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 http://nypeacewalk.org

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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 the fields of food industry, trading etc. Many times, these professionals – who offer their knowledge and assistance wholeheartedly – have not previously engaged in Jewish-Palestinian cooperation, so they too find the experience unique and are excited by how they can put their skills for this cause.

Stability and Whole Heartedness

 Crossing the unseen but very real borders that separate Jews and Palestinians generates much hope and intimacy and can be very healing and transformative. Hope and intimacy run so contrary to the mainstream beliefs around the Jewish-Palestinian conflict that sooner or later challenges and conflicts arise as well. There have been many instances where group members had to face confrontations and attacks from various sources:

  • A physiotherapist and Sangha member came with us to Deir Istiya to treat a handicapped woman. Later, when telling friends about her deeply touching experience in the village, she was aggressively criticized and condemned by one of them…
  • Walking with the mayor of Deir Istiya to see contaminated sewage flowing from a nearby settlement to the olive groves of the village we are stopped by soldiers who demand that we turn away. The soldiers take it for granted that they can give orders to civilians, completely disregarding the fact that we are walking on land privately owned by these civilians.…
  • Together with Palestinians and other activists we are demonstrating in the village Al-Wallaja in protest of the separation wall being built on its lands, several meters away from the houses. The demonstration is nonviolent but the soldiers declare it illegal. They shout abuse and throw scores of stun grenades directly at us…
  • A representative of ours phones the mayor of Revava, the settlement from which the above mentioned sewage is flowing. The mayor refuses to speak with the “Arab lover” and after a few hostile sentences, hangs up the phone…

 These kinds of occurrences are the all too common experience of peace activists in Israel. It is very painful to be considered “public enemy” and this pain gives rise to many challenges: Inwardly it is difficult not to feel resentment and anger towards people who attack you so vehemently. Outwardly, expressing this anger unskillfully only adds to the cycle of hate and violence. On the other hand, if wishing not to take part in these kinds of violent exchanges you step back and cease to be involved, then you give up on the commitment to work for changing the troubled reality which our lives are part of.

We feel very privileged to be able to engage in such confrontations while being supported by Dharma practice and the wisdom and compassion it cultivates. Responding skillfully in these situations is an ongoing learning process and one of the deepest practices that activism offers us. Through this practice we learn to open to the feeling of Dukha and find in it a refuge from the danger of breeding our inner ill-will. We learn how big our capacity for listening can be and how much our adversaries need that we listen to them. Hopefully this listening also helps us to better understand them. We learn how to state our case clearly, directly and non-aggressively. We learn the power of a heart and mind that are well tuned. And we learn simultaneously of our own fragility and power.

The Physiotherapist absorbed her friend’s abuse and had enough inner freedom to be aware of the needs of that friend and the other people who witnessed the exchange. The group near the sewage refused politely but firmly to obey the unjust orders. In Al-Wallaja, instead of adding to the mayhem, our activists helped a few frightened and angry partners to relax. Our representative kept on phoning and listening to the Mayor of Revava who became very curious about him, put down some of his defenses and finally invited the representative to visit him at the settlement so that they could discuss things thoroughly. When, despite this show of good-will, no progress was made for fixing the sewage we petitioned the Ministry for the Protection of the Environment which is now charging the settlement with contamination of agriculture and water resources.

Raising Awareness and Creating Transformation

 Another major part of our mission is transforming the existing prejudices and psychological obstacles for peace in the Jewish-Israeli society. In the last few months we held a weekend retreat of Engaged Dharma and spoke about our work in a conference that was dedicated to “Trends in Buddhism in the West”. In the next two months we are scheduled to hold another retreat and are organizing together with the different Israeli Sanghas a conference on “Dharma inspired Political and Social Struggles”.

Through such activities we aim to raise political awareness within the general Dharma community in Israel and encourage more practitioners to become socially engaged. During the first four months of 2012 we will hold three workshops titled “The Conflict (not) On Automatic Pilot” for students in prearmy gap year programs. The workshops are designed to help participants discover their automatic responses when dealing with different aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inquire into the roots of these responses and see if other, more helpful approaches, can be taken. Finally, we were asked by Combatants for Peace, a major Israeli-Palestinian peace group to facilitate for them a workshop on nonviolent struggle.

We intend to continue this outreach work and hope to hold many more workshops for these three target groups during 2012.

˜ We will be very happy to hear your comments on this report. Your support, suggestions and feedback for improvement will be received gratefully. Please feel free to forward it to Dharma friends. Our blog engagedharma.wordpress.com is currently Hebrew language only but we would be happy to provide more details about our vision and guiding principles.

Please email us at [email protected] .

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Dana Wiki: Helping Buddhist Organizations Get Involved in Social Service

Dana Wiki's logThree 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 us!

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10 Asian + Asian American Buddhists Who Make a Difference

Kaz Tanahashi

This post originally appeared on The Jizo Chronicles

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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 became very involved in advocating for Tibetan human rights and she helped to found the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Duncan Ryuken Williams, a Professor of Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley, has written on Japanese Buddhist history, Buddhism and environmentalism, and American Buddhism. He is the author of several books, including Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds (Harvard, 1997).

Sister Jun Yasuda, whose picture graces the new masthead of the Jizo Chronicles, is part of the Nipponzan Myohji order. She has led and participated in peace walks to address issues such as nuclear disarmament, prison reform, and Native American rights for many years now. Sister Jun-san lives at the Grafton Peace Pagoda in upstate New York.

Kaz Tanahashi, born in Japan, has lived in the U.S. since 1977. Besides being an artist, author, and translator (his recently updated translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo was just published earlier this year), Kaz is very active in environmental and peace issues. He founded the organizations A World Without Armies and Plutonium Free Future (with Mayumi Oda).

Rev. Ken Tanaka is a scholar and co-editor (with Charles Prebish) of the book The Faces of Buddhism in America. A leader in the Shin Buddhist community, Rev. Tanaka has called for the development of an “Engaged Pure Land Buddhism”

Mushim Ikeda-Nash is a Buddhist teacher, author, diversity consultant, and community peace activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mushim was coeditor of Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities. Her work has been featured in two documentary films, “Between the Lines: Asian American Women Poets” and “Acting on Faith: Women and the New Religious Activism in America.

Ryo Imamura was politically active on the Vietnam War issue and farmworkers’ rights, and along with Robert Aitken Roshi helped to found the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in 1978. Ryo is currently a professor of East-West Psychology at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Thich Nhat Hanh –  No list on engaged Buddhism would be complete without mention of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, who coined the term while he was still living in Vietnam during the war. Thay’s activism includes founding the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS) in Vietnam, but probably his most important contribution to socially engaged Buddhism is his embodiment of what it means to “be peace” as a way of working toward peace.

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The Protector of Men

Emperor Songsten Gampo of Tibet and his two princesses

Emperor Songsten Gampo of Tibet and his two princesses

Sam van Schaik over at Early Tibet recently posted part of a Tibetan poem, “The Scripture That Fell From the Sky” (IOL Tib J 370), that was written by an anonymous author in either the mid-eighth or the tenth century CE.  It was found as part of a hoard of texts in a cave in Dunhuang, China in 1900. Part of it reads,

Due to the death of the royal father, and due to the youth of his son,
The profound dharma and the old sciences have been overturned.
Uphold the the supreme path of truth, the virtuous dharma,
The ten virtues of the monastic rule, and
The royal law of the king—the protector of men—and
The oral teachings & writings of the wise ancestors,
All according to the system of Tibet: how could we?

Continue reading at Formed From Within . . .

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

A Buddha statue covered in offerings of money in Burma.

A Buddha statue covered in offerings of money in Burma. Copyright 2002 by TravelPod.com.

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.

These texts also disabuse us of another misconception common among American Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike—that Buddhism is liberal. Robert Thurman argues, for example, that Nagarjuna’s Ratnavali promotes a “dharmic socialism” leading to a “welfare state;” but Nagarjuna is, along with the rest of these thinkers, far subtler—and far less conventional—than any party line would allow.

With the Bush tax cuts set to expire on 31 December 2010, congress delaying a vote on extending the cuts until after the midterm elections, and debate raging between—and, for Democrats, even within—the parties on whether to extend all, none, or some of the cuts, now seems like a perfect time to survey what Buddhist thinkers have had to say. Rather than serving as a liability, these thinkers’ cultural, political, and historical distance from us can give us some much-needed perspective. Let’s take a look.

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