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Thread: Socially Engaged Buddhism

  1. #1

    Socially Engaged Buddhism

    What kind of things would you suggest to make Buddhism more visible in the West?

    Many churches and religions do things in the public eye, both because they are helpful to people and because it puts themselves out there for people to see. I'd like to see Buddhism more visible, more engaged in real social reform and change in Western communities. In many places, it seems like Buddhism is still regarded with a kind of esoteric colloquial kind of "old world charm". Not many folks I've run into (non Buddhists) have a basic understanding of what Buddhism is about.

    What I'd like to do, or what I'd like to see, is for Buddhism to be more.....not so much "main stream" but more......accessible for the average person. That way, my hope is that with it being more visible, more people might have an interest in learning about the Way, and with practice more people might come to embody the Precepts and the Bodhisattva's compassion. Perhaps more would be done to comfort the homeless, give to the needy, but also more people might come to simply have compassion for each other.

    I know that this starts with myself, and I do what I can when I am able, but if more people had the opportunity to study the Way, how much more could be done? How much more effective, more meaningful an impact could be made on the suffering of samsara?

    I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on this. I don't think that I'm ready to start a sitting group yet or anything like that, I feel I have much more to learn before I could hope to help others along the Path, but any thought would be appreciated.

  2. #2

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    That certainly speaks my mind.

    I both believe that we must make the Treasure of the Buddhist Teachings and Practices available to many (without watering down the power of that medicine even if presenting it in forms that 21st century folk can relate to) ...

    ... and that we must become more involved in social action, feeding the needy, comforting the suffering, bringing peace where there is conflict ...

    Many many Buddhists are already involved on all these fronts ...

    http://jizochronicles.wordpress.com/201 ... -buddhism/

    ... yet we can do more.

    By the way, a good time to recount that life at Treeleaf "is not free" (even though it makes us free! 8) )

    THIS IS A VERY GOOD TIME TO REMIND FOLKS THAT PARTICIPATION IN TREELEAF SANGHA IS NOT FREE, BUT COMES WITH A VERY STEEP PRICE. FOR THOSE WITH THE TIME AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES (EVEN A POOR MAN CAN GIVE A BROKEN COOKING POT) WE HAVE TO GET OUT AND ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES, GIVE UNTIL IT HURTS A BIT. Please review the following on Samu and Dana at Treeleaf

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2229
    Gassho, J

  3. #3
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Hi everyone

    I recently discovered an online microfinancing organisation, which supports the desperately poor across the world by extending small loans, via donations given by thousands of people collectively. Please have look at http://www.kiva.org/. (I did email Jundo about this).

    The wonderful thing about giving dana here is that you can decide where your support goes and you may even get the amount loaned back to reinvest or recoup. The projects available ask for loans from $100 to $10000 and you can donate from $25 towards these, so collective donations will eventually fund a loan. The projects ask for amounts as little as $100 for example to purchase books for an African school or food to start up a Cambodian market stall. Anyway this innovative style of giving promotes individual responsibility, purpose and sustainable development. Of course not all projects work out but at least those individuals and groups were given a chance where none was available before.

    I know I am selling this, but it is out of sincere enthusiasm for this concept, which is particularly about the kind of 'social engagement' discussed in this thread. I am a member of team UK and Europe, but if anyone else has a look and decides this is a good thing, maybe we could form a Treeleaf team.
    Please let everyone know what you think?

    Many gassho's Nigel.

  4. #4

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Microplace is much the same, and is an Ebay company so you can fund your account with paypal. I write articles for ehow and us some of the money I make to do Microplace loans.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Social engagement isn't just giving money away, now...

  6. #6

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel99
    Hi everyone

    I recently discovered an online microfinancing organisation, which supports the desperately poor across the world by extending small loans, via donations given by thousands of people collectively. Please have look at http://www.kiva.org/. (I did email Jundo about this).

    The wonderful thing about giving dana here is that you can decide where your support goes and you may even get the amount loaned back to reinvest or recoup. The projects available ask for loans from $100 to $10000 and you can donate from $25 towards these, so collective donations will eventually fund a loan. The projects ask for amounts as little as $100 for example to purchase books for an African school or food to start up a Cambodian market stall. Anyway this innovative style of giving promotes individual responsibility, purpose and sustainable development. Of course not all projects work out but at least those individuals and groups were given a chance where none was available before.

    I know I am selling this, but it is out of sincere enthusiasm for this concept, which is particularly about the kind of 'social engagement' discussed in this thread. I am a member of team UK and Europe, but if anyone else has a look and decides this is a good thing, maybe we could form a Treeleaf team.
    Please let everyone know what you think?

    Many gassho's Nigel.
    Hi Nigel both my my wife and I have been using Kiva regularly for a year or 2 (think Im in Buddhist for world peace?) now. Its worth while investigating along with any opportunities to help out folks in your fair city/village/community etc.

    Gassho
    Shohei

  7. #7
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Hi

    Amelia you are quite right.
    Social engagement isn't just giving money away, now...

    The problem we have, as has been discussed before, is our distributed sangha. Most projects do require collaborative efforts in a locality and that doesn't happen here. The issue initiated by Chris was how to make Buddhism more visible through social engagement. An online sangha needs to have some online action and this was one way.
    We are all aware of what shikantaza practice does for us and like Chris I'm not sure I'm ready to start a sitting group either, so raising the profile of Treeleaf as an online community of Zen practice is another way. It is not the Buddha Way to advertise to drum up support, so being socially proactive may show that we are here if needed??!

    Gassho Nigel

  8. #8

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    In Barcelona, the city I live in, most of the Buddhist social activism is connected to the Tibet House, dennouncing human rights abuses in the occupied Tibet, asking for donations... I've participated in several demonstrations, and we were able to gather a couple of hundred people. Could be better, could be worse...
    Besides that, most Buddhist centers offer free meditation classes at least once a week

    Personally, I admire all the good work the people at Zen PeaceMakers are doing (http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/). I'd say it is an example to follow. Pity there is not anything similar in Barcelona...

    Spreading the Dharma is also very important. I have given a couple of talks in public libraries to introduce Buddhism and there is a lot of interest in the practical aspects in Buddhism and how to help you to achieve a better life, but at the same time, big misconceptions on what buddhism is and how it can affect your life, suspicions about being a brainwashing sect, and so on.

    Maybe, despite being a distributed sangha,as Nigel stated, we could work together the part of spreading the dharma virtually: dharma 2.0 we could say. Trying to reach people that are interested, but don't understand Buddhism properly
    Gassho

  9. #9

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    It would be easier if there was a physical presence though. Like a sangha getting together once a week (or once a month maybe depending upon budget constrictions) and handing out sandwiches or blankets to the homeless while in their robes. I don't know.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel99
    It is not the Buddha Way to advertise to drum up support, so being socially proactive may show that we are here if needed??!
    I don't know Nigel.......maybe a couple of taps on the old drum here and there could be forgiven..... :mrgreen:

  10. #10
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Hi

    I agree Chris... I suppose it is necessary to know how hard to tap!!

    There are ways to get personally more involved. The Salvation Army hostels in my town have multi faith rooms where volunteers can hold activities. It's a matter of knowing what the 'clients' need and what you are able to provide. According to my wife (who recently did a placement in one) the staff are brilliant and will help in any way. I will go and have a chat at some point and see what they say.
    I think one also needs to be careful about what one can do as it needs to be consistent and not a demand that requires specialist training (unless you want to of course). For example: FWBO have become involved in mindfulness training.. therpeutic meditation for stress reduction, which has become quite popular over here due to its non medicating prescription for mild depression, but you have to train! It could be just encouraging life skills; communicating, literacy, cooking, simple finance,etc.

    Anyway I just found some socially engaged activity on the Crochet thread in the Topics About Life forum! I could really use a beanie at the moment!!
    Some great ideas are being discussed over there!

    Best wishes Nigel

  11. #11
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel99
    Anyway I just found some socially engaged activity on the Crochet thread in the Topics About Life forum! I could really use a beanie at the moment!!
    Some great ideas are being discussed over there!
    Ah, been lurking in the Crochet thread, Nigel? Yes, take a look. I've just posted some links to charities that take handmade items.

    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3239&p=45830#p45830

    Gassho,

    Jennifer

  12. #12

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    So, does anyone have any ideas on how we could get the message out there about our sangha? An Always Open Open House? Invite a friend? And if we had the numbers, what could we do? Provide online support, like counseling, or collect money for needy folks?

  13. #13

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    So, does anyone have any ideas on how we could get the message out there about our sangha? An Always Open Open House? Invite a friend? And if we had the numbers, what could we do? Provide online support, like counseling, or collect money for needy folks?
    Hi Chris,

    I very much appreciate the feeling behind this.

    We don't "proselytize" (at least, I don't wish to) or pull people in off the street with promises of a free toaster. However, I do believe in making the beauties of Zen Practice overall, and the available resources of this place and other Sangha, known to anyone with whom it might resonate. It is a fine line, but I feel it is merely the difference between letting information be available to those who may benefit from knowing it ... versus "insistent and persistent" pressure to join a group (I would not like us to go door to door handing out Sutras 8) ).

    Even to family, I do not encourage folks to try to "convince and convert" Mom and Uncle Joe to Buddhism. Rather, just be a good son, daughter, husband, wife, friend ... and they may naturally see the good effects that this way of life is having in your life. That is all that "needs to be said".

    On the other hand, if in your heart you meet someone ... a friend, loved one ... who you really feel might benefit from Zen Practice, you should introduce them.

    I also do not wish to collect money through Treeleaf, although we encourage Treeleaf members to give generously to the needy as Dana and Samu (described in the posts above).

    One rather good idea which was left by the wayside when Stephanie moved house is the following. It would be worth developing more. Is there anyone with the time and interest to take the lead now that Stephanie is not available?

    Treeleaf Service Project: "Web of Interconnection"
    viewtopic.php?p=40838#p40838

    I would like to see that followed through.

    Also, please suggest any other projects that Treeleafers feels might be good to undertake ...

    Gassho, Jundo

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    I have read about making a kind of statement by meditating in public places with a sign that says something simple like, "peace," or perhaps a pamphlet for your cause. Maybe an open invitation to sit with you...

  15. #15
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    I have thought about that, but without the signs. Just sit.

    But on a tangent, I'm so happy Socially and Buddhism are getting marrrrieeed. Isn't that SWEET!

    Yeah, i am the one who said it.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    :lol:

  17. #17

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Shonin
    But on a tangent, I'm so happy Socially and Buddhism are getting marrrrieeed. Isn't that SWEET!
    Me, too. I'm really pulling for those kids......

    Personally, I'll take a look at what Stephanie was doing, and I totally understand that we don't want to push anything on anyone. What I was thinking was something that would say, "we're from Treeleaf, a Soto Zen Sangha, and we support........". For example, and I'm just spit-balling ideas here, but I am extremely moved by the suffering in Darfur. So, perhaps a pamphlet could be made, approved by Jundo and Taigu, that gave a description of what's going on over there, the names of some charities or organizations providing aid and relief (having been thoroughly researched first of course) and what people can do by way of writing to politicians or such to try and spur action. Our sangha website address could be on the back saying something like, "Distributed by Treeleaf Sangha in the hope of compassion." with the web address below that. Maybe we could find something like that that we are moved by and each of us, in our individual countries, could pick a day and a public place to sit shikantaza with a sign and some pamphlets about the cause we are supporting.

    Something like that. But let me look at the Stephanie thing and I'll see if I am qualified or capable....

  18. #18

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    We don't "proselytize" (at least, I don't wish to) or pull people in off the street with promises of a free toaster
    Pro........prose.......pr......what? :lol:

  19. #19
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Being an online sangha, we probably have a very diverse array of things we would like to support and do, and we will probably not all be able to agree on a single big thing to focus on for the year or month, although we may come pretty close.

    We can represent the sangha and our teachings socially by just answering questions when we are asked, living the teachings, and perhaps taking up our own cause whenever we see fit.

    We can discuss our actions with each other, and invite each other to join in, if they wish.

  20. #20

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Being an online sangha, we probably have a very diverse array of things we would like to support and do, and we will probably not all be able to agree on a single big thing to focus on for the year or month, although we may come pretty close.

    We can represent the sangha and our teachings socially by just answering questions when we are asked, living the teachings, and perhaps taking up our own cause whenever we see fit.

    We can discuss our actions with each other, and invite each other to join in, if they wish.
    There probably would be some discussion around what to support, but I think that we could come to a satisfying conclusion. If not, Jundo and Taigu could be the tie breakers, perhaps. Or we flip a coin. Or perhaps we focus on things in our own communities like helping the homeless or something. I respect living the teachings as a way to "lead by example", but I feel that this approach may be a bit too passive. The purpose of Socially Engaged Buddhism is to be engaged. Living the teachings and leading by example in our communities, to me, should be more of a.......side effect almost.....of our practice. We learn the Way, read the suttras, and hear the teishos, we practice the Way and imerse ourselves in the dharma, allowing the dharma to move through our veins and into our bones. The result of which is that we live our lives by the teachings, because what else could we possibly do? What I'd like to see is a more active approach to really do some good in the world. Something that speaks with the mouths of our Zen ancestors, with perhaps a little of the old Bodhidharma bluntess to it.

  21. #21

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    The purpose of Socially Engaged Buddhism is to be engaged. Living the teachings and leading by example in our communities, to me, should be more of a.......side effect almost.....of our practice.
    This is very interesting!
    But it is also important to try to help others at our "own level", with our own possibilities... To stay down to earth and try to give or help people in a way that is useful!
    I'm saying this because I tried to help associations and people I've met ... but very often my help wasn't really needed because I gave what I thought they need. I didn't really took the time to think about their needs and that is a pity because it is just a waste of time and energy for everyone!
    Being useful to others, in a lot of cases, is, above all, listen to what people have to say! And I've found it way more difficult than trying to give the help they might need in my mind!

    Sorry it is a bit out of the subject, :roll:
    gassho,
    Jinyu

  22. #22

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Always wise, Jinyu.

    Many bows.

  23. #23

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    We don't "proselytize" (at least, I don't wish to)
    Jundo,

    I just wanted you to know that I had to Wikipedia that word. ops:

    But in seriousness, no I don't want to try to convert anyone or go knocking on doors like some of the churches around here do (had a real interesting conversation with a couple of gents who did just that). But I'd like to do something that makes a difference in the lives of those who need it, while at the same time providing information on our Way for those who want it. Free copies of some of Aiken Roshi's books, or the Heart Suttra or the Diamond Suttra, but mostly free blankets for the freezing, free sandwiches for the hungry, free compassion for those who need it.

  24. #24

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Jinyu
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    The purpose of Socially Engaged Buddhism is to be engaged. Living the teachings and leading by example in our communities, to me, should be more of a.......side effect almost.....of our practice.
    This is very interesting!
    But it is also important to try to help others at our "own level", with our own possibilities... To stay down to earth and try to give or help people in a way that is useful!
    I'm saying this because I tried to help associations and people I've met ... but very often my help wasn't really needed because I gave what I thought they need. I didn't really took the time to think about their needs and that is a pity because it is just a waste of time and energy for everyone!
    Being useful to others, in a lot of cases, is, above all, listen to what people have to say! And I've found it way more difficult than trying to give the help they might need in my mind!

    Sorry it is a bit out of the subject, :roll:
    gassho,
    Jinyu
    I think this is spot on. We all look to live the precepts and in turn engage our world. In many ways, it is not the active and undertaking of large-scale social engagement; but the willingness to give what is needed, when it is needed, in the amount or means that is needed.

    I remember living in Boston straight out of college and there was a homeless woman who sat out near an ATM near my apartment. On some says, she would ask for change, and if you had none, "how about a joke or a story then?" I always obliged. Once she asked for change, and when I said I didn't have any, she replied "well, I don't either". Her needs changed.

  25. #25

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Or perhaps we focus on things in our own communities like helping the homeless or something. I respect living the teachings as a way to "lead by example", but I feel that this approach may be a bit too passive. The purpose of Socially Engaged Buddhism is to be engaged. Living the teachings and leading by example in our communities, to me, should be more of a.......side effect almost.....of our practice.
    Hello,

    Couldn't it be both? This very conversation is 'engaged Buddhism.' However, I'm curious to know what isn't: if one is a practicing Buddhist, and engaged in the day to day world, then the result is 'engaged Buddhism,' no matter what one is doing, right?

    The desire to do something big can be motivated by great compassion. It can also be an outlet for ego: "Look at all the good I'm doing!"
    Maybe it's just as good to buy a hungry man a sandwich as it is to open a soup kitchen. I think it all depends on skill, means, and motivation. Some people are capable of working on a grand scale, some on a more minute one. Maybe the question shouldn't be so much one of 'advertisement' (sorry, I know it's a poor word choice, but it's the only thing I can think of at the moment) as genuine good works.

    I think, deluded as I am, that first and foremost we have to live the teachings. Everything else follows that. The first person one has to be compassionate to is oneself. Eventually, that great compassion will burst out like a dam giving way and spill in all directions! The precepts can transform us in both gross and subtle ways, if there is trust and sincere practice.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Hands and Eyes of Great Compassion
    Ungan asked Dogo, “How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion (Kannon) use so many hands and eyes?”
    Dogo said, “It’s just like a person in the middle of the night reaching back in search of a pillow.”
    Ungan said, “I understand.”
    Dogo said, “How do you understand it?”
    Ungan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.”
    Dogo said, “What you said is all right, but it’s only eighty percent of it.”
    Ungan said, “I’m like this, Senior brother. How do you understand it?”
    Dogo said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”
    Much metta,

    Perry

  26. #26

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicSpud
    Hello,

    Couldn't it be both? This very conversation is 'engaged Buddhism.' However, I'm curious to know what isn't: if one is a practicing Buddhist, and engaged in the day to day world, then the result is 'engaged Buddhism,' no matter what one is doing, right?

    The desire to do something big can be motivated by great compassion. It can also be an outlet for ego: "Look at all the good I'm doing!"
    Maybe it's just as good to buy a hungry man a sandwich as it is to open a soup kitchen. I think it all depends on skill, means, and motivation. Some people are capable of working on a grand scale, some on a more minute one. Maybe the question shouldn't be so much one of 'advertisement' (sorry, I know it's a poor word choice, but it's the only thing I can think of at the moment) as genuine good works.

    I think, deluded as I am, that first and foremost we have to live the teachings. Everything else follows that. The first person one has to be compassionate to is oneself. Eventually, that great compassion will burst out like a dam giving way and spill in all directions! The precepts can transform us in both gross and subtle ways, if there is trust and sincere practice.

    Sure, it could be both, the difference is impact. When we live the teachings, we can make an impact in the lives of some of the people we touch, and lets say out of every 100 people you interact with in a day, perhaps one is moved enough by it to do some good for others. Now, on the other hand, you live the teachings every day (because, truly, how else could you live?) and once a month, you distribute blankets to the homeless. Or sandwiches. Or you read a book at the children’s cancer ward. Or you march on Washington and sit with 10,000 others in peaceful zazen as a statement against tax cuts that benefit the rich but not the poor. How many could you reach, truly reach, then?

    It isn’t a question of walking around in our kesa and rakusu, waiving pamphlets and books, “Suttras! Suttras! Get your Suttras, here!” But when I think about how many people out there espouse that they are Buddhist, if it is true, and the teachings fill them from teeth to toenails, how much good, real tangible suffering alleviating good, could be done? We practice for all beings, to whose salvation from suffering we dedicate the merit of our practice, but as Aitken Roshi once said, “Sentient beings cannot survive on merit alone.”

    It is a fine line between doing good to do good and stroking the ego, but I believe that as practitioners of the Way, we would make sandwiches for the homeless with Kannon’s hands. And to my mind, the Precepts are not so much transformative as they are reflections of what is already in our hearts.


  27. #27

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    hellos to those posting here

    So much to read, I skimmed and so do not have detailed responses for specific posters: just an observation

    why not date buddhism for a while and then consider going steady before getting engaged?


    While on one retreat I realized walking around empty-handed, my hands were always free and available to help wherever I happened to be and whatever circumstance I found myself in. My hands were also free to do nothing.

    In my 'civilian' life with purse and carryall, my hands are already full, or mostly full: they are not doing much, but they are busy, and not free to help unless I set aside what I am carrying.

    In some ways this seeking of worthy endeavors to engage oneself in as a buddhist is carrying around an idea of responding to needs.
    The need to be needed. The need to be seen as a good buddhist being good, doing good as a buddhist.
    Talk about stink!!

    Get rid of buddhism, get rid of good. These are ideas.

    A full breast doesn't consider itself to be 'buddhist' The infant's cry of hunger--is not a buddhist infant or a buddhist hunger, the flowing milk has no concern with the buddhism of the breast it flows from or the mouth/belly it flows into; nothing buddhist about the milk of human kindness.

    If I'm not too preoccupied in my thinking, then I can see, hear, feel what is around me and respond/act appropriately with and to others. If something is beyond my ability alone, then sure, organize with another/others.

  28. #28

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by da5id
    Personally, I admire all the good work the people at Zen PeaceMakers are doing (http://www.zenpeacemakers.org/). I'd say it is an example to follow. Pity there is not anything similar in Barcelona...
    As an aside, just as a reminder, we should support with what we can (time, bling-bling, etc) to those groups we think are worth the investment. From an email fund raising I received from ZPM, they were hurting for funds and will be selling their Montague Farm Zen House. Invest. A tree needs sustenance to grow. So do our organizations that carry their work at the grassroots level.

  29. #29
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Hi Keishin,
    I personally cannot compare to your description of socially engaged Buddhism....my giving is and has not been that selfless...however I have committed to someone who does act that selflessly...who doesn't 'smell' of religion... and knows when to step in and what to do.
    We were socially engaged, then married, still are!!
    I think you are wholly right..each individual being an individual doing the right thing at the right time can only serve to inspire others...even on a small scale. I know I have been. It only needs this to reach a critical point to generate wider change. I think it was a Theravadan monk who pointed out to me that 'social engagement' isn't Buddhism, but something that accords more with universal law.
    I think when you are open to your surroundings and the people around you, then you 'know' how to respond appropriately...I have experienced this at times, but I need to try taking zazen out more!

    Thank you for reminding me of this really important point.

    Gassho Nigel

  30. #30

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel99
    I think you are wholly right..each individual being an individual doing the right thing at the right time can only serve to inspire others...even on a small scale.
    I could not possibly agree more. But that's the thing though, isn't it. Each individual doesn't "do the right thing" (even though there is no right or wrong thing to do, and no one doing). That's really my whole point. If the teachings were more widely disseminated in the West, maybe more people would individually "do the right thing" or rather, do that which coincides with their original Buddha nature, free from the delusions and attachments of the self that cause them to act for their own benefit. And what better way to introduce the teachings then by living them by example, and activily engaging in things that will allieviate some of the suffering in this world?

  31. #31
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Mmm.... I completely understand your feelings on this Chris ...and I'm going to be tentative here but ..you can't tell people their Buddha nature you can only show that it's ok to live it!! ..and if they want to know what keeps you going then there's your intro to pointing them in the right direction.
    I don't know Chris ..we are discussing a fine line and I just feel like a spoiler at the moment!
    Part of me wants to say that if you feel like it shout it out and you know what the other part thinks!!! :?

    Here's Peter Matthiessen's take from an interview with Kay Bonetti;
    "I'm a little more skeptical about social action and what can be done. You don't have to be much of a reader to recognize the human tendency throughout civilization's long, long history to blood and gore, rapine, greed, and the worst kind of misery. You can make a little betterment here, a little solace there, but it's not very much. Nonetheless you have to do it. You have to do it. I passionately think that. We all must make an effort for the betterment of mankind, even though we know it won't do any good."

    Many gassho's Nigel

  32. #32

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Let me say before you all read the rest of this that this is my opinion, likely flawed and missing something, and it is my sincere hope that you take what I say with here for what it's worth, whatever that might be.....

    There is a fine line here. And to Nigel's point, I can't tell anyone what their Buddha nature is, I can "only show them that it's ok to live it." But first, I have to SHOW them. Maybe I'm imagining it, but many of the posts I've read seem to carry a sense of, "Be careful Christopher, you sound like you want to help people so you can feel good about helping people, it's just another attachment, just another way to feed your ego."

    Well, the feeling I am getting from all this is N.I.M.B.Y. If you've ever watched George Carlin, you know what I'm talking about. It means "Not In My Back Yard". He says it happens even when people believe in something, like prisons. People are always saying we need more prisons, the yell at the government, "BUILD MORE PRISONS!!!!"...........but not here.

    We all agree that the Buddha awoke under the bodhi tree and said that we all possess Buddha Nature, but it is our attachments and our delusions that keep us from testifying to that fact. We all also agree that the Four Noble Truths say that there is suffering in this life, that this suffering is caused by delusion and attachments, that there is a way to end this suffering, and that way can be found in the 8 Fold Noble Path. One part of which is Right Action. We can all agree that there is suffering out there, and that it can only be alleviated when we can see clearly, when we are compassionate, and when we WORK with Kannon's hands to make things better. True, we will likely never make samsara into Nirvana, but that's not the point. True, people may think differently of us if they see us helping others selflessly and make judgments about that, but that's not the point. We say how much we believe in peace, in compassionate helping, and simply giving where it is needed. We talk about engaged Buddhism, and taking what we learn on the zafu into the world.

    Then when a suggestion arises on doing it, actually doing it (Stephanie's project is a good example) the response is, "Whoa there!" Not to call anyone out or point any fingers but here are a few examples:
    It is not the Buddha Way to advertise to drum up support, so being socially proactive may show that we are here if needed??!
    I have read about making a kind of statement by meditating in public places with a sign that says something simple like, "peace," or perhaps a pamphlet for your cause. Maybe an open invitation to sit with you...
    We can represent the sangha and our teachings socially by just answering questions when we are asked, living the teachings, and perhaps taking up our own cause whenever we see fit.
    But it is also important to try to help others at our "own level", with our own possibilities... To stay down to earth and try to give or help people in a way that is useful!
    The desire to do something big can be motivated by great compassion. It can also be an outlet for ego: "Look at all the good I'm doing!"
    In many ways, it is not the active and undertaking of large-scale social engagement; but the willingness to give what is needed, when it is needed, in the amount or means that is needed.
    In some ways this seeking of worthy endeavors to engage oneself in as a buddhist is carrying around an idea of responding to needs.
    The need to be needed. The need to be seen as a good buddhist being good, doing good as a buddhist.
    It falls by the wayside. Be it Buddhist philosophy or not, there is suffering out there and we can, and should, all do something to help alleviate it. I'm not saying there is no benefit in individually contributing. I do it. I give $2.00 a paycheck (the max they will let me give automatically) to clothing children in my area, among other opportunities to donate money, or time to local charities and events. Let me tell you, that $2.00 every two weeks on top of the other things I do, hurts a little. I have a wife, three kids, a mortgage and one job in rural West Virginia, times are tight! But I can not sit there and think of those children shivering in the cold and not do something. Now do you suppose it would make a hill of beans in terms of making a difference if it was just me donating that money with the hope that someone will see me and say, "Hey, I'd like to help too."? NO. But because this goes to an organization with lots of people doing the same thing TOGETHER, hundreds of children in my area were warm this winter, and even got some Christmas presents with the money left over.

    It is not a question of waiving the dharma flag and saying, "Hey, you! Yeah you, the non-Buddhist over there! Come here and read this suttra and live these Precepts, and maybe you can be a good person like me!"

    It is simple. People need us. We know that we are not separate from them, and if we have the means to help, let's help. We know that suffering is horrible, and who among us would not want to ease that suffering? Even if, or rather especially if, the person you helped never even knew who helped them or where the help came from? Even if it hurt a little? What I am saying is that, we are a sangha, we can do things together and make a real difference. But, we can also let people know that we do what we do, because we have been fortunate enough to learn the dharma of the Buddha's, which has helped clear away some of the delusions and attachments we have, enough to clearly see that we could make a difference in peoples lives. I don't propose to make the horse drink, but I can't very well expect him to drink, no matter how thirsty he might be, if I don't show him where the water is.

    I just don't want to see us fall prey to N.I.M.Z.P.(Not In My Zen Practice).

    If I upset anyone I apologize, especially to those I quoted, I removed the names but I know that is little better than nothing.

    Many, many, penitent bows.

  33. #33

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Christopher,

    Apparently my suggestion that one needs to be careful about one's motivation was taken as saying "Not In My Zen Practice."

    As one of the people quoted in the "WOAH THERE!" examples, I ask you why your idea of doing good is acceptable, while another's is not. Speaking for myself, I only advocate looking at the motivation, and doing what one can, where one can. If that means donating to a cause, then donate to a cause. If that means mending a jacket, mend the jacket. In the above post, it seems to me that you are the one saying "[come here and do this big project], and maybe you can be a good person like me." We all have different abilities and inclinations, but I'm certain that all of us do what we can to alleviate the suffering of those around us. It seems very unfair to judge those of us who have a different perspective as incorrect, especially since we're advocating for the same thing you are.

    Good is good. Some good is more visible than others. Donating your time, energy, and cash to a cause you believe in is good, and highly visible. Getting a bag of rice for someone who isn't strong enough to carry it is also good, I think, though less visible. Does the visibility affect the worth of the project? Is it better to donate a bunch of money to a "Homeless Day Center" (we have those around here), or to buy lunch or a blanket for someone who is obviously hungry and cold?

    Gassho,

    Perry

  34. #34
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Chris

    There is no insult in discussing things that mean so much to us.
    I should also like to apologise in case any comments or points of view I have in any way had any adverse impact.
    It is so hard relating personal stuff online and I want to assure you and everyyone that I have only the highest regard for all your opinions. After all it is challenges like this that broaden our own perspectives. This has helped me so much since I joined Treeleaf and it is really good to know there are really good people like yourself to discuss these things with.

    Many bows to you, in gassho Nigel.

  35. #35

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel99
    It is so hard relating personal stuff online and I want to assure you and everyyone that I have only the highest regard for all your opinions. After all it is challenges like this that broaden our own perspectives.
    Well said, Nigel.

    After re-reading my last post, I realize it came across as overly harsh, and I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize for any offenses it caused.

    Metta,

    Perry

  36. #36
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    I have read about making a kind of statement by meditating in public places with a sign that says something simple like, "peace," or perhaps a pamphlet for your cause. Maybe an open invitation to sit with you...

    ..We can represent the sangha and our teachings socially by just answering questions when we are asked, living the teachings, and perhaps taking up our own cause whenever we see fit.
    It is not a question of waiving the dharma flag and saying, "Hey, you! Yeah you, the non-Buddhist over there! Come here and read this suttra and live these Precepts, and maybe you can be a good person like me!"
    It was not my intention to wave any flag. I was merely offering suggestions I had read and heard of for people who might be willing to put themselves out there.

    As far as I'm concerned, I just try to do good where I see I can. I don't have the means nor the desire for any big projects or advertising.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    If I upset anyone I apologize, especially to those I quoted, I removed the names but I know that is little better than nothing.
    I am not really insulted or upset, because my quotes had been misconstrued by you.

    However, I am annoyed that you didn't accredit our posts to us. Seems really back-handed, like... here's the wall of shame! You're basically saying that you feel as if having our name posted in that little line-up would be something worth being embarrassed over...

  37. #37

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    However, I am annoyed that you didn't accredit our posts to us. Seems really back-handed, like... here's the wall of shame! You're basically saying that you feel as if having our name posted in that little line-up would be something worth being embarrassed over...
    I can see how it could come across that way, and for that I ask your forgiveness. It wasn't my intent to insinuate that the people whom I quoted would or even should be embarrassed by them. In fact the embarrassment is all mine, because I should have thought that out better.

    I also want to make sure that we all understand that I'm not just talking about a "big project" but I am talking about a project that in some way we can all be involved in and at the same time let people know about Treeleaf and the teachings. Even if it was something like we each pick a day of a month or each month and sit some where highly visible for a particular cause. Like sitting in a public square with a sign saying "Give Darfur Peace" or something.

    Something we can all get behind. It doesn't need to be a huge undertaking nor require loads of time, but something visible, something for anyone in Treeleaf who wants to participate, and something that shows the horse where the water is, so to speak.

    Again, I apologize for my lack of forethought on my previous post. I'll have to add working on that to the already very long list. ops:

  38. #38
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    However, I am annoyed that you didn't accredit our posts to us. Seems really back-handed, like... here's the wall of shame! You're basically saying that you feel as if having our name posted in that little line-up would be something worth being embarrassed over...
    I can see how it could come across that way, and for that I ask your forgiveness. It wasn't my intent to insinuate that the people whom I quoted would or even should be embarrassed by them. In fact the embarrassment is all mine, because I should have thought that out better.
    Forgiven before requested! =)

    _/_

  39. #39
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    I very much like Stephanie's Web of Interconnection thread . . . but I totally missed it first time around! Would it be possible to make it a "sticky" thread or something so it isn't buried?

    Also . . . I know socially engaged buddhism isn't just about giving money to some cause, but I recently came across this website called Buddha Badges. You can get these lovely little Buddhism badges (pins) for $1 each and the money goes to a cause, which changes every month. It's pretty neat. If anyone is interested: http://buddhabadges.com/index.html

    Gassho

    Jennifer

  40. #40
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    This thread is going the way of the vultures in the Jungle Book;
    Buzzie: Hey Flaps, So what we were going to do?
    Flaps: I don't know, what'cha wanna do?
    Buzzie: Look Flaps, first I say "what were going to do?" then you say "I don't know, what'cha wanna do?" then I say "what we're going to do" then you say what'cha wanna do", let's do something!
    Flaps: Ok. What'cha wanna do?

    So here's an idea following on from Stephanie's ideas in Treeleaf Service Project: "Web of Interconnection" viewtopic.php?p=40838#p40838 in conjunction with Da5id's dharma 2.0 idea;
    What about an invite-only online chatroom/forum for specific groups of isolated people; bereaved, dying, elderly, disabled?

    Needs some planning and work but the basic premise is that they could;
    a) be nominated by an existing Treeleaf member (encouraging direct social engagement),
    b) communicate with like-situated people across the world,
    c) communicate with empathetic individuals from Treeleaf, who could maintain a communicative presence within the chatrooms/forum,
    d) find some comfort from their isolation... and perhaps find a way to the dharma (that ones for Chris! :twisted: )
    e) Get a free badge when they join! .. and a Treeleaf beanie! (that one's for Jennifer ).

    Gassho's to all,

    Nigel

  41. #41

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigel99



    e) Get a free badge when they join! .. and a Treeleaf beanie! (that one's for Jennifer ).

    Gassho's to all,

    Nigel
    I'm all kinds of up for a Treeleaf Beanie. Cafepress, anyone?

    But really, I'll support any project that the Sangha sets up, in whatever way that I can.

    Metta,

    Perry

  42. #42

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    I don't know many socially Isolated people. But I bet I could find some. I'd be up for being online and in a specific chat room, and I can commit some time every week (need to schedule it though). I also get money from some writing assignements I did on eHow, so I can contribute some of that to buying a button :P for those who join. But can I get a beenie too?

    I was also thinking, maybe we can pick a social cause, peace in a country at war, going green, whatever we want and maybe sit some where in a park (during the warmer months) with some free info on how to make a change. I also thought we could order those rubber bracelets and give them out to people with some kind of saying on them. I would like to propose "I vow with all beings to save this world."

    Makes people think.

    I'm in on the web of interconnection. I'll be glad to provide an open ear, and an open heart.

  43. #43

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    But can I get a beenie too?
    Really, it might be a good way to raise operating funds for a project, if donations from us don't cover all of it.

    Just a thought.

    Metta,

    Perry

  44. #44

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    I'm with you on that. Beanies, maybe some of those rubber bracelets, tee shirts, I'm all for it. Just as long as the purpose stays pure. I'm going to start a new thread, and I'd like to ask anyone with an idea to put it out there, as many details as possible. Let's see if we can get behind one idea (even though we know it is not one and not two)

  45. #45

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    I'm with you on that. Beanies, maybe some of those rubber bracelets, tee shirts, I'm all for it. Just as long as the purpose stays pure.
    Highly agreed. Perhaps, though, we should get a seal of approval from Jundo and Taigu before making grandiose plans. I do think that the merchandising might be a slippery slope further on down the road.

    I vote for smile, breathe, and (above all) go slowly. We want to do this, whatever 'this' winds up being, as skillfully and correctly as possible.

    Much metta,

    Perry

  46. #46

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Sitting with all this ...

    ... some good thoughts here ...

  47. #47

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Very true. I don't think any of us want this to become a "commercial" venture, but I think we would be ok as long as we stay true to the teachings, use any monies for the relief of real suffering in the world, and let our compassion guide us. Like I said too, signs and sitting are free........

  48. #48

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    hellos to those posting here

    specific thoughts to Christopher, who started this thread.

    in particular you end your 1/8/11 @ 12:09 am post saying: "I'm in on the web of interconnection. I'll be glad to provide an open ear, and an open heart."

    This is what you say.

    But your actions indicated in your post 1/6/11 9:57pm demonstrate otherwise.

    Don't tell me you are open ear, an open heart--be it.

    Quoting folks out of context -- this is not an open ear, it is a selective ear. A selective ear retaining, repeating certain phrases to arouse a certain response, paint with a particular color--tell me, what is 'open' about this heart?

    Nishijima Roshi has talked about buddhism as being not a religion but a philosophy of action.

    We human beings cannot help but reveal what we believe, what we really believe, and not just what we give lip service to--in every single action, even the smallest one. There is no getting away from ourselves, our deeds. You want to be kind, an open ear? You want to extend to a group of socially isolated people somewhere your open heart?

    Well, right here, visibly posting and visitors passing through who never post and are virtually invisible are your 'socially isolated people', show me/us your open ear... your open heart...


    The point I am making is that 'those in need' aren't over there, wherever 'there' is, and they aren't 'them,' some category I have designated.
    The help given isn't some 'special action' I set aside specific time to commit to--3 hours, a week or so.
    And, yes, I can give as a volunteer as much time as I wish in whatever areas and agencies I wish, but no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am practicing my beliefs as evidenced by my every action. If I want to really know what my true beliefs are--all I have to do is watch what I do and 'why' I do it. At first it may seem obvious, but as I look, I see stories I tell myself and cover stories I might offer to 'explain' myself to others.
    I find things that are interesting all right...


    May we all realize the buddha way together!

  49. #49

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    Very true. I don't think any of us want this to become a "commercial" venture, but I think we would be ok as long as we stay true to the teachings, use any monies for the relief of real suffering in the world, and let our compassion guide us. Like I said too, signs and sitting are free........
    Good morning,

    I recall, a good long while back, a gentleman sitting for four hours on a Friday night in the 'party district' of our town with a placard reading "One Buddhist for World Peace." It really stuck with me. Maybe we could organize an event like this, with each of us sitting in a park or somesuch, as a preliminary exercise?

    Metta,

    Perry

  50. #50

    Re: Socially Engaged Buddhism

    Perry,

    I too have seen such meditators and as I pass by them I 'gassho.'

    Once I came across a group of meditators at the beach (years ago before I injured my foot and could go on real walks), I sat and joined them for a spell before I headed off to work. Don't know that I would be interested in group action of sitting...dunno...

    In one Sangha I sat a number of years with members were allowed to have e-mail contact with one another, etc., but we were told to refrain from any political use of the membership--this meant no e-mails about politcal rallies, etc; urging votes, supporting candidates, etc.
    Of course, using our personal contacts we could do these things, just not through the sangha site/members mailing list.
    This opened my eyes to the fact that buddhism can go anywhere, in any political place right/left/center, makes no difference.
    To think it belongs anywhere in particular is to impose a 'limitation' to it.
    Zen buddhism is like type O blood I think--it can give to everyone...
    As far as wanting buddhism to be more accessible to others which Christopher raised (this is a perennial topic--as raised in multiple past posts) ; well in this day of google and internet, it couldn't be more accessible or more easy to find a group to sit with, locate books about various sects, etc. Accessible, it is; but finding it, or stumbling across it, is not the same as sticking with it.

    I would never urge someone to take up this practice (zen buddhism) nor would I suggest that anyone 'become' buddhist. I offer my support of anyone who has taken up this practice.
    There is a difference.

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