Tara lives in my back yard in Maui. I sit with her every morning while I drink my first double espresso of the day. Tara is the goddess of compassion who was born of the petals of a lotus blosson that grew out of the lake of tears the Buddha shed when he saw the troubles of mankind. She holds her hands in front of her heart in a position (mudra) known as dharmachakra, which indicates teaching. Her thumb and middle finger touch, which indicates compassion for the suffering of others. To Hindu and Buddhist followers, she is an antidote to ignorance and delusion.
I use my morning coffee with Tara to remember to be thankful for the incredible bounty I enjoy, to make sure I am aware that most of the 6.5 billion people on the planet live in extreme poverty and fear, and to ask whether I am doing the things I want to do to help others. A read of the headlines indicates Tara has a lot of work to do.
On Tuesday I saw the results of a survey published by Hindu newspaper and the CNN-IBN television network. Among the results; 35% of India’s 1.1 billion people went hungry at least once last year and 8% said someone in their family went hungry often.
There was good news too. More than half said their families are eating better than 10 years ago. More than half said their consumption of milk, pulses, and cereals had gone up and 60% said they eat meat when they can get it.
We hear a lot about the booming Indian economy, growing 8% per year and we hear about out call centers taking American jobs. But we don’t hear that one-third of India’s population—370 million people–live on less than a dollar a day.
A few backround facts. GDP per capital for the US in 2003 was $37,562 per year, or $102.91 per day, compared with $2892 in India, where 34.7% earn less than $1/day and 79.9% earn less than $2/day. By comparison, China’s per capita income in 2003 was $5003, while 16.6% earned less than $1/day and 46.7% less than $2/day.
More per capita income figures for 2003: World $8229. Developing countries $4359, Japan $27,967, Israel $20,033, Lebanon $5074, Saudi Arabia $13,226, Mexico $9168, Arab states $5685, Iran $6995, Haiti $1742, and Nigeria $1050. The life expectancy of a child born in America today is 77.4 years , Italy 80, Japan 82. In Nigeria it is 43.4; in Haiti 51.6.
We live in a wonderful, safe and free country. We can afford humanity and compassion towards people inside and outside our country who are not so blessed.