Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Have a Peach of A Day!

Have a Peach of A Day!
by Baseline Foundation

      
Daily Health Tip Image
There are many expressions in the English language that refer to one certain fruit. Everything is peaches and cream. You're a real peach. That would be peachy keen. She's sweet as a peach. All of these various accolades honor the humble peach, which is really a nutritional powerhouse that can help us in a number of ways. So, on National Eat a Peach Day, let's learn a little bit about peaches and take a look at the various benefits they can provide.

Native to China, peaches are still commonly grown there, as well as in other areas of south Asia, parts of Europe, and the United States. They have a fuzzy skin and generally range in hue from a golden yellow to a reddish shade. And they can offer advantages to your body, inside and out.

Peaches are a great source of antioxidants. This means they help combat the free radicals that can wreak havoc in the cells throughout the body and provide some protection from disease. They are also especially high in polyphenols (compounds that help plants ward off the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet radiation) such as tannic, chlorogenic, and caffeic acid, which were linked in a 2014 study at Washington State University in Pullman with combatting breast cancer and inhibiting the spread of the disease. In addition, a 2006 study at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts found that peaches were the non-citrus fruit most strongly associated with a lower risk of oral cancer.

The antioxidants in peaches are also beneficial because they promote better cardiovascular health. Peaches also contain iron, which improves the production of the red blood cells that transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The beta carotene and phenolic acids found in peaches can help control cholesterol—another factor in the development of heart disease--by reducing the oxidation of the LDL, or "bad," cholesterol.

Then there is eye health to consider. Peaches are rich in not only beta-carotene, but also vitamins A and C. These nutrients increase blood flow and offer a measure of protection from such common eye disorders as cataracts and macular degeneration. Peaches also contain high levels of zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that protects both the retina and lens of the eye from damage caused by the rays of the sun.

Your skin is yet another beneficiary of peach consumption. The vitamin A in the fruit ensures that skin can maintain a good moisture level, which can refine the skin's texture. And the vitamin C peaches contain helps ward off damage from the destructive free radicals to which we are constantly exposed.

Peaches are a rich source of potassium, which contributes to regulating blood pressure, decreasing the risk of developing kidney stones, and strengthening the bones to prevent osteoporosis. Other minerals found in peaches, including magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and calcium, are all essential to keep various parts of the body from the muscles to the bones and from the immune system to the nervous system functioning well.

A large peach will provide you with three grams of fiber. You probably know that fiber is important for maintaining optimal digestion and preventing constipation. But it also helps to keep cholesterol in check, therefore promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. And an added benefit is that fiber fills you up, so after eating a peach you should feel satisfied and be less likely to seek out more food.

Plus, peaches are a sweet treat and naturally low in calories. A large peach only offers approximately 60 calories. They give you a sweet, flavorful option for a snack or dessert that won't lead to weight gain. In fact, if you can substitute a peach for cookies, ice cream, or other processed junk foods high in fat and calories, you will cut your daily caloric total and achieve some weight loss over time.

And what could be easier, especially when they're in season? Wash a peach and eat it with breakfast, bring one along to work, or leave a bowl of peaches on your counter to enjoy any time throughout the day.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Spiritual Humanism A Formula that Works

Spiritual Humanism
A Formula that Works

By Pravrajika Gayatriprana, MD, Ph.D. (USA)

Introduction


The title of this talk is Spiritual Humanism: A Formula That Works. Spiritual Humanism is a term I arrived at to describe an important aspect of the work of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) in both the West and in India. It relates to his conviction of the supreme importance of the human individual, not just as a unique, physically embodied being, but also on account of the capacity to evolve and express in full the divinity innate in every one of us. I see this as an integration of the Western notion of humanism (to which he was exposed as a student and which he felt was so very unavoidable and necessary in contemporary times) and the Indian ideal of selftransformation through yoga to the excellent human being, the ideal, the real, or Brahman, which was innate in his Indian soul.  

I have been able to trace this vision to his experiences with Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and also to how he implemented the various stages of its unfoldment in his life during his period of public work: 
 
 

In this talk I shall give glimpses into how Sri Ramakrishna conveyed to Vivekananda the insights he later carried worldwide and how Vivekananda shared them with India and the West. In addition, I shall connect this “interior” work with what actually happened in the “exterior” world, so that we can deduce what might have been the connections between the two. 
 

First Step of Spiritual Humanism: 
Vivekananda meets Sri Ramakrishna and Later Introduces Spiritual Humanism

On first meeting with Sri Ramakrishna in February-March of 1882, Vivekananda was full of Western notions of humanism, science, and democracy and challenged Sri Ramakrishna directly, suggesting that, as an "ignorant shaman", Sri Ramakrishna was hopelessly out of touch with reality. Sri Ramakrishna's response was to precipitate Vivekananda into a profound samadhi or superconscious state, from which Vivekananda emerged with the insight that 1:  
 
 
 
This was such a shock to Vivekananda’s Western rationalism and notions of the extent of human consciousness that he could not respond to it on his own. Sri Ramakrishna himself made it clear how this worked in actual fact. Speaking about the practical difficulties inherent in dealing with many of our worldly situations, he told Vivekananda in March, 1882: 

“God dwells in all beings. But you may be intimate only with good people; you must keep away from the evil-minded. God is even in the tiger, but you cannot embrace the tiger on that account.”  
 
 
 
 
 
“You may say, ‘Why run away from the tiger, which is also a manifestation of God?’ The answer to that is2:  
 
 
 
This was practical common sense, emphasizing the very humanistic values of ethical living and of respecting and appreciating our relationships with our colleagues and friends--those who know and value us in and of ourselves, and not in order to gain control or influence over us. 

These two experiences convinced Vivekananda of the truth of the Indian emphasis on the possibility of deep meaning in the depths of human consciousness— 
 
 
 
what he called the superconscious—combined with the Western belief in the infinite capacity of any and all human beings to take control of their lives for the better.  

In his later teaching work he took up the view that in the West—then the technological masters of the world, but trapped almost to suffocation in their own materialistic humanism—the emphasis was to be on the spiritual dimension of humanity and on yoga, the time-tested methods of spiritual self-transformation, though stripped of sectarian and caste restrictions and so on, and thereby democratized so that it could be assimilated in the West. For him, India, saturated with a long tradition of spiritual self-transformation, now had to become proactive in finding ways to express that spirituality in terms of human concern and well-being. 

Some ten years later the validity of Vivekananda’s views was demonstrated, first in Chicago at the Parliament of Religions, where he expanded the prevailing notion of the human being from the individual identified primarily with the body and matterbased mind into “infinite, universal individuality.”3  
 
 
 
He made it clear that “to gain this . . . individuality, this miserable little prison individuality must go” (Ibid.). 

In India Vivekananda started small, with a devoted group of young men in Madras. With them Vivekananda focused on the heartless treatment and degradation of the lower castes by the traditional spiritual aristocracy adding, “at the same time preaching wonderful Adwaitism [inherent human divinity]—is it not adding insult to injury?”4 He went on to delineate the value of the individual to the whole, using the metaphor of the human body: “Each cell has its part in bringing about consciousness. Man is individual and at the same time universal.  

It is while realizing our individual nature that we realize even our national and universal nature” (Ibid., p.121).  

Here was a new approach to the traditional Indian view of righteousness and yoga: the importance of the human individual, not only in building up his or her life spiritually, but also to making a significant contribution to the whole of humanity and its wellbeing.  

With regard to the impact that Vivekananda had on his audiences, what we might call the spiritual antidote to Western materialism—the notion of the superconscious innate in everyone—was received with rapture by the thousands of Westerners attending the Parliament in Chicago. These Western people, attracted by an unprecedented interreligious meeting, were all, no doubt, humanists, but apparently seeking something more and could respond directly to Vivekananda’s new insights. And it seemed as if Vivekananda had generally struck the right note, because thereafter he became very well-known and received, with many offers of speaking engagements and of meeting some of the most prestigious people in the USA and England, as well as an avid following from New Thought circles that had been embracing the principles and practices of Vedanta on their own. We see in this picture Swami Vivekananda sitting at bottom left and the tall gentleman in the Trilby hat to the right is Ralph Waldo Trine, one of the earliest and most influential thinkers in the New Thought movement. 
 
 
 
Finally, in 1894 Vivekananda was able to found the Vedanta Society of New York, the first Vedanta Society ever, which is still going strong. This is my own alma mater, where I was trained by Swami Pavitrananda.  

With regard to India, Vivekananda seems to have aroused in these young men— of whom Alasinga Perumal and G. G. Narasimhachariar were prominent—the same ardor and love that he awakened in the people in Chicago, for these were to commit themselves to this ideal and to work incessantly to make it a living reality for the betterment not only of themselves, but also of India and the whole world.  

One of their first, very bold actions was to respond to Vivekananda’s request for support from India. The swami was under serious attack in the West from fundamentalist Christians and his work was losing ground. The “young lions” of Madras immediately set to work and mustered all of the big names in the city as signees to the Madras Address, the arrival of which in Chicago loosed a flood of tears in Vivekananda and established his credentials beyond doubt in the West. His reply to this address is a sweeping overview of Vedanta as well as the introduction of his own vision for India.  
 

Second Step of Spiritual Humanism: 
Vivekananda Engages with Sri Ramakrishna and Later with His Own Students

This had been the opening salvo, as it were, in Vivekananda’s delivery of spiritual humanism to the world. He delivered the message and found his response in both the West and in India. But there was more to come. Going back to his own training by Sri Ramakrishna,  
 
 
 
In this context we see Vivekananda with Sri Ramakrishna on February 18, 1883. After ecstatic dancing with Vivekananda and the devotees, Sri Ramakrishna sat down and returned to the theme of the tiger God with which he had introduced the idea of a sliding scale of divine manifestation to Vivekananda nearly a year before. Although it was the same story as before, the emphasis was rather different, suggesting that Sri Ramakrishna was trying to move Vivekananda’s understanding along. Sri Ramakrishna began,5 

 
 
—a rather stronger statement than the “God dwells in all beings” of March, 1882 (Ibid., p.84). Again, the emphasis in March of 1882 had been on the practical necessity of keeping away from the evil-minded (Ibid.)—an injunction meant for beginners (such as Vivekananda himself) whose minds were preoccupied with empirical differences. A year later, we find that Sri Ramakrishna’s emphasis had become (Ibid., p.181): 
 
 

 This new emphasis served, not only to underscore the concept of degrees of manifestation of human divinity, 


but alsoto direct Vivekananda’s attention to the importance of spiritually developed people in setting a practical standard of evaluation.  

That Vivekananda did not raise the objection of the spiritual élitism usually found in relation to great spiritual teachers in such a situation seems likely on account of Sri Ramakrishna’s frank statements about his uncompromising commitment to innate human spirituality four months previously. In short, it was as if Sri Ramakrishna were being more explicit about how human divinity is manifested and what constitutes its high-water mark. Again, of the nature of what Sri Ramakrishna meant by “holy people” Vivekananda had ample proof from studying Sri Ramakrishna himself. 

We find Vivekananda expressing these ideas, first in New York in 1894, where he added to his initial emphasis on intrinsic human divinity by stressing its universality, despite apparent external variations, and also the need to bring out our divinity in a systematic way. Taking up the idea of the body—that obstacle to spiritual vision in the West especially—he said: 

“The soul . . . takes to itself a body for the same reason that I take a lookingglass—to see myself. Thus, in the body, the soul is reflected. The soul is God, and every human being has a perfect divinity within himself”; and “each one must show his divinity sooner or later.”6 
 
 

To India, the same year, he reiterated his intense conviction of the divinity of each and every human being without exception, taking all kinds of forms: 

The truth . . . in our religion [is] the spirit of man, the Atman of man . . .  whose glories the Vedas themselves cannot express, before whose majesty the universe with its galaxy upon galaxy of suns and stars and nebulae is as a drop.  

Every man and woman . . . is such a spirit involuted or evoluted. The difference is not in kind, but in degree .”7 

And in private he said, “Henceforth there is an end to all sorts of distinctions, and everyone down to the chandaala [outcaste] will be a sharer in the divine love. . . . In this Satya Yoga [Age of Truth] the tidal wave of Sri Ramakrishna’s love has unified all.”8 

 In these thoughts and aspirations, we can see Vivekananda’s vision of a new Vedantic order based on the value of each and every human being as a manifestation of the very spirit that was the intellectual heritage of even the humblest Hindu. 

The upshot of these two insights was, in the West, the formation of a group of sincere students of yoga who, in addition to their yoga practice, also worked to edit and publish Vivekananda’s classes and lectures on yoga, karma, bhakti, raja and jnana yogas.  
 
 
 
These were published in the West and circulated there for decades, especially Raja-Yoga, which remained in circulation until as late as 1938, when the great cultures of the West were teetering on the brink of near-annihilation. 

Perhaps under the impetus of such a new ideal, the Madras “boys” worked mightily to bring out the yoga texts in Indian editions, and also succeeded in getting off the ground the English-language journals The Brahmavadin and Prabuddha Bharata, to spread the Vedanta of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda all over India and the world. Both journals are still with us and doing yeoman service.  
 

The Third Step of Spiritual Humanism:
Vivekananda Embraces Sri Ramakrishna’s Source of Inspiration

The third step of Vivekananda’s training and subsequent work related to how to deal with the obstacles that arise in implementing spiritual humanism. At Dakshineshwar in 1884, 9 
 
 
 
Of them, 
 
 
 
Vivekananda smiled at this and referred to Sri Ramakrishna’s story about the [tiger]: “What? Is it like the [tiger] God? All, indeed, are God” (Ibid., p.528).  Sri Ramakrishna rejoined smilingly,  
 
 
 
He went on:  
 
 
 
At this point he was treading on delicate ground with Vivekananda, for it was the Divine Mother above all that Vivekananda found so hard to reconcile with his imperious Westernized rationalism. It was she, however, who was the power underwriting the democratic idea of the equality of human beings as spirit. To Vivekananda, 
 
 
 
Out of his love and knowledge of Mother, Sri Ramakrishna gladly accepted all forms as hers, and treated them with respect as well as saluting them with reverence. In this way he rose above all forms of discrimination and separation, that we can think of as the root cause of maya. 

In early 1896 Vivekananda shared these insights with his students. In the West during this period of his work, he addressed the issue as follows in The Vedanta Philosophy, which began a new trend of thought 10: 
 
 

Here the mystery of maya (of how we obscure the Self—our divine nature—from manifesting) is brought out, with the implication that it is a matter ofperception. In his lectures on maya in London some seven months later, Vivekananda was to enlarge upon this mystery and supply the insights as to how to change our perception in order to transfigure our understanding of the individual as Sri Ramakrishna had demonstrated in 1885. 

In India in the spring of 1897, Vivekananda’s presentation 11, underscored the acute problem of Vedantins at that time: Western materialism vs. Vedantic idealism. Vivekananda solves the problem by telescoping the perception of matter and the concrete “individual” it creates into the wider context of the infinite Individual preached by the Vedanta. But this does not minimize the individual; rather, it enhances him or her, because that very Self is their real nature or individuality. In doing so, Vivekananda points to the Self as the primary power animating our lives, the goal in merging into which our finite minds will assume the pure divinity that makes us truly human.  

This was the “intellectual” phase of Vivekananda’s work.  

In the West, related to his friendship with the distinguished Harvard psychologist, William James, The Vedanta Philosophy was delivered to the Graduate Philosophical Society of Harvard University. Vivekananda was shortly to meet Professor Max Muller of Oxford University, who subsequently wrote the first biography of Sri Ramakrishna in the West: Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings, and to go on to befriend: Professor Paul Deussen, the acclaimed German Vedantin and to assist him in his historic interpretation of the Vedanta, especially in his book Seven Upanishads of the Veda (1897).  
 
 

In the fall of 1896 the conclusion of this phase was his magisterial lecture series on maya in London. The palpable response to this work was the publication of the lectures and the formation of a dedicated group of students, who earnestly sought to know how they could apply these ideas to their own lives. 

Vivekananda delivered his Indian insights on his highly prestigious journey from Colombo to Almora, during which India rose up to honor and acclaim his work. In the picture we see Swamiji at left center, surrounded by a sea of Indian admirers. Right next to him are sitting three Western people, a sign of how significant his appearance was under the circumstances pertaining at that time.  

Vivekananda went on to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, which would dedicate itself to propagating the ideals and implementing methods to bring it to fruition in India. In this way, his humanistic vision of Vedanta was beginning to manifest a concrete shape in India, to empower individuals in the name of the Self and to invest them with the sacredness of the divine, even in their earliest and most unregenerate stages of development and apparently humdrum or lowly work.  
 

The Fourth Stage of Spiritual Humanism Human to Divine and Divine to Human:
Realization and Manifestation

  The fourth stage of spiritual humanism began in 1886, again with Sri Ramakrishna: 
 
 
 
Perhaps to encourage them to press on with their own perfecting, Sri Ramakrishna told a parallel story to the tiger and the friend, this time of the elephant and its mahut, by concluding (Ibid., p.853): 
 
 
 
 In this new version of his teaching of the divine manifesting in different degrees, Sri Ramakrishna had added another dimension. This time, he had given a concrete standard by which to judge the degree of manifestation of divinity—pure Mind and pure Intelligence. For, as he gave these as attributes of God within the human heart, it follows that we may see that very God most clearly in a pure human mind and intelligence. But this, of course, was a far cry from our “ordinary” consciousness. What was the process that could connect us up to such manifest divinity? Vivekananda—who was present at these discussions—came up with the idea that: 
 
 
 
In this way Vivekananda expressed the two sides he saw in what Sri Ramakrishna was saying:  
 
 
 
In the West, scientistic ideas of evolution had stripped humanity of its divinity which thereby had no clear-cut goal for human evolution to attain. In London at the end of 1896, Vivekananda, enlarging, in his lectures on Practical Vedanta—another magisterial series of presentations on the theme of the Self, the divine nature present in all—pointed first to its democratic implications: 

“From the standpoint of the highest ideal, the lowest animal and the highest man are the same. 12 This is because all contain the same prophet-soul; only we must know it.” (Ibid., p.308). 

This is the knowledge that makes a person the highest and this is the knowledge that is needed in the West. Moreover,  
 
 
  In Vivekananda’s Indian work, we find these ideas in his lecture The Vedanta, anothermajor “manifesto” given in Lahore on November 12th, 1897, where he said: “The Vedas [the canonical texts of Vedanta] . . . are the eternal laws living in every soul. The Vedas are in the soul of the ant, in the soul of the god. The ant has only to evolve and get the body of a sage or a rishi and the Vedas will come out, eternal laws expressing themselves. This is the one great idea to understand—that our power is already ours, our salvation is already within us.  “You . . . have to believe in that, believe in the possibility of everybody—that even in the lowest man is the same possibility as in the Buddha. This is the doctrine of the Atman.”13  

The striking validation of this work in the West was:  

The publication of the lectures on Practical Vedanta and the commitment of some outstanding Western people to Vivekananda’s cause : Sister Nivedita, Mr. Josiah Goodwin and Sister Christine, who lived and worked for Vivekananda in India; and Mrs. Sarah Bull, Mr. Francis Legget, and Miss Josephine MacLeod, who steadfastly supported the Indian work financially and in a variety of ways. 
In India, his tremendous reception in Lahore and his lecture The Vedanta led to the consolidation behind Vivekananda of:  


His brother-disciples and the move to:  

Belur Math, the permanent headquarters and central symbol of his Indian work.  
 
 
 

The fifth Step of Spiritual Humanism:
Vivekananda, the Integral Seer

The fifth and final development of spiritual humanism took place just before the passing of Sri Ramakrishna. At that time he was unable to speak much on account of his illness, and Vivekananda had to grasp directly what was in the Master’s mind. However,  
 
 
 
 
 
From another standpoint, Sri Ramakrishna had revealed to Vivekananda, step by step, four different ways of looking at the relationship between human and divine, and each had seemed satisfying at the time, but each had been superseded by yet another compelling integration.  

And now this fact of fully integral consciousness as the last word was placed before Vivekananda. 
 
Were those viewpoints that had gone before it untrue? In the state in which Vivekananda now was, he could see that, from the standpoint of an integral being like Sri Ramakrishna, there need be no conflict at all. Not only are each of the explanations perfectly right and true at their own particular stage, they may also be accepted as all equally true and valid in the concrete, dynamic, moment-to-moment process of living of a soul which is fully identified with the divine.  
 
 
 
Perhaps it is this consciousness, able to integrate and harmonize and use all levels of perception in practical, daily living that is the final word on human consciousness, as far as our contemporary thinking can go. It is too early yet for humanity to grasp the magnitude of his completely integrated view of life, moving from the ordinary, concrete realities of everyday experience to the fullness of the superconscious, not according to any rule or regulation or series or explicable theory, but utterly spontaneously. 

This fits into the traditional pattern of the integral seer who opens the door to divinity to those who seek it earnestly. But, lest we should object that such an option depends upon the whim or will of a specific human being who may or may not be available to us for one reason or another, Sri Ramakrishna himself and Vivekananda after him, emphasized again and again that they were 14 

 
 
And that principle is inherent throughout the entire cosmos, including human minds and hearts. If we can conceive of our divine potentialities from hearing these teachings, and if we engage ourselves properly with them, they will inevitably work themselves out and bring us to whatever state of consciousness we aspire to. 
 
 
 
In this fifth state of consciousness accessible to humankind, the capacity to think and act from several standpoints simultaneously creates a unique effect. Although the subject of the discourse of such a person may seem mundane, even trivial, it is found on inspection to contain the entire gamut of meaning from the concrete to the transcendental, all harmoniously aligned in a sort of spiritual laser beam, and therefore carrying tremendous power to penetrate, enlighten, and transform its hearers on all levels. 

In the last period of his life in the West, we find Vivekananda’s final message in Is Vedanta the Future Religion? given in San Francisco on April 18, 1900 15: 

 
 
Here we find him taking up the idea of democracy, the central idea of the West, and broadening its base by focusing it on the spiritual reality of human beings. By evolving true, spiritual human beings, democracy will come to have a much more universal meaning and deeper, stronger roots. Vivekananda also spoke on My Life and Mission in Pasadena on January 27, 1900, in which he represented Sri Ramakrishna as “not going in much for intellectual scholarship, scarcely studied books; but when he was a boy he was seized with the tremendous idea of getting truth direct.” 16 This may be said to be Vivekananda’s special message to the West. In India this ideal has been known for millennia, but the West needed to know that there is a direct path between our ordinary, rationalistic consciousness and the higher consciousness that makes “reason unreason, mortal immortal, this world a zero, and of man a god.”17 The summation of his final Western teachings may be said to dignify democracy as a means of granting freedom from predetermined forms and the license to genuine experiment in the project of human evolution to the super-conscious state. In that sense, he taught the West spiritualized democracy

In India, the final phase of Vivekananda’s public work was expressed sometime after 1899 in the only full-length statement—Hinduism and Ramakrishna—he made for India on the subject of Sri Ramakrishna. There he extols the Vedas as the “only exponent of the universal religion for all mankind on account of their emphasis on super-conscious truths”18, which he overtly contrasts with the “truth cognizable by the five ordinary senses of man, and by reasonings thereon” (Ibid.). However, though he thus distances himself from Western discursive rationalism, he also distances himself from traditional Vedic teachings based on caste, etc. and, therefore, Vedantic fundamentalism. Sri Ramakrishna is represented as the archetypal Vedic rishi, “who demonstrated, without the help [or obstacle!] of modern education, how supersensuous truth reveals itself.” (Ibid.). 

  Vivekananda asserts that, by thus reinstating the primacy of super-consciousness over all other forms of knowledge, Sri Ramakrishna harmonized all of the apparently diverse forms of Hinduism, energized the traditions associated with it, and launched an unprecedented renaissance of Vedantic culture (Ibid., p.184).  

He concluded with a rousing exhortation to his countrymen to give up looking toward the past, and to  
“help in the turning of this mighty wheel of new dispensation” (Ibid., p.186).  

Vivekananda here enfranchises the ordinary human being in the great “project” of Vedanta—the attainment of super-consciousness and the manifestation of a culture based upon it. No doors were to be closed to anyone is this respect, as had been done historically. This is a universal religion, embracing all of humanity; but, being in the Indian context, it is still within the orthodox Vedantic tradition. In this sense, he was summating Sri Ramakrishna’s message asHumanistic Vedanta. 
In the West, with regard to the long-term consequences of this phase of this work Vivekananda came into contact with students in California more or less free of the old cultural presuppositions and inhibitions and open to new ideas. His work there, generating the idea of holistic consciousness, was rather informal and spontaneous and little of it was published at the time. However, a permanent Vedanta Society was begun in San Francisco and groups of dedicated students created, out of which later emerged two genuine and much respected Western sannyasins (monks), Swami Atulananda and Swami Chidrupananda.  
 
 
 
Furthermore, by what seems like a miracle, much of his epoch-making teachings, taken down by a young stenographer and stored in a trunk for fifty years came to light, providing us with the data of Vivekananda’s teachings of this time and thus rounding out and completing the picture of Vivekananda’s work in the West. 

  During this phase of his Indian work, Vivekananda went on pilgrimage, meeting the Indian people informally and propagating his message directly, while at the same time writing for his English and Bengali language periodicals, thereby getting a chance—for the first time—to systematize his thought on the work, and especially on Sri Ramakrishna. This was a major conclusion, a meeting of the devotion of the Indian people with the organized thought on Vedanta they so urgently needed. Some of those influenced by his work at this time included Sri Aurobindo, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Jamshedji Tata, and Nandalal Bose. 
 

Summary

In all of the foregoing I have sought to show how the democratic vision of the innate divinity of humanity originated in the words of Sri Ramakrishna and were taken up and shared with both the West and India by Vivekananda, who gave the twist in each location that spoke best to the needs of the culture and the time at which he spoke. In addition, each succeeding step of spiritual humanism takes us deeper and deeper  

 
  

into its meaning and implications for our lives, if we are ready to follow along and go there completely. In the hands of Vivekananda each of these steps resulted in highly significant responses from those who heard him and in permanent records and institutions that are still with us and influencing us to arise, awake and stop not till the goal of recognizing the divine value of all of our human kin and serving them with reverence and love is fully established as our norm. Should we doubt that we, too, are called to such work for the good of humanity? And, too, to find the points of communication between the two different ways Vivekananda presented the idea to the two dominant “sides” of the world—India and the West? 
             
 
                                                 

  1. Basu, Sankari Prasad. (1982). Letters of Sister Nivedita in 2 Vols. Calcutta: Nababharat, Vol. II: Ridgely Manor, 1899, p.1263.
  2. Nikhilananda, Swami (trans.), (2000). The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, February, 1882, p.84. Originally Recorded in Bengali by M., A Disciple of the Master. Mylapore, Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math (Hereafter Gospel).
  3. Vivekananda, Swami. Complete Works, Mayavati Memorial Edition. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, Vol.1: Paper on Hinduism, p.14 (Hereafter CW).
  4. CW, Vol.6: Notes Taken Down in Madras, 1892-93, p.115.
  5. Ibid., Sunday, February 18, 1883, p.181.
  6. CW, Vol.1: The Hindu Religion, p.330.
  7. CW, Vol.4: Reply to the Madras Address, pp.350-351.
  8. CW, Vol.6: Letter to Swami Ramakrishnananda from the USA, 1895, p.335.
  9. Gospel, Sunday, September 14th, 1884, p.525.
  10. CW, Vol.1: The Vedanta Philosophy, p.364.
  11. CW, Vol.3: The Vedanta in All Its Phases, p.347.
  12. CW, Vol.2: Practical Vedanta I, p.297.
  13. CW, Vol.3: The Vedanta, pp.409-410.
  14. CW, Vol.6: Letter to Swami Ramakrishnananda from Chicago, 1894, p.283.
  15. CW, Vol. 8: Is Vedanta the Future Religion? pp.125-126.
  16. CW, Vol. 8 :My Life and Mission, pp. 78-79.
  17. CW, Vol.5: Letter to Mary Hale from New York, February 1, 1895, p.72. 18 CW, Vol.6: Hinduism and  Shri Ramakrishna, p.181.
Presented September 11, 2015, ISOL Conference, Art Institute of Chicago.

Educational Strategies for Lasting Peace By Joseph Berolo and Dr. Gloria Ines Currea

Educational Strategies for Lasting Peace
By Joseph Berolo and Dr. Gloria Ines Currea

Educational Strategies for Lasting Peace, by Joseph Berolo and Dr. Gloria Ines Currea

Reprinted with permission from Strategies for Peace (Bruce L. Cook and Maria Cristina Azcona, eds.), Elgin, IL: Cook Communication, 2016)
Concerned with the increasing abandonment of the Fine Arts as an instrument of Peace, the teachers of Humanities in a rural school in the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia, created a program inspired by the authors of this essay. It was called “Seeds of Youth”. The project’s purpose was to reach the inner feelings of the young, from first graders to high school students, in pursuit of their artistic talents, which are present in most children particularly for poetry and other forms of expression. 

It was nothing new, as this type of educational project has existed since antiquity.  As written, On the Composition of Words, by  Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a  first-century BCE Greek historian,  “students were first taught the shape, sound, and name of the letters of the alphabet, then how to put those letters together into syllables, syllables into words, words into sentences, sentences into connected passages, and so on till they were accomplished readers.”

Moving from accomplished readers to good writers, and possibly good poets, is the purpose of Seeds of Youth, but, most important, to allow the pupils to express their feelings about anything occurring in their lives, within the walls of the school and beyond, in the street, and in the intimacy of their homes.   Developed by the authors of this writing, the academic curriculum was seen from three very punctual concerns: first, the kind of men and society is being formed; second, the fundamental pillars and dimensions of the means of communications -Ethic and Esthetic being the essence in their formation. The third component, Administrative Management, to adapt Seeds of Youth to the institutional culture.  The intention was to continue exploring these defying and invigorating subjects in depth.

Fundamental in the development of the moral character of men and women of tomorrow, it is necessary to project the ideal of the human being and society that is hoped for, and to rethink the basics and the methodologies to apply, including the learning environment, as impellers, so that Seeds of youth can grow healthy and well nurtured.

In our essay “Unity without Frontiers” (2012), and our act of faith, written in celebration of the 1st Anniversary of United Nations of the Letters, we manifested that the so called Modern Man of today, is the result sui generis of change in social political, religious and economic and moral behavior. Thus, the road for us poets, Quixote’s of sorts, is highly defiant when trying to sort the stream and navigate safely toward universal harmony through the planting of the Fine Arts in all  manifestations, in the heart and minds of our youth.

Edgar Morín1 proposes “a reform of the tough to allow leaving behind the traditional mental schemes and familiarize in the dialogical - of the simple – to the complex”. The individual and total education preview should stress the importance it has for the students since their early age, to collect knowledge in different disciplines to be capable to “learn again to see, to conceive, to think and to act.” 

Educational organizations of today are obligated to ask themselves, from the field of anthropology and philosophy, the profile of the student they wish to educate. They must ask for the “being” of his or her dimension, and the direction to take in the fields of Communication and Expression, mathematical logic, as well as in Technological Scientific and Social.  

It is highlighted that communication and expression facilitate the identification of the poetic sentiments in the individual. These should serve as links which converge in the young generations with diverse languages and codes of scientific and ecological nature. It is then necessary to create the conditions under which youth recognize the significant possibilities language offers in seeking their own Peace and offer its views of the world. This approach, as an object of study, will continue the discovery of enduring Peace through the teaching of Poetry and the Fine Arts.  

The possibilities include the application of such ideals and comprehending values, principles, behavior, myths and customs where different fields of education display their knowledge, building and rebuilding the social fabric of the youth. It identifies their interest and aspirations, learns their profile and exult the memory of their history along with the traditions and the values of their ancestors.  In open spaces, peaceful and in harmony with nature, the Seeds of Youth recreate among themselves the virtues of cohabitating in peace  and find in art the elixir  that exists  in poetry, painting, music, theater, comedy and sounds of joy, allowing them to caress happiness and peace.  

This vision in the conception of integrity of the human being, from the foundation to the complexity of education, signifies the development of ethical and esthetic dimensions in the student. Convinced of the need to cultivate knowledge, interrelating with the arts, and integrated to the formation of character and personality, it is a guarantee for lasting peace. May the youth flood the world with their talents until their voices echo peace, liberty and fraternity in the immensity of the universe!


Joseph Berolo is a poet and writer, and Founder of United Nations of the Arts, Uniletras. Gloria Ines Currea, Ph.D., is an educator and Academic Director of Seeds of Youth Projects.
__________

Edgar Morin, de nacimiento Edgar Nahum, French.

Living the Interfaith Harmony: Experiences of Sri Ramakrishna


Living the Interfaith Harmony: Experiences of Sri Ramakrishna
By Sunita Singh-Sengupta

Living the Interfaith Harmony: Experiences of Sri Ramakrishna, bySunita Singh-Sengupta

Reprinted with permission from Strategies for Peace (Bruce L. Cook and Maria Cristina Azcona, eds.), Elgin, IL: Cook Communication, 2016)
 
Sunita Singh Sengupta, Ph.D.
Founder & Honorary Convener

Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership Foundation (India)
Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership Global Foundation (USA)






As many faiths, so many paths." The paths vary, but the goal remains the same. Harmony of religions is not uniformity; it is unity in diversity. It is not a fusion of religions, but a fellowship of religions based on their common goal -- communion with God. This harmony is to be realized by deepening our individual God-consciousness –
Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna, the greatest spiritual leader of 18th century (1836-1886) from India, talked and emphasized oneness of God and advocated harmony in religions.‘God is, one, the ways may be different’ was what he experienced through his different spiritual experiences in Kale’s Temple, Masjid, Gurudwara and church and hence he started emphasizing harmony of religion. According to him it is not the fusion of religions but a fellowship of religions based on their common goal – communion with God. This harmony is to be realized by deepening our individual God - consciousness (Dasgupta, 2001).
Religion always in India, says Sri Aurobindo, precedes natural awakening. Shankaracharya was the beginning of a wave that swept round the whole country culminating in Chaitanya in Bengal, the Sikh Gurus in the Punjab, Shivaji in Maharashtra and Ramanuja and Madhavacharya in the South. Through each of these a people sprang into self-realization, into national energy and consciousness of their own unity. Sri Ramakrishna represents a synthesis, in one person, of all leaders. It follows that the movements of his age will unify and organize the more provincial and fragmentary movements of the past. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is the epitome of the whole. His was the great superconscious life which alone can witness to the infinitude of the current that bears us all oceanwards. He is the proof of the power behind us and the future before us. So great a birth initiates great happenings (Swami Sundarananda, 1986, p. 246).

Sri Ramakrishna is a perfect incarnation of Hindu genius and his greatest contribution to the world of thought is his declaration of the harmony of all religions after actual realization of their highest truths. In one life of 50 years and odd, Sri Ramakrishna lived ‘the five thousand years of national spiritual life, and so raised himself to be an object-lesson for future generations.’ Out of his direct perception of the truths of all the religions, he declared the existence of the one and only supreme Being, and not more than one, who is worshipped as Brahman by the Hindus, Buddha by the Buddhists, Christ by the Christians and Allah by the Muslims just as the same water is named differently in different languages (1986, p. 248).
Sri Aurobindo says:         


The world moves through a new synthesis of religious thought life – free from intolerance, yet full of faith and fervor, accepting all forms of religion, because it was an unshakable faith in One. The religion which embraces science and faith, Theism, Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism and yet is none of these, is that to which the world spirit moves. It is such a synthesis embracing all life and action in its scope that the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna have been preparing (1986, p. 248).
Mahatma Gandhi said (Courtesy - Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta):       

The story of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa’s life is a story of religion in practice. His life enables us to see God face-to-face. No one can read the story of his life without being convinced that God alone is real and that all else is an illusion. Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness. His sayings are not those of a mere learned man but they are pages from the Book of Life. They are the revelations of his own experiences. They therefore leave on the reader an impression which he cannot resist. In this age of skepticism Ramakrishna presents an example of a bright and living faith which gives solace to thousands of men and women who would otherwise have remained without spiritual light. Ramakrishna’s life was an object-lesson in Ahimsa (non-injury). His love knew no limits, geographical or otherwise. May His divine love be an inspiration to all…
M.K. Gandhi
The vast and all–comprehensive synthesis arrived at by Sri Ramakrishna is a spiritual verity. It was not designed, but discovered; it was not reasoned out, but revealed. It has, therefore, all the permanence of a natural law or scientific truth. Why then is our vision of the harmony of religion dimmed. I would like to quote a story from ‘Ramakrishna and His Unique Message” written by Swami Ghananada and published by Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata in 2005 (p.142):
The story is told of a forester and a lion who were walking together and fell to discussing the inevitable question, Who is stronger - a lion or a man? Finding it utterly impossible to solve the problem to their mutual satisfaction, they continued walking and came suddenly upon a piece of statuary representing a man in the act of throwing a lion. ‘There,’ exclaimed the forester, ‘you see, man is the stronger!’ ‘Ah! Yes,’ replied the lion, ‘but their positions would have been reversed if a lion had been the sculptor.’ Man usually portrays religions other than his own in ugly colours. It is rather as every mother thinks her own child the most beautiful in the world.
                                                
Tolerance, reconciliation, cooperation and fellowship of faiths are the graduated steps to be achieved for establishing the harmony of religion. Sri Ramakrishna lived this harmony of religion. Swami Vivekananda proclaimed at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago – ‘Do I wish that the Christian should become a Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist should become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian; but each must assimilate the spirit of others and yet to preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth (Swami Vivekananda, Chicago Address).
It is only through the friendly contact amongst religions that we can pave the way for fellowships amongst cultures and civilizations. Swami Ghanananda writes, “…The unity of purpose and the affinity of aspirations underlying the acceptance of the harmony of religions will diffuse from the plane of religion to the plane of cultural thought, and pave the way for the concord of cultures and symphony of civilizations. Communal and national as well as regional and racial cultures and civilizations will be benefitted by contact between themselves. They will lose the spirit of narrowness and exclusiveness and contribute their share to world culture and world civilization” (2005, p.139).

To Conclude
Sri Ramakrishna’s idea of a Universal Religion was based on the synthesis of sectarian beliefs. He, after practising Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam boldly, declared the oneness of different religions – based on his profound realization of the ultimate reality. He recognized the differences among religions but held the view that in spite of these differences every religion has an essential core of spirituality which constitutes the common ground of all religions. 

References                     

Dasgupta, R.K. (2001). Sri Ramakrishna’s Religion. Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. 


Swami Ghanananda (2005). Sri Ramakrishna and His Unique Message. Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama.


Swami Sundarananda (1986). Ramakrishna: The Symbol of National Unity. Paper Contributed In the book “Sri Ramakrishna: The Great Prophet of Harmony”. Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama.

Sacred and Secular Activists are Now Joining their Strategies for Peacebuilding

Sacred and Secular Activists are Now Joining their Strategies for Peacebuilding
By Kurt Johnson and Phillip Hellmich

Sacred and Secular Activists are Now Joining their Strategies for Peacebuilding, by Kurt Johnson and Phillip Hellmich

Philip Hellmich, Director of Peace, The Shift Network 
Kurt Johnson, Co-founder, The Interspiritual Network

Reprinted with permission from Strategies for Peace (Bruce L. Cook and Maria Cristina Azcona, eds.), Elgin, IL: Cook Communication, 2016)
It is our privilege to work with companion global networks and movements that are building new pathways to peace.  What is unique about them is that today they join both sacred and secular activists in joint works toward global peacebuilding.  These partnerships include the emerging global paradigm of “Interspirituality” (which seeks to recognize and meld the shared wisdom resources of all the world’s spiritual traditions), newly emerging, more secular, global peace networks and organizations, and the fruits of new research and discovery in the field of neuroscience.  Together, these new movements seek to advance global peacebuilding by identifying peace strategies based not only on prosocial networks centered on both the sacred and secular, but also emerging science. 

Conventional science itself has made strides in the last decade to join with a more holistic view of reality more prone to the foundations of peace.  After more than a century of parroting the mantra of “survival of the fittest” and “the selfish gene”, a new mainstream paradigm has emerged emphasizing altruism.  In the first of Yale University and The Templeton Foundation’s “Series in the Foundational Questions of Science”, Dr. David Sloan Wilson, summarizing work by himself and Dr. E. O. Wilson (the father of Sociobiology) in the Quarterly Review of Biology, layout proofs that “group” and “multi-level” selection in nature select not for processes and structures that serve self-interest groups but those that serve the well-being of the whole.  

This scientific revolution has spawned a surprising convergence between sacred and secular activists under a new rubric called “prosocial”.  Prosocial combines secular activism motivated by the new science with the sacred activism visioned by “interspirituality”-- or global, universal, world-centric, and “multiple belonging” spirituality-- whose visioners proclaimed the following: 
“We are at the dawn of a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to our life as the human family in a fragile world. This journey is what spirituality is really about. We are not meant to remain just where we are. We cannot depend on our culture either to guide and support us in our quest. We must do the hard work of clarification together ourselves. This revolution will be the task of the Interspiritual Age. The necessary shifts in consciousness require a new approach to spirituality that transcends past religious cultures of fragmentation and isolation. We need to understand, to really grasp, at an elemental level, that the definitive revolution is the spiritual awakening of humankind." 

This view is identified in the message of over fifty major historical spiritual figures from across the multiplicity of our world’s spiritual and faith traditions and includes these fundamental shifts in global awareness necessary for a successful global shift, many of which, as noted, are already happening.

  • Appreciation of the interdependence of all realms of human life and the surrounding cosmos
  • Growing ecological awareness, with recognition of the interdependence of humankind and the biosphere, including the rights of all biological species
  • Embracing of the shared wisdom in all the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, past and present
  • Growing friendship, and actual community, among the individual followers of the world’s religious and spiritual paths
  • Commitment to the depths of the contemplative pursuit and the mutual sharing of the fruits of this ongoing journey  
  • Creative cultivation of transnational, transcultural, trans-traditional, and world-centric understanding
  • Dedication to nonviolence, with a commitment to transcend militancy and violence tied to national or religious identities
  • Receptivity to a cosmic vision, realizing humanity is only one life form and part of a larger community, the universe.
Consequently, peace networks emerging in this new era notably combine the drives and talents of both secular and sacred activists.  These new alliances reflect the view of modern interspiritual thinkers:  “the only viable religion for the Third Millennium is spirituality itself with “spirituality” defined in the way both H. H. The Dalai Lama and the new science define it—that it is about values, ethics and behavior, about the actions which actually cause and define the direction of our cultural evolution-- for good or for ill.   

This worldwide trend, identified by developmental philosophers as “a great conveyor belt” toward a successful global civilization , is attributed to multiple and convergent causes. In the evolutionary consciousness movement, and the consciousness sciences, it is recognized as the natural next step in our cognitive evolution. Social scientists see it as a global adaptation driven by inevitable trends toward globalization and multiculturalism.  They conclude:

  • Globalization of planet earth is inevitable; the question is what kind of a globalization it will be and whether it will be devoid of any significant contribution from the Great Wisdom Traditions
  • Multiculturalism is inevitable; again, the question is what kind of process will unfold and whether it will be a bumpy ride full of competition and conflict (indeed possibly even outright economic and military warfare), or whether a more reasoned dialogue may emerge, mitigating such negative consequences to some degree
  • The world now faces an array of critical challenges that could affect its long-term stability and peace. These include resource scarcity and competition, drastic global climate and population changes, and political agendas and fundamentalisms tied to narrow and competing national, religious, ethnic, or racial identities.
Recognized within these challenges are four “unifying” or “Archimedean points" already identified through the world’s interfaith dialogue process.” : (1) the possibility of a common core to human mystic experience, (2) fundamental teachings held in common by all the world’s religions, (3) the shared ethical implications of the teachings of all the great traditions and hopefully emerging science, and (4) the inevitable mutuality across the religions, and hopefully emerging secular cosmologies, regarding commitment to social and economic justice.   

New “self-evident truths” seem to be emerging involving the meaning of collectives and the inevitable roles of individuals and institutions within collectives and their inherent responsibilities to a collective.  In fact, the new book on the emergence of an altruistic view of scientific and evolutionary process points precisely to holistic, egalitarian “Design Principles” for which economist Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009.   However, because these principles were holistic and did not reflect the now widespread competitive, exploitive and self-interest based modalities of most of world politics and economics, they have obviously not been widely employed-- part of the challenge of which we now speak.  Worldwide, peace-based, egalitarian and sustainability movements are critical to positive manifestation of a planet wide civilization that “works for all”.   Due to our inability to meet such challenges with the creativity that has aided our species’ survival in the past, we may face the ultimate possibility of eventual extinction. 

New Peacebuilding Networks and 
The Hope for a Culture of Peace 

Peacebuilding requires us to confront the tension between hope and despair. The future of humanity hinges on people, at the most grassroots levels, embracing hope and taking practical action guided by wisdom to create a more sustainable and peaceful world.  This is precisely what the world’s emerging new peace networks are aiming at.  Things start from at home, with individuals, families, friends, neighbors, schools and communities. While seemingly simple, this trajectory is the same one recognized by the most sophisticated integral theories on how change emerges from the grassroots and moves outwards to the cutting edges of defining cultural evolution. The ultimate effect can have a huge impact on the world when it reaches a critical mass.

The longing for peace is central to all of this.

Sanskrit has 108 words for love. 
Islam has 99 names for God. 
Japanese has 14 words for beauty. 
We’ve got one word for Peace.... 
We don’t have enough words to accurately describe all the different types of peace. 
I think it was Socrates who once said, 
‘if you don’t have a word to describe something, 
then how can you think about it?’” 


It’s easy to hold a despairing, complacent, cynical view of the world. Beyond the most glaring crises in today’s news, like Syria, our world is filled with stories of violence across the planet. The global economy is portrayed as teetering on the brink of collapse, the environment as full of significant signs of strain from the massive onslaught of consumerism, and the world’s inner cities appear as rife with poverty and violence. All of these problems can seem overwhelming and cause any individual to think: “What’s the use? What can I do?”  But there is a larger pattern emerging from global peace efforts, grassroots to cutting edge, which tells a different, much more promising, story.

The Shift Network has been mapping peace efforts globally, from the inner sanctum to the international community. In five years, the Shift Network and partner organizations co-created annual free telesummits such as The Summer of Peace that have featured over 375 interviews, shared by thousands, filled with inspirational stories, skills training and powerful solutions by the world’s top peacebuilders, social change leaders, scientists, indigenous elders and spiritual mentors. 

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/z4AjvrYt_IBCTn_PGersJDqcrJ2yifutgardfIr0sRbe_ncjqYxzSSlcxVFGhdfN1nU44WZp49Jw8RTkl4f8_1hwQelg91nMNARl0wS0pwc6uqQDqivnSxU0nuQf2ETjMCPyDJaC 

What The Shift Network discovered is that numerous individual efforts are part of a much larger narrative of peace that is quietly and powerfully emerging around the world – one rooted in ancient wisdom and accelerated by modern science and technology. This new story of peace is seldom highlighted in mainstream media.
The Shift Network created the World Peace Library to celebrate, showcase and accelerate the evolution of this new narrative of peace.  Over 375 audio recordings have been placed in the World Peace category in a strategic framework mapping peace across six broad topics:  Emerging Peace Story, Inner Peace, Family and Interpersonal Peacebuilding, Community Peacebuilding, International Peacebuilding & Global Citizenship and Planetary Peace. 

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/VhOE4cYlXDgsBURx6kKq2DKooDtpYUNhLv2JDiXuCEJAZGE4zT0pA8VdfmmLcS3xBHHVnE9YdVHocBmqC0coJPGHBGQgfuU0T31zu0AuLP7ICSafUg5WzfOD7tRT99pnY5DMSkee 

Within these broad topics the interviews are tagged in twenty-six categories of society, including spirituality, nonviolence, forgiveness, education, youth, communication, science, arts and culture, justice, healing cultural wounds, sports, military, business and economics, and politics. 

The World Peace Library highlights the fact that there is much to celebrate in the exponential growth of worldwide peace-related initiatives. For instance, the number of colleges and universities with peace and conflict resolution programs grew from a handful in 1984 to hundreds today. Community mediation and alternative dispute resolution programs are common in many parts of the United States and other countries. Nonviolent Communication has spread around the world. Meanwhile, yoga, meditation, and other forms of personal peace practices have become mainstream. In fact, the United Nations has declared June 21st as the annual International Day of Yoga—augmenting the already declared International Day of Peace (September 21) and Week of Interfaith Harmony (annually, the first week of February).  A very interesting arising in the last few years is the understanding and embracing of “subtle activism” wherein practitioners bring to bear the collective energy of meditation and spiritual intention on world problems.  Reflecting the ancient understanding of the “shamanic arts” of indigenous traditions, and supported by a growing body of scientific studies, the collective power of meditation and intention is now embraced and practiced by persons ranging from the grassroots of cultures to their academic intelligentsia. This diversity reflects what is naturally occurring from the grassroots level upward.  Dena Merriam, the founder of the Global Peace Initiative of Women and winner of the 2015 Nowano Peace Prize, reported after a gathering in Egypt that many of the young people involved in birthing the Arab Spring were meditation practitioners. 

Thus, the peace movement today is quite different from the anti-war protests of the late 20th Century. It is more about what people are for and not simply what people are against. This reflect the tremendous strides that have been made in developing new methodologies to transform conflict and embrace peace. Today, many peacebuilding organizations approach conflict as neither positive nor negative, but rather as a natural part of life. It is how we deal with conflict that determines whether it becomes destructive or a source of growth and transformation. Worldwide, many organizations and individuals are focused on creating something new to transform or replace what’s not working.  We see this across today’s restorative justice movements-- more people are looking at how to bridge the inner and the outer manifestations of peace—to embody peace while working for peace, building upon the work of peacebuilders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and processes of reconciliation like those in South Africa. 

Modern peace studies have recognized an interesting pattern in many destructive conflicts-- the tendency for people to become polarized and for extreme positions to drive cultural and political agendas much like “the blind leading the blind”. The people with the loudest voices often use fear as a tactic to unify their group against “the others.” As fear increases, people narrow their multiple identities (such as father, mother, musician, artist, sports fan, farmer, teacher) down to just one — whether an ethnic group (“I’m a Hutu and you’re a Tutsi”), a religious sect (“I’m a Muslim and you’re a Jew”), or a political party (“I’m a Republican and you’re a Democrat”). Instead of seeing what they had in common, or what connects them, they saw only how they were different and what separates them. In this sense, it is not so much religion that drives conflict as the human tendency toward dualistic and polarizing patterns of thinking. 

When experiencing intense fear, human consciousness contracts around the small self, the ego, and goes into a survival mode. Dualism is part of the operating software package of humanity and fear and love, and contraction and expansion are some of its chief functionalities. Meanwhile, a foundation of many peacebuilding initiatives is to help people in conflict to re-humanize “the other,” thereby awakening people’s inherent capacity for compassion and even love. 

Here is where whatever we can now glean from modern science steps in. There has been extensive scientific research on what happens to people in these constricted states of consciousness -- what parts of the brain get activated, what happens between the heart and brain, what hormones get released, and so on. How do we form “ingroups and outgroups” -- those we trust and show compassion, and those people we perceive as a threat? 

There is extensive scientific research on the positive benefits of spiritual practices, such as meditation and yoga, in helping people become calm and expand their consciousness. For instance, Richard Miller, PhD, the founder of iRest, is working to help U.S. military veterans heal from PTSD by using ancient yogic meditation techniques. Dr. Miller says we are all hard-wired to experience dual and nondual states of consciousness. The iRest practices help people to learn to tap into nondual states and set in motion a series of neurological, hormonal and psychological responses that aid in healing. 

The Stanford University Center for Compassion, Altruism and Research is also showing humans are hard-wired for compassion, a human quality highly valued by all spiritual traditions. CCARE, which has worked closely with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is proving people can be taught to be more compassionate, in part by being present to and mindful of their experience and by seeing the humanity in others.

There is clearly an exciting convergence taking place between spiritual practices (meditation, yoga, etc.), neuroscience and peacebuilding.  The Alliance for Peacebuilding (“AfP”), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit with over 100 member organizations, has been awarded a grant for the United States Institute of Peace to support a project called Re-Wiring the Brain for Peace - Bridging Neuroscience, Spirituality and Peacebuilding.   Their hypothesis is:  there are antidotes to the brain changes that occur in times of war, violence, and crisis – antidotes that harness the power of spirituality – that we can use to design better peacebuilding interventionsThis work will also be critically important for understanding resilience in the face of trauma – at both the personal and societal levels.  The AfP project seeks to contribute to the expansion of existing research on certain forms of contemplative practices (such as mindfulness meditation) and beyond the boundaries of any particular religion or cultural context. 

One of the benefits of conducting so many interviews with the Summer of Peace has been to see common perspectives and themes expressed by diverse people.  Although the entire breadth of this research cannot be summarized in just a few sentences, the cumulative effect has been to clearly link (i) the relationship of spiritual practices and mystical techniques that characterize the breadth of our world’s wisdom traditions with (ii) the personal stories that emerge from real life transformational stories and processes, the latter often in the context of nearly incomprehensible challenges and traumas. This research has clearly shown that the enlightening principles that guide matters to real transformation include a gambit of human wisdom resources:  insights and stories from all the world spiritual traditions; lessons and learnings that the world’s indigenous and native peoples, and vision from across the breadth of our schools of modern psychology.  Large numbers of these Summer of Peace interviews feature people who responded to atrocities and crisis by going through a dark night of the soul, seeking meaning and then striving to help other people to avoid similar situations. We can see from these accounts that people were actually applying universal spiritual principles to address horrible situations. When viewed collectively, it’s clear that the emergence of a new narrative of peace is arising from the hearts, minds, and souls of people in the face of tremendous challenges.

The Summer of Peace and its partner organizations have just begun to highlight and share the new narrative of peace. There’s much more to be done to map peace from the inner spiritual level to the evolving international mechanisms needed to respond to crises such as Syria and many others across the world. There also is a rich opportunity to explore the common themes, values and spiritual principles that are manifesting across different sectors. Another step will be to share the insights in concise and innovative ways that reach wider audiences. One anonymous advisor to the Pentagon said it this way: “I love what you are doing with the Summer of Peace. We must look at what is working to inspire people to take action to deal with conflicts peacefully. However, we need to reach more people. The problems are too large and we are running out of time.” 

Conclusion

When we step back and look at the big picture, the creativity and range of peacebuilding efforts is impressive. And it’s easy to imagine how Spirit/God/ Consciousness (whatever word works for you) is manifesting a larger story by weaving together our individual unique callings and gifts. From this perspective, it’s easier to find hope and thus surrender to the “guiding intelligence.” The key is to have the courage to do the inner work that enables us to act from a placed guided by wisdom. 

The common ground approaches of the new peace networks is based on an implicit trust in the human spirit, be that defined sacredly or secularly. When there is recognition of common humanity, innate spiritual qualities of tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, and love can be awakened. With these positive human qualities present, it is easier for people to shift their mindset. A new consciousness arises, one where they can start to discern that the “others” are not the problem, but rather that they may share similar problems, such as poverty, corruption, or political manipulation. From there, it is possible to face problems together instead of attacking each other. In essence, the approach was similar to a meditation practice: help a person move beyond fear, expand their identity or consciousness, and experience a sense of oneness or connection with other people and nature. This process opens people to their innate spiritual potential and allows them to tap into collective creativity and possibly higher states of consciousness to identify win-win solutions.

Win-win solutions are, really, what is involved in our concepts of both peace and covenant.  The roots of the words “peace” and “covenant” both involve “agreement”, since where there is agreement there is no hurtful discord, no matter how extreme the diversity.  Ecosystems find their balance in this way.  As the world’s “sacred” traditions note, coercion is not involved in covenant.  There is, rather, the mutual buy-in to a win-win.  This same win-win is the secular, and modern scientific, definition of “altruism” as well—that behavior which serves the whole.  What the sacred lens sees as “covenant”, the secular-scientific world simply calls with its new word “equivalence”.  Today’s emergent networks of peace-building combine both sacred and secular elements.  Further, they reflect a dynamic interrelationship of interspirituality, secular prosocial networks, and the understandings of modern neuroscience.  In this global context of rapid change, interconnectedness, and interdependence, a new narrative of peace is being born.


Yale/ Templeton Series in the Foundational Questions of Science:  Does Altruism Exist—Genes, Culture and the Welfare of Others, David Sloan Wilson (2015);Quarterly Review of Biology:  D. S. Wilson and E. O. Wilson “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology” (2007. 82: 327-348).  See: https://evolution-institute.org/article/steering-toward-the-omega-point-a-roundtable-discussion-of-altruism-evolution-and-spirituality/
p. 4.  Teasdale, Wayne.  1999.  The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions.  Novato CA:  New World Library. 
www.thecominginterspiritualage.com “Interspiritual Pioneers”
Teasdale, Wayne in The Mystic Heart as restated and updated by Johnson, K. and David R. Ord, The Coming Interspiritual Age.  Vancouver CN:  Namaste Publishing, p. 22.
Teasdale, Wayne op. cit. p. 26.
Wilson, D S. (2015) “ultimate causation” op. cit., pp. 61-63.
Johnson and Ord, op. cit. p. 407.
Johnson and Ord (2013) summarized in Johnson, Kurt and David Robert Ord. 2012.  “A Spirituality for the 21st Century:  Inevitablities andPossibilities. Kosmos Journal, Fall/ Winter 2012
Johnson and Ord, op. cit. p. 269.
Steve Killelea (Co-Founder of the Global Peace Index), www.visionofhumanity.org