Virtual Satsang

Resources for the community of seekers

Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category


leave a comment »

With Thanksgiving coming up, here are a couple of items you might want to share with your more conservative friends and family:

  • U.S. Health Care Reform Act, as a comic book: Co-created by Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, who thinks that many who oppose the bill don’t understand what’s really in it. The book won’t be out until right before Christmas, but at a mere $11 on Amazon, it makes for a great small holiday gift.
  • Hot Coffee: Tort reform is one of those issues where one side (trial lawyers) has been so routinely demonized, that the general public assumes that it’s the right thing to do. I confess that’s how I felt before watching this documentary. The filmmakers do a great job reminding us that the jury system is just about the only place left where ordinary citizens can still take on major corporations. On the other hand I still think that frivolous lawsuits can drive up costs. So the right answer is probably somewhere in between. In any case, the film really fits right in with the spirit of the #occupywallstreet movement.

  • Advertisements

    Written by virtualsatsang

    November 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Posted in Malas, Social Justice

    Tagged with

    Without A Home

    leave a comment »

    One of the most moving documentaries about homelessness is now out on DVD. If you can please support the film makers. If not, rent/borrow and watch this beautiful film. The DVD has many special features that are also worth watching:

    Written by virtualsatsang

    November 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Posted in Seva, Social Justice

    Tagged with ,

    Crowdsourcing with Samasource

    leave a comment »

    San Francisco based Samasource, is one of many companies who’ve taken the mechanical turk concept, and exported it to the developing world. These social entrepreneurs are not only providing jobs and opportunities to this generation of workers in the developing world, but they are helping companies in poor countries establish a foothold in the global economy. Look for them to start taking on increasingly more complex projects.

    Below is a recent and inspiring BBC story about Samasource:

    Written by virtualsatsang

    June 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Posted in Seva, Social Justice

    Inspirational story, awesome pipes

    leave a comment »

    Introducing, South Korea’s Sung-bong Choi

    Also see:

    Written by virtualsatsang

    June 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Posted in Art, Social Justice

    Caring for the mentally ill in Madurai, India

    leave a comment »

    [Seva Series: Profiles of seekers dedicated to the service of others.]

    Krishnan Narayanan abandoned his promising career as a high-end chef, to devote his life to care for the mentally ill who live on the streets of his native Madurai, India. Besides providing food on a regular basis, Krishnan also takes care of other basis needs such as providing access to clean clothes and baths. He is also in the process of raising money to complete his dream project of providing housing for 400 of his regular “clients”.

    These acts of kindness have serious implications for him personally. As a brahmin, he isn’t suppose to eat with, let alone bathe members of lower castes.

    Written by virtualsatsang

    June 6, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Posted in Health, Seva, Social Justice

    Tagged with


    leave a comment »

  • Yoga Tourism in India: I came across this unpublished manuscript by Kenneth Liberman, in an illuminating short paper on Ashtanga Yoga1. In a recent post, I used ideas from a separate paper of Liberman, to come up with a short checklist for finding yoga teachers & classes.

    American yoga aspirants remain very much inside their own cultural universe and have minimal contact with Indian society, except for the commodified yoga they desire and receive. They cannot read any signs in the regional language, leam little about the politics or culture (“We’re only here for a few months”), and keep their focus upon their own practice of asana. The most appalling part of it is that many of them suffer from a smugness that is derived from having completed such a fine, advanced practice of asana early in the morming, entitling them to spend the rest of the day in idleness while bearing a feeling of superiority toward most any other person they meet during the day.

    … Young people seeking fitness, older people wanting to regain youth, most of them self-absorbed with a focused effort to become or remain attractive, focus their energies intently upon what each of them term “my practice.” For one or two hours they direct their energies (and in many cases this energy is abundant and highly directed) upon themselves. Only themselves. Each breath is a celebration of one’s body electric. It may be beautiful, but the danger is that it easily reinforces egotism and self-centeredness at the very time that one’s practice of yoga should be eradicating the self, egoistically conceived. In all fairness, it may be said that a yoga practitioner will inevitably meet other practitioners who are more adept at asana or run up against the limits of his or her body. But a sense of inadequacy is not actually the opposite of egoism, since it is just another form of self-absorption. If Patanjali is to be believed, spiritual lessons are indeed to be gained from a correct practice of asana, but when the practice is distorted by what is already most abundant in the culture – vanity, pleasure-seeking, and self-absorption – is there a fair chance for its cultivation? The metaphor of the camel that is able to pass through the eye of the needle seems appropriate here.

  • The former warden of San Quentin as an anti death penalty advocate: In her new position heading Death Penalty Focus, Jeanne Woodford’s criminal justice gravitas and calm demeanor makes her an effective advocate for eliminating the death penalty.

  • Half of New Testament forged: CNN highlights the key findings from the new book by biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman:

    * At least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries.

    * The New Testament books attributed to Jesus’ disciples could not have been written by them because they were illiterate.

    * Many of the New Testament’s forgeries were manufactured by early Christian leaders trying to settle theological feuds.

    NOTE: Evangelical scholar Ben Witherington refutes the key arguments in his short review of Ehrman’s book.

  • Overwhelmed caregivers should try meditation: Further confirmation of what Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has been suggesting.

    … UCLA researchers Helen Lavretsky and Michael Irwin conducted an eight-week, randomized trial on the effects of meditation exercise on 49 people who were home-based caregivers of a loved one with dementia. About half of the caregivers listened to relaxation tapes for 20 minutes a day for eight weeks, while the other caregivers practiced Kirtan Kirya yoga, a meditation exercise. The study’s authors then conducted tests on mental and cognitive health, did brain scans and measured telomere length. Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that are protective of cellular health. Measuring telomere length can be used to determine how fast a person is aging.

    The study found strong evidence that a meditative yoga routine improves both mental and physical health. While caregivers in both groups experienced benefits, the caregivers practicing Kirtan Kirya yoga had more improvements in quality of life, cognition and memory. Those study participants reported better sleep and less anxiety and said they felt care-giving was less of a burden than before they participated in the study.

    Surprisingly, the telomere analysis showed meditative yoga also had an anti-aging effect.

  • (1) I highly recommend that paper: “With Heat Even Iron will Bend”: Discipline and Authority in Ashtanga Yoga by Benjamin Richard Smith, pages 140-160, in Yoga in the Modern World

    Written by virtualsatsang

    May 19, 2011 at 9:47 am


    leave a comment »

  • A Historian studies paranormal activity: Jeffrey Kripal tries to explain to Silicon Valley listeners that paranormal experiences are hard to formally study using the scientific method. I enjoyed Kripal’s previous book on Esalen and the human potential movement, and am generally sympathetic to the views he expresses in the interview below:

  • American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting: If you’re going to be somewhere near SF in mid November, AAR has a session titled “Yoga in Theory and Practice”. Suggested topics include David Gordon White’s forthcoming book (Yoga in Practice), as well as Mark Singleton’s recent book on postural yoga. The registration fee for non-members ranges from $325-$400, depending on when you register.
  • Faith, Education and Income, in the U.S.:

    In every case, the correlation between education and income is extremely strong. As I note in the magazine, the relationship goes both ways: more affluent people tend to produce more educated children, and more educated people tend to earn much more than less educated people. It’s one more reminder that the financial value of education has never been greater.


  • Greg Boyle on giving jobs to ex-gang members:

    I had the honor of witnessing Lorenzo’s seven-month journey from convict to accounting assistant, watching as he became the young man God had in mind when he made him. But despite his remarkable turnaround and the many things he had to offer an employer, Lorenzo’s prospects for finding a job outside our program were dim.

    Opportunities for second chances are few for people like Lorenzo. Homeboy Industries is about the only game in town. Most employers just aren’t willing to look beyond the dumbest or worst thing someone has done.

    Another “homie” recently came to me for help after, for the third time, he was let go from a job because his employer had discovered he’d done five years in prison. He told me the boss said, “You’re one of our best workers, but we have to let you go.” Then, with a desperate sadness, the young man added: “Damn, G. No one told me I’d be getting a life sentence of no work.”

    The business of second chances is everybody’s business. We lose our right to be surprised that California has the highest recidivism rate in the country if we refuse to hire folks who have taken responsibility for their crimes and have done their time.

    Even in this alarming economic climate, where the pool of prospective employees is larger than ever, we need to find the moral imperative as a society to secure places in our workforce for those who just need a chance to prove themselves. This can’t be the concern only of a large gang rehab center; it must also be part of our collective response to keep our streets safe and our communities healthy.

    As a society, we come up lacking in many of the marks of compassion and wisdom by which we measure ourselves as civilized.

    We are among the handful of countries that has difficulty distinguishing juveniles from adults where crime is concerned. We are convinced that if a child commits an adult crime, that kid is magically transformed into an adult. Consequently, we try juveniles as adults. We still execute people. And we belong to a small, exclusive club of countries that brands felons forever and denies them voting rights, access to employment and, sometimes, even housing.

    Delegations from all over the world visit Homeboy Industries and scratch their heads as we tell them of our difficulty in placing our people in jobs after their time with us. Americans’ seeming refusal to believe in a person’s ability to redeem himself strikes these folks as foreign indeed.

  • Written by virtualsatsang

    May 13, 2011 at 8:41 am