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June 21: A Day of Balance and Harmony

In Being a World Citizen, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II on June 21, 2020 at 5:11 PM

By René Wadlow

 

Our earth is a small star in the great universe
Yet of it we can make, if we choose, a planet
Unvexed by war, untroubled by hunger or fear,
Undivided by senseless distinctions of race, color, or theory.

Stephen Vincent Bennet

The 21st of June, the Summer Solstice, is in many cultures the cosmic symbol of balance and harmony: balance between light and dark, between the universal and the local, between giving and receiving, between women and men, and between our inner and outer worlds. History records humanity’s preoccupation with the sun’s annual cycle. Sites such as Stonehenge in England are thought to have been erected specifically to trace the path of the sun through the heavens.

The sun has always had symbolic meaning. As that most ancient Sanskrit prayer, the Gayatri, tells us, the sun is a disc of golden light giving sustenance to the universe, and Plato used the image of the sun to represent the idea of the One, the Good. In the age of the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt, the concept of harmony, order, and balance were personified by the goddess Ma’at, the winged woman who replicated on earth, the celestial balance of order and beauty.

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There is an old tradition attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and the Emerald Tablet which says, “that which is below is like that which is above, and that which is above is like that which is below.” Thus, the cosmic growth of light should be reflected in our lives in greater light, greater awareness, greater understanding.

June 21 is a day of recognition of the worldwide increase of light which destroys ignorance. It is a day in which we celebrate illumination as it dispels darkness. It is a day during which we can all recognize the growth of greater consciousness and concern for the common good. Therefore, the Association of World Citizens stresses cooperation and visions of a better future. Harmony and balance include tolerance, acceptance, equality and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts.

Due to the efforts of those with a world vision, people throughout the world are recognizing their responsibility to each other are attempting to revolve ancient and entrenched global problems. Today, we see a new spirit of cooperation as we move toward a cosmopolitan, humanist world society. We see a growing spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation, and dialogue. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore, we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind, and love the world with a global heart.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Education for Global Citizenship

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, Human Rights, Korean Peninsula, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2020 at 7:59 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has taken a lead in Education for Global Citizenship, starting in 2013 with the UNESCO Forum of Global Citizenship Education. Global Citizenship refers to a sense of belonging to the broader community of humanity. Global Citizenship emphasizes political, economic, social, and cultural interconnectedness between the local, the national, and the global. Education for Global Citizenship aims to develop an education based on creative and critical thinking that enables all people to contribute actively to political and development processes in a complex global society.

While it is important that Global Citizenship Education be implemented in the school system at all levels, Global Citizenship must also be carried out by those who are not directly part of the school programs such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Thus, the United Nations Department of Public Information’s yearly conference for NGOs in 2016 was devoted to Education for Global Citizenship. The conference was held in the city of Gyeongju which had been the first capital in 900 AD of a unified Korea. The conference was able to draw on a larger-than-usual Asian NGOs.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) which supports fully the Global Citizenship Education process was able to play an active role and continues its efforts.

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Prof. René Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, addressing the UN DPI/NGO conference in Gyeongju.

Education for Global Citizenship is an essential strategy to address global challenges as well as to promote gender equality, facilitate the eradication of poverty and hunger, build skills, eliminate corruption, and prevent violence. Education for Global Citizenship promotes truly sustainable production and consumption, mitigating climate change and its effects, protecting our waters and biodiversity.

The AWC stresses that Education for Global Citizenship needs to highlight the importance of the human spirit in educational philosophy and practice. World Citizens hold that there are inter-acting dimensions of existence from the physical to the mental and to the dimension of the spirit. Education should consider all these dimensions and not just the physical and mental which is today the focus of most education systems.

We are still at an early stage in the creation of an Education for Global Citizenship. (1)  Education for Global Citizenship is part of a long-term process to build the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men. The Constitution of UNESCO states “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Education for Global Citizenship often means changing deep-set attitudes and behavior. Yet there is much on which we can build. There is a rich body of knowledge and experience which helps students gain in self-confidence and harmony within themselves, harmony with Nature and harmony with their fellow humans.

Education for Global Citizenship requires a comprehensive system of education and training for all groups of people at all age levels, both formal and non-formal education. This is a process of awakening a sense of responsibility for the destiny of humanity as a whole.

The AWC stresses that our oneness with humanity and our acceptance of the whole planet as our home involves a process of change both in the attitudes of individuals and in the politics of States. Humanity is clearly moving towards participation in the emerging World Society. An awareness of the emerging World Society and preparation for full and active participation in this World Society is a necessary element of Education for Global Citizenship at all levels from primary schools though university and adult education.

The AWC highlights that a World Citizen is one:

– Aware of the wider world and has a sense of his role as a world citizen;

– Respects and values diversity;

– Has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, and culturally, and is willing to act to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place;

– Participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from the local to the global.

Note

(1) See Luis Cabrera. The Practice of Global Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

A Day of Mother Earth: Living in Harmony with Nature

In Being a World Citizen, Environmental protection, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, Social Rights, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 22, 2020 at 7:45 PM

By René Wadlow

 

International Mother Earth Day on April 22 each year was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2009. Its aim is to promote living in harmony with Nature and to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations. The concept of living in harmony with Nature was seen by the UN delegates as a way “to improve the ethical basis of the relationship between humankind and our planet.”

The term “Mother Earth” is an expression used in different cultures to symbolize the inseparable bonds between humans and Nature. Pachamama is the term used in the Andean cultures of South America. The Earth and the ecosystem are our home. We need to care for them as a mother is supposed to care for her children and the children to show love and gratitude in return. However, we know from all the folk tales of the evil stepmother as well as the records of psychoanalytic sessions that mother-children relations are not always relations of love, care, and gratitude. Thus, to really live in harmony with Nature requires deep shifts in values and attitudes, not just “sustainable development” projects.

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The UN began its focus on ecological issues with the preparations for the 1972 Conference in Stockholm and has continued with the 1992 Rio Declaration followed by the Rio plus 20 conference 20 years later. However, the concept of living in harmony with Nature is relatively new as a UN political concept. Yet it is likely to be increasingly a theme for both governmental policy making and individual action.

Rodney Collin wrote in a letter “It is extraordinary how the key-word of harmony occurs everywhere now, comes intuitively to everyone’s lips when they wish to express what they hope for. But I feel that we have hardly yet begun to study its real meaning. Harmony is not an emotion, an effect. It is a whole elaborate science, which for some reason has only been fully developed in the realm of sound. Science, psychology and even religion are barely touching it as yet.” (1)

Resolutions in the UN General Assembly can give a sense of direction. They indicate that certain ideas and concepts are ready to be discussed at the level of governments. However, a resolution is not yet a program of action or even a detailed framework for discussion. “Living in harmony with Nature” is at that stage on the world agenda. Since the start of the yearly observation of Mother Earth Day in 2010, there have been useful projects proposed around a yearly theme. The 2018 theme is to reduce pollution from plastics. The exponential growth of plastics is now a real threat by injuring marine life, littering beaches and landfills and clogging waste systems. There is a need to reduce the single use of plastic objects by reusing and recycling plastic objects.

However, reducing pollution from plastic objects, while useful, is not yet living in harmony with Nature. There are still efforts to be made to spell out the ethical base and the necessary shifts in attitudes and actions.

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Notes

(1) His letters have been assembled after his death by his wife into a book:

Rodney Collin, The Theory of Conscious Harmony (Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1958)

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Conscience: The Inner Voice of the Higher Self

In Being a World Citizen, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on April 5, 2020 at 8:30 AM

By René Wadlow

 

The United Nations (UN) has designated April 5 as the International Day of Conscience. The first celebration is this year 2020. An awakened conscience is essential to meeting the challenges which face humanity today as we move into the World Society. The great challenge which humanity faces today is to leave behind the culture of violence in which we find ourselves and move rapidly to a culture of peace and solidarity. We can achieve this historic task by casting aside our ancient national, ethnic, and social prejudices and begin to think and act as responsible Citizens of the World.

The useful press kit prepared by the UN Information section for the April 5 International Day of Conscience highlights earlier UNESCO and then UN General Assembly efforts for the Decade of the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. A culture of peace gives the broad social framework in which the conscience of each individual can be a guide.

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An awakened conscience makes us sensitive to hearing the inner voice that warns and encourages. We have a conscience so that we may not let ourselves be lulled to sleep by the social environment in which we find ourselves but will remain alert to truth, justice, and reason. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 1, “All human beings are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

There is a need to build networks and bridges among Companions of Conscience. As the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “I believe that there are groups of people and individuals the world over who are kin, regardless of race. They are in the sme realm of awareness. This is kinship, only this.”

Companions of Conscience create a ground for common discourse and thus a ground for common, life-affirming action. The circle of Companions of Conscience is growing worldwide, and Conscience-based actions are increasingly felt.

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Khalil Gibran

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

World Interfaith Harmony Week: Steps Toward A Harmony Renaissance

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges, Spirituality on February 5, 2020 at 8:30 AM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on October 20, 2010, by Resolution A/RES/65/PV.34 designated the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The General Assembly, building on its efforts for a culture of peace and non-violence, wished to highlight the importance that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue can play in developing a creative culture of peace and non-violence. The General Assembly Resolution recognized “the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions in enhancing mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.” The week has a potential to promote the healing of religion-based tensions in the world.

As the then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote “At a time when the world is faced with many simultaneous problems — security, environmental, humanitarian, and economic — enhanced tolerance and understanding are fundamental for a resilient and vibrant international society. There is an imperative need, therefore, to further reaffirm and develop harmonious cooperation between the world’s different faiths and religions.”

Citizens of the World have called for a cultural renaissance based on the concept of harmony. Rather than concentrating primarily on conflicts, struggles and suffering which is certainly necessary if we are to help resolve the many armed conflicts, World Citizens have suggested that the focus should be on cooperation, coexistence and visions of a better future. Harmony includes tolerance, acceptance, equality and forgiveness of past pains and conflicts. Harmony leads to gentleness, patience, kindness and thus to inner peace and outward to relations based on respect.

Harmony is a universal common value. In harmony we can find true belief that transcends all cultures and religions. The meaning of life is to seek harmony within our inner self. Humans are born with a spiritual soul that develops to seek self-fulfillment. Our soul has a conscience that elevates us. As our soul grows to maturity, we achieve our own harmony.

However, harmony is not only a personal goal of inner peace but a guideline for political, social and world affairs. At this moment in history, our action should enhance peace, reduce conflict and activate a harmony culture. The 21st century is the beginning of a Harmony Renaissance. Our world mission is to be ready for humanity’s next creative wave to lead us to a higher level of common accomplishment. The World Harmony Renaissance should bring the whole world into action for this new millennium of peace and prosperity with unfettered collective energy.

Chinese culture can play an important role in the creation of this harmonious culture. In an earlier period in Chinese thought there was an important conscious effort to create a Harmony Renaissance. This was during the Sung dynasty (960-1279) which reunited China after a period of division and confusion. This was a period of interest in science — “the extension of knowledge through the investigation of things”. It was a period when there was a conscious effort to bring together into a harmonious framework currents of thought that existed in China but often as separate and sometimes hostile schools of thought: Confucianism, Buddhism, philosophical Taoism and religious Taoism. These efforts were called Tao hsuch — the Study of the Tao — an effort later called by Western scholars as “Neo-Confucianism”.

Confucius

Chou Tun-yi (1017-1073), often better known as the Master of Lien-his, was a leading figure in this effort. He developed a philosophy based on the alternation of the Yin and Yang, each becoming the source of the other.

Thus today, after decades of conflict when the emphasis of the countries of the world both in policy and practice was upon competition, conflict and individual enrichment, there is a need for an emphasis on harmony, cooperation, mutual respect, and working for the welfare of the community with a respect for Nature. When one aspect, either Yin or Yang, becomes too dominant, then there needs to be a re-equilibrium.

Obviously, it takes time for a harmonious society at home and a harmonious world abroad to be put into place. The re-equilibrium of the energies of Yin and Yang do not take place overnight. Nor is this re-equilibrium only the task of the Chinese. The cultivation of harmony must become the operational goal for many. As Mencius (372-289 BCE) a follower of Confucius said, “A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.”

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is an opportunity to open new paths. As world citizens we must find a new guiding image for our culture, one that unifies the aspirations of humanity with the needs of the planet and the individual. We hold that peace can be achieved through opening our hearts and minds to a broader perspective. We are one human race, and we inhabit one world. Therefore, we must see the world with global eyes, understand the world with a global mind and love the world with a global heart.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Rabindranath Tagore: Grace and Beauty Within Your Soul

In Asia, Cultural Bridges, Poetry, Spirituality, The Search for Peace on May 7, 2019 at 10:56 PM

By René Wadlow

To mark the May 7 birth anniversary of the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) we highlight the song-poems of the Bauls that Tagore structured both as words and music.  Today, much of the Baul music and especially the work of the leading 19th-century folk-poet Lalon Fakir are known through their preservation by Tagore.

Why do you keep looking for the Man of the Heart

in the forests, in solitude?

Turn your attention this time

to the grace and beauty within your soul.

So begins one of the songs of Lalon Shah, also known as Lalon Fakir among the Hindus of Bengal − Shah being a Muslim Sufi title. His date of birth is not recorded, but he died in 1890 as an old man having composed thousands of short songs (often four or eight lines) passed down orally from disciple to disciple.  Only a small number of his songs have survived as such, as many Baul singers add to or modify songs by intuition or in response to current events.  More of Lalon’s songs are known through the efforts of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Bengal’s great poet and social reformer.  Lalon Shah lived in a village on land which belonged to the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore as a young man spent time visiting villages on his family’s estates to understand better village life. Later in 1922, Tagore created a center for rural development and reform Sriniketan alongside an innovative school Santiniketan started in 1901 where Tagore hoped  that “the young and the old, the teacher and the student, sit at the same table to take their daily food and the food of their eternal life.”  Bauls were always welcomed to sing in the courtyard of Santiniketan, and the students spread knowledge of Baul rural culture to more elite and urban Bengali society.

Who are the Bauls?  The Bauls are a class − some would say a sect − of minstrels, wandering singers of mystic songs, though today with the socio-economic changes in Bengal (both West Bengal, India and parts of Bangladesh) many Bauls have settled rural homes and a minority have followed the rural to urban flow of populations.  The Bauls today number around half a  million persons living usually on the edges of larger settlements. Those who continue to follow a Baul way of live  together under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor and are initiated into their function of singer-teacher-mystic through rituals of initiation.

However, the Bauls, other than this original initiation, do not have set rituals, temples or priests.  Those who are active minstrels (many drop out in order to follow more conventional ways of living) have no personal possessions other than a single garment, often saffron in color, a reminder of a period, prior to the 13th century arrival of Islam. The Bauls represent an earlier pre-Islamic Bengali current of thought which later influenced Buddhism in Tibet and has many similarities with the Yin/Yang balance of forces found in Chinese Taoism.

Lalon Shah, by his talent and by the interest in his songs taken by Tagore, is the outstanding representative of Baul teaching. In his songs, he tears down the barriers of caste and creed, the walls that separate humans. As he sang:

            If you circumcise him, he becomes a Muslim,

            Then what is the rule for women?

            I recognize the Brahman by his sacred thread,

            Then how do I recognize a Brahmani?

For Lalon, as with the Baul tradition, the Kingdom of God is within. There are no temples but that of the body of each person.  Life is a continuous interior search in which intuition awakens the Spirit.  Within the body, especially the heart, the Laws of Nature are known. The Baul exercises are partly based on the concept of the Kundalini − a fire within the body which can be activated by the control of breath and dance-like motions.  These exercises awaken the Spirit and become ‘Living Wisdom’ within each person.  Wisdom aims at the good life.  It involves intuition, feelings and conscience.

For the Bauls, what we may call the Divine (for lack of a better concept) is reflected in the beauty of Nature and all created things.  The moon holds a special place. As the Lelon song states:

            By great good luck one may see that moon.

            It has no dark spots.

            In it lies the golden abode of the Unknowable.

            In the world of the moon there is no play of day or night.

Today, the Bauls are looked down upon by the more legalistic Muslims of Bangladesh or thought of only as “folk singers”.  However, their search for the inner person, for the indwelling light has a message for each of us.

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Notes

For anthropology studies based on field work see:

Jeanne Openshaw, Seeking Bauls of Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

June McDaniel, The Madness of the Saints: Ecstatic Religion in Bengal (University of Chicago Press, 1989)

Edward  Dimroch, The Place of the Hidden Moon  (University of Chicago Press, 1966)

For translations into English of Baul songs and their philosophical context see:

Deben Phattacarya, Songs of the Bards of Bengal (Grove Press, 1989)

Charles Capwell, The Music of the Bauls of Bengal (Kent State University Press, 1986)

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Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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