The Ultimate Philosophy ~Rupert Spira

Published on Jan 13, 2017

Discussing the notion of Good and Ethics.

The Evidence for God: The Case for the Existence of the Spiritual Dimension by Keith Ward

‘It is remarkable how atheism is becoming fashionable. It has become almost compulsory to say that you do not believe in God. – I believe that science itself points in a very different direction. There is a huge amount of evidence for the reality of a spiritual dimension to the world.’ There is a level of being that is deeper than the physical universe, writes Keith Ward. It has purpose and value, and we can sometimes feel it and find in it resources of strength, hope, and inspiration. Through an exploration of six areas of human experience – the arts, morality, philosophy, science, religion and personal experience – Ward demonstrates the existence of more than simply physical facts. His evidence builds to an impressive argument for a ‘sense for the spiritual dimension’ that is beyond and yet expressed in and through physical facts.

Keith Ward is Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford and Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and has written many popular books on philosophy, religion and Christian theology.

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The Evidence for God with Professor Keith Ward

Live from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, Professor Keith Ward giving a lecture on the ‘Evidence for God’ and launch his new book, ‘The Evidence for God: The Case for the Existence of the Spiritual Dimension’.

THERE IS NO GOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU: A Search for God in Odd Places ~ Brad Warner (Updated Aug 17, 2013)

Can you be an atheist and still believe in God?
Can you be a true believer and still doubt?
Can Zen give us a way past our constant fighting about God?

Brad Warner was initially interested in Buddhism because he wanted to find God, but Buddhism is usually thought of as godless. In the three decades since Warner began studying Zen, he has grappled with paradoxical questions about God and managed to come up with some answers. In this fascinating search for a way beyond the usual arguments between fundamentalists and skeptics, Warner offers a profoundly engaging and idiosyncratic take on the ineffable power of the “ground of all being.”

Brad Warner was born in Ohio in 1964. In 1983 he met Zen teacher Tim McCarthy and began his study of Zen while he was still the bass player of the hardcore punk band Zero Defex, whose big hit was the eighteen-second masterpiece “Drop the A-Bomb on Me!” In the 1980s he released five albums of psychedelic rock under the band name Dimentia 13 (that’s the way he spelled it), though Dimentia 13 was often a one-man band with Brad playing all the instruments. In 1993 he moved to Japan, where he landed a job with Tsuburaya Productions, the company founded by Eiji Tsuburaya, the man who created Godzilla. The following year Brad met Gudo Nishijima Roshi, who ordained him as a Zen monk and made him his dharma heir in 2000. Brad lived in Japan for eleven years. He published his first book, Hardcore Zen, in 2003, followed by Sit Down and Shut Up! in 2007 and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate in 2009 and Sex, Sin, and Zen in 2011. These days he travels around the world leading retreats, giving lectures, and looking for cool record stores. At last report he was living in Los Angeles.

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Brad Warner on Neo Atheism

Published on May 24, 2013

Brad Warner’s new book There Is No God and He Is Always With You is a fascinating search for a way beyond the usual arguments between fundamentalists and skeptics. Warner offers a profoundly engaging and idiosyncratic take on the ineffable power of the “ground of all being.”

Brad Warner: Can We Communicate With the Dead?

Published on Jun 4, 2013

Brad Warner, author of There IS No God And He Is Always With You talks about communicating with the dead!

Brad Warner: Is Buddhism a Religion Without a God?

Brad Warner, author of There Is No God And He Is Always With You talks about religion without God.

A Talk with Brad Warner about There is No God and He is Always with You
By Brad Warner

Why did you write a book about God?

I got into Buddhist practice because I wanted to understand God. I didn’t grow up in a religious family so I had no indoctrination into beliefs about God. But in my teens I found that I really wanted to understand this idea of God. The religious people I encountered when I was growing up in rural Ohio seemed mostly just delusional and irrational. Science made sense and could be demonstrated to work, so I couldn’t reject it the way they did. And yet there seemed to be something valuable to this idea of God. I wanted to pursue it further. This book is the outgrowth of decades of personal inquiry into the question of whether or not there is a God. Not just inquiry through reading and thinking about the subject, but inquiry through many, many hours of silent meditation.

Isn’t Zen Buddhism a religion without a God?

Zen Buddhism offered me a way to approach God without religion, or at least without what we usually think of as religion. Zen doesn’t have any belief system you’re required to buy into. But it’s not atheism because atheism is also a belief system. Some Zen Buddhists believe in God and some do not. But I think the ultimate object of inquiry in Zen practice can be called God if we choose to call it God. Dogen Zenji, the founder of the order I belong to, preferred not to name it at all. He just called it, “it.”

Your book is subtitled “A Search for God in Odd Places.” Why?

I’ve traveled around the world several times in recent years, giving lectures and holding meditation retreats. This has been very educational. A lot of people all over the world are interested in Buddhist meditation these days. But every culture brings something different to the inquiry. In Israel I spoke to a group of Jewish psychologists interested in meditation while I stayed at the home of a Muslim man who worked for peace between the Palestinians and Jews. In Northern Ireland I saw how religion divides people in a similar way that it does in Israel. But people in those places still long for some kind of sense of God and spirituality. In Mexico I saw how the ancient Gods of pre-colonial days still live on in the guise of Catholic saints. It’s all been very instructive.

Your book references the New Testament and early Christian theologians almost as many times as it references Buddhist teachers. Why is that?

When I first started inquiring into the question of God, I tried the Christian Bible. But the Christians I met in Ohio were mostly conservative fundamentalists who hated science even as they used the tools of science like TV and later the Internet to spread their message. It was transparently hypocritical and very much driven by fear. Even so, I never lost the idea that the early Christians may have been onto something. I also find the story of Jesus deeply fascinating. I was a history major in university and studying Jesus in historical terms is really interesting. Who was this guy? Why did the movement he started diverge so radically from what he taught? I also feel that the types of meditation practiced by the early Christians were very similar to Zen. Some of the most Zen-like material in early Christianity actually predates similar ideas that were later developed in Chinese Zen Buddhism.

What do you think of the neo-Atheist movement championed by people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris?

It’s interesting. I’ve read some of their books. I find that I mostly agree with them. But the God that they’re spending so much energy denouncing isn’t the kind of God I believe in. I wonder how many people actually believe in that kind of anthropomorphic vengeful God anymore. Obviously some still do. But I think they’re a tiny minority. I feel like a lot of those writers are setting up very easy, strawman-like targets. What they’re saying doesn’t really address the kind of deep questions that I and a lot of other people have about God.

Have you come to any conclusions about God?

I’ve done Zen practice for nearly 30 years now, starting when I was quite young. In that time I’ve had some very profound moments in meditation that have revealed something of the nature of God to me. That’s not to say I have any great revelations about God that I want to bestow upon the ignorant masses. It’s not like that at all. I feel that God is available to all of us at any time, but that God isn’t what we imagine.

Why did you choose such a provocative title? Are you suggesting that God is separate from us or is there hidden meaning in the title?

The title comes from something the contemporary Zen teacher Joshu Sasaki once said to a student who held very strong beliefs about God. It neatly expresses the Zen view of God. On the one hand there is no God in the sense that everything you could ever imagine about God is always mistaken. But we don’t deny that there is an ultimate ground to all being and non-being. And this ground, which is the source of everything, is not just dead matter interacting at random. Yet the explanation that it behaves like dead matter acting at random also has merit. Zen is a philosophy that embraces contradiction. Logic forces us to choose one way of looking at things or another, but never two or more at the same time. Life isn’t like that. Life constantly has things two, three or a million contradictory ways all at the same time. The brain can’t handle that much data so it rejects what it can’t manipulate successfully. Life is not like that. Reality is not like that.

What are your qualifications for writing about God and Buddhism?

None really. I’m a Buddhist monk. But that doesn’t mean a lot. It means I meditate a whole lot and I’ve gone through a few initiation ceremonies, which qualify me to teach Zen and wear a certain color of robes. Big deal. I am a human being and I believe all human beings are equally qualified to inquire into the question of God and to reach conclusions, or at least provisional understandings, about God.

What audience are you hoping to attract?

I don’t really know. I hope this book will be read by people who are interested in the question of God. I hope it finds an audience outside the world of people who buy every book on the shelf with Zen in the title. I hope that it helps move the inquiry into God a little further. I feel like the current arguments between atheists and true believers are mostly very shallow and kind of useless. I’d like to get a little deeper into an issue that I think is really important.

Who do Buddhists pray to?

No one. Buddhists don’t really pray in the sense that the word “pray” has come to mean these days. We don’t believe we can ask God to do things for us. And yet I think most Buddhists feel a strong relationship to something that a lot of people call God, even if the Buddhists themselves tend to avoid that word. I’ve chose to frame my inquiry in terms of God, which is a very divisive and messy word that evokes a lot of strong emotions. I think we need to do this because there are some very important issues at stake. If you avoid the word God because it’s so difficult and dangerous, I think you’re avoiding a very serious topic and I think we really have to look into this.

The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved ~ Matthew Fox [updated July 27, 2013]

An internationally acclaimed theologian and member of the Dominican Order, Matthew Fox was forbidden to teach by then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988 and was later dismissed from the order.

His experiences make him uniquely qualified to write about Pope Benedict XVI. Fox delivers a blistering indictment of Ratzinger, from his early career to his years as chief Inquisitor, from his protection of reactionary groups like Opus Dei to his role in covering up the pedophilia crisis. But Fox also sets forth his vision for a new Catholicism–one that is truly universal and celebrates critical thinking, diversity, and justice.

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360 Vision – Heretic Interview with Matthew Fox

Interview with Matthew Fox, the foremost exponent of “Creation Spirituality,” a movement that seeks to revitalize Christianity by embracing mysticism, feminism, social justice, ecological awareness and the shamanic traditions of indigenous peoples. Fox, an outspoken American priest and theologian, explains his controversial spiritual philosophy.

A New Pope and “The Most Corrupt Vatican Since the Borgias”

Matthew Fox (former Catholic priest) discusses the Vatican’s work with the CIA and it’s alliance with far right political forces and Pope Francis’ opposition to liberation theology in Latin America.

Avatar and Nature Spirituality ~ Bron Taylor

Released Date: July 2013

Avatar and Nature Spirituality explores the cultural and religious significance of James Cameron’s film Avatar (2010), one of the most commercially successful motion pictures of all time. Its success was due in no small measure to the beauty of the Pandora landscape and the dramatic, heart-wrenching plight of its nature-venerating inhabitants. To some audience members, the film was inspirational, leading them to express affinity with the film’s message of ecological interdependence and animistic spirituality. Some were moved to support the efforts of indigenous peoples, who were metaphorically and sympathetically depicted in the film, to protect their cultures and environments. To others, the film was politically, ethically, or spiritually dangerous. Indeed, the global reception to the film was intense, contested, and often confusing.

To illuminate the film and its reception, this book draws on an interdisciplinary team of scholars, experts in indigenous traditions, religious studies, anthropology, literature and film, and post-colonial studies. Readers will learn about the cultural and religious trends that gave rise to the film and the reasons these trends are feared, resisted, and criticized, enabling them to wrestle with their own views, not only about the film but about the controversy surrounding it. Like the film itself, Avatar and Nature Spirituality provides an opportunity for considering afresh the ongoing struggle to determine how we should live on our home planet, and what sorts of political, economic, and spiritual values and practices would best guide us.

Bron Taylor is a professor at the University of Florida and a fellow of the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany. His books include Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future (2010), and he is the editor of the award-winning Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (2005) and the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. His website is

Statement on Religion, Nature, Culture and Environmental Values

Ten Metaphysical Lessons from James Cameron’s Avatar: View HERE

Eradicating Ecocide: Laws and Governance to Stop the Destruction of the Planet ~ Polly Higgins

‘Eradicating Ecocide highlights the need for enforceable, legally binding mechanisms in national and international law to hold account perpetrators of long term severe damage to the environment. At this critical juncture in history it is vital that we set global standards of accountability for corporations, in order to put an end to the culture of impunity and double standards that pervade the international legal system. Polly Higgins illustrates how this can be achieved in her invaluable new book.’ Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair of Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation

In Eradicating Ecocide, international environment lawyer and activist Polly Higgins sets out to demonstrate in no uncertain terms how our planet is fast being destroyed by the activities of corporations and governments, facilitated by ‘compromise’ laws that offer insufficient deterrence. She offers a solution that is radical but, as she explains with great competence and experience, absolutely necessary.

The recent Mexican Gulf oil spill is a compelling reminder of the consequences of un-checked ecocide. Higgins advocates the introduction of a new international law against Ecocide. It would become the 5th Crime Against Peace and would hold to account heads of corporate bodies that are found guilty of perpetrating ecocide.

The opportunity to implement this law represents a crossroads in the fate of humanity; we can accept this one change and in doing so save our ecosystem for future generations, or we can continue to destroy it, risking future brutal war over disappearing natural resources. This is the first book to explain that we all have a commanding voice and the power to call upon all our governments to change the existing rules of the game. Higgins presents examples of laws in other countries which have succeeded in curtailing the power of governments, corporations and banks and made a sudden and effective change, demonstrating that her proposal is not impossible.

Eradicating Ecocide is a crash course on what laws work, what doesn’t and what else is needed to prevent the imminent disaster of global collapse. Eradicating Ecocide provides a comprehensive overview of what needs to be done in order to prevent ecocide. It is a book providing a template of a body of laws for all governments to implement, which applies equally to smaller communities and anyone who is involved in decision-making.

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earthrise : Big Thinker: Polly Higgins

In most countries the environment has no legal rights. Corporate CEOs and heads of state are not bound by law personally to look after the earth and clean up any mess they make. But environmental lawyer Polly Higgins is trying to change that.

Ecocide, the 5th Crime Against Peace: Polly Higgins at TEDxExeter

Dare to be great: Polly Higgins at TEDxWhitechapel

Barrister and activist known as ‘lawyer for the Earth’, Polly Higgins, tells her recent transformative experience taking time out walking in New Forest where she was awakened to her greater purpose and next steps in service of the Earth. She challenges us to ask the empowering questions: “How can we move from a place of dependency to a place of interdependency? How can we create a world of peace? How can I dare to be great?”

Polly Higgins, barrister, international lawyer and award winning author of Eradicating Ecocide, proposed to the United Nations in April 2010 a law of Ecocide to be classed as the 5th Crime Against Peace. Ecocide is defined as the mass “damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.”
Polly has been a vocal spokesperson on Earth Law for a number of years and is recognised as an expert in her field. Her first book, Eradicating Ecocide: Laws and Governance to Prevent the Destruction of our Planet is published by Shepheard-Walwyn, Winner of the Peoples Book Prize 2011 for non-fiction and book number 2, Earth is our Business, changing the rules of the game has been described as ‘groundbreaking’. No other author has addressed the heart of the problem and proposed how to change it into a solution by using law. Polly has now mounted a global campaign to have Ecocide recognised as the 5th Crime Against Peace.

Rediscovering Values On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street – by Jim Wallis [updated Feb 15, 2013]

A moral compass for the new economy—one that will guide us on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street.

When we start with the wrong question, no matter how good an answer we get, it won’t give us the results we want. Rather than joining the throngs who ask “When will this economic crisis be over?” Jim Wallis says the right question to ask is “How will this crisis change us?”

The worst thing we can do now, Wallis tells us in Rediscovering Values, is to go back to normal. Normal is what got us into this situation. We need a new normal, and this economic crisis is an invitation to discover what that means. Here are some of the principles Wallis unpacks for our new normal:

• Spending money we don’t have for things we don’t need is a bad foundation for an economy or a family.
• It’s time to stop keeping up with the Joneses and start making sure the Joneses are okay.
• The values of commercials and billboards are not the things we want to teach our children.
• Care for the poor is not just a moral duty but is critical for the common good.
• A healthy society is a balanced society in which markets, the government, and our communities all play a role.
• The operating principle of God’s economy says that there is enough if we share it.

In this wide-ranging discussion of the moral issues raised by our deep and wide economic crisis, Wallis argues that change needs to come from families, communities, and our whole society. These kinds of changes are never quick or easy solutions but, rather, long-term shifts that we must choose and rechoose every day.

The Great Recession: A Spiritual Crisis – Jim Wallis
The Great Recession is not just an economic crisis, it is the result of a loss of values, a moral crisis. And to say that it is a moral crisis is also to say that it is a spiritual crisis. At the center of most religions is the question of who and what we worship? Where is our deepest allegiance?

So the Great Recession bears some “religious” reflection, as the market has gradually become all pervasive–a replacement for religion and even for God. It is the Market now that now seems to have all the godlike qualities–all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful, even eternal–unable to be resisted or even questioned. Performing necessary roles and providing important goods and services are not the same things as commanding ultimate allegiance. Idolatry means that something has taken the place of God. The market can be good thing and even necessary; but it now commands too much, claims ultimate significance, controls too much space in our lives, and has gone far beyond its proper limits.

Idolatry comes in a lot of different forms. Today, it is much more subtle than bowing down to a golden calf. It often takes the form of choosing the wrong priorities, trusting in the wrong things, and putting our confidence where it does not belong.

Today, instead of statues, we now have hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, 401(k)s, and mutual funds and, for some, bonuses. We place blind faith in the hope that the stock indexes will just keep rising and real estate prices keep climbing. Market mechanisms were supposed to distribute risk so well that even those who were reckless would never see the consequences of their actions. Trust, security, and hope in the future were all as close to us as the nearest financial planner’s office. Life and the world around us could all be explained with just the right market lens. These idols were supposed to make us happy and secure, and provide for all our needs. Those who manage them became the leaders, to whom we looked, not just for financial leadership, but direction for our entire lives. That is indeed idolatry.

Rich and poor alike were sucked into making heroes out of those who seemed to be able to turn everything they touched into gold. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel lost virtually all of his personal wealth and his foundation’s, up to $37 million, to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. “We gave him everything, we thought he was God, we trusted everything in his hands,” Weisel said.

The market even has its priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, and shamans. These money and market commentators translate the often confusing signals of the Dow, international currency exchange rates, or futures indexes and tell us all what they mean and how they should act as a result. Sometimes they preach famine and the retribution of the market for the sins of the people, and other times they praise the market and the feast it provides. Those who question the market “god” are called heretics and lunatics and are burned at the stake on conservative talk radio.

In claiming the power to define what is real and true, and bowing to no limits beyond itself, the market now claims “a comprehensive wisdom that in the past only the gods have known,” according to theologian Harvey Cox. And like a god to be feared and worshipped, we now can even know the market’s moods on a daily basis–moody, angry, restless, or satisfied. And to even question the market’s “high priests” and their declarations is now to commit heresy. The worship of this false god, The Market, has become quite ecumenical. Across denominational and faith persuasions, herds of us are bowing down to the doctrines and dictates of The Market.

But this crisis presents us with an opportunity, not just to be smarter and more prudent about our economic lives, but to change something much deeper–to reject the idolatry of our market worship, to expose the idols that have ensnared us, and to reduce “The Market” to simply “the market,” asking the market to again serve us, rather than the other way around. According to John Deere CEO, Bob Lane, the market is to be “a means, and not an end.” That’s good theology.

Indeed, it could be that the religions of the world might help lead the way here, challenging the idols of the market and reminding us who is God and who is not–a traditional and necessary role for religion. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein,” say both Christianity and Judaism: it does not belong to the market. Let us also remember that human beings are merely stewards of God’s creation; not its masters. And we humans are the ones who preside over the market–not the other way around.

And despite our differences, the religion of the market has become a more formidable rival to every religion than we are to one another. But together now, we could challenge the dominion of the market, by again restoring the rightful worship of God. The market’s false promise of its limitless infinity must be replaced with the acknowledgment of our human finitude, with more humility and with moral limits–which are essential to restoring our true humanity. The market’s fear of scarcity must be replaced with the abundance of a loving God. And the first commandment of The Market, “There is never enough,” must be replaced by the dictums of God’s economy; namely, there is enough, if we share it.

For people of faith, there is another question: What is a Christian, Jewish, or Islamic response to a deepening economic crisis like this? What should people of faith be thinking, saying, and doing? What is the responsibility of the churches, synagogues, and mosques to their own parishioners, to their communities, to the nation, and the world? And where is God in all this?

What do pastors, lay leaders, activists, and practitioners say about creative opportunities and new solutions that could come out of all this: the possibilities of mutual aid, congregational and community credit unions, and new cooperative strategies for solving problems like health care, housing, and even jobs. How can an economic crisis reconnect religious congregations with their own communities? How might a crisis be an opportunity to clarify the mission of the faith community?

One good example of a response is the Vineyard Church of Columbus, Ohio. On Palm Sunday, Pastor Rich Nathan told his congregation, “We want to help families and individuals who have lost their jobs by taking a special offering.” The collection that followed was an amazing surprise to everyone – raising $625,000! The church is now using these funds to provide resources, coaching, counseling, and networking events to assist people with securing employment; to both its members and the wider community.

And at a larger level, the basic teachings of our faiths, from our many traditions, offer useful correctives to the practices that brought us to this sad place. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount instructs us not to be anxious about material things, a notion that runs directly counter to the frenzied pressure of modern consumer culture. Judaism teaches us to leave the edges of the fields for the poor to “glean” and welcome those in need to our tables. And Islam prohibits the practice of usury. And the core religious values of simplicity, stewardship, humility, patience, and modesty are now just what we need.

This is already a time of great anxiety for many. But it could also be a time of prayerful self-evaluation, redirection, and even new relationships with others in our congregations and communities, with our families and children, and even with our God.

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Bestselling author Jim Wallis on his new book, Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street argues that the economic crisis affords us an incredible opportunity to rescue our culture from commercialism and create a moral social order. Wallis provides a moral compass for our new emerging economy.

Transcending Human Madness ~ Steve Taylor [updated Feb 4, 2013]

The Roots of Human Insanity and How Spirituality can make us Sane: Originally published in Green Spirit, Winter 2007

To an impartial observer – say, an alien zoologist from another planet – there must be very compelling evidence that human beings suffer from a serious mental disorder, and are perhaps even insane.

The last few thousand years have been an endless catalogue of insane behaviour. Recorded history is an endless catalogue of wars, and the story of the brutal oppression of the great mass of human beings by a tiny privileged minority. The terrible oppression of women which runs through history – and which still exists in many parts of the world – is another sign of this insanity, as is the hostile, repressive attitude to sex and the body which most cultures have shared.

In addition to this insane collective behaviour, an alien zoologist might see signs of mental disorder in the way that many of us behave as individuals. He or she would be puzzled by the fact that human beings seems to find it so difficult to be happy. Why do so many people suffer from different kinds of psychological malaise – for example, depression, drug abuse, eating disorders, self-mutilation – or else spend so much time oppressed by anxieties, worries and feelings of guilt or regret, and negative emotions like jealousy and bitterness? And why do so many people seem to have an insatiable lust to possess things? Why are we prepared to go to such lengths to obtain material goods which we don’t actually need and which bring no real benefits to us?

In the same way, many people have a very strong craving for status and success; they dream of being famous pop or TV stars, and try to gain respect from others by wearing particular clothes, possessing status symbols or going to certain places or behaving in a certain way. ‘Why aren’t human beings content just to be as they are?’ the observer might ask himself. ‘Why are they so driven to gain wealth and status instead of accepting their situation and living in the present moment?’

Primal and Prehistoric Peoples

However, there are many groups of people in the world who don’t seem to be touched by this insanity – or at least, who weren’t until recent times. ‘Primal’ peoples like the Australian Aborigines, the tribal peoples of Siberia, Lapland, Oceania and other isolated areas, generally had a very low level of warfare, if any at all. They also have high status for women, and are strikingly egalitarian and democratic. Almost uniformly, anthropologists have been struck by how naturally content and carefree these peoples seem, as if they are free of the psychological malaise which afflicts us.

Even more strikingly, archaeological records indicate that prehistoric human beings were free from this insanity too. Archaeological studies throughout the world have found almost no evidence of warfare during the whole of the hunter-gatherer phase of history – that is, right from the beginnings of the human race until 8000 BCE. Archaeologists have discovered over 300 prehistoric caves around the world, dating from 40,000 to 10,000 BCE, not one of which contains any images of weapons or fighting.

Prehistoric peoples have no signs of male domination either. On the contrary, they seem to have worshipped the female form. Their major art form was small statuettes of naked women, often with exaggerated breasts and hips. Literally tens of thousands of these have been found across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. These societies apparently had no different classes or castes either. For archaeologists, one of the most obvious signs of inequality are grave differences. Later societies have larger, more central graves for more ‘important’ people, which also have a lot more possessions inside them. Men generally have more ‘important’ graves than women. But the graves of prehistoric peoples are strikingly uniform, with little or no size differences and little or no wealth.

The Over-Developed Ego
This suggests that there is a fundamental difference between us and primal or prehistoric peoples, a difference which gives rise to the collective and individual insanity which plagues us. Why should they be free of the insanity of warfare, oppression and materialism? I believe that this fundamental difference is what might be described as our ‘over-developed ego.’

We appear to have a more pronounced sense of individuality – or ego – than primal peoples. According to the anthropologist Lucien Levy-Bruhl, for example, the essential characteristic of primal peoples was their less ‘sharpened’ sense of individuality. In his words, ‘the limits of their individuality are variable and ill-defined.’ He notes that, rather than existing as self-sufficient individual entities – as we experience ourselves – their sense of identity is bound up with their community and their land. He cites reports of peoples who use the word ‘I’ when speaking of their group and others who see their land as an extension of their self, so that being forced away from their land would be tantamount to death. (This is why primal peoples are often prepared to commit suicide rather than leave their lands.)

The naming practices of certain peoples suggest this too. For us, a name is a permanent label which defines our individuality and autonomy. But Australian Aborigines, for example, do not have fixed names which they keep throughout their lives. Their names regularly change, and include those of other members of their tribe. Other native peoples use tekonyms – terms which describe the relationship between two people – instead of personal or kinship names. On the other hand, our sense of ego is so defined and strong that many of us experience a basic sense of separation to nature, other human beings and even our own bodies. We are self-sufficient individuals who can exist apart from the natural world, our communities and even each other.

I believe this over-developed ego is the fundamental madness from which we suffer from, and the root cause of our insane behaviour. Intense ego-consciousness is a state of suffering. It brings a basic sense of isolation, of being separate from other people and the rest of reality. We experience ourselves as fragile entities trapped inside our own heads with the rest of the world ‘out there,’ on the other side. And our egos send a constant stream of ‘thought-chatter’ through our minds, a chaos of memories, daydreams, worries and fears which disturbs our being and creates a constant state of anxiety.

In addition, because we live in our thoughts so much, we find it very difficult to live in the present, and to appreciate the reality and beauty of the world in which we live. The world becomes a dreary, half-real place, perceived through a fog of thought. As a result of this, most people feel a basic sense of incompleteness and discontent. And this negative state is the basic source of the cravings for possessions and power and status, which are a way of trying to complete ourselves and compensate for our inner discord. We try to complete ourselves – and make ourselves significant – by gaining power over other people or by collecting wealth and possessions.

And in turn, this desire for wealth and power is at the heart of warfare and oppression. But just as importantly, our strong sense of ego means that it’s difficult for us to empathise with other people. We become ‘walled off’ from them, unable to ‘feel with’ them and to experience the world from their perspective or to sense the suffering we might be causing them. We become able to oppress and exploit other people in the service of our own desires.

Perhaps the desire for wealth and power, minus the ability to empathise, is the root of warfare and the oppression of women and other social groups. Maybe it’s also the root cause of our abuse of the environment. It means that we experience a sense of ‘otherness’ to nature, and that we can’t sense its aliveness, and as a result we don’t feel any qualms about exploiting and abusing it.

Beyond the Ego

However, there is a method of healing our inner discord and transcending our insanity: through ‘transpersonal’ – or spiritual – development. The whole purpose of transpersonal development is to transcend our intensified sense of ego, to blunt its walls of separateness and quieten its chaotic thought-chatter so that we can begin to experience a new sense of inner content and a new sense of connection to the cosmos and to other beings.

This is what the practice of meditation aims to do: to generate a state of inner quietness in which the ego fades away. And this is what happens when we dedicate our lives to serving others rather than following our own selfish desires: separateness begins to fall away as we develop a heightened sense of compassion, a shared sense of being with other people and other creatures.

As we transcend the intensified sense of ego, we begin to see the world as a meaningful and harmonious place. We become able to live in the moment and accept ourselves and our lives as they are, without wanting. And we also move beyond the social insanity of warfare and oppression. Since there is no discord inside us, we no longer crave for wealth and power, and now that we are no longer separate, we have the ability to empathise with other beings, and so become incapable of abusing or exploiting them. When the ego is transcended, all of the madness of human behaviour fades away, like the symptoms of a disease which has now been cured. That is the only true sanity, and perhaps the only way in which we can hope to live in peace and harmony on this planet.

Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit ~ Parker J. Palmer

At a critical time in American life, Parker J. Palmer looks with realism and hope at how to deal with our political tensions for the sake of the common good–without the shouting, blaming, or defaming so common in our politics today.

In his newest book, Parker J. Palmer builds on his own extensive experience as an inner life explorer and social change activist to examine the personal and social infrastructure of American politics. What he did for educators in The Courage to Teach he does here for citizens by looking at the dynamics of our inner lives for clues to reclaiming our civic well-being. In Healing the Heart of Democracy, he points the way to a politics rooted in the commonwealth of compassion and creativity still found among “We the People.”

“Democracy,” writes Palmer, “is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart–and its outcome can never be taken for granted. The experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so also is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into compassion, conflict into community, and tension into energy for creativity amid democracy’s demands.”

Healing the Heart of Democracy names the “habits of the heart” we need to revitalize our politics and shows how they can be formed in the everyday venues of our lives. Palmer proposes practical and hopeful methods to hold the tensions of our differences in a manner that can help restore a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Click Here To Browse Inside
PARKER J. PALMER is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. He is founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include “A Hidden Wholeness,” “Let Your Life Speak,” “The Courage to Teach,” “The Active Life,” “To Know as We Are Known,” “The Company of Strangers,” “The Promise of Paradox,” “The Heart of Higher Education,” and “Healing the Heart of Democracy.”

He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, as well as eleven honorary doctorates, two Distinguished Achievement Awards from the National Educational Press Association, and an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press. In 1998, the Leadership Project, a national survey of 10,000 educators, named him one of the thirty most influential senior leaders in higher education and one of the ten key agenda-setters of the past decade.

In 2010, he was given the William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mead, Marshall McLuhan, Paulo Freire, and Elie Wiesel). “Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer,” was published in 2005. In 2011, the Utne Reader named him as one of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”–people who “don’t just think out loud but who walk their talk on a daily basis.” (See the Oct-Nov 2011 print or online edition.) He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive—and we are legion—the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation.

— from the “Prelude” in Parker J. Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy
Click Here To View

God and the Brain The Physiology of Spiritual Experience ~ Andrew Newberg

Is it our biological destiny to seek the divine? Is faith in a higher power a survival trait? On God and the Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg presents intriguing evidence that the human brain is a “believing machine”—and that our capacity for self-transcendence and spirituality helps drive our evolution as a species.

This pioneer of brain studies presents the first audio course on his groundbreaking research into the fascinating links between faith, neurobiology, and the mysteries of the psyche, including:

>Why this emerging science enriches both the faithful and the skeptical
>How prayer and meditation enhance your health—tips for tailoring a spiritual regimen that
suits your individual needs
>How the world’s spiritual paths uniquely shape the brain and mind
>The “myth-making brain”—the survival value of our storytelling and human imagination
>The biology of forgiveness—why this critical spiritual skill is so important to your
physical and psychological wellness

No matter what you believe—or don’t believe—about God, the parts of your brain that manifest spiritual experience have a profound impact on your entire identity. With his balanced approach of spiritual wonder and scientific rigor, Dr. Andrew Newberg is a leader in exploring the uncharted territory where our human bodies overlap with our experience of the sacred. On God and the Brain, he shares core insights that will deepen your understanding of our most human gift—the experience of the divine. 

Universal Morality, Inclusivity, and the Brain – Andrew Newberg

Andrew B. Newberg, MD
Universal Morality, Inclusivity, and the Brain

The United Nations, New York – September 11, 2009
Toward a Common Morality

Andrew Newberg, M.D -Neurology of Saints & Gurus

Andrew Newberg, M.D gives a more scientific explanation of various mystical processes such as near-death experiences ,meditation and how these can affect one’s perspective upon reality as well as upon one’s life.

Andrew Newberg, M.D. is an associate professor of radiology and psychiatry and an adjunct assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind. He is co-author of Why God Won’t Go Away, Born to Believe, and The Mystical Mind.

The Moral Landscape How Science Can Determine Human Values By Sam Harris

Sam Harris’s first book, The End of Faith, ignited a worldwide debate about the validity of religion. In the aftermath, Harris discovered that most people—from religious fundamentalists to nonbelieving scientists—agree on one point: science has nothing to say on the subject of human values.

Indeed, our failure to address questions of meaning and morality through science has now become the most common justification for religious faith. It is also the primary reason why so many secularists and religious moderates feel obligated to “respect” the hardened superstitions of their more devout neighbors.

In this explosive new book, Sam Harris tears down the wall between scientific facts and human values, arguing that most people are simply mistaken about the relationship between morality and the rest of human knowledge. Harris urges us to think about morality in terms of human and animal well-being, viewing the experiences of conscious creatures as peaks and valleys on a “moral landscape.” Because there are definite facts to be known about where we fall on this landscape, Harris foresees a time when science will no longer limit itself to merely describing what people do in the name of “morality”; in principle, science should be able to tell us what we ought to do to live the best lives possible.

Bringing a fresh perspective to age-old questions of right and wrong and good and evil, Harris demonstrates that we already know enough about the human brain and its relationship to events in the world to say that there are right and wrong answers to the most pressing questions of human life. Because such answers exist, moral relativism is simply false—and comes at increasing cost to humanity. And the intrusions of religion into the sphere of human values can be finally repelled: for just as there is no such thing as Christian physics or Muslim algebra, there can be no Christian or Muslim morality.

Using his expertise in philosophy and neuroscience, along with his experience on the front lines of our “culture wars,” Harris delivers a game-changing book about the future of science and about the real basis of human cooperation.

The Moral Landscape : Sam Harris discusses the question, “Is it good to force women and girls to wear burkas?” View Here and How Science Can Determine Human Values.Here

Sam Harris: Neuroscientist and philosopher
Adored by secularists, feared by the pious, Sam Harris’ best-selling books argue that religion is ruinous and, worse, stupid — and that questioning religious faith might just save civilization.
View Here

Tell the World: A Young Environmentalist Speaks Out ~ Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s Tell the World: A Young Environmentalist Speaks Out is another publishing oddity. Thirteen-year-old Cullis-Suzuki is, of course, the famed David Suzuki’s daughter. The book includes the text of her speechView Here at the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro held in June, 1992, as well as sections that explain the formation of Cullis-Suzuki’s environmentalist group and give pragmatic suggestions for action to other teenage activists. Cullis-Suzuki’s speech is perfectly decent rhetoric for a cause most of us would support. It is, however, nothing new. While the suggestions for activism are sensible and well presented, the young author seems blissfully unaware of how her privileged position as the child of a celebrity has influenced her effectiveness as an environmental activist. This is understandable and forgivable in a youngster. The decision to publish such ephemera is not.
Rhea Tregebov (Books in Canada) — Books in Canada

Severn Cullis-Suzuki – A Call to Action for Canadians for Earth Summit 2012

Hey everyone. Severn is our inspiration and a hard worker for environmental justice Here she speaks as as We Canada Champion @wecanada

At only 12 years of age, Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke to world leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, telling them that they needed to take action and save the planet. Now, nearly 20 years later, she asks all Canadians to demand action from our leaders at the 2012 UN Earth Summit.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki is a world renowned environmental activist, a UN Commissioner for the Earth Charter, and a Champion of the We Canada Initiative.

The Greatest Truth Never Told:45.30 Reasons To Get Out Of Real Estate Part1 46. 30 Reasons To Get Out Of Real Estate Part 2 47.The Shock of a New Paradigm 48. Our Great Depression

46. 30 Reasons To Get Out Of Real Estate Part 2

47. The Shock of a New Paradigm

48. Our Great Depression

TheGreatestTruthNeverTold: 41. You Make Plans They Make Plans 42. The Duck Dinner 43. The Rigged Game 44. Confiscation and Inflation


42. The Duck Dinner

43. The Rigged Game

44. Confiscation and Inflation

What Drives YOU? Take Our Core Values Quiz ~John Tsilimparis

Whether we know it or not, we all possess core values that drive our existence. These values are the pillars that support the infrastructure of our lives. They are the reason why we get up in the morning. They are also the fabric of who we are as individuals, because our values — things that are important to us — give us meaning and a sense of identity. Through the years, our core values tend to be neglected or put aside, especially if we have become depressed or preoccupied with excessive worry over life’s unavoidable difficulties. As a result, our self-esteem takes a big hit because we have lost our sense of direction. And, without that direction and purpose we don’t know who we are. Realigning ourselves with our core values will gives us insight into where we can begin to put our energy immediately, and what to begin focusing on as part of the process of rebuilding our self-esteem.

When we rediscover our core values and make a conscious decision to live by them as best we can, we gradually begin to see changes in our lives. And, over time, we start to feel better because we are in harmony with ourselves.

When I give this assignment to my patients (“Rediscovering Core Values”), many report the exercise brings up discomfort because the direct and deliberate focusing on the “self” feels overly indulgent. For example, feelings of shame are inspired, perhaps from the many years of deflecting personal attention. In many cultures it is the norm to put oneself second to the needs of others and to think of you as part of a whole, instead of a separate individual.

But one of the many aspects of building self-esteem is in fact, identifying and acknowledging our separateness in relation to others. But we need to keep in mind that the healthy separateness we are discussing here is not intended to mean indifference or even contentiousness with others. If we can appreciate our uniqueness and value as a person, we may be able to appreciate that in others too.


The following is a list of possible life values that may inspire ideas about our own personal core values that are important to us. Keep in mind that “life” itself cannot be used as a value for this exercise because it is too broad. The idea is to get as specific as possible.

Material things are also not workable for this exercise because they are not the kinds of values we are talking about. Therefore, things like money, 401k’s, real estate, cars even our iPods and smartphones are not considered values.

Please place a check mark next to the values that feel right for you. Or as mentioned, come up with your own:

_____Commitment to Family _____Commitment to Spouse/Partner

_____Commitment to Community _____Commitment to God

_____Spirituality _____Health

_____Nutrition _____Exercise

_____Integrity _____Responsibility

_____Self-Respect _____Honesty

_____Self-Reliance _____Sense of Humor

The next step is to think about what it means to begin living into at least two of these values one time per day. In other words, what actions are we willing to commit to taking each day that are in accord with these values?

For example, if one of our identified core values is our sense of Integrity and we are going to align our behaviors with that value, we may decide to make amends with a friend or an acquaintance we have fallen out of communication with in the past. We may call up a family member and perhaps open up a dialogue about an issue that is unresolved between us. Or we may be inspired to follow through on a task or a goal we have put off for a while that has been eating away at us and making us feel inadequate.

If another identified core value is say, our spirituality and we are making a conscious decision to align our behaviors with it, we may choose to engage in some mindfulness meditation in the morning before work or afterwards. We may choose to attend services at a place of worship, we may even pick up reading materials that inspire us and reconnect us to whatever our higher power is. We may decide to be in the presence of nature such as walking in a park, on the beach or hiking in the forest. Or we may even decide to just sit somewhere quietly during our lunch break and take in the sights around us.

So, after identifying two of your most important core values, use the following exercise to begin:


Core value #1 – Spirituality or connecting to higher power

Actions I will take today:

1) I will practice mindfulness and/or meditation exercises every morning for 15-20 minutes before I go to work.

2) I will attend church, synagogue or mosque, etc., 1 time per week for services and
while I am there, I will engage in conversation with 1-2 new people.

3) I will do 30 minutes of mindfulness walking in nature at a park, beach, forest, etc.

Exercise: List of Actions/Actions

(The list will comprise of planned actions/activities you will schedule or commit to one time per day.)

Core value #1___________________________________________________

Actions I will take today:







Core value #2____________________________________________________

Actions I will take today:







If we do this exercise one time per day, every day for one month, we may notice a change or a shift in our thinking about ourselves and about our place in the world.

John Tsilimparis is a writer and psychotherapist in Los Angeles and was featured on the hit TV show “OBSESSED,” where he treated individuals with OCD on camera. The show aired on A&E and received a great deal of exposure and success. John has also appeared on television as an expert on addiction and other psychiatric conditions. He was featured on “Larry King Live,” “The View,” Fox News, KTLA-News, and ABC News. He was also featured on several radio programs in the Los Angeles area.

In his psychotherapy work, he treats individuals suffering from anxiety disorders, particularly OCD, depression and addiction, and also specializes in bereavement counseling. His approach is a cutting-edge theoretical orientation called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on changing individuals’ personal thinking and belief systems about every aspect of life.

John is a former staff clinician at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Bever

1. Are Consciousness and God The Same? 2. Science and God 3. How Can I Tame my Ego? 4. Can There Be A Choice Without Judgment? 5. How do you find peace with yourself?

Are Consciousness and God The Same?

Science and God

Does science diminish or enrich our understanding of God? His new book discusses many of these topics in War of the Worldviews co-written with Leonard Mlodinow, professor of physics at CalTech

How Can I tame my Ego?

Can There Be A Choice Without Judgment?

How do you find peace with yourself?

Who Was Confucius and Why Does it Matter ? ~ Rodney L. Taylor, Ph.D

Confucius was born in the 6th Century B.C.E. in the small state of Lu, located in the present Shantung peninsula. He lived during the Chou Dynasty at a point when the central authority of the dynasty was being challenged by the growth of increasingly powerful states attempting to challenge the power of the central government. Confucius himself was a member of what was referred to as the ju, a class of people primarily occupied with the study of writing from the earliest generations of the Chou period, the writings that become known as the ching or Classics, numbering five or six, but accruing additional numbers with the passage of time. So Confucius was essentially a scholar of his time.

Confucius can be understood in his historic context. That context is the slow disintegration of the stability and order of the political order of his day. His focus is upon a series of writings that described the harmonious ways of the generations before him and even further in the past, a time when sages, sheng, brought their wisdom to the governing of the world. For Confucius the Classics were the documentation that when sages governed, the world was ordered. This concept of order was defined largely in terms of a moral code of humaneness, the concept of jen, goodness, exercised by the sage rulers toward their subjects and in turn became the governing principle for all people in society.

The contrast between what Confucius read of the records of the ancients and his own age was stark. As a result Confucius sought to bring the ways of the ancients to his own generation. For many years he traveled from state to state, often at great personal risk, to attempt to inculcate the teachings of moral goodness to the rulers of the various states

In this endeavor he was a remarkable failure! No ruler was interested in a teaching of moral goodness. Is it any different today? What a surprise, such rulers were only interested in strategies to guarantee their own sustaining power and authority! Finally with no measurable success, Confucius retired to his home state and gathered increasing numbers of students around him, teaching the moral principles of the ancient sages. The formal biography ends with his role as a teacher, but his influence began with his role as a teacher.

And what was the nature of these teachings? He stressed the need to learn, hsüeh, to engage in study of the Classics and the ways of the ancient sages. His hope was that through these teachings the world would be brought back to a state of harmony and order and all society would live at peace. What were the underlying features of these teaching? The focus was upon the cultivation of a moral self, self defined in terms goodness, caring, compassion, altruism and benevolence. There are many specific teachings corresponding to these various ideas but when Confucius was asked by his disciples whether there was not one principle idea running through his teaching, he answered by saying that the “single thread” of his teachings could best be described by the term shu, most frequently translated as reciprocity.

The term reciprocity is central to Confucian teachings. The Chinese character is composed of two parts: one part means “to be like,” the second part means “heart” or “mind.” Taken together the character means literally “like-hearted” or “like-minded,” suggesting one shows care to another. It could be expressed by our word sympathy, but sympathy suggests condescension of attitude and that is not implied. Our word empathy, however, strikes at the quintessential meaning. So reciprocity is empathy. But Confucius himself goes on to define the term in a sentence sounding remarkably familiar to our Western ears: “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” Confucian teaching is articulated in no more basic moral axiom then this statement and it remains foundational throughout the history of the Confucian tradition.

Why does it matter who Confucius was? To answer this question we need to understand that in the centuries following Confucus’ death, his teaching rose to a position of greater and greater prominence in two spheres. Confucian teachings became the official ideology of the Chinese state, a position it held with virtually no break until into the 20th century. On the individual level, Confucian teachings became the central focus of individual learning and moral cultivation, the goal to become a moral person modeled upon the sages of antiquity.

And this aspect of Confucian teachings lasted not only into the 20th century but to our own day and presumably into the future. Historically we also witness the spread of Confucian teaching at both levels from China to both Korea and Japan and into South East Asia as well. The entire East Asian and South East Asia spheres have been dominated by Confucian values through out their history. To understand the thought and values of East and South East Asia, particularly in our own day, we simply must understand the teachings of this man Confucius.

But it goes further: to understand why Confucian teachings addressed not only the ideology of the state, but found their true focus upon the learning of the self to create a moral self, we must understand this man Confucius. Why? Is it important to create a moral self in a world not unlike the chaos of the world Confucius himself faced? Are we so very different? Have we travelled so very far from that fundamental necessity of finding the single thread of reciprocity and living by its virtue? Perhaps we all need to return to the simple teachings of Confucius to reacquaint ourselves with the simplest principles of living as a moral person and thereby creating a moral world. The message of Confucius is nothing more than the call to each person to fulfill his or her capacity of goodness, jen, and thereby, one by one, transform the world from what it is, to what can be and ought to be.

Dr. Rodney L. Taylor, Professor of Religious Studies at University of Colorado at Boulder for more than 30 years, received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in East Asian religion. His principle area of specialization is the understanding of Confucianism as a religious tradition both historically and in the modern world where Confucianism can be a voice in the contemporary discussion of religion and spirituality.

His books include: The Religious Dimensions of Confucianism; The Way of Heaven; The Confucian Way of Contemplation; The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Confucianism; Confucianism (high school text); The Cultivation of Sagehood as a Religious Goal in Neo-Confucianism; They Shall Not Hurt: Human Suffering and Human Caring (with Dr. Jean Watson); The Holy Book in Comparative Perspective (with Dr. Frederick Denny) and his most recent volume, Confucius, the Analects: The Path of the Sage from Skylight Paths.

Twenty-six centuries after their origination, the principles laid down in the Analects of Confucius still act as the foundation of Chinese philosophy, ethics, society and government, and play a formative role in the development of many Eastern philosophies. In this intriguing look at the ethical and spiritual meaning of the Analects, Rodney L. Taylor, the foremost American researcher of Confucius as a religious and spiritual figure, explains their profound and universal wisdom for our own time. He shows how Confucius advocates learning and self-cultivation to follow the “path of the sage” or “Way of Heaven,” a journey that promises to promote reason, peace and understanding.

Alongside an updated version of the classic translation by Sinologist James Legge, Taylor provides informative and accessible commentary that illuminates the meaning behind selected passages from the Analects and their insights on character development, respect and reverence, and the nature of learning, goodness, truthfulness and righteousness.

10 Hindu Environmental Teachings ~ Pankaj Jain, Ph.D.

Hinduism contains numerous references to the worship of the divine in nature in its Vedas,
Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras and its other sacred texts. Millions of Hindus recite Sanskrit mantras daily to revere their rivers, mountains, trees, animals and the earth. Although the Chipko (tree-hugging) Movement is the most widely known example of Hindu environmental leadership, there are examples of Hindu action for the environment that are centuries old.

Hinduism is a remarkably diverse religious and cultural phenomenon, with many local and
regional manifestations. Within this universe of beliefs, several important themes emerge. The diverse theologies of Hinduism suggest that:

• The earth can be seen as a manifestation of the goddess, and must be treated with respect.
• The five elements — space, air, fire, water and earth — are the foundation of an interconnected web of life.
• Dharma — often translated as “duty” — can be reinterpreted to include our responsibility to care for the earth.
• Simple living is a model for the development of sustainable economies.
• Our treatment of nature directly affects our karma.

Gandhi exemplified many of these teachings, and his example continues to inspire contemporary social, religious and environmental leaders in their efforts to protect the planet.

The following are 10 important Hindu teachings on the environment:

1. Pancha Mahabhutas (The five great elements) create a web of life that is shown forth in the structure and interconnectedness of the cosmos and the human body. Hinduism teaches that the five great elements (space, air, fire, water and earth) that constitute the environment are all derived from prakriti, the primal energy. Each of these elements has its own life and form; together the elements are interconnected and interdependent. The Upanishads explains the interdependence of these elements in relation to Brahman, the supreme reality, from which they arise: “From Brahman arises space, from space arises air, from air arises fire, from fire arises water, and from water arises earth.”

Hinduism recognizes that the human body is composed of and related to these five elements,
and connects each of the elements to one of the five senses. The human nose is related to earth, tongue to water, eyes to fire, skin to air and ears to space. This bond between our senses and the elements is the foundation of our human relationship with the natural world. For Hinduism, nature and the environment are not outside us, not alien or hostile to us. They are an inseparable part of our existence, and they constitute our very bodies.

2. Ishavasyam — Divinity is omnipresent and takes infinite forms. Hindu texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita (7.19, 13.13) and the Bhagavad Purana (2.2.41, 2.2.45), contain many references to the omnipresence of the Supreme divinity, including its presence throughout and within nature. Hindus worship and accept the presence of God in nature. For example, many Hindus think of India’s mighty rivers — such as the Ganges — as goddesses. In the Mahabharata, it is noted that the universe and every object in it has been created as an abode of the Supreme God meant for the benefit of all, implying that individual species should enjoy their role within a larger system, in relationship with other species.

3. Protecting the environment is part of Dharma.
Dharma, one of the most important Hindu concepts, has been translated into English as duty, virtue, cosmic order and religion. In Hinduism, protecting the environment is an important expression of dharma.
In past centuries, Indian communities — like other traditional communities — did not have an understanding of “the environment” as separate from the other spheres of activity in their lives.

A number of rural Hindu communities such as the Bishnois, Bhils and Swadhyaya have maintained strong communal practices to protect local ecosystems such as forests and water sources. These communities carry out these conservation-oriented practices not as “environmental” acts but rather as expressions of dharma. When Bishnois are protecting animals and trees, when Swadhyayis are building Vrikshamandiras (tree temples) and Nirmal Nirs (water harvesting sites) and when Bhils are practicing their rituals in sacred groves, they are simply expressing their reverence for creation according to Hindu teachings, not “restoring the environment.” These traditional Indian groups do not see religion, ecology and ethics as separate arenas of life. Instead, they understand it to be part of their dharma to treat creation with respect.

4. Our environmental actions affect our karma. Karma, a central Hindu teaching, holds that each of our actions creates consequences — good and bad — which constitute our karma and determine our future fate, including the place we will assume when we are reincarnated in our next life. Moral behavior creates good karma, and our behavior toward the environment has karmic consequences. Because we have free choice, even though we may have harmed the environment in the past, we can choose to protect the environment in the future, replacing environmentally destructive karmic patterns with good ones.

5. The earth — Devi — is a goddess and our mother and deserves our devotion and protection. Many Hindu rituals recognize that human beings benefit from the earth, and offer gratitude and protection in response. Many Hindus touch the floor before getting out of bed every morning and ask Devi to forgive them for trampling on her body. Millions of Hindus create kolams daily — artwork consisting of bits of rice or other food placed at their doorways in the morning. These kolams express Hindu’s desire to offer sustenance to the earth, just as the earth sustains themselves. The Chipko movement — made famous by Chipko women’s commitment to “hugging” trees in their community to protect them from clear-cutting by outside interests — represents a similar devotion to the earth.

6. Hinduism’s tantric and yogic traditions affirm the sacredness of material reality and contain teachings and practices to unite people with divine energy. Hinduism’s Tantric tradition teaches that the entire universe is the manifestation of divine energy. Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite,” refers to a series of mental and physical practices designed to connect the individual with this divine energy. Both these traditions affirm that all phenomena, objects and individuals are expressions of the divine. And because these traditions both envision the earth as a goddess, contemporary Hindu teachers have used these teachings to demonstrate the wrongness of the exploitation of the environment, women and indigenous peoples.

7. Belief in reincarnation supports a sense of interconnectedness of all creation. Hindus believe in the cycle of rebirth, wherein every being travels through millions of cycles of birth and rebirth in different forms, depending on their karma from previous lives. So a person may be reincarnated as a person, animal, bird or another part of the wider community of life. Because of this, and because all people are understood to pass through many lives on their pathway to ultimate liberation, reincarnation creates a sense of solidarity between people and all living things.

Through belief in reincarnation, Hinduism teaches that all species and all parts of the earth are part of an extended network of relationships connected over the millennia, with each part of this network deserving respect and reverence.

8. Non-violence — ahimsa — is the greatest dharma. Ahimsa to the earth improves one’s karma. For observant Hindus, hurting or harming another being damages one’s karma and obstructs advancement toward moksha — liberation. To prevent the further accrual of bad karma, Hindus are instructed to avoid activities associated with violence and to follow a vegetarian diet.

Based on this doctrine of ahimsa, many observant Hindus oppose the institutionalized breeding and killing of animals, birds and fish for human consumption.

9. Sanyasa (asceticism) represents a path to liberation and is good for the earth. Hinduism teaches that asceticism — restraint in consumption and simplicity in living — represents a pathway toward moksha (liberation), which treats the earth with respect. A well-known Hindu teaching — Tain tyakten bhunjitha — has been translated, “Take what you need for your sustenance without a sense of entitlement or ownership.”

One of the most prominent Hindu environmental leaders, Sunderlal Bahuguna, inspired many Hindus by his ascetic lifestyle. His repeated fasts and strenuous foot marches, undertaken to support and spread the message of the Chipko, distinguished him as a notable ascetic in our own time. In his capacity for suffering and his spirit of self-sacrifice, Hindus saw a living example of the renunciation of worldly ambition exhorted by Hindu scriptures.

10. Gandhi is a role model for simple living. Gandhi’s entire life can be seen as an ecological treatise. This is one life in which every minute act, emotion or thought functioned much like an ecosystem: his small meals of nuts and fruits, his morning ablutions and everyday bodily practices, his periodic observances of silence, his morning walks, his cultivation of the small as much as of the big, his spinning wheel, his abhorrence of waste, his resorting to basic Hindu and Jain values of truth, nonviolence, celibacy and fasting. The moralists, nonviolent activists, feminists, journalists, social reformers, trade union leaders, peasants, prohibitionists, nature-cure lovers, renouncers and environmentalists all take their inspirations from Gandhi’s life and writings.

(Acknowledgment: Adapted from the essays by Christopher K. Chapple, O. P. Dwivedi, K. L. Seshagiri Rao, Vinay Lal, and George A. James in Hinduism and Ecology: The Intersection of Earth, Sky, and Water and Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life, both published by Harvard University Press. Thanks also to the essays by Harold Coward and Rita DasGupta Sherma in Purifying the Earthly Body of God: Religion and Ecology in Hindu India, published by SUNY Press.

Pankaj is the author of Sustenance and Sustainability: Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities (May 2011) and has also published articles in journals such as Religious Studies Review, Worldviews, Religion Compass, Journal of Vaishnava Studies, Union Seminary Quarterly Review and the Journal of Visual Anthropology. He also contributes to the Washington Post’s forum “On Faith” and the e-zine

His research and teaching interests include Hinduism, Jainism, environmental ethics, Indian films, Sanskrit, and Hindi/Urdu languages and literatures. Before joining UNT, he taught at North Carolina State University, Rutgers, Kean and New Jersey City University. Interested in connecting ancient practices with contemporary issues, he is exploring the connections between religious traditions and sustainability in Hindu and Jain communities in the North Texas area. He serves as a research affiliate with Harvard University’s Pluralism Project and as scholar-in-residence with GreenFaith. He is also a Roving Professor at the Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity at UNT.

He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and an M.A. from Columbia University (both in Religious Studies). In his “previous life” he had also earned a B.S. in Computer Science from India and had worked as a software engineer in India and in New Jersey.

Gaia’s Prayer

The video Gaia’s Prayer launches a series of articles and actions based on Spiritual Environmentalism. Spiritual Environmentalism is the application of Spiritual practices and methodologies to raising awareness and initiating actions to halt and reverse the downward spiral of mankind’s harmful impact on the environment.

Along with the concept of Spiritual Activism, Spiritual Environmentalism is one that embraces the immutable truth of the underlined connection among all beings and ascribes a new way of interaction with our environment based on the Ethics of Living Consciously.

To adopt this lens as a way to see our planet is to understand it as a living entity: one that hosts and nurtures all forms of life and levels of consciousness; not exclusively Human beings, but trees, animals and other living creatures as well. All forms of life are sacred and valuable to the existence and maintenance of the balance of the entire system.

Oneness does not refer to just Oneness within Humanity, although that is a major component. Oneness is the understanding and awareness of your place in and connection to all of Creation.

On 10-10, Humanity Healing hosted a global meditation on the Oneness Blessing, emphasizing One Humanity. On 11-11, Humanity Healing will host a global meditation on Oneness with the environment, emphasizing One Earth.

Join us on 11:11 by spending a few moments to send your Love, your Light, your Compassion, your Understanding, and your Healing Energy out to the vast web of life that is the Spirit of Gaia.

We are ONE Earth. We are ONE Humanity.

Video Information

©2010 Humanity Healing. Partial Rights Reserved.

Music: “Gaia’s Lament” by Isabella Rajotte
Kind Courtesy of Web of Sound – Canada

Images: Google/Photobucket
We Honor the Unknown Artists

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