Wednesday, August 20, 2008

August 20, 2008

Be Kind, Don't Rewind

According to yogic philosophy, we're born with a karmic inheritance of mental and emotional patterns—known as samskaras—through which we cycle over and over again during our lives.

The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam ("complete," or "joined together") and kara ("action," "cause," or "doing"). In addition to being generalized patterns, samskaras are individual impressions, ideas, or actions; taken together, our samskaras make up our conditioning. Repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. Samskaras can be positive—imagine the selfless acts of Mother Theresa. They can also be negative, as in the self-lacerating mental patterns that underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships. The negative samskaras are what hinder our positive evolution.

But with mindfulness, right intention, and a lot of patience, you can turn your negative patterns into positives. The first step is to become aware of when you're falling into your habits.


Stuck in a Rut?

Sanskrit Glossary

Monday, August 18, 2008

Inside an Afghan opium market
By Bilal Sarwary
BBC News, Shaddle Bazaar, eastern Afghanistan

Opium being sold at Shaddle Bazaar
Opium sellers are wary of outsiders

Travelling on Afghanistan's main Jalalabad to Torkham road, you eventually arrive at Shaddle Bazaar, a market of around 30 shops in the eastern province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.

At first glance, it looks like any other normal market offering everyday goods.

But in reality, this is one of Afghanistan's biggest opium markets.

Farmers from Nangarhar and other adjacent provinces bring opium to Shaddle to sell. Much of it comes from Nangarhar and Helmand - two of Afghanistan's biggest opium-producing provinces.

Mud hut shop

Thousands of kilos of opium are bought and sold every day.


Sitting inside the shop tension between the drug dealers is visible - for a few minutes there is hot dispute and shouting over prices and the quality of the opium before the transaction is completed.

There are big scales in the shop, and the assistant weighs the opium on it - Gul Mohammad is busy counting out Pakistani rupees to pay for the opium he has bought from one of his suppliers.

In his mud hut shop he buys hundreds of kilos of opium every day and the smell of it is everywhere.

Outside his shop vehicles come and go - green tea is served constantly for the visitors.

It's argued that opium can be used for medicinal purposes

But you do not have to study what is going on too closely to notice the unusual - a man carries a big bag full of hundreds of thousands of Afghanis.

The dealers all carry pistols which they say is for their own protection.

Customers enter the shop bringing opium packed secretly, which they refer to by its nickname as maal. They are constantly on the look-out for government informers.

I am repeatedly asked not to take pictures of anyone's face, nor should I name anyone. The names of those involved in the drugs trade in this piece have been made up to protect their identity.

"We could get killed or arrested," says one of the few people in the shop willing to talk to me.

Europe bound

Some villagers, like 18-year-old Abdullah Jan, have to walk for hours before reaching Shaddle. The tiredness on his face explains it all - if he is stopped by government agents or bandits he would lose money that feeds his family for the entire year.

"I left at four in the morning and got here after four hours. I have brought 10kg of opium from my fields to sell."

After a hard bargain with Gul Mohammad Khan, the opium dealer, he is getting the equivalent of $1,400 - more than he can get for any other crop. He is one of hundreds of people who travel to Shaddle bazaar to sell and buy opium.

Graph showing soaring opium production in Afghanistan

From here the opium is taken to the nearby mountains and villages in the border areas to heroin labs set up by local drug dealers, where it is processed into heroin.

Eventually, it will hit the streets of Europe.

The market first began to sell opium openly under the Taleban regime after they permitted the cultivation of poppies.

After the fall of the Taleban in 2001, the market has been raided several times but it has re-opened again and again.

In recent months, Afghanistan's elite anti-drug force has raided the bazaar with the help of foreign forces in the country - they made arrests and seized opium and heroin in large quantities. But they did not succeed in closing down the bazaar indefinitely.

Last year, Afghanistan's poppy production reached record levels.

The US state department's annual report on narcotics said the flourishing drugs trade was undermining the fight against the Taleban.

Powerful mafia

It warned of a possible increase in heroin overdoses in Europe and the Middle East as a result.

Poppy production rose 25% in 2006, a figure US Assistant Secretary of State Ann Patterson described as alarming. Four years after the US and its British allies began combating poppy production, Afghanistan still accounts for 90% of the world's opium trade.

Opium being burnt in Afghanistan
The authorities are trying to eradicate opium crops

The US has recently given the Afghan government more than $10bn in assistance, but most of the money will be spent on security rather than encouraging alternative sources of income.

For 45-year-old Gul Mohammad Khan being a opium trader is his way of surviving.

"If we had roads, clinics, factories and if there were job opportunities I would not do what I am doing now," he said.

For the past 10 years Mr Mohammad has seen many regimes and local officials come and go. His shop has been raided many times but he has never been arrested.

Inside, I am shown various qualities of opium and other raw material that are used to make heroin. Current prices are anywhere from 10,000 Afghanis ($201) for a kilo of dry opium - that is the best quality - to around 5,500 Afghanis ($110) for wet opium.

Target traffickers

According to officials, the mafia is powerful and strong.

"They are so strong that we sometimes find ourselves outnumbered fighting them," says Gen Daud Daud, the deputy minister of interior in charge of counter narcotics.

"In these mountains of Achin district and other border villages they have everything from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and of course better vehicles and more money than we do."

Haji Deen Gul - who is selling 20kg of opium - is critical of the Afghan government and the international community for targeting the farmers. Instead he wants the traffickers to be targeted.

"They should target the ones who are selling the heroin to Western countries. I sell my opium to feed my family and from my heroin they can even make medicine. When I have water and roads provided to me, I will stop growing poppies."

Before I leave Gul Mohammad Khan's shop, he tells me selling opium is not ideally the trade he wants to be in.

"I don't want my children to be in this trade and I hope that some day the world will help us. Only then can we stop the opium trade."

Names of those mentioned in the article have been changed to protect their identities.

Gandhi Peace Brigade/ Light a Candle for Peace on September 12
by Jes & Leslie ( jes_richardson [at] )
Monday Aug 18th, 2008 2:19 AM

A Festival of Friendship will be held on September 12 to create an Axis of Friendship between Americans and Iranians. Iranians, Americans, and people around the world are invited to light a candle for peace and place this candle in their window for the entire day. Join us in celebrating and honoring the humanity that connects us all. It will be held at the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza from 3:30-6:30 pm. We will deliver children's art, poems and letters to Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders with offices in the Federal Building. The rally will conclude at the Plaza with a festival of Iranian and American music, food, dancing and poetry.

Dear Friends,

The world shared America's grief after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Old barriers dividing nations collapsed with a worldwide outpouring of sorrow and compassion. Americans discovered friends in unlikely places, none more unlikely than Tehran, Iran. Thousands of Iranians spontaneously lit candles in solidarity with the families of 9/11 and the American people.

Instead of accepting opportunities for global peace and friendship, the Bush Administration used 9/11 as a pretext for sowing the seeds of a "war against terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world's offer of good will was squandered.

On September 12, we will reignite the remaining embers of good will by creating an Axis of Friendship. Iranians, Americans, and people around the world are invited to light a candle for peace and place this candle in their window for the entire day. Join us in celebrating and honoring the humanity that connects us all.

A Festival of Friendship, including military families and veterans, Iranian-Americans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others in opposition to the bombing of Iran will be gathering on September 12 at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza from 3:30-6:30 pm. We will deliver children's art, poems and letters to Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders with offices in the Federal Building. The rally will conclude at the Plaza with a festival of Iranian and American music, food, dancing and poetry.

Similar events are encouraged in Washington DC, Boston, Portland, Seattle, Austin, and other cities around the country and the world ... especially in Tehran. If you are interested in coordinating an event in your city, please reply to this email. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to our friends in the Bay Area for organizing this celebration.

Peace and Freedom,

Jes & Leslie

India fears vacuum left by Musharraf

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

Indian troops during the 1999 Kargil conflict
India blamed Gen Musharraf for the 1999 Kargil conflict

The resignation of Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, may have come as a relief to most people in his country.

But in Pakistan's giant neighbour, India, there are some who are less pleased and even anxious at his imminent departure.

Delhi has traditionally been restrained in its comments on Pakistan's internal politics, concerned that it may be seen as meddling.

So its first reaction after Monday's announcement was entirely predictable.

"We have no comments to make on the resignation of President Musharraf of Pakistan", the Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said in a statement. "This is an internal matter of Pakistan", he added.

"Radical extremists"

But even as speculation on General Musharraf's future mounted during the past few weeks, one high-ranking official voiced what many in India fear - that his exit leaves a political vacuum in Pakistan.

In a recent interview, the Indian National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, said Delhi was "deeply concerned about this vacuum because it leaves the radical extremist outfits with freedom to do what they like - not merely on the Pakistan-Afghan border but clearly on our side of the border too".

"Like nature abhors a vacuum, we abhor the political vacuum that exists in Pakistan. It greatly worries us," he said.

Nuclear neighbours

India has had a mixed relationship with Pervez Musharraf.

The removal of Musharraf would result in the military playing a more autonomous role on issues of relations with India
G Parthasarathy

Retired Indian diplomat

Many in the Indian establishment view him with deep suspicion, especially after the two countries fought a bitter conflict in 1999, in the Kargil region of Indian-administered Kashmir.

As the Pakistan army chief, he was largely viewed as the prime motivator of the conflict, which saw armed insurgents backed by the Pakistan army invade territory under Indian control, provoking a near all-out war between two nuclear-powered neighbours.

And his blunt comments on relations with India - which sometimes bordered on the belligerent - have often left foreign-office mandarins fuming.

But over the years Delhi has also learnt to deal with the former general.

There is a sense in the world's largest democracy that there is more to be gained with a military dictatorship that is all powerful and controls all organs of the Pakistani state, than with a relatively weak civilian administration that may be at odds with the country's powerful intelligence and military.

"The removal of Musharraf would result in the military playing a more autonomous role on issues of relations with India, including policies on [Kashmir], support for the Taleban and control over nuclear weapons," says a retired Indian diplomat, G Parthasarathy, in The Times of India newspaper.

Political uncertainty

This is a difficult period in relations between the two rivals.
The damaged entrance to India's embassy in Kabul
A bomb attack on India's embassy in Kabul last month killed 41 people

A series of recent terror attacks on Indian targets and growing violence in Indian-administered Kashmir has soured the mood after a steady if unspectacular peace process that has been ongoing since 2004.

It culminated in last month's attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, which Delhi publicly blamed on Pakistan's intelligence service - something that was immediately contested by Islamabad.

And last week, India was incensed after Pakistan spoke out against the killing of unarmed protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir by the security forces.

"We have never interfered in Pakistan's internal matters. Pakistan should do the same," warned Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

With relations once again on the downside, the political uncertainty in Pakistan is deeply frustrating for India.

Privately senior Indian officials say they are unsure of whom to talk to in Islamabad and who is in control.

"Is it Prime Minister Geelani, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari or [army chief] General Kayani?" asked one official, who wished to remain unnamed. "We don't know", he told the BBC.

It is this kind of unpredictability that is very unsettling especially at a time when India is faced with growing insecurity in Kashmir and elsewhere.

More than anyone else, India will be hoping for political stability in Pakistan.

Meditation as Medicine

Healing meditations should be simple, appealing, and useful.

By Carol Krucoff

Healing meditations should be simple, appealing, and useful, says T.K.V. Desikachar, who teaches the following practice. The experience begins with easy movements and breathing to prepare body and mind, invokes a personal comfort item to bring healing throughout the body, and concludes by offering healing to the entire world.

Begin Standing

Inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhale and lower your arms as you recite the word namaha, which means “to honor.” Repeat six times.

Inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhale, hinge forward at your hips, and touch your feet as you recite the word namaha. Inhale as you return to standing, and raise your arms overhead. Exhale, hinge forward at the hips, and touch your knees as you recite the word namaha. Continue this practice, moving your hands up your body with each exhalation, touching—in turn—your hips, belly, heart, throat, mouth, ears, eyes, and crown of the head as you recite the word namaha.

Sit Comfortably

Close your eyes and tune in to your breath. Inhale as you count to six, hold your breath as you count to three, then exhale as you count to six. Repeat 10 times.

Lie Down

Close your eyes, surrender your body to the earth, and bring your attention to your breath. Place your hands on your heart and breathe gently. Now, think of something that brings you great comfort. It can be a person, a place, a color, an object, a prayer, a word—whatever you like. Visualize this thing of comfort in as much detail as you can.

Continue to visualize this thing of comfort as you take your hands to your belly—inhale for a count of six, hold for a count of three, exhale for a count of six. Then, continuing to visualize this thing of comfort, move your hands to your heart—inhale for six, hold for three, exhale for six. Continue this practice— moving your hands, in turn, to your throat, mouth, ears, eyes, and head.

Next, scan your body, looking for any place of disturbance, tension, or pain. Now, visualize your thing of comfort as you move your hands to this place. Inhale for six, hold for three, exhale for six. Repeat 10 times.

Sit Comfortably

With eyes closed, chant namaha three times. Open your eyes and chant it three times, inviting this healing to help you and to benefit the entire world.

For information about Desikachar’s yoga teaching and therapy, visit the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram website, For information about its yoga therapy training, visit

Sunday, August 17, 2008

See how four women in Bangalore, South India are changing their lives with microcredit.
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Nobel prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus: "Creating a Poverty-Free World."
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Grameen Koota Bangalore: A Microcredit success story in India.
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Grameen Foundation: How we are fighting poverty with microcredit.
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We are yoga teachers and practitioners with a vision
of bridging the yoga community in the U.S. with people who need help in India, the birthplace of yoga. Nearly forty percent of the world's poor live in India. Out of a population of 1.1 billion over one fourth earn less than a dollar day. We recognize that our lives have been forever changed by the wisdom we have taken from yoga and we feel a need to give back.

Compassion is a uniquely human quality
that calls on our highest nature to respond to another person, or even the earth itself if it is in need. This is truly the highest yoga we can undertake, a tangible expression of the unity that underlies all life.

In order to realize this goal
we have teamed up with one of the world's premiere microfinance networks, the Grameen Foundation. The Foundation has several partners in India which have already helped thousands of people. As of December 2007, Grameen Foundation reaches 4 million clients across more than 20 countries. In total, the network impacts an estimated 20 million lives in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East.

Yogis, join us in this revolutionary campaign
to help India's poor.