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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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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From Vision to Buddhist Social Action

“How do we go from vision to action?” This question was asked at the recent Symposium on Buddhist Social Action at Zen Peacemakers. Here is a brief  account of what I found helpful in going from vision to action after completing my Zen Peacemaker seminary training for ministry. From spring 2009 through spring 2010 I co-lead with Kanji Ruhl the first 14 months of establishing Appalachian Zen House in Bald Eagle Valley in central rural Pennsylvania. This, the first of Zen Peacemakers’ Zen Houses is now led by Kelle Kirsten and Bob Flatley. Our mission was to serve, as an integral part of our Zen practice, the under-served people, beings, and natural environment in this depleted rural valley. The valley was Kanji’s childhood home, but I had never visited Pennsylvania before. Nor did I know well any other current secular community after being a monastic in a Zen Monastery for 8 of the 10 years prior. So my first task was to immerse myself in experiencing the life here. Meanwhile I was finding out the needs of the people. And I was finding out who could be attracted to serve in “enhancing the community’s ability for inclusive, non-sectarian, responsive and sustainable activity in harmony with the natural environment.” I was very fortunate to form relationships within three main groups of people that participated in our endeavors – the local protestant Christian communities, a dominant social aspect of the valley, liberal community- and environmentally-minded folk, and impoverished local people who were not overtly part of the above groups. Connections were also forming over the 14 months with teachers and students at Penn State University, as well as with other Buddhist groups, and I expect that these too are continuing to grow. 1.    Joining the local protestant Christian communities. An essential first step for my own connection with the local people, life, and area was for me to rent a cheap apartment and live alone in a small village. In this way I was dependent on my new neighbors for information and social interaction. Despite my foreign accent and their awareness that I was a strange “Buddhist,” these tightly-knit Christian communities were warmly welcoming and very generous. They included me in many social and community...

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Photos: Patch of Grass to Abundant Harvest!

Deerfield Academy’s boys lacrosse team helping set the garden fence posts. On Earth Day April 2010, we broke ground on a 1/4 acre garden at the Montague Farm. Now in September we are harvesting and serving organic vegetables every week to 60-70 people at our Montague Farm cafe free community meals. This garden was created by many people: Karen Idoine, Ike Eichenlaub, Laurie Smith, Tim Raines, Doug Donnell, Janice Frey, Bonnie Bloom, Dan Smith, Charlie Kerrigan, Henry Marshall, Kanji Ruhl, and the Greenfield Farmers Co-operative Exchange. The fabulous Big Brothers/Big Sisters crew (Ashley, Brooke, and Rachel) and the Deerfield Academy lacrosse team and their coach Jan Flaska have been instrumental. Rosalind Jiko McIntosh has coordinated nurturing of the garden since June. Cucumbers, zucchini, basil, cilantro and carrots being harvested right now. Volunteers to maintain the garden and process the harvest are very welcome. A plot of grass transformed into the Montague Farm Zen House garden Tim Raines on the first round with the rototiller in April. After the Deerfield Academy lacrosse team helped dig a fence trench and set the poles. Karen Idoine and the chicken wire fence in mid May. At last, early plantings in June! Abundance in...

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Can Green Buddhism Save the Earth?

Peter Matthiessen, Daniel Goleman, Stephanie Kaza, Others Discuss Buddhist Environmentalism at Symposium “I wrote about vanishing wildlife 50 years ago. I wish I could say we’ve made more progress,” remarked the naturalist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Zen teacher Peter Matthiessen during a panel discussion on the environment held at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism on Thursday, August 12. “We’ve made some progress, but there are more extinctions now than ever in the history of our planet.” That in itself is deeply alarming. But in addition, Matthiessen said, “Things that affect wildlife almost always impinge on people. And generally,” he stressed, “poor people are the first affected.” That includes native peoples, whose cultures are exceptionally rich but whose economic resources may be scant. Matthiessen spoke of traveling to an Arctic region west of the Brooks Range, “the last refuge of Ice Age megafauna — all three kinds of bears, and wolves; glorious — and a tremendous variety of migratory birds. There are no roads at all. The Indian people there are hanging on to their culture, they depend on the caribou, and they’re resisting the bribes of the oil companies. The oil companies call that area ‘the 10-02’; the native people there call it ‘the sacred place where life begins.’ It’s so sacred they won’t walk there. The oil company wants it.” People living in the Arctic, Matthiessen continued, “are our first global climate change victims. Whales stay next to the icepack, and as the ice recedes farther out to sea, the people have to go farther to reach them. At the same time, the permafrost is melting. As usual, our government is not taking good care of our native people. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is very serious, but the Arctic is so much worse. The oil doesn’t break down in very cold water. And the oil companies themselves say there’s at least one spill a day.” Matthiessen quoted a tribal elder who said, “God may forgive you, but your children won’t.” The problem is complicated enormously by the fact, Matthiessen contended, that “Big Oil owns the country. They own Congress and the White House. Greed is their true nature.” Greed, however, is the good news for Daniel...

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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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Buddhist Chaplains Love the Gulf

From Jizo Chronicles Buddhist Chaplains Love the Gulf Grand Isle Graveyard, photo by Penny Alsop Here’s the latest update from Penny Alsop, who I’ve mentioned and quoted several times before in The Jizo Chronicles. Penny has initiated the “Chaplains Love the Gulf “ project and is coordinating a trip in August so that “the people and environmental region of the Gulf can receive the benefit of compassionate presence of a contingent of chaplaincy students.”  Penny took a scouting trip to Grand Isle, LA, this month to begin that work. This is her report. _________________________________________ More Love by Penny Alsop This past weekend I set out for Grand Isle, LA to begin our project, to research some details and to see for myself how my beloved Gulf coast and the people of Louisiana are faring since oil has taken over their lives in this most despicable way.  Lives have been turned upside down, every which way and even those who are making good money like the three fellows I met from Texas who work twelve hours per day, in twenty minute intervals, in hazmat suits in the sweltering Louisiana sun to wash the oil off of boom, would much prefer to be at home with their...

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Engaged Buddhist named Poet Laureate of the United States

Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1976 to study with Robert Aitken Roshi, the primary honoree of the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  While the New York Times says that “his interest in Zen Buddhism have sometimes made him seem like a man apart from society, a soul too pure too mix with the frantic heave of life as we know it,” they also describe his social engagement: But Mr. Merwin’s appointment is potentially inspired. He is an exacting nature poet, a fierce critic of the ecological damage humans have wrought. Helen Vendler, writing last year in The New York Review of Books, called him “the prophet of a denuded planet.” With the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico becoming more dread and apocalyptic by the hour, Mr. Merwin may be a poet we’ll need. The pacifist in him may brood over the long war in...

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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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UMass Donates Compost to Zen House Garden

Our garden keeps growing.  There are still spots available in the residence program for people who want to participate.  You could meditate, garden and work at the Montague Farm...

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Naropa University among The Princeton Review’s Greenest Schools.

From the Elephant Journal: The Princeton Review and U.S. Green Building Council have recognized Boulder’s own Naropa University as one of the greenest in the nation in their recent Guide to 286 Green Colleges.  Through using electricity that is 100% wind powered and implementing an all-encompassing composting system, they are among a list of schools, also including four other Colorado schools, that are leading the nation in sustainable learning environments.  Naropa also has an on-campus greenhouse that yields crops for both the campus’ cafe and landscaping and its sprinklers, unlike CU Boulder’s, only waters when needed.  Another impressive part of Naropa’s program is their academic opportunity for green majors and minors in a wide variety of subjects ranging from sciences to agriculture to sacred ecology. Naropa’s full press release. The Elephant Journal is a great publication. Here is why we should support...

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Civil Eats: Buddhists Reap Their Karmic Fruits (And Vegetables)

“While children zip around the Northeastern rural property, adults mingle and serve up heaping portions of macaroni and cheese and colorful salads,” says yesterday’s article covering The Montague Farm Zen House from Civil Eats, a group dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture and food systems.  Read the full article or check out the following excerpts: More than anything, the scene resembles a small-town fair. But it is simply another night at the Montague Farm Café. The free dinner is hosted by the Buddhist Montague Farm Zen House in Montague, Massachusetts, as part of the group’s efforts to promote sustainable food and health… The specter of hunger hovers in the consciousness of Werner and Montague Farm residents. Nearly a third of the families in the Zen house’s area experience food insecurity, meaning that they do not always have access to or money for enough nutritious and safe food. Montague Farm provides transportation to their dinners for less affluent folk, who may not have the resources to drive into the country—or prepare organic, local fare. With the meals, “there’s an idea that everyone bears witness to experiences outside our own. We offer a space to serve with love and dignity,” Werner says. Religion and farming are seldom closely associated in our minds, but historically, strong ties unite Buddhism and working the...

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Forget Farmville: Watch Our Organic Farm Grow in Real Time Part II

Join our residence program or come volunteer and get involved with our organic community...

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Seaweed donated to MF Zen House

I am so happy about the 6 bags of seaweed donated for the Montague Farm Zen House community meals -thank you Larch Hanson, seaweed man.

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Bodhisattvas Needed in Louisiana

Here’s the idea of the day, from Hozan Alan Senauke of the Clear View Project: How about a Buddhist brigade to Louisiana to help with clean up from this huge mess of an oil spill that will hit land soon? The consequences are projected to be devastating. Here’s a small resource list to get this off the ground: OIL SPILL CLEANUP–To volunteer: 1-866-448-5816.If you have a boat: 425-745-8017. To report oiled wildlife: 1-866-577-1401. Spill-related damages: 1-800-440-0858. (Please repost.) Register to volunteer with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Louisiana Shore Cleanup Facebook Page If you’re interested in connecting with other dharma practitioners who want to go to the Gulf region to volunteer, feel free to comment on this post and find each other. Who wants to take the ball and run with...

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Forget farmville: watch our REAL garden grow in real time!

The Montague Farm Zen House garden-to-be, fence posts in, ground tilled.  Join our residence program and get...

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Lacrosse team digs trench for Zen House organic garden

Thank you Deerfield Academy lacrosse team for the trench and tall cedar posts you dug in the garden for the soon-to-be-placed fence. One step at a time, we are creating a hearty garden (20ft x 50ft.) Spots available in residence program for people who want to join in the fun! Please help spread the...

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Volunteers clear space for expanded organic garden

Montague Farm Zen House volunteers are working in our field right now to clear wood and pipes in order to clear space to expand our organic garden.  Volunteers include staff from Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as former a tenant of the farm from its days as a commune.  Working in the garden will be a task for people in the residence...

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ID Project Hosts Live Online No Impact Week

The Interdependence Project is hosting a man known as No Impact Man (Colin Beavan), who is challenging and supporting over 1300 people in becoming more mindful of the impact of their consumption and attempting to have no impact for one week… read more I am intrigued by this project, having just completed a rigorous three-day no pizza mini-week...

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Joanna Macy- The Great Turning

The Great Turning is a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization. The ecological and social crises we face are caused by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste… read...

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