Excerpt from “The Path of Solidarity”
originally published on Lion’s Roar 4/10/2017
Zen Peacemaker Order Members Doshin Nathan Woods considers what it means to stand arm in arm as part of our Buddhist practice.
ROSEMEAD, CALIFORNIA, USA. “…In December 2015, Dr. Larycia Hawkins announced on Facebook her intention to wear a hijab for Advent in an act of “embodied solidarity” with Muslim women. “Muslims and Christians,” Hawkins explained at the time, “share the same god.” Although grounded in important theological reasoning, it was the concern over the uptick of anti-Muslim sentiment that led Hawkins, as a Christian, to wear the hijab. For this, Hawkins, the first African American woman to earn tenure at Wheaton College, was terminated from her position as professor. An outburst of protest followed, along with a spate of critical reflections on how to demonstrate solidarity with the oppressed—in this case, Muslims in a predominantly Christian, and increasingly Islamophobic, society…
…questions of ally-ship—how might individuals working in mindfulness organizations better serve the community as white allies, for example, or as LGBTQIA allies? This led me to reflect on a concept derived from Liberation Theology—that of “accompaniment,” defined as a long-term “being with” oppressed others through a commitment to equality and resource sharing, often across perceived interests. This pragmatic solidarity, walking with others in their struggle for survival, points to an ethical horizon where, to reference the Zen Peacemaker liturgy, we find opportunity not merely to help but “to see ourselves as Other and Other as ourselves.” In order to move beyond sentiment and express solidarity with others as an embodied relationship, we need to go beyond being allies and explore how we might accompany others in this way.
…Compassion in Buddhism is also talked about as anukampa, which is sometimes translated literally as a “crying out at the crying out of another.” It is a movement of the heart—often described as a trembling—to act on the behalf of others. Seen in this light, dana defines giving not simply as a contractual exchange but as a spiritual practice where the proper enjoyment and utilization of wealth embodies selflessness and embraces human dignity. It also supports caga, or a generous attitude, loosening one’s grip on possessions and self-benefit…
…In the months and years to come, we will have plenty of opportunity to participate in new movements of human dignity and redistribution as people step forward to describe their visions of solidarity in the face of injustice. The first step, of course, is to see through our conventional limitations and stand against injustice by listening to the voice of the other crying out. 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…”
Doshin Nathan Woods is a novice Zen priest at Sweetwater Zen Center. He holds a PhD in cultural anthropology and teaches at the University of the West in Rosemead, California.