Archive for May, 2008


May 30, 2008

On Monday we had a very successful event with Iraqi Journalist Raed Jarrar.   Over 200 people showed up to hear Mr. Jarrar give a talk entitled:  “The U. S. Role in Iraq: Liberator, Occupier, or Peacekeeper?”

The talk was hosted by the The Church of the Holy Cross and co-sponsored by The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Puna, The Center for Non-Violent Education and Action, Amida Hawaii.  The American Friends Service Committee provided the funding to make it possible for Mr. Jarrar come and speak in Hawaii.    I did the foot work – arranging a venue, coordinating publicity, building a “coalition” of sponsors, and generally beating the bushes.

Mr Jarrar made it very clear that the US media in general is not giving full or complete coverage to the political realities on the ground.  According to Mr. Jarrar the first thing that must happen to stabilize the situation in Iraq is a complete withdrawal of ALL U.S. troops from Iraq.

He was also explicit in bringing our attention to the horrible toll on human life this war is having in Iraq:  1 million Iraqis killed and 5 million Iraqis displaced.

What has all of this killing been for?  What have we or the Iraqis gained from this expensive and devastating war in the middle east?   Oil is over $4 dollars here in Hawaii.  We have less freedoms in the U.S. and are being subjected to a high level of surveillance by our own government.  Relations with U.S. allies and friends have been strained by several years of running roughshod over the international community.  There is also the ever increasing national deficit, which is really a tax on future generations and administrations.

We and the world are in no way made better by this war!  Which is, of course, the very nature of war –  War kills, destroys families, ruins trust, and plants the seeds of hatred and future violence.  War is a one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and as such does not “ride” alone.  War is always accompanied by Death, Pestilence, and Famine.

What does it say about us that we are so willing to unleash the Four Horsemen on the world?

Peace, Paul


May 26, 2008

It is hard to believe all that has transpired in the last 2 years.   Well actually the last 5 years!   Yes, before we pulled up stakes and moved to Hawaii, I had helped form and “build” a Buddhist Center.  It was a bumpy road, but something beautiful was indeed created a vibrant center of spiritual practice and social engagement.  We ran events throughout the week: Meditation, Study, discussion, and various ritual activities.  I engaged with local churches and volunteered with hospice (5 years) and the prison system (4 years).  We started a local Chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.  We put on a successful concert fundraiser to reach out to the public at large.  We also hosted many teachers, mostly Tibetan, as they gave profound teachings on the Buddhist Dharma, everything from basic meditation and ethics to Dzogchen.

And then, for me at least, it all went wrong.   Things that I had ignored, both in the group and in myself, came together to create a situation I was ill prepared to deal with.  I left.  However, I am happy to report that the Buddhist Center continues on and seems to be maintaining a full schedule.

Shortly after it all hit the fan, Judy and I were offered an opportunity to go to Hawaii to start and run a Buddhist Center on the Big Island.  In hindsight it was probably too soon.  We needed time to heal.  Nevertheless, we sold pretty much everything and relocated to the Big Island.  Once again it went wrong, and very quickly.  This time I think it is fair to say, given the rapid melt down of the situation, that much of the unraveling was about the organizations involved and the powers and people above us in those organizations, and not so much about us. We just chose the wrong situation based our own karmic tendencies.

In any case, for a few short months we successfully ran and built up a Buddhist retreat center.  We also organized and supported many teaching events around the Island.

I did not see it at the time, but this second organizational implosion was to mark a shift in my approach to religion.  In fact the last year and half have forced a deep process of self analysis and critique.  (In the meantime, I have been living simply, some would say primitively, and working on a peace and justice farm, growing food and challenging the violence and injustice that is creeping into our society because of a lack of vigilance by us, the citizens.)

The inspiration for the original Buddhist Center arouse out of a vision of the potential for Buddhism to be a transformational force in society.  After all, the world is suffering from the plague of violence.  Buddhism has a very strong and clear stance, so I thought, against violence and killing.  The goal of Buddhism is the elimination of Dukkha, suffering, which seems like a very noble goal on both the practical and ontological levels.

It is this vision of societal transformation that has driven and formed my life over these last many years.  I have been trying, again and again, to align my life with this vision.  It is and was a powerful vision. It has wrapped itself around my being and cannot be shaken.  It is what I must do, even if I fail and fall on my face again and again.

The question now is, where to begin?  Religion, philosophy, metaphysics, mysticism, spirituality, gnosis, occultism, whatever we call it, must be about the transformation of society in very real and concrete ways.  Inner personal transformation or salvation alone is not good enough.   We, as a species, are up against the wall.  Our normative social, religious, and economic paradigm has brought us to the edge of total violence (nuclear war) and ecological disaster.

Religion, to paraphrase Neitzche, is dead.   Religion still has power, but has sold its soul.  It has, in its many forms, aligned itself too closely with the “principalities and powers” that are leading us down the path to disaster.   There are, of course, religious people and even organizations that are doing great things.  But on the whole, religion is a lead weight pulling us down. This is not to dispute the fact that within the vast accumulation of religious literature and teachings from the past thousands of years there are not to be found valuable tools that can be used in the struggle to transform society.   Many teachers and teachings have historically appeared in the world and challenge normative society and its values.  However, today, we do not have the leisure of thousands of years to work our the salvific principles of a given religious teaching in history.  We are on a short timeline. We have decades not millennia. 

I do not yet have a form or specific direction, but I can feel the pressure to begin and I know that this time the shape will be very different from my past experiments with manifesting this vision.

Peace, Paul

Dire News

May 9, 2008

This past Saturday Malu Aina hosted another successful farm day.  In addition to the regulars we were joined by 3 students from the university and a young couple on holiday from Vancouver.   It rained on and off through the morning but we still managed to plant some sweet potatoes and weed the ones planted last month.

Additionally, we transplanted our “Taro Collection”.  The collection is made up of about 22 varieties of Taro which we are cultivating to help maintain the genetic diversity of Taro.  Before the Hawaiian islands were colonized by europeans there were said to be over 200 varieties of Taro being grown.  Currently, there are only about 50 or 60 in cultivation.

Everyone was in good spirits and lingered over lunch until 3 in the afternoon.  Though this was a joyous and hopeful event, I am trouble by the many ominous signs and dark tidings from around the planet.

The paper today, as on many days, was filled with dire news.  The cost of oil continues to rise, which makes everything more expensive.  Living on an island, we feel the higher cost of fuel very quickly.  The prices we pay for food seem to rise weekly and the cost of gas moves upward on a daily basis.  There are also reports from around the world of food riots.  These have been triggered both by scarcity and the fact that staple foods are becoming unaffordable.   More and more people on the planet are lacking the necessities of food, water, shelter, and basic medical care.

As a society we should ask ourselves what role have we played in the creation of this current crisis?  What is it about our societal system that is creating such privation and suffering.  Why are we “choosing”, consciously or unconsciously, to live in,  participate in, and perpetuate a system that requires that others go without?

Dorothy Day saw the systemic nature of the evils we as a society participate in with such cold thoughtlessness.  She called it the “filthy rotten system.”  As a Catholic, she saw the “Works of Mercy” and teachings of Jesus as way out, a way to build a new system based on love and compassion.   She spent most of her adult life battling the “filthy rotten system” and trying to create something new and better.

Are we willing to do likewise and challenge and change the system?  There doesn’t seem to be much time left before things really get out of hand.  Those of us living today are the ones that must do the hard work of eliminating the many threats to humanity created in the last 50 years.  If we fail in our work, or simply do not see it as necessary, some of us may be alive to usher in the end of the human era.

The transition between yugas (cosmic aeons) is always a messy affair.  It is a point of transition, a bardo of sorts.   It is a moment in time in which change happens quickly.  However, we, collectively, must be the instruments of change.  There will be no rapture or miraculous divine intervention that saves us at the last minute.  We are on are on own and must awaken to this bardo, this time of transition.

If we are to survive then we must abandon our suicidal pursuit of greed and violence and find the resources for positive change within ourselves.  We must, as Gandhi said, “become the change we wish to see.”  It is a teaching far more profound than it appears at first glance.  It is formula for change from someone who took on, and defeated, the then most powerful nation on the planet. 

The possibilities of the future lie within us .  Will we choose the path of gods, and create and protect life, or the path of demons, who love death and slavery?

Peace, Paul