Browsing Category "Social Justice"
15 Sep
2018

Contemplating Externally

I’ve just signed up to attend a very unusual weekend course offered at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS). The title of the course is Satipattana in Dialogue with Suffering and Oppression and it’s being taught by my mentor, Lila Kate Wheeler, and Lama Rod Owens (pictured above), co-author of Radical Dharma (which I’ve posted about here and here).

This is the course description:

Satipatthana means “foundations of mindfulness.” As the Buddha originally taught this, mindfulness and clear comprehension are offered as the most helpful, liberating way to relate to four areas of experience: body, feeling tones, mind, and Dharmas or psychophysical patterns. Contemporary mindfulness, as widely practiced in many different engagements, tends to emphasize the internal or personal aspects of satipatthana.

Yet the Buddha’s instructions ask that we practice ‘externally’ too. During this course we will present a traditional understanding of satipatthana, and place it in dialogue with challenges many of us face in our daily lives. Can satipatthana be a helpful, liberating way to relate to racism, class, ableism, patriarchy, sex, environmental violence, and body shame? How do we move toward freedom?

***

Doesn’t sound like your typical “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” retreat, now does it!

Interested?

Think about taking the course with me!

BCBS is located in Barre, MA, near Boston. There are direct flights on Southwest from St. Louis to Boston, where you can get a shuttle that will take you to BCBS, which is out in the woods and is an AWESOME place to practice — even in December! The cost of the course with room and board is $327 (plus a donation to the teachers). Scholarships are available.

The course dates are: Thursday, Dec 6 (early evening) to Sunday, Dec 9 (mid-day).

Check it out!!!!

30 Mar
2018
Posted in: Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Us Too

Us Too

Yesterday the Against the Stream Meditation Society, founded by Noah Levine, released this statement:

***

It is with great regret we announce that we have received reports of sexual misconduct by Noah Levine which require an investigation. During the investigative process we are required to suspend Noah’s teaching activities with Against the Stream and his membership on the Board of Directors. We know this announcement may have significant emotional impact on you, as it does on the teachers and staff, and we plan to be of support in whatever way we can. This is a time for the refuge of Buddha, dharma and sangha.

All classes will continue as scheduled. If you have questions, please feel free to call 805-764-1340.

Matthew Brensilver, Vinny Ferraro, JoAnna Hardy, Cheryl Slean, Mary Stancavage
ATS Teachers Council

Heather Briggs, Charles Boyd, Vinny Ferraro, David Francis, Jacqueline Drummond Lewis, Leda Maliga, Brooke Rowland
ATS Board of Directors

Andre Hardy
Executive Director

***

Early this morning Noah responded with this statement:

To all who care about the Refuge Recovery, Against the Stream, Dharma Punx, and affiliated dharma communities:

Many of you received a letter yesterday from Against the Stream. The letter and the action taken by the board are based on a false allegation.

I have spent the last 30 years healing, recovering, and trying my best to help others do the same. I am certainly not a perfect or enlightened person, but I have found in the dharma a path that has led to an embodied honesty and transparency about any shortcomings I have. It is with that same transparency and honesty that I write this letter to make clear that what I am being accused of is absolutely untrue.

Here’s what is happening —

Recently a letter was sent out to members of our community and to undisclosed recipients. The letter contains an allegation made through a third party regarding a woman I was dating who has apparently made a claim that some of our consensual contact was somehow non-consensual. This never happened. All of our interactions were mutual with clear and open communication. The breadth and clarity of our conversations makes this accusation all the more surprising to me and those who know me.

I have made myself available to all involved parties to discuss the matter – not just to deny the allegation, but to make sure that every concern, every question, and every fact is addressed openly and truthfully.

Further, all of the governing bodies of the organizations I am involved with are aware of and responding to the letter. This includes the boards of Against the Stream and Refuge Recovery as well the executive team at Refuge Recovery Treatment Centers. The ethics council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center is also aware of this and will be doing their own inquiry into this accusation. I have also informed my teachers Jack Kornfield and Ajahn Amaro and will continue to be in direct contact with them.

I am doing my best to meet all of this with forgiveness and compassion, bringing mindfulness to all of the unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are arising and passing through my heart, mind, and body.

With kindness, compassion, appreciation, and as much equanimity as I can embody in this present moment,

Noah Levine

***

I don’t know any more about the situation than this. It’s upsetting, to say the least. But I am heartened by the fact that there is a system in place for reporting this kind of misconduct, for investigating it, and for responding to it. Lion’s Roar published the story. Click here.

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!!!!!!