Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Will there be War (Again)?

We've got Iran and USA (again) at each other's throats. The conflict has been, in fact, going on now, off and on, for many years. America's involvement in Iran is long-standing, at least as far back (as I am aware) when America stepped into the vacuum left by Britain's collapse as an empire after WW2. That involvement centered upon securing oil resources AND thwarting the expansionist goals of Communism. Each of those goals had their "day in court" but just how far does the "end justify the means?" America's role in Iran is far from flawless.

Iran (Persia) is a proud and ancient culture: a mighty empire that has risen and fallen over countless centuries. Part of the famous "Silk routes," Persia has seen a wide array of conquerors come and go together with its own long history of emperors and kings.

It was George Santayana (Spanish philosopher, poet, and novelist) who famously quipped that "Those who cannot learn from history are destined to repeat it." He is also known for having said "Only the dead have seen the end of war!"

A fascinating book is "The Silk Roads: A New History of the World" by Peter Frankopan. Tracing world history from ancient times all the way to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, the author re-casts world history from the point of view of the history of Persia and countries along the famous Silk Routes. His thesis seems to be that much of history as we know it can be viewed in terms of those who sought to find, exploit, control and possess the riches of the near and far East. Oil, he concludes, is simply the most recent version of the wealth for which nations vie and battle.

But there is another and deeper battle involved. There is more to the ebb and flow of history than greed and conquest. This deeper battle takes place on the field of consciousness. This makes identifying and separating the good guys from the bad guys sometimes very difficult. Closed society or an open society? Inclusion or exclusion? Freedom or restrictions?

But for now, it is not necessarily helpful to try to paint a black and white picture. The hands of both America and Iran are stained with blood. Each will claim the high road but neither will confess their "sins."

Unlike the acquiescence of Americans and our representatives to the misleading war-mongering that got us into Iraq, I hope that more people in and out of government and the armed forces will think twice, maybe three times.

Nonetheless, the die is cast. How often have shrewd politicians used the perceived threat of war as a ploy to re-direct attention away from their domestic troubles to rally the nation in defence of a common enemy.

Yes, the conflict will continue and presumably escalate. Those who push the buttons on both sides appear to want it that way. Protest we should but who can say to what effect, given the leadership of both countries.

Life in 2020 is complicated, polarized, and highly nuanced. The need for authenticity and genuine relationships, lifestyles, and guiding ideals has never been greater. The question, therefore, is what are YOU doing to lead an authentic and meaningful life?

Just fussing, fuming, worrying and otherwise living outside your calm center in reaction to this issue is potentially a handy way to deflect awareness away from your own personal issues and responsibilities. These can include away from prayer, meditation, devotion, service, caring for others, focusing on your work, family, neighbours or community.

War will return again and again. If not this one, then another.

So stay calm and focused on what is yours in this life to do. To paraphrase Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "It is better to fail (even die) doing what is yours to do, then to succeed doing someone else's duty."

The greatest contribution we can make to world peace starts with us. It's not like most of us are angry, combative, or prejudiced but we can be nervous, anxious, upset, depressed, gossipy, judgmental, lazy, selfish, or indifferent to the miracle of God who resides within us and all creation.

Pray, meditate, serve, give of yourself heroically just as a warrior in a just war for your soul. Winning your "soul" will send a bright light out into a world dark with ignorance. There is no greater contribution you can make than to be a light unto the world. "An easy life is not a victorious life" Paramhansa Yogananda has told us. Take up arms of self-control, self-effort, faith, hope, and charity!

Nayaswami Hriman

Sunday, April 2, 2017


I am hopeful because "black lives matter." I am hopeful because thousands of women around the country marched to affirm cooperation and respect for people of every race, nation, and persuasion.

I am hopeful because everyday more people learn to meditate or practice yoga. I am hopeful because I see groups of people and individuals helping others each and every day.

I am hopeful because millions around the world have regular contact with people of other nations, races, religions, and cultures. I am hopeful because millions have the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures and see that we, as humans, are basically the same. 

As Mahatma Gandhi put it and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. affirmed, if violence and prejudice were uppermost, the human race would have disappeared long ago.

I am hopeful because I see knowledge and awareness spreading like the dawn's early light around the world. At first the light exposes our ignorance and our darkness but soon enough the light enlightens our conscience. 

I am hopeful because while I expect many challenges will result from humanity's refusal to heed the signs that we must live in greater harmony with our planet and one another, I also expect those challenges to serve as instruments to prod our "pride" to embrace change with faith and courage. 

I am hopeful because a line of yoga masters assures us that humanity is NOT in a descending spiral of brutishness (as many fundamentalist types aver) but that, instead, we are in an ascending arc of ever greater knowledge and awareness. It may be slow but it is inexorable. It may be two steps forward and one step back but like a silent tsunami it is unstoppable and will, in time, overcome all that is not of itself. Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda and a renowned astrologer, predicted that in this age (2,000 years long beginning around 1900 A.D.) humanity will gain self-respect. A simple statement but with profound implications.

I am hopeful because I see that "the divine light has ascended anew**" and though it is crucified daily by ignorance it continues to grow just as the early light of dawn can only grow as the hours pass.

I am hopeful because I believe that even the present regressiveness of otherwise progressive nations (like America) will incite people of goodwill to rise up, band together, and stand up for what is true and good for all. When I see the expansiveness and open heartedness of young adults and when I see the intelligence and light in the eyes of the youngest barely new-born generation, I am hopeful.

I am hopeful because even though my own youthful expectations could not have foreseen current events and trends, I know that there are millions, perhaps a billion or two, who, once in their youths, also cherished the same dream of peace and brotherhood for all.

I am hopeful because even though now in the life cycle commonly (and formerly) considered "retirement age" I know that good and evil, happiness and sorrow, and success and failure will always and eternally vie for supremacy, I also know that true joy is within me and awaits discovery by all who would seek the "pearl of great price."

I am hopeful even as I am prepared for what others may insist is the worst. It is darkest, it is said, before the dawn. Progress cannot be made without sacrifice and that includes lives, not just money or dedicated effort. My eyes are open; my heart is calm; my spirit is glad. In God, we are One. 

I am hopeful, how about you?

Swami Hrimananda!

** a quote from the Festival of Light ceremony referencing the birth and life of modern saints and especially those in the lineage of Paramhansa Yogannada. The Festival of Light is recited and sung each Sunday at an Ananda center and temple near you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump trumps All!

Dear Friends,

There's no point glossing over with platitudes the material and spiritual implications of Trumps "victory". If we pray or increase our prayers, let it not be, however, in and with fear. As disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda (or disciples of truth, peace & harmony) committed to the work of Ananda (or to other, similar endeavors) whose roots lie in our own hearts, bolstered by prayer, meditation and selfless service, we are doing our part as divine soldiers under the guidance of an exalted line of masters to bring light into the world. No one ever said this would be either welcomed by others or without self-sacrifice. 

"Trumpism" is in fact happening all over the world and in countries once the most accepting and liberal nations on earth. Fear is spreading tentacles of prejudice and selfishness like a dark cloud of poisonous gas throughout the world. It has always existed, yes, but now the nations of the world are networked together, rising or falling together: the time has come to disperse its power with light and energy.

We forget that our post WW II American generations have lived in a bubble of freedom, health, security and prosperity (however relative such things necessarily always are). Most nations and people down through the ages experience generational, or bi-generational wars, famines, catastrophes or economic upheavals on a cyclical basis. I suspect our turn is fast on its way to us. Someday it will be clear but only in retrospect how we got to this place step-by-step, whether materially, politically or spiritually.

Not fear but courage and commitment is what this turn in our country's affairs should remind us to affirm. Given who we are and what we represent, then, the form of that commitment is primarily spiritual. At the moment, our material commitment has taken only limited forms such as natural farming, educating children in a balanced, holistic way, and sharing truth teachings of many traditions (through East West). But just days ago our first homeless person appeared at the Ananda Temple in Bothell, WA late Saturday night after the evening meditation. No doubt, therefore, other avenues of serving will open up by necessity and circumstance.

Our beloved Swamiji, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Yogananda, gave his life to serve his guru. By normal standards of merit and service, he had earned a comfortable retirement many years ago. Against the dictates of his body and health, he soldiered on, as he always said he would, to the end of his life "with my boots (of service) on." All his teaching days he never failed to remind us of Paramhansa Yogananda’s predictions, notably those of a "depression far worse than the 1930's" and of (natural) calamities we cannot imagine. (And, yes, of wars to come.)

Given Trump's ideologies and vaunted policies, the former (economic troubles) is easy enough to predict, as economic isolationism will no doubt trigger wholesale disruptions in trade. But, as history has shown and Swamiji has indicated, economic troubles often lead to competition and war. As to the other (catastrophes), are we not also urging one another to be prepared? A friend sent me an article just days ago with the Washington state government's conclusions based on their massive preparedness exercise (last summer/) extending their recommendations for individual and household preparedness from 3 days to two weeks. Well, enough on that; just read the news every week from around the world!

History will view the post war significant events in American history along the lines of such things as the three assassinations in the '60's (rejection of inspired and moral leadership), the debacle of the Vietnam War and the resignation of President Nixon (revealing our greed and cynicism), September 11 (when the rest of the world's woes came to our shores), Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans (when we first learned that we are likely to be on our own in times of need), and now this: the (temporary) victory of hate over love; competition over cooperation, abuse over respect, and prejudice over acceptance. 

My note sounds ominous because words in print exaggerate the intention but, in fact, this is the almost invisible beginning of "our time." Ananda and people like us all over the world are both the present and the future. As I have been saying for the last year in my Sunday Service talks, the time to make a choice has come. Sitting comfortably on the sidelines "minding my own business" has ended. 

Just think what it was like the day Hitler was elected. All sorts of rationalizations to remain calm and hopeful were given. Yet step by step he demolished the political and legal safeguards while everyone simply watched in amazement, sitting on the sidelines, minding their own business. I doubt history will repeat itself quite so literally and America in the 21st century is not Germany in 1930 but a bully is a bully, anywhere and everywhere. 

Ironically I am hopeful. Because the time for America's purification in order to re-establish our role and moral leadership in the world, together with that of India (not politically, but spiritually and energetically) has come. The spread of small communities where simplicity of living with high ideals is destined to appear: if not in the lifetime of some of us, surely as a result of the sacrifices and efforts we make here today, and elsewhere throughout the world. 

I am hopeful because more Americans (and others) will wake up and will make choices and commitments toward service, cooperation, simplicity and high ideals. Most people don't change lifestyle until forced; when forced, they will, at first, be angry, bitter and resentful. But enough people in this great nation and elsewhere will stand up for what is good, right and just. Of that I have no doubt, As to the details, who can say?

So, yes, let us pray but let us also affirm our commitment to these ideals of cooperation, service, devotion, meditation, and attunement to the guidance of our blessed line of gurus in harmony with the greater work of Ananda worldwide.

There is nothing to fear, only an opportunity to walk our talk with greater enthusiasm and faith. Death, troubles, and illness come to all. Never mind these things for we are a soul having a human experience for the time. Divine attunement does, in fact, bring protection in ways we cannot know in advance except through faith. 

So let's not pretend that nothing will change. Everything will change. But let us remain unchanged in our hearts and in our soul's march toward Self-realization sharing of the divine blessings we have been privileged to receive.

"Yato dharma, tato jaya" - "Where there is dharma, there is victory."

May Master's light and joy shine upon us and guide our way to freedom,

Swami Hrimananda

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4th Reflections

This note was first given as a note to residents of Ananda Community in Lynnwood. It has been adapted for the larger audience of members and friends of Ananda Sangha in the greater Seattle area and is reproduced in its entirety here in this blog.

Dear Friends, Students, Members and Ananda Supporters:

Padma and I are at Ananda Village: Ananda’s very first and largest community founded nearly fifty years ago: 1969.  On July 4th each the community here celebrates its anniversary for it was July 4th that the first parcel(s) of land in Nevada County (northeast of Sacramento, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, just under 3,000 feet elevation).

The early years of Ananda World Brotherhood Village (its formal name) were in the height of the back-to-land movement at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius (so-called). Oh, how the movement of Ananda has grown: 9 communities including India and Italy! Yoga and meditation students by the thousands!

Padma and I are here on “leave” to help our daughter Gita with her two young children. Gita (and her brother, Kashi) were born and raised here at Ananda Village. She now directs the Development Office for Ananda nationwide. Her husband, Badri Matlock, is at our community in Italy (outside the medieval and sacred town of Assisi) at the first conference of future leaders of Ananda. He is involved with the management of the Expanding Light Retreat at Ananda Village and is the understudy lead trainer for Yoga Teacher Training. So Gita asked if we might come and give her a hand. Two little ones are a handful! “Early to bed, early to rise, run around until your demise!” 

On Saturday, a panel of speakers from the early “pioneers” of Ananda (which includes: Jyotish and Devi Novak who were recently visiting us in Seattle, and others) spoke of the challenges and joys of the early days of Ananda. It was quite fun and inspiring. Our Ananda "story" is a story of faith, will power and attunement accomplishing the impossible: "banat, banat, ban jai" (doing, doing, soon done)

The “good ‘ol days” are recreated with each generation. In Seattle, in the last few years we’ve started the Camano Farm, finished the temple, constructed the Yoga Hall, moved East West Bookshop, started the Thrift Store, and are now in the process of moving the Living Wisdom School. We already have lots of stories.

The committed members of Ananda worldwide have access, by attunement, to the power and grace of one of the spiritual giants of the new age: Paramhansa Yogananda. Ananda is blessed to have been given birth by one of Yogananda’s most prolific and committed disciples who, at the Beverly Hills garden party, July 30, 1949, was the only one (of 800 present) so stirred to his depths at Yogananda’s powerful message of the need for intentional communities to have actually manifested not just one, but nine (so far).

Our biggest challenge hasn’t, then, been the energy and courage to do what we are asked (internally or externally) in our service of Yogananda, it's more likely to remember that God is the Doer. Our frustration, self-doubt, and stress arises only to the degree of our own self-involvement.

Surveying the craziness around us in America and in the world, we either also become crazy with frustration, worry, or despondency, or we affirm and feel that this is God's world; we agree to do our part, such as it is, but that we have to let the drama unfold in its own mysterious, and sometimes cuckoo, way.

It's difficult to hurrah much about July 4th this year. Yogananda says our country has good karma, despite our not so good karma. The craziness we see in the body politic can only help wake up snoozing souls of goodwill, the silent majority of good hearts, to resurrect our nation's ideals. We must do our part, too. Skepticism and giving up will not help. This is a time, more than ever, for each one of us to make our “ideals practical:” these are Yogananda’s words when training the young monk whom he called “Walter” (aka Swami Kriyananda).

Ananda represents and symbolizes both in our communities and in the ancient but timely precepts of “Sanaatan Dharma” (the ancient name for the Vedantic ideals) the unifying principles so needed in the world today: cooperation, respect for all, and the intuitive understanding (especially based on regular meditation) that we are One: children of our One, Father-Mother, Beloved Friend, God! While far from alone in today’s world among the millions of individuals and other organizations espousing peace and freedom, each of us should feel the inspiration and obligation to align ourselves with others of like mind. Believing is not enough!

Krishna in the “Bhagavad Gita” reminds us that doing nothing will not free us, nor bring us happiness. We are compelled by our very bodies and very nature to act. Only by action can we become free from the compulsions to act; only by action (which includes the act of meditation) can we achieve the transcendent state of the soul. One saint in “Samadhi” pours more peace and enlightenment into thirsty hearts and souls than all the books and lectures combined. (Of course, BOTH are needed in this relatively unenlightened world.)

Let us celebrate the ideals of our nation’s founders. It is our nation's destiny to spread of the higher aspects of a new age of freedom: liberty balanced by enlightened self-interest (cooperation), respect for the rights of all, and a sincere interest in the greater good of all.

Not a year goes by when I don't appreciate ever more deeply the significance of these intentional, spiritual communities as models of integration of all races and nations in harmony and cooperation. If you visit Ananda Village in California or Ananda in Italy, you will find every imaginable race, religion, and culture represented there. The significance isn’t that all people should live in such communities but, rather, it is the example that it is possible (indeed, necessary for our survival as a race).

America was founded in the name of freedom. There is no greater spiritual principle and destiny than this. It does not matter that freedom has been defined primarily in terms of personal self-interest because ours is an ascending age of greater awareness. Spiritual growth and human evolution towards maturity is always directional, never absolute.

So let us celebrate the ideals of freedom for all souls; equality of all souls as children of the One, Father-Mother, Beloved Friend, God.

Hriman and Padma  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"If I were President!" - Part 1 - Overview

How many people say "If I were President, I'd.......?"

I sometimes make the wisecrack that the reason I keep my cell phone close to me is because I never know when the President is going to call me asking for advice.

"Why don't they ask ME?" Surely you've expressed that thought, eh? Many imagine we have the answers that our leaders seem blind to perceive. One wonders how many people think the world should be run from their bumper sticker! At least we are still free to express our opinion.

On what basic principle was America founded?  For my purposes, today, I would say freedom. This might be defined to be the right of self-determination and the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness! Little attention seems to have been given to enumerating the price or obligations which this freedom requires for its sustained existence. These are mostly implied inasmuch as, if each person shoots off pursuing his own happiness, there are bound to be some conflicts leading to compromises, and boundaries. This nation's implementation of its ideals is surely a mixed bag, but there is no nation on earth to which so many of earth's citizens look to as the place they'd want to live if they could, or, barring that, where personal liberties are most consistently considered to exist.

Nothing I express here is anything but my own opinion. I do not represent any organization or group of people. Yet, as we are all influenced by one thing or another, my influences include Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952) and Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013).

When asked what political party was his, Yogananda replied, "Republican: the party of Abraham Lincoln." How clear was Yogananda's endorsement I cannot say, but he, like billions of others, held Lincoln in great respect (along with George Washington). But I venture to say that there was probably more to it than an admiration of Lincoln.

Yogananda lived in America for most of his adult life, from 1920 to his passing in 1952. FDR (Roosevelt) was president for some 11 or 12 of those years. These years were some of Yogananda's most public and active ones. Yet, he quietly expressed reservations about FDR's New Deal. According to Swami Kriyananda's autobiography, "The New Path," these reservations centered on concern for the increasing role of government in the lives of its citizens.

Yet no one could be as compassionate and giving to those in need as Yogananda. Though his life's work was primarily as a leading spiritual teacher of yoga (meditation), his love and kindness was recognized by all who knew him.

I don't have the benefit of knowing, nor the pretense to imagine I would know, what Yogananda would say of America's political issues here and now today in the 21st century. No question, however, that he, like many of us, would decry the acrimony and divisiveness of political dialogue, action and inaction.

You and I, and the host of our fellow citizens, enjoy the luxury of our political opinions without the burden of manifesting them in the rough and tumble world of politics. We can still say what we please and debate about it to our heart's content.

But if I were that mythical, magical, and omnipotent "President" I would like to see the federal government reduce its entanglement in its citizens' lives. To foster national security, health, safety, and rule of law, while maintaining adherence to our first principle of freedom seems to me the abiding duty of our national government. Much of what has been added to the powers and duties of the federal government has created so many dependents among us that our vote is all too often a vote for "me and my benefits" and not for what is right and beneficial to the greatest number. And this fact is true, I believe, across all socio-economic levels, except, perhaps, somewhat diminished for the belabored (and shrinking?) middle class..

I by no means object to the progressive or liberal agenda of helping the disadvantaged or poor. The issue, for me, is the scope of the role of the national government to do so, and, the effectiveness of its efforts. Underlying that is something basic to human nature. It can be simply stated as saying that lasting and effective individual self-improvement is the consequence of applying personal will power and initiative.

To those disadvantaged by circumstances, will power and initiative can be sparked and nurtured by appropriate encouragement, education and various forms of support. But these cannot substitute for individual effort. There is a subtle boundary between personal effort and support, between rescuring and enabling. Too great the presence and power of outside assistance and the fire of will power can be snuffed out.

In the next two blog articles, parts 2 and 3, I will offer a sampling list of tentative policies based on fostering the personal initiative of citizens....... "if I were President."

Friday, May 23, 2014

If a Corporation is a Person, Can a Corporation become Enlightened?

I've taken a break from writing for a few weeks and this article is a non-sequitur, something my goofy mind threw up to me from below. I made the mistake of catching it and chewing on it, so now I have to spit it out. So, here goes.

I believe I've read somewhere that the first corporations in western history were formed around exploration and commerce, viz., the East India Company and its Dutch equivalent. I believe these, like Sir Walter Raleigh, were given a royal charter or permission to trade in the name of and with the protection of their respective governments (in return for wealth and favor, of course!).

In any case, I know enough about state-chartered corporations to know that corporations exist as creatures of law by the various state legislatures. Corporations are deemed "persons" who can be sued and can sue in turn and do various other "corporeal" acts otherwise reserved for human beings.

Our capitalist culture has some of its philosophical roots in Adam Smith's hypothesis that individual self-interest operates for the good of all. From this comes the idea that competition is a good and efficient mechanism for the allocation of goods, services and scarce resources. An entire genre of behavioral philosophy, culture and psychology was given birth from this premise which was given a mighty push by precepts derived from evolutionary biology, aka, "survival of the fittest." Class warfare and, in general, materialism as the greatest good for the greatest number all owe their social legitimacy to the basic idea that struggle and competition bestow benefits of economic efficiency and prosperity upon society.

Not long ago (2010) there was a United State Supreme Court ruling that more or less lifted the limits previously imposed upon corporations in respect to their contributions to political campaigns. I think it was a free speech question but I assume it is predicated on the legal premise that corporations, are "persons" (and thus entitled to free speech).

Many sincere people around the world are concerned that corporations, especially those that operate in the global sphere, are in a position to outwit the various governments in whose jurisdictions such corporations conduct business. Some larger than many governments and are far more sophisticated, as they can hide resources by moving them around the globe. Many people and groups with whom I have a natural philosophical affinity accuse global corporations of all manner of deceptive practices and environmental neglect. I am not prepared to comment on any specifics and even if I did I would be quoting other people for I have no personal experience or expertise in these matters. In any case, for my point here today, it's not necessary.

What occurs to me is to reflect that the very existence of the corporate form stems from the social contract: which is to to say, from government "fiat." Without the laws that permit these creatures to even exist, they, well, wouldn't exist and wouldn't "enjoy" the benefits of various legal protections, as you and I do.

If therefore we in society are concerned that corporations have gotten too large and too powerful relative to their historical overseer -- the various levels of government -- then we should modify their privileges. We don't need to argue whether corporations are a person or have rights of free speech. We can perhaps reform their capitalist heart in the following manner:

Their power lies in their ability to raise capital on the stock exchanges around the world. Adam Smith's idea of "self-interest" was, I believe, never intended to encourage or praise rapacious or exploitative behavior. No intelligent person of goodwill would have espoused greed an an instrument of social goodwill!

As a man of the Age of Reason (and Enlightenment), I assume he meant (or should have!) "enlightened" self-interest! I think many corporations, at least in America and Europe, try to hold their corporate employees to a decent standard of integrity and enlightened self-interest; some, presumably, only pay lip service to such ideals. (I'm not in a position to know or say more or less than this.)

Local, state, and federal government agencies don't seem to have enough "police" and economic power to balance the global muscle of some of these corporations. Besides, I, for one, would hesitate to give government more power both in principle and for the fact that "buying" of politicians is one of the key forms of abuse of corporate power. I think that in exchange for having access to the capital markets, these self-same corporations can be made to expand their own, internal decision making to include their natural constituencies. Let me explain:

An economic enterprise utilizes capital, natural resources, and labor. (I added resources to the traditional explanation.) Such an enterprise makes an impact upon society and upon the environment as a result of its commercial activities. To pass an ever increasing number and complexity of laws to regulate a corporation's social and environmental behavior seems, to me at least, to operate under the law of diminishing returns.

But what if the very management of that corporation included persons who represented the interests of employees, vendors, the environment, and the consumer? They need not be given shares of stock because they can, by virtue of the regulatory requirements of the capital markets, be given a voting place on the Board of Directors of each corporation. There's no requirement that a member of a board of directors has to own stock in the company.

The agency overseeing the exchange where the corporation seeks to be listed would have to oversee the selection and behavior of the non-shareholder members of the board, but that seems far less onerous and feasible than passing more laws and giving more police power over such corporations, especially when they conduct activities in other countries beyond the reach of our laws.

What if the board of directors of such a corporation were required to have one-third of their number elected by shareholders in the traditional way; one-third elected by a combination of employees (including so-called contract employees otherwise barred from employee status) and vendors (excluding vendors effectively controlled by the corporation); and, one-third representing social interests such as the environment and consumers? (Government is by necessity a regulator. It is not appropriate to have board representation.)

The employee group of directors together with the shareholder-elected board members would appoint the social group. The stock exchange could set standards for the qualifications and relative make-up for the social group and for the process through which employees and vendors are represented. In some corporations environmental concerns are few while others such concerns are great. For some corporations (exporters or financial entities) there may be few real "consumers." A degree of finesse would be required.

Non-shareholder board members would be required to submit annual reports (publicly available) to the stock exchange that discloses their voting record, their investigative and oversight efforts, and their summary of the corporation's success in its relations and impact upon the groups and interests represented. The corporation would be required by the exchange to make some reasonable allowance for the costs of the oversight by these board members (including suitable staff and access to data), just as allowance is provided for the cost of outside financial auditors. (But more than just auditors are needed for, decade after decade, financial auditors have proven themselves ineffective.)

But what about a director's fiduciary responsibility to look after the interests of the corporation? Well, good question! Remember our definition of "self-interest" (the enlightened version, that is)? The "best interests" of the corporation are achieved when the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account and balanced appropriately. Indeed, the support, approval, and goodwill of employees, vendors, and consumers and the health and well-being of neighbors and the environment help ensure the long-term survival and success of the venture. Naturally, compliance with all just laws is a given, though only a baseline, insufficient in itself, for success.

Up until now I believe outside interest groups (like environmentalists) either make a lot of noise with boycotts and media to crash the party of shareholder meetings or they have to acquire blocks of stock (or both). It takes a lot of "noise" to make anything happen in such an adversarial environment. But with this approach as I propose it, each major corporation will be empowered to consider the greater impact of its actions. Bottom line, short-term profits are no profits at all if they amount to thievery of a sophisticated kind. Rewarding a long-term view stabilizes the economy and society as well.

You might object that such otherwise competing interests might paralyze decision making. Yes, that possibility exists but there are some of us who believe that such corporations are already too large and cumbersome. Enlarging the scope of their interests might exacerbate the slowness of decision making and response, but such is the price for due consideration of legitimate interests in a large and publicly held institution of any kind. Let the race go to the swift. It does now, anyway, doesn't it? Innovation seems to come primarily from the lone wolves and small operators. The one has immense resources (and commensurate responsibilities), the other, flexibility, creativity, and swiftness! (Economically, they need each other.)

What about our concept of "private property." Would such a proposal rob shareholders of their financial interests? Why? It is common for corporations to enlist the counsel of all manner of public figures or esteemed business associates to guide them. There's no requirement that board members or officers be shareholders. Such boards in reflecting a wider scope of interests would be in a better position to resist the pressure to reward officers with obscenely high salaries. (While a separate proposal and subject, I don't see why the privilege of access to capital markets doesn't also justify some basic limits on the ratio of officer salaries to rank and file.)

I would imagine that financial exchanges in Europe would be even more inclined in this direction (if they've not done so already). Perhaps also, Japan. China remains a feral nation (why do we pretend, otherwise?), so I doubt they would do anything more than superficial. Nonetheless, the American financial markets alone are substantial enough still to weather this en-lightening-up.

What I am essentially saying is proposing a broader standard of what constitutes success and what constitutes self-interest. The time is nigh. A corporation that takes a balanced and fair approach to considering the well-being of all of those segments of society (employees, vendors, consumers) and the environment it affects is far more likely to survive, flourish and grow. Substituting long-term success for mere short-term profits, profits, as it were, everyone, including the corporate shareholders who stick with it. The line between speculation and investment lies, in no small measure, on the timeline of one's holding period.

Well, that's as much time and effort as I am willing to put into this subject. Perhaps you'll agree or think it's interesting, or goofy, or even a good idea.

Sayonara dear friends and on to more meditative subjects.....

Nayaswami Hriman, CPA

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Day of Thanksgiving!

Here in America we have the excellent and inspired tradition of a day of giving Thanks to God for the bounty of life. The (perhaps) apocryphal story of the Native Americans bringing food to the settlers in New England expresses the essential theme and ideal of America as a place where all can live in harmony. An affirmation, mind you, but one that has brought millions of immigrants to this continent and nation and has inspired untold others to dream of freedom from oppression.

It isn’t necessary that that America and its citizens and government express this ideal perfectly or imperfectly. Do not you and I but imperfectly do so in our personal lives? It does matter that we as a nation and a people aspire to the best of our ability to do so, however.

Many, including myself, feel that America has lost touch with the ideals upon which it was so grandly founded. I suppose our very success undermined our commitment and understanding. I for one and only one among millions both here and throughout the world, feel that the need to uphold these principles of liberty, respect, equality, and justice is greater now than ever before.

My prayer today and everyday is that America and its citizens may someday re-establish our connection with these high ideals. For now, however, I doubt this is possible until or unless we are reinvigorated by the compelling necessity of challenges and tragedy. Such is the stubborn and somewhat perverse nature of habit. But I still believe it is America’s destiny to do so and if it takes strong medicine than “what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.”

I won’t say I am “grateful” on this day of Thanksgiving for our national loss of idealism, but I accept that it, too, can be used by the Divine Wisdom and Will for a greater good because there are sufficient numbers of us who are open to being instruments of that will — however imperfectly may be our efforts.

The best way to express, energize, and uplift our national consciousness is to live it in our own, daily lives. This means to be accepting of others and their rights and opinions; to be willing to dialogue with them when appropriate; to participate calmly and responsibly in your civic duties, to be a visible and willing participant in your local community (and church or other such forms of fellowship), to be a caretaker and steward for our natural resources and environment, and generally to live these ideals in thought, word, and deed. Honesty and integrity in your work, applying your talents and intelligence productively and creatively, to mentor and help co-workers as appropriate, to be a peace maker and not a gossip or negative influence at work (or school etc.), and to live within your means, to be generous and charitable with your material resources, to be prepared to help yourself and neighbors in the event of natural or other disasters, grow your own food, and generally to live simply and with contentment!

Paramhansa Yogananda, the renowned teacher from India whose life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi” has been read by millions, championed the future spread of small intentional communities outside of the cities. In such environments with like-minded people, he predicted, the negative influences of unhealthy city life and the pressures of globalization could be mitigated by simple living and high ideals. I believe that time is fast approaching. Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013) and the members of Ananda worldwide have established nine such communities on three continents. Countless other communities ranging from co-housing to spiritual communities exist and flourish on every continent. Such is the natural instinct of human nature to seek others of like-mind. In this new age of universal education, advancing technology, communication, and travel, this tendency is necessary to balance the scales of global and impersonal forces, of galloping consumption, and a tragic and threatening disconnection from the world of nature and the world of other people as equals and individuals.

Let us give thanks, then, for the Divine wisdom that appears in hearts and minds seeking truth and harmony. Let us give thanks to those divine messengers who, in every age, race and nation, come to trumpet the “truth that shall make us free.” Finally, let us give thanks for our own efforts and those of others who strive to live by high ideals of honesty, integrity, compassion, creativity, and devotion to the Supreme Giver and Creator!

Joy to You, my very Self,

Swami Hrimananda, Thanksgiving, 2013

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New Year is Upon Us!

A New Year is soon upon us. In my life, celebration of New Year's Eve has never been of particular interest to me. Nor yet New Year's resolutions. (I go for slow, steady, and sustainable when it comes to lifestyle choices--generally, anyway.)

Perhaps you, too, however, feel that this year, 2011, is not one to be as casual about. I feel a sense of urgency about my personal life and about the world around us. For me, personal life includes the Ananda Community where I live and the activities and things we do here.

In general what I feel is needed is strength and commitment. Our nation, as a whole, has wandered (many feel), adrift from its principles and sinking in a soup of diversity, differences, and conflicts of opinions and lifestyles. Ok, so this will probably always be true. But, not always.

There have been times of crises, threat, or celebration in which even this great nation of diversity has spoken, united in a cause, feeling, or direction. (A small victory in this direction, considered as such even with those who didn't agree with the action taken, was seen in the recent flurry of productive activity undertaken by our "lame duck" Congress.)

But this sense of "We need to get things done" I hope and pray may spread throughout our nation and, cooperatively and harmoniously, with others around the world as well. For me, and that's as much as I can handle, I want to make this New Year's something meaningful. I've never in my life felt this way about New Year's resolutions.

I see the need around me for standing up for what's right; for rising above our own troubles and problems, our smallish likes and dislikes; and, participating in relationship with others of like mind irrespective of personal convenience. As a life cycle "thing," and being now 60 and surrounded by much the same, the temptation is to fuss about one's aches and pains, regrets and affirmations of personal limitations.

But regardless of life cycle, the time in our nation and on our planet is for bold, courageous, and creative action in cooperation with others. Ironically, cooperation, not unlike its more limiting cousin, consensus, can easily work AGAINST getting anything done. But on this planet with the challenges we face, there simply is no choice. We can't (and shouldn't even try) to FORCE others to conform or shape up, neither by legislation nor by coersion.

As I said at our Christmas banquet to those assembled, I think the time has come for cooperative, intentional communities to be more visible as examples of a new way to live. The crushing forces of globalism and the paralyzing mental and emotional impact of being aware of the suffering of others all around the planet, require (and inspire) us to take meaningful, personal action to exercise the muscle of will power and personal initiative lest we fall into a pit of despair or inertia.

So, for each of us, I encourage you to take seriously the opportunity of New Year's to reflect and to commit to personal self-improvement activities, and to cooperation with others of like mind to express your idealism. Paramhansa Yogananda encouraged his disciple (and Ananda's founder) Swami Kriyananda to "Make your ideals practical." America has a solid and positive history of community involvement, giving, and high ideals.

As a nation we need to affirm and reclaim our ideals and to refine our understanding of the concept of freedom. Freedom is not entitlement; it is responsibility. Voting, for example, means for the good of all and for what is right, not merely what benefits you and your personal interests. Without the guiding light of high ideals made practical by personal action, we will lose our freedom, our intelligence, and our heart expanding compassion for the needs of others.

Blessings and a blessed New Year to all!

Nayaswami Hriman