What I Will Do
To Make a Difference?

"Smile more" "Be less judgmental"

"To show myself more compassion and love"

"Volunteer with a homeless shelter"

"Share the teachings of meditation and intentional living in my community of educators"

"Get to know people who are different from me"

These are examples of commitments that were made at the conference.

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Thursday
Aug012013

Stand Your Ground

By Stephanie Van Hook

Poet Maya Angelou once said that courage is “the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” It takes courage to “stand your ground” and I am not talking about the law in Florida (or others like it around the country) which cruelly allows a person to commit murder without meaningful legal accountability. Standing your real ground is a powerful act; we can find that ground by refusing to be guided by our fear and refusing to lose sight of the other’s humanity.

One of the main misconceptions that surround laws like Stand Your Ground is that somehow violence is an adequate, effective response to a threat; that violence is the only form of power that the individual can exercise. However, peace researcher and economist Kenneth Boulding believed that power had more than one face. He acknowledges that there is ‘threat power’, the kind of power released in when one party says to the other, “do what I want or else.” He also notes that there is ‘exchange power’ where one party will say to the other, “you give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want.” The third face of power is ‘integrative power,’ the kind of power released in a nonviolent interaction. In this dialogue a person will say, “I will not shrink out of fear from you, but I will not harm you, either, and this will bring us closer together.” When we draw upon integrative power, we offer our authenticity, our supposed vulnerability of not striking back, and we hold ourselves up in dignity in the face of a threat, injury or insult. This actually has transformative results.

Fear is often a product of our imaginations, while case studies of nonviolence show us, time and again, the power of nonviolence is quite real, even if we are conditioned by the mass-media not to believe it. I am thinking of David Hartsough. During the Civil Rights Movement he participated in a lunch counter sit-in in Virginia. He had been sitting for a while, quietly praying, when a segregationist walked up to him, placed a knife at his throat and threatened to harm him if he did not leave. David stood his ground, however, and said, “You do what you feel you have to, brother, and I will try to love you anyway.” The man’s hand began to visibly shake; he dropped the knife and walked out of the restaurant with his eyes tearing up. David did not submit to a threat and he was not moved to respond to his fear in an irrational manner. Yes, it was dangerous; yes it was a risk, but imagine what might have transpired if David chose to respond with violence.

Another, more recent example of a nonviolent response to a threat happened in a Walmart parking lot in Tennessee. 92 years old at the time, Pauline Jacobi put her groceries in her car and was ready to leave the premises when a man opened up her passenger-side door, entered the car and pointed a gun at her. He demanded that she give him her money or he would shoot her. She refused outright. She instead told him that she was not afraid of death because she “would go straight to heaven.” Pauline then calmly spoke to him for 10 minutes about what she cared about the most before the man broke down in tears and said he wanted to change his life. Before getting out of the car, he was startled when she voluntarily gave him all the money she had--10 dollars. Pauline refused to be coerced by a severe threat and clung to her innate sense of dignity, power and yes, faith. Her act not only saved her life, it brought her closer to her would-be-attacker and transformed his life, not to mention inspiring countless others who hear her story, perhaps even to act with similar courage in the face of such contingencies.

Let’s not forget to mention the extraordinary--though still not isolated-- case of 16 year old Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head by gun-carrying extremists in Pakistan. In her recent address at the United Nations she firmly maintained that violence did not diminish her determination or scare her into passivity:

 “They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same. (...) This is the philosophy of nonviolence (...).”

David, Pauline, Malala: three faces to innumerable daily acts of courage, faces of ordinary people like you and me. They do not possess some exceptional power that is the luck of the draw among human beings. They do not experience less fear than you and I would. No, they have every natural capacity that we have for both violence and nonviolence; for either bitterness and hatred or detachment and creative action as we do.

What their stories show us, if we are willing to hear it, is that the nonviolent response is the only solid ground we have. It creates a common ground where we are all invited to inhabit and move beyond the shaky ground of our violent institutions, laws and systems that tend to allow, if not encourage, people to act on their fears and insecurities. Think about it--has there been a time in your life when you responded to a threat with a threat or with violent force in kind? Ask yourself:  Did it lead to the long-term results you expected? Did it make you feel safer? Did it increase your independence?  And what about the other person: Did it add to their safety and security, leading to better and more secure community? Ask yourself the same questions about a time when you or someone you know accessed the power of nonviolence.

Let our stories be heard. Security is not a zero-sum, winner-take-all, game. We cannot make others insecure in search of our own safety without consequences. When we realize that we will evolve the kinds of institutions worthy of a human being, institutions that draw upon our natural ability to convert fear into what Gandhi calls “a power that can move the world.” We are called now to stand our ground for one another in the face of “realists” who say that a less violent world is not realistic. In the words of Rabbi Michael Lerner, we have to be the new realists. Let us draw upon our courage and not be disheartened in our struggle toward beloved community.

Wednesday
May152013

A Meditation on Free Speech - Dr. Anantanand Rambachan

Editors Note: CTV focuses on bringing positive change on all levels, overcoming violence in action, speech and thoughts.  This article is a reminder to us all about balancing our right to free speech, which is very important in this country, with the importance of not harming with the words that we say.

I knew that my religion had much to say about speech and so I turned to the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita for guidance on what the Hindu tradition could contribute to our understanding of speech in the public sphere.  The Bhagavad Gita commends the “discipline of speech” and describes it as satisfying four criteria. It is speech (1) that does not cause pain to another, (2) that is true, (3) respectful and (4) beneficial. Speech is disciplined only when all four criteria are met.
Because the right of free speech was not always protected, and there are still many places in the world where it is not guaranteed, the emphasis in our discourse about speech is properly on freedom. Our value for freedom of speech is conveyed best in words attributed to Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.” As precious as this freedom is for us, it does not alone constitute the “discipline of speech” as commended in the Bhagavad Gita. Speech is not as free as it may claim to be when words or other symbols are employed with the sole intention of inflicting pain, when truth is disregarded, when the other is disrespected and when the outcome is suffering.
What about the criterion truth one may ask?  Do we not have an obligation to speak the truth regardless of consequences or any other criteria?  Leaving aside the challenges and complexities of determining what is truth, especially when it involves a religious tradition other than our own, it is important to note that in the order of criteria in the Bhagavad Gita, the obligation not to inflict pain precedes truth. Ahimsa, that is non-hurting, guides and informs our obligation to truth and always precedes it in the listings of virtues in Hindu sacred texts.  In good human relationships, and it is these that are of concern to us, we do not privilege truth speaking above all else. We value love and its expressions in generosity, care and delight in the happiness of others. Truth is never championed inhumanely and with heedless disregard for human well-being. Truth is one of many obligations in a complex set of values that defines and sustains mutually enriching relationships and there is no good reason why relationships with our neighbors of other faiths should be excluded from such considerations.
Does the “discipline of speech”, enunciated in the Bhagavad Gita, mean that in interreligious communities one does not enjoy the liberty to be critical of another’s beliefs and practices? One of the most famous students of the Bhagavad Gita, Mahatma Gandhi, pondered this question. Gandhi does not rule out public criticism of other religions but, most importantly, believed that the right to criticize another religion had to be earned. It is earned, according to Gandhi, by a careful and sympathetic study of the scriptures of other religions and a willingness to appreciate all that is good in these traditions. Such a study should be undertaken through the writings of the finest exponents and practitioners of the tradition. It is earned also by the cultivation of friendship and trust with people of other traditions. In the absence of trust, criticism is heard as a demonization.
Gandhi exemplified some of the highest possibilities of interreligious relationships in his friendship with the Christian priest, Charles Andrews. They remained faithful to their respective traditions, learned deeply from each other and disagreed publicly. Gandhi’s words, written after a disagreement with Andrews, convey the profound trust and mutual respect that permeated their relationship.  “It is so like him,” wrote Gandhi. “Whenever he feels hurt over anything I have done-and this is by no means the first of such occasions–he deluges me with letters without waiting for an answer. For it is love speaking to love, not arguing.” We are a very long way from cultivating interreligious relationships in which criticism is received as “love speaking to love,” This alone, however, will save our relationships from suspicion and superficiality.
These are famous words of the Bṛhadaraṇyaka Upaniṣhad:
Lead us from untruth to truth
Lead us from darkness to light
Lead us from death to immortality
May the words that we speak be always free but free also in the most profound religious sense: free from the intention to hurt, free from falsehood, free from disrespect, and free from violence.   May our words be peaceful, truthful, respectful and helpful.
This article has been printed with permission from Dr. Anantanand Rambachand
Dr. Anantanand Rambachan, an internationally known scholar of Hinduism, is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he has taught since 1985. A native of Trinidad, he received the M.A. and Ph. D. from the University of Leeds, England. He is the author of many books including The Hindu Vision (1992), Gitamrtam: The Essential Teaching of the Bhagavad Gita [Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993), and The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity (2006). He has been active in interfaith programs with the World Council of Churches as well as the Vatican for twenty-five years as well as in the local setting in Minnesota. He currently serves on the board of trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  He is widely respected as a spokesperson for Hinduism and a bridge-builder between Hindus and other religious communities.

 

 

Monday
Mar042013

U.N. Secretary-general Emphasizes Need For Optimism And Disarmament Education

Carry the Vision Directors Bob and Nancy Weeks heard the U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon speak at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and were inspired by what he had to say. They wrote this article for our newsletter.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon briefly stayed in Novato, California as a high school exchange student which he said "opened his eyes to the world." He had an extensive career in international diplomacy and was serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade for his native South Korea when he was appointed as Secretary General of the United Nations in 2007.

Mr. Ban gave an impassioned speech about advancing disarmament and seeking peace in an over-armed world. He spoke of his personal history with the Test Ban Treaty and noted that “Ban” is “in my name and in my blood.” Mr. Ban has re-energized nuclear disarmament efforts because the world spends more on weapons in one month than all other spending for a whole year. This emphasis on weapons makes the world over-armed while peace efforts are underfunded.

Mr. Ban said disarmament education is important to refute the claim that nuclear disarmament is “utopian”, teach the illegitimacy of weapons and build a global culture of peace. Such education is vital because half the people of the world are under 25 years of age. They need education, jobs and a vision for the future. Mr. Ban tells leaders of the world to listen to the aspirations of their people, especially women and children. He set the example by appointing a 29 year old as a U. N. Special Envoy, the youngest person to serve in this capacity.  Mr. Ban has also appointed more women to U. N. positions. He said an optimistic vision of a safer and sustainable world is required and encouraged everyone to be global citizens.    

 Mr. Ban will serve as Secretary-General through the end of 2016. We are grateful to have such an inspiring person leading the United Nations during these challenging times.

Friday
Dec212012

A Message from Carry the Vision's President

Ellen Grace O'BrianI send you greetings of peace in this season of peace - may it be known and experienced by all. As this year draws to a close, I am reflecting on the steps that Carry the Vision has taken to build a culture of peace and nonviolence and thepossibilities that are before us yet to be realized. What can one person or one organization do that will turn the tide of violence?

Getting in touch with what we care most deeply about, and sharing that with others, is one of the most profound and simple strategies of nonviolence available to us all. When we do this, we find that the human heart's capacity for love, for compassion and caring action is infinite. And when we share that deep caring with another human being, a little more light, a little more hope, comes into our world.

Years ago I heard a Catholic sister who works tirelessly for peace offer these words of advice: Never give in to despair by thinking that what you do, or can do, is not enough. The need for real change is urgent and great in our nation and our world today. And yet, when we bring our energy together, we discover that we have the resources to rise up and meet that need.

In the days and months ahead, we at CTV will continue to work with you to do all that we can to realize a culture of nonviolence.

 Ellen Grace O'Brian