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May, 2005

Monday, May 30, 2005

Exclusive to The Highlights from Gloria Lee
Travellers & Magicians was shown at a local film festival recently, and I recommend it with much enthusiasm. You could enjoy this movie for the scenery alone, no matter how oblivious the lead character is to the beauty around him. While reviews abound on the internet, I have chosen an interview of Khyentse Norbu to feature his own insights into the making of the movie. The first movie made in and about Bhutan also lead me to research some fascinating facts about the country itself. -read the entire piece-

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Out to change the world - BURNING MAN AT 20:
Burners take creative approach to building sense of community

Think Burning Man, and you think of naked revelers, a sprawling impromptu tent city layered with dust, eye-popping art in the middle of the desert, and the torching of a four-story wooden man.

You're right. And wrong.

In 20 years, Burning Man has grown from one man's personal bonfire on a nude beach in San Francisco to a fiery bacchanal that attracts nearly 40,000 artists, intellectuals and nonconformists to Nevada every Labor Day week.

But these days, Burning Man is maturing into much more than an annual escape from the mind-numbing structure of daily life. The retreat has evolved into a multimillion-dollar business that spans the globe; a charitable foundation that gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars; and most important, a year-round counterculture movement with a spiritual quest to keep the Burning Man experience alive every day.
Cultural anthropologist Robert Kozinets of the University of Wisconsin-Madison says Burning Man fills a basic human spiritual need.

"Ancient religious ritual used to be full of vigorous, joyful celebrations where people would lose themselves and do wild things," he said. "Burning Man is a lot like that, but it's not simply a party. If people are schlepping their stuff to the desert and living in a harsh environment - there has to be something spiritual going on." -read entire article-

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Peruvians before Picasso (Kansas City art exhibit)

Ancient weavers created bold, abstract textiles


America's Modern artists had nothing on the ancient Peruvians.

The textiles Peruvian weavers created 1,500 years ago were filled with bold geometric shapes and vibrant colors. They could be kissing cousins of 20th-century abstract painting.

The exhibit “Ancient Peruvian Textiles: The Fifi White Collection,” now at the JCCC Gallery of Art, boldly makes the case.

“This is the first abstract art of the Americas,” said Vanessa Moraga, an independent writer and researcher who wrote the essay that accompanies the 31-work show. “People think (abstract art) is something white painters invented. It's not. It's actually deeply rooted in indigenous American culture.”

Ancient Peruvian society had no written language, so visual symbols found in the culture's textiles functioned as a nonverbal method of communication.

“These are textiles, but they function as texts,” Moraga said. “Most members of society knew how to interpret these designs and garments and the signs they alluded to and how they reflected the status of the people who were wearing them.” -read entire article-

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Ni Tanjung or Art Brut in a Bali corner

Jean Couteau, Contributor, Bali

A mentally ill person has created one of the most interesting -- and contemporary -- pieces of art in Bali, writes contributor Jean Couteau with the help of Swiss anthropologist-cum-museologist, Georges Breguet, who also provides the photographs.
( note: I have not been able to find the photographs! But there are websites on Art Brut. -J. Katz)

"You must absolutely go to Buda Keling and see the works made by this weird lady on the side of the road between Budha Keling and Tirta Gangga."

I had heard about this lady several times and the word was, in Denpasar art circles, that she was a "student" of "Bali's wandering painter" Made Budiana. I was somewhat skeptical. But the injunction was coming this time from a Swiss anthropologist-cum-museologist, Georges Breguet, with whom I had recently collaborated for an exhibition about Time in Bali held in Switzerland. He has the ear of European museums and this warranted my attention.

"You must absolutely see it," he insisted, "What she does is pure Art Brut", and we must collect information and try to preserve her work."

A few days later, we were in Buda Keling.

Passing the village proper, a few hundred meters on the road to Tirta Gangga were the art works I had come to see. Something unlike anything one makes in Bali, yet deeply rooted, in its own weird way, in Balinese culture: a mound of stones, on top of which lurked strange primitively sculpted or painted faces, with incense sticks stuck here and there. It would have warranted, in another environment, the name of "art installation".

But it was in fact "Balinese art and religion" at its most essential, when the two concepts are not separated. It represented an altar on top of which were seated gods and deified ancestors; and the incense sticks were the signs of a cult addressed to them.

Yet, there are no such primitive altars in Bali, where sophistication prevails. Ordinary Balinese, when praying or addressing offerings to gods and ancestors, always follow strict rituals. The iconography of their art works is tightly patterned, and the patterns thus created are transmitted from generation to generation with very little modification. Here, it was different. Outside the Balinese mainstream. There was no obvious cultural memory visible on the way this "monument" had been conceived -apart from the very "Balinese" need to worship the gods and ancestors dwelling on the holy mountain.

The answer to my wonderment came as a I heard a strange woman's singing, or wailing, approaching on the road. It sounded like kidung poetry, but it was nothing of the sort: it was just a jumble of words sung after the manner of the kidung. Then I saw her; old, yet astoundingly nimble. She was dancing, but it was not a dance in the classical Balinese way. It was when she talked, her sticks of incense in hand, that I understood: she is a mentally ill person.

And when I was told that she was the one who had created this fantastic "installation", I quickly understood the meaning of the whole thing: a mentally ill person had created one of the most interesting -- and contemporary -- pieces of art in Bali.

As we went around the village collecting information, Georges Breguet told me her story, or rather the pieces he managed to collect in previous visits.

Ni Tanjung -- such was the name of the creator of this installation, was born sometime in the late twenties or early thirties. During the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) she had a highly traumatic experience when she was taken away to work as forced labor by the occupation troops. Later, she married and had two children, but the younger one died in 1965, still a pupil at the local elementary school. She then did what some people do after experiencing severe psychological trauma; she flipped. She refused to recognize reality and withdrew into her own world. From that time on, her wild imagination took over.

Five or six years ago she began collecting stones from the nearby river bed, first making a small mound, then painting or carving faces on the stones she would put on top, thus creating her own mountain world of ancestral gods that she could worship, apart from the traditional village gods and separate from the local temple structure. Considered buduh (insane), or a victim of bebai, by the local people, Ni Tanjung is left alone. Passers-by, trucks, bicycles sometimes stop by her "installations", moved by the view of this woman singing alone, always carrying her incense sticks with a few flowers. Some give her some money, from which she makes a meager living.

A very simple living, indeed. As we walked around, we came to what was Ni Tanjung's place, a simple bamboo hut on the outskirts of Budakling, an isolated remnant of Bali's poorer days, where she lives alone with her caring husband, I Nyoman Kembang. A daughter, Ni Wayan Penpen, the only surviving child of the couple's four children, looks after them.

No one else seems to pay much attention to them. Among the artist's community, the only one to have given recognition to Ni Made Tanjung is the modern painter I Made Budiana, who gave her white paint with which she made some of her ancestors' haunting faces. It is obvious that Ni Tanjung's mound will continue growing as long as the old lady has in her enough force and spirit to sustain her worshipping "madness". It will then wane with time, as people pick up the stones, children play with them and animals rummage around. Unless of course something is done to salvage the site.

Ni Tanjung's "installation" is an example of a type of art that has not yet been granted recognition in the Indonesian art world. It is a perfect piece of "Art Brut'.

The term was coined by Jean Dubuffet, one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. This artist said that the art of "insane" people was to him the equivalent of what "art nhgre" (African Art) had been to Picasso.

He believed that the notion of art should not be the exclusive realm of those who called themselves artists. And he saw in the expression of "instinct, passions, marginality and even brutal force and delirium," a potentially rich field of artistic creativity. His own works were attempts at going "beyond" the subconscious; but his most important contribution to 20th century art was arguably his discovery and support of Art Brut, the art works of the world's "outsiders".

Art Brut, he says, consist of "works executed by those immune to artistic culture in which imitation has no role, in which their creators take all (subjects, materials, transposition, rhythm, style etc.) from their own individuality and not from the base of classical art or stylish trends." There ensues from this definition that the practitioners of Art Brut are all the mental and social "outsiders": patients of psychiatric hospitals, the original, the condemned etc.; all those in other words removed from social conditioning and who create works outside the constraints of the existing art world (education, marketing etc.).

Jean Dubuffet "discovered" Art Brut well before graffiti artists and social outcasts such as Basquiat were discovered by Warhol.

Beginning immediately after the Second World War, he collected art brut from psychiatric hospitals, crazies, criminals and other outsiders. By 1971, he had gathered a huge collection, which he offered to the city of Lausanne, in Switzerland, where it continues after Dubuffet's death to fascinate an ever larger public. The collection is continuously enlarged and now comprises more than 15,000 works from "outsider" artists from all over the world, and with all kinds of creative oddities. Now, other similar collections have also appeared in other European and American cities, a testimony to the variety of art in the world.

Ni Tanjung's peculiar testimony cannot be taken away and brought to any museum. The extraordinary worshipping altar of a suffering woman, it belongs where she made it: Buda Kling; and where stones can be made into god repositories: Bali. But it must be preserved.

Looking at my friend Georges Breguet taking pictures, I know that the fantastic Art Brut monument of Buda Kling will soon be part of some museum's memory. But what can be done to preserve it where it is? Or to help Ni Tanjung? And to "discover" all the other "outsider" artists hidden in the many towns and villages of this great archipelago?

As we walk away, I catch one last sight of Ni Tanjung. She is wafting with her hands the fumes from a stick of incense she has lit on top of her mound of stones. To her, only the gods have retained meaning.

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Doing Time, Doing Vipassana (film playing in San Francisco)

This short, newly rereleased 1997 film by Eilona Ariel and Ayelet Menahemi seems as much a recruitment-advocacy tool as a straightforward documentary, but there's no arguing with the value of its cause. In the mid-'90s a guard recommended that India's inspector general of prisons Kiran Bedi (who looks rather alarmingly like Joan Baez, and has since been appointed civilian police adviser to the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations) experimentally try out the titular meditation discipline at one of the nation's worst penal institutions. Long considered an inhumane hellhole of crime, drugs, violence, and abuse by residents and staff alike, the Tihar facility is crammed with more than 10,000 detainees – 90 percent of whom are merely awaiting trial, a wait that can last years thanks to the slug-slow Indian court system. Vipassana is a centuries-old practice that proves to have a remarkable impact on the first group of prisoners to take its demanding 10-day, vow-of-silence introductory course. Inmates are immediately calmer, less dogged by hostility, cravings, and desires for revenge; a bigger picture than the usual (very narrow, often self-destructive) issues of penitentiary life opens before them. It's quite a surprise to see them sobbing gratefully in the arms of their jailers after completing the program. Similar projects have since been implemented elsewhere in India, as well as abroad – even in the U.S., though, at this point, expecting our prison system to widely deploy something (a) truly rehabilitative and (b) rooted in non-Christian religious practice requires a considerable leap of faith. Doing Time, Doing Vipassana plays with Magdalena Sole's short A Zen Tale. (:52) Roxie, Smith Rafael. (Harvey)

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Sufi scholar Martin Lings dead at 96

New York Times News Service

Dr. Martin Lings, a widely acclaimed British scholar whose books on Islamic philosophy, mysticism and art reflected his own deep belief in Sufism, the esoteric, purely spiritual dimension of Islam, died on May 12 at his home in Westerham, Kent County, England. He was 96.

His publisher, Virginia Gray Henry, director of Fons Vitae Publishing, announced his death.

Lings' long career was studded with accomplishments, some quite novel -- like his 1996 book comparing his interpretation of Shakespeare's spiritual message to Sufism. His books on Islamic calligraphy were influential, as was his biography of an Algerian Sufi saint.

He was the keeper of Oriental manuscripts at the British Museum and British Library and the author of a well-received biography of Muhammad that was based on Arabic sources from the eighth and ninth centuries and, according to some reviewers, read like a novel.

The presidents of Pakistan and Egypt each gave Lings an award for the book, and The Islamic Quarterly called it ''an enthralling story that combines impeccable scholarship with a rare sense of the sacred worth of the subject.''

His own personal intellectual and spiritual journey reflected his friendship with the philosophers Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon, who saw modern history as a sorry record of decline, and man's salvation in traditional religion. Lings followed them in converting to Sufi Islam, about which he wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

He was considered by some, including initiates he instructed, to be a Sufi saint, and by many non-Muslims to be a provocative intellectual.

In the foreword to Ling's ''The Sacred Art of Shakespeare: To Take Upon Us the Mystery of Things,'' Prince Charles wrote, ''Ling's particular genius lies in his ability to convey, as perhaps no one else has ever done, the theatrical underpinnings of these texts, leaving readers with deep and lasting impressions not only of those masterpieces of dramatic artistry, but of the extraordinary man behind them as well.''

His later books addressed spiritual issues in broad terms, suggesting in one, ''The Eleventh Hour: The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy,'' first published in 1987, that the end of time was near.

Martin Lings was born on Jan. 24, 1909, in Lancashire. He was raised a Protestant, and later became an atheist, according to Zaman, a Turkish newspaper. He graduated from Magdalen College of Oxford University, studying English under C.S. Lewis, who became a close friend.

He taught in several European universities, then became a lecturer in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English at the University of Kaunas in Lithuania. In 1939, he went to Cairo to visit a close friend who shared his enthusiasm for the philosopher Guenon, who had moved from France to Egypt in 1930. The friend had become Guenon's assistant.

When the friend died in a horseback-riding accident, Lings took over his responsibilities. He quickly learned Arabic to communicate with Guenon's wife, an Egyptian. He converted to Islam and became Guenon's spiritual disciple, adopting the philosopher's view that all the great religions share the same eternal wisdom.

Lings taught English at the University of Cairo, lived near the base of the pyramids and each year produced a Shakespeare play.

After savage anti-British riots, preceding Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalist revolution, Lings returned to Britain in 1952. He earned a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies for his thesis on the Algerian Sufi, Ahmad al-Alawi. He published it in 1961 as a book, ''A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century.''

The Journal of Near Eastern Studies called it ''one of the most thorough and intimately engaging books on Sufism to be produced by a Western scholar.''

Lings studied the saint's life with Frithjof Schuon, the metaphysician who shared Guenon's dark pessimistic premonitions and had been Alawi's personal disciple. Lings became Schuon's disciple, learning Sufi methods as well as doctrine.

In 1955, he joined the British Museum as assistant keeper of oriental printed books and manuscripts, becoming keeper in 1970. In 1973, he performed the same function at the British Library. This work led to his publishing ''The Quranic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination,'' to coincide with the 1976 World of Islam Festival in London, with which he was closely involved.

Lings is survived by his wife, the former Leslie Smalley, whom he married in 1944.

Earlier this year he traveled to Egypt, Dubai, Pakistan and Malaysia, and only 10 days before his death, Lings addressed 3,000 people observing the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

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Bonsai trees to give spiritual solace at ashram
DH News Service, Mysore:
Spread over one acre of land, there are over 123 carefully shaped and miniaturised trees beautifully displayed along oriental gardens at the foothills of Chamundi.

Being a keen nature lover, Ganapathi Sacchidananda Swami of Sri Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore, has a special interest in developing spiritual gardens, with which he likes to enlighten people about the divinity of mother nature.

For the seer, Bonsai is not merely a leisure hobby as he feels that several medically valuable plants can be grown using the bonsai system and their therapeutic benefits utilised without destroying the plants.

With an exquisite collection of bonsai trees from all over the world, the much-awaited ‘Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden’ at the Datta Peetham premises is ready for inauguration.

Spread over one acre of land, there are over 123 carefully shaped and miniaturised trees beautifully displayed along oriental gardens and facilities set against the backdrop of a Chinese garden environment at the foothills of Chamundi.

The garden has some rare varieties of bonsai trees, Wrightia Religiosa, Ficus Microcarpa, Chinese Naple and many others. Some are over 150 years old. Most of the trees have been brought from different countries, including China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, West Indies and Canada. More than Rs 20 lakh has been spent on developing the garden.

The seer, who had invited the presspersons to the garden on Saturday, said protection of nature is the need of the hour. Trees are necessary for rains. Destroying trees means destroying mother nature. If a tree is cut to make way for roads or other concrete structures, two tree saplings should be planted to compensate the loss.

He said the bonsai garden has been named as ‘Kishkindha’ as there is a mention of a miniature forest in Ramayana. It is the Kishkindha Vana developed by Dadhimukha. Kishkindha was the name of a mountain.

“I have put in a lot of efforts in developing the garden. So many varieties of bonsai plants in one area is unique. It is one of the exquisite collections in the world,” he adds.

The bonsai garden will be inaugurated at 5 pm on May 23, on the occasion of the 63rd birthday of the seer, by Mr Lee Bock Guan, President, Singapore Buddhist Lodge and a bonsai enthusiast.

Mr V R Nathan, President, Hindu Endowment Board, Singapore will inaugurate the building complex in the garden. Co-operation Minister R V Deshpande and Industries Minister P G R Sindhia will be the chief guests.

Zodiac stones in Rashi Vana will also be opened on the same day at 5:15 pm. The garden will be open for public viewing from 8 am to 12 noon and 4 pm to 7 pm for a nominal entry fee.

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Why God Won’t Go Away

Brain Science and the Biology of Belief.

By Andrew Newberg M.D. & Eugene D’Aquili . M.D. Ph.D 1

“Why God Won’t Go Away”
is a book by Andrew Newberg, M.D., an assistant professor in Penn’s Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine. Newberg performed brain imaging on Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns while engaged in deep mediation and prayer, respectively. Although the book asks many questions, the book ultimately asks: “Could it be that the brain has evolved the ability to transcend material existence, and experience a higher plane of being that actually exists?” (emphasis added).

First, the book demonstrates how the various parts of the brain interact to form generic belief. To illustrate, it uses a very simple example of a hunter who believes that he has heard a leopard in the brush. Arguing that survival is more important than truth to the hunter (and his genes), Newberg demonstrates how belief is different from knowing. Humans have a strong tendency to form beliefs based upon experience and information, which is fundamental. Stated another way, the neuroscience of belief: “Uncertainty causes anxiety, and anxiety must be resolved.” And from the most mundane matters to the most important, humans are hardwired to form beliefs about reality.

The book reaches some interesting conclusions, many of which require some degree of interpretation. Most significantly, the results of studies support a hypothesis that our brains have evolved the ability to have “mystical” experiences. Mystical experience is defined as “nothing more or less than an uplifting sense of genuine spiritual union with something larger than the self.” However, the book does emphasize that some mystical experiences are more intense than others as Newberg demonstrates the neural pathways that are engaged in a cycle of brain activity, which deepens the experience each time around this neural loop. -read entire article-

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A working farm & a spiritual retreat
B&B in rural Harrison County offers agritourism and introspection

By Tara Tuckwiller
Staff writer

WYATT — There is something unusual about the organic garden plots at the Wyoda Farm bed and breakfast.

They have no fences.

In rural Harrison County, with co-proprietor Paula Ganser feeding the local deer all winter, you’d think that was asking for disaster.

But Paula has calmly dealt with the issue. “We have an agreement with” the deer, she says. “I just talk to them. I tell them, ‘Any extra fruit from the orchard, if it falls on the ground, it’s yours. We ask that you honor our garden.’ And they do.”

It must be working. Paula and co-proprietor Judy Roylance have abundant organically grown tomatoes, potatoes, beets, beans, herbs and more to supply area restaurants, such as Provence Market in Bridgeport and Mario’s in Mannington. They sell still more of their produce at the Fairmont farmers’ market, and yet they have plenty left over for healthful meals for guests at their bed and breakfast.

It all started three years ago, when Judy, an ornamental landscaper on Long Island, and her friend Paula, an herbalist from the Philadelphia area, decided city life was no longer for them.

“It was about one day after 9/11,” Paula recalls. “Judy called me and said, ‘You want to get out of here?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’

“We looked at 35 farms. This is the first one that felt like home.”

On a chilly, misty spring day, Judy and Paula invite their visitors in for herbal tea, gingersnaps and homemade chocolate chip bread. Paula, who has a degree in classical piano, sits down at her glossy black grand and plays a little. The music fills the cozy, paneled room.

The description of Wyoda Farm might sound like something out of a trendy resort town: Lush mountain views. Organic meals — vegetarian, if you like — on a true working farm. An 85-foot wildflower labyrinth, for those who like to reflect, and an annual series of spiritual retreats (information at from spring through fall.
-read entire article-

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A Spiritual Field Guide' must be tested in nature


I'll confess to not having read "A Spiritual Field Guide“ very closely. And certainly not in any particular order.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a review copy of it in the mail, and I promptly took it on a five-day canoeing trip down the Chippewa River (more on that in upcoming days). My plan was to read it in its proper context.

What is "A Spiritual Field Guide?“ Well, it's a meditative guide for people in the field or on the river, the woods, the side of a mountain or just about anyplace distant from our modern day anthills of concrete and glass, connected by pheromone trails of asphalt.

The book is largely steeped in Christian spirituality. Although it borrows from other standard issue prophets of the outdoors like Ed Abbey, Annie Dilliard and Aldo Leopold, it borrows more heavily from Christian philosophers.
The book isn't just meant to provide solace after a bad morning on the water, obviously. It's also meant to provide inspiration for seekers of truth and beauty, who wander into nature to find at work what they believe runs the universe – God, sheer chance, the laws of science (not all of it worshipped, some only appreciated in its own right).

Does it do those things? Ask me again after I take my annual hiking trip near Cadillac. And then again after another trip, so on and so forth. It's a field guide; its value is best rendered in the field. Based on the characters, though, it's hard to imagine that it would fail.

That's the most valuable service rendered by this book. Those of us who wander the forest paths, enjoy watching the stars on a clear night or sit in quiet meditation on a rock by the river, see or seek largely the same things. It's hard to put a finger on it, but "A Spiritual Field Guide“ collects the thoughts of like-thinking prophets and heroes, who find their inspiration in the same place. Its value isn't as a single narrative, but as a place to find their words when you need them.

A Spiritual Field Guide was written by Bernard Brady and Mark Neuzil, and is available through Brazos Press. -read entire review-

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Meditations (Spirituality): The Retreat Industry
From Martin LeFevre in California

A veritable retreat and spiritual guidance industry has sprung up in the last decade in the West. Apart from the ethical questions of turning spirituality into business (a practice as old as both), there is the question: To what degree are all these retreats and religious teachers actually helping people and transforming society?

Out of curiosity, as well as an urge to find like-minded people to question and awaken insight together, I’ve gone to a variety of day or weekend-long retreats over the last ten years. The only thing I’ve come away with is: 1. There is a lot of spiritual hunger out there; and 2. There are a lot of people willing to exploit it. (Not all people of course, but where there's a ‘market,’ there are manipulators.)

A possible exception that proves the rule is the Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery, located a few hours north of where I live, near the majestic volcanic peak of Mt. Shasta. Though I haven’t visited the Abbey, I did attend a special daylong retreat held in town with the abbot and a number of the monks.

They brought a trace of the abbey with them. With their simple brown robes and austere manner, and no doubt because of the innumerable hours spent in “Serene Reflection Meditation” (Soto Zen), the monks’ presence alone created an atmosphere of respect and quiet. (That raises another interesting question: What is the relationship between a monastery and the world?)

As I recall, we sat for about 45 minutes at a time, took shorter ‘walking meditations,’ and had two dialogues, which were really question and answer sessions, with the abbot. Naively perhaps, I asked: “How did nature evolve a mind that is so at odds with what you call our ‘Buddha nature?” Though I’ve gone into the question, my intent was to spark mutual inquiry. The abbot replied, “If you have insight into that question, you should be on this podium.” It would be great if no one needed to be, I thought.

Spiritual authority is a subtly destructive thing, and sophisticated spiritual teachers often go to great lengths to disavow it. The essential thing is not to rely on anyone inwardly. Of course, if one discovers something, one naturally wants to share the insight. But water flows wherever it goes.

I heard about a retreat center recently where people paid a lot of money to come for a week of silent sitting, talks by the teacher, and quiet dialogues. A terrific storm had blown through the week before, knocking down many trees. To clear away the debris, chain saws were employed incessantly in the vicinity, much to the chagrin of the retreatants. (My spell check wants to make that ‘retreat ants.’)

Upholding the principle of passivity to the point of absurdity, the staff did nothing, and the teacher found the situation funny, which it was if you weren’t part of it. Finally a few of the guests insisted that the staff make the chain saw crews cease and desist for at least a few hours during the day, thereby temporarily restoring treasured tranquility.

The story illustrates a major flaw in the spiritual movement—that of removing oneself from the world, taking the attitude that nothing matters but one’s individual ‘here and now.’ Believing that only our individual responses matter is the great peril of the contemplative life.

One often hears from retreatants some variation of the mantra: ‘I cannot do anything about the world’s woes; all I can do is watch my own reactions.’ That risks viewing the economic and political injustices of this world as mere intrusions upon the placid settings of one’s personal and permanent retreat.

- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: [email protected] The author welcomes comments.

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'Emergent' Christians seek spirituality without nasty theological squabbling

Call it a post-everything faith, or Starbucks spirituality, or the salvation of Protestantism, but the hottest trend in American church life pitched its tent in Nashville last week.

It's called the Emerging Church, a restless spin-off of conservative evangelical Protestantism. They brought their national convention to town, several hundred people. The message was everywhere: Let's drop the battle axes, learn from other churches (even Catholics) and enjoy the adventure of discerning God's message in this strange world called the 21st century.

They were dressed for it — fiercely casual. Some presenters were clad in shorts and sandals. Some participants wore T-shirts declaring "Disciples Make Better Lovers."

Workshops carried intriguing titles such as "Neo-monasticism: Rhythmic Living for Postmodern Pilgrims and their Pagan Friends" and "The New Christianity: Post-Reformation, Post-Denominational, Post-Despair."

"Emergent" folks are Christians who are impatient with rigid megachurch formulas and noisy doctrinal in-fighting. They want to nurture a "vintage Christianity" that promotes the love of Christ for the emerging (non-churchgoing) generation. They're hammering out a theology that's friendly to ancient faith practices (contemplative prayer, labyrinths, hospitality) in a postmodern world of quantum physics, 24/7 media and coffee-house culture. -read entire article-

Sunday, May 22, 2005

From sensation to spirituality

Since her last solo exhibit in Tokyo three years ago, the Christian artist Ium says she thought about leaving the art world for good. She has seen the quality of works by many Christian artists decline after they converted, losing a certain artistic maturity.

If an artist couldn't penetrate the people's mind as a "spiritual communicator," Ium was ready to leave her past behind and look for other ways than making art to submit to her spiritual calling.

So she stopped everything she was doing and started a small group that met in her studio, made up mainly of Christian artists, called CCF, or Creative Christian Fellowship.
Things that happened in that group became sort of a legend among young Christians in Korea who were mostly filled with pessimism about the possibility of art reconciling with religion in a meaningful way.

"It's still one of the few territories in art that many artists haven't explored fully yet," says Ium, referring to her new series of works on spirituality. "It was very prophetic in that sense, which made me very vulnerable as to what I was creating. I wasn't sure if I could really do it."

Her new work on spirituality, which touches on aspects of contemporary art that many artists have failed to elaborate on in the past, has been received with curiosity in the local art scene, as it comes from the same artist who once described herself as "a living sculpture." -read more-

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Colour it HOLY

Artist Manu Parekh captures the sacred city of Banaras in his first book.

Divya Kaeley

On the one hand, there were the young newly-married couples at Dashaswamegh Ghat, offering flowers to the Ganga arti and on the other, just five minutes from there, there were dead bodies at the Manikarnika Ghat. They were two entirely different experiences, though equally colourful,’’ reminisces artist Manu Parekh, whose book Banaras: Painting the Sacred City (Penguin; Rs 3,000), is being released today.

Banaras, a collection of about 75 paintings, is Parekh’s first book. The place, says Parekh, is ‘‘an organic theatre, an exciting city and a great inspiration,’’ and it captures everything ‘‘from faith to fear.’’ ‘‘You see the juxtaposition of both life and death,’’ he adds.

Parekh’s deliberation on the Banaras landscape began in the ’80s when he started visiting the city frequently. In fact, it was in 1980 that he first exhibited paintings on Banaras at Delhi’s Dhoomimal Art Gallery. The actual compilation of paintings, done over all these years, started last year.

Parekh feels that the Indian landscape, through the diferent shades of the sky and water, reflects a variety of emotions. His book, therefore, is not a realistic representation but an expression. ‘‘Sometimes I use a partly representative language and sometimes an expression, but it is definitely not a realistic language,’’ he says.

Parekh wants the viewer to get a feel of the place through the paintings. He has also added a small note on his impressions of Banaras in the beginning of the book. ‘‘I have tried to bring out the fantastic and strange landscape of the city, the poetic architecture of the ghats and the tapestry of stone and mud,’’ he says. -see publisher's page-

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Chronicles, Volume One By Bob Dylan

By Jon Aristides
May 21, 2005

Well, we have all heard so much about the great man from other sources: there were even stories about journalists going through his garbage in the hope of getting a story. Now at last the man who has been called "the voice of a generation" (much to his own discomfiture), speaks out for himself. So how does the "voice of a generation" sound, now that the generation he spoke to, are ready to start taking thir pensions?

Dylan's prose voice is both more poetic and more mundane than one might have expected. It is difficult to call him "anti-intellectual" given his friendships with people like Archibald McLeish and Allen Ginsberg, but that is how he comes across much of the time. He openly admits that his grades at school were below average and the overall impression is of a man struggling to understand why so much hope and trust were invested in an "everyday Joe".

The truth is, however, that Bob Dylan is sometimes more than a little disingenuous in these pages. Did he really not see how his early work like "Times They Are-A-Changin'" had set him up as the spokesman for the protest movement? The truth would seem to be that Dylan never did much believe in anything--or, it could be possible to say he believed in everything--except himself and his own spiritual journey. In the early days, he used the protest movement as a ready made power pack to jump start his career. After he'd made his name, he wanted to move on and discard the people who had helped him---and was surprised to find that these same people believed he had betrayed them.

The voice in this volume is often similar to the image crunching voice of the songs: there is little analysis. We just have the Dylan perspective on everything from Marxism to Robert Johnson--and that is really quite a lot. This book definitively demonstrates that Dylan is not, nor never was, any great thinker. His skill is to wrap up common events and ordinary people's lives with dignity and a certain poetic majesty. Why should we ask for anything more?

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Boise temple produces genius one after another
Lalit K. Jha (

Boise (Idaho), May 19, 2005

A Hare Krishna temple in Boise, Idaho has suddenly started generating interest among the local community. Its home school has been producing genius one after other. At least three from here have graduated at just 17 and many more are in queue.

The latest being Ayush Goyal, son of an Indian hydrology technician, who on May 14, became the second-youngest student to graduate from the Boise State University.

A devotee of Lord Krishna and an active member of the International Centre for Krishna Consciousness, Ayush (17) who spent most of his time at Boise temple home school after being taken out of the elementary school when he was eight, earned Bachelor's Degree in electrical and computer engineering on Saturday.

He has been declared among top 10 scholars, besides being ranked one of the country's four top electrical engineering student for the year 2005 by the Eta Kappa Nu, which is the national honour society for electrical and computer engineering.

Being modest, both Ayush and his parents - father Sudhir Goyal, who works with Idaho Department of Water, and Shyama Goyal, house wife and has a Masters in Economics - attribute it to the home school of the Hare Krishna temple.

The temple priest, Arun Gupta, claimed" "Many others like Ayush were likely to achieve the similar feat." Prominent among them include Shatakshi, who at just 13 is taking BSU classes this year, and Ian Walls, an American who at 10 is good enough for eight and 10th Grade. Then there is a Jain family.

It all began in 1999, when Ravi Gupta, his son, was the first one to graduate at 17. This was followed by his brother Gopal Gupta in 2001 at the same age. Ravi went on to achieve his Ph.D from Oxford in theology and religion at just 22 years of age.

"Initially, it was thought these were genius and it is because of individual capabilities of Ravi and Gopal. But after Ayush, local people have begun recognizing role of our home school in a child's development," Gupta told

At any time there are 20 child in the home school, started by his wife Aruddha Gupta in 1989. "The studies revolve around Bhagwad Gita, which is nucleus of all knowledge," he said.

Even in this age, students of this home school, for whom day starts at 4-45 in the morning with Mangal Arti, do not watch television. "This is a taboo. This (television) leads to a lot of distraction," he said.

Arguing that all children are genius, Gupta said: "We provide a right kind of environment to these young kids. The results are there for all to see."

Agreed Sudhir Goyal, who came to Idaho way back in 1993. "Ayush could remember the entire Bhagwat Gita when he was just eight years. "It is then, we decided to take him out from elementary school and send him to the home school."

Recognizing the contribution of Hare Krishna temple in his life, Goyal said, Ayush has decided to devote his next year of his life for the cause of ISKCON.

"During this period he would be traveling to Belgium, Peru, Netherlands, Spain and India along with his spiritual guru (an American) and make presentations on the Bhagwad," he said.

Thereafter, Ayush plans to go to Oxford University to study connections between science and spirituality, he said.

Goyal claimed it is the teachings and principles of their faith -- mercifulness, self-control, honesty and abstinence from sex before marriage - gives them concentration powers that allowed students like Ayush to excel academically far beyond his years.

In fact, Ayush, who meditates early morning for 90 minutes, was personally singled out by Boise State University president, Robert Kustra. At the graduation ceremony, Kustra urged the university students and their parents to recognize Ayush's achievements.

To celebrate Ayush's accomplishments, the temple organized a yagna that was attended by a large number of people.

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Scientists mock New Age film as a lot of bleeping nonsense

IT IS one of the unlikeliest hits in cinematic history: a documentary exploring the weird world of quantum physics that confounded its subject matter to spend three months as one of America’s 25 highest grossing films.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?, which opens in Britain on Thursday, is poised to overtake Super Size Me as the most successful non-fiction film not made by Michael Moore. Fans of its New Age message linking science and spirituality include Madonna and Drew Barrymore.

It also has been ridiculed by physicists and psychiatrists, who say that it hijacks science to promote dubious and even dangerous misconceptions about the nature of the Universe. -read more-

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Cypriots took wine to the world
Fri May 20, 2005 2:12 AM BST

By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - The ancient Greeks took wine to the masses, the Romans to the world. But it was the innovation of Cypriots that showed them how, say archaeologists.

Italian experts claim to have unearthed evidence suggesting not only did Cyprus introduce clay drinking goblets and wine jars for transportation further afield, but it had at least a 1,500 year head start on any of its Mediterranean cousins on the art of making wine.

"It's an amazing discovery," says research head Maria Rosaria Belgiorno.

"The most ancient wine seems to have been found in a 5,000-5,500 BC vase in Ajjii Firuz Tepe in Iran ... but in the Mediterranean, the earliest examples of wine-making have been in Cyprus."

With a tradition steeped in history, the quality of the "honey flavoured" Cypriot wines was praised by the ancient Greek poet Homer, and, subject however to some scholarly debate, by King Solomon.

Historians say Commandaria, a sweet dessert wine introduced to Europe by the Crusaders, has been made on the island since at least 1,000 BC.

It is thought to be the world's oldest wine still in production. -read more-

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Of Black Heroes And The Spiritual Onyame

A 216-page book which takes a broader and deeper look at the traditional values and belief system of West African society has been launched in London.

The book, entitled “Black Heroes and the Spiritual Onyame, an insight into the Cosmological Worlds of Peoples of African Descent”, was launched by H.E Mr. Isaac Osei, Ghana High Commissioner to the UK.

It was written by Norman Barnett, a Jamaican, who has lived for many years in the UK and devoted his life to exploring ways in which black people can overcome their seemingly economic and cultural disadvantages in modern societies.

The book deals with the disconnection of the black people from the essence of their being and source of energy leading to a fundamental imbalance in the way black people view the world and how they perform in it.

It also delves into the lives of some black heroes whose deeds reflect consciously or subconsciously, their connection with the source of their spiritual power and the role they play in uplifting the collective and individual psyche of the black race in its quest for advancement. -read more-


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Stash of Pollock work found in New York
NEW YORK, New York

A trove of 32 previously unknown works by abstract art icon Jackson Pollock has been discovered by a family friend, who said on Friday he would like them to tour internationally and be studied by art historians.

Alex Matter, a filmmaker who knew Pollock from childhood, said the collection was among the possessions of his late parents, who were long associated with Pollock.

Matter said that about two years ago he stumbled upon the soot-covered artworks wrapped in brown paper since 1958. They had been first stored in a Manhattan boiler room and then, he said, for nearly three decades in a warehouse in East Hampton, Long Island, not far from where Pollock had his studio and was killed in car crash in 1956.

The works included 22 of the artist's drip paintings and two enamels on paper, he said.

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Blue posts BBC2’s new reality doc ‘The Monastery’

Full-service post-production facility blue has completed the postproduction for two promos for BBC2’s forthcoming reality TV show, 'The Monastery'.
Produced by Tiger Aspect and commissioned by the BBC's religion and ethics department, The Monastery is reality TV-style documentary aimed at understanding monastic life and the role of religion and belief. The show will see five young professionals taken out of their busy, modern, fast moving metropolitan environment and sent to live in a monastery.
The Monastery is also being billed as a personal spiritual journey and the two promos aim to convey the idea of a person making their own individual journey through life.
In the promo – a 30 second version and extended 40 second version – we see a lone man coming up an escalator in slow motion. In contrast, crowds of people are rushing at high speed in the opposite direction.
The footage was shot on 35mm film. In around six hours of online sessions, blue’s Tristan Wake enhanced the resulting sequences.
“The idea was to create a very monotone feel, primarily made up of shades of grey, rather than have something that was vibrant and colourful,” Wake explained.
blue’s Rich Martin carried out sound design for the promos where the idea was to convey the stresses of everyday life such as commuting on the tube.
“It was quite a stylised brief for the sound design; we wanted to represent the outside world through the sound track,” Martin said. “It was a really nice job and the voiceover was done by Terence Stamp, which is quite noteworthy.”
Telecine work for the promos was completed by blue’s George K using Spirit.
Jon Dennis, Director, BBC, said: "I'm delighted with the team from blue, as this was a really big job in respect to scale, effects and audio.
“Blue brought to the table an enthusiastic, dedicated and what was most important to me, very talented bunch of guys - and brought to life exactly what I wanted on the screen as a director."
The promos have aired on BBC2 since 1 May, in preparation for the programme’s air date of May 10.

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Kunitz works on poetry ahead of tribute

"You must find out as much as you can about whom you are, what you're doing and what it all means," Kunitz says during the interview. "To answer those questions, you've justified your being around."

NEW YORK - This summer marks the 100th birthday of Stanley Kunitz, former U.S. poet laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, teacher and translator. Celebrations are scheduled in New York and Provincetown, Mass., his longtime homes, with Galway Kinnell and Gerald Stern among the poets expected. But this is one centennial that will actually include the guest of honor.

A published poet for three-quarters of a century, Kunitz is slowed, but steady, noting proudly that "I still have a life" as he looks forward to completing new poems and to hearing what his peers say in tribute about him. -read more-

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Christian themes found in galaxy far, far away

When the new "Star Wars" film opens Thursday, there's a spiritual reason people will go.

They're intrigued by evil and the dark side, says Dick Staub, author of "Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters" ($16.95; Jossey-Bass).

"A lot of younger people especially have a strong understanding of the dark side," he says. "They find that when they try to pursue the right path they're irresistibly drawn to the dark side."
Staub explored why so many people connected with spiritual themes in "Star Wars" films. And he also wanted to connect the films to Christianity.

That's partly because "Star Wars" is usually associated with Eastern religion.

"The Force" is usually linked to ideas from the Chinese religion Taoism. In Taoism, the universe is constructed of energy which one must become in harmony with. Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi are spiritual mentors who are often compared to Hindu gurus and Buddhist monks.

But Staub -- who has a popular spiritual blog Web site -- wanted to connect "Star Wars" to Christian themes.

"There's the perception sometimes in America that if you want to go on a spiritual journey you have to somehow go to the East, but anyone who knows Christianity knows that just isn't true," he says. "Christianity has always had a mystical tradition." -read more-

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Film on Dalai Lama ready for US premiere

Kolkata, May 8: 'Impermanence', the documentary on the Dalai Lama by eminent filmmaker Gautam Ghose, is ready for its US premiere this month.

Still enamoured about his experience with the extraordinary man "because he is so different from most of us", Ghose recalled how the Dalai Lama always talked about his aversion to human follies like jealousy, greed and violence that can only lead to misery and advocated compassion for every fellow human being.

"As he wrapped a chadar each on me and the Italian producer of the film Sergio Scapagnini after the docu-feature's special screening in New Delhi, I felt enthralled by his touch, it was a magical feel," Ghose said.

The US premiere will be the third premiere of the film on the Buddhist spiritual head, after the international premiere held in Venice last September and the Indian premiere in New Delhi last month where a host of dignitaries including the Dalai Lama himself was present, Ghose said.

In the US, which comprises a major chunk of the international film market, the film would be first shown in North America and then screened on TV channels, Ghose, who had accompanied the Dalai Lama to several places during the making of the film from 1998 to 2004, said. (Agencies)

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Spiritual Activism Conference: Tikkun, an international, interfaith community, is hosting a spiritual activism conference in California.

Spiritual Activism Conference
Berkeley, Calif.
July 20 – 23

Tikkun, an international, interfaith community, will host a spiritual activism conference, July 20 – 23 in Berkeley, Calif. to create a network of progressive, spiritual activists.

The conference will include workshops on: science, technology and spirituality; the economy; nonviolence and anti-war activism; reproductive rights; sexuality; the environment; globalization; law and social change; and building a spiritual politics within civil rights, feminist, gay rights, labor and green movements.

The organizers want to create a network of progressive activists that will compel institutions to maximize love, peace and other virtues as they maximize money and power. Speakers will include Rabbi Michael Lerner and theologian John Cobb.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, of the Tikkun community, identifies two main goals for the conference, “This is a powerful strategy to stop the mis-appropriation of God and religion to support wars, environmental irresponsibility, dismantling of programs for the poor in favor of a preferential option for the rich, and assaults on liberals and secular people.”

The second goal of this conference “will be a rethinking of the relationship between science and religion/spirituality in the context of liberal/progressive culture with its deep religio-phobia,” he said.

Sponsors for this event include The Peace and Conflict Studies Program of the University of California, Berkley, the University Religious Council, the Tikkun Community, the Pacific School of Religion, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Peace e Bene Catholic Fellowship and Dragonfly Media.

For more information and registration e-mail Joe Fischel, the assistant to Rabbi Lerner at [email protected] or visit
Jennifer Cousins is an editorial intern at Science and Theology News

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School Offers New Degree in Spirituality
By Jennifer Siegel
May 13, 2005

Rabbi Yakov Travis has a message for spiritual seekers: Come down from that mountaintop, move to Cleveland and go back to school.

Travis, a professor at Cleveland's Laura and Alvin Siegal College of Judaic Studies, has created America's first nondenominational master's degree program in spirituality.

"This is about [the students'] own spiritual journey," said Travis, who was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem. "How do you study the history of Judaism, particularly the more spiritual bent of Judaism, without opening yourself up and working with the practices and the modes of being that the texts talk about?"

The centerpiece of the accredited two-year program is an intensive seminar that meets three mornings per week, based on the model of the beit midrash, or study hall, found at traditional yeshivot. The students also take conventional academic courses, including classes in rabbinic theology and Jewish education, and complete apprenticeships at Jewish schools and organizations throughout the city. Participants and teachers join together once a month for Sabbath celebrations that often feature impromptu jam sessions with guitar-playing students.

Travis drew on the hybrid nature of his own educational pedigree in conceiving the program, which is officially titled "Ruach: The Jewish Spirituality Master's Degree." With a doctorate in Jewish thought from Brandeis University and a decade of study at various Orthodox yeshivot in Jerusalem, he has sought to combine the communal, personal feel of the traditional beit midrash with the nondenominational openness and rigor of academia. Until now, he said, this pairing has only existed at the more liberal rabbinical schools, which excluded Jews who were not seeking ordination.

Six of the program's first students are set to graduate in just a few weeks. Several are planning for careers in Jewish education or communal life, including Jeremy Goldberg, who said the program transformed him from someone with little knowledge of Judaism to someone planning to pursue a rabbinical degree.

"The spiritual searching I've been doing for the past 10 years through Eastern religions, and African religions, and different kinds of California religions," fell away and "all of a sudden the world of Judaism got opened up and it's a beautiful, amazing, deep, poetic tradition," Goldberg said. "It's exciting to want to share that with other people. What I love to do is help other people to have the tools to really enjoy their Judaism, to infuse it with their own creativity, their own voice."

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Movie captures spirituality of a diverse human family

May 13, 2005


I'm a skeptical journalist, but I was swept away by their film, which is a refreshing assembly of the wise and sometimes funny comments about faith that they gathered over several years.

What's the film's message? Well, it takes 79 minutes on screen to answer that. To get a sense of the innovative nature of the project, though, baby boomers might recall the first time they watched "Easy Rider."

Please, don't get me wrong. Their new movie, "ONE," has nothing to do with motorcycles or marijuana. But watching "ONE," I thought back to that nave, shoestring project that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda cooked up in 1969 that proved to be a lightning rod for youthful aspirations.

Of course, Powers was only 12 that year and Carter was a toddler.

But the contemporary equivalent of heading out on the highway on a pair of choppers in the late 1960s is the 2-year road trip these guys made with a camera and a host of questions.

They turned out to be great documentarians. Whether interviewing a near-legendary spiritual sage like Keating, or a multiply pierced kid in dreadlocks on a street corner, Powers and Carter treat each person with respect.

That compassion for everyone they meet on the road, which grows on viewers until we begin to share their respect, is the film's greatest evidence that people are, indeed, part of a single, infinitely valuable human family. -read more-

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Thoreau as Porcupine & Orchid

On this day in 1862 Henry David Thoreau died at the age of forty-four, from bronchial and respiratory problems. Although the Walden Pond site is regarded as his true monument, he is buried with Emerson, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts on Authors' Ridge, in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Thoreau was an integral but prickly member of the Transcendentalist community in Massachusetts, as might be expected from the writer of "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." Even Emerson grew to dislike his friend's Waldenisms, if only for stylistic reasons: "Always a weary, captious paradox to fight you with," he wrote in his journal. In his journal, Thoreau shows how he could get just as tired of Emerson's smooth "palaver," his "repeating himself, shampooing himself, [as if] Christ himself." Thoreau was not without friends, but most seemed to side with Emerson. One said, "I love Henry, but I cannot like him; and as for taking his arm, I should as soon think of taking the arm of an elm-tree." Robert Louis Stevenson did not know Thoreau, but had read him, and had also read Emerson's funeral eulogy of him. Stevenson was as gregarious as Thoreau was private, and seemed to judge his unsociability as a good and natural thing: "It was not inappropriate, surely, that he had such close relations with the fish." -read more-

A. R. Ammons: 'Bosh and Flapdoodle' and 'Radiance': A Walker in the Suburbs

A lively new collection of memoirs and essays on Ammons and his work, ''Considering the Radiance,'' edited by David Burak and Roger Gilbert, suggests that what Ammons sought above all was the sheer joyousness of flow, going out and coming back. He famously compared a poem to a walk -- a figure of departure and return, the externalization of ''an inward seeking.'' He was a pilgrim in the suburbs, a solitary walker who especially loved the endless mutability and metamorphic power of nature, the malleability of things turning on themselves, which he took as his poetic model. As he puts it in ''Surface Effects'':

Nature, you know, is not a one-way street:
its most consistent figure is turning --

back, turning in, turning around: why?,
because it has nowhere to go but into itself: all its

motions are intermediate.
-read entire review-

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Foster home undergoes physical - and spiritual - renovation
By Mary Kate Dubuss / Daily News Staff
Sunday, May 1, 2005

NATICK -- When Bobbi Barr and her husband, David, began taking in foster children 35 years ago, they were concerned about providing a refuge for kids, not the facilities in their home that could help their handicapped charges.
"They are the homeless of the homeless," of the people she and David help, said Barr, pastor of the Community Church of Watertown.
Today, nearly 150 foster children have called the Barr's house home, and the Barrs have adopted four of them. With six children between the ages 9 and 21 -- almost all of whom have severe medical or emotional problems -- now in the house, Barr says she and her husband just don't have enough hours in the day to everything they want to for themselves or their children.
Yesterday, nearly 60 volunteers went to the Barr's Border Road home to make some improvements. Thanks to the work of Vicky Guest, the pastor of First Congregational Church of Natick, and the Worcester Area Mission Society, the Barrs now have a new handicapped bathroom, freshly painted walls throughout their home, many new doors and additional fencing around their side yard and deck.
"Today has been irreplaceable," said Barr yesterday. "It is more than just getting wallpaper, it is about finding a way.
"That is what synergy is all about."
For Yvonne Bleakney, a member of Pastor Guest's church, this project has been a long time coming. As part of the mission group at First Congregational Church, she has helped organized Habitat for Humanity trips to Virginia but had been hoping to do something within her community.
"I had been trying to do something locally for a while," she said.
When her pastor told her about this opportunity, she began fund-raising right away. The Barrs paid no money for any of yesterday's projects because Bleakney was able to use money from the mission group's budget. Other funding came from the Rev. Nancy Shantia Wright-Gray of the Worcester Area Mission Society.
In addition to the physical improvements to her property, Barr said the experience has renewed her spirit.
"We do different things, but we need each other. We used to be like this as a nation. As we move away from family, we forget the ties that bind. These people remind everybody."

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New Book Examines the Spiritual Journals of David Manners, Noted 1930s Film Actor

David Manners was much more than flickering images on the Silver Screen. In 1936, David walked away from the fame and riches of Hollywood to find his truth about the nature of God and the universe. David kept journals of his daily meditations about God and living in joy—as life is meant to be. The Wonder Within You presents excerpts from these journals and his newsletters.

( 5/3/05 -- The 75th anniversary of David Manners' start in Hollywood is in 2005. The world knew him for his roles in Dracula, The Mummy, Bill of Divorcement, The Black Cat, Last Flight, The Miracle Woman, and over 30 other films from 1930 to 1936.

But David was much more than flickering images on the Silver Screen. David walked away from the fame and riches of Hollywood to find his understanding of the nature of God and the universe.

In the Mojave Desert, at Yucca Loma ranch, he found peace from the Hollywood image machine. He wrote novels and studied religious and metaphysical writings from the East and West. Leaving behind his upbringing in the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, he combined elements of New Thought (Unity, Religious Science, and Christian Science) with Zen, Taoism, and Buddhism.

From 1978 to 1993, David kept journals of his daily meditations about God and living in joy—as life is meant to be. The Wonder Within You presents excerpts from these journals and his newsletters.

Edited and with a biographical introduction by David Morgan Jones, the wisdom of The Wonder Within You is ready to be discovered and experienced.

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Doctor to Dalai Lama & Mother Theresa Praises U.S. Author
Tuesday May 3, 10:19 am ET

ASHEVILLE, N.C., May 3 /PRNewswire/ -- In a recent interview, Dr. Pankaj Naram, one of the world's foremost authorities in Ayurvedic medicine and personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa, honored author/teacher Michael Mamas by saying:

"Michael Mamas is one of the few people in the world who cares more about others than he cares about himself. The extraordinary transformations I have witnessed in his students compel me to say he is the greatest spiritual teacher in America. I believe within a few years, the teachings of Dr. Mamas will spread joy, peace, and a deep experience of spirituality throughout the world. He will be recognized as one of the most inspiring, honest, and authentic spiritual teachers of this world, making our planet a safer, more peaceful, and heavenly place to live."

Michael Mamas has a diverse background. He was a physics/math honor's student, had a thriving veterinary medical practice, received an MBA, and spent a number of years living a monastic life in India and abroad. His most recent book, a novel entitled, "The Golden Frog," received the 2004 Chelson Award for Literature. Capistrano Films is working with him to create a movie adaptation of the book. Additionally, Michael Mamas has written several insightful non-fiction books, including "Angels, Einstein and You" and "How to Be Your Own Best Psychotherapist." He recently filmed a PBS-oriented lecture series in Los Angeles which included a talk on "Love, Longing and Relationships." He is founder, director, and head teacher of the Surya Program, offering classes on both coasts.

Michael Mamas' teachings are becoming recognized as the spirituality of the 21st century. Michael lectures throughout the country. For more information, go to or call 828-236-0654.

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Ecology, Ethics, and the Making of Things

A world-renowned architect argues that following the law of nature can make human industry safe and healthful.
by William McDonough

When architectural historian Vincent Scully gave a eulogy for the great architect Louis Kahn, he described a day when both were crossing Red Square, whereupon Scully excitedly turned to Kahn and said, "Isn’t it wonderful the way the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral reach up into the sky?" Kahn looked up and down thoughtfully for a moment and said, "Isn’t it beautiful the way they come down to the ground?"

If we understand that design leads to the manifestation of human intention, and if what we make with our hands is to be sacred and honor the earth that gives us life, then the things we make must not only rise from the ground but return to it, soil to soil, water to water, so everything that is received from the earth can be freely given back without causing harm to any living system. This is ecology. This is good design.

We can use certain fundamental laws inherent to the natural world as models and mentors for human designs. Ecology comes from the Greek roots oikos and logos, "household" and "logical discourse." Thus it is appropriate, if not imperative, for architects to discourse about the logic of our earth household. To do so, we must first look at our planet and the very processes by which it manifests life, because therein lie the logical principles with which we must work. And we must also consider economy in the true sense of the word. Using the Greek words oikos and nomos, we speak of natural law and how we measure and manage the relationships within this household, working with the principles our discourse has revealed to us.

There are three defining characteristics that we can learn from natural design. The first is that all materials given to us by nature are constantly returned to the earth without even the concept of waste as we understand it. Everything is cycled constantly with all waste equaling food for other living systems.

The second characteristic is that the one thing allowing nature to continually cycle itself through life is energy, and this energy comes from outside the system in the form of perpetual solar income. Not only does nature operate on "current income," it does not mine or extract energy from the past, it does not use its capital reserves, and it does not borrow from the future.

Finally, the characteristic that sustains this complex and efficient system of metabolism and creation is biodiversity. What prevents living systems from running down and veering into chaos is a miraculously intricate and symbiotic relationship between millions of organisms, no two of which are alike. -read more-

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Take an escape from responsibility with Kerouac’s classic roadtrip tale

posted: April 22, 2005

By Basil Hallberg

Book Review: On The Road, by Jack Kerouac

There is a reason why teenagers so highly anticipate receiving their driver’s licenses. There is a reason why we are taught that driving is a privilege and not a right. The advent of the automobile gave people the ability to escape and experience a freedom that only the open road can offer. The automobile gives city folk the ability to go on a drive and experience the nature that the city all but eliminates.

Using the car as an escape continues into the present day, and I often find myself doing this while traveling through the winding mountain roads that surround our gorgeous school. If you have never experienced the thrill of getting into a car with no planned destination, you have not yet fully understood and appreciated the freedoms that the open road can offer. America was founded by people who traveled across unfamiliar territory and settled into a place they couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of their voyage.

With the closing of the frontier, many Americans felt the ability to escape from the hectic system that had been shut off. The automobile became a standard household item and gave people the easy and necessary ability to escape from the monotonous structure of daily life.

Jack Kerouac’s novel, “On the Road,” beautifully describes an open-ended journey across America, while conveying a youthful desire for escape. This is a loosely autobiographical novel, and many of the characters are based on Kerouac’s real-life friends.

“On the Road” follows Kerouac’s adventure with Neal Cassidy. Cassidy’s alter-ego in the novel is Dean Moriarty, who is an impulsive and energizing character.

Kerouac explains how his adventures across the United States begin. “I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn…”

After two world wars, not a lot of optimism can be found for the future of society. However, Dean’s exuberant lifestyle as “a young jail-kid shrouded in mystery,” gives hope to a generation. Dean didn’t take notice of the society he raced about in as long as women and food were provided for him. He’s described as “a young Gene Autry - trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent — a side-burned hero of the snowy West.”

Dean’s excitement for life keeps him on the road. This turns out to be the perfect lifestyle for him because he was born on the road and “received the world in the raw.”

Dean and Sal, Jack Kerouac’s alter-ego, make coast to coast trips a few times as well as travel across Mexico and wind up in Mexico City. Each journey consists of drunken revelry and merrymaking that may put the older generation on edge, but appeals to the disenfranchised youths of the beat generation.

After reading “On the Road,” the desire to “just go along, and dig life” is pressing. Every college student should read Kerouac’s novel before they join the real world of responsibilities and deadlines. As we age, responsibilities pile up and the amount of freedom that we enjoy as college students decreases. For many of us, the four months of vacation time diminishes to two weeks and the ability to escape from societal structure is eliminated. Parents may not appreciate your antics or understand the experience, but don’t fret my cronies for I have attached a warning. Readers beware: “On the Road” will motivate you to drop your responsibilities for a spell and have the experience of a lifetime. You will have the desire to go without a destination and meet fantastic people.

As Kerouac describes the excitement of the road, “it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

India to serve tourists with spirituality

New Delhi, April. 29 (PTI): A dip in the holy waters of the Ganges, a prayer at the Golden temple or a visit to the Ajmer Sharif; spiritual tourism in India has been synonymous with religious tourism till now. But the Government now looks beyond and promote the spiritual richness of the country through intangible elements like Yoga and Vedic chants.

"The concept of spiritual tourism has been used in a very narrow sense. People think that it is all about visiting temples and other holy sites. We are looking at it from a wider perspective now", says Union Tourism Minister Renuka Choudhury.

"Spiritual tourism could mean visiting a temple, visiting the Pushkar Mela, practicing Yoga or simply relaxing in the hotel room and listening to the Vedic chants. India is the land of spirituality. We have no dearth of spiritual elements to offer to the world", she says.

Under the new initiatives, the Government has identified Yoga and the Vedic chants as the priority areas to strengthen the fort of spirituality. Besides, efforts to promote the destinations of religious importance will continue. -read more-

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Launch of Oneness Forum, World Parliament of Peace - India

The launch ceremony of the Oneness Forum leading to a World Parliament of Peace and the conferring of the Mahavir Mahatma Awards were held in Delhi on 20th of April, at Vigyan Bhawan. Distribution Source : PRWeb Date : Sunday - April 24, 2005

(PRWEB) April 24, 2005 -- The Mahavir-Mahatma Awards symbolise excellence in the field of human welfare and spiritual enlightenment being given out by the Oneness Forum.

It is recognition of the organisation"s commitment to work for the upliftment of the human soul. It also includes recognition for humanitarian activities, since physical reality is an important part of the holistic welfare of an individual.

This series of prestigious awards, is being conferred on youthful and active members of various socio-economic, spiritual and religious groups at ceremonies which shall be held at district, state, national and global levels.

The awardees are Ms. Martha Merchant from Baha"i Community of India, Mr. Hiromasa Ikeda behalf of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda from Soka Gakkai International, Tushar A Gandhi from Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, Mr. Brahmatej Ji from Art of Living Foundation, Swami Nisarga from Isha Foundation, Ms. Shulamith Ezekiel Malekar from Judah Hyam Synagogue, Dr. Madhu Khanna and Mr. Ranjit Makkuni from Sacred World Research Lab, Mr. A.R. Rehman, Mr. Namann Ji from Oneness University and Ms. Shashi Kumar Nair from Mata Amritanandamayi Math. -read more-

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Santana Aide Claims Firing for Spiritual Flaws

Apr. 27, 2005 - A former employee of the New Santana Band has accused musician Carlos Santana and his wife of firing him for not being "closer to God," according to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed in California.

Bruce Kuhlman, 59, said Santana's wife, Deborah, went on a campaign to terminate him after her spiritual guru, "Dr. Dan," determined through "calibration" tests that Kuhlman was too old to become enlightened, the lawsuit, filed on April 13, said.

Kuhlman, who began working with Carlos Santana as a personal assistant in 1988, was running the band's licensing operation, River of Colors, when he was fired in 2004.

Kuhlman seeks more than $100,000 and punitive damages against the couple and their businesses, and his lawsuit asks a judge to stop them from using Dr. Dan's Neuro-Emotional Technique to "test" or "calibrate" employees.

A lawyer for Santana, a Mexican-born guitarist known for hits such as "Smooth," said on Wednesday he would have no comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit said Dr. Dan informed Kuhlman during a series of meetings that his "enlightenment/consciousness level" was low because of his age, and "that the more enlightened a person was, the closer to God he was and the better employee he was." -read more-

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Dalai Lama: Develop mind and heart
Statesman[Saturday, April 30, 2005 12:22]
The Dalai Lama’s three-day sermon was on ‘Semnyed Ngalso’ (Relaxing the mind itself). It began on 21 April with explanations of the daily prayer “Thisum Sangye Guru Rinpoche....”, its significance and the necessity of chanting it every day.

This discourse focussed on a book ‘Semnyed Ngalso’, written by the renowned Buddhist Tibetan scholar Longchen Rabjombo which dealt with the need to a change of mind for the benefit of others - the ultimate essence of Buddhism. This book, printed by the State Ecclesiastical Department was distributed freely to the people on this occasion.

Turning prayer wheels with their right hand and counting beads with their left, devotees listened in rapt piety when the high Lama sermonised on the rareness of precious human life, the impermanence of human life, sufferings of samsara, the principle of cause and effect, how to follow the spiritual guru, going into refuge, training the mind to the four immeasurable qualities., arousing the two kinds of Bodhisatta, combination of generating and completing stages of meditation, avoiding two extremes of basic wisdom realisation, combination of calm abiding and higher insight realisation through flawless and meditative concentration, mastering the method in deep concentrative meditation and the fruit of spontaneous perfect realisation.
In a nutshell, the discourse essentially meant development of one’s individual mind (Sem). -read more-

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A lifeline over the prison walls of the mind
By Linda Morris
April 28, 2005

The spiritual journey of Robina Courtin has taken her from a Melbourne convent school to death row in the Kentucky State Penitentiary, but the Buddhist nun warns that no bars are worse than the prison of one's own mind.

The former bodyguard of the Dalai Lama, whose life story was chronicled in the acclaimed documentary Chasing Buddha, is the founder of the Liberation Prison Project, which offers a spiritual lifeline for prisoners, mainly in the US and Australia.

The Liberation Prison Project began with a single letter from an 18-year-old Mexican gangster jailed since the age of 12. Since its inception nine years ago, the US project has grown to field letters from about 6000 inmates from 700 prisons and has offered 200,000 books for distribution. In Australia, the project has received hundreds of letters from inmates and chaplains and supplies books to 20 prison libraries.

"Buddhism is about helping people deal with their low self-esteem, their anger, their bitterness and their negative actions and getting them to learn to take responsibility, develop their qualities, become a more contented human being so they can give benefit for others," Venerable Robina said. -read more-

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Reconnecting the dots: religion, science and nature
Jay McDaniel discusses panentheism and its implications for scientists, theologians and the rest of us.
By Chhavi Sachdev

When it comes to relating the theology of panentheism and an environmental ethic, self-professed “animal theologian” Jay McDaniel is a vocal advocate. Director of the Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., McDaniel teaches world religions, researches the Hindu, Sikh and Jain traditions and inspires and organizes local groups in environmental activism. He is also an associate of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. His books include Of God and Pelicans and Living from the Center: Spirituality in an Age of Consumerism. He recently spoke with Science & Theology News international editor Chhavi Sachdev about what panentheism means for scientists, theologians, the hoi polloi and our world.

How did you learn about panentheism?

I have a degree from Claremont Graduate University, where I specialized in philosophy of religion and theology. I wrote a dissertation on Buddhism and Christianity, and I used the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead as a foundation for bringing the two into dialogue. Whitehead’s thought involves an emphasis on the interconnectedness of everything. He says that the universe is perpetually in process and that human beings have no substantial self that separates them from the world — all of which sounds very Buddhist. Whitehead’s process theology is also deeply compatible with the natural sciences.

An interesting feature of Whitehead’s thought is that it affirms the intrinsic value of all living beings. Built into it is a recognition that value is part of the world itself. Animals have value quite apart from their usefulness to human beings or even to other animals. So, an individual penguin, dog or porpoise, in Whitehead’s view, deserves some kind of respect. A porpoise seems to have a unified psyche while a blade of grass seems not to. But nonetheless, they both have intrinsic value. We humans need to recognize that if we are to live responsibly in the world, we need to have an appreciation of the world itself containing beauty and value apart from our projections.

Then the question arises: Are there ways of thinking about God that can complement and enrich those capacities for respect and care for the community of life? And that’s where panentheistic ways of thinking about God can be helpful. -read entire interview-

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Make Poverty History!

By Barbara Russell
Special to The Independent

I was very excited to see a feature article in the March 6, 2005 edition of TIME magazine called "The End of Poverty." This theme has come to my attention a couple of other times lately in an Oxfam brochure, and in an article about Nelson Mandela giving a "Make Poverty History" speech in London to the G7 Finance Ministers.

The end of poverty? In the TIME article, economist Jeffery D. Sachs outlines a plan that makes sense, and has written a book on the topic. In the article, he says he is not predicting what will happen, but explaining what can happen. He says that "Oxfam and many other leaders in civil society have embraced the goal" of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015, and ending it by 2025. Can you imagine that? 2025 is only 20 years away! Let's take full advantage of this opportunity.

Mr. Sachs says the U.S. spends 15 cents of every $100 of our national income, "to address the plight of the poorest of the poor, whose societies are destabilized by extreme poverty." He suggests the U.S. could be more generous in addressing this root cause of many other problems.

This got me thinking what is the basis of generosity? In my study and practice of Christian Science, I have come to realize that the ability to be generous comes from knowing that I am always fully supplied with what I need, and therefore can afford to give to others. It is also very helpful to know that each person is fully supplied with what they need, because everyone's supply comes from the same source God. -read more-