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SEEDS OF PEACE: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society

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SEEDS OF PEACE: A Buddhist Vision for Renewing Society

by Sulak Sivaraksa (Parallax Press; Berkeley, CA; 1992) with a Foreword by HH Dalai Lama and a Preface by Thich Nhat Hanh

This small book is a collection of speeches and essays spanning the past 25 years. In the 70's Sulak Sivaraksa became the central figure in founding a number of NGO's (non-governmental agencies) in Siam [he prefers this name rather than the hybrid Anglicized "Thailand" which was changed by a corrupt dictator in 1939] helping develop indigenous, sustainable and moral models for modernization. He is also the cofounder of INEB (International Network of Engaged Buddhists; "Buddhist Peace Fellowship" in Berkeley, CA is the US affiliate). He is among a handful of leaders worldwide working to revive the socially engaged aspects of Buddhism. He is also a lawyer, teacher, scholar, publisher, activist and author of more than 60 books and monographs. During the last three decades he has become a constant irritant for the Thai government. Like Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama, he is an exile from his homeland.

This small book (130 pages) shows explicitly how important our political awareness is to "mindfulness practice," the foundation for students and followers of the way of Buddhism. We cannot simply do meditation practice while ignoring the social system that surrounds us. In an excellent chapter, "The Religion of Consumerism," he does not mince words. "We are told that our desires will be satisfied by buying things, but, of course, consuming one thing just arouses us to want more.... Consumerism supports those who have the economic and political power by rewarding their hatred, aggression and anger.... We don't look at the tremendous cost to ourselves, to our environment, and to our souls."

He's also quite critical of the global corporate economy, or what he calls "Think-Big Strategy" (TBS). "[TBS] has encouraged Southeast Asian countries to seek massive funding for industrial enterprises that only benefit multinational corporations, leaving us at the mercy of international financial institutions... It has led us unquestionably to trust overseas experts as those best equipped to advise us- indigenous solutions are usually overlooked or scorned [editor's emphasis]." It would be wise to read this in connection with the current investment collapse in South Korea. With all the varying perspectives that one may read or listen to in the international media these days, not one analysis will go deep enough to question the validity of the "economic model" of development itself... Òindigenous solutions are usually overlooked or scorned" is a major understatement.

Contact with Western technology and colonialism triggered a massive upheaval in traditional community and village values in Siam. Sulak writes: "For the first time, people were encouraged to grow food not for their own consumption, but for shipment to national and world markets.... To extol the comforts of living with kitchen appliances and electric shavers in a country that still experiences hunger and malnutrition is immoral." Sulak also criticizes modern agricultural practices that are depleting natural resources for the benefit of a few privileged elites in Southeast Asia. He writes: "Can lifestyles that are unsustainable be moral? Asking this question forces us to look very seriously for alternatives, for the sake of our planet and for the sake of our souls."

When writing about the Buddhism's second precept (abstain from stealing), he states that we must also take responsibility for the theft implicit in our economic system. "To live a life of Right Livelihood and voluntary simplicity out of compassion for all beings and to renounce fame, profit and power as life goals are to set oneself against the structural violence of the oppressive status quo. But is it enough to live a life of voluntary simplicity without also working to overturn the structures that force so many people to live in involuntary poverty?"

Sulak adheres to EF Schumacher's principle of "small is beautiful" and frequently refers to his chapter, "Buddhist economics as if people mattered." Regarding advanced technology, he writes that it "belongs to a development path that pays no attention to the needs of the people... they create human unemployment. This is contrary to human and Buddhist values."

Bob Banner

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 January 2011 13:05 )

Permaculture Newsletter

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Making a Difference in San Luis Obispo County on the Central Coast of California

Permaculture Newsletter


Cal Poly Permaculture is dedicated to experiential "learn-by-doing" education in support of personal and bioregional wellness. Programs provide continuing education credits and are community-based, intergenerational collaborations with the Central Coast Permaculture Guild. They meet the needs of natural resource professionals, farmers, environmental and community activists, gardeners, students, and anyone seeking practical skills and understanding to enhance ecological health and diversity. We welcome and encourage your participation.

March 28: OPEN HOUSE CELEBRATION/Solar Music Festival begins noon at the Cal Poly Permaculture Center and Student CCOF Organic Farm. Free, participatory music, dance, fire circle, local food and culture

March 29: CALIFORNIA PERMA-CULTURE SYMPOSIUM All day Introduction to Permaculture with top permaculture educators from throughout the West. Opening session for 10-week series certificate program. (Sundays 9am-3pm through June 7: (described below)

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Certificate Program in Permaculture and Ecological Design

Permaculture is a practical design process modeled on balanced ecosystems. It is holistic in both ethic and function, enhancing air, water, food, biodiversity, and community health. Permaculture is rooted in stewardship and efficient use of local resource ecology rather than reliance and overconsumption of costly imported resources.

This 10-week series of experiential seminars meets Sundays from 9am-3pm at Cal Poly's Permaculture Center and Organic Farm. The series benefits all people interested in sustainable living practices, and includes practical training for gardeners, land managers, farmers, architects, planners, community service volunteers, environmental educators, and students.

If you're interested in clean air, water, healthy food and community, this course is for you.

Sessions include presentations, training, and "learn-by-doing" collaboration with permaculture designers, Cal Poly professors, landscape professionals, and community leaders dedicated to restorative ecological practices. An information packet with more detailed scheduling will be sent upon request.

Examples of topics covered: Soil building, water harvesting, solar technologies, patterns in nature, holistic management, ecological food systems, food forestry, straw bale construction, chicken "tractors", worm ranching, and community design. Also included are field trips to permaculture sites of interest.

Participants can register for single sessions, or the whole series which includes an accredited Certificate of Completion and 5 continuing education units (CEUs). We will assist in accommodations for out of town participants. Certification qualifies trainees for work-exchange privileges for the two-week residential Permaculture Design Course beginning Summer Solstice.

Instructor Bio's:

LARRY SANTOYO is one of this nation's premier Permaculture designers and teachers, and is a long-time colleague of Permaculture pioneer, Bill Mollison. Larry's unique insight and humor embodies Permaculture oral tradition at its finest. Check out his website at www.permaearth.org.

AKIVA WERBALOWSKY develops and manages the Ecological Agriculture Program at Cal Poly and has been growing food his whole life. With degrees from the University of Virginia and UCSB, Akiva has developed community-based ecological programs nationwide, and is dedicated to bioregional wellness and stewardship on the central coast.

JULIAN KAYNE is the site director for Cal Poly Compost, grows and markets organic food, and specializes in reforestation though farming. With a biology degree from UCSB, Julian is a designer for the Cal Poly Permaculture Center, possibly the finest certified-organic university Permaculture site in the nation. There will be many guest instructors.

10-week series Program Details: All who regester receive a packet of additional information. Space is limited and this course will be popular. Early registration is advised. Cost: $49/session / $349 for 10 session series (certificate is additional $40). Scholarship will be possible if sponsors come forward. Please consider sponsoring scholarships for those who could not otherwise participate. Families with children welcome (free under age 12) Plan to bring a lunch, beverage, sunscreen, garden attire, footware, and hat.

SYLLABUS and SESSION FORMAT: Topics are arranged for appropriateness to weather and site-specific conditions. Our senior instructor is Larry Santoyo. Program coordination is by Akiva Werbalowsky, assisted by Julian Kayne.

Invited guest intructors include: Simon Henderson, Doug Goslin, Cary Yamashiro, Lee Osbaldeston, Penny Livingston, Skip Schuckman, Scott Pittman, Sandy Messori, Bill Roley, Eric Werbalowsky, Justin Grunewald, Bill Mollison, Rob Kimmel, Paul Stamets, Karyn Kwid, Doug Williams, Polly Cooper, Bob Theis, Ken Haggard, Keith Johnson, Richard Smith, and many more. (This notice serves as an invitation to those experienced permaculturalists not yet contacted to come and share Sundays with us at Cal Poly. Please contact Akiva.)

PLEASE NOTE: You will be sent a free Course Catalog by calling Cal Poly Extended Education at (805)-756-2053.


June 21-July 4: Two Week Residential SUMMER SOLSTICE PERMACULTURE DESIGN COURSE featuring Larry Santoyo and senior instructors from throughout the West. The Design Course begins and ends with celebrations for Summer Solstice (June 20) and July 4. This is a great opportunity to live and learn Permaculture in a temporary village where all meals and services are developed with Permaculture practices in mind. m

AKIVA WERBALOWSKY develops and manages the Ecological Agriculture Program at Cal Poly and edits the "Permaculture News" for HopeDance.

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Not Vengeance, But Compassion

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The images on television have been heartbreaking. People on fire leaping to their deaths from a hundred stories up. People in panic and fear racing from the scene in clouds of dust and smoke. We knew that there must be thousands of human beings buried alive, but soon dead under a mountain of debris. We can only imagine the terror among the passengers of the hijacked planes as they contemplated the crash, the fire, the end. Those scenes horrified and sickened me.

Then our political leaders came on television, and I was horrified and sickened again. They spoke of retaliation, of vengeance, of punishment. We are at war, they said. And I thought: they have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from the history of the twentieth century, from a hundred years of retaliation, vengeance, war, a hundred years of terrorism and counter-terrorism, of violence met with violence in an unending cycle of stupidity.

We can all feel a terrible anger at whoever, in their insane idea that this would help their cause, killed thousands of innocent people. But what do we do with that anger? Do we react with panic, strike out violently and blindly just to show how tough we are? "We shall make no distinction," the President proclaimed, "between terrorists and countries that harbor terrorists." Will we now bomb Afghanistan, and inevitably kill innocent people, because it is in the nature of bombing to be indiscriminate, to "make no distinction," as Bush said. Will we then be committing terrorism in order to "send a message" to terrorists? We have done that before. It is the old way of thinking, the old way of acting. It has never worked. Reagan bombed Libya, and Bush made war on Iraq, and Clinton bombed Afghanistan and also a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan, to "send a message" to terrorists. And then comes this horror in New York and Washington. Isn't it clear by now that sending a message to terrorists through violence doesn't work, only leads to more terrorism?

Haven't we learned anything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Car bombs planted by Palestinians provoke air attacks and tanks by the Israeli government. That has been going on for years. It doesn't work. And innocent people die on both sides.

Yes, it is an old way of thinking, and we need to think about the resentment all over the world felt by people who have been the victims of American military action. In Vietnam, where we carried out terrorizing bombing attacks, using napalm and cluster bombs, on peasant villages; in Latin America, where we supported dictators and death squads in Chile and El Salvador and other countries. In Iraq, where a million people have died as a result of our economic sanctions. And, perhaps most important for understanding the current situation, in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, where a million and more Palestinians live under a cruel military occupation, while our government supplies Israel with high-tech weapons.

We need to imagine that the awful scenes of death and suffering we are now witnessing on our television screens have been going on in other parts of the world for a long time, and only now can we begin to know what people have gone through, often as a result of our policies. We need to understand how some of those people will go beyond quiet anger to acts of terrorism.

We need new ways of thinking. A $300 billion military budget has not given us security. Military bases all over the world, our warships on every ocean, have not given us security. Land mines, a "missile defense shield," will not give us security. We need to rethink our position in the world. We need to stop sending weapons to countries that oppress other people or their own people. We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children. War is terrorism, magnified a hundred times.

Our security can only come by using our national wealth, not for guns, planes, bombs, but for the health and welfare of our people -- for free medical care for everyone, education and housing, guaranteed decent wages and a clean environment for all. We can not be secure by limiting our liberties, as some of our political leaders are demanding, but only by expanding them.

We should take our example not from our military and political leaders shouting "retaliate" and "war" but from the doctors and nurses and medical students and firemen and policemen who have been saving lives in the midst of mayhem, whose first thoughts are not violence, but healing, not vengeance but compassion.

Howard Zinn is the author of A People's History of the United States. For more of his articles go to www.tompaine.com.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 January 2010 18:24 )
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