Basic Goodness: A Fundamental Right

How many times have you compared one human being to another? How many times have you criticized or judged another person for their actions? When was the last time you thought yourself better than somebody else?

No one is immune to these types of behaviors. It is human to behave as such. But does that excuse the behavior as good and just? Rephrased another way: How often do you enjoy being told that someone else is a better human being than you; that the way you are is not good enough?

I was recently on the receiving end of a battery of criticisms and negativity from someone who often takes pleasure in such activity, but the behavior is hardly uncommon. On an interstate bus ride, I heard an over-loud phone conversation from someone who had a falling out with a sibling over some shoes that were not properly stored; each party believed theirs was the one and only way to do it. Like the saying goes, sometimes we “make mountains out of mole hills.”

Are you asking yourself: What does the above have to do with human rights? Here is the crux. Did you know that Basic Goodness is a fundamental human right?

What is Basic Goodness?

great eastern sun

Human rights is commonly mentioned in the same breath with equality, freedom, and happiness. Yet our world as a whole perpetually struggles, as with an overly-challenging recipe, to bring the medley of ingredients that comprise human rights into harmony for all. Such a challenge makes their attainment feasible with varying degrees of success, making it more akin to a trophy than a birthright.

What would happen, though, if the variables that comprise human rights could be distilled to one simple, fundamental tenet? Basic Goodness is that distillation.

For the past year, I’ve been on a new spiritual journey of a tradition formerly unfamiliar to me, which has influenced my perspective on the topic of human rights: the secular tradition of Shambhala Buddhism, which has roots in Tibet.

For those unfamiliar with Shambhala, here is what I’ve learned so far: It neither acknowledges or negates the existence of a Creator; people are born whole, equipped with all they need to be happy. Reality is a function of perception; how we interface with the world is a function of us; what we experience depends on us and no one else; inherent evil does not exist.

Basic Goodness is the foundational principle that every human being is good – without the need to add or subtract any qualities. So strong is this principle that the head of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, classifies it as a human right in his book, The Shambhala Principle.

Basic Goodness as a Right

What could it mean to have the right to Basic Goodness? Could it mean that we have the right to be good if we choose to be? Well, of course we have the freedom to be or do good. But the right to Basic Goodness is more powerful than that. It means that each of us is fundamentally, indisputably good – each of us is necessarily valuable, and no one can take that right away from us or dispute it, which is why we are all covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

You might ask, “But how can we all be considered good when there are all sorts of bad things happening in the world brought about by bad people?” The simple answer is that there is no such thing as a bad person; we are what we think [Buddha], and our actions are often reactions to our fears.

One very important thing I recently learned is that when we fear or distrust someone, that itself is a refusal to acknowledge that person’s Basic Goodness, which translates to disrespect. In turn, when we disrespect someone, we disregard their dignity, which all people have according to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world[...]

How can we stop suppressing others, and ourselves, from our fundamental right to Basic Goodness?

1)  We cannot possibly acknowledge others’ goodness without first acknowledging our own. How many times have you barraged yourself for not meeting expectations from others or yourself? We weren’t born thinking we weren’t good; we started when we believed someone that said that of us. Therefore, we have to deprogram that belief. The first step is acknowledging your Basic Goodness; know that you are good without having to add or subtract any qualities. This step might entail a lifetime of work; it usually happens regularly on a meditation cushion, where you have to be with yourself in the present moment. It requires kindness, gentleness, and patience with yourself.

2)  Once you have come to acknowledge your Basic Goodness, the second step becomes easier, and might even happen automatically. Once you have the confidence that you are Good, fear diminishes and courage blooms. Fear springs from doubt. Conversely, joy, love, and courage spring from confidence.

3)  After learning kindness, gentleness, patience, and courage with yourself, and experiencing self joy and love, your generosity of these gifts organically grows, making it easier to bestow on others. Giving these gifts might not be easy, per se, especially if we are under attack. But when we have confidence that we are Good, and have courage, then we can view what others say more objectively, instead of taking offense. The objective view makes it easier to extend the generosity of patience and kindness to others, and these might help you see where the other person is coming from, which is called compassion.

4)  The fourth step is beyond us, but happens because of us. Have you heard of the butterfly effect? Whatever we do has an effect on the world at large. Once we extend kindness and compassion to others, those we touch leave with an impression of the same. It might not take effect with them immediately, but once an impression is made, repetition over time reshapes, like a stone weathered by the gentle currents of a stream.

Thus, when we acknowledge our own Basic Goodness, we gain courage and compassion. These, in turn, help us acknowledge the Basic Goodness of others. By acknowledging the Basic Goodness of another through interaction, we plant the seed of understanding-oneself-as-Basically-Good in that person. When those seeds are planted and nourished in others, their internal fears diminish and their courage and compassion grow, leading to expansion to the rest of the world by way of the butterfly effect. :) ♥ :)

Ensuring everyone’s human rights might seem like a daunting task. However, the objective is met by acknowledging the Basic Goodness of all humans, starting our work first with ourselves, at every present moment, in every single now. After working with ourselves, the qualities of kindness, gentleness, and patience can then be organically extended to others, with understanding and compassion.

Go out into the world, and let your Goodness shine so others can find courage in their darkness so they can shine too!

Finally, I hope you don’t mind a plug. I’m currently (Fall 2013) working on an Environmental Education project so the Next Generation of Subsistence Farmers in El Salvador can have clean water and air, and healthy food to eathttp://gogetfunding.com/project/books-tech-for-el-salvador#   Please Help!, so basic needs can be met in the future of our world :) ♥ :)

Peace, Love, and Compassion to You,

- Maria

New Book Project: Help Needed

20131013-110035.jpg

When I received an invitation a couple of months ago from some U.S. doctors to translate for them during a medical mission trip, my heart rejoiced at the opportunity of returning to the land where I served four years as a volunteer.

Since then, I’ve been looking forward to reuniting with old friends and coworkers, to the point that I started thinking about what kinds of gifts or tokens I could give to show them my love. The “trouble” is that I’m a practice person, and I value useful, purposeful gifts over trinkets.

I looked at what I have: an environmental coloring story book I self-published in 2007, which got great user-end reviews; it was fashioned for their culture. During a visit in 2010, I saw positive changes; environmental awareness was stronger than before. The teachers asked, “So will there be more books? We’ve just about depleted our stash; we keep a couple in reserve so we will always have them.”

I told the truth; the project had been made possible only through donations, and I just didn’t have the social network to launch another successful campaign. The school principle looked disheartened.

As a side note, towards the end of my service, I started a small technological project. Mostly, it involved networking various entities to pull resources together. A small group of student would travel out of the village to a larger hamlet, which had computers, but families groaned at the travel costs. The teachers in my village started going to the nearest city to get internet certified, but the computer learning center went out of business before they attained certification. Bad luck!

Fast forward to 2013. With a small social network and a heart full of love, I took courage and decided to jump off the metaphorical cliff into the sea of Chance, without looking at the odds working for or against me. I had heard of crowd-sourcing, but I didn’t know how to play the game. Off the cliff I went, and launched a fundraising page to benefit others on my upcoming “missionary” trip.

Money for this project will provide rural schools with environmental coloring books for a new generation of children, and if enough money is raised, a laptop and router to the school in the community where I lived.

I’ve been asked about project parameters. Peace Corps experience taught me to take things as they come. Specific project parameters depend on the amount raised. I’m flexible. Based on experience, only one thing is certain: the people benefited will be flabbergasted by the kind generosity of strangers :)

My greatest wish is to effect the world in such a way that it will grow into a harmonious home for all of earth’s inhabitants, and that people come to know there is more to life than the narrow confines of self-gain. My faith: Love and compassion are the recipe for a life well-lived <3

The project page can be found at this address: http://gogetfunding.com/project/books-tech-for-el-salvador#/project_details

New Project: Please Help

I’m returning to El Salvador on Oct 25th, and need help for a new project. All help is appreciated!

The first project done in 2007 had great results as evidenced by a visit in 2010.

Project monies will provide rural communities with environmental coloring books for a new generation of Eco-Friendly kids, and if enough money is raised, a laptop and router for a local school that is lagging behind in this tech age. See the link for details … Thanks! http://gogetfunding.com/project/books-tech-for-el-salvador#

Fundraising with GoGetFunding

Tamales Saludables

Pensando en dias pasados en El Salvador, recuerdo que alegre se ponía la gente cuando se anunciaba que había tamales. Los de ellos eran grandes, gruesos, y envueltos en huerta de plátano. Tenian un sabor diferente a los que hacía mi mama cuando yo era niña, cuales estaban envueltos en tuza de maíz. Creo que la diferencia en sabor era debido a la masa, cual era preparada diferente, y a la diferencia en sabor de la envolutura.

En los EEUU, los tamales se consideran una comida mala para la salud debido a su alto contenido de grasa y sal. Pero en un taller de Tamales Saludables, aprendí que hay maneras de hacer tamales sabrosos y saludables. Durante un reciente viaje, compartí estas recetas con una amiga Salvadoreña, quein gozo mucho de ellas.

Y aquí estan las recetas para los tamales saludables :)

TAMALITOS DEL NORTE

Rinde aproximadamente 354 tamales de pulgadatamales

El Relleno

  • 1 libra de pollo deshebrado
  • 2 chiles Anchos grandes, sin semillas ni venas
  • 2 chiles Guajillos, sin semillas ni venas
  • 2 chiles Pasillas, sin semillas ni venas (opcional)
  • 2 dientes de ajo
  • 3/4 cucharita de comino molido
  • 1 taza de caldo de pollo
  • Sal al gusto

La Masa

Use masa fresca, o siga las instrucciones en el paquete de maseca

  • 1 libra de masa para tamales (2 tazas)
  • 4 1/2 onzas de Margarina “Smart Balance” O 3/4 taza de aceite de cartamo O 3/4 taza de aceite de oliva
  • 3 cucharadas de la salsa de chile reservada
  • Sal al gusto

Aproximadamente 36 tuzas cortadas a la mitad

(3 pulgadas de ancho, suavizadas en agua y secadas)

  1. Remoje los chiles en agua hasta que se ablanden. Drenelos.
  2. En la liquadora, ponga los chiles, el ajo, y 1/2 taza de caldo de pollo, y mezcle bien.
  3. En una olla, ponga la carne de pollo, agrege toda menos 3 cucharadas de la salsa, y 1/2 taza del caldo. Sazone con sal y comino, y cocine sobre una llama mediana, meneando ocasionalmente, hasta que la salsa quede bien sazonada y un poco reducida.
  4. Ajuste los sazones y ponga a un lado a enfriar.
  5. En un recipiente grande, mezcle la masa con la margarina (o aceite, si usando), las 3 cucharadas de salsa de chile reservada, y aproximadamente 1/3 taza de caldo con la mano, o con una batidora eléctrica hastra que todos los ingredientes esten bien incorporados. Agregue sal si es necesario.
  6. Para cocinar a vapor, proteja la olla agregando una capa de tuza abajo con un plato hondo de sopa invertida encima en medio. Ponga sobre una llama mediana.
  7. Unte 1 cucharada copetiada de masa en una capa delgada sobre la parte hancha entera de arriba de la hoja y hasta aproximadamente 4 pulgadas de alto.
  8. Agregue el relleno y doble un bordo de la tuza sobre la otra. (la masa del borde sobrepuesta se pegara y ayudara a cerrar la hoja con seguridad. Sobredoble la punta de la tuza hacia arriba para cubrir la parte sobrepuesta.)
  9. Empalme los tamales en una capa circular, la primera capa apoyada en un angulo suave por el plato hondo invertido. (Agruegue un poco de agua para poder cocinar a vapor, aproximadamente una pulgada de agua)
  10. Cubra la olla y cocine a vapor sobre una llama alta por aproximadamente 50 minutos. El tamal esta hecho cuando la masa se separa bien de la tuza.

Receta de Chef Ana Martinez: http://www.egan-martinez.com

RELLENOS ALTERNATIVOS DE TAMAL

Pollo con Tomatillo Asado

  • Pollo herbido, sin huesos y deshebrada
  • 8 Tomatillos, cortadas en trozos
  • 1/2 Cebolla Amarilla grande, cortada en trozos
  • 4 chiles Serrano, con tallos quitados
  • 4 dientes de Ajo, pelados
  • Cilantro fresco para dar sabor, hojas y tallos
  • Sal al gusto

Coloque las verduras en una bandeja untada con aceite de cartamo o de oliva. Ponga en el horno precalentado, 375 F, hasta que esten suaves y un poco dorados. Ponga las verduras cocidas en la liquadora con cilantro fresco. Mezcle hasta obtener una textura fina. Agregue a la mitad del pollo deshebrado.

Frijoles con Salsa de Chile y Queso Panela (opción vegetariana)

Prepare Frijoles sin agregar grasa, vea receta abajo. Machaque los frijoles un poco, agregando al gusto la salsa de chile de la receta listada en Tamalitos del Norte. Agregue sal al gusto. Ponga un trozito de queso Panela sobre el relleno de frijol de cada tamal.

Low-Fat Pinto Beans Recipe

Rinde 10 porciones de 5 onzas cada una

  • 3 tazas Frijoles pintos
  • 9-12 tazas Agua Caliente
  • 2 dientes de Ajo
  • 1/2 cucharadita de Sal
  • 2 Tomates medianos, picados (o 6 tomates enteros enlatados)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 taza Cilantro molido
  • 2 Chiles picantes, como jalapeño (opcional)
  • 1/2 Cebolla pequeña, picada

Limpie y lave los frijoles en un colador bajo el chorro del agua. Ponga 6 tazas de agua caliente de la llave en una olla grande a fuego lento. Agregue los frijoles y el ajo; cubriendola (agregue agua si es necesario). Deje cocer por 1 1/2 horas, y agregue más agua si es necesario. Agregue la sal y los demás ingredientes. Saque los dientes de ajo si gusta. Tenga los frijoles al fuego por otra 1/2 hora.

Nota: Los frijoles se pueden tomar de 2 a 3 horas para cocerse, dependiendo del tipo de olla y los frijoles.

Healthy Tamales

Looking back at my days in El Salvador, I remember how excited people would get about tamales. Theirs were large, thick, and wrapped in banana tree leaves. They tasted different than the ones my mom used to make when I was a child, which were wrapped in corn husks. I think the difference in taste had to do with both masa (corn dough) preparation, as well as the taste difference of the wrapping.

In the US, tamales are generally seen as an unhealthy menu item due to the fat and salt content. But at a Healthy Tamale workshop, I learned that there are ways of making tasty, healthy tamales. During a recent trip, I shared these recipes with a Salvadoran friend, who really enjoyed them.

So here are the recipes for healthy tamales :)

TAMALITOS DEL NORTE (Northern tamales)

Makes about 354 inch tamalestamales

The Filling

  • 1 pound chicken meat (thighs or breasts) shredded
  • 2 large Ancho chilies, seeds and veins removed
  • 2 Guajillo chilies, seeds and veins removed
  • 2 Pasilla chilies, seeds and veins removed (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt to taste

The Masa

Use either fresh dough, or follow recipe on the corn flour package

  • 1 pound tamal dough (about 2 cups)
  • 4 1/2 ounces Margarine “Smart Balance” OR 3/4 cup canola oil OR 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of reserved chile sauce
  • Salt to taste

About 36 halved corn husks

(about 3 inches wide at the top, softened in water, drained, patted dry)

  1. Soak the chilies in water until soft. Drain them.
  2. In a blender, put the chilies, garlic, and 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, and blend well.
  3. In a saucepan, put the chicken meat, add all but 3 tablespoons of the sauce, and 1/2 cup of the broth. Season with salt and cumin, and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until well seasoned and the sauce is slightly reduced.
  4. Adjust the season and set aside to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the masa with the margarine (or oil, if using), the reserve 3 tablespoons of chilies sauce, and about 1/3 cup of the broth with your hand, or an electric mixer until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add salt if necessary.
  6. Line the top of the steamer with some of the corn husks and place an inverted soup plate in the middle. Set over medium heat.
  7. Spread 1 rounded tablespoon of the dough very thinly over the entire width of the top and for about 4 inches.
  8. Put the filling and fold one edge of the husk over the other. (the overlapping masa will stick and help to close the leaf securely. Double the point of the husk up to cover the seam.)
  9. Stack the tamales in circular layer, the first layer supported at a gentile angle by the top of the plate. (Add a little water to steam cook, about an inch of water)
  10. Cover the steamer and cook over high heat for about 50 minutes. The tamal is cooked when the dough separates cleanly from the husk.

Recipe provided by Chef Ana Martinez: http://www.egan-martinez.com

ALTERNATIVE TAMALE FILLINGS

Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo

  • Stewed Chicken, deboned and shredded
  • 8 Tomatillos, cut in wedges
  • 1/2 large Yellow Onion, cut in wedges
  • 4 Serrano peppers, with stems removed
  • 4 cloves Garlic, peeled
  • Fresh cilantro to taste, leaves and stems
  • Salt to taste

Spread vegetables on a sheet pan rubbed with canola or olive oil. Place in a preheated oven, 375 F, until soft and lightly browned. Place cooked vegetables in a blender with fresh cilantro. Blend until smooth. Add to half of shredded chicken.

Beans with Chile Sauce and Panela Cheese (vegetarian option)

Prepare Beans without added fat, see recipe below. Mash beans slightly, adding chili sauce from Tamalitos del Norte Recipe to taste. Salt to taste. Add a strip of Panela cheese on top of the bean filling for each tamal.

Low-Fat Pinto Beans Recipe

Yields 10 servings; 5 ounces per serving

  • 3 cups Dry pinto beans
  • 9-12 cups Hot water
  • 2 medium Garlic cloves (whole)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 medium Fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 6 canned whole tomatoes)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Chopped coriander
  • 2 Hot jalapeño peppers (optional)
  • 1/2 small Chopped onion

Clean and wash beans under running water using a colander. Place 6 cups of hot tap water in a stockpot or large saucepan on top of the stove on low heat. Add beans and garlic cloves; cover (add extra water as needed). Cook for 1 1/2 hours (if necessary add extra water). Add salt. Remove garlic cloves if desired. Add remaining ingredients. Cook for 1/2 hour longer.

Note: Beans may take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to cook, depending on type of pot used and tenderness of beans.

Comment on Multi-cultural Hatred

The attack on multi-culturalism really must stop. From the shooting in AZ that took down several, including Rep. Gifford, to the shooting  & bombing that took down innocents in Norway – hatred of diversity is on the rise … And it must stop. Hatred of certain groups will lead to hatred of all, and it could become an unstoppable wave that could annihilate humanity. How can others not be as tired as I am of the hatred and violence? The only way it can be stopped is with proactive (not just idle) acceptance and promotion of cultural and ethnic diversity.

Pineapple Vinegar / Vinagre de Piña

To celebrate the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary, our local RPCV chapter held a global potluck. For our contribution, a fellow returned volunteer and I wanted to make authentic pupusas with authentic curtido and authentic salsa. We wanted everything to have an authentic flavor because it has been our experience that these items do not taste authentic at sit-down restaurants. The difficulty in making the curtido was was that the pineapple vinegar was not readily available. Luckily, one of my friends had a recipe for it. The vinegar was quite delicious, and it can be changed to fit your tastes. Here is the recipe I used, in English. Enjoy!!!

(My friend’s mom states that the vinegar can be ready to use the same day, and that it can be kept refrigerated for up to a month, depending on how much apple cider vinegar you add to the recipe – half a cup of apple cider vinegar is enough for a 48-64 oz glass jar. The apple cider vinegar is necessary to help the pineapple start the acidifying process, fermentation.)

Para celebrar el 50mo aniversario del Cuerpo de Paz, nuestro grupo local de RPCV hizo una fiesta en donde todos trajimos diversos platillos de lugares globales. Por nuestra parte, una compañera voluntaria y yo quisimos hacer pupusas autenticas, curtido autentico, y salsa autentica. Quisimos que todo tuviera un sabor autentico porque en nuestra experiencia estas cosas no tienen un sabor autentico en los restaurantes. La dificultad en hacer el curtido esta en que el vinagre de piña no se encuentra ya hecho. Por suerte, uno de mis amigos tuvo la receta. El vinagre estuvo muy delicioso, y se puede cambiar al gusto. Aqui esta la receta que use, en Español. ¡¡¡Buen provecho!!!

(La madre de mi amigo dice que el vinagre se puede hacer y usar el mismo dia, y que se puede mantener en el refrigerador hasta un mes, dependiendo de cuanto vinagre de sidra le agrega a la receta – media taza de vinagre de sidra es suficiente para una jara de vidrio de 48-64 oz. El vinagre de sidra le ayuda a la piña fermentarse.)



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.