Browsing Category "Social Justice"
11 Oct
2017
Posted in: Practice, Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on There is Suffering

There is Suffering

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin

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.

11 Sep
2017
Posted in: Social Justice
By    Comments Off on No Natural Differences

No Natural Differences

Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to condemn the campaign of atrocities — which the UN now classifies as “ethnic cleansing” — being carried out against the Rohingya (Muslim minority) by the government of her country, Myanmar (a Buddhist country). This is unconscionable.

As a Buddhist, I am ashamed.

As a human, I am sickened.

So for today, let me just post the letter Desmond Tutu sent to his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner:

***

My dear Aung San Suu Kyi

I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.

In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.

Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.

We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught.

My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.

It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.

As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness.

God bless you.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

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)

26 Jul
2017
Posted in: Books, Practice, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on I Hereby Pledge Myself

I Hereby Pledge Myself

 

I’ve recently finished reading The Words & Wisdom of Charles Johnson, which I have been savoring since taking it up after Charles Johnson himself met with us as part of the CDL (Community Dharma Leader) program (where I was wowed by his brilliance, his ease, and the dignity of his presence.)

The book is a collection of essays, the last of which is a reflection on the “Commitment Form” that was used during the Civil Rights Movement. Johnson writes:

“…Martin Luther King Jr. said that in the black liberation struggle we always have to work on two fronts, one public and the other private, one external and one internal. One effort is to constantly improve the social world; the other is to constantly improve ourselves. Both efforts are necessary; they reinforce and strengthen each other

“The men and women of the Civil Rights Movement worked out the Commitment Form, which nicely complements Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of satyagraha, in practice as they moved from one campaign to another in the south. This form(ula), this insight, was fully developed by the time of the electrifying Birmingham campaign in 1963. Men and women, and their children filled the jails of “Bull” Conner in a massive act of civil disobedience. They–and all volunteers–were asked to sign this document, which is as follows:

Commandments for Volunteers
I hereby pledge myself–my person and body–to the nonviolent movement. Therefore, I will keep the following commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus. [my edit: Meditate daily.]
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation–not victory.
  3. Walk and Talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free. [my edit: Set the intention daily that my efforts be directed to the liberation of all beings.] 
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free. [my edit: that all beings might be free.]
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration. [my edit: Follow wise counsel.]

“I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.  Name:_____________________

“…This was not simply a pledge for civil disobedience. This was a grand vision in which the personal and the political were one, a blueprint for how to live… I say all this as a Buddhist who has taken formal vows, the Precepts, as a lay person. (My very Christian wife of 41 years once said that she saw me as being like a Unitarian, someone always looking for the beauty and best in the world’s religions and science, and I guess she was right about that.)…

“Why don’t you, dear reader, print this off right now, and sign it. You’ll feel good, if you do. And M.L.King, wherever he is, will thank you for doing that.”

***

I have printed it off (with my edits) and signed it. And I do feel good! (I also hope M.L.King, wherever he is, will not take offense.)

1 Jun
2017
Posted in: Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Not Just New Orleans

Not Just New Orleans

I want to say how impressed and uplifted I am by Mitch Landrieu’s speech on the removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans, and encouraged that St. Louis’s new mayor, Lyda Krewson, is moving in the same direction (although so far without the power of such a fabulous speech).

Missouri was a slave state, and just like New Orleans, St. Louis has a terrible history that some have tried to “whitewash” by playing down the brutal realities of slavery.

Quoting from Landrieu’s speech:
“New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor, of misery, of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame… all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So far those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it

We cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, ‘A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.’…

“I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

“This is however about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence.” [Ferguson!]

***

Mayor Krewson: If New Orleans can do it, St. Louis can do it too. Start working on that speech!

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.)

23 Jan
2017
Posted in: Social Justice
By    Comments Off on It. Was. Awesome!!!!!!

It. Was. Awesome!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Jan
2017
Posted in: Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Call Every Day

Call Every Day

On Tuesday, I posted an excerpt from Jack Kornfield’s article Now is the Time to Stand Up, and I really felt like he was talking to me when he said not to worry if the Right Action is not yet clear to you. (Because it hasn’t been clear to me and I have been worrying.)

Then on Wednesday, I had lunch with a sangha friend (thanks, Akiko), who mentioned that she tries to make a call — every day — to a legislator.

And then today my CDL Buddy (thanks, Carolyn) said the same thing — she also calls every day, to a different office, always between 9:00 and 9:30 am — and then I thought: THIS IS SOMETHING THAT I CAN DO.

So between now and the day I leave for retreat, I will call a legislator — every day — and take a stand. I used to call occasionally, back when George W first got elected, but it didn’t feel like it was very useful, so I stopped.

But then I read this article in the New York Times: Here’s Why You Should Call, Not Email, Your Legislator. It says:

Ms. Waite, who volunteers for liberal causes and who created a widely shared document last week to teach others her methods, figures that a phone ringing off the hook is more difficult for a lawmaker to ignore than a flooded inbox.

“Activists of all political stripes recommend calling legislators, not just emailing — and certainly not just venting on social media. Several lawmakers, along with those who work for them, said in interviews that Ms. Waite is right: A phone call from a constituent can, indeed, hold more weight than an email, and far outweighs a Facebook post or a tweet.”

OK. So until another Right Action becomes clear to me, I am going to make daily calls. Ms. Waite says to call Party Leadership as well as your own representatives. (She’s also got sample scripts posted for key issues. Click here.)

Jack’s right. The time is now. Want to join me? If you live in St. Louis, here’s who to call:

Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in St. Louis/Clayton is: 314-725-4484
Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office in St. Louis is: 314-367-1364
Rep. Lacy Clay’s office in St. Louis is: 314-367-1970
Rep. Paul Ryan’s office in Washington, DC is: 202-225-3031
Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, DC is: 202-225-4965
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office in Washington, DC is: 202-224-2541
Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office in Washington, DC is: 202-224-6542

10 Jan
2017
Posted in: Social Justice
By    1 Comment

We Don’t Stand Alone

 

I just want to say how proud I am of the teachers at Spirit Rock, who are standing up for what matters:

Amidst the political and social challenges of our times and in light of our commitment to liberation, Spirit Rock declares itself to be a spiritual sanctuary and a refuge for all. (Read the full Statement of Values here.)

It’s time for us all to stand up too.

We will not be alone. As founder Jack Kornfield writes in Practicing the Dharma in Times of Uncertainty, Part 2:

Whatever your political perspective, now is the season to stand up for what matters….

It is time to collectively stand up, calm and clear. With peacefulness and mutual respect, our Buddhist communities can become centers of protection and vision. Protection can take many forms. Protection can be providing sanctuary for those in danger. Protection can be skillfully confronting those whose actions would harm the vulnerable among us. Protection can be standing up for the environment. Protection can be becoming an active ally for those targeted by hate and prejudice….

Do not worry if the Right Action is not yet clear to you.

Wait in the unknowing with mindfulness and a clear heart.

Soon the right time will come and you will know to stand up.

I will meet you there.
Love in the Dharma,
Jack 

(Read Jack’s full text here.)