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Occupy Wall Street: Buddhist Voices

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10:00 pm update: Please make sure to read the comments underneath this post — I’ve added a few more article and videos. Also please see the Calendar of Events.

The movement to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has been building for the past month. Until just recently, there were very few Buddhists writing on the subject.

Over the past week, I’ve come across a number of essays and statements on OWS coming from Buddhist voices. I’m sharing and summarizing the ones I’ve found below – if you have more to add to this list, please write in the comment section.

Some of these will be featured in next week’s Upaya Zen Center e-newsletter, which always includes fascinating and provocative articles from the dharma world (and beyond).

• Chris Wilson, president of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship board of directors, compares OWS to the Arab Spring and states that BPF endorses OWS  “based on our agreement that the influence of money in politics is blocking many of the social justice and environmental goals that BPF promotes. It is also based on the fact that Occupy Wall Street has made nonviolence one of its primary commitments and thus far has kept that commitment.”

Read more here: http://bpf.org/what-buddhists-are-saying/occupy-and-arab-spring

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• In “We Are the 100%,” Ari Pliskin of the Zen Peacemakers offers a “mindful response” to OWS. Drawing on the precepts and particularly this one: “When peacemakers vow to be oneness, there is no Other,” Ari’s piece makes the case for a non-dualistic view of the current situation.

Read more here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/10/we-are-the-100/

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• Madrone Phoenix, a dharma practitioner based in Providence, RI, shares her experience visiting OWS in New York last week, and she reflects on her earlier experiences as an “angry activist” and how her Buddhist practice over the past few years has impacted her way of being involved in this movement. She writes, “i woke up to the notion that to occupy a place – to infuse it with kindness, consideration and deep love for all – is the place where liberation truly occurs whether in our minds, or in our streets.”

Read more here: http://cultivatefearlessness.blogspot.com/2011/10/waking-up-from-american-dream.html

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• Michael Stone, a yoga and meditation teacher based in Toronto, also visited NYC last week. He offers his perspective in an article titled, “Remaining Human: A Buddhist Perspective on Occupy Wall Street.” In it, he focuses on the ways in which this nascent movement is striving to be the change it wishes to see, through a commitment to nonviolence and a collective decision making process. Michael writes, “We need a language now that allows us to reimagine what a flourishing society looks like. Any meditator knows that there are times when the thoughts that stream endlessly through awareness can eventually grow quiet. But it’s only temporary. The stories come back. But they return differently. They have more space and they are –more fluid, less rigid. We need stories to think and make sense of a world – now an ailing world that needs us.”

Read more here: http://torontobodymind.ca/articles/remaining-human-buddhist-perspective-occupy-wall-street

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• Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel, past executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and Zen priest based in the San Francisco Bay Area, notes the troublesome connotations of the word, “occupy.” She writes, “The word brought up visions of invasion, people marching in to take over.  I also saw a consciousness of us holding down specific territories (turfing) that seems to persist as the way to conquer.”

Read more here: http://zenjuearthlynmanuel.com/2011/10/09/un-occupy-the-land/#more-1451

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• The Rev. James Ford, who has the distinction of being both a Unitarian Universalist minister and a Zen priest, begins his piece by echoing the words of Harvey Milk: “I’m here to recruit you.” Rev. Ford’s lengthy meditation, which he originally delivered as a sermon, weaves together themes from the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (a day of atonement) with political and economic analysis, but his main point is clear: get involved. He writes, “Sometimes you have to be outside. Sometimes you have to stand up. And sometimes you have to shout. You have to make demands that may be uncomfortable to the status quo. The Vietnam war ended for many reasons, but one principal among them were the people willing to mass together, take some tear gas, and bear witness to another way.”

Read more here: http://monkeymindonline.blogspot.com/2011/10/american-autumn-yom-kippur-meditation.html

Socially Engaged Buddhism Symposium: Round-up of Coverage

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Photo of symposium from http://www.zenpeacemakers.org

As promised, here is a round-up of the online coverage of the Socially Engaged Buddhist Symposium held recently at the Zen Peacemakers’ House of One People:

  • The Zen Peacemakers website has summaries of the keynote speeches as well as each of the panels. You can also purchase DVDs on this page as well.

Can Green Buddhism Save the Earth?

Burma’s Saffron Revolution Comes to the Symposium

Special Ministries Discussed at Symposium (including prison ministry and mental health)

Jon Kabat-Zinn on Stress Reduction

There are more articles posted there, so be sure to visit the BW blog.

  • And I know that Kenneth Kraft, co-author of The New Social Face of Buddhism, has an article about to be posted on the Bearing Witness blog, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Did I miss anything? If you were at the Symposium, what are your reflections?

Quote of the Week: Bernie Glassman Roshi

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Bernie Glassman (photo from http://www.zenpeacemakers.org)

Last week’s big news was the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, organized by the Zen Peacemaker Community. Later this week, I’ll post a collection of articles about the Symposium.

The guiding light behind the Zen Peacemakers is Bernie Glassman Roshi, whose short bio appears in a previous “Quote of the Week.”  Today’s quote from Glassman Roshi nicely dissolves the duality that we can sometimes create when we think of the term “Engaged Buddhism.”

Roshi starts by asking a question:

“How did [the Buddha] benefit mankind by sitting in meditation?”

Then he goes on to answer it:

“This is a problem with the term ‘engaged Buddhism’ in a broad sense… Anything one is doing to make themselves whole in their own life, or realizing the Way, or becoming enlightened—whatever term you would use—these are all involved in service, because if we realize the oneness of life, then each person is serving every other person and is reducing suffering.

…if you keep on practicing, even in the cave, there is no way of not working on social issues, only the method might be different.”

–Bernie Glassman, quoted by Christopher Queen in Engaged Buddhism in the West (2000)

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