GM Food is an attempt to think cellular: Awakening to Eco-justice

Bangalore August 28: Maitreya organized three day seminar on “Awakening to Eco justice and Eco spirituality: a pressing call for us today” for a group of Professionals, social workers and Sisters.
The program was animated by three knowledgeable scholars, Dr. Orla Hazra, Srs. Liza Pires and Lancia Rodrigues. The team started the reflections with the issues related to Genetically modified food. Sr. Lancia who is also the leader of the Presentation Sisters, Goa, felt strongly on the outdated humano-centric cosmology that thinks only in terms of profits and benefits. She pleaded for a Cosmology that would respect the creation and experiment with it keeping the whole of future in mind.

Sr. Lancia Rodrigues from Goa engaged the group

Sr. Lancia Rodrigues, who returned to India after a fruitful stint in Ireland and other European countries, enabled participants to become aware of their world view by reflecting old and new cosmology and experiencing the universe story to widen their world perceptive. Understanding God beyond the “I and thou“ relationship to see God as involved in the social and cosmic dimensions of life. The practical implications of international efforts were also addressed briefly by introducing Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen, the statements of the Bolivian President. Participants were made to reflect on how Earth Charter speaks of development, “It’s about being more, not having more’. The wisdom of the tribal way of life was often drawn for reflection.
Sr. Liza Pires sensitized the group to listen and understand the cry of the poor and earth and embrace spirituality that will empower to live the new perspective in Eco-justice.

Maitreya is a place of hospitality: The group was welcomed in their inimitable style of hospitality led by the Provincial Sr. Aquinas Edassery

Dr. Orla Hazra presented Earth Charter as a resource for the group to further enhance their work and align with the international community. The four values and fundamental principles within the Charter are fueled by the vision of humanity as “part of a vast evolving universe”. The functions of bio-religions were defined as earth jurisdiction – the origin, differentiation and role of Rights through the lens of the entire Earth System, Gaia.

The Meditative Cosmic Walk is an attempt to capture the history of the progress of the Cosmos

Along with the group discussions, the resource persons organized a meditative cosmic walk. Action plans formed the last segment of the workshop.
Mr. Eugene Saldanha said, “I accept the nature and my responsibility to conserve it. I used to have a conflict between my belief based the Bible and the insights of Science . The seminar helped me to resolve the conflicts.”
Mr. Raphael told the group, “I’ve gained good knowledge about the new Cosmology and its sensitiveness”. Xavier LBJ said, “Maitreya’s welcoming was wonderful, gained knowledge on a relevant topic and I have to protect the nature”. John Paul SM opined, “I enjoyed the seminar with all the nature-friendly facilities at Maitreya.
It was also suggested that Maitreya with the active presence of a team of volunteers and part time workers reach out to the entire metropolis acting as a piece of leaven.

Sr. Liza Pires pleaded for Eco-justice: Dr. Orla on right watching the presentation

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Universe Story unfolded

Bangalore 22 Aug: Maitreya organized a two day workshop on the New Cosmology and Universe story for representatives from schools and business establishments. Dr. Orla Hazra and Fr. Robert Athickal S.J formed a team to narrate the Universe story.

Fr. Robert Athickal S.J gives the introduction to the Universe Story

The whole exercise of narration of the Universe story is aimed at a greater
participation in the unfolding of the history of the Universe as it is being witnessed by the contemporary human beings. This narration helps us to see greater wisdom in the present-day events when the planet Earth is struggling to subsist in the middle of the blitzkrieg of a particular paradigm of development.
Besides the Reps from the schools of Sophia, Aradhana and Holy Spirit, the assembly had some thought-provoking presence of business establishments and volunteers. Rajee Seetharam from Sophia high school said, “We were all awed by the benign historical processes that took place in the universe last 14 billion years!”

Some of the participants and the Narrators posing with the Provincial Sr. Aquinas (behind the Earth logo)

Sr. Aquinas, the Provincial of the Holy Cross Sisters emphasized on the need for an Eco-spirituality based on rock-solid Eco-justice in our way of life. “Our humano-centric view of life is too narrow that we miss the spectacle and pageantry of the billions of years of intensive concerted action among the galaxies!”

Rupa and Jessie coming from business opined that things could be much better with the inclusive history of the universe. “This fills our hearts with a recurrent and perennial spring of hope in the apparent senseless turn of events on the business front” said Jessie Varghese.

Anand Metu, a software engineer who attended the workshop with his buddy Dhananjay promised to return to Maitreya with more of his friends for hope-filled action. On the last day their friends Mohit and Binay spent extensive time discussing ways and means to promote ecological sensitivity among their circles of software engineers.

Anand Metu and companions from Software industry with Fr. Athickal, Sr. Aquinas and Dr. Orla Hazra

The vice-Principal of Aradhana high school, Sr. Laila Akkanath along with Jyotsna invited Dr. Orla to speak to her students and involve them in the fascinating story of the universe. Renuka Devi and Savitri from Holy Spirit high school too wanted to get their students involved.

Speaking on the occasion on the Green School Program (GSP) of Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi, Sr. Pushpalatha of Maitreya presented the Maitreya plan to reach out to the city and rural schools of Karnataka in the coming months. She showed a simple yet comprehensive way of conducting an eco-audit of the campuses. Representing the 22 year old movement of students, Tarumitra, Fr. Athickal promised to extend total support to the GSP processes.

The GSP expert Sr. Pushpalatha explaining the follow up activities in schools

The participants also had a few unforgettable moments when the latest film of the scientist-philosopher Brian Swimme The Journey of the Universe was premiered in the evening. Brian Swimme transported the audience to the island of Samos, the island near Greece  where he gave a filmy version of the Universe story.

Much discussed film “Journey of the Universe” by Brian Swimme was premiered for the group

The film was shown for the first time in the country and the audience unanimously stated that it was awesome! Rupa from McMillan said that the film along with the workshop gave definite directions for her life. “Many of my questions have been answered” said Rupa who is also a housewife and mother.

Sr. Blaise and team organized a Candle light dinner in the evening

The work shop had quite a number of touching moments of communion with the Earth and among the participants. The evening meals around flickering candle lights and meditative music turned out to be memorable for many.

The work shop was superbly co-ordinated by Srs. Blaise, Fabiola and Pushpalatha.

Present also were the volunteers from England Danielle Grayston and Adele Angus who teamed up with Dr. Orla to organize the heart-warming Cosmic Walk Meditation in the spacious dining room.

Volunteer from England Ms Danielle helping Dr. Orla to organize the Cosmic Walk Meditation

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Jyoti Sahi: Garden of Creation

Indian Artist Jyoti Sahi of Inscape.com (The Art Ashram at the little village of Silvepura, North Bangalore) has been personally very interested in Adivasi traditions in India, and has been involved with thinking about Adivasi cultures for the last twenty five years or more. What follows is a letter that I now share (with Jyoti’s kind permission):

Transfigured-Creation, by Jyoti Sahi

Just now I am sending to you some photo-graphs of the transfigured Garden of Creation which I have been working on. This is a painting about five feet by four feet. It has come out of my interest in the garden as a symbol of Creation in the Biblical tradition, but also in the Vedantic image of the Upavana, the garden of enlightenment which is also the world of the forest where for example Buddha wandered in search of enlightenment, in the area near the Damodar Valley where Hazaribagh is situated.

So the image is in a way an amalgam of four different symbolic gardens, which I feel are inter connected.

  1. There is the garden of  Creation, or the Paradise Garden in which the Primal Human being wandered.
  2. There is the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where the three disciples close to Jesus suddenly saw him (darshana) in a different way, and where he also received the witness of the Prophetic, Wisdom tradition of the ancient Seers.
  3. There is the agony in the Garden, which is the other side of that coin, where the text is obviously modeled on the earlier Transfiguration event, in that again it is the three disciples who fall asleep, and need to be awakened.
  4. Finally these gardens point to the Garden of the Resurrection, where the body of the Risen Lord transforms the whole of Creation, which we see in the light of the Resurrection

This picture, which I have been working on since the Palm Sunday, almost continually, has also been in relation to my essay on the Resurrection Body.

I was thinking that in the Garden of Eden story the serpent plays a dark role as the tempter, but there is also the image of the serpent which was lifted up by Moses in the Desert, which was a sign of healing. In fact Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, refers to this image of the Serpent who was lifted up, as prefiguring in a way his own passion.

I have also been very fascinated by the image of the garland in Indian tradition, as a circle or mandala of flowers, which is also linked to the garland of the whole cosmos, and the series of chakras, or yogic centres that are a series of transformation through the body, linked to psycho-somatic plexus nodes in the body along the path of the spinal column. Jesus is also the water fall, or stream of light and life which gives life to the garden of Creation, in that he says he is the living stream of water that satisfies the thirst of creatures.

Well, I would be interested in any comments you have to offer, or suggestions for how this idea of the four gardens could be developed.

Personally I have been also very fascinated by the Peaceable Kingdom theme, and how the American Quaker artist Edward Hicks (1780-1849) repeatedly painted this theme as his basic vision of Creation and its relation to human society. I myself have repeatedly painted that subject, ever since I first read about this artist and his vision in 1966. As you perhaps know, my wife Jane came from a Quaker family in England. We met in the house of the Quaker architect Laurie Baker with whom I worked for a number of years in South India.

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Jyoti Sahi – Resurrection

THE RESURRECTED BODY.

“By virtue of the Creation, and still more of  the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know  how to see.”   Teilhard de Chardin.

Indian Artist Jyoti Sahi's powerful painting of The Transfiguration

The transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor has assumed since apostolic times a very central significance. Though St. John, whose Gospel is concerned above all with the theological meaning of Christ’s life, does not mention the transfiguration, it nevertheless remains implicit in all the other mysteries which St. John more directly points to. Above all, the Resurrection would hardly be comprehensible if it were to be treated without having in mind the revelation manifested in the Transfiguration. The question which may be asked concerning what appeared to the three disciples on Mount Tabor is whether the change which so startlingly came over the features of Christ, was a change in the actual body of Christ which at this moment assumed a divine splendour, or whether it was a change wrought in the disciples who now for the first time were able to recognize the splendour which until this time had remained veiled to their vision. The Church has always understood the transfiguration as being a definitive moment in the spiritual awakening of the disciples to the realization of the true reality of the Lord. Thus in the Holy Icons we see three rays of light emanating from the transfigured body of Christ and entering into the eyes of the disciples. It was a new vision which was vouchsafed to the disciples, a new faculty of sight. As with the case of the blind man whom Christ gave sight to at the gate of the city, it is the inherent blindness of humanity that is cured at the transfiguration. It is here that the prophecy of the afflicted Job is fulfilled:

“I know that my redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and  after my skin has been thus destroyed,  then from my flesh I shall see God; whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job. 19.25.)

Here too the Resurrection is prefigured—not only the Resurrection of Him who shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, but also of the whole of humanity who in the flesh shall see God.

Sight has always been understood not merely as a physical faculty, but as a spiritual power. We speak of the mystics as seers or Rishis, as those who have visions. Primitive man did not distinguish the Spirit from the body. For him, for example, the physical phenomenon of fire was also a spiritual energy. Thus sight that has as its object the physical, was easily understood as also reaching out to the spiritual. It was not that two separate  operations or faculties connected merely analogically, were being spoken of; one a sensual perception, the other a mental or spiritual one. The same understanding which conceived of the spiritual as intimately integrated with the physical, as essence to substance, could easily comprehend the sensual faculties as also spiritual ones. Thus to see fire was also to have a vision of the god Agni. The disciples who saw Christ with their sensual organs, saw him at the Transfiguration, in all his spiritual splendour. Their seeing was not a totally different form of vision from what we ordinarily mean by sight, but it was the same sensual faculty, extraordinarily extended in power, so that it now could penetrate beyond the substance to the very essence itself.

“Sight” has been divided into the physical sensation of light, and objects in the light, and the mental recognition of the meaning of what is seen. But it has been forgotten that perception is the integration of physical sensation with mental recognition, in a homogeneous impulse. In the actual operation of seeing, the mental and physical cannot be compartmentalized. To distinguish between them is only meaningful if we always bear in mind that the distinction is not actual, but only latent. Sensation and cognition, body and spirit, are coefficients of a single actualized moment of vision. They indicate the potential of vision, but they cannot divide it. There is vision which is merely sensation, in that its total potentiality has not been fully realized. Thus there can also be vision which is extended in power by the cognitive faculty, but still does not  penetrate to the core of reality—such might be the vision of the scientist, who seeks to know what he sees. But the full potential of the actual moment of sight is only fully realized in one who sees not merely with the body, by sensation, or the mind, by cognition, but in the very Spirit, by mystical insight or vision.

Not only is the physical faculty of sensual perception capable of an extension in power, so that it is able to penetrate the spiritual, but also the very physical recognition of spiritual reality, touched upon by those who witnessed the transfiguration, is an essential support of the spiritual reality which has infused the body. We believe in Christ, and this was the constant cry of what we might call the Apostolic Tradition, not merely because the spiritual truth he annunciated had the vigour of Eternal Truth, not merely because he was a Teacher and a Prophet, but because in him the disciples saw the Spirit transfiguring the phenomenological world in the form of a Divine Splendour. Thus St. John proclaims faith in Christ with the authority of one who has seen and felt the reality of the Word of Life incarnated in the world of substance.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”   (1John 1.1)

LIGHT, THE MEDIUM FOR VISION.

Sight, as any other faculty of the senses, requires a medium. If the medium is limited, it inevitably limits the faculty. However strong our power of sight, if the light is dim we see imperfectly. If the medium is temporal, then our vision is temporal too. The medium of the world is by nature temporal if we understand by the “world” that which is merely physical—for the very nature of the physical is that it is hemmed in on all sides by limitations. Thus the sight which depends on physical light is bound to come to an end. What we should strive for is a sight which reaches beyond the physical to penetrate the spiritual. Once the dimension of the Spirit is reached (albeit in and through matter which is never to be understood as separate from the Spirit, though, however, distinct) then vision is eternal.

We have tried to maintain a unity in all thing. There is a unity of matter and spirit, and also in sight there is a unity between what is sensually seen, and what is spiritually perceived. But there is also a unity between what we can perhaps call the perceiving thought, and the objective reality which is perceived between the seer and the seen. Thus, our vision of phenomena is closely integrated with the phenomena. This in the case of a change in vision,  might appear to indicate a change in the objective reality which is seen. To see all things as resurrected in Christ, is to find all things restored in Him. The miracles of Christ effected a change in the corruption or unrest of the phenomenal world. He is described as “looking” upon the distressed, or turning to “gaze” upon the troubled ocean. When he saw the faith of those who sought him, he was moved, and his very vision of them, one could suggest, worked the miracle. Was the miracle, after all, just an example of profound auto-suggestion; the miracle-worker no other than the subjective consciousness of the one who saw the miracle? We forget that the existence of man extends simultaneously on the levels of the three worlds; and only in one of those worlds is he effected by disease, death, and all other manifestations of change. What is revealed by the miracle is not a reversal of the workings of nature, but a deeper penetration into them. We see in the miracle not merely the segment of reality which we call “this world”, but the total reality embracing all the worlds in the eternal now. In this total reality, no man is sick, no man dies, no oceans are troubled by storm. To see the world in its true spiritual dimension, as alive and resurrected in Christ, is already to cure its ailments. The miracles of Christ, are, like the Transfiguration, signs of the Resurrection. Those who look upon our Lord, those upon whom our Lord looks, somehow break through to a new vision of themselves and the world around them in the light of Christ, wherein they realize their essential resurrected body.

“Thou art a God of Seeing—have I even here seen after him who sees me ?” Gen. 16. 13

Accepting this essential idea that the body is already resurrected in its inner spiritual reality, the question often strikes us is how  the world as we experience it with our senses, is so conditioned by suffering and infirmity? Above all, why is our involvement in the physical phenomenological world  so prone to hold us back in our search for the inner kingdom of the Spirit? We could say that there is a certain gravity—a downward pull—in the world of phenomena which seems it work against our search upwards towards the spiritual kingdom. This, I feel, is because man is destined not only to find in the world a medium through which he reaches towards God, but to be a medium (ie mediator) himself, so that the world might travel through him through the successive stages of his own spiritual evolution, to fulfilment in God through Jesus Christ. But, on account of our fallen nature, and concupiscence,  human beings hold on to the world and do not allow nature to pass through human consciousness to discover a new spiritual integrity. Insofar, then, as mankind holds on to the world and refuses to allow it free passage to a higher reality, the world blocks the spiritual progress of humanity, and clogs up the very apertures of our physical perception of the reality in which we live. A bad medium soon becomes saturated, for its power to dissolve is limited, and then there is a mounting sediment. The function of man is to dissolve the world in the pure medium of a spiritual evolution.   In the Resurrected body, matter is perfectly held in solution by the dissolving power of the spirit—the spirit at once dissolves matter, and solves the terrible problem of the tendency to separate from the spirit through gravitation, by maintaining and holding it in a perfect unity with the soul.

This position which humanity holds as a mediator between the Creator and Creation  is, as St. Paul outlines, on account of the human being made in the image of God; an image which is fully restored in the person of Jesus.  Mankind, in whom this image is enshrined, is not to be understood in separation from the rest of the phenomenal world, for the divine image which humanity represents, is a gift entrusted to mankind on behalf of the whole creation. This gift is not a possession, but rather is something to be shared. Ultimately speaking the whole world, of which man is the evolutionary apex, is incorporated into this mystery of the image of God, in that the whole of creation is a true icon of the kingdom in which the Spirit of God reigns.

What we have to attain is a state of consciousness whereby we see, not in the temporal light of the world, but in the eternal light of the Resurrection. In that light the world attains its true beauty and we find nothing in the world which is not spiritual. This is the vision of the world which Christian art has  tried to express; a vision that is not divorced from physical perception.  The spiritual artist hopes to penetrate phenomena and discover in the world as we experience it with our senses, the heart of light that is the true icon of the Resurrection. As St Paul says: “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face” (I. Cor. 13.12)

Teilhard de Chardin speaks of this deeper vision :

“We imagine that in our sense-perceptions external reality humbly presents itself to us in order to serve us, to help in the building up of our integrity. But this is merely the surface of the mystery of knowledge; the deeper truth is that when the world reveals itself to us it draws us into itself; it causes us to flow outwards into something belonging to it, everywhere present in it, and more perfect than it.

The man who is wholly taken up with the demands of everyday living or whose sole interest is in the outward appearances of things, seldom gains more than a glimpse at best of this second phase in our sense-perceptions, that in which the world, having entered us, then withdraws from us and bears us away with it; he can have only a very dim awareness of that aureole, thrilling and inundating our being, through which is disclosed to us at every point of contact the unique essence of the Universe.”

Pensees 5—Hymn of the Universe.

The Resurrection as a way of seeing.

Ultimately the world dissolves, becoming subtle and transparent, at the very point when our vision, penetrating right through its very substance uncovers the inner reality of the Spirit. The Resurrected body is not an ethereal body, a body without substance, but rather a body whose substance has ceased to become a hindrance to vision, a body through which we can look to the pure light of the indwelling spirit.

Sight which uses the merely material as a medium is divided by subject and object, time and space. There is the seer and the seen, and the sight which should unite the two only emphasises the width of the gulf between these opposites, that condition our present way of perceiving reality. Ultimately sight in the merely physical sense becomes another form of blindness, for what we see is nothing other than the medium—beyond the medium no object is revealed. Thus if we look at a tree we do not see the tree but only the physical light upon it. The true medium on the other hand reveals the world in itself. Further, in that medium there is no division of subject and object, time and space, for all are united in the One Light that manifests the unity that underlies the whole of Creation. Unlike the physical light which reveals the world in which we live, we cannot see the True Light, because it is beyond the senses. But it is this True Light that gives meaning and ultimate value to the physical world of our natural environment. We discover an inner eye, or spiritual way of seeing,  when we intuit the presence of a light that illumines objects from within, through which the secret of reality is unveiled.

We might ask whether if it is true that the Resurrected body is indeed present already in the heart of the world? The carnal body which is before our physical gaze, is surely not just an illusion. Going beyond the phenomenal world, we may have to maintain, like the Hindu Advaitin, that there is no such thing really as suffering, darkness, blindness, or death in the world. The only reality is this inner vision where all is united by a divine consciousness. As in a dream we see things which cannot be substantiated in our waking state, we might suggest that the appearance of things as we see them in the physical light of phenomena, is merely insubstantial, a mirage. The true body, the true substance which is  united to the Spirit, is never seen at all. Here again we would, whilst trying to maintain a unitive outlook, be forced to concede the terrible division of physical perception as we know it in the light of phenomena, and spiritual perception whose medium is the light of the Resurrection.

C.J. Jung among many others, always energetically maintained the reality of dreams, despite the fact that they cannot be related to the phenomenological world. Perhaps a concept of various layers of reality is called for, like the various layers of the onion’s skin, each layer distinct in itself but formed around an inner central reality which for us is the central reality of the Resurrected body. Thus the suffering, darkness, blindness, and death which we witness in the phenomenological world, has a reality, but the reality is only to be understood in relation to the central reality of the Resurrection. The reality of  all that is corrupted, incomplete, contained, points to the reality of a condition separated from the true vision of the innermost mystery, a condition of blindness and obscurity, of concupiscence and immaturity. But in and through all this it must be remembered that God is the God of living things. All things in the world, however they might appear to us in the world, are in fact living, pure and perfect in God. That is, in God all things already have their risen bodies.

Incarnation as a cosmic vision.

Christ entered into a particular historical time, and not only into the totality of evolutionary time, as he is conceived of as doing in the Hindu Avatar theory, where the successive incarnations of God represent the divine penetration into evolving stages of phenomena. The divine Word assumed the lineaments of a particular cultural heritage, clothed in the form of a particular human being. In our contact with the phenomenological world it is the particular and localized reality that strikes us most about things. In fact too often it is the particularity of things which seems to stand in the way of our knowing their inner reality. The Platonists held that we cannot know except through universal principles.

It is here above all that  our physical senses seem to be hopelessly useless for spiritual insight, in that the physical senses, as is well known to the artist, can only perceive the particular. There is no sensual faculty which can perceive the universal. It is, I feel, on this account that physical, sensual perception has been divorced from spiritual perception in the thought of many philosophic schools. The imagination has to be based in the here and now of a lived reality.But yet, I feel, the problem of imagining a spiritual world underlying our immediate experience of reality around us, is only apparent. In fact it is in the perception of the particular that we witness above all the mystery of that transformation of sight typified in the event of the transfiguration. The more minutely we concentrate upon the particular in things, we find the substance dissolving to reveal the cosmic. Thus heaven is found in a grain of sand, the universe in a leaf.

The abstract painter who restricts his vision to a texture of rock or organic substance, discovers the evolving patterns of stellar space. Thus the Cosmic Christ of the Resurrection is not a denial of the particular Christ of history, but a vision of the inner reality from which day after day, the minute, down to the smallest atom, is concretized. It is precisely because the economy of God’s salvific plan began with a “kenosis” by which the Eternal Word was incarnated as a babe, having all the fragility of the fragmented, that the same economy led with unfailing certainty to the Ascension whereby Christ assumed His place as Lord of the whole cosmos, the Pantocrator.

The particular tension which Christian art struggles with, is to discover the reality of the Resurrection within the suffering and humiliation of the Cross.  The Resurrection does not turn the harsh truth of human suffering into a mere illusion—something that can be forgotten in the light of a transforming spiritual experience. The same tension is found when we try to see the universal, or cosmic lying hidden in the particular and local. When we speak of the Resurrection as a new way of seeing the world in which we live, it is by accepting the strange paradox of what is eternal enshrined in what is temporal and finite. The divine, we affirm, is present in the human heart, but also in the heart of the world as we perceive it with our physical senses. A spiritual art based on the resurrection cannot be an other-worldly art, but needs to affirm that it is in this world, with all its limitations, that we can break through to a cosmic vision that gives meaning to all that we experience in our bodies.  The Resurrection is in fact an affirmation of a truth that lies buried in the phenomenal world, like a seed hidden in the dark matter of the earth. It is only in the light of this way of seeing that we can hope to recognize the truth of Creation, but also our own role as mediators, and instruments, participating in a process whereby the Creation is coming to birth through our own perception of what Reality means, in the light of our present historical situation.

Jyoti Sahi.  Easter Sunday, 2011

(This essay which was written around 1971, was first published in Word and Worship, Vol V, April 1972. However, I have slightly changed and added to the above text,  in the light of a Creation theology which is concerned with our relationship to Nature, and responsibility for the world in which we live, but also need to recognize the insights afforded by different religious traditions, when thinking about how the Christian understanding of the Resurrection might contribute to inter faith dialogue, while remaining true to its special understanding of the mystery of Christ’s life and death.)

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Renewable Energy powers rural fridges

Renewable energy to power fridges in rural India

Kath Kovac

Australian and Indian researchers are investigating low-cost renewable energy solutions for storing food and providing electric lighting in remote rural Indian communities with no distributed power supply.

The renewable energy project will deliver cold storage for food and electrical lighting for remote Indian villages.

Credit: Stockphoto

The widespread lack of access to electricity in rural areas of India means that cold storage facilities are few and far between. Every year, millions of tonnes of fresh produce spoils before it can be consumed.

CSIRO has been collaborating with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in India on solar-powered cold storage projects, with funding from the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. An extra boost of $1 million from AusAID, announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last November, has allowed a second project to get underway.

The projects, headed by CSIRO Energy Technology’s Dr Stephen White, will compare two different renewable energy-based heat sources and two different cooling technologies. The first is a low-emission solar thermal system combined with absorption refrigeration. The second is a biomass-gasifier that uses a solid desiccant cooling system.

‘We plan to find out which system is more effective for refrigerated storage, and which system is the most cost effective,’ says Dr White.

The biomass-gasifier uses a gas engine to produce electricity; waste heat from the engine runs the desiccant refrigeration system.

Credit: CSIRO

The solar thermal system uses energy from the sun to drive the refrigeration process. A series of concentrating collector troughs reflects light onto a focal point, which heats a thermal store. Heat from the thermal store is then converted into cold using an absorption chiller unit. The design of this system is complete, and it will soon be built.

The biomass-gasifier uses a gas-driven engine to produce electricity, and waste heat from the engine is used to run the desiccant refrigeration system.

‘The design phase of this project will be completed this year,’ says Dr White. ‘We will build the cooling system at our Energy Technology Newcastle site, and do the initial testing. Then, we’ll send it to India, where it will be bolted onto a gas engine built by TERI.’

Dr White explains that the refrigeration systems are being envisaged as a communal cold store – a single building where farmers will be able to bring their produce for storage.

‘TERI plans to set up a commercial arrangement for maintenance and operation of the cold store,’ he explains.

‘This could be a microenterprise arrangement, in which an owner rents out space inside the cold store, and is responsible for maintaining the system.’

As well as powering the communal cold store, the systems will supply electricity to some of India’s most remote villages for the first time. The power will be used for lighting, as well as providing new local enterprise opportunities.

According to Dr White, both systems should be up and running in the chosen villages by 2011.

‘We will then monitor the performance of the two systems over a year or so,’ he says. ‘After the project ends, the systems will remain as part of the community’s lifestyle, and the best unit will be used for commercialisation purposes.’

As with any science experiment, a few variables will affect each system’s performance and efficiency. Success will depend on usage patterns and the availability of the heat source.

The biomass-gasifier system will operate intermittently, depending on how often the villagers collect biomass – woody material and other waste agricultural products – and feed it to the gasifier.

In contrast, the solar thermal system will be self-running, but only while the sun is shining. India has about 300 sunny days each year, but Dr White says that air pollution haze may affect the system’s efficiency. To combat this, the solar thermal system will also be supplied with a biomass gasifier-based generator to supply backup heat for the cooling system.

Cost will also be an important factor for success. Dr White predicts that the solar cooling system is likely to be the best for refrigeration, but more expensive, whereas the biomass-gasifier system is likely to be the most cost effective, but may not achieve the best refrigeration outcome.

Article taken from CSIRO (Australia) Publishing:

http://www.ecosmagazine.com/?paper=EC153p13

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Fukushima Power Plant

Commonweal Editorial, April 22, 2011

The Editors of Commonweal Magazine

In the weeks since Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has spewed contamination and displaced thousands. It has also rekindled fears across the globe about the risks of nuclear power and at least temporarily slowed the industry’s revival in the United States.

Overnight, U.S. public opinion turned from cautious support to renewed skepticism about the safety and cost of nuclear energy. The skeptics don’t doubt nuclear power’s potential benefits (the industry describes itself as clean, cheap, reliable, and home-grown), but worry about the very small margin for error in handling nuclear materials. Such skepticism will surely increase as the causes, extent, and costs of the Fukushima disaster become clearer. For while nature played a dramatic role in Fukushima’s demise, it is clear that design failures and faulty safety measures were also to blame. The Japanese nuclear-power industry is hardly unique in this. Last year the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found twenty-four instances of equipment failures at U.S. plants, failures that had not been properly reported.

None of this caused President Barack Obama to veer from his commitment to nuclear power in his speech on energy policy at Georgetown University on March 30. The president continues to insist that it makes sense for nuclear energy to play a significant role in meeting the nation’s need for electricity. One wonders what the president thinks of the daily reports from Fukushima: tens of thousands displaced, workers injured, contaminated food, radioactive seas, and reports of highly toxic, long-lived cesium 137 isotopes in seven thousand people twenty-five miles from the plant, at levels nearly double those that impelled the Soviets to create a no man’s land around Chernobyl that still exists.

There remains a two-pronged problem with increasing our reliance on nuclear energy: the immediate and long-term risks, and the staggering costs associated with developing, maintaining, and decommissioning nuclear plants. Of the 104 facilities now operating in the United States (which provide 20 percent of our electricity), 23 are based on the same model as those that failed at Fukushima. Furthermore, a number of U.S. plants are situated either adjacent to seismic faults or near large population centers (the Indian Point facility, thirty miles from Manhattan and within fifty miles of 20 million people, is built on a fault line). Evacuation plans for many of these plants are risible. While it is true that 80 percent of U.S. plants have incorporated new safety features since the Chernobyl meltdown (1986), and other safety measures have followed since 9/11, it is ultimately the “safety culture” and the redundant containment methods at each plant that will make the difference. Fukushima had eight-hour back-up batteries in case of an emergency. That proved inadequate. Yet only 11 of 104 U.S. plants have the same coverage. The other 93 have batteries that last only four hours.

Then there’s the expense and the risk of maintaining and decommissioning nuclear materials. The immediate issue is what to do with the ever-increasing number of spent but highly radioactive fuel rods. This “waste” problem has reached a crisis point. Contrast the roughly 70 tons of spent rods at the Fukushima reactors with the 690 tons housed at Vermont’s Yankee plant alone, or the staggering 1,430 tons at the San Onofre plant, just thirty miles from San Diego. Reactor cooling pools now hold five times more spent rods than they were designed to house. Not including the military’s nuclear waste, there are over 72,000 tons of material we don’t know where to store. No one wants it, either in his back yard or under it. The planned Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada has been scrapped for political and geological reasons. Keeping this material safe for hundreds, indeed thousands, of years will prove an even more toxic legacy for our heirs than the national debt.

Just as there are rational if politically elusive solutions to the debt conundrum, potential solutions exist for meeting our energy needs without having to settle for the Faustian bargain of nuclear power. Over the next forty years we will have to rely on cleaner, safer energy while at the same time finding ways to use less energy per capita. As the Economist noted (March 26), we must also burn less coal. Global warming is a real and crippling danger. It will produce rising seas, prolonged droughts, massive migrations, epidemics, political instability, and wars. The most efficient way to short-circuit the warming is to create an ethic of conservation based on efficiency, nonpolluting renewable energy, and plentiful natural gas. That will require a dramatic change in American habits as well as significant economic restructuring and investment. It’s a daunting challenge, but the only alternative is continued ecological degradation and the risk of more Fukushimas.

April 5, 2011

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Activist Ends Hunger Strike

INDIAN ACTIVIST ENDS HUNGER STRIKE

Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare surrounded by supporters from across India

A social activist whose Gandhi-inspired hunger strike was fueling a nationwide wave of people power demonstrations has reached a deal with the government in his demands for anti-corruption legislation.

A party atmosphere prevailed near the iconic India gate in downtown New Delhi Saturday, hours after a respected social activist announced he was ready to end a hunger strike in a standoff with the nation’s government.

Anna Hazare and hundreds of supporters sipped lemon juice following the Indian government’s formal pledge to form a joint committee aimed at passing tough new anti-corruption legislation.

Hazare told supporters, all brothers and sisters of the nation from various religions and cultures have to be united to fight for our nation.  If this government does not pass the anti-corruption measure, he says, he will take India’s three-color flag and join the people again for a renewed struggle.

Frustrated by decades of failure by India’s government to pass anti-corruption legislation, Hazare, 72, began a “fast unto death” last Tuesday.

The tactic is lifted straight from the non-violent playbook of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the architect of India’s independence from Britain.  Hazare called his campaign against corruption a “second battle for India’s independence.”

Hundreds of sympathizers joined the hunger strike, and support gatherings were held in major cities nationwide.  Prominent Bollywood actors and other Indian luminaries voiced their public support, and an avalanche of social media messages praised Hazare’s efforts.

As part of the deal to end the strike, India’s government has pledged to form a committee headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss giving civic groups and ordinary citizens a greatly enhanced role in naming and punishing corrupt officials at every level of Indian society.

Many Indians see corruption as the country’s greatest national crisis.  Their anger has been fueled by headlines of multi-billion dollar scams presided over by senior officials.

In a statement Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was happy that the government and representatives of civil society were able to come to an agreement.  Mr. Singh aims to bring anti-corruption legislation before the parliamentary session scheduled to begin June 30.

Hazare’s Gandhi-inspired struggle has been a source of embarrassment for Mr. Singh’s Congress Party-led UPA government. The Congress Party was established by Gandhi himself, and his closest associates and relatives.

The Indian Prime Minister says his party is committed to cleaning up government.

The UPA government is making every effort to deal with the menace of corruption in public life,” said Sing.

Hazare is telling supporters the real battle lies ahead in ensuring the government lives up to its promises.

Taken from a news.com article

 

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