Sunday, September 13, 2015

United Nations High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace 2015

Serious – and funny. Hope you enjoy.

The United Nations High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace in cooperation with the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace (GMCoP) convened in New York on September 9, 2015, and I had the privilege to attend the event once again.

The day was packed with wonderful ideas, sincere intentions, and descriptions of actual Culture of Peace activities. There were also some very touching moments.

Inspiring moments and mental imprints of genuine hope for a better world came from the Middle East – a musical performance by two musicians, a Jewish-Israeli and a Palestinian, who call their duo "Fusion Unlimited."

To my delight, two themes we heard repeated over and over from many speakers throughout the day were:

  1. Violence and peace are products of the mind, the result of our mindset. The mind is the source and cause of violence. 

    The UN Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, its 'little blue book' for peace (citing the Constitution of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) states on page 1: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

  2. Emphasis on education and investment in education for tolerance, respect, peace and conflict resolution as the solution for violence we all yearn for. 
We also learned: 

  1. Non-violence is not passive or merely "the absence of violence" but active and requires effort. Non-violence is the most effective and quickest way to resolve conflicts. 
  2. Sustainable development depends on peace and peace depends on sustainable development. 
  3. Poverty is extreme violence.

  4. Peace cannot come from the top down, from a government or law. This expectation is totally unrealistic. Peace requires the involvement and investment of each and every person, and can only come from the bottom up, from many people who manifest peace in their minds and in their lives. 
  5. Everyone can contribute to peace, every teacher, student, worker, farmer, parent, every person whomsoever. 
  6. The media, including social media, has an important role in bringing peace. An entire hour-long panel was devoted to the importance of the role of the media in bringing peace. (The second of two panels in the afternoon session.)

  7. Neither G-6, G-8 nor G-20 – the United Nations is the only entity in the world that represents all of humanity. Therefore, it is important to find and strengthen ways to implement its decisions. 
  8. The full power of the internet needs to be harnessed for peace. 
  9. It is recommended that every person practice some form of spirituality. This recommendation came from Ambassador Chowdhury, the initiator of the forum, and from Prof. Michael Nagler, Metta Center for Non-Violence. Prof. Nagler recommended that we each do three things:

           a. Boycott the commercial media.

           b. Fill the hole left by a. with study and implementation of non-violence.

           c. It is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of spiritual practice.

Mr. Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, was the keynote speaker of the event. Mr. Gandhi described in detail how, after a grueling interrogation, his grandfather sent him to look for the the 2 inch pencil nub he had absent-mindedly discarded with the matter-of-course expectation that he would get a new pencil. His grandfather sent him out with a flashlight in the middle of the night so that he would learn, internalize and realize that even the tiniest waste of resources is a double violence, towards humanity and towards the planet. It took him two hours to find the pencil nub.

Arun Gandhi also related what it was like being raised in a non-violent home. Whenever he and his sister did anything wrong, instead of punishing them, his parents fasted. They fed the children, sat with them at the table, explained that they were not eating because they were fasting because they were not good enough parents. Afterwards, the children always tried harder to behave well since they did not want their parents to suffer. He explained that it is the exact opposite of a child who is punished and learns to be careful not to get caught again in the future.

After presentations by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ambassador Sam Kutesa, about 27 ambassadors of the General Assembly presented their statements. The shortest speech and most to the point was by the Ambassador of Grenada. From the ambassador's statement:

There is so much peace in the world. Who's peace do I promote? Universal peace needs a stronger global consensus, when authority and power means caring. May each of our peace of ours spread so that we find a common peace for all.”

(From my notes)

Now please laugh with me a little and appreciate the opportunity to share my joy...

Amazingly, unlike in 2013, the audience was allowed to speak. Diplomacy is not my strong suit, I admit... Although I only spoke for one minute, in my quest and search for world peace, I evidently ruffled a few people...

The seat of the Holy See was vacant and it seemed like a good and relatively neutral place (between Croatia and the State of Palestine). Moreover, I like Pope Francis and just a day earlier had posted Pope Francis's statement about the refugees on the Israeli The Marker Café Current Events forum. I love Jesus too – from my point of view he is like the Buddha. So it seemed like a good spot to sit, meditate, wish and hope for world peace. During the morning session I sat in the unmarked seat against the wall just behind the Holy See. But since the General Assembly delegates were no longer speaking in the afternoon, I moved forward just a tad.

Dr. Janna Weiss -- but definitely not on behalf of The Holy See

When the floor was given to the general public, I spoke for one minute. As soon as I finished speaking, an irate Chinese man ran over to me and said, “You said 'Dalai Lama'.” Oh my goodness! I'm guessing the Chinese man must have demanded from the Holy See to know who was sitting in their seat and if I represented the Holy See or not. (It's pretty obvious that I do not.) Ambassador Chowdhury, the forum organizer and initiator, approached me and very graciously asked me to give my information to the security on behalf of the Holy See. The assigned security guard was Catholic and we both agreed that Pope Francis is a wonderful pope. He added that Pope Francis is likely headed for sainthood.

Let's hope that only good comes from it all. (Who knows? Maybe the Vatican will mediate between the Chinese government and the Tibetans?) Let's hope the whole tempest in a teapot (storm in a teacup for our British friends) becomes the needed spark for world peace, or at the very least, for a solution for the Tibetan people.

In the future, the UN may provide designated seating for civil society. (The invited spokesperson on behalf of civil society, Elisabeth Shuman, spoke from the seat of the Democratic Republic of South Korea. She pointed out that UN Declaration on a Culture of Peace Article 4: Education, is the square root of Article 16: Security. Dr. Panna Shah, a doctor from Long Island who founded the Shanti Fund, spoke from Samoa's spot. The Shanti Fund is an educational fund that organizes a weekend before Gandhi's birthday in 22 school districts in Long Island. Gandhi's birthday, October 22 ,was recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence.)

I offered to send an apology to the Holy See but was told it wasn't necessary. At least I'm glad the Chinese are now reading my blog... and probably also the UN security folks.. and the Vatican security folks... Welcome one and all! 

Many people, all more important, more interesting and more accomplished than myself, spoke at the distinguished and respectful event that was rich with content and meaning. But I thought you might like to know what I said, so here goes...

Janna Weiss's one minute at the United Nations: 
"[My name is Dr. Janna Weiss. I am a human rights activist] ...and a social media blogger. I've come before and I was so happy this year to hear so much emphasis on mindset and the mind and thank you for bringing Mr. Arun Gandhi here, and for the emphasis on, really, that violence is an inner process and developing peace is an inner process, and the strong emphasis on education. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been working to develop programs for early childhood education, for childhood education. There's a heart and mind website and I hope that we can hear him [His Holiness the Dalai Lama] next year and have a lot of implementation of a lot of what we heard. So, thank you very much."
The United Nation's 'little blue book' for a culture of peace

Ambassador Chowdhury ended the panel by stressing the contribution of individuals to peace while holding up the 'little blue book,' the UnitedNations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which is available for each and every one of us to read and apply. He also reiterated the importance of the contribution of women for world peace. 

May we all have genuine happiness, peace and well-being in our hearts and throughout the world. 

Translated from Hebrew with minor changes; published on The Marker Café Current Events Forum as: What's Happening in New York? and on my Hebrew blog: A Wish for World Peace. The post was featured on The Marker Café home page. 

Janna is not affiliated in any way with The Holy See, other than having great admiration and respect for Pope Francis, along with millions of other fellow human beings.
UN site search: High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace - video - includes past years
United Nations High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace - program, documents
Getting to the Root of Violence: Integrative Public Health Model to Heal Violence

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How To Make Your Mind More Peaceful, Reduce Suffering and Increase Inner Calm ~ Geshe Lama Ahbay Rinpoche


Geshe Lama Ahbay Tulku Rinpoche
(Jigme Thupten Tender)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
From notes taken during the teaching.

Rinpoche first explained that the 2 hour session would include an introduction to meditation, half hour meditation, Q & A, Green Tara blessing. The following is Rinpoche's introduction to meditation, selected Q & A and dedication.

I am very glad you are all interested in the dharma. Therefore, we meet here. What is dharma? Dharma means change. All human beings have three things: a human being's body, a human being's mind and a human being's speech. The mind is the boss. The body and speech are like servants. What do we change? We need to change the negative body to a positive body, to change the negative mind to a positive mind and to change negative speech into positive speech. The only method [for this] is meditation. In the world, there are different religions. All religions practice meditation. Today, I am very happy to share meditation. I hope we enjoy a few hours together in this beautiful Tibet House. I will try as much as I can that when you go back home you will bring something unique from me. Do not waste time. Time is very important. I know you are very interested to come here.

Negative body changes to a positive body by meditation. Negative mind changes to a positive mind by meditation. Negative speech changes to positive speech by meditation. Therefore, meditation is so important. Every Tuesday evening Tibet House has meditation. Today we will [learn and practice] meditation.

First, I will tell you five things:
  1. The benefits of meditation
  2. How we sit with our body when we meditate
  3. When to meditate? What is the best time? Morning, afternoon or evening?
  4. How long we meditate
  5. Concentration – How to improve our concentration
I will explain how to understand, study and practice meditation.

1. Benefits of Meditation
If we understand the benefits of meditation, then it is easy [for practice] to follow. Therefore, it is very important to understand the benefits. There are so many benefits. I will tell three of them:

  1. All human beings like us need peace and we do not need suffering. We need peace and we do not need suffering. Peace and suffering are not from the sky or the earth. Peace and suffering come from their own causes. We need peace. How do we get peace? We get peace from the causes of peace. We need to realize what is peace and what are the causes of peace and how to improve these things through meditation. What are the causes of suffering and how do we reduce the causes of suffering through meditation? We can reduce the causes of suffering and improve the causes of peace through meditation. Then, we will get more peace in our mind. Animals cannot do that. Our minds will become more peaceful and happy. When we practice we can create more causes of peace and reduce the negative causes.
  2. When we age, our eyes, ears, smell, taste, etc. All six consciousnesses become weaker and weaker. When we meditate, the mind consciousness gets sharper and sharper and our memory improves, through meditation.
  3. Normally, when we are tired, you come home from work to the house... When we meditate, human beings have three things, I said already, body, mind and speech. The mind will be more relaxed and more powerful.
Americans are interested in physical exercises. Today we [will learn to train] the mind.

2. Meditation Posture
When we meditate in Tibetan Buddhism, how do we do the posture? There are seven steps. Best [Rinpoche pointed to a cushion on the floor]. If you are not comfortable [on a cushion on the floor], a chair is also okay. (Rinpoche demonstrates each of these as he says them.)
  1. Feet – (cross-legged, lotus or half lotus position)
  2. Hands – Four inches below the navel (Right back of hand resting in left palm, thumbs touching and forming a triangle above them; People whose left hand is the dominant hand may put the back of the left hand in the right palm.)
  3. Spine straight
  4. Shoulders – (gently rolled back and relaxed)
  5. Head – (slightly forward; not stiff upward and back, not drooping down)
  6. Eyes – Not so open. If opened, can see different things and the mind goes there (distracted, follows the visual objects). If the eyes are too closed, sleep comes easily. Open slightly and see the tip of the nose.
  7. Tongue tip touches the palate
How we position the body is very important.

3. Best Time to Meditate
Morning is important. Why? Two reasons. 1. The mind is fresher. We slept well and the mind is fresh. In the afternoon and evening it is also good to meditate but the mind is a little tired. When we practice concentration earlier it is more beneficial. 2. Setting our motivation – In the morning it is easier to focus on a positive mind. It is easier to control our negative emotions. It is easier to remember – if I do this I make more suffering, if I do this I become more peaceful. Therefore, morning is best. It is easy to understand.

Rinpoche asked each and every person present how long we have been meditating (duration of session and/or how many months or years).

4. Duration of Meditation Session
Everybody is very interested and has been meditating for a long time (many years). Long time (duration) is not important when we start -- the quality is important. If we meditate too long we get tired and bored. That is not good. Short good quality [is good]. When we go back home from the meditation room, practice is so important. A quiet place is best for meditation. Quiet makes it easier to concentrate; it is easier to concentrate on one point (single-pointedly).

~ ~ ~

The Importance of Meditation for Transforming Our Minds
Yesterday we understood that people are suffering from the negative emotions. What are the negative emotions? Anger, ego, jealousy. Those negative emotions give us more suffering and destroy our inner peace. Therefore, those negative minds change to a more tolerant person. [A person] who has more anger changes to a more tolerant person from meditation. [A person] who has more ego changes to a more humble person through meditation. [A person] who has more jealousy changes to a more compassionate person through meditation. [A person] who has more hatred changes to a more loving person through meditation. [A person] who has more impatience changes to a more patient person through meditation. Those negative emotions make more suffering and destroy our inner peace. Those are our enemies.

In the United States, people think enemies are outside. They are not outside. They are inside. [When we] change the negative emotions to positive emotions, then [we are] very peaceful and have a very happy life. One family – 10 people. Then ten families – 100 people. Then ten times ten families – 1000 people. Then [we create] a happy society. People [mistakenly] believe that happiness is only from material things. People have more material things, whatever they need, but they are not happy. People think a beautiful house, a beautiful car, a beautiful garden will make them happy. They only look outside. How can I improve? How can I practice? We do not practice, we do not improve, so [we have] more suffering.

It is important to understand that I am my own protector and I am my own enemy. We [need to] judge ourselves. In meditation, we talk about the mind. We have three [kinds of] minds: positive, negative and neutral. In 24 hours, if we cause our minds to be positive, negative or neutral depends on us. We try [to cultivate] a mind that is always positive. When we practice, it is a little difficult. When we wake up and it's hot and we come home it's easy to... Our mind goes to the negative easily. When the mind goes to the positive, we have good consequences. Therefore, meditation is so important.

~ ~ ~
5. Concentration
When we meditate, concentration is so important. Bodhisattvas1 have many practices. The main practice is the Six Perfections: 1. Generosity, 2. Ethics, 3. Tolerance, 4. Effort, 5. Concentration, 6. Wisdom. Therefore, when we meditate, concentration is so important. (The Six Perfections are the causes for enlightenment, for peace.) Mental concentration is so important. Many people are not good at concentration. How to develop good concentration?

We meditated in silence for about thirty minutes.
Q & A and Green Tara Blessing followed.

Selected Q & A

Q: How to practice?

Rinpoche: [It is different for] each person. [If one has] more anger, practice tolerance. [If one has] more ego, practice humility. [If one has] more jealousy, practice compassion; more attachment, practice impermanence. Different person, different method.

Q: (Someone described a difficult work situation, which had aroused both deep concern and anger.)

Rinpoche: Think: Today I have a great opportunity to practice tolerance. Because your boss is angry with you, think: I can practice tolerance with my boss. You cannot practice tolerance with the Buddha, the Dharma and these sorts of things. You must understand: Today I have a very great opportunity to practice tolerance with my boss. Today, I have a great opportunity to practice tolerance with my colleagues and to love and have compassion for them.

Q: (The same person describes a real threat in the work place.)

Rinpoche: Check the reality, if [there is] fear or no fear. (i.e., if there is a basis for the fear or not.) If [there is] no fear, then why are you afraid? Practice compassion. Fear brings anger more easily. You must improve your compassion. You have a great opportunity to practice compasssion. Then your fear will gradually reduce.

In reply to another question:

Rinpoche: First we love ourselves. Then we can easily help others. So, first we need to love ourselves.
~ ~ ~

Rinpoche explained and bestowed the Green Tara Blessing.

Now we dedicate. Motivation and dedication are so important. We dedicate the good karma from our body, mind and speech to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. From today, every day, our good karma will grow and grow and grow until we reach enlightenment. All the good karma from our body, speech and mind becomes good karma for all sentient beings.

 ~ ~ ~
Please support Geshe Lama Ahbay Rinpoche's meaningful and important work: 

1. A bodhisattva is a person who is cultivating the causes for peace for the benefit of all beings. 
From Wikipedia: “A bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.” Bodhicitta is the mind of enlightenment, the pure altruistic wish or intention to attain enlightenment, buddhahood, for the benefit of all.