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Feast in Four Days: yum! aum! yum! aum!

Greetings all,

This may well be your last bulk email before we sit down and say grace to start the 2009 Ethical Feast.

What a journey this has been! The past few weeks have been nothing short of amazing. People from all over the world have sent in their greetings and best wishes, and I have been humbled by the generosity of spirit in everyone I have talked with.

The local hosts have been totally supportive. Big Medicine Charitable Trust has led the way with ideas, insights, and organisational support. Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti have shared with us the incredible generosity of the farming folk. Shikshantar have been superb counsellors and guides to the local scene. Although the Ethical Feast is a personal process, I'd like to thank these organisations as embodiments of the fine people inside them.

There's plenty of info and even some pictures going up on the website: http://www.ethicalfeast.in

So: here's how the event is shaping up...

The first Feast has been capped at 108 guests who will sit together under a tent on the shores of Lake Pichola. We'll learn about Mewari cuisine and its Ayurvedic qualities, and we'll learn about the biodiversity dimensions of the menu.

The second Feast will attract about 300 people from the farming village of Chandwas, near Jhadol. We'll offer a prayer for rain (the farmers are keen on that) and will have a night of singing and dancing. Next day we'll head off for a series of farm visits to talk about the tragedy of the "Green Revolution" and how local people are recovering.

The third Feast will be an intimate affair for 4-5 host families who will share dinner with visitors and talk about life in the fast lane, India style.

Here in Udaipur there is a very active NGO scene. Lots more than I knew about before this trip, and I'm still meeting new people every day. Amongst the foreign population there is a Harappan yoga teacher, a mother/daughter animal aid activism front, several biodiversity researchers and international development interns, an origami-master peace activist, and a water pump repairman who services the remote farm villages on bicycle (think very steep mountains).

The Ethical Feast has drawn in a fair bit of interest from this crowd, and they of course are also connected with some of the very impressive local people who have been working for a better world for most of their lives.

What has been interesting to me is the difficulty many of us are having to keep this Ethical Feast radiating from our personal world outward. I find it is all too easy to talk to one another using the slogans and sound bytes from our various campaigns and progressive ideologies. Conversations can quickly become an exchange of belief system twitters whose utility could be summarised as: "Are we on the same team or not?"

That's not a critique: it's really good to find out if I'm speaking the same language with someone else. But the question itself assumes that there is an "us" and a "them"...troubled territory indeed. These enthusiastic, passionate, belief system twitters seem to inject the classic problems of exclusion and otherness straight into the roots of our conversations.

Clearly, many of us have strong ideas about the recipe for a better world. It's the challenge of "being the change" that I find most fascinating in this gathering.

India is a reality unto itself: I have not seen any global media for the last month (except for the cricket, which cannot be ignored). Yet there are signs everywhere that India embodies the same edgy, alarming sense of unbalance seen elsewhere in the world. Farmland is eroding, cities are growing faster than pond scum, and the hot breath of material appetite is acrid on the nose.

Yet amongst it all are the sublime reservoirs of cool stillness, the upright fullness of people living well, and the free-flowing beauty of existential certainty.

As Craig San Roq says in the fabulous allegory "Dante's Nest" which he contributed to the Feast:

Now it is time for dinner. After all a Mystery is simply this; to give delicious form to the movement of love, sustainment to the becoming of love, the gravid powers of
enduring love, despite the spider bite, the poison and pestilence in the city above.

With kindest regards,

John Brisbin