From Rural Poverty to Green Buddhism

Appalachian Zen House Breaks Cycle of Hopelessness.

I was first introduced to Kanji and Bernie through podcasts that I listened to while wandering around on the other side of the planet in Argentina.  Bernie was teaching a Harvard Divinity School class in 2007.  Students took part in envisioning Zen Houses.  I couldn’t bear thoughts of returning to the 9-5 grind and the Zen House vision provided me with an opportunity to improve my meditation discipline and also give back to the community.  It gave me an alternative.  In one discussion on the podcast, Kanji asked whether a Zen House could be rural, for example, in his native Pennsylvania.  Bernie was thinking more of urban houses.  However, after graduating as Harvard’s first Buddhist Master of Divinity and completing the Zen Peacemakers Seminary (along with me), Kanji founded the Appalachian Zen House (the first Zen House) in central Pennsylvania.

In the Zen Houses panel at the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism, Kanji explained how overcoming obstacles growing up in central PA influenced his embrace of Green Buddhism as a path to breaking generations of rural poverty.  After completing seminary, he returned to his home town and, working with fellow Seminary graduate Jiko McIntosh,  networked and laid infrastructure for Zen House programs including green jobs, education and sustainable agriculture.  He did this work in a region where laid-off workers seek double shifts at Wal-mart, where resntful war veterans without health insurance are too ashamed to ask for help and where drugs and violence plague the lives of youth.

Many of the same problems effect Franklin County, the home of Zen Peacemakers Head Quarters and the Montague Farm Zen House.  Want to experience that Zen House?  Check out our residence training program.  You can also support the Zen Houses and view this presentation by purchasing DVD’s of this panel.

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