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Urgent Call to Action: Bodhisattvas Needed in the Gulf Area

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Oil-soaked pelican, Louisiana, May 23, 2010 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Okay people, it’s triage time. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is far worse than first thought; the wildlife, marine ecosystem, and the human ecosystems of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and the entire Gulf Coast are being devastated as you read this.

I just read a dispatch this morning from Penny Alsop, one of our amazing students in the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program. Penny lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and works for the Dept. of Environmental Protection, the lead agency for Florida’s response to the spill. She writes:

“Unrefined crude is toxic. VOC burn off is largely at sea but make no mistake, if you go to the area, it will be uncomfortable, maybe even dangerous, depending on where you go and what you do while there. All warnings say to protect yourself when in direct contact with the oil. For people with respiratory challenges, the affected area is not recommended. [Note from Maia: If you are interested in volunteering, see this website: ]

For others who are unable to go on site, there is plenty, plenty to do. Many people are suffering in innumerable ways. This is a time to include them in your practice, in your hearts and minds with a resounding and steady call for the relief of their suffering.

Many people are at a standstill as far as business goes; some standing to lose businesses that have been in their families for generations. Money will be needed to help support them get over the hump. Start a fund to collect donations to send help.

Friends are needed, directly and indirectly for thousands upon thousands who are going to be affected for a long time to come. Writers, poets, photographers – Google “Love the Gulf” to share your stories.

Chaplains and chaplains-to-be, email me directly ( if you want to be included in plans to go to the affected areas to be with people. If you would like to make a donation to make it possible to help send chaplains to the area, checks can be made out to 3 Smart Girlz and mailed to 400 Capital Circle SE, Suite 18154, Tallahassee, Fl 32301. The company is not a non-profit, so I cannot offer anything that would serve as a tax write off. But, every single penny will go only for the purpose of offsetting expenses for chaplains (and candidates) to go to the region. No one is being paid to do this.

Send your love. Take action anywhere that you can. Look at those pictures of oil covered animals and let it break your heart then take the next steps that make sense to you. Just please do not forget.”

This is huge, and the mahasangha is needed in this effort. There are many ways to help. Penny just gave us some great ideas, which I formatted in bold above. Please let us know what you will do…

May 30. 2010, Note: Some of the text above has been corrected from the original post, based on clarifications from Penny.

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. 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.

23 responses »

  1. Clearly this is long-time work. I am still very interested in helping to organize a small group of Buddhist volunteers to do cleanup work in the Gulf area–including cooking, documenting, as well. Are there others interested in working with me on this? My timeline would be early July.

    It could be done along the lines of our “election sesshins” here in California. That is, find a space where we could live, sleep, eat, Practice together in the morning and evening and work on the shore during the day, leaving time for us to share our experiences as we go along.

    Are there people in the gulf area–Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana–who can help get this organized.

    • Thank you, Alan. I think this is a great idea. I wonder if you and Penny might want to hook up, as there might be some overlap with her efforts to bring chaplains into the Gulf area. I’m happy to connect the two of you — just let me know.

      As for me, I’m going to donate $25 to Penny’s efforts to do this.

      • I have been looking into how to be there and physically/spiritually help. I would be very interested in participating in Alan’s proposed plan. Please keep me in the loop!

  2. Maia,
    Thanks so much for posting this………and Penny, thanks for everything you’re doing. I don’t think my lungs will let me be there, but funds are on their way, along with love for all beings.

    • My heart is breaking…thank you Maia for helping dear Penny with her wonderful efforts…and thanks to all who go to the area to help. I send prayers and will send a donation.

  3. Pingback: Urgent Call to Action: Bodhisattvas Needed in the Gulf Area « Precious Metal: the blog

  4. Barry Briggs of Ox Herding just posted an excellent blog entry with a list of ways to volunteer and where to donate. See:

    Thanks, Barry.

  5. Karen Harrison

    My heart is crying seeing the suffering…if there is something happening later in the summer, I would like to witness. May the flow of oil stop soon somehow.

  6. Pingback: Come Together: a Bodhisattva call to action for the Gulf oil disaster « 108zenbooks

  7. Thank you Maia for your post and for getting the word out that help is needed from everywhere; near or far from the hardest hit areas. And I agree with Alan that this is help that will be needed for the long haul.

    Right now, no oil is on shore in Florida. Businesses are still affected because many people are canceling reservations for charter boats, hotels and the like, out of not knowing what’s going on. There is a great deal of concern as the oil enters the Gulf stream which can send it far and wide. Hurricane season is fast approaching, which is another huge concern.

    Louisiana is the hardest hit area with oil on shore which is affecting wildlife, marshes, beaches and more. That is where I am intending to go with some folks from the chaplaincy program to be of service, whether it is to clean birds, beaches or just make ourselves available to people who are in a very, very difficult situation. Thus far, I have not been directly involved with clean up. I do work for the agency charged with taking the lead on Florida’s response to the spill so anything could happen at anytime on that front as well.

    Finally, my company, 3 Smart Girlz (3SG), is going to help offset some of the costs of bringing chaplains to the area. I’ve been contacted with interest from chaplains from other faith groups as well.

    A plan is forming around a trip to Grand Isle, LA in July. If people wish to support that effort, donations can be made via 3SG. It is not a non-profit company so one cannot write this off as a tax deduction. What I can promise you is that every penny will be used to offset the expenses of those traveling to region to be of service. No one is getting paid to do this. I will post information at as it becomes available.

    Thanks again, Maia. I appreciate you so very much.

  8. Pingback: “Urgent Call to Action: Bodhisattvas Needed in the Gulf Area” « Rev. Danny Fisher

  9. Absolutely horrifying:

    And inspiring:

    “If you are really ready to take up the Earth’s burden, take it up by all means — but do not let us hear your groans and curses, do not frighten us with your sufferings. The man who really takes up the burden blesses the world. It is the savior who should go on his way rejoicing — not the saved.”


  10. carolyn zaikowski

    Thank you for this post. We are planning a mourning and witnessing walk for the gulf here in our town. I am going to use a quote from Penny here, on our official statement. Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. jillaurie crane

    Penny and Maia thank you so much. I posted on my FB page. Penny if you can blog further about this to keep us all in touch with what you are doing that would be great.sending love and tonglen.

  12. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your interest and your caring for the people, the animals, and the ecosystem of the Gulf.

    A small update: I saw Penny Alsop this week at Upaya Zen Center. She’s headed to Grand Isle, LA, next week to do a reconnaissance trip there. She’ll head back there again in August with a group of Buddhist chaplains. As I get more information from Penny, I will post it on the Jizo Chronicles.

    in peace,

  13. Greetings!
    Here, in the Nur Ashki al Jerrahi in Mexico City, we are praying for the all of the Gulf waters and life forms in the following way:
    Suffice all forms of Being in the Gulf of Mexico, O You who Suffice in
    every need, who Restore to Wholesomeness against all afflictions and
    ills! Ya Kafi, Ya Shafi!

  14. Hey again– wanted to pass this link along:

    It’s the official documentation/statement for our aforementioned mourning walk, and at the very end you will see Penny Alsop’s quote.

    Thanks for all your great work– it matters.


    • Dear Carolyn,

      I just watched the video of the mourning walk in Northampton — very, very moving. Thank you for your part in making it happen, and in sharing it with us.

      I lived in Northampton from 2002 – 2004, so those street scenes were very familiar to me. During those two years, I consciously chose to live without a car, so I walked those sidewalks quite a bit! That was actually the time in my life that I felt most aligned with my beliefs and convictions — and not having a car had everything to do with that.

      And here were are, on the edge of this huge tragedy which has in so many ways been driven by our own need to consume fuel, to use cars to move us around.

      Anyway, I so deeply appreciate the mindful and non-judgmental nature of the mourning walk that you shared with us.

      deep bow,

      • Maia-
        Yes! I have lived without a car for my whole stint in Northampton. Granted, it is a perfect place to live without a car, so I feel lucky– but that’s also one of the reasons I wanted to move here. It’s a great example of a self-contained, small city where it is easy to eat local, buy local, and just generally BE local. I am with you– building my lifestyle around not needing a car has been one of the biggest ways in which I’ve been able to align my beliefs and my actions. It’s so great to remember that there are indeed ways to live that don’t involve heavy dependence on this system.
        Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. I know of a man who has a solution and his voice has not been heard by BP. It is a simple technique that uses wax to solidify the oil so that it can be cleaned up easily. His idea could really use more support and publicity. Here’s the link:

    He also has a Facebook group, “Wax for Oil Spills”

  16. Pingback: Updates on Gulf Coast and Arizona « The Jizo Chronicles

  17. the oil spill in mexico really affected the eco system around that area, it would take years to clean those mess .

  18. Pingback: Jizo Celebrates His/Her First Birthday « The Jizo Chronicles

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