october buddhist carnival – about poverty

blog action day - poverty

the first part of the october buddhist carnival is entirely dedicated to the topic of blog action day 2008:

poverty.

longing for the begging bowl
as usual, we start with a poem. here is a translation from malayalam into in english by k p pradesh – a poem by koyamparambath satchidanandan

buddha, this earth is burning
not by lust but by hunger.
they don’t need salvation,
they are already nothing.
tongues dry up not for
want of wisdom
and the bellies burn not for
want of meditation.
it is not your lips
bursting into philosophy
that they watch, but they
stare, longingly at the
begging bowl your fingers hold…
go and beat the drum of
the weak’s awakening,
retrieve your bread, your power.

this poem can be found among numerous others in this very interesting post about poetry written in the malayalam language, one of the many languages spoken in india.

a school for untouchables
still in india, we find this:

located on the outskirts of varanasi is a small and simple school ” buddha’s smile school. the space for the students is very restricted, and classrooms are of only 3 walls and a roof.in a confined area. less than 200 m2. 220 untouchables carry of their daily studies. they sit on small benches, and share tables with at least 4 others. the classes are from the 1st grade to 5th grade. they share their classes with at least 20 other students, and as previously mentioned not a lot of space… to even stretch your legs.

go here for the remainder of the article.

a buddhist school in africa

the amitofo charity association is a taiwanese based buddhist charity organization. our primary goal is to build orphanages to care for and educate orphans in all 53 african nations. although we will be funded mainly by far eastern buddhists and well as overseas chinese buddhists, we will also raise funds in south africa and other western countries.

one of their stated goals is to assist, care for and educate children and teenagers in great need – especially orphans in africa. they are part of pure land buddhism, a school of buddhism centered around chanting the name of amida buddha.

here is more about the amitofo charity association.

defining poverty
eden maxwell looks at various definitions of poverty, for example

[a] definition of poverty when arrived at through mindfulness might also describe an itinerant yet content sadhu (holy man) who has peered through the veil and weight of possessions, denies himself nothing, knowing that he takes everything of value with him as karma.

60 million americans live on less than $7 a day
conscious capitalism asks, “can we as conscious citizens and engaged buddhists create our collective future mindfully?” and talks of a social experiment with a conscious shift to create an abundant yet sustainable human-scale economy, a global culture of peace, partnership, genuine free market, and unlimited potential for conscious living and right livelihood. in this article, a times article is cited which states that

the bottom fifth of all taxpayers average reported income was only $5,743 each. because the IRS includes a single individual or a married couple in its definition of a “taxpayer” the poorest 26 million taxpayers account for the equivalent nearly 48 million adults and about 12 million dependent children. according to the times analysis, this means the poorest 60 million americans have reported incomes of less than $7 a day! it is often noted that 3 billion of the world’s poorest people live on less than $2 a day. in the US, where the cost of living is far higher, $7 a day is only enough to guarantee a life of destitution.

more here.

the bottom billion
one of my buddhist blogging friends, william from integral options, shows a TED video. paul collier talks about 4 ways to improve the lives of the “bottom billion”. as noted on the oxford university press web site:

global poverty, paul collier points out, is actually falling quite rapidly for about eighty percent of the world. the real crisis lies in a group of about 50 failing states, the bottom billion, whose problems defy traditional approaches to alleviating poverty.
in the bottom billion , collier contends that these fifty failed states pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. the book shines a much needed light on this group of small nations, largely unnoticed by the industrialized west, that are dropping further and further behind the majority of the world’s people.

here’s the link to the bottom billion video.

religions unite for food
people from christian, muslim, jewish, buddhist, and sikh backgrounds gather with jim morris, former executive director of the UN world food program, to create the interfaith hunger initiative.

we often think that people who are hungry must be different from the rest of us. our religious traditions teach us that all people, rich or poor, are created in the image of god. by neglecting the poor, by turning our backs on the hungry, we turn our backs on god. there is no difference between them and us. every person who lives in poverty impoverishes us all because we share a common humanity.

read more about the interfaith hunger initiative here.

more poetry
here is a fantastic collection of poems and personal accounts of poverty. it is presented

to promote an understanding of its very real effects on human lives. our hope is it develop a greater sensitivity to the tragedy, the challenges, and the urgency of poverty.

the works collected here are from writers and poets of many cultures and many eras. some emphasize the tragedy of poverty in striking the most vulnerable of society. some describe long-perpetrated social and political injustices as contributors to poverty. others write that poverty is a noble existence which shows the human potential for strength and spirituality in the face of hardship.

please help them add further insights and works to this collection and send them citations for additional writings at povertynet@worldbank.org.

the post includes thich nhat hanh’s “peace is every step”:

before each meal, we can join our palms in mindfulness and think about the children who do not have enough to eat. doing so will help us maintain mindfulness of our good fortune, and perhaps one day we will find ways to do something to help change the system of injustice that exists in the world.

that’s it for part 1 of this month’s buddhist carnival. part 2 will appear some time by october 22. if you have any submissions for next month’s carnival (november 15), please send them to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.

blog action day 2008 - changing the conversation about poverty

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