Reflective writing

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (Tibetan)


H.E. Chagdud Tulku, 1930-2002, was a renowned teacher of Buddhism.  He was known and respected in the West for his teachings, his melodic chanting voice, his artistry as a sculptor and painter, and his skill as a physician. He acted as a spiritual guide for thousands of students worldwide.

The Power of Peace: A Teaching

"It is my wish that the spiritual power of peace will touch very person on this earth, radiating from a deep peace within our own minds, across political and religious barriers, across the barriers of ego and self-righteousness. Our first task as peacemakers is to clear away our internal conflicts caused by ignorance, anger, grasping, jealousy, and pride. With the guidance of a spiritual teacher, this purification of our own minds can teach us the very essence of peacemaking. We should seek an inner peace so pure, so stable, that we cannot be moved to anger by those who live and profit by war, or to self-grasping and fear by those who confront us with contempt and hatred.

Extraordinary patience is necessary to work toward world peace, and the source of that patience is inner peace. Such peace enables us to see clearly that war and suffering are outer reflections of the mind's poisons. The essential difference between peacemakers and those who wage war is that peacemakers have discipline and control over egotistical anger, grasping, jealousy, and pride, whereas warmakers, out of ignorance, cause these poisons to manifest in the world. If you truly understand this, you will never allow yourself to be defeated from within or without.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the peacock is a symbol for the bodhisattva, the awakened warrior who works for the enlightenment of all beings. A peacock is said to eat poisonous plants, but to transform the poison into the gorgeous colors of its feathers. It does not poison itself. In the same way, we who advocate world peace must not poison ourselves with anger. Regard with equanimity the powerful, worldly men who control the war machines. Do your best to convince them of the necessity of peace, but be constantly aware of your state of mind. If you become angry, pull back. If you are able to act without anger, perhaps you will penetrate the terrible delusion that perpetrates war and its hellish suffering.

From the clear space of your own inner peace, your compassion must expand to include all who are involved in war, both the soldiers—whose intention is to benefit but who instead cause suffering and death and thus are caught by the terrible karma of killing—and the civilians who are wounded, killed, or forced into exile as refugees. True compassion is aroused by suffering of every sort, by the suffering of every being; it is not tied to right or wrong, attachment or aversion.
The work of peace is a spiritual path in itself, a means to develop the perfect qualities of mind and to test them against urgent necessity, extreme suffering, and death. Do not be afraid to give it your time, energy, and support."



Margaret Atwood (Canadian)

Margaret Atwood is Canada's most eminent novelist and poet, and also writes short stories, critical studies, screenplays, radio scripts and books for children, her works having been translated into over 30 languages. Her reviews and critical articles have appeared in various eminent magazines and she has also edited many books, including The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (1983) and, with Robert Weaver, The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English (1986). She has been a full-time writer since 1972, first teaching English, then holding a variety of academic posts and writer residencies. She was President of the Writers Union of Canada from 1981-1982 and President of PEN, Canada from 1984-1986.

She is perhaps best known, however, for her novels, in which she creates strong, often enigmatic, women characters and excels in telling open-ended stories, while dissecting contemporary urban life and sexual politics. Her first novel was The Edible Woman (1969), about a woman who cannot eat and feels that she is being eaten. This was followed by: Surfacing (1973), which deals with a woman's investigation into her father's disappearance; Lady Oracle (1977); Life Before Man (1980); Bodily Harm (1982), the story of Rennie Wilford, a young journalist recuperating on a Caribbean island; and The Handmaid's Tale (1986), a futuristic novel describing a woman's struggle to break free from her role. Her latest novels have been: Cat's Eye (1989), dealing with the subject of bullying among young girls; The Robber Bride (1993); Alias Grace (1996), the tale of a woman who is convicted for her involvement in two murders about which she claims to have no memory; The Blind Assassin (2000), a multi-layered family memoir; and Oryx and Crake (2003), a vision of a scientific dystopia, which was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction.
died American literature--among other things--at Radcliffe and Harvard in the 1960s. She is the author of 11 novels. 

The essay that follows also appeared in The Nation.

A Letter to America

Globe and Mail (Toronto) Friday, March 28, 2003 - Page A17

Dear America:

This is a difficult letter to write, because I'm no longer sure who you are.
Some of you may be having the same trouble. I thought I knew you: We'd become well acquainted over the past 55 years. You were the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comic books I read in the late 1940s. You were the radio shows -- Jack Benny, Our Miss Brooks. You were the music I sang and danced to: the Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, the Platters, Elvis. You were a ton of fun.

You wrote some of my favourite books. You created Huckleberry Finn, and Hawkeye, and Beth and Jo in Little Women, courageous in their different ways. Later, you were my beloved Thoreau, father of environmentalism, witness to individual conscience; and Walt Whitman, singer of the great Republic; and Emily Dickinson, keeper of the private soul. You were Hammett and Chandler, heroic walkers of mean streets; even later, you were the amazing trio, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, who traced the dark labyrinths of your hidden heart. You were Sinclair Lewis and Arthur Miller, who, with their own American idealism, went after the sham in you, because they thought you could do better.

You were Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, you were Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo, you were Lillian Gish in Night of the Hunter. You stood up for freedom, honesty and justice; you protected the innocent. I believed most of that. I think you did, too. It seemed true at the time.

You put God on the money, though, even then. You had a way of thinking that the things of Caesar were the same as the things of God: that gave you self-confidence. You have always wanted to be a city upon a hill, a light to all nations, and for a while you were. Give me your tired, your poor, you sang, and for a while you meant it.

We've always been close, you and us. History, that old entangler, has twisted us together since the early 17th century. Some of us used to be you; some of us want to be you; some of you used to be us. You are not only our neighbours: In many cases -- mine, for instance -- you are also our blood relations, our colleagues, and our personal friends. But although we've had a ringside seat, we've never understood you completely, up here north of the 49th parallel. Romans, but aren't Romans -- peering over the wall at the real Romans. What are they doing? Why? What are they doing now? Why is the haruspex eyeballing the sheep's liver? Why is the soothsayer wholesaling the Bewares?
Perhaps that's been my difficulty in writing you this letter: I'm not sure I know what's really going on. Anyway, you have a huge posse of experienced entrail-sifters who do nothing but analyze your every vein and lobe. What can I tell you about yourself that you don't already know?

This might be the reason for my hesitation: embarrassment, brought on by a becoming modesty. But it is more likely to be embarrassment of another sort. When my grandmother -- from a New England background -- was confronted with an unsavoury topic, she would change the subject and gaze out the window. And that is my own inclination: Mind your own business.

But I'll take the plunge, because your business is no longer merely your business. To paraphrase Marley's Ghost, who figured it out too late, mankind is your business. And vice versa: When the Jolly Green Giant goes on the rampage, many lesser plants and animals get trampled underfoot. As for us, you're our biggest trading partner: We know perfectly well that if you go down the plug-hole, we're going with you. We have every reason to wish you well.

I won't go into the reasons why I think your recent Iraqi adventures have been -- taking the long view – an ill-advised tactical error. By the time you read this, Baghdad may or may not look like the craters of the Moon, and many more sheep entrails will have been examined. Let's talk, then, not about what you're doing to other people, but about what you're doing to yourselves.

You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.

You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.

You are torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.
If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.

The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn't dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country's hour of greatest peril, he would return. You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.


Source for biography:



Garrison Keillor (American)

Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor, born in weekly program, A Prairie Home Companion, also known as the Garrison Keilor Radion Show in the United Kingdom's BBC7 and in Ireland and Australia is a satire, storytelling and musical variety show.

Garrison Keillor's Letter on the War

The opposition to this war is not about George Bush, or pacifism, or flabby thinking by liberals, so much as it is a simple sense of dread at the thought of the United States of America entering into a religious war against Islam. The idea strikes Republicans and libertarians as well as Democrats, that our crusade in Iraq may lead to a place we don't want to go, and that is the Fifty Years War in which suicide bombers become a routine part of American life and we are trapped inside a bad movie that doesn't end. A war that my grandsons will dread as they grow old.

Dread is the feeling that grips the 25% who answer to the word Opposed or maybe we're down to 15% by now, after day after day of Olympics coverage of the war, seeing the incredible firepower, witnessing the awesome and inspiring fact that young men and women are willing to face death in behalf of this country (and how would we know, except in war?) one sits and watches television reporters who are giddy as if they were embedded in the World Series of War, Our Very Own Yankees vs. pitiful Podunk High. But if you are not embedded, if you are a free American, you may sense that we are floating into a very deep canyon.

We of the 25 or 15 or 7% aren't so visible. The demonstrations don't represent us at all. How do you march under banners that say THIS IS APT TO TURN OUT TRAGICALLY and DON'T HIT THAT TAR BABY? The people marching in the streets seem to be a lot of Democrats happy for the chance to jeer at Bush. I am not one of them. I went to a vigil on the first Sunday night of the Crusade, and it was straight out of 1972 ---- same people holding the same candles and singing the same songs and not singing them nearly as well. And "We Shall Overcome" doesn't get at what I am feeling, which is: we are caught in the grip of events and heading toward an outcome that cannot be predicted. We are bombing Baghdad and every one of those bombs is going to come back to us. Here we are, pushing boldly into the Middle East with American troops (would Dwight D. Eisenhower have done this?) to bring democracy to a world that is utterly alien to 99.44% of all Americans. Does this add up? I wish that George Bush were right and that he'd be hailed by historians and his tight-lipped face be chiseled into the mountain. I would sit at the base of the mountain and sell postcards. But I do not accept his case for this war.

I fear the worst. Our military is tough, well-trained, disciplined, fighting in behalf of a lot of us loose, happy-talking, impulsive, dreamy people walking around eating ice cream cones at the carnival, about as disciplined as a battalion of cats. This is not a militant or religious country. I've been in religious countries and this is not one of them. You can buy liquor on Sunday anywhere in America, find pornography in any Marriott and every Walmart, listen to songs on the airwaves whose lyrics make you wince and turn pale. These are products of entrepreneurial capitalism, which thrives in our loose jazzy democracy, along with timeless art and comedy and enormous human kindness, but if we get caught up in the Fifty Years War against Islam, we will find out how fragile all of this is. We'll become of necessity a much tougher and more disciplined society, in which we obey instructions and stick to the message, and that, dear hearts, is not my country.

The conservative intellectuals who did the think-tank work on our new preemptive strategy have made a brilliant case for it, that reads well in the pages of political journals and sounds brave and good on the Sunday morning talk shows, and now a few tired old liberals must try to express the old conservative objections: the world is not an abstract construct and as much as you try to reassure the Muslim world that this is not a religious war, it is one if they think it is. Everyone knows that 9/11 was a religious attack, and the crusade in Iraq is our response to it. A religious war is the worst kind, a war impossible to win and very difficult to extricate ourselves from.

God spare us. God save us from ourselves. A great deal depends on this country having a genuine election next year, with a real debate that names the dangerous road we've taken. Flag-waving is no substitute for democracy. Every one of us honors the heroism of the young who face death; none of us want to demand this of 57,000 of them in the near future.

Copyright 2003, Garrison Keillor