Kali Awakes Demanding Justice

A young medical student, future doctor who would have saved lives, was vandalized like a bombed church to the point where it’s questionable whether her survival would have been a mercy.


I understand the rage and deep despair of women in India. They have been living under a terrorist threat all their lives, and it does not come from without, but within. They walk the gauntlet every day, facing random crime and threat while those who should protect the public indulge in denial and victim blaming. Women are expendable. The mistake of the six men who thought they could get away with murder was in not choosing their victim more wisely. They never expected that schoolgirls would be holding signs calling for their public hanging.

Every society has crime. What has women and men demonstrating in the streets of India is the intolerable injustice. For too long, oppression of women on the margins has been ignored. Now the depth of the suffering of women is the shame of all, and the people are calling for justice. That justice will not be satisfied by a show trial, but by real change. That justice will not be satisfied until a woman can believe that she is equal under the protection of the law.

It was about 30 years ago the first Take Back the Night march was organized in Providence, Rhode Island. It was not a triumphal march. It’s no fun to have to walk the streets of your own city, chanting ‘No More Rape’. The rule of law should be responsible for public safety. But rule of law was applied selectively and atrocious crimes were being committed without consequences.

I think that thirty years on, we are less complacent, but an individual has a better chance of justice, whether she or he is of high status or low.

A friend of mine, in our women’s spirituality group– okay, it was a coven– told me a story.

She had been active with a Zen Buddhist center, and was going through a rough time emotionally. She asked one of the monks for spiritual advice.

When they were alone together, and she was in a vulnerable state, he steered the counseling session into a sexual encounter.

She left confused, but soon recognized that this man had betrayed her trust and taken advantage. It took her about a year to get up the courage to do something about it.

She said she prayed to the Goddess Kali to keep her anger alive. To keep her from falling into niceness and premature forgiveness. To give her the angry courage to tell this man frankly how much he had harmed her.

She said that when she had finished telling him how his actions had affected her, he thanked her. She said he kept saying, “thank you.” all the time she was telling him the truth. Maybe she really did get through to him.

A beautiful and useful concept that was developed in South Africa is ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. Before reconciliation there must be truth. And that truth must be taken seriously by those in power to construct and enforce the law. We are in a new millennium, and we cannot afford to lose the best contributions of half the human race in order to appease ancient prejudice. That challenge goes out to all the world, to the daily life and struggle of every woman no matter where she lives. Like the Unitarians say–the worth and dignity of every human being.

Thanks to Summer Anne Burton for her photos of Indians demanding justice.

(Creds to this site, 10 Most Powerful Hindu Goddesses for the fierce aspect of Kali.)

Bullet Head– The Teacher Who Could Kill With His Bare Hands

I am not making this up. I had a teacher in high school who bragged about how lethal he was. He claimed he was an ex-Marine.

Some of the fringe in Congress are talking about passing laws that require every teacher to carry a gun and be trained to shoot. They did not go to Pilgrim High School and sit in Bullet Head’s class, or they would have been grateful he did not carry.

I remember him vividly. Sadly, I have no recollection at all of what subject he was supposed to be teaching. Bullet Head– The Teacher Who Could Kill With His Bare Hands

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

In our internal arms race there is no end to fear. More weapons and more lethal weapons are an escalating response. It’s important to remember that there are other forms of power than killing power. The life and mission of a great Rhode Islander demonstrate another way.

Thirty years ago, Providence was home to a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Called Cambodia’s Ghandhi, the Venerable Maha Ghosananda lived and taught in a triple-decker on Hanover Street, near the Cranston Street Armory.

Displaced by the Southeast Asian War, Maha Ghosananda lived for a year in the Sakeo refugee camp on the Thai border. He ministered to Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge, and later to Khmer Rouge soldiers fleeing the Vietnamese. It was said that he was given an airplane ticket to safety, but he cashed it in and used it to print tracts on Lovingkindness, which he distributed to all in the camp, regardless of which side they were on. After leaving Sakeo, Maha Ghosananda traveled the world as one of the last surviving Cambodian Buddhist monks, arriving in Providence in 1980. Here he founded a temple that became the Khmer Buddhist Society, a center and heart of the community.

In 1992, Maha Ghosananda established the Dhammayietra Walk for Peace– an annual walk across Cambodia to minister to the suffering and bereaved survivors of the war. This was truly a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Peace was not securely established. Gun violence, for politics or robbery was a threat. Maha Ghosananda was a politically challenging figure and his teacher had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge. He was a target for assassination. In addition, the countryside was strewn with land mines. War still smoldered– one year two of the marchers, a monk and a nun, were killed in crossfire between government and Khmer Rouge forces.

But the Dhammayietra brought healing to people who had suffered the dismantling of their society, and seen the near-eradication of their religion.

Nonviolence is not for the faint of heart. When he lived in Providence, Maha Ghosananda was a close friend of the minister of First Unitarian Church, Tom Ahlburn. It was just before the first, or maybe the second Dhammayietra that Tom held a gathering I can only describe as an Irish wake. Tom told Maha Ghosananda stories and we sent our thoughts and hope to those marchers traversing a mined disaster zone in an uneasy peace.

Maha Ghosananda, in fact, outlived Tom Ahlburn. Maha Ghosananda led several walks across Cambodia. He spent his last days in Lowell, Massachusetts, and passed from this world in 2007.

I was blessed to meet him. He was a saint.

He taught me three words, Truthfulness, Forbearance and Gratitude. His message was Metta–Lovingkindness.

Today our country is feeling the shadow of death in the senseless violation of a school and the murder of children. Nonviolence is not an absence, but a radical response to violence. Pacifism is not passivity. Maha Ghosananda lived a life of activism and great courage. It comforts me to think of him in these times.

[Santidhammo Bhikkhu's book, 'Maha Ghosananda the Buddha of the Battlefields' was used as a resource and aid to aging memory in writing this post.]