Temple of Understanding celebrating our 63rd Anniversary in 2023
This event was held on September 9th, 2021, 10am-2pm ET.
FORUM2021 Sacred Food ~ Blessed Earth explored the ancient, respectful and regenerative ways of farming practices and our spiritual relationship to food by focusing on the Earth as an interconnected web of life.
A moral and spiritual voice is essential in the transition away from the industrialized, fossil fuel and chemical intensive, global agriculture system which is degrading our Earth, contributing to the climate crisis and to the extinction of species, as well as creating severe health issues for all living beings.
FORUM2021 was a call to all spiritual and religious leaders and activists for a return to local, biodiverse organic food systems which regenerate soil, water and biodiversity while providing healthy sustenance for all.
In solidarity with other NGO’s offering a strong critique of the fall UN Food Summit, FORUM2021 explored the potential of local regenerative agriculture, highlights the growing organic farming movement and offers an interfaith moral call to redressing the harm caused by agribusiness, the industrialization of the world’s food production system.
#Support local farmers, support your health, protect the Earth
FREE REGISTRATION ~ Donations welcome!
Prayers, affirmations and contemplations offered by Indigenous and world religious leaders and sacred music by renown international artists on the themes of food, farming and Earth stewardship.
Your support will help us get the word out, please consider making a donation now!
The Temple of Understanding is a 501(c)(3) public charity (EIN 13-1935186) and all donations are tax deductible.
Proudly presented by the Temple of Understanding
in collaboration with Marble Collegiate Church, New York City
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, climate activist, author and public theologian. He serves as Special Advisor on Climate Justice to the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Antal’s book, CLIMATE CHURCH, CLIMATE WORLD, was featured on Earth Day in the Chicago Tribune (2018) and in Christian Century Magazine (2019). An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, Antal wrote and championed three groundbreaking national UCC resolutions. More on Jim Antal
Tyrone B. Hayes, PhD, is Professor of Integrative Biology, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Endocrinology, Molecular Toxicology, and the Energy and Resources Group. Hayes was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina where he developed his love for biology. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993.
More on Tyrone B. Hayes, PhD
Lyla June is an Indigenous musician, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages. . She blends studies in Human Ecology at Stanford, graduate work in Indigenous Pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives and solutions. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree, focusing on Indigenous food systems revitalization. More on Lyla June
Chief Arvol Looking Horse was born on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. At the age of 12, he was given the responsibility of becoming the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, the youngest ever. He is widely recognized as a chief and the spiritual leader of all three branches of the Sioux tribe.
He is the author of White Buffalo Teachings and a guest columnist for Indian Country Today. A tireless advocate of maintaining traditional spiritual practices, Chief Looking Horse is the founder of Big Foot Riders which memorializes the massacre of Big Foot's band at Wounded Knee.
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Chief Oren Lyons is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan and serves as a Member Chief of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs and the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee Peoples. Oren holds the title of Professor Emeritus at SUNY Buffalo, has a Doctor of Law Degree from his Alma Mater, Syracuse University and Lyons Hall at SU is named in his honor. Chief Lyons is an All-American Lacrosse Hall of Famer and Honorary Chairman of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team. He is an accomplished artist, environmentalist, and author.
More on Chief Oren Lyons
Daphne Miller, MD is a family physician, science writer, Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco, and Research Scientist at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. As founder of the Health from the Soil Up Initiative, she studies the connections among health, culture, and agriculture, with the goal of building a healthier and more resilient food system from the soil up. Daphne is a regular health and science contributor to the Washington Post. She has two books about food, agriculture and health: The Jungle Effect, The Science and Wisdom of Traditional Diets and Farmacology, Total Health from the Soil
More on Daphne Miller, MD
Grandmother Mona Polacca is a Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa elder. She is the Chair of the International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Mona is representative of the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace, a coalition of Indigenous leaders and organizations and others who wish to protect water for future generations. This is a vision from the elders and has the support of 60 organizations globally at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She is the President/CEO of the Turtle Island Project, a non-profit program founded in 1986 by Western practitioners and Native American healers to blend the science of psychoneuroimmunology with indigenous wisdom and practices. Mona also serves as a member of the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders due to her international justice work.
Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned environmental thinker, activist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer and science policy advocat, is the founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (India) and President of Navdanya International. Trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, she completed her Ph.D. on the ‘Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory’ from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. In 2011 she founded Navdanya International in Italy and is Chairman of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, co-founded with the then President of the Region of Tuscany. Recipient of many awards, including in 1993 the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, and named among the top five “Most Important People in Asia” by AsiaWeek in 2001. Shes is a prolific writer and author of numerous books and serves on the board of the International Forum on Globalization, and member of the executive committee of the World Future Council.
More on Vandana Shiva
Mary Evelyn Tucker teaches at Yale University at the School of the Environment and the Divinity School. She is co-director with John Grim of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. With Grim she organized 10 conferences on World Religions and Ecology at Harvard. They were series editors for the 10 resulting volumes from Harvard. She co-edited Confucianism and Ecology, Buddhism and Ecology, and Hinduism and Ecology. She has authored with Grim, Ecology and Religion (Island Press, 2014). They also edited Thomas Berry’s books, including Selected Writings (Orbis 2014). Tucker and Grim published Thomas Berry: A Biography (Columbia University Press, 2019). With Brian Thomas Swimme, Tucker and Grim created a multi-media project Journey of the Universe that includes a book (Yale, 2011), an Emmy Award winning film, a series of podcast Conversations, and free online courses from Yale/Coursera. Tucker was a member of the Earth Charter Drafting committee and the International Earth Charter Council.
More on Mary Evelyn Tucker
Indigenous Wisdom Regarding the Future
Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan and serves as a Member Chief of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs and the Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee Peoples.
Reclaiming Ancient Wisdom
to Protect Our Future
Founder, Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (India) and President of Navdanya International. World-renowned environmental thinker, activist, feminist, philosopher of science, writer and science policy advocate.
Reclaiming Ancient Wisdom
to Protect Our Future
Indigenous musician, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages.
The Sacred Way
Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa elder. She is the Chair of the International Council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers
Watch the beautiful interfaith service of prayers, affirmations and contemplations offered by Indigenous and world religious leaders and sacred music by renown international artists, including the Universal Prayer for the Earth that was creatively written by all of our speakers and prayer contributors this year.
Rev. J. Elise Brown, PhD
Imam Saffet Catovic
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Prof. Ephraim Isaac
Eda Zavala Lopez
Dame Prof. Meher Master Moos
Grandmother Mona Polacca
HE Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche
Pandit Shukla Ji
Rev. Dr. John H. Vaughn
Samir Chatterjee & Steve Gorn
The Marble Choir
Marble Community Gospel Choir
Indigenous Wisdom Regarding the Future
The following is a transcription of the keynote talk given by Chief Oren Lyons at FORUM2021.
I began with our instruction. Now I'm just talking specifically about the Haudenosaunee, Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy. I can't speak for the whole Indigenous Peoples' of North, Central and South America, although we are very, very similar on almost everything. So specifically, I'm speaking on behalf of the Haudenosaunee, more commonly known as the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Haudenosaunee means the People of the Longhouse. So then this discussion on food, this discussion on life-sustaining elements that we are absolutely dependent upon, has been recognized by us for many, many years. And we have taken our relationship, on understanding, to a relationship that we have, personified a lot of the natural world elements to instruct our people more closely. So the term Mother Earth, Our Mother, is a way of us showing respect. We know who our mother is, but we have personified these elements so that our relationship can be closer. And the invaders from across the ocean misunderstood this completely and they call us animist, that we worship animals. We don't worship animals. We respect them. And we include them and we understand they are part of our family. And what we have is a great responsibility for their welfare, because they're the sustaining element for all life. You know, we're looking at a demise, an existential crisis of survival as a species. And that's because of the greed that is driving commerce and the amoral position that commerce has taken about anything spiritual. So I'm instructing you now about how we think and how wrong, how absurdly wrong, your leaders were, your Christian leaders were in calling us animists. So understanding that and understanding that the human beings are a species like the hales are a species and the krill of the sea are a species, all are life. Well, human beings are also a species, but we've been given, as I said before, the responsibility of intellect and the foreknowledge of death, huge, huge responsibility. And we're in a situation today that is extremely dangerous for our future generations. And in that regard, when we were being instructed by the Great Peacemaker, he said to us very directly, when you sit and you console for the welfare of the people, think not of yourself, nor of your family, or even your generation. He said, make your decisions upon those generations coming so that they may have and enjoy what you have today. That's a serious instruction onto seven generations. And he's talking about the 80 year generations, not the shortcut that you've made a 20 year generation. That's not a generation, that's a shortcut and that's caused some problems, caused your system a problem, right? Engaging, full length and post-strike of anything. So here we are. And we are family, whether we're black, white, yellow, or we come in all colors, you know, just like the dogs. The dogs come in, all colors, but they're all dogs, all colors, all shapes, all sizes. Well humans are the same way. They come in, all colors, all shapes, all sizes, but we're family, a family that white brothers have challenged. And so there's a hierarchy that's been developed on race and you can see the problems that we're facing in the United States today on the race, the underlying element of racism that came across on the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria - racism, the superiority of our white brothers sisters. Well, here we are. We don't have a lot of time. And so we should now begin to discuss how to survive. There are two laws that prevail, we call them laws. And the first one is respect, respect for yourself and have respect for all life around. You have respect for everything. And it's baked into our processes and our procedure. We come and visit all of that, respect is the first thing. And and of course the second element is to be thankful, to be thankful for what you have, not to ask for stuff, but to be thankful for what you have and appreciate that. Cause it's, it's a great deal. It's a lot. And so in a common cause now what you have organized shares this discussion because this is a big problem. We're in a serious, serious problem, the earth is heating up. It's not going to slow down unless we change our direction completely. I believe that's the discussion that's going on now. How do you change this direction? I understand completely why you're calling this meeting because we're in dire straits and we have squandered time. There's no way you're going to gain back those 20 years that we could have done something better. And finally, finally, the scientists who knew about this finally make the statement, the term, they call global warming, which is a soft term. Actually, we're in an existential crisis. It's not warming, it is heat. It is gaining, it's compounding. So from my perspective, we're facing two compounds on this Earth today that are very, natural law, they are part of the natural law and very difficult to deal with. You know, the first compound I'm talking about is the human population. I'm not an expert on anything, but I do do a lot of observations. And when I was 20 years old, it was 1950. There were approximately 2.5 billion people in the whole world. And it took a long time to get to that number. Thousands of years before human reached 2.5 billion. Well, here we are 70 years later and there's almost 8; 7.7 or 7.8 right now I would say, and compounding, exploding soon to be a billion. Now that's a problem because the Earth's resources are finite. And of course the adjudication of resources around the Earth is not equally passed out. So in some places like the Far East, the Middle East, there's no water, they're fighting. It's amazing that they're fighting each other, killing each other. And yet the water. What are you going to do? India, the temperature's going out of sight. India has not prepared. China billion people in one place. The resource is damaged. Here where the Haudenosaunee is, which is our Homeland, which is New York, upstate New York, probably the Northeast. That's our Homeland. We're probably in the best place there is to be because we're in this, what they call the Great Lakes, a source of fresh water, that exists nowhere else in the world like that. I understand that there's at least a quarter of the world's pottable water in the Great Lakes. I mean people are coming for it. People are coming for their water. They're going to need it. So where are we going to do? So here we are. And I'm glad you're calling the meeting because that brings the issues forward. And governance has a great deal to do with it. And now we have a pandemic and our history, our Haudenosaunee history involves prophecies as well And 1799 one of our leaders who was an alcoholic, trying to bring back some respect and stop drinking. And he was given a message that, of course, spiritual beings, this time, it was called 1799. The trees were still big here. The whole United States hadn't been devastated. They hadn't killed off all the buffaloes yet. They hadn't killed off all the passenger pigeons yet. They hadn't killed off all the native people yet, 1790, but they were moving in that direction. And at that time, 1799, we were instructed that it would occur. So we know, here it is, we were foretold. When I grew up I was just you know, I grew up, I guess, a very fortunate kid, although we were poor by the standards of the white people we were poor, but we had a strong community, we were very rich in that. We had relationship, we had uncles, and nephews, and grandpas, and grandmas, and everybody was responsible for everybody. And as a kid, I could run through any house on the Reservation and I would get patted on the head. Everyone would say, well, who's your folks, who's your mother. First thing they asked us, "Who's your mother, who's your father?” And the time to eat wherever you were, sit down and eat. That was a community. That's how we operated, strong community. And that community extended into the natural world. It included the deer. It included the fish, it included everything that grows, to medicine. And then our prayers or our recognition every day, every morning, giving thanks for all those elements. So here we are now. And this is a common cause for human survival. So how do we go forward? And that's the question that I don't have an answer to except, we have to meet the challenge and we're quite willing to do that. I mean our leadership is looking for allies, always have been looking for allies. So here we are glad you give the opportunity to say what I can say. Cause I was thinking, it gives a perspective that people haven't been looking at. So that's where we are. It ain't over yet. It's all hands on deck, all hands on deck.
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