Sunday, August 3, 2014

3 Kindness Stories

Sunday Morning Sermon - Aug 3 2014

1. The Old Lady

I was flying back to my hometown and sat next to an old lady in the plane. I could see that she was scared -- she was clutching her bag on her lap and did not want to put in on the floor as the air hostess asked her to do. I started chatting and told her about the birth of my grandson, etc. She started talking about her life and before we knew it the flight was over. I also helped her collect her luggage and she couldn't thank me enough -especially for the chat. She commented that most people ignore old people and that she really appreciated it. On our way out, I waved and she pointed very proudly to the two people with her and mouthed that this is my daughter and granddaughter. She kept on turning back and waving until we couldn't see each other any longer. I believe we have to try and make a difference 
in each and everyone's life that we meet - even if we never see them again! - Phil

2. Nature and its Bounty

As the mom of a child with cerebral palsy (a disorder that causes physical disability), I know that there are not a lot of parks or trails where my son can truly experience nature. Thus, I volunteer at a neighborhood arboretum, where I work with other volunteers to add a sensory garden with raised flower beds. Those confined to chairs are able to touch and feel the plants. The park is full of plants with various textures, scents, and bright colors. This week, we are adding fall plants, mums, tall grasses, and ornamental cabbages. Our special needs program is going to have students craft scarecrows and jack-O-laterns to decorate the park with. It fills me with joy to see so many happy faces filled with pride when they see the disabled people come through and enjoy the festive park we helped create! - Jane

3. Giving

I decided to have a burrito from a local fast food restaurant. I went through the drive-through. I was telling my dad about this 21 day challenge and how a lot of people pay for the next person in line. My dad and I decided that we should try it!  I order my $2 burrito and go to the window. I ask the cashier if I can pay for the person behind me and he asked me if I was sure I wanted to do that. I said yes, and told him to give the next customer a smile card. I asked how much the total is, and he said, “Woah! It’s over $17!” At this point, I’m thinking, “Woah that's a lot!” too. But in that time I also thought - well hey, If I were in his situation and someone paid for my $17 meal, I would be the happiest person there is. THAT would make my day. I told the cashier that it was fine and he asked, “You sure? Think about it... Are you sure?” Even though I was nearly $18 short for a $2 burrito, I've never felt better. My dad encouraged me and my mom was proud of me. - Karishma


Monday, July 28, 2014

Choking under Pressure

Sunday Morning Sermon - July 27 2014

Choking under pressure is defined as performance decrements under circumstances that increase the importance of good or improved performance. Leaders of corporations, governments, and individuals typically make decisions with the expectations that the outcome will be beneficial. However, when faced with a crisis there is always the possibility of knee jerk reactions surfacing and thereby making the situation even worse. Panic, is one of the factors that usually initiates the process of chaotic decision making. Delegation, action, and a conformity to the prevalent contingency plans is the next step that requires implementation under a well controlled and managed mindset.

While the decision maker has in mind the immediate need for correct action to alleviate the issues being faced, he also has the long term repercussions on how his decisions and actions will be seen and critiqued to worry about.

In any emergency situation it is always the victims on the ground who need the first response in order to take them out of danger into a safety zone after which the next steps will follow. Human life is the highest priority in this regard. Property, equipment, data protection and prevention of further disaster to the location and environment comes next.

Contingency plans, based on risk management exercises, need to be effectively executed by knowledgeable and trained staff under the strict control of a predefined marshall for such situations.

Fire, flooding, earthquakes, rocket attacks, crashes, etc are the common forms of emergency situations encountered by large groups of people across the globe.

A key factor in managing such situations is to keep ones cool well above the panic levels that usually can cause total havoc if not under control as quickly as possible.

Risk Management is a vital cog in any form of national, business and even domestic environment. People need to understand the meaning of risk and the  basic steps that must be in place to mitigate them whenever encountered.

Many have been the situations when life has been lost, property destroyed, and hardship caused due to the lack of professionally developed and established contingency plans.

Its always safe to 
be prepared
 as the
​ boy​
 scouts would say.


Thursday, July 10, 2014


sent in by email by SS

What Is Solitude?

Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on July 01, 2003 - last reviewed on November 21, 2013

As the world spins faster and faster—or maybe it just seems that way when an email can travel around the world in fractions of a second—we mortals need a variety of ways to cope with the resulting pressures. We need to maintain some semblance of balance and some sense that we are steering the ship of our life.
Otherwise we feel overloaded, overreact to minor annoyances and feel like we can never catch up. As far as I'm concerned, one of the best ways is by seeking, and enjoying, solitude.

That said, there is an important distinction to be established right off the bat. There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.
From the outside, solitude and loneliness look a lot alike. Both are characterized by solitariness. But all resemblance ends at the surface.

Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely—perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.

Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.

Solitude is a time that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Deep reading requires solitude, so does experiencing the beauty of nature. Thinking and creativity usually do too.

Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves. In other words, it replenishes us.

Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness.

Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others.

We all need periods of solitude, although temperamentally we probably differ in the amount of solitude we need. Some solitude is essential; It gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy, what allows us to have a self worthy of sharing. Solitude gives us a chance to regain perspective. It renews us for the challenges of life. It allows us to get (back) into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands from without.

Solitude restores body and mind. Lonelinesss depletes them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Peace begins in the human mind

Sunday Morning Sermon July 6 2014

Peace Begins in the Human Mind

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore, (individual citizens) have the duty to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."
~ Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

The concept of a “golden rule” in which we do to others only what we would want others to do to us, can be found in one form or another as far back as the civilizations of ancient China, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It has been called an “ethic of reciprocity,” and can be found in all cultures, and in all world religions as well as in the philosophies of humanists and existentialists. It is, in short, an ethical code that most all of humanity can agree on. 

Why then do we find ourselves here in the 21st century inhabiting a world that is dangerously polarized, with a growing imbalance of power and wealth among the ever-increasing number of people on the Earth, with continuing wars that ravage populations and waste resources, with massive genocide and terrorist atrocities that endanger us all? 

How is it that we find humankind facing the terrifying possibility of environmental catastrophe? These questions confront us with a greater urgency than ever, and it is these questions that have led us to the human mind and the human thought process — the great possibilities of compassion that lie within each human being —  to identify a solution.
​Unless we put our minds to good use and make decisions and conclusions using common sense and reality this plamet of ours will never have the peace it deserves.


Sunday, June 29, 2014


Sunday Morning Sermon - June 29 2014

Deception is an infrequent but inevitable part of human social interaction.  Deception fulfills important human social needs despite its disadvantages.  An obvious question is to what extent deception can be justified in virtual communities, and whether the justification could be different than that for deception in traditional societies.  Humans are, generally, subject to many social constraints that affect the feasibility and suitability of deception.

Deception is a key issue in ethics with many important applications in law, business, politics, and psychology.  Deception has several potential negative consequences.  It damages relationships once discovered since they require trust; it can hurt a community by focusing its attention on false issues and devaluing its communications; it can hurt the deceiver?s reputation and make them unable to function in a community; and even if not discovered, it supports a deceiver's self-deception and can ultimately hurt them.

Several studies have focused on the ethics of one form of deception, lying.  Lying has its many facets as follows:-
·        White lies (small lies that are seemingly harmless).  These are often unnecessary since carefully chosen truthful statements or silence may easily serve the same purposes.
·        False excuses.  Although these are passive lies, told to prevent something else, they can indirectly cause as much harm as active lies.
·        Lies to prevent harm in a crisis.  Serious crises do not occur very often, so it is tempting to mislabel noncritical situations as critical.
·        Lies to liars in retaliation.  But this lowers the retaliator to the same moral level as the offender.
·        Lies to enemies on general principles.  But "enemy" is a fluid and poorly defined concept that is often used to justify bigotry.
·        Lies to cheat, protecting peers and clients.  Again, carefully chosen truthful statements or silence is often possible and preferable.
·        Lies for the public good (often claimed by politicians).  These are very difficult to justify since everyone has a different definition of the "public good".
·        Paternalistic lies (as to children).  Guidance and persuasion can often eliminate the need for such lies.
·        Lies to the sick and dying.  This violates the right of patients to make informed decisions.

It is said that a justifiable lie must satisfy three criteria: 
1. that there are no alternative courses of action to lying
2. that the moral arguments for the lie outweigh the moral arguments against it
3. that a "reasonable person" with no personal interest in the outcome would approve of the lie.

False promises and excuses are another problem within communities. Most often they are justified using excuses and reasons to cover up the liars agenda.

Deception also leads to cheating in many cases where financial transactions may be involved. Some may utilize the opportunity to make a quick buck off the deal while deceiving the other into believing that there has been some delay in the receipt of funds or profit.

At the end of the day its the negative impact it has on the receiver that is the cause for concern. Many perpetrators of deception dont really care about this when they resort to this game.


Monday, June 23, 2014


Sunday Morning Sermon - Jun 22 2014

If the Brits didnt give us independence,
and sail their ships back home,
If the old Colonial system prevailed,
none of us will have to roam;
If religion was kept personal,
and not mixed up with rule,
If people were treated equal,
we wouldnt see all these fools.

If English was maintained as language,
there would be none to complain,
If Sinhala Only was never introduced,
it would have taken away so much pain;
If communities were given opportunities,
all equal under the law,
If governance had been impartial,
there was no room for flaw.

If violence was not adopted,
to seek out our basic rights,
If common sense was sought,
there was no reason for fights;
If Monks just stayed in temples,
and carried on their chants,
If Mullahs kept their preaching,
to the confines of their pants.

If we as a common people,
didnt turn the other side,
If we spoke out against hatred,
there would be no reason to hide;
If common sense prevailed,
and brainwashing was blown away,
If only compassion led the way,
We would have had our Day.

[apologies to RK]

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why are People Racist?

Sunday Morning Sermon - Jun 1 2014
It’s a question that people ask all the time. If we’re all part of the human race, why are people racist? After all, there are no biological differences between people. No race is superior or inferior to another. We’re all the same.
There are many reasons why people can have racist attitudes.
Our attitudes are shaped from birth, some even say conception. When family members or the community or friends express racist opinions, it is quite common that we will also take on those views as valid. The problem is that, unless we do something about it, they can stay with us for a lifetime.

We often put labels on people. He dresses like this so he must be into this music. She goes to that school so she must be rich. We can also stereotype people from different racial backgrounds as “lazy”, “brainy”, “aggro”… Sinhala peope are referred to as "Modayas", Muthu keeps on chanting "Ass licker" for the Thamby's, Tamils are refferd to as "Nammada Aals", Lansees and Malays are tainted with a "wine women and song" lifestyle etc. you get the idea? The way to beat the stereotypes? Don’t judge a whole group. Get to know people from different racial backgrounds and find out how much you have in common.

When you spend time here in the desert you meet all kinds of flavors of human beings from every possible corner of our planet. Analysing them and their attitudes and behavior is a nightmare, sometimes.

The ever loud and brash Egyptians, the selfish Paki's, the nasty Palestinians, etc etc. Yet, there are still some decent people within these communities. Surely, we must have met some of them at some point of time?

Another ploy of the racist is to try and pass the buck to another national for his own shortcomings. very commonly seen across the board, berween white and black, north and south, east and west.

It is time to shed these nasty feathers and see each other as one race belonging to this planet.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why War?


Freud, Einstein, and Upaya:
Contemporary Reflections on the Question "Why War?"

In 1932 Albert Einstein was contacted by the League of Nations, the international body that was the precursor of the UN. He was asked to invite someone -- he could choose anyone -- to reflect with him in a series of public letters on a pressing problem or question. The question Einstein selected was this: "Is there any way of delivering humankind from the menace of war?" He was asking the question that many of us are asking today: "How can we promote peace?"
He chose his interlocutor carefully. The physicist with unprecedented understanding of the structure and workings of the universe selected a thinker with unprecedented insight into the structure and workings of the human mind: Sigmund Freud. Freud readily agreed to participate in this conversation. He had just published Civilization and its Discontents, in which he had offered a complex analysis of the psychological difficulties of living together in community. Yet his response to Einstein's question about peace was surprisingly optimistic. Yes, he said, we are torn between a drive for Eros or connection, and a drive toward Death, Thanatos, or Aggression. And indeed, the eagerness to engage in war is an effect of the drive toward Aggression, which itself is always embedded in political, social, and economic contexts. But, he argued, one can bring Eros into play against Aggression: whatever leads us to share important concerns produces a sense of community. "Anything that encourages the growth of emotional ties will operate against war." Einstein's remarks were more political, more practical. Claiming "no insight into the dark places of human will and feeling," he spoke of Macht und Recht, power and right, or violence and law. He called for a world in which Recht would supersede Macht -- law would supersede violence. He urged that all countries, by international consent, agree to honor a legislative and judicial body that would settle every conflict. "Each nation would undertake to abide by the orders issued by this legislative body, to invoke its decision in every dispute, to accept its judgments unreservedly."
Our own president is prepared to act through Macht rather than Recht -- to initiate a war without the consent of our current international, legislative, and judicial body, the UN. Einstein's words, written in support the League of Nations, are as relevant today as they were 70 years ago.
And Freud? Are Freud's words useful to us today? The foundational Freudian principle -- the call to know ourselves -- is invaluable. We cannot pursue peace in the world unless we know our own potential for both peace and war -- Eros and Thanatos -- and our own potential to turn anxiety into aggression. I find Freud's optimism helpful as well. It's not a naive optimism, but a realistic sense of possibilities, a refusal to be limited by past human failures to create a lasting peace.
There's a Buddhist concept that I like very much. It's called Upaya. It means skillful means, appropriate means, useful means, in the path toward compassion, peace, and the end of suffering. Freud's and Einstein's formulations from 1932 are a kind of Upaya, for peace today. With Einstein, we can support the authority of the UN in the current conflict. With Freud, we can try to know ourselves, and to explore ways to build ties that promote peace rather than war.
The Einstein-Freud exchange, published in three languages under the title "Why War?" and widely distributed throughout Western Europe 70 years ago, was banned in Germany. If there's a Upaya in the way we remember this story, surely it is that we must speak openly about peace, we must not censor or silence our voices. Let us call for peace in many voices.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Terror rules again!

Sunday Morning Sermon May 18 2014

India has finally voted an extreme religious group into power with a landslide victory that is unprecedented in its post independence history. While rapid development of technology, education, and knowledge is on the rise, common sense seems to be dying a natural death. One may argue that the people of India had no other option but to elect an extreme religious group into power since the so called "good guys" were steeped in corruption and anarchy. yet, replacing corruption with terror is no solution to the problem. 

Corruption is an act that people indulge in to enrich themselves. It doesnt involve hate in any way. Terror stems from hate and thats the bottom line behind it.

The MR regime in Sri lanka is corrupt and has been so to date. Now they are stepping into the shoes of religious extremism by aligning themselves with the BBS and hence combining corruption with hate. This is even worse than the BJP in India.

South Asia is sinking into the pits all the way from the failed state of Pakistan to India, Burma, Bangla Desh, Sri Lanka & The Maldives.

How will the Yanks yank the Indian chain, I wonder?

​Lets consider this. How many women would marry a man like Modi after having seen his track record? For that matter would any of them marry Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, GWB junior, Osama BL, VP, MR, GR, or even JRJ?​ Of course there may be some who would for sure, but then we are a planet filled with the good, the bad and the ugly too, right?

When one looks at the stats of the Indian election it is very apparent that the defunct electoral system is the culprit that allows this kind of a landslide victory that is not necessarily the will of the majority. In fact the BJP only polled 33% of the total vote which means 67% of the half billion voters didnt want them.

Therefore, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and all that other mother jazz may look sweet on paper, but what impacts on the people on the ground is the percentage of hate that persists in the hearts and minds of the people.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why do we believe what we believe?

Sunday Morning Sermon May 11 2014

What is a bias?
It's an "ABCDE"—an Assumption, Belief, Conclusion, Decision, or Emotion that distorts our perceptions and narrows our options for responding to experience.
One of the highest espoused values in most cultures, particularly Anglo-Western cultures, is being "objective"—unbiased, logical, and sensible. Most of us are conditioned from early childhood to think of ourselves as seeking the "right" answers at the many decision points we encounter. Moment by moment, day by day, we want to believe that we are analyzing situations skillfully and basing our opinions and behavior on the correct conclusions.
Reality—to say nothing of research—routinely contradicts that belief.
One of the most pervasive of these is simple confirmation bias (a.k.a. selective perception bias). This is our tendency to pay closer attention to evidence and arguments that support our own firmly held conclusions, and to simply discount contradictory evidence. This could partially explain the tendency of large numbers of people to hold fast to their attachments to one political party or another. Once we decide, we don't like to re-decide. 
Some cognitive researchers claim that the brain has to consume extra energy in the process of changing or rearranging beliefs, and that simple neurological laziness—the tendency to conserve glucose and oxygen—predisposes the brain to keep the configurations it already has.
The pervasive media culture, and its social media component, provide endless opportunities for bias, as people accept beliefs, impressions, and reports that are completely erroneous. Partisan political journalism in particular is rife with distortions, tortured facts, selective evidence, and downright lies. But once a fraudulent "factoid" is passed on from one diatribe to another, it can acquire the status of unquestioned truth. We might think of this "big lie" or "repetition" bias as relatively innocent, because none of us can reasonably expect to verify the accuracy or plausibility of every political proposition we encounters. Media manipulators capitalize on that assumption every day.
Consider "net-crud," the term given to contrived photographs or stories circulating on the Internet which have been deliberately manufactured or doctored so as to mislead readers into believing they're evidence of remarkable discoveries or events. Claims attributed to "ex-CIA agents," "retired FBI agents", or "ex-NASA engineers" are offered as attempts to legitimize the fabrications. So many people have been raised with a moral injunction against lying that they automatically assume that a remarkable story or claim must be true. It's just too difficult for them to consider that some people willingly lie.
And there are more:
  • Cognitive researchers also identify a backfire bias, the tendency of some people—particularly those with cult-like beliefs—to actually strengthen their erroneous beliefs or convictions in the face of overwhelming disconfirmation: "I don't care what anybody says, UFOs (or ghosts, or Bigfoot, etc.) are real."
  • The "Lake Wobegon" bias—named for the famous Prairie Home Companion line that "all the children" in the town "are above average"—leads many parents to over-estimate the talents of their kids: "She could do a lot better in school if she'd just work harder."
  • There's a "knew-it-all-the-time" bias, the tendency to look back on complicated events or situations after they've been resolved and believe that one understood them better than was actually the case. "I knew this was bound to happen."
  • Affinity bias is the common tendency to believe, or agree with, the ideas of people you like or admire, and to discount or disagree with those you dislike.
  • Reactance bias is the tendency to do the opposite of what someone advises you or wants you to do because of your aversion to a loss of autonomy, i.e. concern about being pushed around, controlled, or coerced.
  • How about bias bias? This is the tendency to believe that other people are more biased than you are. Do you find yourself attributing the beliefs or behaviors of others to biases you assign to them? Can you identify biases of your own that might be activated in similar situations?
There are lots more biases where those come from. If you find the notion of biases and biased behavior intriguing or relevant to your life, read up on the popular literature on rational and irrational behavior. Of course, you can also start tuning up your perceptual radar to detect possible biases that show up in the behavior of others. And you can trace out more of your own biases by observing more closely the things you say and do every day.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Seeking Refuge or Opportunity?

Sunday Morning Sermon May 4 2014

The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees adopted the following definition of a refugee (in Article 1.A.2):
[A]ny person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country".
The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention's 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.
The term refugee is often used to include displaced persons who may fall outside the legal definition in the Convention, either because they have left their home countries because of war and not because of a fear of persecution, or because they have been forced to migrate within their home countries. 
We see so many conflicts around us to day and people fleeing from various "difficult" environments seeking a better life in first world nations under the guise of being oppressed and abused. While the symptoms are valid and do exist what percentage of these fleeing asylum seekers are truly genuine in their claims? How many are trying to escape to greener pastures purely for economic reasons?

In the old days we always saw young people leaving their shores in many third world nations and travelling to the UK and US with the "intent" of furthering their education and returning home. Yet, a large proportion of these "pilgrims" chose to stay back in their host nations, some even marrying the men and women in those far away lands.

While all that is well and good what really bites is when you hear these very same people speaking out as if they had never lived in a developing country.

One has every right to do well in life by hard work, perseverence, and effort. But one must not forget ones roots.


Saturday, April 26, 2014


Sunday Morning Sermon - April 27 2014

When it comes to poverty in the USA, there are two main lines of thought. The most common one is that a person is poor because of personal traits. These traits in turn have caused the person to fail. Supposed traits range from personality characteristics, such as laziness, to educational levels. Despite this range, it is always viewed as the individual's personal failure not to climb out of poverty. 

Another theory that is postulated is a contrary argument to this idea that personal failings are the cause of poverty. The argument presented is that US poverty is a result of “failings at the structural level. Key social and economic structural failings which contribute heavily to poverty within the U.S. are identified in the article. The first is a failure of the job market to provide a proper amount of jobs which pay enough to keep families out of poverty. Even if unemployment is low, the labor market may be saturated with low-paying, part-time work that lacks benefits (thus limiting the amount of full-time, good paying jobs). 

Development plays a central role to poverty reduction in the third world. Some sociologists feel that the national mindset itself plays a role in the ability for a country to develop and to thus reduce poverty.

Some theorists believe the way poverty is approached, defined, and thus thought about, plays a role in its perpetuation. When poverty is a prescribed agency, it becomes something that happens to people. Poverty absorbs people into itself and the people, in turn, become a part of poverty, devoid of their human characteristics. In the same way, poverty is viewed as an object in which all social relations are obscured. Issues such as structural failings, institutionalized inequalities, or corruption may lie at the heart of a region's poverty, but these are obscured by broad statements about poverty.

The term “poverty”, is often used in a generalized matter. This further removes the poor from defining their situation as the broadness of the term covers differences in histories and causes of local inequalities. Solutions or plans for reduction of poverty often fail precisely because the context of a region's poverty is removed and local conditions are not considered.

The specific ways in which the poor and poverty are recognized frame them in a negative light. In development literature, poverty becomes something to be eradicated, or, attacked. It is always portrayed as a singular problem to be fixed. When a negative view of poverty (as an animate object) is fostered, it can often lead to an extension of negativity to those who are experiencing it. This in turn can lead to justification of inequalities through the idea of the deserving poor. Even if thought patterns do not go as far as justification, the negative light poverty is viewed does much to ensure little change in the policies of redistribution.

The environment of poverty is one marked with unstable conditions and a lack of capital (both social and economical) which together create the vulnerability characteristic of poverty. Because a person's daily life is lived within the person's environment, a person's environment determines daily decisions and actions based on what is present and what is not. The poor's daily practice of navigating the world of poverty generates a fluency in the poverty environment but a near illiteracy in the environment of the larger society. Thus, when a poor person enters into transactions and interactions with the social norm, that person's understanding of it is limited, and thus decisions revert to decisions most effective in the poverty environment. Through this a sort of cycle is born in which the “dimensions of poverty are not merely additive, but are interacting and reinforcing in nature.
 The unstable life of poverty often limits the poor's aspiration levels to those of necessity (such as having food to feed ones family) and in turn reinforces the lowered aspiration levels (someone who is busy studying, instead of looking for ways to get enough food, will not survive long in the poverty environment). Because the capacity to aspire (or lack thereof) reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of poverty, Expanding the poor's aspiration horizon will help the poor to find both voice and exit. Ways of doing this include changing the terms of recognition and/or creating programs which provide the poor with an arena in which to practice capacities. An example of one such arena may be a housing development built for the poor, by the poor. Through this, the poor are able to not only show their abilities but to also gain practice dealing with governmental agencies and society at large. 

At the end of the day it is only compassion that can lead the way towards sharing and the eventual comforts reaped of moving away from poverty.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

What have we learned from War?

Sunday Morning Sermon - Apr 20 2014

The landmark LTTE war of thirty long years in our beautiful homeland has fed books and articles, inspired slogans and headlines, initiated protests and cries, and even became the focus of global media attention with Norway playing a significant role within the rebel camps. 

Since this event Sri Lanka has moved from a tea producing domestic labor supplying nation to a warring one. Thus Sri Lanka became a universal synonym for division. That’s what the world sees, but if you lived through the war, what was it to you? Was it a daily seesaw of life or death? Or was it the smell of blood that you could never shake off? The sight of destroyed buildings, bullet-ridden walls in half-standing, windowless buildings; or the stink of humidity and death in shelters where people gathered and made the best out of their worst nightmare? Maybe it’s the fleeing trips to the unknown with nothing but your tired sleepless body. Where did you hide from the indiscriminate suicide bomb attacks, sniper bullets, white vans or abductions? 

Was it your kitchen, the dining room or that space in the back of the house that gave you the false feeling of safety just because it was dark? Who did you hug when you were scared? Did you observe the palpitation of your heart for the various sounds: The news flash on the radio, the shelling as it departs, its whizzing overhead and its landing. Do you remember the bombings that brought down entire buildings nearby? The screams that ensued, the dust, the sadness, the inability to move as the skies rained on you more shells and more deafening noises of death, hate and destruction. 

Did your heart ever rejoice at the possibility that you could be next to get the hit so you too can get a taste of the finality of it all? Did you feel guilty or lucky that others died but not you? 

What do you remember of the war? Is it how life was interrupted on a regular basis but you still carried on with classes, exams, jobs and entertainment? Or is it the time you were kidnapped and beaten unconscious because you could not say "bucket" correctly in the vernacular? Is it when dozens of men you know were massacred as they attended a funeral for no reason other than blinding hatred and total fog of war? 

Death does not distinguish among ethnic groups, nor is a massacre more justified than another. Loss is painful and life is precious for all. At the end of those bloody thirty years we still have to see the resettlement of the refugees and the homeless. 

While everyone rushed to live, no one paused to reflect on what had happened and the war simply hid in old archaic mentalities. Today, we witness the same hatred, divisions, and ignorance. No matter what we think we learned from the war, it seems we have not learned anything at all!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Human Rights Deception

Sunday Morning Sermon Apr 6 2014

So we think we enjoy human rights, huh? Do we really? Maybe, yes, some of it at some points and situations in our lives. But is there a global commitment that we can clearly see towards getting there? I a, not too sure.

Running through Chrstian Amanpour's CNN story about how the 2,000+ indigenous people of Diego Garcia were uprooted from their native soil and planted into stinking ghetto's in Mauritius, made me mad. Was this really something that could happen? Especially in the hands of the UK and the USA, two massive campaigners for Human Rights across the globe. They, who waged wears, invaded nations, subdued dictators, and caused mayhem to so may millions of innocent people under the cover of protecting human rights?

Doesnt make much sense, does it?

Take a look at how these so called legal eagles conduct themselves in courts of law in democratic nations where the onus is on the prosecution to prove the accused guilty. How often do we see people being arrested, confined to cells without trial or access to valid legal recourse in these first world nations? How often do we hear of lawyers trying to protect the innocence of their contents even if they were fully aware that the individual is guilty? What lies, deceptions, and legal caveats they pluck to get their clients free?

Where is all the human rights in these affairs? Whose rights are they protecting and whose rights are they abusing?

While most folks respect and honor the judicial systems in democratic nations the basic premise on which it is established seems to be flawed. How can a legal professional protect his client using such falsehood and deceit? Doesnt that act itself defeat the whole legal process in one vicious sweep of the scabbard?

Surely, dont the legal men and women, at least those who possess some semblance of honor and justice, see through this gaping hole in the system and try to have it fixed., permanently, for the good of all humanity?

Vietnam, Korea, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, are all gross examples of how innocent peoples human rights have been abused and violated over the past decades.

And finally, look at the silly status of the United Nations, who were set up to uphold the rights of all, in its many declarations, votes, and sanctions it has imposed on nations and peoples using the brute force of a few powerful countries?

What a crazy cocked up world we live in?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Real Meaning of Life

Sunday Morning Sermon - Mar 30 2014

How can 
 be happy?

Some believe that there is only one single meaning of life. They think that the Universe was created for a purpose and is a part of a larger cosmic plan. They think our meaning comes from being part of this plan and is written into the Universe waiting to be discovered.

A more practical view of 
meaning in life
 by some others
 is different. They believe that there is no obvious purpose to the Universe but that it is a natural phenomenon with no design behind it. Meaning, is not something out there waiting to be discovered but what we create in our own lives. And although this vast and incredibly old Universe was not created for us, all of us are connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether it is family or community, traditions, culture, an idea or cause to look forward to the future
and the beautiful wider natural world 
n which we were all born and 
  species have evolved. 

This way of thinking means that there is not just one big fact of the meaning of life but a multiple view that can be different from person to person. Each one of us is unique and are different personalities depending on  a complex mixture influenced by our parents,
teachers, community, culture, religion, 
environment, connections and the massive nature of our world. They change with experience and circumstances. There are no simple recipes of living that are applicable to all peoples. We have different tastes and priorities. One person may like painting, walking in the woods and caring for their grand children. Another may prefer sports or hobbies. Some may venture into helping others, some wage war. Different intent and goals. We may find meaning through family or career and chart our future according to what we perceive, understand, and experience.

The time to be happy is now and the way to find meaning to life is to get on and live it as fully and as well as we can
 using choice as the basic premise


Monday, March 24, 2014

Embracing our Contradictions

Sunday Morning Sermon - Mar 23 2014 

There are many people on our planet who think and believe that contradictions are bad. Surely, we must learn to accept that contradictions are actually a necessary part of life where we, humans,  can engage in debate, discussion, and conclusions based on ideas, values, and thoughts that are positive. Of course negative contradictions do lead to violence and destruction as we have seen across the globe over many decades.

The worlds differences have evolved from un-enlightened morality makers who intimidate others using fear, power and control. They have subjected masses of humanity into unquestioning submission and obedience depriving them of their own individual thought. The conflicts and wars we have seen through the ages are a product of this kind of abuse that conditions the minds of ordinary people and their rulers.

What makes a strong human character? We often see many two dimensionally oriented people who, on the other hand try to show a very strong personality across the table and on the other hand crumble into smithereens within their own personal lives. What is it that they are missing out in managing their issues and contradictions?

What is it that makes people tick? Wy do they say and do what they do, even when they know that the outcome could be harmful, detrimental, argumentative, or disharmonious? Conversation and discussion is a part and parcel of human life. We are not lonely creatures. We need to communicate, discuss, argue, debate, and challenge, pre conceived perceptions, scientific theories, and other facts in order to be able to move ahead and not stagnate into brain washed geeks.

Usually, we find that people tend to receive contradictory messages in their lives. Innovate, but dont make mistakes. Think long term but improve your productivity now. Downsize but enhance your teamwork. Empower people but make sure they follow the corporate rules. Kind of spins one head into a whirl. What the F do they really want people to do?

Faced with these kind of contradictions most people choose to play it safe. Hence the status quo prevails. Exhortations abut the need for change fall on deaf ears and some of the best laid plans fall on deaf ears.

Embracing the contradiction helps to try and understand what it actually means and how best it can provide us with better solutions and answers to the many questions and dilemma we face on a day to day basis.

It always pays to try and look out of the box cos it is only then that on e actually sees things that one has never seen before.


Saturday, March 15, 2014


Sunday Morning Sermon - Mar 16 2014

Death is the cessation of all biological functions that sustain any living organism. Situations which commonly bring about death include aging, malnutrition, disease, suicide, murder and acidents or trauma resulting in terminal injuries. The physical bodies of all living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. There is no scientific evidence yet that suggests consciousness survives after death, nor even that dead people are reborn or move to another plane or dimension to live a new form of life.
The word death comes from the Old English deað, which in turn comes from Proto-Germanic *dauþaz (reconstructed by etymological analysis). This comes from the Proto-Indo-European stem *dheu- meaning the "Process, act, condition of dying".
In society, the nature of death and humanity's awareness of its own mortality has for millennia been a concern of the world's religious traditions and of philosophical inquiry. This includes belief in resurrection (associated with the three Abrahamic faiths), reincarnation or rebirth (associated with Dharmic reliions), or that consciousness permanently ceases to exist, known as eternal oblivion (often associated with atheism).
Commemoration ceremonies after the death of a human being may include various mourning periods and other funeral practices. The physical remains of a person, commonly known as a corpse or body, are usually interred whole or cremated, based on prevailing cultures. The Zoroastrians feed their dead to trained vultures who are kept confined in cages in their cemeteries. 
Most people suffer great pain and loss when a family member or close friend passes away. The natural bond of human attraction finds it always very difficult to let go when a person moves on. The loss, basically, is the one suffered by the living for the dead have not lost anything at all to be sad for, even if they could.
This simple fact of life only proves that we are not a lonely species and that we need our loved ones alongside us for as long as possible to be loved and lived through our lives. The bonding between people also emanates from the close proximity, common values, and upbringing they cultivate since birth.
It is plainly seen that the most certain event in life is death. Everything else could easily be a variable to many degrees. While the time and form of death is certainly unpredictable the fact that that it will happen at some point of time in the future is non negotiable.
Most often the sadness is accompanied by the reminiscing of the wonderful times that were shared with the departed. In some cases regret accompanies this sadness in that the living automatically feel that they could have done better to the deceased during their lifetime. But then it is too late now and this usually causes some despair and anxiety in the minds of many.
At the end of the day the only salvation we can get from the death of a creature is if we have been compassionate towards them during their lifetime.
May All beings be Happy.