Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Buddhist Blog and Post Roundup

Buddhist publisher Wisdom Publications has a new blog. My understanding is that they intend to begin linking to us bloggers, as well as sharing teachings, book excerpts, and Buddhist news related items. It's a nice looking website, but since they've just started the blog, the content is fairly sparse at this point. Here's an interesting essay from Bhikkhu Bodhi about the Pali Canon from over there. I invite any interested bloggers or readers of Dangerous Harvests to contact them with suggestions.

My new post over at Turning Wheel covers Obamacare and practicing with hot button issues. Head over there and check it out! Also, Buddhist Peace Fellowship is running it's annual fundraising campaign. This year, one of their goals is to finance a national gathering of engaged Buddhists in 2014. You know I'm totally excited about that!! If you're excited about the work BPF is doing, and/or want to thank them for supporting and featuring my writing this summer and fall, offer a donation or spread the Indiegogo link.

Readers are often asking me for suggestions on good reads. If you're looking for books on zen check out the link included.

There's been a lot of discussion about this post about Zen teachers and money over at Sweeping Zen. I contributed to the comments section, which has several interesting perspectives. One of our regular readers, Mumon, offered a whole post on the topic as well.

Finally, Kobutsu Malone of the Engaged Zen Foundation is trying to raise funds to help pay for the medical expenses of a Thai Buddhist monk from Oklahoma who was brutally assaulted during a robbery in late August. Please share his story with your networks.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Impatient Social Activists and the Comparing Mind

One thing I have also noticed, in my own life, and in the social activist world, is how easy it is for me/you/us to dismiss the tiny beginnings that emerge from our efforts to see the world differently, and then do something to take a different direction.

It’s like we are gardeners that only pay attention to the growth that has moved far above ground, and deems any slow rising little shoots as signs of future crop failure. Never mind the “invisible” growth that still lies beneath the surface.

I remember one year thinking in the middle of May that the previous year’s mint must have died out because it hadn’t returned yet. So, I went out, got some more mint plants, and plunked them in. About six weeks later, I was faced with a new problem. Not only had the old mint plants suddenly reappeared, but now they were fighting for space with the new mint plants I had bought to replace them with. In fact, the ones I thought had died ended up growing back twice as large as the previous year. Hence the space issue.

Impatience, unexamined assumptions, and a failure to pay close attention are all part of comparison mind. Focusing on the wrong things, such as the most tangible, immediate results, can derail our efforts – sometimes for generations.

You can read the rest of the article here. Enjoy!

Also, help support the Buddhist Peace Fellowship to do more great work in 2014 by spreading the word about their current Indiegogo campaign, and/or donating yourself. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Navy Yard Shooter and America's "Permanent" State of Violence

The awareness of how fragile our lives are should prompt more compassion, and more willingness to actively pursue the kinds of changes that might bring about a much more peaceful society. So often, though, these incidents quickly devolve into heated, ugly debates about motives or gun control. They are also rife with frenzied attempts to attach or detach numerous labels, as well as a desire to create as much separation from the perpetrators as possible. We seem prone to hurried burials. Wanting to put into the ground not only the bodies of the dead, but also every other aspect of disturbance itself. Instead of lingering with questions, we rush to fixed answers. Instead of living with open grief, and letting it disturb business as usual, we do whatever we can to push through it, or stuff it, and move on. Buddhists do this. Christians do this. Humans do this. It’s something we are wont to do.

And yet, there’s something about living in an empire nation that makes it that much more the case. Quick burials are our specialty. The business of profits and power won’t be blocked by such things. We’ll just bury the dead, offer some tidy narrative about the killers, and privately attend to the grief stricken families. It’s all very predictable.

You can read the rest of the post here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Warping of Buddhist Generosity

We live in a society that reinforces financial privilege so much that it makes it quite difficult to break patterns whereby the financially well off are the ones who get to “serve,” “do ongoing activist work,” and get all the feel good accolades in the process. The only reason I was able to give so much time and energy to the causes during 2011 and 2012 was because I had built up a financial cushion many folks my age don’t have. However, it wasn’t nearly enough to sustain me over a longer haul period, and I’ve spent the last year or scrapping by (often with family help) every month just to pay my modest bills.

One of the things this experience has taught me is that we must build fiercely robust and creative organizations that can support communities devoting themselves to social change work. As long as social transformation and justice are side projects Buddhists do if they have the time, not only will we fail to be a main part of any major solutions, but it will primarily be the privileged few getting to do anything on a long term basis. Which tend to reinforce the kinds of savior and charity complexes that have kept the capitalist train going all these years.

You can read more from my latest article at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Zen Master Dogen and the Crisis in Syria

It’s been a very interesting few days of developments in the crisis in Syria. The Syrian government agreed to a Russian proposal to hand over its chemical weapons and sign the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons treaty, which currently has 189 signatures on it. President Obama and his administration continue to press the case for military intervention, even as the diplomatic front has opened up. And recent polls suggesting a clear majority of Americans still oppose military action have been followed up by anti-war demonstrations all over the U.S., including here in the Twin Cities.

Reporting on the civil war in Syria tends to divide the conflict into two groups: the government-led military against an armed opposition composed of a mixture of grassroots Syrian groups and foreign “insurgents” from various terrorist organizations in the region. This fairly tidy, simplistic picture has actually been one of the reasons why so many Americans oppose military intervention. While plenty of folks truly reject warfare and military policing as a way to deal with international conflicts, others are driven more by a desire to avoid supporting either side, feeling that the choice between supporting the Assad government or a group of “terrorists” or “Islamic extremists” isn’t a choice they want to make.

Lost in all of this is the fact that the resistance movement started as a non-violent one, became violent in part because of U.S. arming of the rebel groups, and that non-violent efforts continue in Syria alongside the armed conflicts. When I wrote last week that Americans have a “crisis of the imagination,” this is a part of that. Odds are, if you polled the populace here, very few would even consider that non-violent resistance exists in Syria, or that it was the driving force early on in the conflict. This is the case, even though they were probably exposed to some news reports of the movement back in 2011. There are a variety of reasons for this, including Anti-Islamic sentiment and stereotyping, mainstream media coverage fixated on violence, and a general lack of awareness of the history and prevalence of non-violent resistance worldwide.

What would have happened if the U.S. and other nations had found ways to support the non-violent resistance movement back in 2011 that didn’t involve weapons? What if the international powerhouses put all of energy into an all out public campaign supporting non-violent resistance, encouraging their populations to help finance, document, and send prayer and meditation energy to the Syrians on the ground?

You can read the rest of the post here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Be Generous to the Human Condition

A few years ago, I had a meeting with our head teacher at the Zen center. Zen people tend to call these meetings dokusan, although the way it unfolds can be anything from a one minute blundered koan presentation to a long conversation about life - it really depends on the teacher's style, as well as the circumstances behind having the meeting in the first place. Anyway, during this meeting, the content of the conversation seemed to lead us both to the phrase I titled this post with: "Be generous to the human condition." It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? But what does it mean exactly?

I’ve been reflecting a lot on war again, given the crisis in Syria and the Obama Administration’s pressuring for military action there. My current post over at Turning Wheel media digs deeply into all of that. Warfare is, ultimately, a surface approach to a below the surface set of problems. Societies built on greed and power mongering. Pervasive poverty. Human fear and ignorance. You can cut off the top of a dandelion again and again, but it's only through uprooting it completely (and eating it's health-giving body :), that you'll be rid of it.

As such, we can use the phrase "Be generous to the human condition" as a reminder of our individual and collective struggles to go deeper. Our tendencies to seek quick and easy solutions, even when we might know that they're ultimately doomed. It is about recognizing all the foolish and destructive behavior that comes from our individual and collective delusions. To be able to just breath it in, and touch what it's like to be human in this world at this time.

Not because you're better than anyone else - you're not - but because doing so is one of the ways to soften the edges, develop compassion, and see that we're all in this together.

This practice, and life in general, is hard work. Not always, but often. And so even as we offer fierce critiques, or sit silently with the world's turmoil without any coherent response, it's helpful to remember to be generous to the human condition. Moment after moment.