community, Insight meditation - vipassana, Insight Meditation Society, retreat, Retreat practice, Uncategorized

Insight Meditation Society 2020 Registration Now Open

Just letting you know that the Insight Meditation SOciety in Barre, Massachusetts, has just announced its 2020 retreat schedule and registration is now open. Based on previous years, most retreats tend to get fully booked within a few days, so if you’re interested in practising at IMS, best to register as soon as you can to avoid missing out.

IMS images

I’m scheduled to teach a five-day metta retreat in February 2020, the first six weeks of the three-month retreat in September, and the whole month of November at the Forest Refuge.

I look forward to meditating with some of you at IMS again soon!

Uncategorized

¿ Hope ?

cow wall peeking

I arrived back in New South Wales just as the 16th Sakyadhita International Conference for Women in Buddhism was happening in the Blue Mountains, and I was fortunate to be able to attend a keynote address by Roshi Joan Halifax on the theme of “Wise Hope.”
Her reflections on the differences between optimism, pessimism and what she refers to as “Wise Hope” struck a chord.

Since then, the word hope seems to keep appearing everywhere I look, even as the news it emerges from feels increasingly hopeless – particularly in relation to climate change. But the words of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist also hit a nerve for me.

Instead of looking for hope, look for action.
Then, and only then, hope will come.
Greta Thunberg

A conversation with a climate activist friend in Sydney gave me plenty of leads to follow, and has inspired me to set up a new page to draw some of this information together. From the explorations I’ve done so far, it’s clear that I’m not nearly as powerless as I’d previously believed, and that if enough of us take even seemingly small actions, change is possible.

Through insight meditation teachers such as Yanai Postelnik‘s climate activism in the UK, I knew a little about the Extinction Rebellion movement, but only recently found out about the research behind their methods:
Extinction Rebellion operates on a metric drawn from the research of political scientist Erica Chenoweth and policy analyst Maria J. Stephan. In their long-term study of campaigns for revolutionary, secessionist and regime-change movements from the past 150 years, they come to a few vital conclusions. First, that nonviolent movements have a vastly improved chance of success over those that pursue armed struggle or terror tactics, including under authoritarian regimes where the consequences of even peaceful dissent can be life threatening. And second, that you don’t need everybody: you only need about 3.5 per cent of the population to achieve a critical mass of sustained popular noncompliance.
“Extinction Rebels” by Scott Ludlum The Monthly July 2019 See full article here

Aside from direct action, there are plenty of other initiatives we could take that are less personally risky, but can have a big impact if enough of us make these changes. The book “Drawdown” describes 100 of the most substantive solutions to climate change, and surprisingly, two of the top five solutions are to do with food. Number three is reducing food waste, and number four is about moving to a plant-rich diet:

Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs. $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved. … As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said, making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.

A summary of solutions by overall rank from the book Drawdown can be found here

I’m mostly vegetarian myself, but as a start in this direction, I plan to try eating a vegan diet once a week. I’d also love to hear from any of you, what changes you’re making in your own lives as a result of the climate emergency, and any book references and website links you’d like to contribute to the new page.


Suggested resources from readers

from MM

An ordinary person who joined an Extinction Rebellion blockade

I’m an ordinary person who joined an Extinction Rebellion blockade. Here’s why you should too. It was way out of my comfort zone, but as a scientist I can tell you that the climate emergency is much more terrifying.


from WN

Jonathan Rowson: Integrating Our Souls, Systems, and Society

Applied philosopher Jonathan Rowson insists on holding a deeper appreciation for how our inner worlds influence our outer worlds. His research organization, Perspectiva, examines how social change happens across “systems, souls, and society.” “If we can get better and more nimble and more generous about how we move between those worlds, then the chance of creating a hope that makes sense for all of us is all the greater,” he says. We engage his broad spiritual lens on the great dynamics of our time, from social life to the economy to the climate.


from DP

Soft plastics recycling and where to recycle it in Australia

RED Group is a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation who has developed and implemented the REDcycle Program; a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic.


from IB

Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson exhibition: In Real Life
11 July 2019 – 5 Jan 2020 Tate Modern, London

Part of his goal here is to highlight climate change. At the Paris climate conference in 2015, and on multiple occasions since, he has placed lumps of melting ice in cities to highlight the glaciers’ demise. Here, he has cast an ice block in bronze to emphasize the space where lost ice should be. Eliasson is also capturing the ebb of Icelandic glaciers in a series of photographs, some on display. Like all his works, these seem to transport you to another world — then remind you that it is this world.


From WN

You mentioned in the blog only 3.5% of the population is required. Here are some figures:
In Australia, that’s 861,000 people
In New Zealand, 167,790 people
In the UK, 2,311,400 people
In the USA, 11,452,000 people
In Canada, 1,297,100 people
Do we know how many people in each of these countries are on board, i.e., how close are we?


From JC and JW

Here are some of the papers and books we have been looking at:

Norman Fischer “The World Could Be Otherwise”

Pema Chodron “Becoming Bodhisattvas”

https://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf and a number of Jem Bendal’s Youtube presentations. (His work on Deep Adaptation seems really important, to support people to look at how things are)

“A Buddhist Response to The Climate Emergency” editied by John Stanley, David R Loy and Gyurme Dorje

“This is not a Drill” An Extention Rebellion handbook

“No one is too small” Greta Thunberg

“This changes everything” Naomi Klein

 

anxiety, climate change, community, freedom, retreat, Retreat practice, Uncategorized

Retreat as rebellion

mens shirts 7

Resisting the tyranny of productivity

Over the last few months, I’ve been having conversations with students – and with myself! – about what feels to be the increasingly relentless busyness of our lives. People often say to me that they don’t have time to meditate every day, and they certainly don’t have time to go on retreat, because of work or financial or family pressures. There are just too many other demands on their time, energy, and resources.

Sometimes there are genuine obstacles that get in the way of making time for formal practice. But sometimes, the busyness is a convenient rationalisation, one that allows us to avoid looking at what might be underneath the frenetic activity. On top of our own individual conditioning, most of us are impacted by the dominant values of mainstream society, which demand us to be constantly productive. As a result, we often develop  a compulsive need to be doing; doing; doing; almost as a way to justify our existence. Capitalist values tend to define us by what we DO, so unless we’re constantly busy, we’re no-one. For many people, the idea of simply BEING – even for a few minutes at a time – is terrifying. As a society, our flight from stillness and solitude has gone into hyperdrive.

wrong way 1

Resisting time-pressure

One of the side-effects of this speeding up of everything, is that time spent meditating or on retreat is easily devalued, because it’s not productive. More and more, there’s pressure to achieve the same meditative “results” – whatever they may be – in shorter and shorter times.

We can even see a shift in the retreat schedules of some insight meditation centres around the world. The nine-day retreat has shrunk to seven days, the seven-day retreat to five days, the five day retreat to three days, and so on, so that more retreats can be fitted in to each calendar year.

Retreats should be getting longer, not shorter

Yet if anything, retreats should be getting longer, not shorter, because most people come into retreat chronically stressed and tired. Much as we might like to deny it, we are organic beings. We’re made of meat and bone, flesh and blood. We’re not machines or electronic devices that can just be plugged in, switched on and kept going 24/7. But more and more, this is what we expect of ourselves, and it’s often not until we go on retreat and do stop, that we realise just how exhausted we are.

This means that the first one or two days of the retreat are spent in recovery mode, catching up on sleep and giving our fried nervous systems some time to recuperate. Then, because of our achievement-oriented striving, we feel like we have to make up for this lost time during the remaining days of the retreat, otherwise we’ll fall behind, won’t measure up, won’t achieve anything, won’t make any progress …

Our drivenness damages our own health, and the planet’s health

This drivenness is bad not only for our own health, but for the planet too, as we try to alleviate the stress of our over-full schedules by consuming more and more resources. Constant busyness gives us an excuse to ignore the damage we’re doing to the world – and each other. So in some ways, going on retreat and taking time to not be productive is an act of rebellion.

When we are able to take some time to slow down, the shift from DOing to BEing is often uncomfortable at first. It brings us face to face with the powerful conditioning that tells us we’re worthless, unless we’re involved in fifty different activities simultaneously. But as we start to see through that conditioning, we begin to taste moments of deep ease, peace, and freedom, and the insanity of our old way of being loses some of its appeal.

Every moment of meditation is a moment of resisting the tyranny of productivity

It still takes courage to resist that conditioning and prioritise living a more contemplative life, so we need the support of others who are oriented in a similar way, to help us maintain confidence that we are heading in the right direction. Each time we go on retreat, we’re strengthening our own intention to live a more sane and healthy life, and we’re helping others to do the same. In that way, every moment of meditation can become a moment of resisting the tyranny of productivity.

May our collective efforts to live with more ease, sanity and peace be a contribution to the welfare, the happiness, and the freedom, of all beings on our planet, and the planet itself.

Lake Freestad reflection

 

Uncategorized

Christchurch mosque shootings

Again and again and again we need to understand …

HATRED NEVER ENDS THROUGH HATRED.  BY NON-HATRED ALONE DOES IT END.  THIS IS AN ANCIENT TRUTH.

The Dhammapada: Teachings of the Buddha translated from the Pali by Gil Fronsdal 2008

Whether you are a Muslim, or an ally, this is a moment to show up for those in New Zealand who need our active support. To help support the victims and families of the Christchurch mosque shootings please donate here

Mosques in New Zealand and around the world have been inundated with floral tributes and messages of support after a massacre in Christchurch that killed 49 Muslims.

Christchurch mosque Guardian photo

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/16/we-love-you-mosques-around-world-showered-with-flowers-after-christchurch-massacre

For those in Auckland, you might consider attending AUT’s Islam Awareness events this week, starting Monday 18 March. More info here

Other options in New Zealand for showing your support to Muslim communities (courtesy of the Green Party):

As we grieve, there are gatherings happening around Aotearoa to help share our aroha and confront hatred. Here are some of the planned vigils:

  • Christchurch – Thursday 21 March from 8.30pm – 9.30pm at Cathedral Square.
  • Dunedin – Thursday 21 March in the Octagon.
  • Auckland – Friday 22 March from 6pm – 7pm at Aotea Square.
  • Nelson Race Unity Day – Sunday 24 March 24 in Victory Square.

Please attend events in your area and do all you can to come together to support each other and all our diverse communities.

Some further suggestions about how to help, courtesy of ActionStation

Listen to the perspectives of Muslim people

Like with any religious, ethnic or age group, there are multiple perspectives and experiences within the Muslim community. Muslims are an ethnically diverse demographic hailing from 80 different countries around the world. They have been in Aotearoa since 1860.

Widening the articles we read, and the podcasts we listen to, to include a range of Muslim writers or producers is one way we can begin to understand these different perspectives. Here are a couple of pieces that have been written in the wake of the Christchurch attack.

Here is a podcast that came out in 2017, but is essential listening for anyone wanting to understand what life is like for a Muslim person living in New Zealand today.

  • Public Enemy is an award-winning four-part podcast series from RNZ looking at the growing Muslim communities in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and how elections, counter-terrorism policies, war and xenophobia have changed lives.

Condemn racism

This violent attack on Muslim people who were praying peacefully was based on the gunman’s idea that white people are superior to people of colour. This idea was fuelled by the renewed rise of neo-Nazis, xenophobia and far-right extremism all over the world.

For the last few years, powerful people with platforms (some politicians, some media commentators, almost all giant tech corporations) have stoked racial division to sell ads, generate headlines and create fear among us for cheap votes and clicks.

This racism and hate was also allowed to fester, because we have not been doing enough to condemn casual racism when we see it.

Report Islamophobic and xenophobic comments when you see them. Read this guide from Amnesty International on how to tell someone you love they are being racist.

This is a good book for people working through how they might be complicit in white supremacy.

You can also check out the NZ Human Rights Commission’s toolkit on their Give Nothing To Racism website.

Volunteer to teach former refugees and migrants English

English Language Partners New Zealand has a volunteer teaching programme providing free English lessons to former refugees and migrants. They will train you to provide those who need it with the language skills and confidence necessary to integrate and participate fully in Aotearoa.

Volunteer for The Red Cross

Contact your local Red Cross and see what they need. Volunteer tasks may include setting up a home for a refugee family, helping them with everyday admin such as enrolments, budgeting and shopping, and generally welcoming them into New Zealand.

Take action to end hate speech

For the last few months, our team has been researching the links between online hate, online misinformation and the rise in hate crimes.

One thing is abundantly clear: Extreme words lead to extreme actions. We need to do all we can to stop both.

Sign this petition that we’re delivering in a couple of weeks if you want our government to crackdown on online hate and misinformation:

I support an end to hate speech and misinformation online.

Take action to ban semi-automatic weapons

A member of the ActionStation community, Nik Green, is calling for a ban on all semi-automatic firearms. You can sign his petition today:

I support stronger gun laws

There are many other ways you can take action. Find your local Muslim community support group or mosque and reach out to ask how you can help.

Some people have been pledging to form human chains of protection around mosques so Muslims can worship and pray. Others have offered to accompany Muslims to wherever they need to go if they do not feel safe going out in public. We will be in touch again soon with other ways you can help as we find them.

Sending aroha (love) and kaha (strength) to all at this horrific time. Especially to our Muslim, migrant, and refugee communities,

Laura, Madeleine, Eliot, Leroy and Kassie, on behalf of the ActionStation team.

P.S. If you need someone to talk to about grief or trauma you may be experiencing, please call or text 1737. Both are free, confidential and available 24/7.

Art, Buddha, Uncategorized

January/February 2018 super blue blood moon – Buddhist visual art and architecture

This month, I felt the need for some inspiration of the senses, so I’ve decided to set up a webpage dedicated to visual art that’s either been created by practising Buddhists, or features images or sculptures of the Buddha, or evokes meditative states.
Below are just a few samples I’ve found recently.  There are larger images and more info on the new webpage here:
https://jill0shepherd-insightmeditation.com/buddhist-inspired-visual-art-and-architecture/
Feel free to send me any of your own favourites.


Dharma and Art: A Practice of Investigating Perception

And, if you’re interested in exploring the connection between creativity and dharma more fully, the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies is offering a new online and residential six-month program which looks fascinating.
Applications for that close soon – 1 March 2018 – and you can find more info here:
https://www.bcbsdharma.org/yearlong-programs/dharma-and-art/


Karl Martens

https://mymodernmet.com/karl-martens-watercolor-paintings-birds/


Miya Ando

http://www.miyaando.com/


James Turrell

http://jamesturrell.com/work/type/


Tadao Ando

https://www.dezeen.com/2017/08/08/tadao-ando-hill-of-the-buddha-lavender-mound-makomanao-takino-cemetery-sapporo-japan/

 

daily life, mindfulness, motivation, retreat, Retreat practice, Ten Parami, Uncategorized

January 2018 full moon – re-set

Sydney Insight Meditators 2018 New Year’s retreat

meditators - Rena drawing
Drawing by retreat participant Rena Czaplinska Archer

Making positive changes

The New Year is traditionally a time to try to make positive changes for the year ahead.  And yet most of us have had the experience of starting out with a rush of good intentions, only to find ourselves collapsing back into old habits very quickly.

Having recently finished teaching a seven-day retreat over the New Year, the same pattern can be seen after a period of intensive practice.  Many people experience a wave of inspiration, and have the intention, post-retreat, to renew their commitment to meditating on a daily basis.

Yet again, these intentions often don’t last very long.  The momentum of daily life re-asserts its hold on us, and we’re soon back where we started.  When one retreat participant was recently asked on their retreat registration form to describe their daily practice, they wrote that it mostly consisted of “looking at their meditation cushion and feeling guilty!”

Establishing and/or maintaining a daily meditation practice

Most of us can probably relate to that description, at least at times.  So this month, I’d like to focus on some strategies for establishing or maintaining a daily meditation practice.

Continue reading “January 2018 full moon – re-set”

daily life, death and dying, dukkha, impermanence - anicca, Insight Meditation Society, retreat, Ten Parami, Uncategorized

December 2017 super moon – impermanence, vastness, and intimacy

super moon Wellington
A still from the video of an impressive moonrise in early 2013, over Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand by Mark Gee

Impermanence

This month’s full moon post is a little late, because just this morning, I finished co-teaching the last six weeks of the three-month retreat at IMS in Barre, Massachusetts.

The ending of any period of intensive meditation practice is poignant, but even more so when it’s been a longer retreat.  As this retreat was drawing to a close, I started to felt even less articulate than usual!  It’s been hard to find words that might capture something of the power of the profound transformations that I had the honour to witness, as I accompanied the meditators at least some of the way on their inner journeys.

Part of the struggle has been a sense of paradox: a feeling that the heart-mind has become both vastly expansive, and completely intimate.  So when a friend sent me the link to this short video of a supermoon rising, I was very happy, because perhaps these images might convey what my own words can’t …

Short video (three minutes) here:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/58385453

Next Step Dharma – online course by Oren Sofer and Jaya Rudgard

For anyone wondering how to access support for the transition from retreat practice to daily life, my friends Oren and Jaya have a six week online course specifically designed to help bring your retreat back home.

The course comprises:
• 21 short Dharma Talks and 16 Guided Meditations, all geared for integration
• 18 Recorded interviews with founding Insight Meditation teachers
• 8 weeks of interactive, live Q & A Sessions with the Course Leaders
• Mentoring for your meditation practice
• Weekly readings and “Core Integration” practices
• Lifetime membership in our online community

More info here: http://www.nextstepdharma.org/


Bhaddekaratta Sutta — The Discourse on an Auspicious Day

Do not chase after what is gone,
Nor yearn for what is yet to be.
For the past has been left behind,
And the future cannot be reached.
Those states that are before you now —
Have insight into every one!
Invincibly, unshakably,
Know that well, again and again.
Do this work today, with ardor;
Who knows when death will come calling?
There is no bargaining with Death,
Or with his army of minions.
Abiding ardently like this
Without fail, both day and night, is
“The single most precious moment.”
So the peaceful sage has told us.

Quoted in “Older and Wiser: Classical Buddhist Teachings on Aging, Sickness, and Death”
by Mu Soeng, Gloria Ambrosia, Andrew Olendzki


Finally, here’s a link to the last talk I gave at the end of the retreat.  It has an overview of the core teachings and ways to put them into practice in daily life, using the ten parami of generosity, renunciation, ethical conduct, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolve, kindness, and equanimity.  I hope it will be helpful whether you’re a beginning meditator, or an experienced practitioner.

Dukkha, the ending of Dukkha, and the ending of this retreat 
community, compassion - karuna, daily life, ethics, Noble Eightfold Path, racism, Right Action, Uncategorized

September 2017 full moon – Taking A Stand

Stand Against Suffering: A Call to Action by Buddhist Teachers

“‘As long as a society protects the vulnerable among them, they can be expected to prosper and not decline.’

The Buddha, in the Mahaparinirvana Sutta

Buddhism does not align itself with any party or ideology. But when great suffering is at stake, Buddhists must take a stand against it, with loving-kindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage.”

Stand Against Suffering: A Call to Action by Buddhist Teachers

watertower yard
Water tower with Native American protest graffiti, Alcatraz

What stand can I take?

The purpose of the dharma, the Buddha’s teachings, is to free ourselves from ignorance. With the current escalation in overt racism and hate crimes around the world – on top of systemic social injustice – as a white person, the stand I’d like to take is in terms of better understanding my own white privilege.

Just getting beyond the initial reaction to the term “white privilege” can be quite a journey, so I’ve set up a new webpage with links to some resources that I plan to continue exploring myself over the next few months and years.  I also hope they’ll be helpful for any dharma practitioners who are interested in seeing through our various biases and social constructs, in the service of deeper wisdom and compassion.

https://jill0shepherd-insightmeditation.com/wise-action-undoing-racism/

I plan to add more links to inspiring and challenging articles, and in the meantime, below are just a few items that touched me recently.

 

jail screen 3
Cell block, Alcatraz

Where Will You Stand?

Rev. angel Kyodo williams 18 August 2017

“Much of what is being taught as Buddhism in America is the acceptance of a kinder, gentler suffering that does not question the unwholesome roots of systemic suffering and the structures that hold it in place. The expansive potential of the dharma to liberate us from suffering is in danger of being rendered impotent because it is held in subjugation to the very systems that it must thoroughly examine. 

No one group, community, or institution has the answer, but each of us can call forth the willingness to offer our best, claim responsibility for our worst, and fold it all into the continuous moment-to-moment practice of simply being present to what is. If your practice is not attenuating greed, hatred, and ignorance—the social expressions of which are the delusions of supremacy, racism, and oppression—then you need to change your practice.”

Where Will You Stand?

trunk red sap close
Eucalyptus trees after bushfire, New South Wales, Australia

Clinton Pryor walks for indigenous justice in Australia

“I started this journey walking from Perth to find the truth and find a new way for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australia. For the past 50 years our people have been fighting for rights, but it’s like it has just gone down the drain too many times. So, I decided to go for a big massive walk across the country to find the truth of what’s going on. What I’ve seen and experienced this way is that our people are living in developing world conditions.

In some communities there’s no fresh water. Other communities are polluted from mining, and on top of that these companies are hiring people from out in cities and towns to work in these communities, when our local people want jobs as well. What the people want in these communities is to be self-governed. They want to take care of our people themselves.”

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/sep/08/6000km-only-20-minutes-with-the-pm-prime-minister-clinton-pryor-relives-epic-walk-across-australia-indigenous?


Te Puea marae
Te Puea marae – image from facebook

Te Puea Marae gears up to help homeless for second winter in New Zealand

The south Auckland marae (Māori meeting house) that opened its doors to the homeless last year is about to do so again.  Te Puea Marae in Mangere helped 181 people last year, using 1200 volunteers over three months. Starting on 18 July, it will again take people in – for six months.

Spokesperson Hurimoana Dennis told Morning Report this time they’ve been working hard with government agencies to provide the service.

“We believe we can still … support homeless families. We did it last year – we learnt some things, and we put people into homes.  It’s an opportunity … to work with agencies, to show agencies what best practice engagement looks like for our Māori families, our communities and those who are homeless.”
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/334794/te-puea-marae-to-help-homeless-for-second-winter

Check out their facebook page for ways to help:

https://www.facebook.com/TePueaMaraeManaakiTangata/

 

gratitude, insight, Insight meditation - vipassana, Insight Meditation Society, retreat, Uncategorized

July 2017 full moon – Gratitude

FR meadow Buddha

Just last week, I finished a one-month retreat at the Insight Meditation Society’s Forest Refuge in Barre, Massachusetts, led by Sayadaw U Vivekananda.  What a relief it was, to temporarily put down some of the burdens I didn’t even know I was carrying, and to have such a powerful opportunity to “disentangle the tangle” (as the discourses say)!

The challenges and rewards of retreat practice

Being silent and unplugged for a whole month might sound easy – and perhaps for some people, it is – but for most of us it can be surprisingly challenging at times.  As Andrew Holecek, a US teacher and student of Tibetan Buddhism, recently wrote:
Retreat is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to stop and face one’s mind so directly. But if you want to be unconditionally happy, which is one way to talk about enlightenment, there is no other way. Sooner or later you have to relate to your mind instead of from it. Otherwise you will forever be held captive by the contents of your mind, shackling yourself to every shiny thought that pops up, a prisoner of your own making.

On Retreat, Block All Exits

Gratitude

Even though it’s not always easy to be on retreat, the rewards are immense.  Towards the end of my time at the Forest Refuge the gratitude I felt for this opportunity became quite overwhelming.  I realised that next year will be the 15th anniversary since sitting my first three-month retreat at IMS, and that every year since then (with one exception) I’ve been able to sit either a one, two or three-month retreat here. Continue reading “July 2017 full moon – Gratitude”

ethics, Uncategorized

Let’s Stand Up Together – Bhikkhu Bodhi

flax-bw-v

In response to the intense turbulence of the last few months, and the immense outpouring of messages of resistance and support, adding my own not-so-articulate-or-informed opinions to all of that seemed redundant.  I’ve been staying quiet in terms of not posting, but active in terms of looking for ways to resist harmful energies, whichever country or community they’re emerging within.

The latest news in relation to changes in US immigration policy has been yet another wake-up call though.  I’m still struggling to find an appropriate response of my own, so in the meantime, here’s  a recent message from the North American Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Bodhi that feels very relevant.

Let’s Stand Up Together – by Bhikkhu Bodhi

I recently came across a news report stating that 2,500 religious leaders had signed a petition urging Congress to reject Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees as “a cabinet of bigotry.” I looked over the list of signatories, designated by religion, and saw only one who identified as Buddhist. This observation reinforced my puzzlement as to why Buddhist teachers and leaders in the U.S. are not more outspoken in addressing issues of public concern. Considering that Buddhism is widely hailed as the preeminent religion of peace and compassion, why, I ask myself, aren’t we more visible as advocates of peace, basic sanity, and social justice?

We’re entering a turbulent time when it won’t be enough for us merely to adopt the dharma as a regimen of resilience, a means of maintaining inner balance against the shock waves rippling across the social landscape.

Granted, our numbers are small, but I don’t think that is the only reason for our reticence to speak up. Several other factors may also be involved. One is the adoption of the dharma as a path to personal happiness to be pursued mainly in the silence of the meditation hall. A second is the fear that political activism will fire up our passions and shatter our fragile calm. A third is the belief that active engagement with worldly events is an entanglement in illusion. And still a fourth is the view, widespread among dharma teachers, that we must welcome everyone and not risk alienating potential students by expressing our political convictions.

Now, I believe that teachers whose primary job is to teach the techniques of meditation practice should not expound their personal political views from the cushion. It’s also unfitting for heads of dharma centers to use their authority to endorse candidates for office or throw their community behind a political party. Nevertheless, I would draw a sharp line between political endorsement and advocating on public issues, and I would hold that to address such issues is well within a dharma teacher’s domain. Politics today is not merely a battleground over power and position; it is also an arena where great ethical contests are being fought, contests that have a crucial impact on everyone in this country and on this planet. If, from fear of upsetting others, dharma teachers shy away from addressing these critical matters, their silence could even be considered an abdication of their responsibility as spiritual leaders.

There are certain convictions that we as Buddhists hold and consider inviolable. We believe, for instance, that every human being possesses intrinsic dignity, that everyone should be treated fairly, that those fallen into hardship should be protected and given the chance to flourish, and that the resources of the earth should be used judiciously, out of respect for the delicate web of nature. The inauguration of Donald Trump as America’s new president is likely to strain each of these beliefs to new limits. We’re entering a turbulent time when it won’t be enough for us merely to adopt the dharma as a regimen of resilience, a means of maintaining inner balance against the shock waves rippling across the social landscape. We’ll need a bolder agenda, a program of collective resistance inspired by a radically different vision of human interconnection, one that affirms our duty to respect and care for one another and to maintain a habitable planet for generations yet unborn.

To stand up and speak out in support of such ends is not necessarily to meddle in party politics. It is, rather, to bring the moral weight of the dharma to bear on matters that affect the lives of people everywhere.

If, as upholders of Buddhist faith, we’re to make our distinctive mark on public policy, we may have to establish a Buddhist advocacy group, a pan-Buddhist alliance grounded in the recognition that hot political disputes are also burning ethical issues on which we should take a stand. Through such an alliance we can bring the power of Buddhist conscience out into the public arena. Since our numbers are relatively small, we won’t be able to make much of an impact on our own. But we can join with progressive leaders of other faiths who share our convictions, advocating together on behalf of human decency and in defense of our embattled democracy. We can call, in unison, for a policy of global generosity in place of rash militarism, for programs that protect the poor and vulnerable, for the advancement of social and racial justice, and for the rapid transition to a clean-energy economy. To stand up and speak out in support of such ends is not necessarily to meddle in party politics. It is, rather, to bring the moral weight of the dharma to bear on matters that affect the lives of people everywhere—now, and long into the future.