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The Yes List

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United We Dream vigil, McAllen, TX

United We Dream vigil, McAllen, TX

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about despair and hope… how do we move from one to the other, how do we not lose hope when so many terrible things are going on — from our own neighborhood to all around the global community. In this age of nearly unlimited internet connectivity, we hear about these tragedies in nearly real time.

Earlier today I posted this on Facebook:

135 killed in Gaza, no end in sight… kids from Central America and Mexico locked up in Texas warehouses… journalists sentenced to 10 years in prison in Burma… 

In the middle of my comfortable life it can be easy to ignore all this and more. The practice: Not turning away.

Not turning away is not easy, but it is what I understand to be the foundation of our bodhisattva vows. Being present to the truth of suffering, connecting with compassion inside of me, and then taking loving action from that place.

After I put up that post, I thought a lot about how I could respond in each of those cases. Initially I felt a sense of hopelessness, of how daunting it is to even consider addressing any one of those. But thanks to that very internet connectivity that made me aware of these situations, I was able to find what some other folks are doing to respond. And so was born… The Yes List. Who knows… maybe this will become a regular feature on The Jizo Chronicles. 

Gaza

YES! The Open Letter crafted by Jewish Voice for Peace… eloquent and powerful. A call for compassion for all sides, at the same time recognizing the root causes of the violence and calling for Israel to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. I encourage you to sign the letter. And let us know what other creative and generative responses you know of to this crisis.

Refugee Crisis

YES! The good work of United We Dream, an organization pushing to re-frame the situation with the children in Texas as a refugee crisis, not an “illegal immigrant problem.” UWD has organized a three-day vigil in McAllen, TX, to raise awareness of this issue and they’ve got a petition you can sign to urge President Obama to take action to protect all immigrant families.

Burmese Journalists

YES! This piece of news just came to my attention in the last day, and I am more attuned to it because I’m here in Thailand right now and there are seven Burmese women in the group I am currently helping to facilitate. With this being a very recent development, I couldn’t find an immediate response. But I am betting that Amnesty International will be an excellent resource, as it always is in cases like this. Keep an eye on them — they’ve already got an article on the situation posted here.

 

BONUS YES!

And for good measure, here’s one more to add to the Yes List, a creative response that I just love. A group of folks in Dallas, TX, took to the streets on Friday to demonstrate for their right to open carry…. guitars. Yep, guitars instead of guns. Amen.

Radical Dharma Activism in Thailand

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Radical Dharma Activism in Thailand
The author, along with the 2013 BEST participants and teachers

The author, along with the 2013 BEST participants and teachers

Ouyporn Khuankaew and Ginger Norwood are two Buddhist feminist activists based in Thailand who co-founded the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP) in 2002. Through IWP, Ouyporn and Ginger and a wonderful team of activists offer workshops on anti-oppression feminism, collective leadership, gender and diversity, nonviolent direct action, and peacebuilding — all based in dharma teachings and practice.

Last summer, IWP launched a new training program called BEST — the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation. BEST is an innovative yearlong course focused on transformation of individuals, communities, the environment, and the world. The program is open to anyone seeking a Buddhist perspective in his or her approach to personal development, social justice, and social change work.

I taught a course at the 2013 BEST session and have been invited again for this year. I’ll offer a workshop on the Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism and will help facilitate other parts of the training along with Ouyporn and Ginger.

I’m running a small Indiegogo campaign to help me with some of the costs of doing this — I’d be so grateful if you would consider making a small contribution to help me get to Thailand again this year. And my biggest thanks to those of you who have already made a contribution to this fund. Thank you also for helping to spread the word about BEST to others who may be interested in applying for future years.

palms together,

Maia

“Real Happiness at Work” by Sharon Salzberg — book review and giveaway!

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Dear Jizo Chronicle readers,

Thought you might like to know that I’m giving away a copy of Sharon Salzberg’s excellent new book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace this week over on my Liberated Life Project website.

You can find the book review and contest details here — the deadline to enter is next Monday, February 10, so stop by soon!

blessings,

Maia

Remembering Bhante Suhita Dharma

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Bhante Suhita Dharma and his friend, Bhikkhu Bodhi

Bhante Suhita Dharma and his friend, Bhikkhu Bodhi

I am smiling as I write this. Because, even though I felt great sadness when I learned the news yesterday of Bhante’s death on December 29, at the same time all kinds of wonderful memories of him are flowing through my heart. And I know I am only one of thousands of people who were privileged to have been in the beam of Bhante’s smile and good life.

So this post is dedicated to the spirit of Bhante Suhita Dharma, and offers a little glimpse of him through the places his life intersected with mine.

First, the facts, as they say….

Bhante was the first African American to be ordained a Buddhist monk. He was ordained by Ven. Thich Thien An, the first Vietnamese Buddhist master to come to Los Angeles.  Bhante also had the rare distinction of being ordained in all three major Buddhist lineages: Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana.

Bhante had professional training as a social worker, and found deep joy in working with the homeless, those with HIV/AIDS, ex-offenders, and many others on the margins.

There is a lot that I don’t know about Bhante… simple facts like where and when he was born… I searched online and could not find those. He was not a Buddhist celebrity, so you won’t find much about him on the internet. He worked largely in the realm of the invisible. My guess is that Bhante was in his 70s, and I know he had a strong affinity for Louisiana, so perhaps there was a life connection there.

What I do know is this: Bhante’s presence was filled with deep love and a quiet, unshakeable commitment to do the right thing.

My memories:

  • Co-creating the “Coming Home Project” with Bhante at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) almost 10 years ago, and Bhante’s dedication to supporting people coming out of prison as they entered a world that was often hostile to them.
  • Getting emails from Bhante about Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with photos of the devastation post-Hurricane Katrina. He urged me to mobilize the BPF community to help the folks from underserved communities who had been overlooked in that disaster.
  • Listening to Bhante give a beautiful dharma talk on socially engaged Buddhism, along with Robert Thurman, at a fundraising event for BPF in 2006. Just two days ago as I was cleaning up some piles, I came across the CD of that talk. Now hearing the news of his passing, I will convert it to an mp3 and share it with you all soon.
  • Walking with Bhante and the Buddhist Peace Delegation in Washington, DC, in 2007. Hundreds of us had gathered from dharma centers across the U.S. to call for peace in Iraq. Fortunately, we had filmmaker Ed Herzog along with us to document the weekend. Here’s a video Ed made… you can see Bhante throughout the video, but he has some eloquent words to share at the 4-minute mark.

I had not seen Bhante for probably about six years, but we’d run into each other once in a while on Facebook and every so often he’d give me a friendly poke. My hope is that you’ll learn a lot more about Bhante in the coming days as others write about their memories of him. He truly was a dharma jewel. Thank you, dear Bhante.

Here are some more photo memories of Bhante:

Bhante and members of the Buddhist Peace Delegation meeting with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, 2007

Bhante and members of the Buddhist Peace Delegation meeting with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, 2007

Diane Gregorio, Bhante, and Maia at BPF event, 2006

Diane Gregorio, Bhante, and Maia at BPF event, 2006

Bhante with the Buddhist Peace Delegation, 2007

Bhante with the Buddhist Peace Delegation, 2007

 

 

January 3, 2014 UPDATE

Here are links to remembrances that other dharma teachers and practitioners have written about Bhante… a dharma bouquet…

 

Engaged Buddhist News: Addressing Buddhist/Muslim Relations in Myanmar

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Bro. Tan, Bro. Ananda Fong and Datin Seri Mah chatting with Myanmar-Muslim delegates. (Photo from www.tbcm.org)

Bro. Tan, Bro. Ananda Fong and Datin Seri Mah chatting with Myanmar-Muslim delegates. (Photo from http://www.tbcm.org)

My friend Hozan Alan Senauke recently returned from the meeting of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) in Malaysia. One important development from the meeting was the formation of a Fact-Finding Commission to explore relations between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, which has been the site of so much violence over this past year. (For more background on this situation, see this article from Justin Whitaker.)

I’d like to share Alan’s message and the press release with you, as it is one small step toward addressing a terribly huge issue in Southeast Asia. Alan writes:

I am forwarding to you the press release for an important initiative that came out of our INEB meeting in Malaysia two weeks ago.  The meeting itself had an ongoing focus on interfaith relations, particularly between Buddhists and Muslims in South and Southeast Asia.  We read about tensions between these communities in Burma/Myanmar, but issues are also at a flashpoint in Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.   

The challenge of organizing and staffing a truly open fact-finding commission is not going to be a simple or easy matter.  INEB and JUST, the sponsoring organizations, take this responsibility seriously, knowing that the well-being of our friends and allies inside Myanmar are at stake.

Peace,  Hozan Alan Senauke

Here’s the press release:

Joint Press Release by: International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

November 20, 2013

Towards the Creation of a Fact-Finding Commission on Relations
Between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar

The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) concluded its biennial conference on November 4 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, our first such meeting in a Muslim-majority nation.  The conference theme — Inter-Faith Dialogue for Peace and Sustainability — points to the interdependence of Buddhists and Muslims throughout Southeast Asia.  A long history of harmonious relations across all the nations of this region has been challenged in recent years by inter-religious conflicts rooted in a complexity of economic, political, social, and cultural tensions. INEB’s mission is to respect the integrity of all religions and people, restoring harmony wherever possible.

A significant outcome of this unique gathering was the affirmation of the establishment of an international forum for Buddhist-Muslim relations, drawing from members of INEB and Malaysia-based International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

At the close of the conference, a special session brought together Buddhist monks and laypeople, Muslims, and concerned friends from inside and outside Myanmar to consider conflicts and violence that have taken place inside that country over the last two years.  Participants in this session, including people of four religions and from interfaith partners inside Myanmar, called upon this interfaith forum to establish a fact-finding commission to examine relations between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar.

Collaborating with local civil-society bodies inside Myanmar, this fact-finding commission would have three objectives:

1. to bring forth the facts of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Myanmar;

2. to ascertain the causes of this conflict;

3. to develop resources and proposals for the establishment of inter-religious peace and harmony in Myanmar.

Guided by these objectives, an open-minded interfaith group will research conditions inside Myanmar and offer advice and support for the restoration of inter-religious and inter-ethnic stability. Members of INEB see this work as the embodiment of our vision of peace and sustainability across the region and among all peoples.

— END —

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF ENGAGED BUDDHISTS (INEB)

INEB Secretariat Office

666 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, 

Bangkok 10600 SIAM (Thailand)

Tel. (+66) 081 803 6442      

secretariat@inebnetwork.org           

www.inebnetwork.org

An Invitation: Random Acts of Generosity

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Over the past few weeks I’ve heard about several great initiatives that could use a bit of your help to become manifest — so I am devoting this post of The Jizo Chronicles to spreading the word. If you’re able to spare a little change for any or all of these campaigns, you’ll help to make big change in the world!

Help BPF Compassionately Confront Injustice
The Buddhist Peace Fellowship has a long history of connecting dharma with social justice, and social justice with dharma. From Turning Wheel magazine  to hands-on training programs, BPF has long offered a place to bring Buddhist teachings into conversation with the larger world. Now you can give them a hand by contributing to this campaign which will fund an in-person gathering next summer as well as continue developing the innovative and participatory curriculum called “The System Stinks,” inspired by a phrase from the beloved Robert Aitken Roshi. Campaign end date: Oct 30, 2013

Documentary Film on Zen in America
Adam Ko Shin Tebbe of Sweeping Zen is working on creating ZEN IN AMERICA, the first documentary series of its kind to thoroughly examine the history and practices of Zen in North America. The series will visit Zen temples throughout North America to show how Zen Buddhism is being expressed in our modern culture.  Adam began filming for the series in July of 2013. Over the next several years he will visit the many practice centers  in North America. You can learn more about the project and make a donation here. Campaign end date: Oct 21, 2013

Restorative Justice in Thailand
My dear friend Rose Gordon is a gifted trainer of Restorative Justice (RJ). She’s been invited to teach RJ to Asian and Muslim activists and students in Thailand. She is doing this as a volunteer and won’t receive an honorarium… and she needs to raise her own travel funds. If you’re interested in helping her out, you can find her fundraising campaign here. Restorative Justice is a way to support  those involved in conflict discover how they affect one another and how to create a stronger and healthier connection among members of community.

Thanks for whatever you can do to support any of these worthy projects… keep the good karma moving around!

~Maia

How to Find Right Livelihood

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llpFallInLove400

Occasionally I like to cross-pollinate here from my other, more stealth Buddhist blog, The Liberated Life Project.

I thought that you — my Jizo peeps — might enjoy knowing that I’m offering an e-course in October through the LLP called “Fall in Love with Your Work.” This is a month-long adventure into the heart of ‘right livelihood’ and how you can make it happen in your life.

If you are considering making a shift in your professional life, starting to work for yourself or starting a business, or if you need to re-align your relationship with your current job so that it feels more meaningful, “Fall in Love with Your Work” may be right up your alley. You can find out more on this page.

Registration closes this Sunday, September 29, and the course starts on October 1. I hope that some of you will join me for this!

palms together,

Maia

All Necessary Measures: Responding to Syria with Our Imagination

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The Nonviolent Peace Force at Work in Sudan

The Nonviolent Peace Force at Work in Sudan

Dear friends,

I am breaking out of vacation mode from this blog because a really terrible thing may be on the verge of happening.

Please know this is not hyperbole. Yes, many terrible things have happened this year – the unjust decision in the Trayvon Martin case, the shooting of little children in Newtown, the continued plundering of our economy, to name just a few.

But this is the kind of terrible thing that will likely set off a global chain of destructive, violent consequences that may not have an end, or at least a merciful end.

As you’ve probably seen in the news by now, the use of chemical weapons in Syria has resulted in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people in that country. There are conflicting viewpoints about who is responsible for the use of these weapons, many saying the Syrian government is to blame, the government  blaming rebel forces. Either way, it is a terrible situation there, in a country that has been torn apart by civil war, and where more than 100,000 have been killed and nearly 2 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries since 2011.

What might happen if the U.K., the U.S., and other nations go ahead with military action, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has  hinted at? Well, again from the NYT, Iran has warned that it will launch a retaliatory attack on Israel. Russia has warned of “catastrophic consequences.”

Actions have consequences. This is how karma works. We can argue until we are blue in the face about how the consequences are wrong or not justified, but they will still happen. Many, many people stand to be injured or killed by this chain of reactions. Some are saying this has the potential to turn into World War III.

According to today’s New York Times,

Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would push the United Nations to hold Syria responsible for last week’s chemical attack and authorize “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

We can guess what Cameron means by this.

But what if instead of guessing we imagined something different?

What if “all necessary measures” meant something else? What if it could include:

  • Sending a massive peace army to Syria not with arms but with presence and skillful means to de-escalate the situation. There is such an entity, by the way: the Nonviolent Peace Force.
  • Economic sanctions.
  • Meeting with President Bashar al-Assad and engaging in dialogue.
  • Arresting President al-Assad and using the International Criminal Court system to investigate what’s going on.
  • Dropping love bombs on Syria… they might include food, clean water, medicine, and atropine, the antidote for gas attacks.
  • Sending medical aid.

What else? I know there is more. Leave your idea in the comments below.

Sure, some of these ideas may be naïve, some may not work or be counterproductive. I don’t know.

But the point is – can we break out of our binary mind that thinks of “response” only in terms of attacking or defending with military arms?

Right now, the most powerful peacemaking tool you have is your own imagination and your ability to communicate and share those ideas with others.

If one of those others you want to share with is President Obama, you can reach him in these ways:

Phone numbers:

  • Comments: 202-456-1111
  • Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Email:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

Postal Mail:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

ADDENDUM:

Please also see this excellent page from the Friends Committee on National Legislation to find out how to directly contact your congressional representative in multiple ways…. the message is “Slow Down”!

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