What is Spinoza’s God?

Let’s Talk Religion Spinoza is one of the most controversial and debated philosophers in the last few centuries. This video attempts to give a very general overview of his perspective on God as well as some ways that it can be interpreted. The video is a collaboration with the lovely channel “Seekers of Unity”, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL9A… Sources/Suggested Reading: Garrett, Don (1996). “The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza”. Cambridge University Press. Nadler, Steven (2018). “Spinoza: A Life”. Cambridge University Press. Wolfson, Harry Austryn (2014). “The Philosophy of Spinoza: Unfolding the Latent Processes of His Reasoning”. Harvard University Press.

Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

by Ron Kurtus (school-for-champions.com)

The basis of Buddhism is a doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths.

The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths is a fundamental concept taught by the Buddha.

Questions you may have include:

  • What are the Four Noble Truths?
  • What does each mean?
  • What is the Eightfold Path?

This lesson will answer those questions.

Note: This is an educational website. We are not promoting any one religion.

Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are stated in simple terms as:

  1. Suffering, pain, and misery exist in life
  2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
  3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
  4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

Details of Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are open to interpretation, especially in modern versions of Buddhism.

1. Suffering exists

The viewpoint is that suffering and dissatisfaction exists in life. This suffering is called dukkha.

Human nature is imperfect, as is the world you live in. During your lifetime, you inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death. This is especially true for poor people.

This means you are never able to keep permanently what you strive for. Happy moments pass by, and soon you will too.

2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires

The cause of suffering is called samudaya or tanha. It is the desire to have and control things, such as craving of sensual pleasures. For example, if you desire fame and fortune, you will surely suffer disappointment and perhaps even cause suffering for others.

Attachment to material things creates suffering because attachments are transient and loss is inevitable. Thus suffering will necessarily follow.

3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases

The end to suffering is called nirodha. It is achieving Nirvana, which is the final liberation of suffering. The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. It is attaining dispassion.

Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles and ideas. It is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path. This liberation from suffering is what many people mean when they use the word “enlightenment.”

The path to the end of suffering is gradually seeking self-improvement through the eight elements. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance and other effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made through each lifetime.

Eightfold path

There are eight attitudes or paths you must follow to find freedom from suffering. These are the “right” or correct things to do in your life:

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

This is the way to reach Nirvana.

(See Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism for more information.)

Summary

The Four Noble Truths is the basis of Buddhism. The First Truth is that life consists of suffering, pain, and misery. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path.

Be kind

Ron Kurtus’ Credentials

Websites

About Buddhism – The Four Nobel Truths

ReligiousTolerance.org – Buddhism

BuddhaWeb – Buddhism basics

Religion Resources

Books

(Notice: The School for Champions may earn commissions from book purchases)

Top-rated books on Buddhism

Book: “A Criminal History of Mankind”

A Criminal History of Mankind

A Criminal History of Mankind

by Colin Wilson 

Colin Wilson tells the story of human violence from Peking Man to the Mafia – taking into account the calculated sadism of the Assyrians, the opportunism of the Greek pirates, the brutality that made Rome the ‘razor king of the Mediterranean’, the mindless destruction of the Vandals, the mass slaughter of Genghis Khan, Tamurlane, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler and more. Each age has a unique characteristic pattern of crime. In the past three centuries crime has changed and evolved until the sex killer and the mass murderer have become symbols of all that is worst about our civilization. But this is not just a study in human depravity; it is an attempt to place crime in perspective against human discovery, exploration and invention. The result is a completely new approach to the history and psychology of human violence.

(Goodreads.com)

Book: “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”

Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

by Chögyam TrungpaCarolyn Rose Gimian (Editor) 

In this practical guide to enlightened living, Chögyam Trungpa offers an inspiring vision for our time, based on the figure of the sacred warrior. In ancient times, the warrior learned to master the challenges of life, both on and off the battlefield. He acquired a sense of personal freedom and power—not through violence or aggression, but through gentleness, courage, and self-knowledge. The Japanese samurai, the warrior-kings of Tibet, the knights of medieval Europe, and the warriors of the Native American tribes are a few examples of this universal tradition of wisdom. With this book the warrior’s path is opened to contemporary men and women in search of self-mastery and greater fulfillment. Interpreting the warrior’s journey in modern terms, Trungpa discusses such skills as synchronizing mind and body, overcoming habitual behaviors, relaxing within discipline, facing the world with openness and fearlessness, and finding the sacred dimension of everyday life. Above all, Trungpa shows that in discovering the basic goodness or human life, the warrior learns to radiate that goodness out into the world for the peace and sanity of others. The Shambhala teachings—named for a legendary Himalayan kingdom where prosperity and happiness reign—thus point to the potential for enlightened conduct that exists within every human being. “The basic wisdom of Shambhala,” Trungpa writes, “is that in this world, as it is, we can find a good and meaningful human life that will also serve others. That is our true richness.”

(Goodreads.com)

Dear world leaders, these are our climate demands

6:13Xiye Bastida, Shiv Soin and Latif Nasser|Countdown Global Livestream

Investing in green energy, holding large corporations accountable for their pollution, stopping pipeline and oil extraction initiatives — these are non-negotiable actions to protect the planet, but they are still just the bare minimum, say climate activists Xiye Bastida and Shiv Soin. In conversation with radio researcher Latif Nasser, Bastida and Soin share their list of six crucial climate demands for world leaders — and discuss how we all can get involved. (This segment was part of TED’s Countdown Global Livestream on October 30, 2021.)

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Latif Nasser · Radio researcherLatif Nasser is the director of research at Radiolab, where he has reported on such disparate topics as culture-bound illnesses, snowflake photography, sinking islands and 16th-century automata.

Xiye Bastida · Climate activistXiye Bastida is one of the lead organizers of the Fridays For Future youth climate strike movement.

Shiv Soin · Climate activist

Shiv Soin is executive Director of TREEage, a youth-led climate justice organization fighting for climate justice.

Thanksgiving Guests Freeze In Disbelief After Teenager Informs Them Of Native American Genocide

Thursday 7:00AM (theonion.com)

SUDBURY, MA—Their forks clattering to the table mere moments after the 16-year-old’s sudden announcement, Thanksgiving guests at the Ross family dinner reportedly froze in disbelief Thursday after teenage son Ryan informed them of the genocide of Native Americans. “No, no, it can’t be! Not my precious holiday!” said mother Alexandra Ross, 47, one of several dumbfounded family members who at first listened in rapt amazement to the high school junior’s statement that the first Thanksgiving was nothing like what was taught in schools before breaking the silence by spitting out their mashed potatoes and turkey into their napkins and screaming at the top of their lungs. “This changes everything! Everything! What were we doing here gathered with your grandmother on a terrible day like this? Oh God, burn the tablecloth! Burn the little pilgrim figurine! Burn it all down!” At press time, family patriarch Jim Ross had proclaimed that he “couldn’t stand the horrible truth” before grabbing the carving knife and slitting his own throat from ear to ear in front of his stunned teenage son.

How to heal through life writing

How to heal through life writing | Psyche

Learning to write about trauma helps you to process the painful experience, and gives you the life skills to overcome it

by Uddipana Goswami Writing Girl by Walter Gramatté (1897-1929). Photo by Alamy

Uddipana Goswami teaches at the Johns Hopkins University and is a writer and writing instructor. Her work revolves around gender and identity-based conflicts. She offers courses on healing through writing for trauma survivors.

Edited by Pam Weintraub

28 October 2021 (aeon.co)

Need to know

Traumatic life events engulf us in chaos and uncertainty. Often, as a coping mechanism, we shut out the world and withdraw within ourselves. In extreme cases, we become fearful of community and human contact. Trauma takes a heavy toll on our emotional and mental health, and continues to haunt us even when we have physically emerged from the life events that caused it. Trauma leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and manifests in the form of anxiety, depression, anger, exhaustion or oscillating emotions. For people dealing with trauma, writing – and especially life writing – can be very therapeutic. Over and above seeking professional mental health support, I also suggest using writing as a way to heal.

As someone who has survived domestic violence, I have been through it all. Nine years after I ran for my life with a six-month-old in my arms, I find my PTSD manifesting itself in many ways. Seemingly innocuous incidents sometimes trigger my trauma and I find myself reliving my past anxieties and stresses, remembering the days I lived with a violent and abusive partner.

What is keeping me afloat, though, is writing. During my nearly five-year-long abusive marriage and for nine years after, when I left my partner but continued to face different forms of harassment from him, I used my writing to help me heal. Expressive writing is often prescribed as therapy to improve mental health. And I did a lot of it initially, immediately after I left my partner: I wrote about the different forms of abuse I faced, and I also wrote about my fears, uncertainties and trauma as well as the day-to-day challenges of being a single mother. This writing was unstructured, ungrammatical even, because it was aimed merely at releasing pent-up feelings. I suggest you try it too when you’re overwhelmed by emotions and feel paralysed by them. It is cathartic.

What helped me more than expressive writing, however, is life writing. In 1919, Virginia Woolf complained in her diary: ‘Life piles up so fast that I have no time to write out the equally fast rising mound of reflections.’ Life writing is about giving pause to the self to deal with this ‘mound of reflections’ and review one’s life from a critical distance. Simply put, it is nonfiction writing on a person’s life and experiences reconstructed from memory and linked to a larger theme of universal concern.

Life writing encompasses a variety of genres – from autobiography and memoir to diaries and journals, as well as oral testimonies and eyewitness accounts. Writing short memoir pieces and personal essays proved most therapeutic, helping me reflect on my situation, accept it, reach out to people through it and, finally, heal. I wrote a newspaper article on why I married a wife-beater and another on why men abuse women with impunity, and the process helped me realise that, in writing about my trauma, I was also acquiring certain life skills that were helping me cope in my day-to-day life. In giving vent to my deep-seated pain and sadness, I was learning to accept them as a part of me. In accepting, I was healing; and, in sharing my story with my readers, I was emerging from my isolation and seeking solidarity. Victims of domestic violence remain silent because, often, they aren’t believed. But the response from my readers overwhelmed me. I found strength to move on. Subsequently, I concentrated on my scholarship and on publishing other forms of writing – social and academic – and started teaching students how to write.

For two years now, I have taught students at the University of Pennsylvania how writing skills are also life skills; I’ve brought the emphasis to writing workshops in my greater Philadelphia community as well. Like life – and survival – writing follows an organic trajectory where the individual must go from acknowledging one’s pain and defining it to confronting it, through action and words. To overcome one’s trauma is to be able to distance oneself from it, and writing teaches one how to achieve that critical distance.

What to do

To cope with your trauma and heal from feelings of isolation, uncertainty, depression and loss of control, I suggest you try writing about your life too. You needn’t launch into a full-length memoir if you haven’t attempted the genre before; instead, you might like to start with short fragments in the form of a personal essay. Later, you can string them together thematically or chronologically to make a full-length memoir. If not, you would still have written the one essay that will stand on its own.

Each step in the process, listed below, will teach you key skills. By applying these skills to your life, you can own your trauma. By owning it, you’ll find the strength to overcome it. What’s more, by the end of the process, you will have a completed piece of writing that you can share with your readers or even try to publish.

Step 1: Identify a topic (skill: learning acceptance)

The first step in writing a personal essay or memoir is to identify a single topic or theme around which the narrative can be woven. To find this topic among your life’s rich experiences, you can critically look back and name a specific emotion, challenge or trauma you wish to address through your writing. This will require facing your vulnerabilities and accepting the challenge or trauma as a part of you. When you accept your vulnerability, you’re also building the strength you’ll need to overcome it. For instance, writing about her obesity in Guernica magazine in 2017, Carmen Maria Machado accepts that she grew up hating her own body and ‘participating in my own oppression in grotesque ways’. In a society that treats fat women as jokes and aberrations, she describes her struggle to accept herself without shame and guilt.

From this acceptance comes the ability to overcome, one step at a time. Writing about her struggle with a prophylactic mastectomy and the subsequent reconstructive surgery in Granta magazine in 2018, Nell Boeschenstein comes to understand that she elected for reconstruction for the same reasons that some other women choose silicone implants: ‘vanity, beauty standards, a desire to feel good about oneself’. Her account of her journey toward this acceptance transforms her essay into a deep critical reflection on the cultural distinctions we make between ‘fake boobs’ cosmetically enhanced, and ‘fake boobs’ surgically reconstructed. Thus, while focusing on personal trauma, the personal essay can also elevate writers beyond their immediate circumstances and connect them to larger concerns. It puts the pain in perspective for them and for their readers.

Framing your topic, then, is as important as identifying it because how you frame it will determine the direction in which you’ll grow, both as a writer and as a survivor. Both Machado and Boeschenstein learn to accept their bodies by putting in perspective the social and cultural norms that determine what desirable women should look like. This is how Machado reclaims her power and ‘audacity of space-taking’ through her writing, and Boeschenstein grows out of her culturally programmed ‘desire to disdain any choices women make’.

Step 2: Develop the topic (skill: gaining metacognition and awareness through reflection)

The memoir/personal essay is inward-looking to the extent that its primary topic is derived from one’s life experience. However, when you develop this experience around a particular theme or topic that has larger relevance, it gains resonance with your readers and connects you to them. In other words, the inward gaze that informs your writing is also outward-looking and aims at building connections with the world around you. For example, if you want to write about how you felt isolated during the lockdown and social distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, your fears and anxieties are yours alone; nobody else can write about them. But speak to somebody outside of your household, or read what others have to say about their own lockdown experiences, and you realise you aren’t really alone. Thus, it helps at this stage of writing to do some research and find out what others in similar situations did, felt or overcame, and how. It not only gives you strength in your everyday life, but also makes your writing richer. It connects you to every other person who is also feeling the same emotion under similar circumstances. What’s more, your writing becomes richer when you establish this universal connection instead of remaining caught up in the specificity of your situation. Connectedness with a global phenomenon will go a long way toward assuaging your personal sense of isolation and helping you navigate through it.

You will recognise this connection through reflection, by critically thinking through your emotions and experiences. When you’re reading or researching, you’re also absorbing information. Reflection helps you process this information and connect it to your life. It also gives you the rare ability to understand and make sense of your life as you live through it, giving you more control over it.

Controlling your life’s narrative in this way requires the same kind of critical thinking essential to the writing process. While your content explores connections with larger concerns, your structure will have to support a logical narrative that connects the personal with the public, the specific with the universal. In writing your essay/memoir, you might begin from the universal and deconstruct it until you reach the specific. Alternatively, you can go from the specific and build up to the universal. Or, if you prefer, you can braid the two together through parallel narratives. Both form and content are thus dependent on metacognitive reflection: on your life, to show how it’s connected to other lives, and on your craft, determining the language and architecture of your writing.

Step 3: Write and review (skill: building community)

Given the amount of introspection involved, writing usually feels like a solitary job. When you’re recollecting and reflecting on your experiences, when you’re framing them and deciding on the best way to present them to your reader, it’s natural to feel you’re on your own. Structuring your essay and drafting it are also tasks that you must perform by yourself. However, implicit in this solitary activity is a whole network of people and processes that inform and are influenced by it. For one, it’s hard to contemplate a life unpeopled by friends, family and acquaintances. In writing about your personal trauma, you will necessarily also write about the people who caused it, mitigated it or minimised it. If reading a certain book helped you through the toughest times in your life, the author of that book is also a part of your life.

When you begin the process of writing, your readers are part of your process, even if you don’t know them personally. No matter what you write, you always have a reader in mind, however amorphous.

If you think about it, writing is embedded in community and is also an exercise in building community. Writing a memoir/personal essay is especially powerful in this regard because, by sharing intimate aspects of your life, you’ve placed your trust in a community that believes you. Especially for trauma survivors, it needs to be a safe space. Therefore, in the writing classes I conduct, I keep the number of participants very small, and allow space for withdrawal where needed. The process of healing takes time and, most importantly, it needs the support of an intimate and nurturing community.

If you’re not part of a writing community and start to feel alone while writing, reach out to fellow writers. You can search for writing groups in your local library, or via online neighbourhood spaces such as the Nextdoor app, and join them at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to looking for publishers. Moreover, in the age of social media, online writers’ groups are easily accessible and many of them are nurturing, safe spaces. Look for moderated private groups rather than open, public ones. Leaning on fellow writers is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it suggests that you have the clarity to recognise where you need help, and the strength to accept it when offered.

Step 4: Publish (skill: taking ownership)

Through the process of writing, a survivor can build the strength to publish their life story with all its imperfections and emotional turbulence. If they can publicly own their vulnerabilities and write about the emotions that traumatise them, they’re able to step out of their closed container of grief, fear, guilt, shame or pain. It can be the difference between speaking out and being silenced all over again.

Of course, this is not an easy task for survivors, and adds to the many emotional and mental challenges they deal with in their daily lives. The fear of being judged is real, even for people without PTSD. But it’s beneficial for survivors to learn how to deal with external evaluation. Being able to continue writing and living despite rejection and criticism is what turns a victim into a survivor. Like their memoir/personal essay, the writer’s personal life is always subject to outside inspection. Processing reviews and feedback is the same in everyday life as in writing. The way in which the writer processes feedback from editors and readers reflects how they cope with rejection or praise in real life. If they can take ownership of their life and writing, rebuffs or rejections from editors will help them enhance their craft rather than discouraging them from writing ever again.

In my writing classes, I make it optional for writers to publish their essays. I do, however, consistently encourage them to consider it in order to start building newer, stronger selves.

Key points – How to heal through life writing

If you’re ready to write your memoir/personal essay, remember the following key points:

  • For people dealing with trauma, writing – and especially life writing – can be very therapeutic.
  • Life writing and the personal essay focus on one emotion or experience in your life, but your writing should connect it to larger concerns. What makes you vulnerable might be your immediate circumstances, but these circumstances are informed by systems, processes or problems. Identify those through research: this could range from speaking to people around you to scholarly reading.
  • When writing, you might want to look inward before looking outward. Through the process of writing, learn acceptance: accept your emotional and physical scars and don’t be afraid to share your vulnerabilities. Reflect critically upon your life and find out what makes you part of a larger universe.
  • Grief is private, grieving doesn’t have to be. Embrace community, whether in the writing process or in overcoming the challenge that you write about. The community of fellow writers, editors, readers and reviewers will help you polish your craft; the community of friends, family, coworkers and fellow sufferers around you will provide solidarity, support and the strength to go on.
  • Learn to take ownership of your life and shape it the way you want through writing. Use the perspective of others to create a better version of yourself and your writing, but don’t allow it to silence you.
  • Write and live as a survivor, not as a victim. Then, when you’re ready to share your writing with your readers, know that you’re no longer just a survivor, but a victor!

Learn more

The memoir, the personal essay and the confessional essay are the three most common forms of life writing. While an autobiography charts the entire course of one’s life, these three forms of writing explore particular facets of it.

You can think of a memoir as a nonfictional novel based on a certain period, theme or cast of characters that have special meaning in your life. It’s usually a book-length work with multiple chapters covering hundreds of pages. You can design a memoir as you would design a traditional novel, making your story a unified experience and weaving in a narrative that flows from chapter to chapter, leading the reader on an uninterrupted journey. Alternatively, you can string together a series of essays telling different stories about your life. Your anthology can be given narrative coherence by grouping or sequencing the individual essays chronologically or thematically.

These shorter pieces are known as personal essays. They’re more focused than a memoir, and more centred and singular in approach. As mentioned above, a personal essay picks on a particular theme or topic and narrates the writer’s life experience around it. Like a memoir, it requires reflection and metacognition. It also requires social awareness and the ability to turn the writerly gaze outside of one’s self. In other words, though shorter in length and smaller in scope than a memoir, the personal essay, like the memoir, is not a self-absorbed self-analysis but a commentary on and connection with ‘something bigger’.

This is where the confessional essay comes under attack: it has been vilified in contemporary criticism as a type of life writing that’s self-centred, sensational and clickbaity. A subgenre of the personal essay, the confessional essay often focuses on conventionally taboo topics such as rape and incest. It also divulges the secrets of female pleasure and thrives on self-humiliation. And, significantly, it is a genre that has been overwhelmingly shaped by women in recent times.

Despite allegations that women writers are usurping the personal essay space to air their dirty laundry in public, the confessional essay is here to stay. While, as critics claim, confessional writing might not connect the personal to the political or social through its content, its form itself is a political statement: it empowers women, hitherto marginalised, to tell stories that were never given any space in the ‘mainstream’.

You can pick from any of these subgenres and begin exploring the possibilities of healing through life writing. The journey from victimhood to survival begins from within – sometimes with, sometimes aside from receiving professional help; you can also start healing yourself by following the four steps detailed above. Each stage teaches you a key life skill that will help rebuild a strong and victorious life.

Links & books

Here’s a list of personal essays that will make you think not just about people’s lives and how every life is connected to the world outside, but also about the craft of writing itself: ‘The Price of Black Ambition’ (2014) by Roxane Gay, ‘Notes of a Native Son’ (1955) by James Baldwin, ‘Picturing the Personal Essay: A Visual Guide’ (2013) by Tim Bascom, ‘Drinking Chai to Savannah’ (2017) by Anjali Enjeti, ‘A Few Words About Breasts’ (1972) by Nora Ephron, ‘A Few Words About Fake Breasts’ (2018) by Nell Boeschenstein, ‘The Trash Heap Has Spoken’ (2017) by Carmen Maria Machado, ‘My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant’ (2011) by Jose Antonio Vargas, ‘Acting French’ (2014) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ (2012) by Rebecca Solnit.

You might also want to read these books on writing and life writing:

  • Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature (2016) edited by Meredith Maran: an inspirational guide to the memoirist’s craft.
  • The Autobiographer’s Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir (2008) edited by Jennifer Traig: insightful and powerful strategies from writers including Elizabeth Gilbert, Nick Hornby and Maxine Hong Kingston.
  • The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present (1997) edited by Phillip Lopate: 75 diverse selections of the form.
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) by Stephen King. At once a reflection on a beloved writer’s life and a guide to the genre.

Two inspirational and informative podcasts for writers:

  • Grammar Girl: short episodes covering style, punctuation, grammar and the history of the English language, from Mignon Fogarty, the founder of the advice site Quick and Dirty Tips.
  • I Should Be Writing: advice on the practicalities, trials and roadblocks of the writing life, hosted by Mur Lafferty.

The Indian Farmers Defend the Rights of Farmers Everywhere

NOVEMBER 26, 2021

BY VIJAY PRASHAD (counterpunch.org)

Photograph Source: Ravan Khosa, edited by Aristeas – CC BY-SA 4.0

On November 19, 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “[W]e have decided to repeal all three agricultural laws.” The prime minister was referring to the three agriculture laws that were rushed through the parliament in 2020. During his speech to announce the rollback, Modi told the farmers that they “should return to [their] homes, fields and to [their] families. Let’s make a fresh start.” At no point did Modi admit that his government had passed laws that would negatively impact the farmers, who have spent a year protesting the laws thrust upon them.

It seems likely that Modi will not give up on his policies to privatize agriculture, but rather will return to them with different packaging. “Our government has been working in the interest of the farmers and will continue to do so,” he insisted.

Jubilation at the Victory

The idea that Modi’s BJP-led government had been “working in the interest of the farmers” was not apparent to the protesting farmers. To gauge the sentiment of the farmers and their organizations, I interviewed Dr. Ashok Dhawale, the national president of the All India Kisan Sabha—one of the key farmers’ associations—and a leader of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM)—a United Farmers’ Front. Dhawale told me that Modi’s promise to repeal the three farm laws “is a classic case of too little, too late.” It is “too little” because Modi only accepted one of the farmers’ demands (repealing the laws) and not the slate of other demands, which included the creation of a robust minimum support price (MSP) structure; it is “too late” because during this year-long protest, 700 farmers have lost their lives due to the privations of the protest and government repression.

“This is only the second time in the last seven years of his rule that Modi has been forced to make a humiliating climbdown,” Dhawale told me. “The first was in 2015, when he was forced to take back the Land Acquisition Act [of 2013], again as a result of a countrywide farmers’ struggle.” Since Modi came to power in 2014, he has pushed an agenda to deliver Indian agriculture to the large corporate houses. But the farmers fought him then and continue to fight him now.

The farmers have not left their protest encampment despite Modi’s statement on November 19. “They will stay put until these hated farm laws are actually repealed by [the] parliament,” Dhawale told me. “And also, until their other demands are… [met]. All over the country, there is jubilation that one part of the battle has been won. But there is also [a] determination to see that the other just demands of this struggle are conceded.”

Why Modi Surrendered

Dhawale said that there are several reasons why Modi decided to repeal the three farm laws. The first has to do with the upcoming regional elections in the three key states that border India’s capital, Delhi (Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh). In recent months, the BJP saw its supporters dwindle in number during the by-elections that took place in the Indian states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan—in which the BJP did not perform well. These six states in northern India where elections have either taken place or are scheduled to take place are in close proximity to Delhi and are the states from where many of the farmers joined the protests, which took place at Delhi’s border. If the protests had continued, the leaders in the BJP felt that the party would see major attrition not only among the farmers and working class but also among sections of the middle class in India.

Nothing is more important to focus on, Dhawale said, than the actual struggle and determination of the farmers. On September 5, for instance, the farmers organized a Kisan Mahapanchayat (a mass meeting of farmers), which was called by the SKM and saw a huge turnout. The tone of the meeting was fierce, with the farmers clear that they were not only fighting against these three laws but also against the entire approach of the BJP government. The tenor of the protest was to fight for a secular and socialist India, a vision diametrically opposed to the political ideology of Modi’s far-right Bharatiya Janata Party known as Hindutva.

The tempo of the struggle began to increase through September. On September 27, the SKM called for a general strike across India (Bharat Bandh), which was the third such strike during this year-long protest by the farmers. It was “the most successful of the three,” Dhawale said, with millions of people joining the struggle. A month later, on October 18, the farmers blocked train tracks (Rail Roko) across the country against the BJP government, which had tried unsuccessfully to use religious differences to divide the farmers.

Despite Modi’s announcement to roll back the farm laws, tens of thousands of farmers planned to gather at Delhi’s borders on November 26, the first anniversary of the farmers’ revolt, with others protesting in solidarity around the country. To build toward this, on November 22, after Modi’s surrender, leaders from the farmers’ organizations met at a large Kisan Mahapanchayat in Lucknow (the capital of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) to pledge to continue the struggle. “The mood of victory and determination was infectious,” Dhawale told me.

Unsettled Issues

Between 1995 and 2018, 400,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, 100,000 since Modi took office in 2014, Dhawale said. Their deaths are directly linked to the agrarian crisis in India produced by a combination of the withdrawal of state regulation and intervention on behalf of the farmers and the impact of the climate catastrophe.

In 2004, the Indian government asked the eminent scientist M.S. Swaminathan to lead the National Commission on Farmers. By 2006, the commission produced five landmark reports with a long list of important recommendations. Almost none of the substantial recommendations have been adopted by the successive governments. One of the recommendations was to increase and strengthen the MSP for farmers. Window dressing by governments has not improved the situation for the farmers; a recent survey shows that the farmers’ incomes have declined.

Farmers know what they want, and they have said so clearly: price supports, loan waivers, withdrawal of electricity price hikes, repeal of the labor codes, subsidized costs of fuel, and so on. These issues, Dhawale said, “are at the root of the agrarian crisis and massive peasant indebtedness. They lead to farmer suicides and to distress sales of farmlands.”

“If farmers are to grow our food and farmers are to eat, then the demands of the farmers must be met,” Dhawale said. This is not just a cry for Indian farmers. The farmers in India continue to fight in a struggle they share with farmers everywhere throughout the world.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

Becoming a shaman

New Thinking Allowed with Jeffrey Mishlove Jürgen Kremer is author of the textbook Psychology in Diversity, Diversity in Psychology – An Integrative Psychology for the 21st Century. He is coauthor of Ethnoautobiography. He has been an executive editor for ReVision: Journal of Consciousness and Transformation) since 1994. He teaches psychology at Santa Rose Jr. College in California. His email is jkremer@sonic.net. Here he distinguishes between “shamanic practitioners” such as himself and authentic shamans who work within very specific cultural traditions and are acknowledged as such by their community. As a psychologist, he incorporates drumming, chanting, and other trance and animistic practices, from various cultures, into his work and personal life. He points out that we all have shamanistic cultures in our ancestry if we go back far enough. This recognition can help us achieve greater balance in life. New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is the recipient of the only doctoral diploma in “parapsychology” ever awarded by an accredited, American university (University of California, Berkeley, 1980). (Recorded on February 12, 2021)

What Is Consciousness?

We all know what consciousness is: it’s our direct experience of the present moment, our window into the external world, the feeling of what it is like to see, smell, taste, touch, hear, think, emote, and more. Yet it also seems to be the case that we have no idea what consciousness is.

Consciousness has baffled neuroscientists and philosophers alike for centuries; indeed, for many people, there seems to be a fundamental, perhaps even unbridgeable, gap between the subjective, felt sensation of, for example, pain and the electrochemical activity of our brains. How, then, could consciousness arise from the brain?

In this event, three extraordinary experts on consciousness will debate each other about their answers to this question.

Christof Koch is a legendary neuroscientist who has collaborated with Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, to uncover the “neural correlates” of consciousness. Since Dr. Crick’s death, he has continued in this line of research and developed, along with another neuroscientist, Integrated Information Theory, which is arguably the leading scientific account of consciousness.

Bernardo Kastrup is a philosopher who also boasts an impressive background in science; he worked at the high-energy particle collider in CERN before pursuing a career in analytical philosophy of mind, where he argued for the idea that reality itself is an extended form of consciousness.

Finally, Rupert Spira is a spiritual teacher who belongs to the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, a “non-dual” school of Hindu philosophy that believes that an infinite, pure, divine consciousness underlies the apparent duality between the perceiving self and the perceived universe.

Consciousness, sexuality, androgyny, futurism, space, art, music, physics, astrology, democracy, photography, humor, books, movies and more