Report From Journey to Sri Lanka

Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s biggest charity, is dedicated to making a positive difference to the lives of rural Sri Lankans. Their grassroots movement reaches 15,000 villages in 34 districts with 1,500 staff throughout Sri Lanka. The Founder, A. T. Ariyaratne and Bernie have been friends and have shared ideas for 30 years. In January, 2012, Bernie, Grant Couch, Sensei Francisco Paco Lugoviña, Iris Katz and Tani Katz visited Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka. They met with various leaders of Sarvodaya to discuss banking, educational and general finance issues. Bernie continues to keep busy…I just got back from joining him in Sri Lanka meeting with Dr AT Ariyaratne “Ari”, the founder of Sarvodaya which is a social movement established over 50 yrs ago and is based on “Awakening of All”.  It is a very inspiring model of empowering villagers to come together to solve their own needs – at the grassroots level with self sufficiency.  Ari met Bernie around 30 years ago when he visited Greyston in Yonkers to study Bernie’s success using “social enterprise” for solving a communities needs.  It was a real privilege to spend time with these two leaders of local level, social transformation.  (I also felt blessed to be able to make a contribution by sharing my experiences/challenges in dealing with central banks – Sarvodaya just received approval to come under Sri Lanka’s Central Bank supervision.)—-Grant Couch About Sri Lanka Sarvodaya is Sri Lanka’s largest people’s organisation. Over the last 50 years we have become a network of over 15,000 villages. Today we are engaged in relief efforts in the war-torn north as well as ongoing development projects. Sarvodaya’s organization includes 345 divisional units, 34 district offices; 10 specialist Development Education Institutes; over 100,000 youth mobilised for peace building under Shantisena; the country’s largest micro-credit organization with a cumulative loan portfolio of over US$1million (through SEEDS, Sarvodaya Economic Enterprise Development Services); a major welfare service organisation serving over 1,000 orphaned and destitute children, underage mothers and elders (Sarvodaya Suwa Setha); and 4,335 pre-schools serving over 98,000 children. Sarvodaya’s total budget exceeds USD 5 million with 1,500 full-time employees. When combined with numerous volunteer workers, this yields a full time equivalent of approximately 200,000, which places Sarvodaya on a par with the entire plantation...

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Dec 2012 Journey to Israel and Palestine

by Eve Myonen Marko—– We go to the West Bank on December 21. December 21 is Bernie’s and my anniversary. It’s also the winter solstice, and this year it marks the end of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of something new. I don’t think there’s an end without a beginning. Our friends, Iris and Tani Katz, drive us from Jerusalem to meet up with Sami Awad, the head of Holy Land Trust and a nonviolence trainer and activist. Sami asked us not to go to his office in Bethlehem, but instead get to the Tent of Nations near the Palestinian village of Nahalin. He is serving as a Fire Guardian, building a fire at dawn of December 21 and keeping it going the entire day while holding ceremonies, chanting and praying on behalf of the earth and peace among people. As is almost always the case, the journey is as interesting as the destination. We simply can’t find the Tent of Nations, located on top of a hill among many hills in the West Bank. I’ve never been there, though have heard much about it. It has belonged to a Palestinian family for generations, but falls victim to continuous forays by Jewish settlers who wish to take the land. The family has fought this in the Israeli courts, showing ownership papers that date back to the Ottoman Empire, but this doesn’t prevent ongoing violations. The Tent of Nations is always in danger. To get there, we travel along the complicated road system found on the West Bank, including the Tunnel Road closed to Palestinians in this section, till we get off onto smaller arteries used almost exclusively by Palestinians. In the town of Husam we’re locked in a sea of cars outside a mosque calling out its Friday services. The young boys waiting outside enjoy the fact that our large SUV can’t move, but are not averse to helping us get unstuck, guiding us through very close spots. “Shukran, ya habib,” Tani says again and again. On this rainy, windy, cold day we also lose cell phone signal with Sami. Often we stop passers-by and they stand in the torrential rain speaking to him in Arabic on the phone, Tani rushing out with...

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BEARING WITNESS IN RWANDA

BEARING WITNESS IN RWANDA by Eve Myonen Marko Bernie, Roshi Eve Myonen Marko and Sensei Francisco “Paco” Lugoviña were hosted by Dora Urujeni and Issa Higiro. Eve wrote the following report of the journey.     BEARING WITNESS IN RWANDA By Eve Marko Kigali at noon in mid-September has blue, hot skies draped by rain clouds, which at times dissolve and at others turn into thundering rain, as they did just an hour after we arrived. We’re met by Dora Urujeni and Issa Higiro, co-founders of Memos-Learning From History, our hosting peace organization. There are three of us on this trip: Bernie Glassman, Paco Lugoviña, and me. Sitting on the small porch of our guesthouse, I recall our meeting with Dora and Issa at our home and their passionate invitation to visit Rwanda and bear witness to the effects of the Rwanda genocide, in which over one million men, women, and children were brutally murdered in a period of one hundred days beginning on April 6, 1994. That averages over 10,000 people a day, a rate of mass killings that could only be the result of a pre-planned and well-organized campaign. Through the efforts of Ginni Stern, Both Issa and Dora have been at the Zen Peacemakers’ Auschwitz retreats. The two, along with Ginni, Fleet Maull, Genro Gauntt, Mike and Cassidy –, and others, began to make plans for a similar retreat in Rwanda. The persecution of Tutsis began in the late 1950s and continued throughout the decades before the genocide. As a result, many Tutsis escaped to neighboring countries. Issa’s family fled to Uganda; Dora’s family to Congo. While they’re completely Rwandan, they also feel strong connections to the countries of their birth and are at home with multiple cultures. Dora returned right after the end of the genocide looking for the remnants of her family and found almost no one alive. We go downtown briefly, just long enough to notice the incredibly clean streets and the large traffic circles filled with cars, motorcycles, and bikes. Foreign investments are visible in shopping malls and big banks, and Wi-Fi is more widespread than in our Pioneer Valley back home. Mobile phones, of course, are everywhere. The country seems to be prospering and change is...

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The 1st Bethlehem Walk

Quiet Walking Listening Circles  Women Leading Change  5 October 2012 Manger Square, Bethlehem People of all nationalities and faiths are invited to join us in an event of solidarity for peace in the Holy Land. We are calling for a shift in consciousness, based on a deep commitment to nonviolence, a firm resolve to overcome barriers of separation, and faith that peace is possible. We plan to converge on Manger Square, in the center of Bethlehem, walking mindfully in columns and circles. Mindful walking is quiet, slow, and dignified. It expresses with our being, rather than with slogans and flags, our intention to live in harmony together. The experience helps us to develop calm, steadiness and confidence in the face of challenge. This event is for everybody. As a symbol of the possibility of change women will be at the forefront as facilitators of listening circles in which we will share our visions for the change we wish to see. We share a love of the land that we live in side by side. We all suffer from the continued occupation and injustice and lack of security. We all want to live in peace and harmony. We recognize that we all have the same basic needs for equal rights and deserve the same respect and dignity. We take responsibility for sowing the seeds of change, moving forward one step at a time.   Organized by a group of heartful Palestinians and Israelis For more information, please contact Iris Dotan...

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Socially Engaged Dharma in Israel & Palestine

Recently I returned from a Journey to Israel, the West Bank and Palestine. I met with many wonderful people doing projects and volunteer work in Social Engagement. Aviv Tatarsky of the Israel Engaged Dharma Group gave me the following article he wrote on compassion. Rabbi Bob Carroll who works in the Interfaith Encounter Association, an Israeli NGO, dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study sent me his comments on Aviv’s article. Aviv then responded to Bob’s comments. I am posting the article and comments here hoping they will serve to start a dialog on the Israeli/Palestine issues. Please post your comments. Thanking you in advance, Bernie. Aviv’s Article Engaged Dharma in Israel – 2011 (2nd half) activity and learning report During the 2nd half 0f 2011 our group initiated a variety of actions and projects as part of our ongoing peace work. These included campaigns, solidarity actions with Palestinian partners, uncovering information about the realities of the occupation, petitioning authorities regarding violations of human rights, and laying the ground for educational work within the Israeli-Jewish society. Rather than giving a full report of our activities during this period, we will highlight here the meaningful lessons learnt during these months: Sangha as an invaluable resource for supporting activism and peace work, the power of compassion and openness for turning confrontation into dialogue, and the deep relevance that our spiritual insights have when facing the challenges of peace work. Most of the examples we will bring concern our relationship with the village of Deir Istiya which has been developing over the last two years. Sangha as a vital Resource One of our main missions is to raise awareness within the Dharma community to the meaning of living under occupation, and to create opportunities for Sangha members to get involved in peace and human rights work. A good starting point is what can be considered “soft” humanitarian action. Recently, for example, we organized for Sangha members to collectively buy a significant amount of olive oil from a few poor families in the village of Deir Istiya. It is important to note that even this simple action (an action very significant for the farmers) could not have happened had we not...

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Charlie: Head for Peace Gathering with Jeff Bridges in San Francisco

I found my way to this world through the left-over lumps of clay from Jeff Bridges’ pottery wheel. After heeding my call to take shape, he, the Dude, sent me to help his friend Bernie to wage peace around the world. I feel that I’m not alone. I believe there are others out there who want to Head for Peace. On February 4, I got to travel with Bernie to San Francisco to meet with Jeff Bridges and the rest of the Head for Peace family. As Bernie begins to plan my upcoming journeys to the field, street retreats and work with the “Let All Eat” Cafés and Greyston Foundation this year, he is inviting a community of people to join in this work.  Please click here to become a Friend of Bernie to learn about getting involved. I invite you to follow our journeys together through my blog posts and by liking me on Facebook. You can also follow the whole Head for Peace family  and check out the Head for Peace web page, which details the story of the heads and showcases some Head Keepers.                ...

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Streets of Cologne

We passed through Cologne, Germany. We met Sensei Frank DeWalle. He told us that the Cathedral of Cologne is a cathedral of lovers.  People pray there to find romance.  He visited, and so did his girlfriend, before they met.     After the cathedral, I walked around town.   I didn’t find a lover. I found my way to this world through the left-over lumps of clay from Jeff Bridges’ pottery wheel.  After heeding my call to take shape,  he, the Dude, sent me to help his friend Bernie to wage peace around the world. I feel that I’m not alone. I believe there are others out there who want to Head for Peace.     Heard on the street: The first European street retreat took place in Cologne.  They walked from here to Dusseldorf.  That retreat led to the creation of a Paris soup kitchen. These days, the Formerly Tough Zen Guy needs his...

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Going to India!

I just heard that we’re taking two trips to India.  1st, we’ll be working with the Venerable Pannavati  assisting (untouchables) Dalits in Tamil Nadu, Southern India in November.  In January, we’ll go on a Socially Engaged Pilgrimage, visiting locations connected to the life of the Buddha and meeting people involved in social issues.  I’m so excited! I found my way to this world through the left-over lumps of clay from the dudely pottery wheel of Jeff Bridges. After heeding my call to take shape, the Dude sent me to help his friend Bernie to wage peace around the world. I feel that I’m not alone. I believe there are others out there who want to Head for Peace.            ...

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I decided to help out the Formerly Tough Zen Guy

I was brought into being by Jeff Bridges in order to help his friend Bernie to wage peace around the world.  Word on the street is that Bernie was a tough Zen monk who yelled at his students and beat them with sticks to provoke their enlightenment. However, as I joined my first workshop with him, I instead found a Brooklynite in his early 70’s with a beard and ponytail who travels around telling stories and cracking jokes.  It turns out that I’m traveling with a Formerly Tough Zen Guy. At every workshop, he listens to participants before talking. I decided to help out.     Heard on the street: Heidelberg was spared bombing in WWII because Americans found it so charming. The fact that the castle overlooking Heidelberg once served as an alchemist University drew 60’s psychonaut  Terrance McKenna, seeking not simply to transform lead into gold, but transform the mind. Municipal planners failed to pass a law aimed to push the local homeless out of the view of tourists after citizens of the town objected. Formerly Tough Zen Guy: you can’t call me directly.  You have to call my assistant Ari. I found my way to this world through the left-over lumps of clay from Jeff Bridges’ pottery wheel.  After heeding my call to take shape,  he, the Dude, sent me to help his friend Bernie to wage peace around the world. I feel that I’m not alone. I believe there are others out there who want to Head for Peace.                  ...

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This is only the beginning

October. My first global journey. I joined Bernie Glassman to travel the world waging peace. On this trip, Bernie will be discussing how to practice social action as a spiritual practice  in various places throughout Germany near: Heidelberg, Cologne, Berlin and Frankfurt.  We’ll also attend the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat. They tell me that this is only the beginning....

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