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Interview: Roshi Joan Halifax

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The author and Roshi Joan at Mt. Kailash, Tibet, 1999

This is the third in our series of interviews with inspiring and interesting socially engaged Buddhists of our time. The first one back in September was with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, and last month we interviewed Arun, author of the blog Angry Asian Buddhist.

This month you’re in for a real treat — the guest this time is author, anthropologist, and Zen teacher Roshi Joan Halifax. I love her out-of-the-box responses in this interview. Roshi is a dear friend and colleague of mine; I’ve known her since 1993 when I first took a course from her at California Institute of Integral Studies. She’s the founder of Upaya Zen Center, and does more good in the world than I can even begin to name here.

Roshi did this interview a couple of months ago before setting off on a service pilgrimage to Western Nepal to provide medical care to nomads there. She leads a remarkable life, indeed. I hope you enjoy getting to know her a bit through this interview.

____________

JC: Where do you call home?

Roshi Joan: Wherever I am. And on the local level, New Mexico, and getting more to the particular mountain range, the valley: the Sangre de Cristos, Upaya and Prajna Mountain Forest Refuge.

JC: What are you reading right now?

Roshi: This question… and in a wider sense, I am working on a technical paper on compassion. So I am reading everything I can on the subject, including my own mind and heart.

JC: Who inspires you – Buddhist teachers, activists, writers, artists, others…

Roshi: Courageous young people who take a stand and go into the field to serve; really old people who see that every minute of life is to be lived fully and compassionately; and so many between this world and that world. I am always cautious about naming the known, as we often forget to hold in regard those whose names will never be known to anyone outside of their close circle.

JC: What social issue is close to your heart right now?

Roshi: All are interconnected…the environment; rights of the dying; care of caregivers; education and medical care for peoples of the Himalayas; prison work; those living on the margins of society, particularly kids. How about Burma, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, our streets, our neighborhoods, our own minds. We don’t have to look far — and we should look far as well.

JC: How does your dharma practice inform your involvement on that issue?

Roshi: Buddhist practice is the grounding for this work, this life, this way.

JC: If you could invite people to join you in taking one action on that issue, what would it be?

Roshi: Cease consuming, practice generosity.

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About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. Currently, I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work. I also direct the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at Upaya Zen Center along with Roshi Joan Halifax, where we forge new pathways of everyday engagement and servant leadership.

7 responses »

  1. I love the last answer. I will join you in that effort, Roshi!

    I wrote about mindful consumption on my blog recently. It is a noble cause on many levels. Though my article was primarily focused on the consumption of food and the effect that consuming the vital energy of those we have caused to suffer has on our mind, mindful consumption of course extends to all facets of life as sentient beings are, by their very nature, consumers materially and mentally.

    I may write two follow up articles on mindful consumption that deal specifically with material and mental consumption.

    Thank you for posting this interview, Maia.

    Reply
  2. Great words, thanks for shining a light on them Maia. Roshi is such an inspiring force in this world!

    Reply
  3. Looks cold! Love Roshi Joan.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Interview: Roshi Joan Halifax | Zen Peacemakers

  5. Pingback: Day 265 – The Student Makes The Teacher « A Year Of Living Wisely

  6. Pingback: Interview: Katie Loncke « The Jizo Chronicles

  7. Pingback: Roshi Halifax: What are you willing to do to die the way you want to die? « Namaste Consulting Inc.

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