The Wisdom Keepers Project
In this "history" section, I'll be adding documents that we've written over the years since the inception of this project. for instance, what follows here is an appeal for funds written in February, of 2005 (fairly close to the inception of this project) . Of note to me, is that we started out thinking we could write The Dalai Lama and Bill Moyers into our description, and somehow the cosmos would confugure a way of making that happen. hmmmmmm. Rabbi Rami knew all the others figures of note as personal friends and did have a connection with a close friend to Bill Moyers.
A remarkable gathering of some of the world’s most beloved spiritual leaders is about to take place and I invite you to help me raise the money to make this happen.
Once again the world bleeds from wounds inflicted in fear – fueled by religion. While there is no single roadmap to peace, there is one thing spiritual teachers can do. They can model the way people of faith can engage each other to uncover and articulate the universal spiritual truths each religion carries. This is our best hope for the future.
Designed with this in mind, the upcoming gathering is the initiating stage of the Wisdom Keepers project, a proposed four-part public television series exploring the common mystical heart and unique gifts of all spiritual traditions. The series will feature the Dalai Lama and other prominent spiritual teachers and mystics representing Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Native American faiths.
We’re seeking funds to hold and film a private three-day retreat in September 2005 with these Wisdom Keepers: Rev. Matthew Fox, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Father Thomas Keating, Sister Jose Hobday, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Jean Houston, Joan Borysenko, Andrew Harvey, Robert Thurman and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Bill Moyers will moderate the discussions and narrate the television series.
The footage of this gathering will be the basis for the Wisdom Keepers television series designed to equip people with the knowledge they may need to better interact with people whose religious backgrounds differ from their own. The intention for the TV series is to help people to become more knowledgeable, effective, and empathic participants in our ever more culturally and spiritually diverse society.
The idea for the Wisdom Keepers project is based on my personal experience with all these teachers. I have been with them in different settings and could see the difference between the deep conversations they had over breakfast versus the formal lectures they gave in public. The message wasn't different, but the depth and tone were. I was in awe of eavesdropping on these incredible conversations. I want more people would have the chance to listen in on a group of venerable mystics relaxing with each and comparing experiences. A public TV series seems the best way to do this.
Many of these renowned teachers know each other and have appeared together at conferences. What makes the Wisdom Keepers Gathering unique is that for the first time these spiritual leaders will have the opportunity to share deep conversation in an intimate environment. These teachers will live together, eat together, and share with each other their deepest concerns, fears, and hopes, all the while building the spiritual infrastructure for how to empower people to investigate the full spectrum of human spiritual wisdom.
One of the unique features of this gathering is that we are talking with mystics and will focus on the mystical experience. While terms will vary from tradition to tradition, the reality to which they point is shared in common by these people.
The focus will be on the private contemplative practices of these mystics and their mystical traditions. We will be talking with the living masters of these practices. This will be more than a portrayal of mysticism, but an encounter with it.
I feel urgency to film this gathering now because several of these teachers are in their eighties and it’s important that this project be part of their legacies. Religion is once again in the public square, and we need to make sure that the religious voice of these teachers is heard.
Religion in this country and others is being highjacked into the service of violence and evil. We associate religion with the most narrow and prejudiced views. When someone says she is religious we automatically think "fanatic" or "conservative." When someone speaks in favor of religious values we automatically think anti-gay, anti-science, anti-choice.
But there is another dimension to religious values that speaks of love, compassion, justice, etc. And this is what people have to hear.
This television series can provide the progressive community with religious grounding far richer and more compelling than that of the evangelical right.
“Twenty-five hundred years ago, it took an exceptional man like Diogenes to exclaim, ‘I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world.’ Today we must all be struggling to make those words our own. We have come to the point in history when anyone who is only Japanese or American, only Oriental or Occidental, is only half human. The other half that beats with the pulse of humanity has yet to be born,” (Huston Smith, The World’s Religions).
It is my conviction that the religions of the world – through their clergy and people of faith – hold the key to the survival of the world. Because, that key will never be turned unless and until the world’s clergy and faithful enter into a spirit-filled dialogue with one another. By providing our Wisdom Keepers a safe and inviting environment for deep interspiritual dialog, they can model true inter-spiritual conversation and set the agenda for the emerging interspiritual movement
of the 21st century.
That’s why I hope you will be one of the first to say, “Yes… This work is important. I want to help produce this gathering and public television series” by sending in the most generous gift you can, right away.
With your help, I know that we will film the Wisdom Keepers Gathering andproduce the television series. Millions will view it and learn the awesome potential there is for religion and spirituality to lead the peaceful unification of our world.
Any public television project requires a lot of money and documentaries are especially hard to finance. As you may expect, the current economy and political climate makes our fundraising task even tougher. Public television stations have no money to fund or buy programs.
It will cost $130,000 to hold and film the gathering and about $1. 2 million to produce the four one-hour programs of the public television series. This is conservative for a television series of this type but it still is a lot of money and a huge portion of it must be raised from private individuals.
Please give whatever you can afford…. $50 or $5,000 – to support the gathering and filming of Wisdom Keepersso that we may record, preserve and communicate the wisdom of these great teachers.
I urge you to go to your checkbook right this moment, before you set this aside and forget, and write out the most generous check possible to One River Foundation.
No matter how large or how small your contribution, it is 100 percent tax deductible.
Thank you for your caring… I hope to hear from you very soon.
Rabbi Rami Shapiro