An alternative way to deal with North Korea

Dear Colleagues,

The impact of a thermonuclear war in Southeast Asia would be unbearable. It threatens to destabilise the Asian region. I have suggested an alternative  way of tackling the problem, based on Buddhist principles of governance and diplomacy.

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If you have difficulty accessing the article, I would be happy to send you pdf version.

With Metta,

Don de Silva MAC
Buddhist Chaplain

An alternative way to deal with North Korea

The impact of a thermonuclear war in Southeast Asia would be unbearable. It threatens to destabilise the Asian region, which has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth over the last 40 years to become a region of economic power.

Instead of a military solution, which would engulf the region, a Dharmic initiative by Asian nations, based on the spiritual traditions — common to many counties in the region — could ease tensions in the area.

Lasting and unsustainable environmental impacts

The genetic and environmental effects of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of napalm and Agent Orange in Southeast Asia continues and will continue for generations to come.

Kumgang Gerbirge, North Korea

The “military solution” to deal North Korea is coming to a head. This would be dangerous. It is highly unlikely that a surgical strike would be met with a whimper.

“My country right or wrong” is coming back in fashion. South Korea’s $1.4 trillion economy reaches all parts of the world. How will the entangled global economy and stock markets in Asia and the world respond to a war that engulfs southeast Asia?

Military threats and hostile glares through high-powered binoculars across the Demilitarized Zone and eight years of sanctions haven’t brought North Korea to the negotiating table.

What would move Kim Jong Un? Surely, survival and national security. Also, he appears to have ambitions to improve North Korea’s economy, and his domestic policies have already generated modest growth. Kim’s “Byongjin” includes both nuclear and economic development.

A united diplomatic initiative

A united, diplomatic Asian initiative, led by China, India, Japan, together with representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) could be worth a try.

This would be a new environmental diplomacy to secure the people and environment in the Asian region.

The ASEAN nations consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

SAARC consists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Asian nations have responded positively to environmental diplomacy. I was involved with the the creation of the South Asian Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP), the first ever inter-governmental body in the South Asian region and the precursor to SAARC.

I was also at the creation of the East Asian regional seas programme. Despite all the arguments and conflicts between nations, I have witnessed remarkable feats of diplomacy and unity within Asian nations, reaching across to each other to address shared environmental threats.

Bringing peace to Asia will require strenuous diplomatic efforts of give and take. But it is possible get nations thinking and acting out of their own interests

Pyongyang may be willing to listen to Asian leaders working together, like China and India. Whilst China is working around the clock to diffuse tensions, India has yet to engage in the area.

India and China: Sharing deep common values

Both China and India share deep common values. China has the largest Buddhist population in the world, inspired by the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a son of India, whose impact is spreading widely across the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Attending a Buddhist-Hindu conclave, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi prescribed conflict avoidance as the most effective conflict resolution mechanism.

“Buddha was a great preacher of equality and I would personally call India “Buddhist India”, the Prime Minister is reported to have said.

At the same time, China has the largest population of Buddhists in the world. China Today’s website reports that, among all the religions, the largest is Buddhism. The Chinese government has spent large sums of money to rebuild monastries.

Master Xuecheng

Master Xuecheng, Secretary General of the Buddhist Association of China, suggests: “The root of Dharma lies in the ability to judge and choose. To have wisdom means to know how to choose between what to take and what to forsake.” Sound advice for all, particularly political leaders.

For the rulers of his day, the Buddha enunciated ten clear principles of good governance — the Dasavidha-rajadhamma: Dāna (charity), Sīla (morality) , Pariccāga (altruism), Ājjava (honesty), Maddava (gentleness), Tapa (self controlling), Akkodha (non-anger), Avihimsa (non-violence), Khanti (forbearance) and Avirodhana (uprightness).

The Buddha was also not shy about challenging rulers to tackle economic and social injustice when they moaned to him about unrest and terror in their kingdoms.

Smaller nations are always suspicious of the regional ambitions of big nations. Prime Minsiter Modi during his recent visit to Vietnam adopted a very different tone: “The advent of Buddhism from India to Vietnam and the monuments of Vietnam’s Hindu Cham temples stand testimony to these bonds. Some people came here with the objective of war. We came here with a message of peace which has endured.”

President Xi Jingping

Presently, Chinese President Xi Jingping is working over time to diffuse tensions. China and India, working together, backed by the rest of Asia would have a greater impact.

The time has come for a new form of preventive and mature diplomacy in the Asian region exactly along these lines. The sustainable security of the region, will require bold and daring initiatives of the spirit that would enable a nation like North Korea to arrive at the table.

If Asia wants a long-term strategy to protect is hard earned economic development, where millions have been moved out of poverty, the Asian nations will have to use the diplomatic structures at hand.

Removing threats to economic prosperity

Prosperity in Asia, will have to include the plight and the suffering of the North Korean people. The middle way – between the extremes of isolation and conflict — to diffuse tensions would be to include North Korea.We do not know what is in Kim Jong Un’s mind, but he must know that a nuclear deterrent cannot bring lasting peace and security to North Korea. He will have to address the economic issues of his people.

Rather than threaten war or deepen sanctions, a more value-based productive path from the Asian nations would be to gradually move North Korean down the same road that nearly all have taken: to move millions out of poverty.

Don de Silva

Chief Executive ★ Environment ★ Interfaith★ Mindfulness ★ Life Coach ★ International Development

Don de Silva is a Buddhist Chaplain and formerly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Mindfulness and Technology

While many proponents of mindfulness commented spirituality should be practiced naturally, infusion of technology into spiritual exercise is becoming more and more popular as ordinary folks find it easier to achieve the desired results with the help of technology.

Mindfulness and technology is defined as a movement in research and design, that encourages the user to become aware of the present moment, rather than losing oneself in a technological device. This field encompasses multidisciplinary participation between design, psychology, computer science, and religion.

Mindfulness stems from Buddhist meditation practices and refers to the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. In the field of Human-Computer Interaction, research is being done on Techno-spirituality — the study of how technology can facilitate feelings of awe, wonder, transcendence, and mindfulness and on Slow design, which facilitates self-reflection.

It is said excessive use of personal devices, such as smartphones and laptops, can lead to the deterioration of mental and physical health. This area focuses on redesigning and creating technology to improve the wellbeing of its users.

Does the Internet distract us? Does it make us more social and open to discussion? Should we attribute these characteristics to a technology, or, should we look to ourselves and our own behaviour as the source?

Here are some mindefulness and technology articles: –

  • Is it Time to Unplug?: “So there I was driving,” writes Elisha Goldstein, “only to look up and find that I was three exits past where I needed to get off. Talk about being on auto-pilot. Sound familiar?”
  • Addicted to Speed: How do we maintain focus in the instantaneous electric age that we live in? Susan Piver talks about the storm of information we are confronted with every day, and how a simple meditation exercise can help ease the stress of input-overload.
  • Mindful Social Networking: Social networking—is it helpful or harmful? Ethan Nichtern offers suggestions for how we can go online without losing our minds.

Reality check revealed there are ways you can practice mindfulness with in our technology age. Try these practices as an experiment to raise your own awareness. Refrain from judging yourself or being too harsh about how these practices work for you. These exercises are intended to raise awareness by simply being aware.

Practicing Mindfulness In The Technology Age

1) When the cell phone rings

Have you ever noticed how quickly you respond to the phone ringing? From the moment it rings, do you instantly feel the need to respond right away? Does a ringing phone knock you out of your present moment or disconnect you from the people you’re with?

Try taking three deep breaths and center yourself before answering the phone. Experience a moment of presence before answering the phone. Notice what it’s like to pause before your answer.

2) Before checking email

Do you ever make a bee-line to your email first thing in the morning? Do you feel the need to constantly check your email?

From the moment you think of checking your email, try waiting 1-2 minutes, or take 10 breaths before checking your email. Notice if this is a challenging practice for you. During those 60 seconds, become highly aware of your breath, feeling state, what you’re thinking. Are you impatient, anxious, relaxed? What are you looking for in your email?

Pay close attention to your bodily sensations.

3) When you’re checking social media

When you’re reading your Facebook newsfeed or your Twitter page, how do you feel? Notice the thoughts you’re having as you read each news item. Do you feel neutral, judgment, happiness arising? Notice your emotions and your feeling state.

Which news items bother you most? Which ones do you enjoy the most? Where do your feelings arise from?

How do you feel before and after you check social media?

4) Try leaving your cell at home or turn it off

Do you always feel the need to wear your cell phone? On occasion, practice leaving your cell phone at home, or turn it off. Notice the way you feel when you don’t have access to your cell phone. Do you feel naked, disconnected?

Do feelings of insecurity or anxiety arise? Do you feel out of control? Be aware of your true experience without any judgment.

5) When you’re working on the computer

Notice your energetic state as you work on your computer. What is the cadence of your breath as you’re surfing the net? The quality of your inhale? The quality of your exhale?

Do you feel rushed and pressured, or calm and at ease? What helps you relax while you’re working on your computer? See what helps you to breathe easy while you’re on your computer.

6) When you’re waiting

When you are waiting at a stoplight or for a friend, do you feel the need to check your cell phone? Where does the need arise from? How do you feel when you don’t check your cell phone? Are you uncomfortable without having something to do?

What would it be like to simply take three breaths and allow yourself to relax without doing? What helps you to drop into the present moment?

7) Checking your cell

How often do you feel the need to check your cell phone? How do you feel when you receive a text or voicemail? How do you feel when you don’t receive any messages?

Be fully aware of what is happening to your energy before, during and after you are using your cell. See how detailed you can become in your own awareness of using your cell phone. Track your feelings, your mental state and your thoughts. It also helps to write them down.

Some of these exercises may seem impossible at first, but you can begin by simply planting a seed of intention: to be more aware when you’re using your technology. A simple pause can make a difference. Be light-hearted when you are practicing these exercises.

Technology, like anything, is inherently neutral and can serve a multitude of purposes. It can be used to escape, hurt others, or even raise your consciousness.

Awareness leads to self-empowerment. It allows us to release our automatic reactions and make conscious choices about how we are spending our time and energy.

Research targets older people’s depression

Philadelphia Daily News

ST. LOUIS – Caroll Marlow, 71, said she has been rescued from clinical depression by researchers at Washington University who want to help people older than 60.

After more than 40 years of living with depression, she said, experiences and feelings that are routine for most other people are new for her.

She goes to lunch to laugh with her sisters; she’s closer to her children and friends. She dates her husband.

And she found a job. “I love it; I work a swing shift and I just love it,” she said. She’s a cashier at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in St. Louis County, Mo. “The people I work with are the best. They love older people. I like being around people.

“And do I have some stories”

“It’s like a bolt of lightning,” said Pat Marlow, 73, of Frontenac, Mo., and her husband of 50 years. “She’s a different person.”

Eric Lenze, a geriatric psychiatrist with Washington University School of Medicine, is conducting two studies. One seeks a drug regimen that addresses depression in people older than 60. The other looks at mindfulness meditation to ease depression and anxiety disorders in people older than 65.

Lenze says the studies originated because when he sought depression and anxiety remedies for his patients, “There were few evidence-based options for treatments of elders with anxiety disorders and clinical depression.”

Almost all of the studies for drug and other mental health remedies “were on young, healthy people; nothing included older adults.

“Our lab is looking at dosages, side effects, and other ways the treatments might affect older people differently,” Lenze said.

The late-life depression study is testing two drugs: venlafaxine, a popular generic antidepressant drug with minimal side effects, and Abilify, which is supposed to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressant medicines. Abilify’s generic name is aripiprazole.

All participants get the venlafaxine for a time. If their conditions don’t improve, they will get Abilify or a placebo. They stay on the regimen for several months.

The foundation of the mindfulness meditation study “has shown promise as a treatment for depression and anxiety disorders based on studies in younger adults,” Lenze said.

Mindfulness meditation, calming the mind by concentrating on something in the moment, has shown promise to have beneficial emotional and physical effects, Lenze said.

As part of the antistress component of meditation, it reduces the level of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone that elevates when someone is under stress, he said.

Cortisol serves a necessary short-term purpose, he said. But it’s harmful if it’s produced steadily for prolonged periods, Lenze said.

A particularly bad effect for older people is that too much cortisol hampers memory and thinking functions and can increase the risk of dementia, Lenze said.

“Our evidence is that if you can reduce [cortisol], there’s a memory improvement, people think better; their minds actually work better and they feel better,” he said. “We think this is an instance where cognitive impairment in older adults is treatable.”

Caroll Marlow was in the late-life depression study from February to July. In August, Lenze offered her the second study.

“The way Dr. Lenze put it, it was meditation to make you relax and . . . bring yourself back from all the gibberish in your mind,” she said.

“He gave me these tapes and I’d listen and I was able to lay down and relax.”

She met others like herself at the weekly, two-hour sessions.

“We just told each other the problems we shared,” she said. “Everyone’s problem was a little different. Yet, they were all the same. Depression is depression.”

Caroll Marlow was diagnosed with clinical depression in the late 1960s.

In the early 1970s, she was hospitalized for treatment – including old-style electric shock treatment.

Over the years, the depression caused her to miss work and created strained relationships with family and friends.

“I didn’t get mean or anything, I just would shut myself off,” she said. “After a while, I thought this is the way it’s going to be.”

Pat Marlow never considered giving up. “It was difficult at times,” he said. “But we come from a time when we believed in the wedding vows.

“Now, it’s like we’ve found each other again.”

Bikram Choudhury Wants to Shut Down Yoga to the People

Yoga to the People is famous among a certain set of New Yorkers — college kids, artists, homeless people, journalists, etc. — for offering free yoga at several locations in the city (along with branches in other cities like Portland and San Francisco). They also offer a very cheap hot yoga class that one officially certified Bikram studio in midtown said was responsible for putting it out of business this summer. Bikram Choudhury, the famously litigious guru behind Bikram yoga, took notice, and has filed a lawsuit against the Yoga to the People franchise, for using his trademarked series of poses performed in an Über-heated environment:

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $ 1 million, as well as an injunction stopping Yoga to the People from conducting hot yoga classes.

It’s the latest in a series of lawsuits by Choudhury,  who also sued Prana Yoga in Miami in 2003, claiming copyright infringement similar to the YTTP lawsuit. Prana Yoga settled, agreeing to pay out “substantial monetary compensation,” according to a Bikram Yoga press release.

The suit, which YTTP is fighting with a petition, raises the question of whether yoga poses performed in a certain way can constitute intellectual property. Yoga to the People says the suit threatens its whole business model, and that they’d go out of business if they were hit with those punitive damages. And where would NYU undergrads wear their yoga pants? Oh, right, everywhere.

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