A Life of thinking globally, acting locally, and seeking peace internally.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Remembering Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

On Nov. 14th, 2009, they celebrated the life and work of Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, founder of the Kauai Hindu Monastery and the wonderful magazine and resource HinduismToday. Almost two years ago, I wrote a reflection on this interfaith hero who speaks to me through the legacy he left this world. While I have received so much from my father and my Uncle Ralph, I rely also on the teachings of this guru, and recently discovered yet another of piece of his wisdom: http://www.himalayanacademy.com/resources/books/lws/lws_ch-41.html. (I was preparing for a Forgiveness Symposium at University of MI Dearborn).

"To stop the wars in the world, our best long-term solution is to stop the war in the home. It is here that hatred begins, that animosities with those who are different from us are nurtured, that battered children learn to solve their problems with violence." So said Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, when he addressed the UN's Millennium Peace Summit of World Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 2000.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami founded the first Hindu Temple in the USA and a magazine, Hinduism Today, which seeks to unite all Hindus, regardless of nationality or sect, and inspire and educate seekers everywhere. As an American (and Caucasian) Hindu leader, he ministered for 52 years around the world, strengthening ties within the Hindu community, while helping his local community in Hawaii, engaging in activities such as the futuring process, Vision Kauai. He was an articulate spokesperson for Hinduism in the West:

in 1988 in Oxford, England, he was at the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival, joining hundreds of religious, political and scientific leaders from all countries to discuss privately, for the first time, the future of human life on this planet;

in 1990 and 1992, he was at the Global Forums of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders for Human Survival; and

in 1993, in Chicago, at the centenary Parliament of the World's Religions, he was elected one of three presidents to represent Hinduism at the Presidents' Assembly, a core group of 25 men and women voicing the needs of world faiths.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami's legacy includes precepts such as "Ethics must be established among all the religionists of the world. They must nurture an appreciation for each other, not merely a tolerance. Religious leaders, above all, must remain fair, despite their enthusiasm," and "It is our past that colors and conditions, actually creates, the future. We purge the past in the present, and we fashion the future in the present."

My involvement in interfaith activism is relatively recent, although I have "lived interfaith" all my life, growing up in university communities in the Northeast and as a young adult and college student in India. Gurudeva's teachings and spirit are an inspiration, as I seek to be a Hindu voice in the interfaith dialogue that we must nurture to work together in our current war-torn world. As a founding member of the Troy Interfaith Group, whose mission is "to invite all faith communities to gather, grow and give for the sake of promoting the common values of love, peace and justice among all religions locally and globally. We believe that peace among peoples and nations requires peace among the religions," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swami is my interfaith hero. Read more Entry>>

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fighting Poverty with Faith.. Can there be an End to Poverty?

Last month, I attended a lunch meeting on behalf of WISDOM (interfaithwisdom.org). We were about 25-30 people across diverse backgrounds, (the most well-represented faith was Jewish) that came together to discuss fighting poverty. It was part of a series of nationwide events to highlight a path to poverty reduction and economic recovery, which was led by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Catholic Charities. We (WISDOM) are now part of an alliance of at least 34 organizations, which include Hindu American Foundation (hafsite.org) of which I am a member, and Hindu American Seva Charities, (www.hinduamericanseva.org) of which I am on the Board.

Rebecca Salminen Witt, the director of Greening of Detroit, greeningofdetroit.com, came and talked about the past, present and future of the organization. The Greening of Detroit, is a 501 (c)(3) not for profit organization, established in 1989 to guide and inspire the reforestation of Detroit (the primary form of urban agriculture when she started there a few years ago). Their latest strategic plan reflects commitment to a clear sense of direction that will guide the organization's development over the next five years. A new vision was established, expanding The Greening's mission to guide and inspire others to create a 'greener' Detroit through planting and educational programs environmental leadership, advocacy, and by building community capacity. Their new motto - "Growing our future: from peas to trees."

Greening has tree planting programs, educational programs (e.g., how to extend the growing season - currently 51 weeks), serve as a human network (about 6K volunteers a year), a source for materials (tool banks), a source for empowerment (85 gardeners sell their produce under the "grown in detroit" label and 100% goes back to the gardeners). They help over 1000 gardeners produce 200 tons of food annually. Greening also has a pilot program that provides 2 oz of fresh fruit per week in school lunches - this is indicative of the fact that the demand for locally grown produce is much more than what is available. The "grown in detroit" folks have even been contacted by Walmart. At Romanowski Park, they have a farm that works with OW Holmes elementary school which incorporates cultural diversity to grow some of the foods from the home countries of the community. They have a workforce development program in partnership with Proliteracy, and a Garden Resource Program with MSU, DAN and Earthworks Garden.

Greening currently has 24 professional staff, and thousands of volunteers. While there is currently of lot of (vacant) land, some people are committed to rightsizing the city. They are currently seeking help in the following ways:

* Call your congressional representatives about the clean energy bill
* Donate
* Volunteer
* Hire a team from their workforce program 313 237 8733 - more info at Greeningofdetroit.com

Someone from DTE Energy Gardens was there with a brochure - much of the info is here: www.dteenergy.com . DTE Energy in partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank, is helping feed the hungry with produce grown at the DTE Energy Gardens - more than 100 acres are being held for future sites to Gleaners for farming and community gardens that supply food to the hungry. There are 8 DTE Energy Gardens located at DTE facilities in Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Birmingham, Detroit, Farmington Hills, Plymouth Township, South Lyon, and Southfield. So far this year, the gardens have produced over 17,500 pounds of food.

More info on the national initiative can be found at www.fightingpovertywithfaith.com

This initiative ties in to a movie recommendation I recently got from my "famous Uncle Ralph" - The End of Poverty, www.theendofpoverty.com

Both the sites and the movie are definitely worth checking out as we head into the Thanksgiving season...

Faith can be a solution to the problem. We need to make it happen. Read more Entry>>

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cultural Identity and Immigrants - Part II

Have you seen Ocean of Pearls? If you haven’t, I definitely recommend it, although not necessarily because I enjoyed it.

In fact, I am not sure I did… Of course, it was wonderfully made; the story, casting, music and cinematography are awesome; it shows Detroit in a positive light. It brings up challenges that we need to confront and will definitely play your hearts strings even while it ends on a hopeful note. There will be those who don’t acknowledge the difficulty of the cultural generation gap or the racism that the movie depicts. There will be those who may not be able to handle the issue-(over)load: romance, career choices, generational conflict, acculturation/assimilation, racism, and religious identity struggle.

The movie's subtitle - It is in the collision between the old ways and the new that we find out who we are - is so relevant to the immigrant story and especially to development of identity. There are uncomfortable places that the movie takes me to, as an immigrant straddling many labels and cultures, and seeking balance.

The one scene that replays in my mind is typical of the movie’s sadness and reality: the protagonist Amrit (a heart transplant surgeon who is held back due to race and religious identification) and his new potential love interest are discussing the hospital board’s denial of a promised position to Amrit. She suggests that Amrit take up the issue openly and legally, and he pushes that option aside. At times, I feel the same – why does the minority have to take an (antagonistic) stand? I guess the answer is that history repeats itself, and this is the film’s ultimate story – the story of taking a stand and being true to oneself, and this is not just true in the immigrant context. Read more Entry>>