This Food of Seventy Two Labors, an Invitation to a Bearing Witness Retreat to Food, Land and Racism in the USA

Rev. Ariel Pliskin​, ZPO Minister and founder of Unity Tables​ and community-based Stone Soup Café Greenfield MA​ has participated in several Bearing Witness Retreats on the streets, at Auschwitz, and the Black Hills. He now brings this rich experience to examine the interplay of food, land and race in the USA, in a new retreat he is organizing together with Sensei Francisco Lugovina​ from Hudson River Peacemaker Center-House of One People​, and Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm​. Read what led Ariel to co-develop this retreat, and join him in September 2017 on Soul Fire Farm.

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We Are Sumud, or If You Imagine It, It Will Be

“Sumud, like so many other acts of heartful resistance, begins as an act of the imagination. Someone dares imagine that force, occupation, discrimination, poverty, and violence can end.” Eve Marko reflects on her recent trip to Israel, and acts of imagination and revolution.

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بَحِبِّك This Says I Love You: U.S. Couple Addresses Islamophobia with Dialogue and Artivism

Married U.S. couple and co-founders of the Bahebak Project, Azzam, a Muslim Palestinian, and Anna, a Jewish American, speak about their work transforming fear to love. Through the Bahebak Project, they create grassroots community support networks to provide emergency assistance to Syrian refugees, respond to Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Prejudice with dialogue and artivism, and engage in peace-building across difference in the United States and Middle East.

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The Path of Solidarity

“By letting go of who we imagine ourselves to be and cultivating a non-clinging heart, we can learn to accompany each other in an embodied way and live in community—and in dignity—with those with whom we suffer.” In the Path of Solidarity, Doshin Nathan Woods considers what it means to stand arm in arm as part of our Buddhist practice.

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Pursuing Peace: Israeli Zen Peacemaker Reflects on Bridging Divides in Israel-Palestine

At the beginning of March, Zen Peacemaker Order member Iris Katz presented at a full day workshop in Washington, DC as part of Save Israel-Stop the Occupation (SISO). In this post, Iris gives personal testimony about her role as an Israeli Jew in social movements to alleviate the suffering caused by the Israeli occupation. She discusses the complexities of patriotism, activism, community, and justice in an Israel Palestine context, and highlights the way of responsible Judaism as the vital work of bridging the deeply entrenched divides created by “us and them” frameworks.

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The One Body Had a Stroke

“Each one of us who lives here is part of that one body called the United States, though we often don’t realize it. One arm feels superior to the other arm, one leg would like the other to stumble, oblivious of the fact that that would cause the entire body to stumble.”

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Radical Descent: The Cultivation of an American Revolutionary by Linda Coleman

“A rare first-hand account by an active participant in the radical underground movements … distinguished by the courage and painful honesty so critical in a memoir of this kind.” – Peter Matthiessen In her debut memoir, Coleman reveals an intimate account of her choice to join a revolutionary underground guerrilla cell in the 1970’s. This turbulent time in America has lessons for all of us in an age of domestic terrorism headlining the news today. What begins with her youthful idealism and intent to amend the “sins” of her blueblood ancestors soon becomes a firestorm of events that includes the activities of a local police “death squad”, the vicious rape of a co-worker, an attack on a radical bookstore, Ku Klux Klan threats, friends found to be on the 10 MOST WANTED list, her choice to bear arms, donate large sums of money, and transport explosives for a cadre with increasingly questionable motives. The unrelenting series of events that unfold inextricably land her many years later as a witness in one of the longest sedition trials in US history. Terrorist or freedom fighter? That becomes the readers question to answer just as it becomes Coleman’s question as well. Review by Eve Myonen Marko Linda Coleman just published a terrific memoir about her time as a young woman taking part in armed insurrection against this government. It’s called Radical Descent. Coming from a white and privileged background, she decided to join an underground cell of American revolutionaries fighting against our own military-corporate-government established which they accused of perpetrating wars around the world, purveying arms, persecuting minorities, and actively promoting inequality through a corrupt capitalist system. She describes what led her to join this struggle, and what finally led her out. What I really appreciate is her sharing the emotional turmoil she experienced, and especially the burden of guilt she carried over coming from a white and wealthy background. Day by day I hear everywhere around me the same questions: What do I do to change this world? Does anyone pay attention to nonviolent resistance? Is being an armchair middle-class liberal enough? Is meditation enough? Is anything enough? Linda and her friend felt the urgency of this American reality and what it was fostering, and they weren’t...

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It was a Life

Sami Awad is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust (HLT), a Palestinian non-profit organization which he founded in 1998 in Bethlehem. HLT works with the Palestinian community at both the grassroots and leadership levels in developing nonviolent approaches that aim to end the Israeli occupation and build a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence. He has been to many Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats and is a close friend of Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko. Sami Awad, on Auschwitz, fear, and the meaning of nonviolence Sami Awad’s article “It was a Life.” Every killing of every human is a story and a life that was, that is and was to be. It was a heartbeat that stopped before its time. Itwas a dream that disappeared abruptly like a television set that suddenly lost its power. It was a young woman who ate her last meal; it was not her favorite dish, but she did not want to upset her mother for cooking it. “Next time make pizza mom,” she yelled… then she yelled her last cry. It was a wife who did not know that her husband’s last look into her eyes would be imprinted as her eternal memory of him. It was a child who was learning to ride a bicycle. He fell, scratched his knee and cried. It was the father who gently put his hand on the wound, kissed his son’s forehead, wiped the tears, and told him “I am here for you.” A second later they were both not there. It was a young teenager who finally found the courage to send a Facebook message to a girl he admired. It was the young girl who received the message and blushed and wondered what she should do. It was the mother who just finished praying for her son to find a job. It was the son who was running home excited to have found his first job in 5 years; now he was going to take care of his family, buy new clothes for his kids, and take his wife out to dinner… something he never did. It was the businessman who called his wife and told her that he had found the right...

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Victim Consciousness is a Consciousness of War

“So you are a Moroccan” told me the young Arabic woman in the mourners shade “go back to Morocco! You are not from here!”. We were a group of six people, Jewish, most of us Rabbis, all of us students of our late Rebbe Rabbi Zalman Schakter Shalomi who passed just some days ago. We met in the mourning Shiv’a ritual in Jerusalem that was held by Rabbi Ruth and Michael Kagan for all the students of Reb Zalman. Gabriel Meyer came with the idea to go visit the Abu Hadir family, that their son, Mohamad, was kidnaped last week by Jews from the street in his town Sho’afat, and was burned alive as a revenge for the kidnaping and murdering of the three Jewish kids two weeks before by Palestinians from Hebron. Lisa Naomi Beth Talesnick, who was playing a wedding melody on the harp for Reb Zalman’s Sacred Union with the Divine Light, arranged it through some connections she had with the family through her work place as a teacher in the Arabic high-school. Some of us decided to go. It felt like the right thing to do as a direct line from Reb Zalman’s Shiv’a: doing something we know he would have done if he could. We were escorted in by family members who met us in entrance to Sho’afat. They brought us to the big shade of mourners. A line of mourners was standing there and we went and shook the hand of each of them, expressing our sadness and condolences. The father of the boy stood in the middle. Tall, present man, red eyes, just came back from meeting with Abas in Rammalla. Then we were taken to the women mourners hut. The mother set there, surrounded by other women, family and friends. The noble woman in purple is the mother of Mohamad. “Why did they have to burn him alive?…” We were invited to sit. One of the women started to talk strongly to us in English: “who will protect us now? I am afraid for my own son now!” the fear was real. Just like the fear of parents in the Jewish side of town, yet here it was mixed with the fear from the Israeli police...

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The Peace Activist’s Demons – Israeli Engaged Dharma Report, Summer 2014

A few years ago a group of us came to the Palestinian village of Jaloud. We came to support local farmers planting olive trees in one of their fields, which they couldn’t access due to attacks by Israeli settlers. Indeed, during the day, a pickup truck came in our direction from one of the settler outposts. An armed settler came out and demanded that the work stops. His manner was abusive but as there were dozens of us, we disregarded him. As he was waiting for the soldiers that he called in order to kick us out, he said threateningly to the Israeli participants: “Why are you meddling here? These farmers will pay the price for that”. It all ended well and we had all reason to be satisfied with the accomplishment of the day. But we were very worried by the armed settler’s threat. We took him to be serious and we knew that the village was subject to raids and violent attacks by settlers previously. What should we do? What could we do? Actually it was very clear to us what was called for. We should turn to the Jewish settlers in the area and find the ones who would share our concern and help us to prevent an attack. To many people, this idea could seem very naïve or very stupid: Settlers and Peace activists do not work together. “Fanatical right wing nationalists” and “extreme Left self hating Jews” as members of these two groups often tend to call each other, have nothing in common. Also, from a political perspective, turning to settlers for assistance would be recognizing the legitimacy of their presence in the Occupied Territories. Other options – such as turning to the police or army – were not practical: We knew that they would not do anything. Our conviction that turning to settlers was the right thing to do was three-fold: 1) We could not tackle this issue alone, we needed help. An ally who belonged to the same community as the potential attackers would be the most helpful. 2) We had the obligation to do all that we could to prevent the farmers from being attacked. No matter what we thought of settlers living in the Occupied...

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In Norway, a New Model for Justice

An example of Bearing Witness: By TORIL MOI and DAVID L. PALETZ, Published: August 23, 2012, IHT Global Opinion ON Friday a Norwegian court will hand down its verdict on Anders Behring Breivik, who, on July 22, 2011, detonated a bomb in central Oslo, killing eight people and wounding hundreds more, then drove to Utoya Island, where he shot and killed 69 participants in the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth camp. The world’s attention is focused on whether the court will find Mr. Breivik guilty or criminally insane, and there has already been much debate about how the court handled the question of his sanity. But there is far more to it. Because it gave space to the story of each individual victim, allowed their families to express their loss and listened to the voices of the wounded, the Breivik trial provides a new model for justice in cases of terrorism and civilian mass murder. It is true that, on one level, the trial is not just about the state of Mr. Breivik’s mind but forensic psychiatry itself. The trial featured two psychiatric reports, the first concluding that at the time of the crime Mr. Breivik was psychotic and delusional, the other that he was rational. The spectacle of two teams of psychiatrists brandishing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and its Norwegian equivalent, only to draw radically opposed conclusions, undermined many Norwegians’ faith in forensic psychiatry. Less attention, however, has been paid to the court’s concern for the victims and their families. Before the trial began, the court named 174 lawyers, paid by the state, to protect the interests of the victims and their families during the criminal investigation and the trial. The court heard 77 autopsy reports. Listening to the technical details of the bullet wounds and other causes of death of 77 human beings could be soul-numbing. Not in this case. After each report, the audience watched a photo of the victim, most often a teenager, and listened to a one-minute-long biography voicing his or her unfulfilled ambitions and dreams. The court also allotted time to testimony from survivors, some with horrific injuries. We attended the trial during their testimonies, and to listen to the story of their pain and...

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The 1st Bethlehem Walk

Quiet Walking Listening Circles  Women Leading Change  5 October 2012 Manger Square, Bethlehem People of all nationalities and faiths are invited to join us in an event of solidarity for peace in the Holy Land. We are calling for a shift in consciousness, based on a deep commitment to nonviolence, a firm resolve to overcome barriers of separation, and faith that peace is possible. We plan to converge on Manger Square, in the center of Bethlehem, walking mindfully in columns and circles. Mindful walking is quiet, slow, and dignified. It expresses with our being, rather than with slogans and flags, our intention to live in harmony together. The experience helps us to develop calm, steadiness and confidence in the face of challenge. This event is for everybody. As a symbol of the possibility of change women will be at the forefront as facilitators of listening circles in which we will share our visions for the change we wish to see. We share a love of the land that we live in side by side. We all suffer from the continued occupation and injustice and lack of security. We all want to live in peace and harmony. We recognize that we all have the same basic needs for equal rights and deserve the same respect and dignity. We take responsibility for sowing the seeds of change, moving forward one step at a time.   Organized by a group of heartful Palestinians and Israelis For more information, please contact Iris Dotan...

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NEW YORK CITY PEACE WALK

The first large US silent Peace Walk is planned for New York City’s Central Park on Sunday October 7th, 2012. Following an opening gathering in the morning, the walk will circumnavigate continuously Central Park allowing participants to join along the way. The walk is intended to be slow, beautiful and dignified, without flags or signage, an expression of the goodwill and friendliness of people who live together. It empowers us all to be peacemakers. Instead of shouting in the name of peace, peace will be embodied by our quiet presence. ‘There is no way to peace, peace is the way’. With over 8 million people living in New York City, it is one of the most densely populated and ethnically and religiously diverse cities in the world. Home to over 100 ethnic groups, including several million Muslims and Jews, the walk is intended to demonstrate that people of all faiths and origins can live peacefully side by side. The peace we long for in the Middle East and Worldwide is actually possible. We call for the urgent cessation of violence in the Middle East and a serious and committed movement towards a sustainable and peaceful coexistence. The walk will be led by Jack Kornfield, one of the leading Buddhist teachers in America, Dr. Stephen Fulder, founder of Middleway, an Israeli-Palestinian group applying mindfulness and spiritual insights to peacemaking, and Professor Sami Zaidalkilani, Palestinian peace negotiator. Large silent peace walks have become famous in Israel and Palestine, for 10 years and Dr. Fulder has been a central teacher and visionary for these walks. All will be welcome and encouraged to join the walk. Public invitations will be extensive with outreach to many communities, including well-known religious, cultural, public and political figures. Further details will continue to be available at...

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Engaged Dharma in Israel

During the 2nd half 0f 2011 the Engaged Dharma in Israel group initiated a variety of actions and projects as part of their ongoing peace work. These included campaigns, solidarity actions with Palestinian partners, uncovering information about the occupation, petitioning authorities regarding violations of human rights, and laying the ground for educational work within the Israeli-Jewish society. Aviv Tatarsky of the Engaged Dharma in Israel group highlights here some of the lessons learnt during these months: Sangha as an invaluable resource for supporting activism ano peace work, the power of compassion and openness for turning confrontation into dialogue, and the deep relevance that our spiritual insights have when facing the challenges of peace work. Most of the examples concern their relationship with the village of Deir Istiya. Sangha as a vital Resource  One of their main missions is to raise awareness within the Dharma community to the meaning of living under occupation, and to create opportunities for Sangha members to get involved in peace and human rights work. A good starting point is what can be considered “soft” humanitarian action. Recently, for example, they organized for Sangha members to collectively buy a significant amount of olive oil from a few poor families in the village of Deir Istiya. It is important to note that even this simple action (an action very significant for the farmers) could not have happened had they not had the support of a large “non-activist” Sangha. From this soft starting point there are many ways to go deeper: They used this opportunity in order to inform the Sangha how Israeli policies and economic interests create a situation where Palestinian farmers find it increasingly more difficult to sell their oil. Olive agriculture being such a major part of Palestinian economy and culture, the implications of this situation can be very dramatic. Now they are working together with Deir Istiya farmers to create a channel for exporting their olive oil to both Israeli and foreign markets. This entails connecting potential customers on the one hand and assisting the village to develop quality assurance and other mechanisms that are needed. All this requires knowledge and expertise and here again the Sangha offers indispensible resources in the form of practitioners who are professionals in...

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Dana Wiki: Helping Buddhist Organizations Get Involved in Social Service

Three years ago I started Dana Wiki, a website to help Buddhist organizations get involved in social service. On Dana Wiki, you can learn how to start and lead a small volunteer group in your Buddhist center or meditation group; get information on different types of social service; read Buddhist reflections on social service; learn about Buddhist teachers and organizations that are involved in social service; and find places to volunteer. The best part is that Dana Wiki is a wiki, which means that anyone, anywhere can contribute to and edit it. Back in November I did an interview about Dana Wiki and American Buddhism in general with Rev. Danny Fisher for Shambhala SunSpace, “Dana Wiki and the Future of American Buddhism: Danny Fisher interviews Joshua Eaton.” I hope that Dana Wiki will become a hub where Buddhists involved in social service can share what’s working for them, get help with what isn’t, find material for Buddhist reflections on service, and connect with others. I also hope it will be a place where we can learn from religious traditions with a longer history in America about how to do more effective service work. Please join...

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10 Asian + Asian American Buddhists Who Make a Difference

This post originally appeared on The Jizo Chronicles ____________ I’m taking this cue from Arun over on the blog Angry Asian Buddhist, which explores issues of race, culture, and privilege in American Buddhism. As Arun notes in his May 23rd post, May was Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. He suggests: “…it would be great if the Buddhist blogging community took advantage of the eight remaining days in May to spend a little time—maybe just one post—recognizing the voices of Asian American Buddhists.” I want to take Arun up on that invitation and highlight a few of the contributions of Buddhists of Asian and Asian American descent to the field of socially engaged Buddhism. Please note that the list includes people born in the U.S. as well as born in other countries… I couldn’t imagine a list about engaged Buddhism that left off folks like Kaz Tanahashi and Thich Nhat Hanh, so that’s why I expanded on Arun’s original suggestion. This list is by no means exhaustive… I’m only touching on a few of the engaged Asian and Asian American Buddhists that I have known, worked with, and deeply appreciate. (By the way, the list is organized alphabetically by first name.) Anchalee Kurutach was born and raised in Thailand but has lived in the U.S. since 1988.  She has been involved with refugee and immigrant work for over twenty years in both Asia and the U.S. Anchalee is very active in both the Buddhist Peace Fellowship as well as the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Anushka Fernandopulle, a dharma teacher in the Theravada tradition, is on the leadership sangha of the East Bay Meditation Center, in Oakland, CA. In addition to her past service as a board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and her support for many other progressive organizations, Anushka brings a dharmic perspective to politics: she serves as a mayoral appointee to the San Francisco Citizen’s Committee on Community Development, a commission that advises the city on community development policy. Canyon Sam is a third generation Chinese American activist, author, and playright. She is the author of Sky Train: Tibetan Women On the Edge of History. After spending a year backpacking through China and Tibet when she was in her twenties, Canyon...

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The Protector of Men

We have much to learn from the way in which the author views the legal code not as an exclusively legal or political document, but as an ethical one, and one about which Buddhists ought to be legitimately concerned. At the very least, it shows us that Buddhist social and political thought are anything but new.

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Birth, Old Age, Sickness, Death, and Taxes: The Buddha on Fiscal Policy

Most Americans—probably even most Buddhist Americans—think of Buddhism as a quietistic spirituality focused on either individual peace of mind or complete transcendence of the social and material worlds. The famous sociologist Max Weber called it a “specifically unpolitical and anti-political status religion,” and that’s the impression that has pretty much stuck ever since. So, it might surprise many people to learn just how preoccupied Buddhist texts are with at least one mundane, bread-and-butter public policy issue: taxes.

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Class Consciousness: Why Liberating Sentient Beings Means Liberating Society

I tend to think of Buddhist practice as a way of cultivating a mind so stable that such storms leave it unscathed, and I often judge myself harshly when I fail to live up to that standard—when the storm breaks through my mental roof, leaking in toxic emotions, and I’m too exhausted, or cynical, or just plain lazy to apply the Buddha’s teachings. Suffering and delusion are always my suffering and delusion. They are always personal, always private, and always necessitate a private remedy. What I often forget, though, is just how much social, political, and economic structures really do effect our ability to practice the dharma.

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David Loy at the Tricycle Book Club

Join us Monday, September 20 at the Tricycle Book Club for the discussion of David Loy’s The World is Made of Stories. In this small book about big ideas, Loy attempts to tell the story of stories by engaging in a playful, energetic dialogue with wisdom quotations from a wide variety of sources. Everything that we know, Loy contends, we know from stories. He writes: “We play at the meaning of life by telling different stories.” If stories hold this much power, and we’re all storytellers (Loy also points out that to not tell a story is to tell a story), then what can we take away from this understanding? What stories should we tell about ourselves and our world? Come talk it out with us at the Tricycle Book Club. It’s free and easy to sign up. We’re looking forward to seeing you there. Buy the book from Wisdom Publications here. David Loy is a frequent Tricycle contributor. His previous books include The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory and The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons. He is the Besl Professor of Ethics/Religion and Society at Xavier University in...

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Mindful Politicians: Time has come today (in New York and California, at least)

From Shambhala SunSpace: We’ve of course talked about the concept of “Mindful Politics” here before — the Shambhala Sun had a Mindful Politics issue, has an online Spotlight of some of our best pieces on the subject, and we even put out a Mindful Politics book, too. The New York primary election is tomorrow and both New York and California have general elections in November, so why not read up on the two politicians in question: In New York, for Attorney General: Eric Schneiderman In California, for Governor: Jerry...

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Building the Buddha of the Future: Community

Panelists at Symposium Discuss Socially Engaged Sanghas “The Buddha of the future,” said moderator Alan Senauke, speaking at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism and paraphrasing Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, “will be sangha” — that is, community. But what makes a socially engaged community? Senauke, a Soto Zen priest and vice-abbot of Berkeley Zen Center and founder of the Clear View Project, asked this question of his panelists on August 10. “What makes your community work?” he added. ‘What are the challenges?” In war-torn Colombia, building a socially engaged community can mean helping to support villagers in their work to heal strife and create productive lives, said Sarah Weintraub, executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). She explained that the BPF’s Dharma in Action Project works with the Reconciliation Accompaniment Project in Colombia, allowing participants to be “present with those people and bearing witness” so that the Colombian villagers involved in the project “can live their peace work and grow their crops.” It also trains socially engaged leaders through “hands-on, on-the-ground experience.” Another example of community social engagement, Weintraub said, is the BPF’s Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE), focusing on “practice, study,and action. It’s awareness training, in relation to each other and social change, taking who we are as a starting point for action.” Yet a third example of socially engaged community-building, according to Weintraub, are efforts such as the “BPF 2.0” project, connecting people through Facebook and through other sites online. Socially engaged community also can mean a monastic group that ventures into the world to confront injustices. Clare Carter, a member of the Nipponzan Myojoji Japanese Buddhist Order, has walked on lengthy international pilgrimages to raise awareness of the legacies of slavery and racial oppression, and to demonstrate for peace. Yet living in community can itself be a powerful practice, she emphasized.  “In sangha we run into things and keep working on it minute by minute — it’s constant practice, with no getting away from it.” Young people often live in desperate need of community, and Ken Byalin and John Bell spoke of their own inspiring work in developing opportunities for youth. “The educational system was worse than I thought,” said Byalin, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest,...

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Burma's Saffron Revolution Comes To Symposium

Socially Engaged Buddhism at the Edge: Burmese Monks Speak of Torture, Imprisonment Two veterans of the “Saffron Revolution” — the peaceful revolt in August and September, 2007 of saffron-robed Buddhist monks in Burma, who led thousands of people in street marches to protest the brutal military dictatorship in that nation — spoke on Wednesday, August 11 at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism. The monks shared a harrowing account of repression and cruelty. “We marched for freedom of speech, of writing, freedom of the press,” said one of the monks (whose names and photos are being withheld in this report to protect their families in Burma from possible government reprisals). “We marched for human rights.” The monks, who have received political asylum in the United States after their dangerous escape from Burma, are members of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance. One of the monks explained that in the street marches of 2007 they protested with “loving compassion. Just breath and chant. We chanted, ‘May all human beings be free from killing one another. May all human beings be free from torturing one another. May all human beings be well and happy.’ We didn’t break any law. We were met with brutality and arrests. Monasteries were raided at midnight and shut down.” These events, well documented in Western news media at the time, resulted in harsh treatment of monks detained by the Burmese police. One of the monks at the Symposium spoke of being repeatedly tortured while imprisoned. Other monks were killed. Three years later, an estimated 450 Buddhist monks remain locked up in Burma, under terrible conditions. “We’re supporting the monks in prison,” one of the speakers said. Many other monks live in hiding, disguised as laypeople. According to an All Burma Monks’ Alliance flyer distributed at the Symposium, the Alliance members work to achieve a fourfold mission: 1. “To support the many monks currently being held as political prisoners in Burmese jails. Prisoners in Burma are not given food, medicine, or any other sustenance. Their families must provide them with everything, and their families are desperately struggling to do this. We are helping them.” 2. “To support refugee monks who have escaped from incarceration and torture in Burma. Some live...

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Special Ministries Discussed at Symposium

Buddhists Ministering on Prison Issues, Five Commitments, Food, Mental Health From prison hospice rooms to rooftop gardens in the Bronx, Buddhist ministers are redefining what it means to serve in the world, according to participants in a panel discussion on “Special Ministries” at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism in Montague, MA on Wednesday, August 11. It’s about applying Buddhist dharma and mindfulness practice in different settings, said moderator Fleet Maull, a Zen priest and a pioneer in the field. Among his many projects, Maull has founded the Prison Dharma Network and the National Prison Hospice Project; the latter, established during the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, was the first hospice project in an American prison. Today it lists 125 organizations in 15 countries and in 30 states of the United States. Very little Buddhist prison ministry existed in the 1980’s and ’90s, Maull said, and conditions in the prison hospitals were horrendous — he cited, as one example, terminal cancer patients in agonizing pain given Tylenol as treatment. From these hellish beginnings the National Prison Hospice Project emerged.  The Prison Dharma Network, meanwhile, is building a resource movement, Maull said, counting among its many programs an ongoing enterprise that sends dharma books to 2,500 prisoners. The Network ministers not only to prisoners but to prison staff, Maull emphasized. “Everyone,” he said, “is a bodhisattva and buddha-to-be.” Through these Buddhist ministries, Maull helps bring the dharma to some of the seven-to-eight-million people in America enmeshed in various ways within the nation’s prison-industrial complex. Prison ministry is also a focus of Anthony Stultz‘s numerous socially-engaged Buddhist projects with the Blue Mountain Lotus Society in Harrisburg, PA. These projects are organized around the Five Commitments, principles that emerged from a multi-faith World Parliament of Religions conference. The first Commitment is Non-Violence. The ministry of Stultz’s organization meets this Commitment, he said, by addressing the issue of bullying in local schools and offering mindfulness-based “true self-esteem” programs. The second Commitment is a pledge to create Solidarity and a Just Economic Order, which Blue Mountain Lotus works to fulfill not only through its prison ministry, but through collaborations with the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters, and through sponsoring a “mindful...

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US Social Forum: Fighting 'Compassion Fatigue' with BPF Director

The United States Social Forum was held in Detroit, Michigan from June 22-26, 2010, and gathered over 15,000 activists from around the country.  During that week I worked as a Spanish/English interpreter for some of the 1000 workshops offered, I performed at a political music concert for activists of faith, and co-led a workshop with Sarah Weintraub, the Executive Director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.  Our workshop, “Caring for Ourselves and the World”, was very well received. Sarah will be one of the presenters at the August Symposium on Socially Engaged Buddhism at the Zen Peacemakers center in Montague In 2001, social movement leaders in Porto Alegre, Brazil, convened the first-ever World Social Forum as a space for progressive activists from around the globe to meet, learn and strategize with one another to strengthen  efforts for justice, peace and equality under the slogan, “Another World is Possible.”  Activists in the United States organized the first national Forum in Atlanta in 2007, and this year the second, in Detroit.   The diverse organizing group included young people, people of color, people with disabilities, poor people, people of various sexual identities, and Indigenous people.    The agenda was created by the participants themselves – thus at any given hour, we could choose to attend a workshop, a live cultural performance, a film festival, a protest march, a work brigade to serve the people of Detroit, a guided tour of some progressive aspect of Detroit’s past, or a “Leftist Lounge Party”.    A space was set up in the main event site for morning meditation followed by guided spiritual practices from a different faith each day. Sarah Weintraub and I had met in California in late April, and found we shared some common background.  We both had spent time immersing ourselves in human rights work in Latin America in countries in civil war (she in Colombia, me in Guatemala), and both had returned from that work showing signs of what’s commonly called “burnout”, also known as “compassion fatigue”.    Both of us had entered into Buddhist practice as one way of addressing our spiritual and emotional challenges, and both had remained engaged in activist work, this time, bringing some of the lessons of our overseas experience and our Buddhist practice into...

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Lineage Project joins Tricycle Community Site

From Tricycle We’re always pleased when a new group joins us at the Tricycle Community site, and we were especially pleased to see the New York-based Lineage Project throw their hat into the ring. Founded by Soren Gordhamer, the brains behind Wisdom 2.0, the Lineage Project has been bringing alternative tools for physical, emotional, and mental wellness to at-risk and incarcerated youth since its founding in 1998. It’s a well known fact that America’s prisons are packed to bursting, and that Americans in prison are disproportionately non-white. The Lineage Project employs mindfulness-based meditation and other “alternative” tools to help turn young people’s lives around. From their site: The Lineage Project is one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations providing alternative tools for physical, emotional and mental wellness to at-risk and incarcerated youth ages 10 to 21. Through the teaching of yoga and meditation to over 600 of these youth annually throughout New York City we provide a unique forum to cultivate resiliency and positive youth development, providing tools that can transform young lives. We conduct our program in collaboration with local community- based organizations, schools, and New York City and State detention facilities. Our current community partners include, The New York State Office of Children and Family Services, The New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, The Fortune Society, Humanities Prep High School. Over the past 12 years, we have held programs for youth in collaboration with many facilities including the Department of Correction’s Adolescent Detention Center at Rikers Island, The Jewish Board of Children and Family Services, New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Although no longer working at Rikers and The Jewish Board of Children and Family Services we have recently added four new service sites, The Fortune Society, The Brooklyn Job Corps, Crossroads Juvenile Justice Facility, and Humanities Prep High School. Visit them at the Tricycle Community here to join in the discussion about the challenges facing today’s youth, and what you can do to help. Below is a 15-minute video of what the Lineage Project...

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Elephant Journal Readership is at a record high.

Readership is at a record high, we won #1 green content in US on twitter 2010, this Facebook Page brings in > readers than Google itself, TreeHugger just named Waylon Lewis a top “Eco Ambassador” in US…but there’s no sustainable business model for new media. Save the elephant? From the Elephant...

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NEW Bearing Witness newsletter: Socially Engaged Buddhism Online

The May issue of Bearing Witness: the Free Newsletter on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism explores the role of online technology in the world of SEB.  It includes my first-hand coverage of the Wisdom 2.0 conference and perspectives by activists, scholars and leaders of Buddhist organizations including Roshi Joan Halifax (Upaya Zen Center), Soren Gordhamer (Wisdom 2.0), Vince Horn (Buddhist Geeks), Alan Senauke (Clear View Project), Chris Queen (Zen Peacemakers) and Kate Crisp (Peacemaker Institute and Prison Dharma Network).  Stay tuned to this blog to explore questions regarding this complex and controversial topic.  Key questions from Chris Queen’s introduction: Articles in this month’s Bearing Witness raise provocative questions for socially engaged Buddhists. Despite the power of the web to alert us to the suffering of beings around the world, are we spending far too much time staring at screens in darkened rooms? Are typing and clicking, texting and Googling truly Buddhist practices, in the way that meditating, chanting and serving are? Is “high tech” a substitute or a supplement to “high touch”? Can the virtual activism of Second Life avatars be compared to the bodily service of flesh-and-blood...

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Now the Whole Planet Has its Head on Fire: Collective Karma and Systemic Responses to Climate Disruption by Taigen Dan Leighton

Taigen Dan Leighton will be a presenter in the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism this summer. from A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, edited by John Stanley, David Loy, and Gyurme Dorje (Wisdom Publications, 2009) The failure of the teaching of karma as solely an individual matter, without accounting for systemic, collective causes, was recognized by the great leader of the Untouchables, Bhimrao Ambedkar, who led the mass conversion to Buddhism of over three million Indian “Untouchables” starting in 1956. For Buddhists to respond appropriately to the calamities that have only started to befall us all from global climate disruption caused by human activities, we will need to rethink the common misunderstandings of karma that have prevailed in Buddhist Asia. The teaching of karma has been frequently misused in Asian history to rationalize injustice and blame the victims of societal oppression. The popular version of this includes that people born into poverty or disability deserve their situation because of misdeeds in past lives. Such views have themselves caused great harm…read...

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SEB Symposium Presenter Jules Shuzen Harris, to Participate on New School Panel Discussion: ‘Conversations on Change’ in New York City

As announced by the Business Wire, Jules Harris will be a panelist for a conference in New York City tomorrow. At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism this summer, he will be part of a panel on Special Ministries along with Fleet Maull and Francisco Lugoviña.  From the Business Wire: the Vera List Center for Art and Politics to participate in a panel exploring new possibilities for civic engagement. Purposely designed as a conversation that crosses boundaries, the panel will address both commonalities and distinctions about how meaningful social and political change can be achieved. Appearing alongside Harris will be the physicist Sean Gourley, who has been researching the mathematics of war, and activist artist AA Bronson, currently leading the program, ‘A School for Young Shamans’, at the Banff Centre, an arts and culture center located in Alberta,...

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Bearing Witness: Buddhist Activism

During the month of April, we invite you to join us exploring Buddhist activism. This month’s issue of Bearing Witness Newsletter features peace, environmental and criminal justice activism. In the Bearing Witness Blog, we will highlight one article at a time from the issue, inviting your comments and questions. This issue highlights opportunities to get involved including a multi-state walk for peace, environmental activism in New York City and the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism, where 7 activists featured in this issue will present.

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