Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Return of ‘4 gods-within us’

In December 2013, four friends, kindred souls, met together for coffee in downtown Ottawa, resulting in a blog ‘4 For Coffee: a meeting of 4 gods-within us’. Today, November 18th, 2014, the four of us met again with new insights into human behaviour from the personal to the world order. See all my meeting reports.

We 4 are: Bill Bhaneja, a retired political scientist, Ottawa, playwright and author of Quest for Gandhi — A Nonkilling Journey (2010), and Troubled Pilgrimage: Passage to Pakistan (2013); Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso, co-authors of Walking for Peace — an inner journey (2013), and I Am Happy (2013); and me, Koozma J. Tarasoff.

The common ground of the four ‘gods-within us’ is the spirit of love that permeates our lives and gives us meaning as individuals and as a human species. This spirit within gives us optimism to act as Gods within the confines of a friendly planet. Our intention is to act with passion, but equally to be socially responsible for our actions.

Highlights of what we discussed for 2 hours:
  • Mildred L. NormanPeace Pilgrim (1908-1981), who walked 25,000 miles for peace from 1953 to 1981, spoke about peace among nations, groups, individuals, and the very important inner peace — because that is where peace begins. Her life and work showed that one person with inner peace can make a significant contribution to world peace.
         Both the inner and outer voice were affected by whether we were driven by ego or by our conscience. She said that she began to realize that it was as though we had two selves or two natures or two wills with two different viewpoints. Because the viewpoints were so different, there was a struggle in our lives between the two selves; ultimately it took her 15 years to understand the real meaning of life. It was a challenge and a treat to observe and act from an egoless viewpoint.
         In her search for meaning in life, Peace Pilgrim expressed a need to deal with the world situation today. ‘… Certainly all present wars must cease. Obviously, we need to find a way to lay down our arms together. We need to set up mechanisms to avoid physical violence in a world where psychological violence still exists. All nations need to give up one right to the United Nations — the right to make war….We need a Peace Department in our national government to do extensive research on peaceful ways of resolving conflicts. Then we can ask other countries to create similar departments’ (Steps Toward Inner Peace, pages 31-32).
  • Gandhi — We explored the question of how inner peace could be achieved. Mahatma Gandhi in An Autobiography: The Story of my Experiments with Truth, worked towards two spiritual principles to attain inner peace — this is similar to what Peace Pilgrim sought. Gandhi describes these principles as Aparigraha (non-possession) (An Autobiography.., page 276) and Sambhava (equability). (Bhaneja, Quest for Gandhi, pages 101, 104, 105.) Once you work towards those principles you start understanding the meaning of following Vedantic prayer for inner peace:
               O'Lord lead me from Distinction to Distinctionlessness;
               O'Lord lead me from Ego to Egolessness;
               O'Lord lead me from Desire to Desirelessness.
    This understanding leads us to the notion that we are children of the same God, the same common humanity, and the same divine. We also start understanding Gandhi's message that there is no 'other', no enemy. Gandhi used to remark: 'Hate the Sin, not the Sinner' (Bhaneja, Quest for Gandhi, page105.).
  • Brotherhood — Real citizenship ought to embrace the world. We are all members of the human family. This means that Stephen Harper (Prime Minister of Canada) is as much a brother as is Vladimir Putin (President of the Russian Federation). Members of ISIS are our brothers, too, even though we do not support their violent behaviour. When we label and dehumanize these individuals, it becomes difficult to see them as capable of change, of thinking and acting in different ways. Our anger or frustration at their actions can influence our capacity to see them as human beings too. 
  • Propaganda — Politics on the other hand has been driven by power and control where ego gets an upper hand over conscience; when noble ideals and human rights enshrined in Constitutions are often violated and compromised especially for economic gain. Historically fear and labeling have been used as one of many techniques of propaganda for crowd control. Politicians have often used these mechanisms underhandedly as a way to hijack the population without respecting the rights of citizens to share their legitimate ideas. Let’s be careful how we use the word ‘terrorism’. As well, we need to be aware of corporate groups such as ISIS (the so-called 'Islamic State') which spreads fear designed to hijack vulnerable populations for their own purposes. The same happens even in democracies, where fear is used to create division among the populace and hence justify actions.
  • War — During the Nuremberg trial after WWII, Hermann Goering, Hitler's second in command, said in his cell to the prison psychologist:
         ‘Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country’ (Bold added). (Gilbert, G.M. Nuremberg Diary, 1995: 278).
  • Truth — Words used carefully can become so powerful that they literally fly around the world and influence social policy. What do such words as the following mean: ‘democracy’, ‘peace’, ‘nonviolence’, ‘nonkilling’, ‘spirituality’, and ‘compassionate city’? But when these and other words become mere labels, become routinized and institutionalized, they can betray us and lose the original meaning. Remember that the first casualty of war is information. Journalists should strive for accuracy and avoid spreading untruths.
  • Our Behaviour — Wisdom people such as Aristotle have urged us that there needs to be a balance between the head and the heart. This is what conscience is about. Ultimately, it is our behaviour that makes the difference. Or as my Doukhobor ancestors used to say: Бог да Бог, но ты не буть плох (You can speak all you like about God, but behave yourself. Literally: God yes God, but don’t you be bad.).

Monday, 3 November 2014

Next Book Presented

Why I Wrote My Book on Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors? was my presentation to 39 people at ‘Arts Night’ in Ottawa on Friday evening October 31st, 2014.

The event was a monthly public educational meeting organized by a local artist for guest artists in literature, visual and music. I was the first of three speakers, each given up to half an hour to present and answer questions. It was a fun and educational experience with a diverse group.

I used my time to educate the audience about Doukhobors, talk about my last book and the next book in-progress — Spirit-Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers and their Friends (2016).

I was pleased that most of the audience had heard of Doukhobors, and three gave rather accurate descriptions. I wanted to deliver what I thought were the most important aspects of the Doukhobor movement before I talked about writing. To save time, I prepared a one-page handout.

I wrote the book for 3 reasons:
  • biographies — our people
  • misinformation — misconceptions, myths
  • posterity — next generations
I gave summaries of 5 Doukhobors as sample biographies from my 2002 book and the update book in-progress.
  • Peter Oglow (1913 - 2004)
  • Nick Troubetzkoy
  • Kim Kanigan
  • Jim Deacove
  • Elaine and Alfred Podovinikoff
Then I covered two misconceptions, and finished with a case for nurturing and educating our children towards a nonkilling society. We had time for 7 questions, added to the end of my text.

Read the text of my presentation and questions, and click on the images to see what was projected on the large screen. At the end is the handout. And here are 21 photos of this Arts Night.