Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Cry, May 10, 2017

Although we are 12,000 miles away, we are painfully aware of the travesty of governing taking place in the United States. Needless to say, we are following it closely with despair alternating with outrage. The daily videos, articles, and commentary by Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Hawking, et al, keep us not only well-informed, but also thankful that we are in one of the saner places in this world at the moment, but still connected.

Ironically, though, we must express our gratitude to Trump and Co. Without the mirrors, painful though they be, held up by so many, we could pretend to believe the usual comfortable lies about America and her brutal history. Not just the Native American genocide, being played out once again at Standing Rock, and the monstrosity of slavery, where black lives only mattered as property and still don't matter equally, but the conveniently forgotten rejection of Jewish asylum seekers, the fire bombing of Japanese cities, the destruction of virtually everything in North Korea, the criminal napalming of Vietnamese villages and jungles, the violation of Cambodia which gave rise to Pol Pot, and the insanely intensive bombing of Laos. Because Trump has repeatedly exposed his ignorance of everything about the world and American history, all convenient lies, euphemisms, and American exceptionalism are being challenged.

Asymmetry in the human costs of conflicts involving U.S. forces has been the pattern ever since the decimation of Native Americans and the American conquest of the Philippines between 1899 and 1902. The State Department's Office of the Historian puts the death toll in the latter war at "over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants," and proceeds to add that "as many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease." (Among other precipitating causes for those noncombatant deaths, U.S. troops shot most of the water buffalo farmers relied on to produce their crops.) Many scholarly accounts now offer higher estimates for Filipino civilian fatalities.
from "Memory Loss in the Garden of Violence: How Americans Remember (and Forget) Their Wars,"
By John W. Dower
To read the full article, click HERE
Visakha was particularly pleased to read mention of American colonizing of the Philippines which she'd learned about firsthand as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lanao, Mindanao, right out of college.

That mirror has been held up. We have been shown our country's true nature. That's a blessing for which we must be grateful--and humble

Fortunately, Trump and his fascist cronies, the alt-right, and the white supremacists are so blatant that their extremism is unmistakable. The constant claim of "fake news" reveals the true source of the "Faux News." With the absurdity of the political scene, it is often nigh on to impossible to distinguish between The Onion and the "Main Stream Media." Instead, we find our brilliant comedians doing the work of telling the truth!

What happens to democracy when the President of the United States labels critical media outlets as “enemies of the people” and derides the search for truth by disparaging such efforts with the blanket term “fake news”? What happens to democracy when individuals and groups are demonized on the basis of their religion? What happens to a society when critical thinking becomes an object of contempt and is disdained in favor of raw emotion or disparaged as fake news?
from "Thinking Dangerously in Dark Times,"
by Henry Giroux
To read the full article, click HERE
Furthermore, without Trump, Americans might not have noticed that "business as usual" means that obscenely wealthy corporations are exploiting, ruining, polluting, and destroying the environment, cheating as much as they can, and driving us to extinction, while the compliant media are lying, ignoring the truth, entertaining the masses, pretending that "both sides are equally complicit" and keeping everyone distracted.

"It's the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon"

By Phil Torres

To read the article, click HERE

Suddenly, people have become aware that Trump, the con man and grifter, who wants to embody "big business" is threatening everything healthy, wholesome, and natural with outright destruction. In that sense, Trump is only a symptom, albeit fatal, of a much more serious disease, capitalism and the lie of unlimited growth and progress. He is swiftly pushing us to the brink of disaster, but, at the same time, he is so outrageous he is also stirring a healthy outrage in a roused populace, which we hope will cause an awakening majority to focus, unite, and resist.
Congratulations to France, by the way, for handily rejecting Fascism in the form of Marine Le Pen. Here's hoping the Brits can be so sensible.

We must resist, and we must not let ourselves be distracted by Trump's mental condition, his mendacity, his worthlessness, his shallowness, his ugliness, his misogyny, his hair, his tie, his little hands, and his insanity. These are not important.

In the Anguttara Nikaya, Ven. Sariputta explains five ways to subdue anger. The entire sutta can be read by clicking here, but the fourth example below seems particularly apt in describing Trump and his circle of friends.

"Fourth, one might get angry with a person whose ways are impure in both deed and word and who never achieves mental clarity or mental calm. Suppose a person who was grievously ill were to go along the highway with no village anywhere nearby. If someone else were to see him, he might raise pity and compassion in that second person, who might say to himself, 'Alas! That poor man needs proper food, proper medicine, proper assistance, or a guide to lead him to a village, lest he suffer even more or die here.' In the same way, with a person whose ways are impure in both deed and word and who never obtains mental clarity or mental calm, pity and compassion should arise, so that one says to himself, 'Alas! He should give up his bad habits and develop good habits, so that, on the breaking up of the body after death, he is not reborn in a miserable realm.' In this way, anger with that person should be subdued.

Anguttara Nikaya 5, 162

Anger and hatred are not the answer. Trump and his cronies will reap the harvest of their kamma. Of course, impeachment of the whole lot is desirable, but unity and resistence must remain the focus. We are ALL victims of the vicious system. Those in power are doing their best to divide and exploit us. Our only hope is that everyone realizes that we are all in danger. We must unite and stand up for each other. If we don't protect the refugees, the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, the hungry, the hunted, the weak, the elderly, the minorities, the mocked, the misunderstood, the left-handed, and the vulnerable, everything will collapse. If we don't protect Nature, the environment, and all the other species, life on our planet home will soon become extinct. Don't be distracted. Protect, plant trees, recycle, feed, advocate, boycott, divest, sue, protest, oppose all that is cruel, wasteful, and wrong.

"Millions of mouths run dry in drought without end,"

By Anushiya Sathisraja
To read the article from The Sunday Times, click HERE.

Here in Sri Lanka, the heat and the severe, persisting drought are on everybody's mind. This is the worst drought in 40 years and there's no relief in sight. It has devastated the rice crop, raised prices for consumers, forced people to buy water, and created a crisis for farmers. It is also wreaking havoc with wildlife. Weakened animals are more vulnerable to disease and poachers, and elephant-human conflicts increase as the animals search for water.
Click either photo to see more photos of Kurunegala and the new land
Kurunegala is one of the worst affected areas. For Bodhirukarama the situation has not improved. The rice has withered on the stalk, and the monastery is still having to buy bowsers of water. On May 2, Tissa arrived early to pick up Lily, Soma, and us. We met Ven. Amilasiri in Kegalle and proceeded to Avissavella, where we made a down payment on the land for a new hostel for the elderly monks. In response to our appeal, Buddhist Relief Mission has received almost half (US$4664) of the US$10,000 needed to purchase the land near the Kelaniya River. The water supply is not a problem. There is even a beautiful pond of water lilies in the middle of the plot. The landowner himself was, unfortunately, in the hospital for surgery on that day, but his son accepted the money. Construction will begin very soon. Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!! to all donors.

We hope that we will be able to provide the entire sum of $10,000 (15 lakh rupees) in due time. Donations are still needed and welcome!

Our class of novices at Vajiraramaya is delightful. The students work well together and respond enthusiastically to the various activities we give them. It's a pleasure to see the older novices helping the younger ones (and the little temple boys) understand directions, so that nobody gets left behind. This past year, the monastery acquired two rabbits which the novices are taking care of. Before class, the students eagerly report on their pets' growth and development. With that in mind, we chose Sasa Jataka, "The Rabbit in the Moon," as the text for a lesson. After reading it, we had the students act it out as a play. They were amused at the props–a skewed lizard, a pot of curd, a string of red fish, and a branch of mangos–which we had created with colored paper and cardboard. We asked them to volunteer for the roles of rabbit, jackal, monkey, otter, and Sakka. They did a terrific job of acting, and were a good audience, too, both listening and prompting to keep the action flowing.

At Subodharama, after we finished reading Maha-Silava Jataka, "Not One Drop of Blood," our class of university students (mostly foreign monks and nuns) suggested that we discuss human rights. We happened to have in our library the little book Buddhism and Human Rights, by L.P.N Perera, which we had bought in Sri Lanka about thirty years ago, so we used its first chapters as a text. The discussions were very interesting, sometimes veering from the ideals of human rights and support for them in Buddhism to how governments actually treat their citizens. There was also a bit of confusion over the principle of universality and the question of people's responsibilities to the state.

Click the photo to see more photos
We held some of the classes at our house so we could show the students several videos, including an Amnesty International animated presentation of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," which we had purchased long ago on VHS when it was produced. It was during our involvement with AI in Japan that we heard, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights--passed December 10, 1948; forgotten December 11, 1948."

We also used "Red Slippers," an episode of The Mentalist from a few years ago. The story presents the case of a young gay boy, just out of high school, who was apparently burned to death in his car. The question is "Was he murdered, or did he commit suicide?" The episode effectively raises the issues of homophobia, victimization, and bullying, as well as basic human rights. The program was both emotional and daring, raising difficult social issues, but ending with hope.

We created another stimulating activity in which we tried to give human rights a human face. We searched the internet and found 35 photos of human rights violations from a variety of sources. We numbered the photos and arranged them on the chalkboard. We gave each student a list of captions for the photos and asked them to match each photo with its caption. Then, in the discussion, we asked them to identify the human right that each photo portrayed. They quickly realized that some of the photos involved more than one human right.

This exercise was challenging at every level. We were impressed at how quickly the students spotted key elements in the photos to help them understand the situation. Although each student was working on his (or her) own paper, they shared ideas, discussed the photos in detail, and worked effectively together. In the discussion to identify the human rights relevant to each picture, they related some to their own experience, while they found others quite surprising.

Of course, this was just a beginning. There's still a lot to be done before there's a clear understanding of the ideal of universal human rights, but teaching tolerance and exercising critical thinking is always worthwhile.

Our schedule toward the end of the year (assuming the world continues to function more or less normally and us in it) looks very full indeed. We have tentatively scheduled three intensives–in Bangalore, December 11-22; in Kolkata, January 1-13; and in Kandy, January 22-February 3. (The dates may be somewhat flexible, depending on teacher availability.) We're going to need a lot of teachers. Will you join one or all of the courses? Please write and let us know if you're interested. Volunteers are welcome! It's a terrific experience!

A viisit to the Pattini Shrine to wish for good health for freinds and relatives Serving high tea at the Kandy Cancer Home
Ven. Lekdron's house blessing
Click each photo to see more photos of the event
A New Year's Celebration at the Ameican Corner in Kandy.
We are US Embassy Wardens for Kandy.
Offering dana to Ven Pannasobhana and Ven.
Lekdron to share merit with Sarala and Eid
April 21, Blue Shirt for Burma Day, in memory of U Win Tin and in support of all political prisoners
Click each photo to see more photos of the event
A great T-shirt from Mike
Click to enlarge
Our rose garden
Lily's mushrooms
Mary, a SERVAS visitor from Ireland. Due to the scarcity of members, Sri Lanka is no longer a nartional member of SERVAS, but we are the National Representatives.
Click each photo to see more photos
Our Vesak lanterns, created by Edmand and Soma
The trellis in our backyard
Kandy Walking Tour, created by Ewen and Dennis
Click to visit the new site
Shehan participated in a dance at his school. Click the photo to see a short video Ven. Lekdron performed a Medicine Buddha Puja, wishing good health to friends and relatives. Click the photo for more photos.
A slolar-rechargable flashlight, the first we had ever seen, but, of course, we are behind the times.

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