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Shuddhananda Brahmachari,
Hindu Monk and Sustainable Development Leader

H.H. Srimad Shuddhananda Brahmachaff, a Hindu monk, author, and sustainable development leader, will be speaking in Portland on June 11th and 12th. Shuddhananda is a former professor of commerce at Andhra Vidyalaya College in Hyderbad, Andhra Pradesh, India. He founded Lokenath Divine Life Mission in 1985 as an instrument of the compassion of his teacher, the great Himalayan Master Baba Lokenath. Shuddhananda directs the Mission's landmark sustainable development projects, which work to reverse poverty among some of the most destitute and remote populations in West Bengal.

Shuddhananda will discuss his development work at an informal devotional evening at 7:00 pm on Friday, June 11th at 15652 SW Andalusian Way, in Beaverton. On Saturday, June 12th, he will speak on "Western Spirituality and Contemporary Dharma" at the Hoyt Arboretum Picnic Shelter at 10 am on Saturday, June 12th. The audience is invited to bring a picnic lunch.

Serving "The Living God in all who suffer" through Self-Help

Shuddhananda describes himself as a simple Hindu monk who "serves the Living God in all who suffer." His Lokenath Mission specializes in serving populations no one else seems to be able to reach. It spends almost nothing on infrastructure. "We work to awaken the commitment and potential within the poor to become self-sufficient," says Shuddhananda, "the Mission forms a partnership with them. We offer them the training and foundational supports they need to work together building a new and better future for their communities."

Getting a Maximum "Bang for the Buck" out of the Development Dollar

"Shuddhananda puts his economic expertise to excellent use," according to Portland author Jerry Jones, who has personally visited Lokenath Divine Life Mission projects, as well as many other non-profits in Asia "Lokenath Divine Life Mission ranks among the best non-profits at getting a maximized "bang for the buck" in terms of human benefit for every dollar spent. The Mission's programs are fiercely intelligent and effective. They address the root causes of poverty at every level by serving the health, educational, spiritual, economic and community development needs of over 200,000 people -- all on the unbelievably meager budget of $45,000 last year."

Lokenath Divine Life Mission Programs

The Mission digs tubewells in communities with high arsenic concentrations in the soil, cutting off the deadly cycle of disease with pure water. Mission schools, which give children clean clothes and a noon meal for attendance, that are held in the open street if no donated shelters are available. $15 a month educates 35 children. Effective and inexpensive homeopathic medicines are dispensed free of charge to over 130,000 people a year. The Mission operates numerous free health clinics, a mobile health van, and has one homeopathic physician who travels by bicycle to remote, otherwise inaccessible areas.

Countering the forces behind Rural Migration to the Cities With

Organic Farming and Irrigation Projects

Working to alleviate the intense poverty which fuels the migration of rural populations to already overburdened cities, Lokenath Mission develops cooperative, Community-building self-help groups. Its Farmers' Clubs teach organic farming to preserve already fragile soils from further degradation by chemical fertilizers. They also develop irrigation projects to extend the growing season to more than one crop, producing critical extra income for marginalized farmers.

Cultivating Leadership in Women

"Another primary agenda of the Mission is to cultivate leadership among local women," says Shuddhananda. "The deep poverty we are addressing cannot be solved without women being brought forward into full economic and community leadership." The Mission's "Mahila Mandals" (self-help groups for women) support women working collectively to develop new cottage industries in their homes and communities.

When recently asked, "What have you gained from the Mission's self-help groups?" one woman from the Sundurbans put it this way, "For the first time in our lives, we have come out of our homes to join together and work for a better tomorrow. Never before did we feel so deeply that we are all members of one family. If one member of our group is in trouble, we all join hands and pull her out of the problem ... We have become productive agents of lasting change in our village."

Teaching Simple People How to Use the Banking System

Both Farmers Clubs and the Mahila Mandals are linked to the Rural Banking System. Group members are taught how to use banks for the first time, how to save, borrow, and repay loans collectively. They no longer have to rely on the usurious moneylenders who deepen the cycle of poverty. The Mission has been so successful in developing these groups into active, stable community organizations that the Federal Rural Bank System of India and other agencies now lend funds, with the financial guarantee of the Mission, on economic projects which the Mission sponsors.

Author and Teacher of the Universal Religion of Love and Compassion

Shuddhananda gently calls all who meet him, as one pure being to another, to the universal religion of love, compassion, and ever-greater service to the Divine. He is currently writing a series of biographies of Hindu saints. His biography of his own teacher, Himalayan Master Baba Lokenath, is currently available in English.

For further information on Shuddhananda and his development work, visit his website at http://www.flash.net/~jemini.
Portland area contacts: Ann Shannon, (503) 286-0471, ashannon@hevanet.com and Anirruddha and Mita Kundu, (503) 690-8569, mitakundu@involved.com

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