Peace Within, Peace With Each Other, and Peace With Nature
Hanne Strong’s spiritual journey followed a path guided by indigenous shamans, and masters of the Buddhist, Hindu, and Sufi traditions. Early on, she co-founded the first non-profit, private foundation for people with disabilities and dispossessed street children. She organized and chaired two conferences in what came to be known as the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. And she launched the Earth Restoration Corps, a global environmental program, established to train young adults. She also has labored diligently for world peace as a Senior Advisor for the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations. For over 40 years, she has worked with Native Americans and other indigenous peoples throughout the world to preserve their spirituality, cultural values, and native lands. To this day she still fights to protect the pristine mountains, wildlife habitats, and delicate eco-systems of her beloved Crestone, Colorado.
She was instrumental in the creation of Shumei’s Crestone Center. She and her late husband, Maurice Strong, invited Shumei to found a spiritual center in Crestone and offered our organization the land on which to build it.
Shumei’s founder, Mokichi Okada, taught that one must serve others to find true happiness. If that is so, Hanne Strong must be one very happy person.
Peace Within, Peace With Each Other, and Peace With Nature
In a recent New York Times article, it was said: “the Youth Population is one of the biggest problems facing humanity.” I found that shocking. Young people are a problem? We brought them into this world. We have lessened their chance at any future and have positioned them to deal with the growing list of crises facing our planet. And now, we call ‘them’ the problem, when we are the ones who have created these problems. Instead, we must recognize young people as the ‘solution.’ And if we give them the guidance and the proper tools that they need, they and all of us might have a chance.
These are critical times. In critical times, it is of the utmost importance to realistically assess and address the situation in a very direct, practical way. It does not matter what philosophy we hold or what religion we follow. We cannot avoid the reality of our environment, our social systems, and our personal consciousness. The crisis is as close as the earth we stand on, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the sun we live beneath.
The basis for cooperative human relations and environmental awareness is at our moral and spiritual core. We have lost touch with this. Our root problem, from which this crisis has arisen, is that we are living out of balance with ourselves, with each other, and our Earth. If we do not take steps to acknowledge how the destruction of the environment is an outward reflection of the imbalance within ourselves, then the environment will continue to remind us in ever more dramatic ways. Our present solutions to environmental and social problems are only Band-Aids. If we want our external world to change, we must first create change within ourselves.
In 1984, my late husband was given the job of feeding 200 million people during the great famine in Ethiopia. Two million people had already died. He did manage to help keep those 200 million people alive, at one point raising five billion dollars in one week, shipping food in from every corner of the world to help do so. During one of Maurice’s official visits I accompanied him and requested a meeting with the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia. I asked the Patriarch at that meeting what he thought was the cause of this great famine. He said the answer was in their ancient text, “that when brother fights brother, the land will dry up.” In other words, he was saying that what is inside your consciousness, your hatred, fear, jealousy, and all negative emotions reflect on nature. He said that because of the conflict—there was a civil war taking place at the time. Brother was fighting brother, and the land was drying up.
Making the change we want to see is no easy task. How do we change 7.5 billion people? It is not easy. To begin this change, we need to recognize our inherent connection to the earth. People need to connect with nature. We need to embrace the importance of living by natural law because nature has her own laws. These laws include the law of cause and effect and the law of interdependence. For example, if you do one thing another is going to happen. If you frack the land for oil, you are going to get earthquakes, if you pollute the water you are going to get sick. Each action you take has an effect. It is a simple matter to observe the correlation between cause and effect. If we are greedy, we do not hesitate to exploit the earth. If we are peaceful, we will not create chaos. Our internal environment, our minds, and our external environment, the world, are intimately interrelated. In ignoring the law of cause and effect, we fail to understand the results of our actions. We look outside ourselves for answers, instead of living and acting for the benefit of the whole, which is the law of interdependence.
Nature consists of four elements: water, earth, fire and air. We have totally abused these elements. The relationship between all living beings and these vital elements creates either balance or imbalance. Since humanity has abused the elements, they are now out of balance, and we are witnessing widespread new diseases and mental illnesses, wars and conflicts, greed and unprecedented natural disasters. We are discounting fundamental natural laws, such as “Never take more than you need,” and “When you take, always give something back.” It is very simple gifts the earth is asking for, such as gratitude. There are so many simple little gifts, like tobacco and prayer ties, that we can give back to nature so that the spirits of nature will participate with us. We take excessively from the earth and return nature’s gifts with toxins and trash. That’s what we are giving the earth now—toxins and trash. And then we are fracking her. We are blasting bombs, waging wars, polluting, and cutting down all the trees. At the moment, this is what we are giving back to the earth, and we are giving it back on a huge scale. Where is our gratitude and where is our respect? We receive our very existence from Earth, yet we waste water, pollute the air, poison the soil, clear-cut the forests, and destroy our protection from the sun.
If we are to survive, we must raise our sights toward supporting the immediate development of the highest aspect of being human within ourselves, and help inspire others to participate. Shumei is doing that. This is your job, to encourage others to join. It is time to move away from materialism, greed, waste, and the over emphasis we place on power. During these critical times, we must recognize our moral and sacred obligation to provide the next generation with a new direction and vision.
At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, world leaders asked whether modern society can live sustainably on the planet without fundamentally changing. The answer is ‘no.’ The Earth Summit was represented by all the governments of the world. So, even the governments realize we must change. (They do not want to pay for it, but they know we have to change.) What then is the fundamental change that must take place if the human race is to survive? What is called for is a revolution of the consciousness. We do not have time for evolving slowly; we have to have a revolution.
What is consciousness? Consciousness is the spark, the seed; it is the soul that originates from the great mother space from which everything arises. Consciousness is awareness. It is an expression of space that cannot be destroyed. The human receives its ‘consciousness soul’ at the time of conception. It is the ‘seed of god’ that needs to be nurtured to fulfill its potential. Light (Jyorei *1), warm-heartedness, meditation, love, kindness, non-duality, and beauty are what nurture the human consciousness toward becoming a flourishing, beautiful flower. A very high Tibetan Llama once told me that not realizing your potential is like having a billion dollar jet and driving it like an old car.
Each of us is being called upon to tap into the purity and potential of our very own consciousness. As there is so little time available, a revolution is necessary. This is a very different revolution from uprisings in the past. This revolution is to reclaim our humanity—to embrace what it means to be human, and this can only be done by raising our own consciousness. I am calling this a revolution of the consciousness. As conscious revolutionaries, we need to focus on restoring the environment and empowering young people and future generations. These two points are intricately linked as we can concentrate on providing youth with the tools to restore the earth and themselves by offering ways to explore the meaning of being a human on this planet. We can teach the next generation that there are alternative solutions to the endless cycle of working for low wages and spending money on useless objects that deplete our natural resources.
Many of today’s youth see the destructiveness and meaninglessness of the actions of this and past generations. Many young people feel powerless and have no sense of direction, and many reflect this by leading self-destructive lives. These are the vulnerable youth that terrorist organizations are luring and recruiting. The young are especially in great need of discovering purpose and dignity in their lives. The question is how can we generate, support, and guide their enthusiasm and motivation before they become mired in hopelessness? They are in need of an inspiring vision and the tools necessary to make the changes we are so unable to make ourselves. There are many talented young leaders in the world today that are making monumental strides in the environmental movement. These accomplishments and initiatives need to be celebrated, sustained, honored, and financially supported.
For past generations, the transition from youth to adulthood in the western world meant getting a drivers license and credit cards and gleefully accepting that material possessions are the number one way to happiness. We have paid a great price for this to where we are now and the future of the planet. We must not seduce the next generation into following our example.
Many alternatives for such a transition into adulthood are based on practices in traditional cultures in which the elders take the young people into nature to learn the basic tenants of earth and the cosmos. They learn what it means to become an inherently viable participant in preserving and honoring all life. The emerging adults are asked to seek their vision and life plan regarding their place within their society. They are given the tools to develop a consciousness centered on a basic understanding and reverence for the earth. Self-discovery is encouraged, and the connection to spirit and source is practiced throughout life. The impact of spending time in nature, unprotected by modern conveniences and therefore vulnerable to the elements, while surrounded by the sacredness and grandness of nature, has a great influence on all human beings. Nature can be merciless as well as nurturing, confronting as well as embracing. As Meishusama(*2) said, “Nature can teach us everything.”
With this in mind, I propose the expansion of an Earth Restoration Corp (ERC). This program is designed to encourage and support the transformation of individual perceptions and values within a context of learning sustainable lifestyles in balance with nature. The ERC participant lives in a wilderness environment and spends time alone in a solo experience. It is out of this experience that the understanding of morality, respect, love, and wisdom takes on a true meaning in everyday life. Each participant consciously develops a personal value system within an environmentally sensitive context. Participants are taught leadership skills, conflict resolution, renewable energy technologies, and sustainable lifestyles. They are taught about land, water, forest, air, and soil restoration, which can lead them to green livelihoods.
From this training, participants are encouraged to assume the leadership necessary for remedial action on behalf of the earth. It instills ethical and spiritual integrity and forms a basis for cooperative human relations and environmentally responsible living. After completing the training, participants from around the world return to their communities with the skills necessary to initiate grass-roots projects, to seek and create employment in sustainable development fields, and to live in an environmentally sensitive manner.
We have trained quite a few young people in Crestone, including the son of the foreign minister of Bhutan. He was trained in the Crestone ERC program, and he returned to Bhutan and headed up all of the youth programs in the country. We also have a school of the forest in Amazonia where the Indians are teaching restoration to all the tribes of Amazonia. Of course, we went to the governments and large corporations like Shell Oil to lobby them for support, but I think they do not want to see young people change their consciousness because if they do they are not going to be consumers. They are not going to buy big cars. They are not going to build the big mansions. Instead, they are going to live a simple, spiritual lifestyle. They would not continue to be huge consumers, and the corporations want everything to stay the way it is—consume, consume, consume, and waste. If that continues, we will not have a future
Global employment statistics project that in the next few years, one billion youth, especially from developing countries, will enter the worlds’ job market. In some countries, the job market for youth is almost non-existent. If you look at global unemployment, in places like the Philippines it is at 44%. If you go from country to country, there are very few directions for young people to go—which is scary. To provide meaningful jobs for our youth, massive training programs like the ERC are needed worldwide. With training in green livelihoods, any young person can create their own business. Some examples are Natural Agriculture(*3), marketing Natural Agriculture’s products, and natural house building. There are so many careers young people could start their own company around. The Manitou Institute(*4) has all of this material and curriculum including how to start and access micro-credit programs. Self-employment, green employment, and restoring the planet are all things that we must do.
Empowering and training youth is the beginning of the conscious revolution of consciousness. As youth are trained in programs like the ERC, the global community will begin to feel the impacts and shifts. The seeds of this knowledge have the potential to be integrated into national service systems that sprout into meaningful jobs and prison reform programs. The armed services of each country can be used to provide alternative service for young adults who wish to defend the earth as well as their country through peaceful and economically viable restoration. The money used to train soldiers could be redirected to train in the skills necessary to secure a healthy and peaceful planet for all of us. We will not require armies of soldiers but battalions of conscious young people who are committed to transforming the world.
Imagine if every country had a two-year national service program in which youth develop a deep connection with nature and learn how to restore the earth. Just visualize governments redirecting the trillions spent on wars, drug rehabilitation, and incarcerating young adults and redirecting these funds to training in earth restoration, which leads to green livelihoods. The stakes have never been higher, nor have the choices we now make been more urgent. Overwhelming evidence indicates that humanity’s present direction is leading to our own demise. We are dancing on the deck of the Titanic.
The pressures on the planet are growing at an accelerating rate. The latest UN figures on the global refugee and migrant crisis caused by climate change, conflict, environmental degradation, lack of employment, and other elements are much larger than originally thought. It is now estimated, that up to 700 million people will be forced to migrate as refugees from their countries by 2050. This is not only catastrophic for the refugees and migrants but also for the countries receiving them. A long-term humanitarian solution that integrates social, economic, and environmental sustainability requires the creation of a global super fund like that of the Marshall Plan at the end of World War II, which rebuilt Europe. We must have a superfund and corporations, governments, and everybody else has to contribute to it. We cannot afford to spend trillions of dollars on wars, while we are killing each other and our planet.
The money is there, after the Panama banking scandal a lot of investigative reporting revealed that there are approximately 70 trillion dollars stashed away in dormant bank accounts around the world. With that 70 trillion dollars, we could restore all of humanity. Money is energy, and energy has to flow. Why is this money just sitting there? People make the mistake of thinking that money equals security, but we know that the only security is a healthy planet. This earth catastrophe could be prevented. For example, it is programs and projects like Shumei’s program in Zambia(*5) that can avert the looming crisis. Right now there are 23 million people in South Africa that will have to leave their homes because there is no water and no food. Where are they going to go? Other African countries are suffering too.
If some of the funds laying dormant in bank accounts throughout the world could be used to support programs such as Shumei’s Zambia Project. This program is such a good example of what could be done with individual communities in Africa that could prevent these migrations.
As natural law guides, it is essential that we become conscious of our responsibility to the planet, each other and to the next seven generations. We have a lot of work to do to turn around our present path to destruction to one of restoration. We cannot keep addressing the symptoms. We have to go to the root of the problem, which is the state of the human spirit and consciousness. Unless that changes, nothing else will. Only when we experience the interconnectedness of all life can we begin to change human consciousness and provide our youth with the correct tools and guidance they will need to pull off this monumental task. This task requires the creation of a new civilization of people with a much higher level of consciousness, people who are connected to the source and constantly work at bringing forth the highest aspects of being human. With this heightened level of consciousness, people will be able to live in balance with each other and with nature and come to the realization that we are one with everything in existence. We are all one.
In 1991 Kaishusama(*6) gave an address to Shumei’s Youth Members. She began with a quote from Meishusama:
The ultimate purpose of both God and man is to create an ideal world, heaven on earth, the world of true civilization.
Meishusama also described it as a “world of beauty.” He wrote:
If I were to express as simply as possible what is meant by the words ‘heaven on earth,’ I would say it is a world of beauty. That is to say, people have beauty in their hearts, a beauty of the spirit. Words and deeds should embody this beauty. This is beauty at the individual level. And when individual beauty spreads, social beauty comes into being.
Essentially, that is the job of every Shumei member, to spread beauty, to spread light.
Each one of us can contribute to a new civilization by staying connected to the pure source and diligently developing our own awareness. It is every individual’s responsibility to develop the highest level of pure awareness, pure minds, and pure hearts. We can illuminate all our own negative patterns and purify ourselves, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jyorei is a beautiful and powerful way to do this.
Shumei is already helping to create a new civilization with all its activities. It is doing so through its Natural Agriculture programs in Madagascar, Nepal, The Philippines, the Zambia, and other places. Shumei is doing this with its commitment to bringing beauty to the foreground as a way of uplifting humanity. And there is the compassionate act of sharing Jyorei to help us purify ourselves. Shumei is already working with great partners like Navdanya, the Millennium Institute, the Soil Association, and of course the United Nations. All are important organizations from around the world. Shumei is on the world map and has become an important organization.
Expanding what Shumei already does and reaching more young people around the globe will have an even greater impact. Offering online courses may be a way to reach more people.
I have such great faith in Shumei, especially because its wonderful leader, Kaicho-Sensei Hiroko Koyama, guides it. And I applaud Shumei’s Senseis that stand by her side to help manifest Shumei’s great vision. Thank you for all the meaningful work you do to benefit the world.
Let us together join the revolution and create a new civilization that manifests ‘Peace within, Peace with each other, Peace with nature.’
1. Jyorei is the spiritual practice of sharing divine light that was created by Shumei’s founder, Mokichi Okada, and is administered to people by Shumei members. Those who share Jyorei, either as givers or receivers, often feel relief from afflictions, and a sense of contentment. Repeated sessions of Jyorei might bring improvement in physical and emotional health, and foster spiritual refinement and growth. In Japanese, Jyorei means ‘Purification of the Soul.’
2. ‘Meishusama’ is an honorific often used by Shumei members when referring to Mokichi Okada, Shumei’s founder. Meishusama means ‘Master of Light.’
3. Meishusama developed Natural Agriculture in the late 1930s to help farmers who at that time were experiencing hardship and poverty because of poor harvests. Natural Agriculture is a spiritual practice as well as a practical means of food production that does not use chemicals, fertilizers, or manure, and pays particular attention to the farmer’s spiritual relationship to the environment. The attitude of the farmer plays an essential role in the quality of his or her crops. Particularly important is the emphasis on love, respect for nature, and gratitude. Meishusama maintained a firm belief in the power of nature. A proper relationship between the growers and nature was essential for cultivating healthy food. This relationship is based on the three principles of love, gratitude, and respect for nature.
4. The Manitou Institute was founded by Hanne and Maurice Strong in 1994 to preserve wildlife and the natural environment of the Baca Grande in Colorado, the area in which Crestone is located. The Institute’s mission is to develop and support programs that promote environmental awareness and earth stewardship. The organization also supports the preservation of the teaching and practice of the world’s wisdom traditions, sacred arts, and ancient healing and medicinal sciences. Two of its most important enterprises are the Manitou Habitat Conservation Program and the Earth Origins Seed Project.
5. Please see Barbara Hachipuka’s article on page (page number to come)
6. ‘Kaishusama’ is an honorific name used when referring to Mrs. Mihoko Koyama, Shumei’s much revered and loved first president and spiritual leader. Kaishusama passed away in November of 2003.
7. ‘Kaicho-Sensei’ is an honorific title used when referring to Ms. Hiroko Koyama, the current president of Shumei. The word ‘Kaicho’ means ‘president.’ The word ‘Sensei’ means ‘master,’ in the sense of being a teacher. Ms. Koyama is the daughter of Shumei’s first president and spiritual leader, Mrs. Mihoko Koyama, who is known to Shumei members as ‘Kaishusama.’