Dear members of the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore, allies, and friends,
We rejoice over the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code. This is significant progress made towards the vision of creating an inclusive Singapore.
The Buddha taught us to be kind towards all beings and was a strong proponent of non-discrimination. After all, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, abilities, etc, we share the same desire to be happy and to be free from suffering.
May we continue to focus on what we have in common despite our differences.
May we continue to cultivate the skillful qualities of compassion and be kind towards ourselves and those around us.
May we work on ourselves to be better humans.
Through these, we are hopeful that the world can be a place that is harmonious, free from animosity, and that we can all live with ease.
As your friend on this path of peace, we’d like to extend our loving-kindness to you and your loved ones.
TW: This article contains content about LGBTQ+ discrimination and conversion therapy.
The recent incident of a school counsellor at Hwa Chong Institution presenting anti-LGBTQ+ content and a video from a group promoting conversion therapy during a sexuality education lesson has led to some students sharing details of the session online.
Is it wrong to feel outraged about this?
To all those who feel affected by the incident, be it LGBTQ+ youths or allies present at the assembly or others reading about it online, I know that it may be deeply upsetting to witness this episode, alongside any hateful comments that come along with it.
As with all other beings in this world, we all suffer, because of our greed, aversion and delusions.
Judgments may arise in our minds about the counsellor and the school and with that, ill-will and anger can cloud our minds.
We may feel that justice should be served and punishment should be meted out. However, if we give in to the temptations of anger, we are nudging the mind to develop an inclination to anger in future, sowing the seeds of future occurrences. More importantly, such thoughts can hurt us further and impede us from directing our attention to caring for our friends who are impacted by this.
“This cruel thought has arisen in me. It leads to hurting myself, hurting others, and hurting both. It blocks wisdom, it’s on the side of anguish, and it doesn’t lead to extinguishment…
Whatever a monastic frequently thinks about and considers becomes their mind’s inclination.” – MN 19 Dvedhāvitakka Sutta
There is nothing wrong with the arising of anger. It is a completely natural reaction to have in the face of injustice. The key is how we act when we notice the anger. We can choose to raise our fists and bay for blood or we can choose to underscore our response based on compassion, wisdom and kindness.
What else can we do then?
To those who are concerned about how their friends may be impacted by this incident, do check in with your friends and be there for them. For people who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, the misinformation may reinforce unhealthy perceptions they may be having about themselves or others in the LGBTQ+ community.
While we cannot walk this journey for them, we can walk with them and support them.
Share with them open letters responding to this incident in support of the LGBTQ+ community (here, here and here)
Direct them to trusted friends/family members or community resources listed below, if needed
To the LGBTQ+ individuals who are affected by this incident, please remember that there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+ and that you deserve love and happiness as much as anyone else. If you are finding it challenging to cope, please reach out to a trusted friend/family member or the resources listed below.
Personally, what I gained from this episode is that we have no control over what happens in the external world, such as the things people say or do. But, we can decide what we want to do in our inner worlds, such as our practice and our choices. We can choose to send loving-kindness to not just the LGBTQ+ youth affected, but also to the counsellor involved.
He is also clouded by delusions, just like we all are, and he too wants to be happy and avoid suffering. By deepening our practice, it gives us a chance to tend our minds to compassion, kindness and wisdom and helps us to be better able to support one another through whatever life throws in our way.
Professional services available to LGBTQ+ community:
Hi there! My name is Wilson and I identify as a gay cis-male, with pronouns he/him. To celebrate Pride Month, I would like to share some personal thoughts on the topic of coming out.
However, it’s important to note that coming out is a deeply personal process and is different for everyone. Without being sensitive to this, there can be misunderstandings and unintentional discrimination even amongst the different communities under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. The incident of an actress, Rebel Wilson, being outed publicly by a gay journalist before she was ready to, is one example.
As my sharing focuses heavily on the experiences of a gay cis-male, for the benefit of other members of the LGBTQ+ community, I have included resources at the end of this article to offer other perspectives on this topic.
1. What does ‘coming out’ mean to you?
To me, ‘coming out’ is a process of ‘letting people in’. I know it sounds oxymoronic. Just imagine our house. There are some rooms that we would allow guests to enter, while some are only permitted to loved ones. Or perhaps we may choose to keep the doors closed at all times regardless of who it is.
These rooms represent different aspects of our identity, and coming out is akin to inviting others to see various sides of us. But it’s not just about letting others into these rooms. It’s also about letting ourselves in. Because coming out is part of a journey to accepting ourselves for who we are.
It took me a long time to accept my own sexuality. Therefore, I can understand if people around me need more time to come to terms with theirs too. Also, there isn’t any fixed order of letting people in. Some prefer to be completely comfortable with their own sexuality before coming out to others. Some prefer to have their loved ones support them on this journey of coming out from the beginning. Some prefer to come out to others after they are financially stable. Some prefer not to come out to others at all. You decide what is right for you.
Most importantly, allow yourself to embrace this aspect of you completely. The kindness that you grant to yourself will triumph over any kindness that others shower on you.
2. What challenges did you face growing up as a gay cis-male?
I first guessed that I was gay at the age of 11. When I started to realise that I was different from others, I began judging myself for being “abnormal”. I was constantly worried that others would find out about my secret. I tried to develop feelings for girls but it just somehow never felt right. I once confessed my feelings to a girl, to then realise that it was not what I truly felt.
In order to avoid dealing with my sexuality, I diverted my energy to my studies. I also built a staggeringly high wall in my heart to keep my parents out. I was worried about how they would react if they were to find out I was gay.
3. How did you do it then?
At 18, I developed a crush on a male classmate who was dating a girl. When I finally came to terms that it was unrequited, I felt really heartbroken. I remember feeling really silly and before long, nothing I did brought me joy and I would tear uncontrollably at random moments. I decided to confide in a close friend over MSN Messenger. (I can already picture the quizzical looks on the faces of Gen-Zs)
I shared with him my struggles and eventually, came out to him. He told me, “That doesn’t matter to me. You are still my friend, no matter what.” Till today, I feel truly blessed to have that as my first coming out experience, one that was met with unconditional love.
I came out to my parents when I was 23. While it took them some time, both of them were accepting. To me, I was finally able to bring down a wall that separated us for such a long time. Our relationship has improved since.
Now, I feel that I’m still on a journey of coming out to myself and others, but it is one with much more support from my loved ones. A few friends at work expressed concern about me coming out to colleagues. However, I feel like this is my way of showing the people around me that my sexuality is just one aspect of me and it does not change anything about the other aspects.
4. What is the funniest reaction you received when you came out to someone?
“How can you be gay? You love watching tennis and more importantly, your dress sense is horrible.”
I burst into laughter when a friend at work who previously thought that I had a “girlfriend” exclaimed that line, in jest (I believe). While I do admit that my dress sense is far from impeccable, her words reminded me of certain stereotypes that people have about gay males.
5. Can I still be a Buddhist after I have decided to come out as LGBTQ+?
Of course you can! Being LGBTQ+ does not stop you from progressing on the Noble Eightfold Path. Enlightenment is available to everyone regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
6. Any advice for someone who is struggling with understanding their sexuality?
Please be kind to yourself and give yourself the time and space to explore your feelings! In the meantime, find people or resources that you can trust to support you on your journey. I hope that as you discover more stories of those who have walked a similar path, you would realise that you are not alone and that there are safe spaces for you to make sense of all your feelings and thoughts.
I felt that as I judged myself excessively for my sexuality in my youth, I developed a coping mechanism by looking outwards instead of looking inwards. I gave a lot to others and yearned for affirmation. At the same time, I avoided my emotions and denied myself of the care and love that I gave to others. Over the years, I have learnt to love and care for myself as well as I do so for others and to accept the different aspects of me.
7. How can I be an ally for a friend on their coming out journey?
Be a friend like how you would be with other friends who face their own struggles in different areas! Practise active listening, avoid assumptions and respect the confidentiality of what has been confided in you. As you gain more awareness about the LGBTQ+ community, you can be an ally to your friend and also to others in the community.
Being a gay cis-male has shown me that different aspects of my identity can give me privilege or cause me to be discriminated against. This prompts me to be an ally for others who face discrimination, e.g. women and people living with HIV. When we are allies for one another, we can collectively love ourselves and others much better.
Writing this article felt like another step in my coming out journey and I honestly struggled while writing it. However, I am thankful to the people in my life who have accepted me for who I am and supported me in so many ways. For me, coming out has become something that I do more often with the people I meet now and I do hope that the world will be a better place for all who are facing discrimination in one way or another, not just the LGBTQ+ community.
Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.
Pink Dot, an event that supports people’s right to love, comes and goes every year. This year is back to a physical event with many hugs exchanged and photos taken. Beyond the event, how can we show support and compassion to our LGBTQ+ friends?
1. To foster harmony and understanding, we first must drop the need to be right all the time. Here’s how
2. The ultimate guide to inclusivity in organisations (Buddhist ones included!)
To foster harmony and understanding, we first must drop the need to be right all the time. Here’s how
What’s going on here
The author shares how we can establish harmony between the divides in society. Staying silent about discrimination can make us part of the problem too. Understanding our and others’ fears can bridge the gap.
Why we like it & the key takeaway
The author gives super nice graphics on how we can react in different situations. For example, if a colleague is uncomfortable with another colleague’s sexual orientation. Or in other cases, a colleague feels discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
“A constructive approach is to educate ourselves about the opposing views in hopes that our perspectives can be shifted, and that misconceptions can be cleared. “
The ultimate guide to inclusivity in organisations (Buddhist ones included!)
What’s going on here
Rainbodhi, a spiritual friendship group for LGBTQIA+ Buddhists and an advocate for more inclusion and diversity in the broader Buddhist community, shares a simple manual for boosting inclusivity in Buddhist groups and more!
Why we like it & key takeaways
The cute comic strip helps the reader navigate the dos and don’ts in creating an inclusive practitioner circle for all. More importantly, the manual also shares perspectives on the link between Anatta & sexual identity. We love the manual as it is comprehensive in building a more inclusive organisation.
“Some Buddhists use the concept of not-self to shut down LGBTQIA+ people talking about issues that affect them, or the very real suffering that they experience.”
Content warning: This piece describes acts of homophobia and bullying that might be disturbing to some readers.
Since young, Kyle is always confused with how people look at him and why people like to call him names that are demeaning and hurtful. The term “gay” was not common during the ‘80s in Singapore.
A boy behaving femininely did not fit into how society thought a boy should behave Boys in this group are labelled “Ah Kua”. Ah Kua is a derogatory Hokkien term for a transsexual or transvestite.“Maybe something is not right, I have to be more like a boy,” Kyle recollected on his thoughts as a child.
Today, Kyle is a jovial, energetic, creative designer and Buddhist guide who volunteers at a soup kitchen and Buddhist organisations. Though he has gone through a hurtful past, he now recollects his experience with zen and ease.
He hopes that his sharing will spark a conversation about how it is okay to be different and how we can support our LGBTQIA+ friends within the Buddhist communities.
The Challenges of Being Different
Kyle was easily a bully’s target in school as the only boy in the choir. He joined the choir because he loved to sing but yet he was often called a “Sissy” for choosing to do what he loves.
“Every day I am thinking…am I going to be called something else?” Kyle shared. He would find longer routes to his destination to avoid a group of boys who would bully him.
Secondary school was where things escalated.
“If you like boys, then there is something wrong with you,” Kyle recalled. Boys would shame him in public by shouting derogatory names at him or throwing garbage into his bag.
Thankfully, he had four female friends who always defended him from the bullies. They made the pain of insults easier to bear. He recalled taking part in the school’s talentime competition, with the song ‘Hero’ by Mariah Carey. The lyrics inspired him to go up on the stage to express himself and the audience was stunned at his performance. Kyle could reach all the high notes in the song. His performance led to less bullying as people saw his talent in singing.
Kyle felt lucky as the derogatory remarks were instead replaced with the nickname “Mariah”.
Mariah Carey’s “Hero” gave him the courage to be stronger during those tough times. The lyrics and tune provided a space of calm and refuge. “Mariah Carey and Whitney Huston are where my pillars of strength and inspiration came from. “That’s before I came into contact with the Buddha of course!” Kyle chuckled.
The Buddha as his inspiration
“I am not special, if I suffer I am not the only one,” Kyle realised as he found out about the four noble truths.
Learning the noble truths that life is subjected to unsatisfactoriness and there is a way out of it resonated deeply with Kyle. It gave him the empathy that he was not alone.
Bullying followed Kyle even when he was pursuing a diploma at NAFA. He really wanted the bullies to suffer badly. He was thinking about how to seek revenge all the time. However, he realised all the unhappiness and burdens within caused by hatred arose from being attached to his ego.
“At a later stage, I learnt more compassion.” Kyle shared. He drew his source of compassion from a Dhammapada verse on hatred.
“Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.”
Responding to hate with hate only tortures oneself with anger, Kyle reasoned.
“Being kind to oneself is not just shopping or buying things for yourself. We always say be kind to yourself. When you are not angry towards others, that is when you are really being kind to yourself”
Kyle’s sharing struck a deep chord within me. In a society that starts talking about self-care, we often talk about the material. Kyle’s sharing nailed it that the emotional aspect is hardly looked at.
“Life without Dharma will be tougher to live on. The loss of my loved ones, the physical suffering from illness, the mental tortures of guilt and hatred. My suffering only I can relate to. No matter how happy one can be, the drum always sounds better when it’s far away.”
Kyle is thankful to be alive in this time where the Dharma still exists. He is constantly inspired by the teachings of Ajahn Buddhadasa, Ajahn Chan, Venerable Hsing Yun, and Thich Nhat Han., Without the Buddha’s Dharma, these masters wouldn’t exist.
Kyle has enormous gratitude for how the Dharma has transformed him.
I wondered to myself, “With so many challenges at school, was his experience in the Buddhist community any different?”
Gay + Buddhist?
Although Kyle never had negative experiences from the Buddhist community regarding his sexual orientation, challenges remain. Occasionally, when doing Dhamma volunteer work, he was apprehensive about sharing his sexuality as he was unsure how people would react.
He felt compelled to ‘tone down’ his behaviour when he entered the Buddhist setting.
“Why?”, I wondered.
Kyle shared that it remains a cultural taboo to say, “It is okay to be Buddhist and to be gay”. Something that is not discussed, creates uncertainty. There is a dearth of centres that have Dhamma talks and resources tailored to LGBTQIA+. Hence, there is uncertainty whether LGBTQIA+ members are welcomed.
The compulsion to tone down on his femininity eventually faded as Kyle developed his Dhamma knowledge.
He concluded that being LGBTQIA+ is not a sin. Rather, it is the way that we treat others and ourselves that matters more than our sexuality. Our thoughts, speech, and actions of kindness and wisdom are of utmost importance.
That made me wonder how we can better support our LGBTQIA+ friends.
“Be sensitive to what you say as it may make them feel uncomfortable. You may be close but do not take liberty in sharing with others about the person’s sexual orientation.” Kyle advised.
He recalled that some straight friends might accidentally ‘out’ their LGBTQIA+ friends, leaving them in an awkward situation.
“If we are standing up for them, just defend them because everyone deserves kindness and no one wants to be treated harshly,” Kyle advised. He mentioned that is better to avoid ‘out-ing’ LGBTQIA+ friends if they aren’t prepared to share their sexual orientation.
As friends, we also can express skilful speech by not stereotyping a person immediately. Don’t call out someone for ‘straight acting’ if they are gay and expect gay people to have to act a certain way.
In addition, if you suspect that a friend is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, don’t ask them. They might not be ready to share and feel even more stressed.
One Buddhist community that helped Kyle was “RainBodhi” (HYPERLINK), which combined two words “rainbow” and “Bodhi”. It is a LGBTQIA+ friendly community that conducts talks and provides resources to help one another.
How can members of the LGBTQIA+ community develop more compassion towards themselves against a conservative society which may not always be understanding?
“Take your time and explore what is happening. It is always through initial confusion that we gain clarity and wisdom eventually. Once you understand your emotions, you know better about this “Me” and “I”. Pick up a Dhamma book to ground yourself.” Kyle shared.
Kyle added, “If you aren’t religious, then pick up philosophy or inspirational books.”
Remind yourself “There is nothing wrong with you”.
With Kyle developing so much wisdom over time, I wondered what Kyle would tell his younger self.
“Trust your instinct. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way you are. One day you will know a group of people who truly love who you are. You will meet an amazing teacher, the Buddha. You will come across the Buddha’s teaching and it will transform you. Be kind to people as much as possible. I promise you, that’s the only way that will help you through all the struggles. ” Kyle encouraged.
“Stop obsessing with losing weight and lose the ego instead!” Kyle added in jest.
In the spirit of pride – acceptance and care- Kyle summarised his thoughts by sharing, “Keep giving joy and love to people around you, even when you can’t find it yourself. Because whatever hardship you are going through, all the joy and love you have given would come back to you eventually”
This article is a reflection of my personal take on the topic and is not representative of the views of any organisation or community that I’m associated with. Please take what you think is useful and filter out the rest.
The world has never been more united yet divided at the same time.
Social rights movements bring people together, but they also seem to tear people apart.
Why is that? Have we missed the plot? Isn’t the end goal to be at peace and to be happy?
I’ve been pondering over these questions for years, and the same is true for the LGBTQIA+ movement.
It’s painful to witness so much distress amongst opposing parties. In the name of justice and equality, people hurt and get hurt, intentionally or unintentionally.
For a long time, for the fear of being entangled in fiery feuds, I chose to unplug myself from controversial conversations. While I frown upon discrimination, I’ve never felt a need to actively or publicly speak up for the LGBTQIA+ community. I thought it would fuel hate and I want no part in that. Not until recently, I realised how my inaction can be contributing to the problem itself.
The onset of riots and protests in various countries was a sobering reminder that social issues cannot be swept under the carpet. The undercurrent of prejudice has already resulted in irreversible harm such as suicides, violence, and even murder in some countries. There is a tipping point before the issue snowballs into more serious damages.
Without speaking up for LGBTQIA+, silent discrimination remains rampant and goes unreported, affecting their work, relationships, and mental health.
A silent killer, some would say. LGBTQIA+ members suffer in the dark, believing that they are less than themselves and that they are unloveable. Explicitly expressing our care for them can make a positive difference. It might even save a life.
Having said that, to me, speaking up on this topic isn’t about taking sides. It isn’t about fighting for or against LGBTQIA+ because fighting only breeds tension. It is about bridging the divide between groups and fostering mutual understanding.
Hatred never ceases through hatred in this world; through love alone, they cease. This is an eternal law.
Dhammapada Verse 5
We can tackle this issue fourfold:
1. Recognise that beneath the differences, fundamentally, we are all the same.
At some point in our lives, we would have felt that we don’t belong.
Perhaps everyone else seems smarter or more talented than us.
Perhaps everyone else shares the same interests except us.
Perhaps everyone else thinks differently.
We may try hard to fit in and to live according to others’ expectations, only to be unhappy for pretending to be someone we are not.
We may question our self-worth, discount our own good qualities, and berate ourselves. Or we may size ourselves up to overcompensate for the deep-seated insecurities.
Not being able to feel accepted and to be loved for who we truly are can be painful. To have others criticise us for being ourselves hurts even more. No place would feel like home, no place would we feel belonged.
LGBTQIA+ struggle to feel belonged more than straight and cisgender folks. They are frequent targets of bullying and often suffer in silence, thinking that there’s something wrong with them.
According to a research study, “Sense of belonging displayed a significant relationship with depression and hopelessness and is likely to play a critical role in both the development of and recovery from depression.”.
Showing acceptance and kindness towards the LGBTQIA+ has the power to reduce the numbers. If we see ourselves in them, we wouldn’t bring ourselves to inflict pain on them. We would even want to protect them.
Shifting the perception of “you versus me” to “us” erases any divide that caused us much agitation, and it would foster much-needed harmony in our society.
One who, while himself seeking happiness, does not oppress with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.
Dhammpada verse 131
2. Transcend the rights and the wrongs
How many times have we hurt others and ourselves while trying to be ‘right’?
Just because someone else thinks or acts differently doesn’t make him/her wrong.
Right and wrong isn’t all black and white, as seen in the trolley problem. Our perception of what is right or wrong has been influenced by various causes and conditions since we were young. Our environment, faith, knowledge, etc, shape our beliefs, which colour the lens we use to see the world.
The moment we hold on too strongly with our ideals, we start to project them onto others unconsciously. We unwittingly try to fix those who possess a differing opinion just to fit them into our reality, and rationalise why it is okay to do so (even if it hurts others).
But in the process, we are likely to be far from rational. Think about the last time when your ideals were challenged. How did you feel? Probably angry or lousy. I too would feel the same. Clinging to our views creates an emotional load in us, clouds our judgement, and can cause us to react to others unskillfully. We might be right in fact, but wrong in Dhamma.
To foster harmony and understanding, we first must drop the need to be right all the time.
We don’t have to agree with each other to respect and accept each other. Even if we cannot accept, we don’t have to hurt each other.
When the mind doesn’t grab hold of things, when you don’t find any “thing”, any opinion, any fixed position to delight in, then that is what brings about the end of quarrels, the end of disputes, malicious speech, the taking up of weapons and of argument – that’s where contention comes to an end, where the mind doesn’t relish taking hold of “this is my position!”.’
Madhupindika Sutta (MN 18)
2. Overcome discrimination by overcoming irrational fears
Discrimination often stems from irrational fear. When not understood, our unconscious fear can cause us to instinctively inflict harm on others.
I saw this first hand as when my 2-year-old niece screamed at the sight of a flying ant. She was so fearful that she smacked it while in tears (thankfully it flew away). The ant was just minding its own business. Why, at such a young age, does my niece feel a need to hurt the little ant?
Do we carry similar reactions towards people — carrying fear or ill-will towards LGBTQIA+ members or towards society who seemed to be against LGBTQIA+?
Some researchers theorised that our primal instinct is to protect ourselves from perceived danger, and to give us an evolutionary edge. Fear can also be learnt. For example, if our parents demonstrate their fears of spiders in front of a child, the child is likely to develop the same fear.
The piece of good news is that these fears can be unlearnt by shifting our perception.
Learning that the little ant has a father and mother, and wants to be happy, my niece stopped crying in fear. Eventually, she apologised, looked out of the window and said: “I want to see the ant find its mummy and daddy.”.
Faulting others or ourselves for being fearful is like punishing a child for being scared of insects.
We all have our implicit biases and prejudices, but acting on these unskillfully is not okay.
A constructive approach is to educate ourselves about the opposing views in hopes that our perspectives can be shifted, and that misconceptions can be cleared.
Fearful or negative feelings that can sow the seeds of conflict need to be understood in order to be let go of. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to widen our perspectives:
What caused me to feel this way towards (X)?
What assumptions have I made about (X)?
In which instances could my assumptions be wrong? How can I validate it?
What are the admirable qualities in this person/community?
He who does not judge others arbitrarily, but passes judgment impartially according to the truth,
that sagacious man is a guardian of law and is called just.
Dhammapada verse 257
4. Collaborating to create a safe space for all
As a democratic society, we have our rights to speak freely. However, freedom of speech comes with great responsibility. Free speech doesn’t mean hate speech. Words have the power to heal or to hurt.
All of us can do our part to join efforts in creating a safe space to communicate our feelings, and to establish mutual understanding so that we can co-exist harmoniously. Many times, we speak with good intentions, but how we say it and when we say it can burn or build bridges.
The teachings on Right Speech come in handy here. The Buddha taught that a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken:
“It is spoken at the right time
It is spoken in truth
It is spoken affectionately
It is spoken beneficially
It is spoken with a mind of good-will.”
– AN 5.198
The following are examples to illustrate how these factors can be applied in real life.
John does not support LGBTQIA+ due to his own beliefs.
Lydia identifies herself as a lesbian.
A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable for them.
– John Stuart Mill
We all have a part to play to put out the fire of ill-will in this world.
If we see someone discriminated against, speak up for them rather than watching from the sideline.
We can proactively advocate kindness and compassion through healthy dialogues.
For myself, I’m making a commitment to:
Engage the LGBTQIA+ community, to understand ways I can make them feel included in society.
Start conversations with friends who are non-supporters, seek to understand their point of view, and brainstorm on ways to unite despite the differences.
I invite you to join me in this journey to plant the seeds of harmony.