Lingering Lifetimes in Laos ~ 10 Things to Stop Landmines

Posted by Cora Wen Tuesday, January 26, 2010 2 comments

IMG_1850Lingering in Laos

An echo of a memory, something familiar, but unplaceable...this is in part what many think of when they hear about Laos.

It is a small strip of a country sandwiched between the mighty kingdom of Thailand and heritage abundant Cambodia. Laos runs along the Mekong river, and is scattered with Buddhist and Hindu temples dating to the 8th century. Many of us in the West remember only a vague something to do with the Vietnam/American war...

Cambodia and Laos are covered with landmines from the Vietnam War, but Laos’ history is particularly oppressive, and it is one of the world's poorest nations and yet, Southeast Asia's most prolific land of unexploded bombs and landmines.

Laos is threatened by millions of unexploded small bombs that were dropped by the United States during the secret war in the 1970s to prevent communist and Vietnamese influence in the country. More than half of Laos's 236,800 sq kms, in 12 of 18 provinces, are littered with unexploded bombs.

The US dropped two million tons and 580,000 bombing missions - the equivalent of a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years in a secret bombing campaign from 1964-1973.


Legacy of Landmine

The bombing was an effort to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines and fend off the North Vietnamese Army. The Ravens, U.S. pilots in Laos, flew 1.5 times the number of air sorties flown in all of Vietnam.

Each cluster bomb scattered several hundred tennis-ball-sized bomblets (in Laos known as bombies) over 5000-sq-meter areas. About 260 million bombies fell over Laos with an estimated 53 million bombies dropped within one kilometer of inhabited villages.

Up to 30% of the bombies didn't detonate, leaving estimated 86 million unexploded bombies buried in fields, roads, forests, rivers and villages. Laos continues to have the largest unexploded landmines and bombs of any nation.

The “Dark Period” after 1975 with the dethroning of King Vatthana put the country into a highly socialised trade relationship with Vietnam which cut off trade with any other nation. Economic restrictions loosened in the 1980s and Laos was admitted into ASEAN in 1997. In 2005 the US establish trade relations, ending punitive taxes, and opening up tourism into the country. Now there is the beginning of an influx of tourists from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas.

abhayaFearlessness & Protection Mudra

In Sanskrit Abhaya means fearlessness, and Abhaya mudra symbolises protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear. The gesture is ancient, showing the hand empty of weapons, indicating friendship and peace. The gesture implies fearlessness before a potential enemy. In Buddhism, it is a symbol of the fearlessness and spiritual power of the one who makes it.

According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha made this gesture after enlightenment. When the Buddha was attacked by an angry elephant, he held up his hand in Abhaya mudrā and immediately calmed it.


The mudra is usually made with the right hand raised to shoulder height, arm bent with palm outward, fingers up and left hand down. When the right hand is in the abhaya mudra, the left hand usually makes the varada mudra (gift-giving gesture).


No War

In Laos, this mudrā is shown with both hands making a double Abhaya mudrā that is translated as "No War". The abhaya mudra on a (standing) walking Buddha is called 'the Buddha placing his footprint' and is unique to this region.

In a region that has suffered colonialism, civil war and the largest bombing mission throughout the American-Vietnam war, this is a particularly poignant symbol.

Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet the people are celebrated for their passive and benevolent nature. It has the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in history, yet no war was ever declared on Laos. According to the United Nations Development Program, at current funding, the cluster bomb removal program in Laos may take up to 100 years to complete.

Don’t use landmines: not now, not ever again

The United States has not signed the International Mine BanTreaty

156 nations have signed the treaty, including Afghanistan, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, all of Europe except Finland, all of sub-Saharan Africa except Somalia, almost half of the Middle East and North Africa (including Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Algeria), and the entire Western Hemisphere, except for the United States and Cuba.

International Land Mine Ban Treaty

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a global network that works for a world free of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions. The Campaign was awarded the Nobel Peace Prizein recognition of efforts for the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The organisation has been advocating for the treaty to become a reality, demonstrating civil society has the power to change the world.


A member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, the ICBL is engaged in the global effort to ban cluster munitions and address their humanitarian impact.

We can help build a world free of landmines and cluster munitions. The strength of change comes from US at local, national and international levels.

1. Learn about landmines and cluster munitions

Visit the ICBL site, read about the latest global developments in theLandmine Monitor Report, have a look at list of links.

2. Join a local campaign or start one

Contact one of the national campaigns to ban landmines. If there is no campaign in your country then consider starting your own! If you are from an international organization, contact us to learn more about affiliation.

3. Sign the People's Treaty

Help put pressure on governments by signing the People's Treaty to ensure the Convention on Cluster Munitions enters into force as soon as possible.

4. Send a lobbying letter

Write to one of the countries that have not joined the treaties. Urge them to get on board!

Write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of treaty members states and urge them to lobby the non-member states to join. Read writing tips and sample letters.

5. Get the word out

Write to a local newspaper, call up a radio station, and send information to your friends. The ICBL Campaign Kit is filled with tips

6. Organise a public event

Raise awareness in your community! Organise a photo or art exhibition, arrange a film screening, start a landmine and cluster munition awareness day/week, set up a letter-writing event, hold a public demonstration, host a benefit conference.

7. Stay informed

Subscribe to ICBL newsletter

8. Volunteer

If you are as passionate about this issue as we are and willing to dedicate some of your time, volunteer or intern for ICBL

9. Contribute to Landmine Monitor

Consider providing information for the Landmine Monitor Report. Find out about their research network and whether you can contribute by looking at the Landmine Monitor website or writing to lm [at]

10. Make a donation

Support the ICBL online, by mail or by telephone. Every bit counts!

Peace is Possible

Southeast Asian countries know landmines are a threat to their people and to national stability. Thailand will begin to de-mine borders with Laos and Cambodia. The entire Southeast Asian region may not be entirely free of landmines, but Laos and Cambodia play an important role to demonstrate how the commitment of countries and agencies can collaborate for change. Asean, the Asean Region Forum, and the Committee on Security and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific are working together to combat this issue.


Other Landmine and Cluster Munitions Agencies:

Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention - Official Website

Cluster Munition Coalition

E-Mine (United Nations' Electronic Mine Information Network)

Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Office for Disarmament Affairs - United Nations Office at Geneva

Second Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty - Official Webpage

Australian Government Aid

Handicap International


CORA WEN grew up with a Buddhist nun and was influenced by Master Hsuan Hua as a child. She took refuge in the Buddha as a teen, sowed wild oats in New York City throughout the late 70s, and had 2 successful careers in the Fashion Industry and Corporate Banking. She grew up in Hong Kong, Europe and the US, and has travelled extensively in Southeast Asia. Since 1994, Cora has taught Yoga internationally, mentored by America’s most influential Yoga lineage. Cora went to Laos for the first time in 2009, and has worked since 2002 in support of indigenous culture for exiled Tibetan people and Cambodian land mine victims. Cora is registered ERYT500 with Yoga Alliance, CYT with Internatianal Association of Yoga

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The Sacred Number 7 Seven

Posted by Cora Wen Thursday, January 21, 2010 1 comments

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.
- French Proverb


Sacred Number Seven

Seven is commonly thought of as a mystic or sacred number. It is four and three, which were considered lucky numbers by Pythagoras

A few days ago, I celebrated my 49th sun and 50th moon cycles. Being Chinese, I look at our traditional system of aging and based on the Chinese lunar calendar, I am 50 and my birthday passed in Dec, but according to the Western Gregorian calendar, my birth date is in January, and I am 49.

Now this is a basic question – how old are you? Yet I am not sure…

So this has made me think of movement of life and the meaning of numbers. Turning 50 has always been celebrated in Western culture as a significant passage – it’s half a century, and in ancient times, we were clos

er to death than to life.

So on my 7 x 7 Jubilee year, I wanted to share some sweet sacred sevens…enjoy!


In the Bible there are Seven days of Genesis, Seven days in the week, Seven graces, Seven deadly sins, Seven years of famine, Seven years of plenty, Seven divisions in the Lord’s Prayer and Seven gifts of the Holy Ghost

In the Apocalypse, there are Seven Churches of Asia , Seven candlesticks, Seven stars, Seven trumpets, Seven spirits, Seven horns, Seven vials, Seven plagues, Lamb with Seven eyes and a Seven-headed monster. Seventy Israelites go to Egypt with an exile lasting Seventy years, there are Seventy elders, Seventy languages and Seventy nations upon earth.

Seven Last Words are the last utterance of Christ on the cross – “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark 15:34 and Matt. 27:46


Ancient Hebrews had Seven names of God: El, Elohim, Adonai, Yhwh (Jehovah), Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyer, Shaddai, and Zebaot.

Every Seventh year was sabbatical, and Seven times Seven years is the jubilee, along with Seven days are the celebration of weddings and mourning for the dead.

The three great Jewish feasts Rosh Hashanah (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Festival of Booths) last Seven days; and between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are Seven weeks. The Talmud has Seven stages in the life of man, and the Seventh son of a Seventh son is thought to have mystical and magical powers.

Biblical purifications last Seven days; Balaam had Seven alters, and sacrificed Seven bullocks and Seven rams; Naaman dipped Seven times in the Jordan river; Elijah prayed Seven times, and sent his servant Seven times to look for rain.

Seven Deadly Sins – pride, covetousness, lust, gluttony, anger, envy and sloth

Seven Principal Virtues – faith, hope, charity, prudence, temperance, chastity and fortitude

Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, godliness and fear of the Lord.


Arabians have Seven holy temples and Persian legends talk of Seven caverns which aspirants must pass in Seventy years.

In Egypt, Seven is sacred to Osiris and there are Seven Hothors who predict or bestow a newborn’s fate. Pharaoh had a dream where he saw Seven years for his wives, and Seven priests with Seven trumpets marched round Jericho once every day, but Seven times on the Seventh day.

Apollo n Pan

Samson’s wedding feast lasted Seven days; on the Seventh he told his bride the riddle, he was bound Seven times, and Seven locks of his hair were cut off.

Nebuchadnezzar was a beast for Seven years. Astrologers and alchemists recognized Seven planets, and there are many ancient theories connecting seven with the human body and phases of development and formation

In Greco-Roman mythology, Apollos harp has Seven strings, and according to Orphic legends, was torn into Seven pieces Pan has Seven reeds in his pipe.

Seven Sages Name given by Greek tradition to Seven men of practical wisdom–statesmen, law-givers, and philosophers – Solon of Athens, Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mitylene, Cleobulus of Rhodes, Chilon of Sparta, Bias of Priene, and Periander of Corinth.

Arabians have Seven holy temples and Persian legends talk of Seven caverns which aspirants must pass in Seventy years.

In Egypt, Seven is sacred to Osiris and there are Seven Hothors who predict or bestow a newborn’s fate. A whirling dervish turns Seven times toward heaven before spinning

Pharaoh had a dream where he saw Seven years for his wives; Seven priests with seven trumpets marched round Jericho once every day, but Seven times on the Seventh day.

Samson’s wedding feast lasted Seven days; on the Seventh he told his bride the riddle, he was bound Seven times, and Seven locks of his hair were cut off.


Snow White had Seven Dwarfs helping her and there is The Island of the Seven Cities. This is a land of Spanish fable where Seven bishops founded Seven cities. The legend says that whoever visits the island never leaves it.


A collection of tales, Seven Wise Masters is about a sultans sons education in the Seven liberal arts by Seven wise masters. Also known as The Seven Viziers, The Story of the Seven Sages, or Sinbadnameh. During Seven days when the prince w

as ordered to maintain silence, his stepmother tried to seduce him. Having failed, she tried to accuse the prince and sought to bring his death by telling Seven stories. Each of her narratives was confuted by Seven sages, who in turn told tales. There are variant versions of these stories and the oldest text is in The Thousand and One Nights

A traditional English rhyme:

As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with Seven wives.

Each wife had Seven sacks, Each sack had Seven cats,

Each cat had Seven kits, Kits, cats, sacks, wives–

How many were going to St. Ives?

Seven Dwarfs – are two S’s, two D’s, and three emotions. Two S’s: Sleepy and Sneezy; two D’s: Dopey and Doc; and three emotions: Happy, Bashful, and Grumpy.


The Hawthorne tale House of Seven Gables is considered a classic of American literature.

Shakespeare made literary use of Seven in King Lear and most frequently quoted line is from “as You Like It”, and refers to the Seven ages of man: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and second childhood, “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”.


Seven Champions are the mediaeval patron saints of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy – 1) St. George of England was Seven years imprisoned by Almidor, the black king of Morocco 2) St. Denys of France lived Seven years in the form of a hart 3) St. James of Spain was Seven years dumb out of love for a fair Jewess 4) St. Anthony of Italy, was enchanted into a deep sleep in the Black Castle, and was released by St. George’s three sons, who quenched the Seven lamps 5) St. Andrew of Scotland delivered six ladies who had lived Seven years under the form of white swans 6) St. Patrick of Ireland was immured in a cell where he scratched his grave with his own nails 7) St. David of Wales slept Seven years in the enchanted garden of Ormandine

Early Rome was ruled by a succession of Seven kings. 1) Romulus (founder of the city) 2) Numa Pompilius 3)Tullus Hostilius 4) Ancus Martius 5) Tarquinius Priscus 6) Servius Tullius 7) Tarquinius Superbus

Seven Year’s War (1756-1763) against Fredrick the Great of Prussia was waged by France, Austria, and Russia. England.



Seven Senses – the “inward holy body” are Seven properties under the influence of the Seven planets. Fire animates, earth gives sense of feeling, water gives speech, air gives taste, mist gives sight, flowers give hearing, the south wind gives smelling. Seven senses are animation, feeling, speech, taste, sight, hearing, and smelling.

In Buddhism Seven represents ascent toward the spiritual center which occurs in Seven stages. Muslims have Seven heavens and a whirling dervish turns Seven times toward heaven before spinning.

Seven Heavens is a concept of ultimate spiritual bliss based upon the Koran. Muslims believe Allah created Seven heavens, on above another, and that the Prophet Muhammed was carried there on his horse Borak.

The Muhammadan Seventh Heaven, is said to be “beyond the power of description.” One goes after death to the Heaven he has earned on earth, and the Seventh Heaven, ruled by Abraham, is the ultimate one, a region of pure light lying above the other six, the Heaven of Heavens.

In India, there are Seven Chakras (energy centers) in the body which correspond to states of consciousness, developmental stages of life, archetypal elements, body functions, colors, sounds, and more. They are a formula for wholeness and a template for transformation.

Japanese have Seven gods of luck known as the Shichi-fuku-jin. They are comical deities depicted on a treasure ship. The Shichi-fuku-jin are personifications of earthly happiness in Japanese folk religion.shichifukujin

  • Hotei ~ laughing Buddha of mirth and merriment
  • Bishamonten ~ watchman
  • Fukurokuju ~ god of longevity
  • Jurojin ~ god of scholorship
  • Daikoku ~ god of nutrition
  • Ebisu ~ god of fishing
  • Benzaiten ~ goddess of music

7 More Sevens

Seven Liberal Arts – classification of the educational curriculum in the West during the Middle Ages, from the late fifth century AD onwards. The name ‘liberal arts’ originates with Aristotle who talks of the basic knowledge needed for a properly educated citizen. They were divided into the trivium, namely grammar (i.e. literature), rhetoric, and dialectic, and the more advanced quadrivium, namely arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin, published in 1849 – Sacrifice, Truth, Power, Beauty, Life, Memory, and Obedience.

Seven Seas – Arctic and Antarctic, North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean.

SevenWondersSeven Natural Wonders of the World – 1) Mt. Everest 2) Victoria Falls 3) The Grand Canyon 4) The Great Barrier Reef.5) The Northern Lights.6) Paricutin 7) The Harbor at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – 1) Pyramids at Giza, Egypt 2)The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Asia Minor 3) The Colossus of Rhodes 4) The Hanging Gardens of Babylon 5) The Statue of Zeus at Olympia 6) The Pharos of Alexandria 7) Mausoleum at Halicamassus, Asia Minor

Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages – 1) The Colosseum of Rome 2) The Catacombs of Alexandria, Egypt 3) The Great Wall of China 4) Stonehenge 5) The Leaning Tower of Pisa 6) The Porcelain Tower of Nanking.7) The Mosque of Hagia Sophia

The Seven-year itch has been synonymous for sexual desire since 1660. When first recorded in 1899, it meant “a type of itch allegedly requiring Seven years of healing.” Influenced by the sense of itch as sexual desire, it came to mean a married man’s urge to roam after Seven years of marriage, a meaning popularized by The Seven Year Itch (1955) with Marilyn Monroe.

Hope all y’all had fun with these numbers….I did!

The years between fifty and Seventy are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.
- T.S. Eliot

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