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49 Days Later…

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A friend on Facebook reminded me that today is the 49th day since the tsunami hit northern Japan, and the ensuing nuclear plant crisis. Forty-nine days is the length of time to travel through the bardo, that liminal space after death, and marks the end of a mourning period for many Buddhist traditions.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has changed his schedule in order to be in Japan tomorrow (Friday) to offer prayers.

According to this news story, nearly 26,000 people are believed to have been killed after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.

As horrible as the natural disaster was, it’s the consequences from the man-made nuclear structures at Fukushima that are the most terrifying and traumatizing. I wonder if most of us are unable to even think about this much any more, given the ramifications of what’s happened and what will continue to unfold for hundreds of years.

How to respond? It almost feels futile to suggest anything. Even so, here are a few possibilities—

  • Pick up a copy of Quakebook – a Twitter-sourced Kindle e-book, with proceeds going to the Japanese Red Cross. Quakebook is a collection of essays, artwork and photographs submitted by people around the world, including people who endured the disaster and journalists who covered it. Other contributors include Yoko Ono, William Gibson, and Barry Eisler. You can purchase a copy here through Amazon, who has made it possible for 100% of the proceeds to go directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
  • Support a Buddhist chaplain to be of service in Japan. Tenku Ruff is a Zen Buddhist monk and a trained chaplain. (I know Tenku personally; we both lived at San Francisco Zen Center in 2000-2001.) She speaks Japanese and her home temple is in the north of Japan. Tenku plans to travel to Japan to help feed refugees, offer spiritual care to people affected by the tsunami, join clean-up efforts, and assist with Buddhist ceremonies for the deceased. Your donation will allow her to pay for food and travel expenses, so as not create a further burden on the devastated areas. Because her needs are simple, she will leave all other donated funds directly with the people who need it most in Japan. You can find out how to support Tenku here.
  • Consider how we can wean ourselves away from the need for nuclear energy. I know there’s a certain camp of folks who keep insisting that nuclear power is one of our best bets for “clean” energy. I think that Chris Wilson, board chair of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, makes a good case about why this is a fallacy in this essay. I wrote more about this on my other blog, The Liberated Life Project, including some specific ideas about how to reduce our energy needs.

It’s all about reducing harm and alleviating suffering, folks. Simple, but not easy.

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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. 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.

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