Browsing Category "Activism"
3 Oct
2017
Posted in: Activism, Webcasts
By    Comments Off on To Know It and to Respond

To Know It and to Respond

Last night I “attended” (via live webcast) this week’s Monday Night Dharma Talk and Meditation Group held in the new Community Building at Spirit Rock. This week’s teacher was Phillip Moffitt and after introducing himself, he acknowledged the mass shooting in Las Vegas that had just been reported and said:

“I want to start the evening with a recognition that this has occurred because in our Buddhist practice, we don’t turn from dukkha. We “stand under” dukkha. We accept the truth of dukkah as part of this existence in this realm, AND we cultivate the appropriate response to it.

“Sometimes that response would be our ‘non-participation’. Sometimes it would be activism of one kind or another. Sometimes it would be raising our voice, sometimes writing letters, sometimes it would be taking to the streets….whatever would be appropriate.

“Sometimes it’s just caring for those who are experiencing the dukkah. Sometimes it’s being political. Sometimes it’s being willing to witness and saying ‘NO! This is not what we are capable of being as a culture. No. NO.

“So with your creativity, in your friendships, in your community — be willing to stand under the great pressure of this and at the same time say: ‘I witness this and in any way possible, I will not help to perpetuate it.’

“What has happened is just one more of what is now such a common occurrence in our culture. This is unique in the entire world. There is no other culture that produces mass killings in this way. It is unique to us and therefore it is ours to bear.”

Phillip then asked the audience to stand, or to kneel, or bow their heads, or whatever they wished in order to ‘bear witness’, that is to ‘stand under’ and be willing to know in their hearts that this is true, that this has occurred, and also to hold in their hearts those that have been injured, those that have died, and all the families — to hold them all in great compassion. To hold them in compassion and to ‘stand under’ the truth that is is happening, that this is happening in OUR country, OUR society, OUR culture.

The audience then stood, or kneeled, or bowed…and then Phillip began by ringing the big bell at the front of the hall, which was then followed by several other members of the audience ringing bells that they had been given…then back to Phillip ringing the front bell again and then back to the other bell ringers, and then on and on, again and again, until Phillip finished with a final bell, and then stood in silence until all the sounds came to rest.

***

May we bear this, which is ours to bear. And may the great pressure of this move us to respond appropriately.

18 Sep
2017
Posted in: Activism, Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Peace is the Way

Peace is the Way

This is one of the (many) boarded-up windows of the shops and restaurants in the Loop that were smashed on Saturday night, after the peaceful protests officially ended and the acts of anger, frustration and violence began. It’s depressing to see such senseless destruction, but uplifting to see that so many of the repairs are painted with messages like this one.

***

Note: One of my nephews-in-law is a cop (white), who lives in St. Louis and who was injured (not seriously) during the protests on Friday night.

Another nephew-in-law is a physician (who was born in India), who also lives in St. Louis and who, every day, must negotiate the very real danger of being a person of color in this country. This is my family.

It is also the HUMAN family.

We are all suffering. We must find a way to live with each other, without doing harm to each other. Violence only leads to more violence. Peace is the only way.

18 Aug
2017
Posted in: Activism, Social Justice, Teachers
By    Comments Off on In Our Own Troubled Land

In Our Own Troubled Land

“Like many, I am heartbroken with sadness over the events in Charlottesville Virginia and the rising wave of hate and violence in our culture,” writes Jack Kornfield in an article posted today on the Spirit Rock website.

Jack continues, “While this is part of a long painful history, I want to understand the current tide of white nationalism and racism so the fear and anger it promotes does not take over my own heart...

“Unfortunately as a nation, we have not genuinely come to terms with our past. And it haunts us. It haunts us through our fears and our guilt and our insecurity. It haunts us whenever there are times of national challenges and uncertainty. Our fears are activated and the most primitive forces among us are empowered and unleashed. Our denial of the pain and exploitation in our history feeds the distorted and toxic myths of exceptionalism and white supremacy.

“There is another way.

“It is based on the movement of Restorative Justice….”

“Truth and reconciliation first begins in ourselves…. Quieting your mind, opening your heart with loving awareness, these are the critical steps to begin. For without doing so, you will only add to the chaos and fear. You must bear witness to your own measure of fears and pain, and honorably see and feel your place in our shared, troubled history. With a wise and caring heart you can understand the systems of privilege and oppression and your own place in them.

“And then, like the bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world, you can rise up from your seat of mindfulness and compassion and extend your good hands to touch and mend the sorrows around you. Trust your good hearts. You know how to do this. You have been training for times like this over many years.

“For some your response may be reaching out to connect with those threatened, across lines of religion, race, class, sexual orientation. For some it may mean reaching out to the individuals and groups who are promoting hate and prejudice. For some it may mean educating others. For some it may mean political organizing, or activism, or standing up in peaceful ways in the midst of heated demonstrations. And for some among us it may mean working to support a Truth and Reconciliation process in our communities and across the country.

“This has been explored in over 30 countries, and in small ways has already begun in the US. There is a Truth and Reconciliation process in Greensborough NC. And an article by Fania Davis written last year is a call for such a commission in Ferguson Missouri.

“Since ancient times, Buddhist councils of elders have incorporated elements of a Truth and Reconciliation process in their communities.

“We can do this in many places.

Now is the time for us to do so in our own troubled land.

Perhaps this article will spark your imagination. Or inspire you to start a Truth and Reconciliation group in your community. Or simply remind you that we humans have lived through troubled times before, and that there are ways to steady our hearts and move courageously and compassionately through them.

“In spite of the surfacing of so much conflict and pain, I am still hopeful.

“There is a magnificence to the human spirit as well as a dangerous and destructive side. Difficult times can ennoble us, and call forth new levels of dedication and care for our lives, our families, our communities, and this precious globe.

May it be so.

“And for those creating suffering at every level, I send metta which includes you as well…

“May you be free from hate.
May you be free from fear.
May you be free from ignorance.
May al beings be safe and protected.

“With blessings,
Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Center”

***

(click here to read the complete article)

5 Jun
2017
Posted in: Activism, Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on That Place is Within Ourselves

That Place is Within Ourselves

In The Words & Wisdom of Charles Johnson (2011)this amazing novelist, philosopher, teacher, illustrator, award winner, and sanscrit scholar (!) writes:

“Our era looks eerily (to me) like the time of Petronius, author of the Satyricon, at the end of the Roman empire. A time of late cultural decadence, confusion, and incoherence. So many people are scarred and scared, stressed and depressed, angry and willful.

“Given that fact, we need a place for spiritual renewal and healing. That place is within ourselves. It is always available to us. We need not look outside ourselves in order to achieve happiness and freedom from suffering. As it says in the Digha Nikaya:

“You should be an island to yourself, a refuge to yourself, not dependent on any other but taking refuge in the truth and none other than the truth. And how do you become an island and a refuge to yourself? In this way: You see and contemplate your body as composed of all the forces of the universe. Ardently and mindfully, you steer your body-self by restraining your discontent with the world about you. In the same way, observe and contemplate your feelings and use that same ardent restraint and self-possession against enslavement by greed or desire. By seeing attachment to your body and feelings as blocking the truth, you dwell in self-possession and ardent liberation from those ties. This is how you live as an island to yourself and a refuge in the truth–that one will come out of the darkness and into the light.”

9 May
2017
Posted in: Activism, Practice
By    Comments Off on Five Beautiful Ways

Five Beautiful Ways

It will be my turn to lead the group at our Sangha next Sunday and I think I’ll talk about the Five Precepts (Buddhist training practices in ethical conduct).

Not always a crowd-pleaser, I’ll admit.

But I was very moved by hearing (and taking) a new version of the precepts — called the Five Householder Precepts — which DaRa Williams led us in at the close of the two-month retreat at Spirit Rock last March.

The precepts sound a little dry when we call them “trainings in ethical conduct.” I prefer “beautiful ways of being in the world.”

Here’s the traditional version:
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants that lead to carelessness.

Here’s the Householder version (as worded by Manzanita Village):
1. Aware of the violence in the world and of the power of non-violent resistance, I stand in the presence of ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the compassion that seeks to protect each living being.
2. Aware of the poverty and greed in the world and of the intrinsic abundance of the earth, I stand in the presence of ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the simplicity, gratitude and generosity that have no limits.
3. Aware of the abuse and lovelessness in the world and of the healing that is made possible when we open to love, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate respect for beauty and the erotic power of our bodies.
4. Aware of the falsehood and deception in the world and of the power of living and speaking the truth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the ability to listen, and to practice clarity and integrity in all that I communicate — by my words and my actions.
5. Aware of the contamination and desecration of the world and of my responsibility for life as it manifests through me, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate care and right action, and to honor and respect health and well-being for my body, my mind, and the planet.

14 Apr
2017
Posted in: Activism, Social Justice, Teachers
By    Comments Off on Peacefulness Does Not Mean Passiveness

Peacefulness Does Not Mean Passiveness

I want to make sure no one misses this article in the May issue of Lion’s Roar magazine titled,
Stand Against Suffering: An Unprecedented Call to Action by Buddhist Teachers.

Here’s an excerpt:
Buddhism does not align itself with any party or ideology. But when great suffering is at stake, Buddhist must take a stand against it, with lovingkindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage….

Buddhism in the United States brings together people of many different backgrounds, interests, and views. Some Buddhists emphasize mediation practice, while others focus on study, community, or faith. Some are politically liberal and others conservative. Some prefer to keep their Buddhist practices separate from political and social issues, while others are deeply engaged.

Yet one thing binds us all tougher: our commitment to ease the suffering of all beings. The dharma is not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor is it a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. It is a powerful teaching that frees and strengthens us to work diligently for the liberation of beings from suffering.

What is happening now strikes at the heart of this, our central commitment as Buddhist. It transcends our differences and calls us to action. If the policies of the new administration prevail, millions of people in vulnerable and less privileged communities will suffer. Hopes will be dashed. Undoubtable, lives will be lost. International conflict will intensify and environmental destruction will worsen.

Facing the reality of this suffering, we remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness and non-attachment does not mean non-engagement

Whatever our political perspective, now is the season to stand up for what matters. To stand against hate. To stand for respect. To stand for protection of the vulnerable. To care for the earth.

We can see clearly the work ahead of us. It is the work of love and wisdom in the face of racism, gender- and sexual orientation-based violence, xenophobia, economic injustice, war, and environmental degradation…

As Buddhists, we know that real change begins with ourselves. We must explore and expose our own privilege and ares of ignorance, and address racism, misogyny, class prejudice, and more in our communities. We can set an example for the broader society by creating safe, respectful, and inclusive sanghas….

For now, we prepare to face challenging and stressful times. To prevail, we must hold fast to our timeless ideals of wisdom, love, compassion, and justice. We must maintain our faith that, while ignorance and hatred may at times be dominant, through concerted action patiently pursued we can create a society based on justice, love, and human unity.”

(To read the full article, click here.)

11 Apr
2017
Posted in: Activism, Books
By    Comments Off on Carry What’s Beautiful into the Troubled World

Carry What’s Beautiful into the Troubled World

[Sorry for not posting yesterday. I had to spend more time than expected with plumbers. Oh, the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of a nearly 100-year-old house!]

Now for today:
The May-August issue of Spirit Rock News just arrived and it includes a great article by Jack Kornfield, adapted from his new book, No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom and Joy Right Where You Are.

Here’s a sample:
To find freedom amid challenging times, we have to start where we are. How do we manage our own bodies? If our limbic system is activated into fight, flight, or freeze mode, we lose ourselves in survival consciousness. The reptilian brain takes charge, and the neocortex is limited to rehashing the past. Tidal waves of worries swamp our thoughts about what lies ahead. In difficult times, these tides of angst and fear can flow back and forth. We wonder, are things getting worse or are they simply getting uncovered? And how can we respond?

“Just start there. Tune into your heart. That is where love, wisdom, grace, and compassion reside. With loving attention, feel into what matters most to you. Yes, there are anxious thoughts, and there is grief and trauma, but don’t let your heart be colonized by fear. Take time to quiet the mind and tend to the heart. Go out and look at the sky. Breathe in and open yourself to the vastness of space. Sense the seasons turning, the rise and fall of dynasties and eras. Breathe out and dwell in loving awareness. Practice equanimity and steadiness. Learn from the trees. Become the still point in the center of it all…

We are in the midst of something vaster than any of our social and political dynamics. We are in the midst of the evolution of humanity. And we each have a role to play in this….

“Like the Tao, let yourself be still until the moment for right action. Be strategic. Make yourself a zone of peace. With the courage to be true to your heart, you can act…

Remember, change always starts with a small number of people. In 1787, Thomas Carlson and eleven other men started a thirty-year campaign to finally force the English parliament to outlaw slavery. In 1848, Elizabeth Lady Stanton and four other women met in upstate New York to begin the seventy-year suffrage movement that led to women’s right to vote. When you are strong in yourself, you can act with courage, dedication, and directness. When you become strategic, you join with others, choose the most important problems, and bring the most creative solution. You know what is needed. The most powerful nation on Earth must foster a vision of peace and cooperation, not spread weapons of war. The richest nation on Earth must provide health care for its children, its families. The most productive nation on Earth must combine trade with justice, sustainable development, and protection for the environment.

You can contribute. You have your heart, your voice, and your spirit. Be strategic and strong. Remember how Barbara Widener started Grandmothers for Peace. Sometimes it takes only a little loving awareness at the right moment. You can do it….

“You know the right direction….

Do not just shake your head and frown when you read the news. Do not be fooled into believing that you cannot change things. As Thomas Jefferson says, ‘One person with courage is a majority.’ You can make a difference.

“And remember, a person with courage never needs weapons, but they may need bail…

“Your family is all of humanity, all the animals, all beings on Earth. Your family includes Greens, Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, and all the in-betweens. Include them all in your heart.

Live with gratitude. The times ask for a change of consciousness — a shift from the fearful, separate consciousness, the consciousness of us versus them, to the consciousness of connection and interdependence. You are already part of this shift. Now each of you, in your own way, is invited to find a freedom of spirit no matter what happens and to carry what’s beautiful into the troubled world.

(click here to read the article in full)