Having spent decades teaching Zen and working in Socially Engaged Buddhism, I am now spending these early years of my ’70s giving workshops and serving in socially engaged projects around the world. Please support me in this work!
With love and gratitude,
Bhikkhuni Pannavati is assisting Dalits in Tamil Nadu, Southern India. Bernie assisted her with his first journey to the field of Soutnern India in November, 2011. He was accompanied by Roshi Eve Marko and Friends of Bernie Sustainers, Senseis Roland and Barbara Wegmüller.
Preparing for the Socially Engaged Pilgrimage in India, I asked Shantum to review the newsletter we were preparing. Though he is a devout Buddhist who lived with and was introduced to Buddhism by downtrodden Indian Buddhists in Uttar Pradesh, he warned us against overly simplifying the situation. Though there is definitely a revolutionary role played by Ambedkarite Buddhism in liberating “untouchables”, Shantum explained, it stems primarily from a social and political base rather a Dharmic one. In fact, there is more of an emphasis on ‘equality’ than ‘liberation’. Dalits form the bottom rung of the oppressive Hindu caste system. There are many nuances that complicate this story:
All this is not to say that Dalits haven’t faced discrimination and that Ambedkarite Buddhism hasn’t helped them. It’s just that the more you know, the more complicated things get. As Charlie says “go figure”.
Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s biggest charity, is dedicated to making a positive difference to the lives of rural Sri Lankans. Their grassroots movement reaches 15,000 villages in 34 districts with 1,500 staff throughout Sri Lanka. The Founder, A. T. Ariyaratne and Bernie have been friends and have shared ideas for 30 years. In December, 2011, Bernie, Roshi Eve Marko and Friends of Bernie Sustainers, Senseis Roland and Barbara Wegmüller visited Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka and Bernie plans to assist Sarvodaya in the coming years.
Due to the Arab Spring there is an increased interest in Non-Violent Peace training. Bernie will be assisting one of the Leaders in this training, Sami Awad, in Palestine.
The Interfaith Encounter Association, an Israeli NGO, is dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East through interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural study. It believes that, rather than being a cause of the problem, religion can and should be a source of the solution for conflicts that exist in the region and beyond.
Clowns Without Borders offers humor as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered trauma. Bernie will be accompanying Mr. YooWho (Bernie’s clown mentor and previous coordinator for Clowns Without Borders) to be a schlepper and disturber in refugee camps.
In the 1980’s, Bernie established the Greyston Foundation in Yonkers, New York, which today serves as a national model for community development and social enterprise. Bernie will return to serve the poor and homeless by working in Greyston’s HIV Health Clinic outreach program and by supporting Greyston’s staff in developing its spiritual foundation.Read More
In 2010, Bernie and the Zen Peacemakers started the first Let All Eat Café in Western Massachusetts in order to establish a unique family-friendly soup kitchen. Bernie will serve in new Cafés being started in the United States and Europe by groups who have been inspired by Zen Peacemakers’ model.Read More
The Rwanda Genocide was one of worst genocides to occur in the 20th century. Taking place in 1994, hundreds of thousands of Tutsis (a Rwandan ethnic class) were killed in the small African country of Rwanda. Hopefully this five minute video may raise awareness for the usually-overlooked genocide.
“Humanity’s darkest side is extraordinarily fresh in the raw memories of Rwanda’s survivors – and killers. It is incredible that they can all live together. Their path of forgiveness and reconciliation demonstrates humanity’s hope.” –quote by Grant Couch, participant of Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda