No One Saves Us But Ourselves, November 21, 2021

A powerful protest song in the 60s, "Eve of Destruction," enumerated many of the world's problems of that era--the Vietnam War, the Cold War, segregation, the threat of nuclear war, the space race, and more. The refrain highlighted the mood of denial: "But you tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend,/You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction."

Bob Dylan told us "The times they are a-changin'," but the French know that "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." Now, even more than in 1965, "We're on the eve of destruction." The "Freedom Riders" have morphed into "Black Lives Matter" protesters. The latest IPCC report on climate change has been called a "code red for humanity." Still, there is no lack of deniers. White supremacists declare, "All lives matter!" and CEOs of the oil and coal industry and many politicians cover up the dangers of burning fossil fuels, while, encouraged by right-wing media, hoards of ignoramuses insist it is all a hoax.

Ironically, the lines, "Ah, you may leave here for four days in space/But when you return, it's the same old place," refer to the June 1965 mission of Gemini 4, but they could easily refer to the disgusting amount of money and energy squandered by Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk on their petty egos, for space tourism. The rich get richer--"The poundin' of drums, the pride and disgrace."

Much of our world is more than ever before exploding with wars, coups, revolutions, insurrections, failing states, genocides, drone strikes, sanctions, protests, strikes, car bombs, refugees (from both war and climate catastrophe), drought, flood, homelessness, and hunger. Did we actually forget to mention a pandemic killing more than five million people worldwide?

"A handful of Senators don't pass legislation," but they continue to protect their corporate bosses, coal and petroleum interests, and the merchants of death who make the weapons of war, while denying children school lunches, workers living wages, and ordinary people decent health care, but actively working to turn back the clock to the bad old days, by undoing hard-earned voting rights and women's rights, thus threatening families and whole communities, especially those of color.

Click either image for the video on YouTube
"Eve of Destruction" was written by R. F. Sloan, and the dramatic recording by Barry McGuire quickly hit #1 on the charts in several countries. In 2020, a new version was released by Casey Abrams, featuring Cindi Lauper. The updated lyrics, reinforcing our point, are interesting, but that version lacks the raw power of Barry McGuire original.

Walt Kelly created this poster to help promote environmental awareness and publicize the first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970. As is clear from the illustration, the now oft-quoted text "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" refers specifically to environmental pollution. Interestingly, although pollution was a serious issue by 1970, actual fields, forests, rivers, and beaches completely covered with trash, as in the illustration, were rare. In the last few years, however, they have become alarmingly common.

Today, Walt Kelly's words have taken on an even more powerful meaning. Nature, human civilization, and humanity itself, are threatened with utter destruction in several different forms and we, human beings, are the enemy.

A note from Visakha:

In the '70s, Pogo was very special for Ken and me. For years, we followed the comic strip in the Asahi Evening News and faithfully clipped each new adventure of our swamp heroes and their nemeses from the paper. Each week or so, we mailed them to Mother in Michigan. She loved them, too, and sometimes mentioned them in her letters back to us. Some time later, in one of the Pogo collections, I found the strips with the tricky wildcat, Simple J. Malarkey, a caricature of Senator Joe McCarthy. This sequence caused quite a stir in 1953, with some editors threatening to "unsubscribe." Seeing Walt Kelly's depiction of McCarthy brought back the memory of Mother and me watching the House Un-American Activities Committee trials on TV when I was just a kid. Mother was a wonderful, serious correspondent, back when letters weren't tweets, and we wonder what she would think of what the world is coming to!

The ticking timebombs threatening us include climate catastrophe, environmental pollution, pandemics and disease, rising sea levels, nuclear annihilation (either by accident or deliberate war), desertification and the loss of fertile land, factory farming, and species extinction, including homo sapiens. All of these problems have been created by human activity. We may be the victims, but we are also the culprits, the enemy. Scientists and other experts have established that, if adequate, decisive, and concrete steps are not taken immediately to prevent disaster, we are doomed. Not all of us are equally responsible, of course. Those who are the most vulnerable are the least guilty. The obscenely wealthy, the corporate leaders, the venal politicians, the corrupt media giants, the capitalists, and the power-brokers of the military-industrial complex will be the least affected, while continuing to cause the most damage with their selfishness, their greed, their lies, their deceit, and their cover-ups.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhPyVslGkTc

The World's Biggest Institutional Polluter

The Buddha observed, more than 2500 years ago, that humans suffered from greed, hatred, and delusion, in short, various degrees of insanity. Ordinary human beings are prone to deceive themselves, to trust their feelings, and to believe what their minds tell them, what they want to be true, and what fits their fixed world view, in spite of concrete evidence to the contrary. The exceptions, according to the Buddha, are those who are awakened; the rest of us are mired in ignorance--seeing suffering as happiness, change as permanence, and non-self as self.

"Bhikkhus, there are these two kinds of illness. Which two? Bodily illness and mental illness. People are found who can claim to enjoy bodily health for one, two, three, four, and five years; for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years; and even for a hundred years and more. But apart from those whose taints have been destroyed, it is hard to find people in the world who can claim to enjoy mental health even for a moment."

--Anguttara Nikaya 4.157.7

So much craziness in ordinary folk! The willingness to believe anything one hears or reads and the unwillingness to think critically, to believe informed experts, or to trust what's right there in front of one's eyes. Bizarre theories, absurd connections, contradictions, and logical impossibilities! True insanity, and, evidently, it's catching.

It's heartening to know that we are not alone. A recent posting on Mahablog recalls this Pogo episode by reproducing a different cartoon with the line "The Americans are coming!" Guess what?! Barbara O'Brien's title is: "Know Your Enemy, Especially When It's Us."

Click the cartoon to read an article by David Sipress about staying sane.
The New Yorker cartoonist, David Sipress, has also written extensively about the insanity with which we are bombarded. He refers to this cartoon as "the most published, republished, tweeted, retweeted, liked, shared, or stolen and reprinted without my permission."

It seems obvious that in addition to individuals with various degrees of mental illness, there are also societies and cultures that are saner than others. Those groups, tribes, and societies that live most in harmony with nature are certainly the least destructive, exploitative, or wasteful. Those that are more cooperative and less competitive, more caring, less aggressive, more empathetic, and less selfish are clearly saner and better able to handle challenges in a cooperative way.

These problems are man-made. They threaten the welfare, peace, and security of all. Sadly, those likely to suffer most are those who have the least responsibility for them and the least strength or ability to rectify them. The most vulnerable among us are also the most likely to bear the heaviest burdens! Unfortunately, it is difficult to find much agreement about the best actions to take to resolve them. Many of us recognize the danger, but have no clear idea what to do to prevent disaster. The solution may appear obvious, but, when the problem is a systemic one, simply changing one's own behavior won't make much difference. Also, when we try to make radical changes in how we live, how we do business, how we treat each other, and how we treat our world and it's other denizens, we threaten those benefitting from the status quo. How to bring about those significant radical changes? That is the question. If we see the need, we can be said to be sane. When others, with power and influence, do not recognize the need for drastic change in order to save our only home, is that not a symptom of insanity?

In Kukkura Jataka ("The Case of the Gnawed Leather"), the leader of the dogs (the Bodhisatta) was faced with the massacre of his followers by the king who had decreed the execution of all the dogs outside the palace. The Bodhisatta confronted the king nonviolently and used logic and critical thinking to reveal the truth which saved all the dogs.

In a rage, the king had ordered genocide, but the Bodhisatta believed that the monarch was capable of recognizing the truth. He conducted an experiment and provided evidence to prove what had really happened. The king was so impressed that he not only rescinded his order to execute all dogs, but also granted amnesty to all living creatures in his realm.

We must think clearly, logically, and critically to discover the truth, and we must follow that truth with courage and nonviolence to save ourselves. We also need leaders who can recognize the truth and act wisely and honestly once it's been shown to them.

After the disappointing conclusion of COP26, it is abundantly clear that we cannot expect the leaders of government and industry to make the necessary changes. It is up to us, as individuals and in activist groups and organizations, such as Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, ACLU, Black Lives Matter, Amnesty International, to demand and to effect serious reform.

The usually mild-mannered UN Secretary General Guterres made it clear that "street heat" will be key to saving humanity. "The climate action army--led by young people--is unstoppable," he told world leaders in Glasgow. "They are larger. They are louder. And, I assure you, they are not going away."

--"COP26: Can a Singing, Dancing Rebellion Save the World?" by Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J.S. Davies, November 3, 2021


Furthermore, this activism must be based on and guided by core moral principles: nonviolence, compassion, wisdom, truth, and justice.
Nonviolence is central to the Buddha's teaching, but all major religions uphold the Silver Rule: "Do not do unto others what you would not have others do unto you." Often regarded as idealistic and unrealistic, nonviolence as a powerful and effective tool for change has been ably demonstrated by the notable scholar Erica Chenoweth. In numerous lectures, articles, and books, she has clearly established that nonviolent resistance has historically been more effective than violent conflict.

One dramatic, but little-known example of the success of nonviolence is the resolution of the ten-year long civil war in Bougainville in the South Pacific. This small island paradise for many years had been controlled successively by Germany, Australia, and Japan. After World War II, it was made part of Papua New Guinea. When copper was discovered in the 60s, the exploitation by an Australian company and the repression of the people by the Papua New Guinea army led to a bloody civil war. Fourteen attempts at a negotiated peace failed. Finally, in 1997, with the support of the new prime minister of Papua New Guinea and the Australian government, the government of New Zealand took the lead in attempting to facilitate peace. How this was accomplished with the weapons of smiles and music, in an initiative led by the women, is beautifully recorded in the remarkable documentary, "Soldiers Without Guns."

For more information on Nonviolence:

Waging Nonviolence
World Beyond War
The Metta Center for Nonviolence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJSehRlU34w

Another inspiring documentary well worth watching:

In every situation, it is imperative that we base our judgments on reason, evidence, and science, rather than on our personal inclinations and prejudices or on the words of propagandists, fear-mongers, and charlatans. Let us pay heed to the advice of reputable experts and those wise among us who have looked deeply into the issues. One of the leading intellectuals of our time is Noam Chomsky. For more than fifty years, he has shone a bright beam of wisdom on the foibles of modern society.

There is no need to belabor the issue of climate change. The evidence proving that the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and pollution--all effects of human activity--are threatening the planet and human existence is overwhelming and indisputable. The question is how to tackle the problem. One often overlooked source of wisdom to help us in this crisis is to be found in the rich traditions of indigenous cultures. Numerous tribes and civilizations thrived in harmony with nature, until colonizers "discovered" them and proceeded to exploit (or slaughter) them, to occupy their land, to control it, and, ultimately, to destroy it. We must pay attention to their traditions if we are to avoid extinction.


There is a splendid series of novels by Tony Hillerman and his daughter Anne which accurately depict Navajo tradition and customs. The first in this series is The Blessing Way. Two of these mysteries have been adapted as TV dramas by NPR. In an interview with NPR, Hillerman said, "I think we could learn a lot from the Navajo way. They place a tremendous value on taking care of your family, very little value, in fact even a negative value, on owning too many material possessions. ... Being rich is almost per se proof that you are not a good Navajo. You haven't shared."

Recently, we have been happily introduced to a profound and wonderful cultural concept from Africa. Ubuntu, (in Xhosa, "I am because we are") is a philosophy that considers the success of the group above that of the individual, which is the perfect expression of a cooperative. This philosophy is central to a project we are currently involved in.

The Freddie Stories in Pakistan
A friend in the UK, Paul Vincent Cable, told us about a collection of stories he had written for a kindergarten in Kenya to inculcate the concept of metta, loving-kindness. There are 21 stories in the series, all based on loving-kindness, cooperation, and forgiveness. The characters are animals--Freddie the Frog, Robbie the Rabbit, Donnie the Dog, Leoni the Lion, and Jennie the Giraffe--who live in an African village and study in a local primary school. Their very caring teacher is Ms Winnie. Paul originally narrated the stories to the children in Kenya via SKYPE, while the teacher in the classroom translated and showed them delightful illustrations by Carla George. In his Introduction to The Freddie Stories, Paul states, "The teachers reported that, even after a handful of sessions, the children were noticeably kinder to each other in the playground and at meal times. Towards the end of the year, the parents reported that the lessons were making a big difference to the families at home, with the children becoming spontaneously generous with their toys and food, and wishing their parents and siblings, 'May you be happy! May you be safe!' whenever they could see that someone was upset. One parent touchingly said, 'Freddie has changed all our lives.' Such is the power of loving-kindness and the other beautiful qualities of heart that the friends encourage in each other--generosity, awareness, and the courage to do the right thing." Recently, the stories have been used, also with remarkable success, in a school in Pakistan.

If you would like to receive a PDF copy of The Freddie Stories, send a request to <buddhist@brelief.org>
Paul sent us a copy of the stories and gave us permission to edit and format them into a book, which we hope will be published in the not too distant future. We feel these stories are suitable for children of all ages--even up to 95 years old. Their message of loving-kindness, cooperation, nonviolence, and forgiveness is very welcome in this troubled world. We believe that this book can be used a variety of classes--primary school, refugee empowerment, overcoming trauma, ESL, social studies, and teacher-training, just to name a few. The stories can also be read and shared just for fun. Please let us know if you would like to receive a copy. We welcome comments and suggestions regarding publication. If you are able to use them in a curriculum, all the better.

We would like to present here, as a sampler, the first two stories. The second is based directly on Ubuntu, the philosophy explained above. We hope you enjoy the stories as much as we have.

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and Winston Churchill rephrased it, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." We might rephrase it again as, "Those who do not know the past cannot understand the present situation."

It is commonly believed that awareness of global warming and climate change began around the middle of the last century or even as late as about 1970. What a surprise it was to read in The Sunday Times, November 7, 2021, "One minute to midnight, before the lights go out." This article pointed out that, in 1896, the Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius predicted that the increased burning of fossil fuel during the industrial revolution would lead to catastrophic rising temperature. We wondered about its veracity, but a little research proved that the basic facts are true and that Arrhenius was awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. How is it possible, we wondered, that this truth had been ignored for almost a century and is still being denied?

We were introduced to Howard Zinn in a seminar led by Dr. Joe, as part of Michigan Citizens for Peace in Flint. Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States, published in 1980 is one of the first sustained narratives exposing the truth behind the lies that were taught in US history classes. History, Zinn believed, is not about the rulers, their shenanigans, their wars, and their treaties, but about the results of those actions and the effects they have on the general population, which are routinely ignored in history books.

Following in Zinn's footsteps and giving him full recognition for his ground-breaking research, two authors, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Stephen Vittoria, have just published a 3-book series, Murder Incorporated, with the third volume released the day before the attempted coup in Washington, DC.

"Murder Incorporated strives to set the record straight, to educate, to enlighten and to enliven the people against the corruptions of empire--corruptions that stretch from Columbus's first steps on Hispaniola through yesterday's murderous drone attack. The prevailing myth is that America's prized possessions and greatest exports are democracy and the dream of freedom. The naked truth, say Abu-Jamal and Vittoria, is that the American dream is illusory and America's greatest export is in fact murder - and that along the way to the kill, it thieves, suppresses, and tyrannizes. More than a history book, this is a lively, irreverent, and spirited alternative to the orthodoxy of American exceptionalism."

One of the gravest injustices in the world today is inequality. We are frequently reminded of this by a barrage of statistics, such as, "the richest 1% own 43% of the world's wealth" and "global billionaire wealth increased by $3.9 trillion, while global workers' combined earnings fell by $3.7 trillion." It cannot be denied that this inequality is the direct result of colonialism and predatory capitalism, in which corporations (and their CEOs) have wantonly sucked the livelihood of the working class since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Today, it is also consumers who are being exploited. Looking at inequality among nations, one realizes that the poor or developing nations were virtually all colonies of the developed nations. After centuries of devastation, during which their land was ravaged, their population suppressed, and many of their leaders imprisoned or executed, it is, of course, difficult for these former colonies to rise to the challenges of the modern world, especially given the active interference of the Superpowers whenever they imagine their special interests are threatened.

It is, indeed, serendipitous that, perhaps, at the same time we were writing the paragraph above, Asad Rehman, the executive director of War on Want, was speaking at the close of COP26 in Glasgow, as reported in this article and video from Democracy Now.

https://truthout.org/video/glasgow-pact-denounced-for-betraying-the-global-poor-hurt-most-by-climate-crisis/

When grave harm has been done, justice demands reparations, not to undo what can't be undone, but to make amends and repair, as far as possible, the damages. Those (and their descendants) whose land has been stolen or who were stolen from their land; the exploited; the victims of war, genocide, colonialism, slavery, or climate catastrophe; those whose resources--minerals, prairies, forests, or water--have been expropriated or poisoned by governments or corporations; those who have been harmed by discrimination, deceit, or force; all of these deserve reparations and justice.

As the article from The Conversation points out, there have been several examples of reparations in recent years. One notable case just concluded was France's return to Benin of twenty-six works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in 1892.

All the nations that profited from colonialism, slavery, and exploitation need to make reparations for the suffering they inflicted on millions of people. Furthermore, mega-corporations–, pharmaceutical, chemical, mining, and agricultural, for example–, should make reparations for the lives and livelihood their practices have destroyed and are continuing to destroy both at home and abroad. As John Oliver points out in this video, however, the victims of the opioid crisis have not received any justice because the law is on the side of big business and has no conscience.

https://youtu.be/uaCaIhfETsM
The United States became prosperous and powerful through the policies of "Manifest Destiny" and slavery at the expense of millions of Native Americans and Africans. Our wars of aggression and interference, in the name of "Defense of National Interests," have impoverished millions more. Justice is needed for Native Americans, Black Americans, and Asian Americans, as well as for the victims of our foreign policies, for example, those affected by Agent Orange, which continues to harm.

Some communities in the United States are making reparations, notably Evanston, Illinois. The National African American Reparations Commission was established in 2015. It goes without saying that much more needs to be done, everywhere!

https://youtu.be/uYvIRfRQj60

As we were writing this, we found this shocking article about the US government policy regarding Native Americans. We thought that this issue concerned Canada much more than the United States. How naive of us! And to learn that it is STILL going on!

Some will invariably ask where the money for reparations payments should come from. As for the corporations, there is no question, given the astronomical profits they have amassed. As for governments, an immediate, long overdue reduction in "defense" spending! War is NOT the answer. No matter what the question.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."

--Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Chance for Peace" speech, 1953

When justice is mentioned, one usually thinks of a court decision where the perpetrator is found guilty and punished, Much more wholesome, however, would be the situation where the guilty party recognizes his guilt, accepts responsibility, and reforms, offering restitution where possible, and rejoining society to live in harmony and peace. The ideal writ large was examined by Michael Moore in "Where to Invade Next?" Norway has one of the fairest, best legal systems in the world and it's approach to justice is compassionate and remarkably successful.

Restorative Justice was to great extent, the goal of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and it carried out its work with some success. In the world today, given that so many countries continue to be ravaged by imperialism, colonialism, economic exploitation, punitive sanctions, and wars, meaningful, substantial changes in how the weak and vulnerable can be protected from the greed and insanity of the strong are essential to prevent the dawning of destruction.

Compassion is an important concept in every religion. It is manifested as kindness, mercy, and empathy. It is embedded in the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have do unto you," which has historically been expounded by every religious teacher. Compassion (Pali: karuna) is the second of the Brahma Viharas, the Divine Abidings, the practice of which can lead to heavenly rebirth. The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, "the One who hears the cries of the world," is the Buddhist embodiment of compassion. In this strife-torn world, compassion is essential for the establishment of peace and justice. Consider these facts:

A painting of Avalokitesvara in Daitokuji, Kyoto, Japan.
Japanese: Kannon; Chinese: Guanyin;
Korean: Kwanseum; Vietnamese: Quan Am;
Thai: Kuan Im; Sinhala: Natha
Click the painting to access a graphic listing of international charitable organizations.
  • 45 million people in the world are on the brink of starvation
  • There are 60 million refugees worldwide
  • 149 million children under 5 are malnourished
  • In the United States alone, more than 580,000 people are homeless.
  • 30% of the food produced in the world is wasted.
  • 1.6 billion people worldwide live in inadequate housing.
  • There are more billionaires than ever before, but hundreds of millions of people are living in extreme poverty.
  • Over 84 million people have been forcibly displaced by climate emergency, insecurity, and violence.

There is a lot that we can do as individuals and by working together to alleviate some of the suffering in the world. Compassion can be expressed through service and action, but also through generosity. Festivals are often celebrated with generosity. At Halloween, children go trick or treating for UNICEF. Thanksgiving is a time to invite friends and strangers to share our bounteous harvest. During Ramadan, Muslims share food, time, love, and respect with poor and needy people more than at any other time of the year. Easter Seals for disabled children has become a firmly established American institution. Christmas is a special season for giving. We must open our hearts and our purses in compassion and generosity.

As we were trying to write the conclusion to this essay, three articles appeared in the news which clearly demonstrate the utter insanity of a sector of the human species and the unimaginable twist of nature brought about by climate catastrophe. With no further explananation, let us end on these three disturbing notes:

Since the posting of our last report, we have learned of the death of five friends to whom we dedicate this report:

Dan Jackson, June 19, 2021
United States

Lawyer and beloved partner of Linda Mrowicki, who taught in BRM Intensive Buddhist English Courses in both Sri Lanka and India.

Manil Karunaraatna, July 28, 2021
Sri Lanka

Mother of our friends, Amal and Avanti. Manil was a gracious hostess and marvelous conversationalist who shared remarkable stories from her youth in Ceylon and life in Australia.

Peter Arnold, September 6, 2021
United Kingdom

Father of our friend, Ewen, who retired from teaching English, but is still active as a meditation teacher.

Bob Cumiskey, September 18, 2021
Cambodia

Founder of a Probiotic yoghurt project in Phnom Penh. Bob took care of us when we traveled to north Thailand in the 80s where he was running IRC's opium detox program in a Hmong refugee camp.

Matthew Schultz, November 5 , 2021
Japan

Retired ESL teacher. Matt joined the staff at Seifu Gakuen, Osaka, and we taught together for several years. After earning his master's degree, he accepted a teaching position at Poole Gakuin University, but we kept in touch. He was a wonderful correspondent over the years.


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Click each image to view a report of that project.

Shortly after Dan passed away, Linda sent Buddhist Relief Mission a substantial donation for the relief of Covid-19 victims in Sri Lanka. With this and additional donations from local friends, we were able to offer groceries and cash grants to eighteen families in the Kandy area.

  1. A few months later, we learned of request by a doctor for support for the Covid-19 ward in Peradeniya Clhildren's Hospital. Many donors responded generously to our appeal, and we were able to provide a variety of supplies to the children and their guardians.
  2. We invited friends to join in celebrating our birthdays in August and September. The resulting celebration was much larger than we expected and included friends' birthdays as well.
  3. We continue to offer high tea on the fifteenth of every month to the patients at the Kandy Cancer Home. On November 14, the Home celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Due to the pandemic, we opted not to attend the ceremony, but the Director sent Buddhist Relief Mission an award appreciation of our support. We share the merit with all of our donors. Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!!
  4. In October, Ven Nanda was hospitalized for tests and treatment. When she returned to her hermitage, in her honor, Buddhist Relief Mission donated dry rations to each family in the surrounding village.
  5. When Ashoka took his uncle to an ayurvedic hospital recently, he learned that the hospital was in great need of a wheelchair. Tucked away in our storeroom was the chair that Visakha had often used for travel It was still in good condition, so we gladly donated it. We included an unused bedside commode that we had in storage.
Click this photo to see more of the artist's products and for his contact information.

A few months ago, The Green Team, Kandy posted on Facebook an introduction to an artisan who was fashioning coconut shells into dishes. Lily told us that, when she was a child, these were very common. We inquired and were able to order a complete tea set. With the lockdown, it took quite a while to get it delivered, but it was lovely. Ewen was returning to England to spend the holidays with his mother, so he offered to carry it as a gift to our friends, Carolyn and Takashi. Carolyn was a colleague at Tokyo English Center in Osaka in the 70s, and Takashi was the emcee at our wedding reception in Kobe. Their daughter Hannah, visited us three years ago. We immediately asked the artist to make another set, with a smaller pot for us.

Click either photo to see more photos of the solar panels and the Kathina Celebration.
We have not visited Bodhisukha in Kolkata for almost four years, but the school and monastery are very dear to our hearts. We were delighted recently to receive a message from Ven. NandoBatha informing us that Bodhisukha has gone solar. We rejoice!

A recent letter form our friend, Steve, an inmate in Michigan, whom we have frequently mentioned in these reports, reveals a great deal about his diligence, thoughtfulness, and insight.

"It was an enjoyable summer working in the west side food bank garden. We had a fairly successful season despite the challenges and roadblocks placed before us. ... I believe that both food bank gardens combined, donated a total of around 8 tons of produce to the outside community food bank this year. Everything from 4 varieties of peppers (banana & bell), carrots, spinach, 3 varieties of lettuce, beets, radishes, cabbage, onions, and 2 varieties of eggplant, to 5 different varieties of squash.

"I was able to sway the couple instances of attempted theft I experienced, by explaining that to take from the food bank garden would essentially be taking the food out of the mouths of hungry children and mothers. They wouldn't want someone taking from their own child's or mother's mouth, would they? I then offered the person something from my own personal plot if I had it to offer at the time....

"I had a conversation with a younger member of the group a few weeks ago. He is a troubled young man. He explained some of the difficulties he's been experiencing since the start of Covid. I asked if he had been sitting regularly, to which he replied that it was difficult due to the crowded environment. I explained that meditation was an important part of our practice and that he should try to sit for 5-10 minutes at first. Then tack on 5 more minutes as he became more and more proficient. I then suggested that he spend 30 minutes to an hour contemplating some aspect of the teachings. I asked if he had reading material and reading it. He said that he did, but that his "head's not in the right place" at the moment. I told him that I can't say that I KNOW what he's going through, but that I could explain some of my own personal experiences to show that I, at least, have an idea of it enough to hopefully offer good counsel. I explained that not putting the teachings into practice is like going to the weight pit and merely looking at the weights, thinking that will enable them to develop a 315 lbs. bench-press lift. In summation, I explained that he had to sit and contemplate the teachings if he hoped to find any semblance of peacefulness of mind."

https://www.facebook.com/Branch-Area-Food-Pantry-273231278105/

Click the photo to read Calvin's joyous letter and for links to his books.
We also just received a letter from Calvin, with the wonderful news that on December 3, he will have completed his probation and will be completely free of legal restrictions after thirty years.

Click the photo to see more of Ven. Tsundue's photos of BodhGaya.
Ven. Tsundue is still in BodhGaya, where she diligently continues her remarkable practice.

Buddhist Relief Mission Publications for Sale and Download

This is a multimedia presentation of more than 280 photographs from temples, museums, and Buddhist Landmarks throughout the world. An authoritative narration presents the life of the Buddha and the teaching. The soundtrack includes samples of Buddhist chanting from many traditions.

The 90-minute video is available on YouTube.

You can also purchase the DVD which includes a booklet with the complete narration and photo identification.

This 3-voloume set contains 217 stories. The paperback edition is no longer available on Amazon, but can be ordered from Buddhist Relief Mission.

The three volumes are available as separate ebooks from several vendors.

An American edition, published by Pariyatti is available on that website and on Amazon.

We are happy to announce that the books are being translated into Russian, and Pariyatti is translating them into French. These editions will be published in the near future.

This book contains fifty-two challenging puzzles for which each clue is embedded in a sentence with a Buddhist theme. Just by completing each puzzle you gain a wealth of Buddhist knowledge.

Both the softcover edition is available from Buddhist Relief Mission.

The softcover edition is also available on Amazon.

.Part 1 Suttas, verses, and stories from the Buddhist texts related to each site visited on a pilgrimage to the sacred sites of India and Nepal

Part 2 Readings and reflections for more than a month of daily meditation

All the texts have been adapted for ease of reading.

Paperback and ebook available from several vendors, including Amazon.

Paperback can be ordered fom Buddhist Relief Mission.

Recordings of Part 2 are available on our website.

This is a board game in which players advance around the Wheel of Life by correctly answering questions chosen by a roll of dice.

Four sets of questions on graded levels.

Up to 8 players.

The game can be purchased from Buddhist Relief Mission.


We first met Valerie in Japan where she was teaching in a public school with the government volunteer program. She had learned about Burmese Relief Center--Japan and joined several of our benefit dinners. As soon as she was free to leave Japan, she went to Thailand and joined relief efforts on the Burmese border. After a few years, she took a break and studied photography in Paris. Then she returned to the border, working closely with Daisy in Sangkhlaburi and Dr. Cynthia at Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot. After returning to the United States, she continued actively collecting supplies and funds to send them at "Night For Rice" events at cafes in New York, Maryland, and Ohio. Over the last few years, she has sent hundreds of kilos of clothes, toys, school supplies, and much more to the refugees on the border. Buddhist Relief Mission is proud to have cooperated with her for more than twenty-five years. When we recently received a donation for relief efforts in Burma, we conferred with Valerie and were able to send the funds to Mae Tao Clinic through a website set up in the United States to avoid an international bank transfer fee--very convenient!

Click the photo to see all of our new clothes.
We haven't seen Julie and Moon since we were last in Thailand three years ago. Of course, their business has been seriously affected by the pandemic, the same as everyone else. As Thailand begins to open up, they are ready to accept new orders. Julie Apparel and Accessories is still the best dressmaker in Bangkok. For custom designs and for perfect copies of your own designs, please send a request to <info@julie.co.th>. The shop will reply with a form for your measurements. Visakha is still wearing blouses that Julie made more than ten years ago, but some of them are falling apart, so she was delighted to receive some new ones in the just restored Sri Lanka post. Ken got two shirts, too. All of the pieces are wonderful!

Click the photo to see photos of all the landslides we saw.
We can't remember what "normal" weather is in Sri Lanka, but we are sure that November has never been so cold and rainy in the years that we have lived here. It has rained almost every day for about one month. A recent headline proclaimed: "Sri Lanka – 20 Dead After Days of Severe Weather"! The other day, we had to go to the bank. On our short trip of about 4 kilometers, we passed six landslides. It's hard to conceive how many there have been in Kandy and around the country!

Two years ago, our friend, Jennie, a member of Michigan Citizens for Peace, visited us in Sri Lanka. She has a website featuring a canine called Practical dog. Jennie is both an artist and a writer, and she is working on a book, The Practical Dog Visits Sri Lanka, which she has recorded in a delightful video, and she has given us permission to share it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQG-P0IBkRo

Our title comes from the song "Self Reliance," by Victor Wee, which is based on Dhammapada Verse 276: "You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way." In the song and the verse, the obvious reference is to the individual's quest for Nibbana, the ultimate goal for Buddhists. We feel, however, that our title can be understood inclusively, in the sense that saving humanity in all its various cultures and protecting all life and the planet itself, is up to us alone. We are the enemy, but we are also the only solution! If we follow those wise ones--the Teachers, the Buddhas, the prophets, the elders, the sages, the artists and healers--we will understand the dangers of our ignorance, our greed, our hatred, our selfishness. If we choose to act on their wisdom, and follow their teachings there is the possibility we can prevent humanity's destruction, and protect our imperiled planet with all its precious diversity. We cannot depend on world leaders or anyone else to solve the problems for us. We must commit ourselves to act with nonviolence, compassion, wisdom, truth, and justice. We must do it ourselves!

From Our Garden

July 16, 2021
Nov 20, blooming constantly
Ironwood, Sri Lankan national tree
Blood lily
Brazilian plume flower
Lily's wall


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