Early this morning, I wrote this post for the Upaya Zen Center website. I wanted to share it here as well because it is such a wonderful illustration of socially engaged dharma and because in the past I have written on immigration issues on this blog. I was very moved by all the speakers, and particularly by two of them who shared that they were Buddhist or had practiced Buddhism. The dharma is deep and subtle, and knows no boundaries.
Last night, the deep quiet of the Upaya Zen Center temple embraced 20 visitors who started their journey a week earlier in Tijuana, Mexico. The Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity is comprised of men and women who have lost loved ones to the “drug war” waged by the United States since the 1970s.
Poet Javier Sicilia is at the heart of this band of pilgrims, leading them on a one-month journey across the U.S. to share their stories and to help Americans understand that our fate is entwined with theirs… in other words, to shine a light on our shared responsibility and karma in this war that has no winners and that has created so much suffering.
More than 100 people in the zendo listened with great attentiveness and compassion as members of the Caravan spoke about sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, who had been killed or disappeared in the course of this war. Sicilia’s son, whom he made clear did not use drugs, became a victim of drug war violence and his beaten and asphyxiated body was found, along with six of his friends, in a car along a highway in the state of Morelos in 2011.
The visit coincided with the last evening of Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program summer intensive training period. Roshi Joan Halifax and Sensei Fleet Maull welcomed the guests, along with Upaya’s head monk, Shinzan Palma, originally from Mexico himself. Fleet, who had himself been a drug trafficker in his youth and spent 14 years in a federal prison on those charges, gave the group his unconditional support and recognized the responsibility that we all shared in this situation.
The group from the Caravan was clearly moved by the deep listening and support from the audience. At the end of the evening, we all chanted the four bodhisattva vows together, as Roshi reminded us that we were offering the chant in this case to these bodhisattvas from Mexico.
The Caravan will spend two more days in Santa Fe and then head to El Paso, TX, on August 20. Their final destination is Washington, DC, which they plan to reach on September 10. You can learn more about the Caravan here: http://www.globalexchange.org/mexico/caravan/