-of-business" sale
many allurements and seductions are on display
your senses are titillated once more
"at never-before prices" they tell you
beware, the price you pay - could be your Soul.

weigh well the pros and cons, and having weighed waver not
your body has but one flag-mast
and God has now begun to stitch a robe as well for you
the world of Treasures is open
and the choicest of God's creations are all on display
the rewards for transforming your heart
and not trading the Soul - are many.
beware of not losing your Soul
for it is the Soul alone that can fasten God's flag
and secure the robe.
so don't sell it cheap, in the market of thieves.

(Painting by Che)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lao Tzu & Justice

26 September 2008

Lao Tzu was a true revolutionary. He was guided by the inner-light and wisdom. Once the emperor invited Lao Tzu to be his chief minister.

But he rejected that offer stating, "this will not work out, it will be hard for us to agree on any issues. You live by the principles and norms set by your ancestors, and i live guided by my conscience."

But the emperor was unable to accept Lao Tzu rejection and said that he was certain that it will not cause any complications to him. On the very first day of Lao Tzu accepting the responsibility of the chief minister a theft-case came to the court. The person accused accepted that he did rob from the wealthiest man in town. Lao pronounced his judgment on the case. He sentenced the thief to six months in prison, he also sentenced the wealthy merchant from who the thief stole, to six months in prison.

"What did i steal... I am the victim. Do I get punished!... Are you mad? Has it ever happened in history where the person whose property is stolen, getting punished?" the flustered merchant exclaimed.

Lao Tzu explained very patiently,"Truly speaking I should have given you a bigger sentence than the one I gave to the thief. Since i am very kind at heart, I did not do that. You have amassed the entire city's wealth, how did you accumulate so much? Did it all rain down from the sky? Who is responsible for so many people becoming poor and for changing some of them into thieves? It is you. What you have done is the bigger crime. What the thief has done does not appear to be much of a crime to me. The wealth that you have amassed is by making so many people poor so that you can accumulate more and more."

The wealthy merchant thought Lao Tzu was mad and he humbly pleaded for an audience with the emperor. Even the emperor when in crisis borrowed money from the merchant and so he met the emperor and explained what had happened at the court. He further cautioned the emperor,"If you allow Lao Tzu in the court to remain longer, you too may some day end up behind bars. Because, he might question how you have amassed so much wealth. If I am seen as a criminal, you may then be seen as a bigger criminal."

The emperor understood what Lao Tzu had implied earlier and he spoke to him. "I feel what you had said earlier about how we would be unable to come to the same conclusion on issues and facing great challenges in coming to agreement, to be true. Yes, it would be difficult for us both to reach an agreement on most issues. You are relieved from your responsibility of being my chief minister."

Lao Tzu continued to live guided by following his inner-light and wisdom. Much later in his life he traveled westward and legend has it that he journeyed through Himalayan mountain and then arrived at the land of Tamils and lived in Palani Hills, where he is known as Bogar. It is believed that he attained Samadhi there in a cave.

Picture taken from Wiki media commons.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

building peace - a voice from global south

23 September 2008

Recently i was co-facilitating a peace building workshop. it was a 8-day intensive process of figuring out 'what we can do with what we already know', than focusing too much on acquiring new knowledge. so we began with measuring how nations were doing according to the recent Human Development Report, and Amartya Sen's 'Entitlement' approach. We also had 1-day sessions on gender, local-governance and human rights and 2-days of using theater as a medium and process for empathy and emancipation.

Through these processes we got to know the plight of millions who suffer from hunger, mal-nutrition, dehydration, displacement, homelessness, ill-health, indignities, right's violations, abuses, humiliation and inability to exercise their freedoms. Close to 80% of Indians are earning less than 2 dollars a day. India ranks 128 among 177 countries. This despite the fact that there is another India that is "growing" and getting prosperous and richer. Yes, following the neo-liberal economic agenda India did manage to be among the largest economies in the world. India did manage to manufacture 54 billionaires and there is scope for hundreds more to emerge.

Large-scale transfers of resources from the poor to rich in the form of land, water, forests and minerals with state standing as guarantor/facilitator for such transfers and the state often indulging in asset-stripping and selling does make millions of Indians angry and outraged. And rightly some social commentators have called this process - neo-colonialism. And like most colonialism things cannot happen without complicity of some of our national and regional elite.

Instead of learning from experiences of countries which swallowed the neo-liberal pills, and the course correction they have taken since - India seems to have more head-strong economic bullies who would rather listen to kleptocrats, oligarchs, and economic hit-men thus forming an unholy alliance cemented with greed, power and arrogance. And all this is happening in such a pace that the civil society is struggling to both comprehend and deal with the Tsunami of "economic-reforms" unleashed.

A worrying trend is that of "special economic zones" a deceptive phrase for "special exploitation zones" which are being created with much glee, where violation of national laws and international declarations and agreements on right to life, livelihood, liberty as well as labor rights and entitlements can be diluted or done away with.

Though market and trading is not new to Indians, the new "market" and new form of international trade called "free-trade" which is another deceptive terminology for predatory economics which creates much inequality, impoverishment, displacement, injustice for the sake of increased profits and wealth accumulation/concentration is slowly becoming the norm. Markets need not be unfair or unjust, neither the trade whether national or international. Greed, exploitation and violations of rights can never be seen as a virtue. It is a vice to begin with and ends up being a crime, whether done by individuals, corporations or governments.

The greatest but "invisible" threat India now faces is the implosions happening in the state's structure which dis-empower the state in its ability to regulate, arbitrate, adjudicate, govern, manage and protect all its people and resources with justice, fairness and equality. And part of this invisible threat is the undermining of democracy. Efforts to strengthen democracy and participation at the local level through local self governance institutions namely the Panchayat Raj institutions have been undermined severely, mostly by the political parties and the bureaucrats, for the fear of losing power and control that they have consolidated over the years since independence, in active collusion with political and economic leaders.

To see poverty, hunger, dehydration and displacement of millions as caused by decisions that people have taken over several years, through violations of peoples right to life, livelihood, liberty and equality, was an eye-opener for some of us, who were trained or conditioned to focus more on the plight of the poor, hungry, thirsty and the homeless, than the causal factors.

I am now convinced more than ever that the path to peace is paved with rights, freedoms, equality, dignity and respect. And it is heart-warming to know that several peoples and institutions are working with awareness and commitment in co-creating a saner world.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

a story of the drum

6 september 2008

my journey in writing continues to be nourished and graced by connections with wise elders from different traditions. today i wanted to try writing a short story.

eagle and the drum

the eagle was flying high effortlessly. it had learned from its elders how to navigate the currents and how to use them to fly and glide with least effort. the eagle saw that people down below in the village were gathering to talk to all relations including the sky-beings. the village was like a giant ant-hill, thriving with activity. the eagle had a soft corner for the villagers, it had known them for a long time and had heard stories of them from its elders and ancestors. visions of the harvest festival that they had celebrated a few months back flashed in its mind.

"it is a time they try to connect with all relations including the sky-beings and creator," the voice of wise grandmother eagle thundered within. the eagle saw some young men and women, creating a fire to warm up the drum. its telescopic eyes zoomed in on the drum. it was the same drum they had been treasuring and using for several summers.

"the drum was not touched by all, it was considered sacred and only the very rooted and steadfast shall touch and play it," the grandmother eagle's voice echoed within. it saw a young man pick it up and warm it. his gentle hands lifted it and caressed it. the young man held it before him and asked permission from the drum for him to play it for the evening. the eagle sharpened its focus to listen to what was being whispered.

the eagle heard the drum speak,"i hear you and hold your request for permission to play me. it is my duty to ask why i was created and who created me."

the young man held the drum closer to the fire, his dark eyes focused on the drum, he could feel the gentle warmth of the fire nourishing the drum and feeding its energy so the drum can do well what it was created for. and as he rubbed the skin gently he could feel the warm fire was feeding him too. the young man spoke, "brother-drum, it is a honor to hold you in my hands once again and listen to you speak. i have swam many seasons in preparation for this. i will share what was shared with me by my elders. the drum is a gift from the earth-mother to humans so they may have her heartbeat to accompany when they sing from their hearts. the drum teaches harmony and it carries our thoughts, voices, joys, sorrows and our prayers."

the drum spoke, "you have spoken wisely and you may play me for the evening. your hands are pure and you now walk the earth more gently. my grandfather drums have shared many stories of the wise amongst you and how well they taught people harmony. i shall carry to all relations and the creator what you sing and speak. they shall remember it and pass it on to several generations to come."

the eagle now saw the young man bow to the fire, seek its blessings and began playing the drum. the sound of the drum carried far and wide. the eagle saw all beings pause to listen. the word spread around fast. it was peace and harmony time. the earth was filled with a new energy and the pleased earth-mother once again blessed the young man with the powers he needed to play the drum well.

as the young man continued to drum, the eagle circled high above him. the sounds of the drum soothed its heart. all beings were joyous by the celebration of harmony, every being was dancing with joy. the eagle then flew low and blessed the young man with the ability to see far and listen well, so his songs may connect with all creation and the creator.

and as it flew, the eagle heard her grandfather's voice, "these humans do get it sometimes, thank the creator for moments such as this, and pray that there may be more such times."

this story is inspired by another story which i found in this site:

the bald eagle picture is from the following site:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

teacher's day thoughts

5 september 2008

thoughts run like rivers, and somewhere along they transform and become clouds in the mind. and when the conditions are ripe, they gather together and enrich the being with their lightening, thunders and showers. the process of learning is continuous as is the process of water from earth transforming into clouds, which also keep transforming and finally descend as rain.

sometimes these clouds can cause confusion and lack of clarity or it may even block listening to our inner voice. but with discipline, training, practice and grace the mind can be tamed or liberated. it is also possible to be fettered and conditioned by the clouds that have gathered within.

it is good to be aware that mind is different from the thoughts it possesses or processes. mind is capable of developing through intellectual stimulation or intuitive absorption and flow of wisdom or knowledge. the body, mind and soul when integrated enable the human to be part of the flow, the exchange. when they are not integrated well, we develop adjustment problems of coexisting with other beings, and if we are seriously conditioned turn into predators and parasites that feeds on lives of others, even to the point of erasing others out of existence about whom we got conditioned to care less about.

the mind can be nourished by many different resources. poetry with brevity is one of the stimulating nourishment that the mind can receive. here are two poetic works on learning from the Tamil culture, each offering insights that have the capacity to transform the serious listeners.

Thiruvalluvar an ancient Tamil sage/poet describes the ethics of learning thus:

karka kasadara karpavai katrapin nirka atharku thaga

Learn perfectly all that you learn, and thereafter keep your conduct worthy of that learning.

another sage/poet Auvaiyar, one of the most popular and highly respected woman elder of Tamil society had this to share on learning:

kattrathu kaiman alavu kallathathu ulagalavu

what you have learnt is a mere handful, what you haven't is like the world in its size.

Monday, September 1, 2008

7 parts of the self - part 2

reality is the interval between two thoughts.
- jiddu krishnamurthi

conditioned part

in the previous exercise we dealt with the 'threatened part'. in this exercise we shall deal with the 'conditioned part'.

understanding the ways of mind is a journey into true awareness and understanding. it is done through a process of being mindful or observant. it is not an intellectual exercise or sophistry of thought. observation is the key activity. but the moment one begins to walk on this path, defenses come up. to cope with fear or to find security the mind puts up defenses. imitating what gives some sense of security to others that one perceives as living secure, is one prominent defensive mechanism. another prominent method of feeling a sense of security and overcome fear is to submit to authority, not through coercion, but because one is persuaded and conditioned to believe such a submission is the only option.

though it requires suspending reasoning, judgment, evaluation, accepting half-truths and sometimes even lies - conditioning is a major part of our lives. when we understand how the conditioned mind responds to situations, how it functions - then one begins to unravel the path to experiencing freedom. since mind is a play-field of memories of histories, stories, myths, legends, experiences, meaning-making, association, culture, tradition, socialization, learning and unlearning - it needs to be observed with great attention.

step 1: relax. breathe consciously. be aware of your surrounding, then focus on your breathing and travel within. focus on being in the field of mind, you are merely observing and taking note. observe what thoughts occupy your mind now.

step 2: scan for images, visions of episodes where you responded to a situation of threat, fearfulness by submitting to authority and accepting whatever they felt is the appropriate response, and regretting later for the authority figure committed excesses or had committed grave atrocities.

step 3: did you hear your own inner voice, however feeble or uncertain it was, that spoke through the cloak of conditioning and appealed to your heart and reason? what is that voice? is that conscience? is that our reasoning self? is it a reflection of inner conflict that happens when we try to put a particular episode into a compartment, but it does not seem to fit in there. we may try to use all the powers of reason to justify why it needs to be classified in a certain way, but deep down an awakened part of us tell us the truth, that it is our coping mechanism and not a choice made in freedom and fairness.

step 4: now can we move from just one such episode and scan our memory for such patterns where our responses to situations are coming more from the conditioned part of our self, than the free and fair part. can we track like a hunter in pursuit of the prey, the footprints of episodes that made us aware of such patterns in our responses? what do these episodes teach to us about ourselves? what are we conditioned by?

step 5: can we now focus on what are the things that we initially learned to be true, but later began to question? what are some things that we un-learned, because our experience was different from the conditioning material?

step 6: who are the prominent authority figures in your life, in your life in society, the world? have you seen them use mechanisms for conditioning peoples mind when faced with a complex situation? who are some figures whom you once admired but later on came to know about the more negative side which caused you to reassess how you see and place them?

step 7: is there a part of you which indulged in perpetuating myths and stories about events and episodes for the benefit of feeling secure or overcoming fear, failure or defeat? can we remember times in which we used this process of conditioning others to our advantage? is there a part that broke through clouds of defensiveness, that dissented within and caught your attention? what was that part trying to say?

step 8: can we now share and listen to each other what we have tracked through scanning our memories of own life experiences? is conditioning a phenomenon that can be clearly talked about? is conditioning widespread? are we conditioned to view certain issues in certain ways? who is behind and benefiting from such conditioned responses from us? who is winning, who is losing out if the conditioned responses are sustained? what does that do to us? do we become accomplices in manufacturing opinions and consent? what do we stand to lose in the long term?

step 9: what has the reflection, sharing and listening taught us about conditioned self? how big a part does the conditioned self play in our functioning and responses? how does becoming aware of our conditioned self help us in dialog and reconciliation efforts? can we assume that some of the responses, reactions and functioning of the other is based on their conditioning? is it possible in the dialog process to put aside one's conditioning and have genuine interaction and exchanges? how can we create and facilitate such spaces? what impact does this kind of awareness have on how we relate with others?

Friday, August 29, 2008

chinese wisdom - tamil words

29 august 2008

lao tzu is much respected by many tamils, not just because he is a chinese sage and a radical one at that, and that his works have been translated in tamil too - but because he may have visited tamil nadu in ancient times and had lived with us, and shared his wisdom. some claim that lao tzu and siddhar bogar are the same historical figures, some say they were contemporaries, while some others are satisfied that we were nourished by lao tzu's wisdom too. whatever the story is tamils do have some keys that help unravel and learn from lao tzu.

following is my translation from a tamil work on lao tzu. i chose the tamil version for gaining intent and insights of the master, that are better captured than many english translations.

one who is constantly mindful
merges and integrates
it is hard to chip away at him.
rooted in life's essence
he could become a child
to bring to life tenderness.

to do this
he performs many austerities, constantly cleansing
transforming through discipline and deep intuition
he frees himself from pollution.

one who loves people when governing a nation
will not use coercion.

he will act as a mother bird
closing and opening heaven's doors.

illuminous and white
penetrating all four directions
he shall dwell without much ado.
he initiates
but does not take credit.
he functions
but not for himself.
excels in governance
but does not rule.
this is called deep well-being.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

eagles nest

27 august 2008

che, passed away yesterday. he was readmitted to the hospital after a partial paralysis attack. knowing che, i would say he has transcended and would be walking the paths souls walk after leaving their nest.

a poem for che

the nest that once held u is empty now
your spark has left its one time home

you faced the imminent with grace
you lived life with courage and colors
your feet had touched many a sacred site
your body had embraced many loving souls

now your soul has left the nest you built these past few years
in it you had space for all that life is
you expressed how much you wanted to live
i hope your zeal for Life keeps you amongst us
till the unknown becomes more your home

be well on this new journey
dear che


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

dialogue and diversity - an indigenous perspective

27 august 2008

che often asked me to share more on diversity, and how to communicate to others about valuing it. we lived in a land where histories and policy decisions make life hard for millions of people. in such a world where one is taught to remain ignorant, fear, despise, hate or repress - che always was intent on nurturing diversity. mono-culture is too dull and insult to our vast intelligence and experience, he shared.

i offer some of our 'running-ideas' about diversity. che and i constantly allowed some ideas to run in our mind as part of our spiritual exercise, hence they are part of the field, they are running and one could gallop along them or on them as long as our energy or mind allows us. then when it gets crystallized it could be put on paper or canvas as something emerging out of a quest for understanding. what we discovered was that it does not just result in one piece of writing on a topic, but the knowledge produced comes to be lived for a period of time and when one is mindful of such moments and learnings and experiences such moments offer, one can get ahead of the game.

on diversity and dialogue - an indigenous perspective

diversity is a virtue.

in the natural world, of which we are part of, diversity is self-evident and necessary for a sense of completeness. appreciating, valuing, celebrating, nurturing diversity helps us walk in the path that leads us into a world that is more in balance, rich, peaceful and healthy. however human experience has shown us that it is not a state that we are blessed to experience for long, though there may be several 'big-moments' of sense of balance, harmony, respect, peace and healthy relations that we can experience. and as we do this big dance of life, everything around us changes too, due to human intervention. so we live sometimes in harmony with life around us.

arriving at these 'big-moments' is not an easy path to follow and requires the willingness to come to agreements on some general principles and plans while having room for infinite variations in operationalization of agreements and plans. in this path one is expected to be respectful of peoples, cultures, traditions and norms. this process gets enriched by inter-change of ideas, and nourishment received from such exchanges. the process of explaining the essence of one's beliefs, values, morals, norms by which one lives to another person or group of people is a process of exchange and transformation.

an important part of the above described process is self-definition. self-definition is evolving too, through constant absorption, clarity, information, analysis, political-life, changes in economic conditions, manipulation, beliefs and limits one puts on oneself. so a person in dialogue interacts at many different levels aided by introspection into one's own essence. when peoples or communities enter into dialog the continuous contact, engagement and development of relationship works on smoothening the rough edges and we become like stones that have traveled in rivers - smoother and edgeless. because of the smoothness we are able to see more of the world, interact with more people and because we do not have many sharp edges we hurt each other less in our interactions.

to become smooth we need to take the journey in the river and be willing to allow ourselves to be transformed. this journey is not always pleasant and wonder-filled and will have its share of trashing, falling, colliding, being stuck, submerging, and engaging with all that comes in one's way. yet, that is what it takes to transform a rock. moving from providing solid foundation to seeking new experiences with the Other, so transformation can happen amongst all - is the rewards of such an adventure.

in this journey every thought, attitude, behavior and action is observed by the higher-self that is part of our inner being, that pure and illuminating part of our selves. when one develops the art of observing oneself, being mindful - and all these are put to use to serve a bigger function, to feel part of the whole, and to feel the inter-connectedness. upon arriving at this place from where one can clearly see the connections, the distortions and destruction being caused - one chooses to apply wisdom in the interests of all and generations to come, and uses words that are sweet and respect filled. one is conversing not to put the other in place, it is a conversation about how we can co-exist and respectfully share the space.

when diversity is nurtured and allowed to be there are a million solutions for life and our well-being. and one begins to hear a call from the nature.

stop reading
come dwell in me
experience harmony
come walk in the wilderness, reclaim it
come swim in my rivers, reclaim it
every step you take, is a kiss to the beloved
she knows, your every intent
so be aware, but not afraid
it is her nature to let things be
but when you do walk light and in light
she is most generous and joyful
and opens us to her mysteries.

and such a call is often ignored. cause we struggle to have some of our needs met and have a little more to indulge in some pleasures. yet it is good to start to notice the ties and bonds that are part of ideas that have captured our futures, options and alternatives.

with what have we littered the path we walked to go where we are going?
what all are we sacrificing? for what?
what makes us to remain ignorant of virtues of diversity?

why a rhino for this topic you might wonder. che and i were both deeply disturbed to what is happening to the rhinoceros in karbi anglong and assam. poachers continue to hunt down these magnificient animals (for their clients) for their horns, believed to invigorate mens' libido and other medicinal properties. the one horned rhino is an endangered species. two-thirds of one-horned rhinos live in this region. the kaziranga national park is home to about 1850 of them. this picture was shot at the park in march 2008. che has done a painting on a young rhino, which stumbled into indian national media with its horn ripped off, struggling to get up, and bleeding.

it is not just the one-horned rhino that our rough edges hurt and maim.

it is time to smooth some rough edges, roll around a bit, make new friends and help diversity be.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


jupiter swims high
her luminous self sets in me snowfall of silence
i see her come near and whisper
"galilieo sighted a storm in me three centuries ago
and you can still see it today, and probably for a few hundred years more."

"what is constant, what changes and
what is constant because it is keeps changing?" she asked.

and she quickly added, "and before you start using that brain,
here is another for the back-burner
what has remained constant, what has changed in you and where you swim."

i turned towards her, as my mind worked,
my heart sought, my soul felt.

"being nourished by all relations continues, though many have been erased
out of existence and memory"
"the emptiness that only grace knows how to fill, remains constant"
"religion was then science
now it is a new religion," i share with some certainty

i have a secret to share she whispered.

"vacuum is but a theoretical construct, to help some models make sense
and i am not just talking about theoretical physics," she said smiling.
there is another vacuum being created, it is like a huge storm
it renders history impotent, like making seeds suicidal,
denying the right - to be and become."

"can you elaborate", i ask her.

breaking things down to its functional parts
and relegating inter-relatedness to obscurity is but a beginning
certainty, predictability, security, stability shall soon become guidelines
on how you all shall conduct your affairs
acts of genocides and war crimes shall continue, when required
though they may not be called that
the cost of life will not be the same
and more lives shall become cheap
for inter-relatedness is already broken
being oneself, doing ones own thing
with own resources shall come under attack
ways of life (what you call "culture") will be attacked
the movement for a global village will soon turn
into a movement for a "club for the globally privileged"
no institution shall remain sacred, no structure permanent
for the flood of greed shall sweep away
all that is an impediment for accumulation
anything that serves greed is right
anything that struggles to meet needs will be condemned and blamed
and the biggest crime of it all
you shall be defined by club rules
yes the right to self-definition shall soon come under attack

yet beyond all this there is hope
for i have seen many such cycles in my celestial journey
and connected with many who seek -
a life that is not always orchestrated
a life that is harmony filled nevertheless
because all beings feel connected
and celebrate that enlightenment with joy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

auvaiyar - a tamil woman/poet/sage

i enjoyed shooting this picture on the outskirts of dimapur in 2007. i am not sure if it was movies or calenders that made me associate this scene with grace. and today as i sat reading ancient people who were blessed with grace, i studied Auvaiyar.

Auvaiyar is a legendary Tamil women poet/sage who lived during 300-100 B.C.E. her economy of words to communicate profound wisdom is unparalleled. she directed some of her key works at children hoping to instill in them universal values that help in creating a just, peaceful and harmonious life.

aram seyia virumbu - enjoy giving alms
aaruvathu sinam -
bring down anger
iyalvathu karavael - never stop learning
evathu vilakael -don't prevent charity
udaiyathu vilambael - avoid injurious words
ookamathu kaividael - don't give up persevering
en ezhuthu eghalel - don't despise learning
aerpathu eghalel - accepting alms is despicable
iyamittu un - eat after donating
oppura ozhugu - act virtuously
othuvathu ozhiyael - don't give up prayers

auvaiyar had by the practice of meditation, yoga and receiving grace had found answer to the big question, who am I?

"given me miraculous powers
by your sweet grace, and mukti too;
revealed myself to me,
stilled my mind in tranquil calm.

by His grace beatific; He makes me know my Self.
that art non-dual, eternal, real, pure existence,
pure consciousness and everlasting bliss."

(translation is that of Prof. C. R. Krishnamurthi, in Auvaiyar in Tamil Literature through the Ages)

auvaiyar had one observation to make on divisions within humanity. and it may be safe to assume that problems related to caste was prevalent in her times too. the wisdom she shared was:

saadhi erandozhia verillai needhi vazhuva nerimuraiyin maethinil ittar periyor, itathar izhikulathor pattangilulapadi

there are only two castes
higher castes are ones who are compassionate and giving
lower castes are ones who are not compassionate and giving
that is all there is to say from the realm of unerring ethical living

conflict transformation - studying gandhi, periyar, ambedkar

21 august, hyderabad, 2008

conflict transformation initiatives has a wide spectrum of initiatives and actions. one area of activity involves working in group settings and facilitating a process of learning, unlearning and relearning concepts, tools, cases, and skills.

it would be safe to assume the term 'conflict transformation' is understood differently by different peoples and institutions, just as the concept 'democracy' is understood and practised differently in different settings. within the field of conflict transformation this challenge of having different 'common understandings' of a concept is welcomed and embraced instead of trying to 'manage' these differences first.

in settings where 'democracy' has been a driving force in liberation of people from colonial, imperial, oppressive, dictatorial, feudal, or despotic regimes - participation in struggle to fight for group rights is a historical given. the injustices people endured, how they got organized, actions that they engaged in, challenges they faced, and their eventual liberation from oppression and exploitation is often used as an example for thinking about "structural injustices" and how many non-violent and violent struggles were waged to assert peoples/nations right to swaraj or self-rule.

many important lessons emerged from India's struggle for independence from colonial rule and other anti-colonial struggles. chief among them is that some democratic nation-states behaved like despots abroad. for Mahatma Gandhi the main reason for this phenomenon is greed, arrogance and not practising love and compassion. another reason is the brokenness that happens to peoples, companies, governments who got "enlightened" and saw that they could deny others right to freedoms and rights that they value and will fight to defend. it was a moral degradation that could not be tolerated and Mahatma Gandhi worked a lot to let the river of morality and ethics cleanse politics and economics.

another struggle for independence from "religious bigotry" and "caste-based oppression and discrimination" was waged within the Indian subcontinent, while the movement for independence was on. E.V. Ramasamy and B. R. Ambedkar are two luminous figures among many others who were engaged in social, cultural and political transformation. the former fondly called Periyaar worked hard to change peoples mindsets and empowering them to break free from the chains of religion/caste based injustices that affected peoples social, cultural, economic, political rights and freedoms. Dr. Ambedkar a constitutional expert tried his best to ensure that the Indian constitution does not privilege those who wanted to sustain injustices and resulting privileges based on their understanding of religion, caste and social status. he also embraced Buddhism demonstrating his conviction that Hinduism that was practised and tolerated in his times and times before him - is incompatible with social equality and justice.

while many unjust practices have been suspended due to protest and reform, caste based injustices continue to this day in India, despite its illegality. privilege, once obtained is hard to give up and efforts will be made to justify, obfuscate and mislead, by people who feel entitled to privileges they have inherited, and by the hubris that sets in which makes it difficult to see different perspectives and realities.

the field of conflict transformation can gain strength by paying as much attention to the life and works of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy and Dr. Amdedkar as is paid to Mahatma Gandhi - for they are responsible in bringing about transformation at psychological, political, social, cultural and economic spheres not just at personal or community levels but at structural levels too. why this recommendation from a peace practitioner u may wonder. so let me share why.

structural level changes or systemic level changes are easy to imagine but difficult to comprehend in the absence of case studies. there is no blue-print for conflict transformation and i think there should not be one. people living in different settings, under different conditions need to determine what changes are required to experience greater justice, equality, freedom, respect of rights, dignity and peace. and people interested in conflict transformation work in the Indian subcontinent cannot afford to ignore the works of above mentioned socio-political leaders. studying their life and work will help the process of learning, unlearning and relearning concepts, ideas, approaches, strategies, and actions for positive changes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

7 parts of self - part 1

7 parts of self
(a peace-building tool)

threatened part

this exercise is for those involved or engaged in peace work and working in areas where diversity has become a challenge to deal/live with. following are the instructions for the 1st part of the self - the threatened part. it is best done with a skilled facilitator (in group learning processes) guiding through instruction and drawing attention.

step 1: relax, sit comfortably, be conscious of your breathing, value this turning-in period, observe your thoughts and what the mind is doing, be conscious of your breath, ask yourself this question.

"when was a time when i felt threatened and shaken by imminent danger or death?"

allow the mind to scan, recollect, remember an event or episode where your life was under threat.

then, when you are able to remember, please ask yourself

"how it felt to perceive threat to one's very existence? what was/is the support needed at such a time upon reflection?"

note down how your mind thought through about the danger or threat and the conclusion to which it came on what was the support needed.

step 2: share it with other members of the group and listen to everyone, including self.

step 3: reflect on - what have you learned from the individual reflection and group sharing about the kind of support needed at a time when one feels threatened by imminent danger or threat to life?

step 4: we could imagine about human interventions that would address the need to feel secure, protected and knowledge that the potential for threat has been dealt with, which implies some kind of action.

so what kind of actions will create conditions to feel secure, un-threatened and a sense of ordinary and normal life.

step 5: what are other kinds of threats we have experienced in our lives - threat to rights, land, freedoms, entitlements, language, culture, values... can we imagine or re-imagine how we perceived the threat and actions we engaged in or planned to overcome a undesired situation.

step 6: can we now bring to our collective consciousness histories of people vanquished for resisting, for desiring and living free. can we imagine groups that were erased out of our memories. can we imagine the millions who died in genocides and holocausts, invasions and enslavement.

step 7: can we now understand what that feeling is, to stand at the precipice of existence, when someone has the power to erase you out of existence, because you are different? can we now understand what one feels when one is pursued by a self-righteous and violent crowd that wants to mutilate and gut you?

you could write down any thoughts or feelings that arise now.

step 8: (this could be a group discussion on the following lines) now the final part is to come to some common understanding on how it is in everyone's interest to know, understand and accept the other. and that the other does have a part that feels threatened, is a reality that needs to be dealt with. in such conditions what can all parties do to reduce the threat levels felt and perceived? can we develop more humane responses for we do not want to be either the victims or the oppressors?

step 9: relax. let your mind wind down. be conscious of your breathing... thank each one for their sharing, for insights gained and learning you valued.