Category Archives: Buddhism

EcoChaplaincy and the Occupy Movement by Sarah Vekasi


I know that there is a great amount of anger out there, and for good reason. Despair, apathy, fear and cynicism too. Some say that captivating and cultivating “righteous anger” is the moving force for change, but I disagree. I know that it is a spark, a symbol of our need for justice, but not a spark that can sustain itself. Anger has an opposite, an enemy, and for many real and justified reasons. However, in order to truly sustain oneself, it is vital to find your vision and place your intention in something far greater than yourself and the specific injustices of the moment. In Buddhism, this often comes down to a great vow – for all beings to be free of suffering and the causes of suffering; in Christianity we hear about the greatest commandment of all –to love thy neighbor as oneself.

This is the key work of the Eco-Chaplaincy Initiative: to help activists, organizers and people in all forms of environmental and social justice work synchronize our intentions with our actions.

There is a lot of writing about it online at Eco-Chaplaincy comes out of the professionalism of chaplaincy, and offers support within movements, organizations, affinity groups, for individuals, etc. There is an art to chaplaincy, like the specific training for psychologists or the medical professions, and that training can be applied in the streets, hollows and meeting halls, as well as in a hospital, prison, hospice, the military or anywhere else there are chaplains.

Last night at the general assembly in Asheville, a man spoke from the “Spirituality and Support Group,” and then another man voiced his discontent with that group saying that, “this is political, not spiritual, there is no room for religion here.”

My heart opened to him in my guess that the words ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ probably carry all sorts of negativity for him with people not accepting him for who he is, or loving him as who he is. I am an eco-chaplain and not a minister or a dharma teacher for a reason – so that I can offer support for groups and individuals in the religious or secular language that makes them tic, not me. But I still have my own opinions about religion and work as a “religious leader,” so let me ask yall: “What is real religion honestly if not the practice of trying to work for our collective liberation, trying to love our neighbors as ourselves, forgive the best we can, keep trying, and working for the liberation of all beings?”

Tell me truly. I know that I write these letters to people on all sides of every political spectrum, so tell me – what could be more political than loving our neighbors as ourselves and working towards our collective liberation?

Here is what I know for sure. A movement based on anger cannot sustain itself. A movement based on fear cannot mobilize itself. A movement void of spirituality, or intention, is not a movement, just a cause or campaign. Only when there is a vision and an intention large enough to sustain many victories and many losses will it surpass the passion of the moment and carry forward lasting change.

This is the goal of eco-chaplaincy. To help activists, organizers, friends, neighbors, all of us to connect with a vision large enough it can sustain us through the ups and downs of our times so we can stay engaged in the world and not drown in anger, despair, fear, apathy, numbness, etc.

How? Eco-Chaplaincy is just like all chaplaincy: being present as best one can, offering active listening, mediation, conflict transformation, and spiritual and religious support. I love working as an eco-chaplain and love creating the Eco-Chaplaincy Initiative, and what I love even more is the thought that there are many thousands of people tonight who will sleep outside in cities throughout this country after participating in an ongoing dialogue about what needs are not being met in our country and the world at the moment, before jumping into “demands” with specific strategies of how to “fix”it.

Let’s all make ourselves more open to seeing one another and truly hearing one another. I am not so interested in hearing all the divergent and often polarizing strategies for how to fix things until there is a real conversation about what needs are not being met first. To do this, we have to listen, and we have to connect, and that is why I love that the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Your Street mobilizations are not based on a demand or demands, do not have a specific agenda or leaders – because it is a time for people to begin to connect, to listen, and see what needs we all share and what needs are not being met. From there, we can co-create solutions that will satisfy a real majority through consensus.

Maybe the process of connecting is itself the solution. The process is the product. Imagine!

Here are some more ways that I know how to participate in a Great Turning:

• Begin by exploring ourselves. Our anger. Our fear. Our apathy. Our grief. Normalize it, express it, release it, be in it, don’t just deny it. Ask, what is my story? What is your story? Go through it. We don’t have to stay there, and we won’t, we just cycle through. The way through is exactly that – through. Be willing to make mistakes, to forgive others for mistakes, and hold tight to integrity, honesty, traditional values like not killing or lying or stealing, etc. Let the personal be political, our unique spiritual practices reveal themself through our actions of body, speech and mind, our unique religious practices show through our love and care for one another.

• If you feel up to it, try this exercise out. Next time you find that you have the time, ask someone you don’t know, or maybe even someone you do know questions like:

• “What do you think about the condition of our world?”
• “How has the recession and financial meltdown affected you or your family?”
• “What concerns do you have about the world these days?”
• And then don’t let the conversation just dwell in what is wrong, ask also:
• “What is your favorite part about being alive during these uncertain times?
• “Tell me about a place you love.”

There is a power in making yourself available for listening. There is so much need to be heard out there. I know because I listen for a living!

• If you really feel up for it, check out whatever general assembly is happening near you, or start one, or watch a live stream online.

As you all know, the Eco-Chaplaincy Initiative runs through your donations. Thank you to those of you who have donated recently. If you are willing to chip in, please sign up to be a monthly donor or for a one time donation online at or through the mail at PO Box 890, Swannanoa, NC 28778.

I would love to listen more to you too. Truly. Call me for a listening session if you want, or call anyways because it is always great to connect.

Love and Solidarity,


Occupy Yourself! by Sarah Vekasi


More than just the leaves are changing these days, and our leaves have gone from green to bright oranges and red. Young people, older folks, and all of us in between are beginning to speak up in all sorts of ways.

Do you know also about the Occupations of Wall Street in New York City and now all across America? I have been participating in the Occupy Asheville general assemblies throughout this past week, so I decided I wanted to write a letter to all of you about how eco-chaplaincy can and does work in these moments of mobilizing and change.

Groups of people are mobilizing in cities and towns throughout America and holding general assemblies to discuss their relationship to living in these times of global crisis under the banner that “we are the 99%.” Why? One reason I understand is a deep and vast need to connect, to be heard, to hear and break through the alienation and pervasive suffering permeating the times.

The slogan “I am the 99%” follows up with “and so are you.” There are people all over America are posting photos on blogs, through news channels and Facebook with a short hand-written story of their situation followed by “I am the 99%.” For example,

I began working when I was 13 years old and made $6.50/hour plus tips in 1992. Now, after four years of college, two years in a monastery, and three years in grad school I am under-employed through a non-profit I run, was paid $8.00/hour as a barista last year, and struggle to make ends meet. I am not sure I can ever have children since I don’t know how I would support them. I am the 99%.

How are you a part of the 99%?

I am not sure there is actually anyone out of that “99%.” Wealthy, poor, middle class, the radiation from Fukushima is everywhere, the water from Appalachia feeds half of the population of the US, and the decisions that have created the system now collapsing throughout the globe don’t seem to be exactly in anyone’s control. I know there are many conditions that have created the present situation, the student debt and unemployment, the massive deployments and lack of affordable health care, and still I am not in the business of pinpointing any exact cause because it seems a lot more like themes brought about by systemic greed, hatred and delusion to me.

I love that these protests did not begin with “demands” or a list of objectives, something the mainstream media is deriding and dismissing it for. There is brilliance to opening up a space which says, things aren’t right in my life, how about yours? What needs are not being met? What are the themes? What are the causes?

There is a reason the occupations began on Wall Street in New York City, and a reason why rather than all flock there, we are standing up in our towns across the country to say the same thing – let’s have a conversation, what is it like for you being alive in this time of global crisis? These conversations, general assemblies, open forums seem to me to be an expression of active hope – a thread slowing sewing itself throughout the frayed seems of our society which says:

“…wait a minute – I am not alone – you are suffering too – whoa – your story has similar roots as mine with a different storyline – hmmm…..we are tired of being controlled by forces beyond our control, which seem to make choices based off greed, not our best interests, profits for the very few with the illusion that finite natural resources are somehow infinite. We are no longer willing to trade our creativity, intelligence, bodies, minds and hearts for a daily grind that is still not going anywhere. We are in debt, bankrupt, lost our homes, have been deployed too many times, need a job, sunk in student debt, and more. Mountaintops are being blown up in Appalachia and the valleys filled in so that coal can be sold in China and India while the water supply for half of the United States is irrevocably polluted. The political forces out there seem interested in maintaining some sort of status quo that has forgotten us – all of us, left wing, right wing, whatever…. It feels overwhelming. It makes me angry. I feel despair. Before I saw this mobilization I was overcome with cynicism, depression, anxiety….etc.”

So these general assemblies are somewhat long and rambling meetings which use a lot of consensus jargon we often use in organizing here, a sort of sub-cultural lingo, with the intention of creating space for everyone to be heard. I don’t know how long the openness will continue, it is hard to sustain and I personally have plenty of doses of my own skepticism, yet I believe in it too because I believe in the power of listening and the power of trusting solutions to arise from a collective, and I deeply believe in the intelligence in open systems which knows that there is room for everybody.

At the same time, this is a fragile and important moment to pay attention to because it could go oh so many ways, and seems to be going every which way at once. What is needed more than ever is open-mindedness, open-heartedness, and expansiveness. We have a choice when conditions get tough to get smaller and tighter or more open and flexible. One leads to a great unraveling into even more scarcity, alienation, isolation and tightness, and the other a great turning toward a more life affirming society. Which do you want?

Before answering, think about this: which you are willing to help create?

Original Post

An Open Letter From Buddhist And Yoga Teachers In Support Of The Occupy Movement by Ethan Nichtern and Michael Stone


As teachers and leaders of communities that promote the development of compassion and mindfulness, we are writing to express our solidarity with the Occupy movement now active in more than 1,900 cities worldwide.

We are particularly inspired by the nonviolent tactics of this movement, its methods of self-governance and its emergent communities founded in open communication (general assemblies, the human microphone, the inclusion of diverse voices, etc). These encampments are fertile ground for seeing our inherent wisdom and our capacity for awakening. We encourage all teachers, leaders, sanghas and communities that pursue awakening to join with these inspiring activists, if they have not already done so, in working to end the extreme inequalities of wealth and power that cause so much suffering and devastation for human society and for the ecosystems of Earth.

This movement has given voice to a near-universal frustration with the economic and political disenfranchisement of so many. It offers a needed counterbalance to a system that saps the life energy of the overwhelming majority — the so-called 99 percent — generating vast profits for a tiny handful, without maximizing the true potential for widespread wealth creation in our society. While our practice challenges us to cultivate compassion for 100 percent of human beings without villifying an “enemy,” our practice also calls on us to confront a system that causes such clear harm and imbalance.

We share in the thoughtful calls to address massive unemployment, climate change, the erosion of social safety nets, decaying infrastructures, social and education programs, and workers’ wages, rights and benefits.

Moreover, the current legal structure of large corporations compels individuals to act with shortsighted greed, acts for which they are not held personally accountable. If we aren’t encouraged to act with awareness of our connection to the 7 billion humans who share our global community, the social fabric of our society is torn apart by legalized acts of selfishness and fear. These acts are performed in human society, by nonhuman entities, oddly granted the legal and political status of people, which have no ability to adequately perceive or react to the negative repercussions of their choices. The whole planet pays the price.

Most importantly, we believe that individual awakening and collective transformation are inseparable. For members of spiritual communities, mindfulness of the situation before us demands that we engage fully in the culture and society we inhabit. We do not view our own path as merely an individualistic pursuit of sanity and health, and we believe it would be irresponsible of us to teach students of mind/body disciplines that they can develop their practice in isolation from the society in which they live. We are inspired by the creative and intellectual work of the Occupy movement as an essential voice in facilitating a more compassionate and ecologically grounded basis for practice.

The Occupy movement has re-ignited our belief that it’s truly possible to build a culture of non-harm, honesty and respect for all creatures. We recognize our human failings and know that we’ll fail 10,000 times in our efforts to awaken. We now vow to bring our practices and methods of teaching more into alignment with our deepest values.

The structural greed, anger and delusion that characterize our current system are incompatible with our obligations to future generations and our most cherished values of interdependence, creativity and compassion. We call on teachers and practitioners from all traditions of mind/body awakening to join in actively transforming these structures.


Ethan Nichtern, Shastri, New York
Shôken Michael Stone, Toronto

Original Post

#OccupySamsara: Lessons from Preschool by margoshka


Hezhang! _/\_

Today we bring you a touching report of Compassion and Loving Kindness from Freedom Park in NYC by Margarita Manwelyan posted to the Interpendence Project website. Enjoy!

Saturday afternoon at Occupy Wall Street

It’s snowing and raining, hard, three days before Halloween. Thanks, Global Warming (causing extreme weather patterns).

My cousin and I are carrying bags with blankets and sleeping bags to Occupy Wall St. Making our way through the encampment we ask someone, “Which way to the Comfort station?”

“Donations?” he asks.


“Any gloves?”

“No, blankets.”

“Ok, cool. It’s right over there.”

I take a few steps in the direction he pointed. Then I turn around.

“Here, take my gloves. I can get more.”

“Really?” he beams.

“Sure,” I reply as I hand over the gloves, a little damp from the snow but definitely better than no gloves at all.

He’s tugging the gloves on. They were a little big on me and they are a bit tight on him.

“Thank you. This really helps. I’m out here on patrol.”

“No, man. Thank YOU!”

There is a brass band marching around and through Liberty Plaza. The small group of musicians make their way through the soaking wet tents as the snow gets whipped around. The wind picks up and so does the music.

We follow the band and stop by the Shrine Tree, lovingly covered with tarps to protect the many symbols of world religions left here. Michael is standing nearby. He’s smiling. Michael’s an occupier whom I recognize easily. I see him often taking care of the shrine. We stop to chat.

Olga in covering her camera with her scarf. She left her hat in the car. Michael comes closer so that she’s protected from the sleet under his large umbrella.

“Sharing,” he says.

“Sharing is caring.” I nod in agreement. Doesn’t everyone remember that old slogan from preschool?

All three of us are smiling despite the bitter cold. I’m shivering and so glad I came out to Liberty Plaza today.

“Sometimes this is what democracy looks like. A wet democracy.”

Olga and I wave and walk off, back to our car and then our warm dry apartment. The heroes stay at Liberty Plaza braving the elements to protest corruption, greed, and injustice.

Eco-Buddhism: A Sustainable Enlightenment by John Stanley & David Loy


Namaste! _/\_

Hope everyone had a great Halloween/Samhain!

Here is a great article from HuffPo and is posted with the full blessing of one of the authors [a first for us :)]. So please enjoy and check out

It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing. –Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Looking again and again at that which cannot be looked at,
Unseeable reality is seen just as it is.
–Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer

The first of these statements describes the apparent death wish of industrial civilization, while the second describes the deep meditative experience of a 13th century Buddhist master. We in the Ecobuddhism project understand the present as an historical period of existential and spiritual crisis, when such apparent opposites have something crucial to say to each other.

The Rise and Fall of Western Enlightenment

The “enlightenment” recognized by mainstream Western culture was a cultural shift in the 17th century — from religious belief to trust in mechanistic science and secular humanism. Since then we have understood nature and ourselves to be machine-like. The industrial growth society is a product of that Cartesian worldview. Over the last 60 years, the fetish of limitless economic growth has driven us faster and further than ever before. This is a society that cannot stop to ask sincerely where it is going.

At the end of the hottest decade on record, we are surrounded by unprecedented droughts, floods, crop losses and technological accidents. The mainstream media, still peddling “classical” economics, ignores either climate science or clean energy as legitimate subjects of interest. It fails to join up the dots for people on the most important issue of our time: the survival of life on Earth. Scientific findings and warnings are relentlessly subverted by fossil fuel corporations, who spend many millions of dollars to manufacture doubt about global warming, distort the democratic process and safeguard the very energy infrastructure that caused the crisis. It is beginning to look as if western enlightenment has run its course — that it will fail to prevent the collapse of civilization.

A Great Awakening

In the 20th century the Western world became aware of another type of enlightenment, the “great awakening” of the Buddha. Starting with one person, its sustainability became evident in methods of training, wisdom and trans-cultural influence that have endured for 2,500 years. Many men and women across a variety of cultures have used this path and experienced their own awakening. Might they be able to help us overcome our collective malaise in the face of ecological chaos?

The Buddha had a deeply felt understanding of limits. Happiness, he found, isn’t gained by trying to satisfy all our desires. In fact, a minimalist approach to possessions positively enhances long-term contentment. Meditation can sustain the process of personal transformation. The practitioner uncovers a deep interdependence between the self, the other and the context.

And Now?

The Buddha developed a culture of awakening from self-centered conditioning. But we are living in the midst of social-engineering technologies that persuade us to base our identity on consumption. My consumer-self is dogged by dissatisfaction, so I spend more and more to resolve the conditioned anxiety. And I will resist the truth of ecological crisis because consumption has compelling psychological meaning for me.

If Buddhist meditation is to have comprehensive relevance now, it must be able to cut through such social conditioning. And that must take place in a context that is vastly different from the Indian Bronze Age, when the Buddha first set forth his noble path to awakening.

If I hold beliefs that conflict with each other, I will experience “cognitive dissonance” — a subliminal anxiety resulting from inconsistency. I could try to eliminate this by changing one of the beliefs. I might resort to denial or find someone else to blame. If my meditation can’t show up these dysfunctional habits of mind for what they are, it could create what Joanna Macy calls “premature equanimity.”

But the great windstorms, fires, droughts, floods and snowstorms of the last decade will not cease to impose a radically new world on us. This is why the eminent Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Every Buddhist practitioner should be a protector of the environment. We have the power to decide the destiny of our planet. If we awaken to our true situation, there will be a change in our collective consciousness.”

A Sustaining Myth

Resource depletion, ecological disasters, over-population and climate chaos are indicators of spiritual as well as ecological collapse. They demonstrate also how much we need a story that renews our love for the mystery of the Earth — a story that can integrate the world’s wisdom traditions with the sciences of cosmology and evolution. Thomas Berry pointed out that the universe itself is our new sacred story. Everything in the universe had a common origin in the mysterious Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. We ourselves are participants in its awesome physical and spiritual dimensions, which are an authentic source of joy, celebration and support.

Undoubtedly, there is a profound challenge to self-realization in the midst of ecological crisis. The process may require us to pass through what Macy calls “uncertainty and positive disintegration” — experiences that stretch, ground and strengthen meditation. If, on all levels, we look “again and again at that which cannot be looked at,” we can nourish our capacity to respond fearlessly and appropriately to the big picture. We can take refuge in the Sacred Universe process.

Waking Up from the Nightmare: Buddhist Reflections on Occupy Wall Street by David Loy


In a his post on The Interdependence Project’s Blog about Occupy Wall Street, Michael Stone quotes the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who spoke to the New York Occupiers at Zuccotti Parkon October 9:

“They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cat reaches a precipice. But it goes on walking. Ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street – Hey, look down!”

As Slavoj and Michael emphasize, we are beginning to awaken from that dream. That’s an interesting way to put it, because the Buddha also woke up from a dream: the Buddha means “the awakened one.” What dream did he wake up from? Is it related to the nightmare we are awakening from now?

From the beginning, Occupiers have been criticized for the vagueness of their demands: although clearly against the present system, it wasn’t clear what they were for. Since then more focus has developed: many protesters are calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, a “Robin Hood” (Tobin) tax on trades, and banking reform to separate commercial and investment banking. These are worthy aims, yet it would be a mistake to think that such measures will by themselves resolve the basic problem. We should appreciate the general, unfocused dissatisfaction that so many people feel, because it reflects a general, unfocused realization that the roots of the crisis are very deep and require a more radical (literally, “going to the root”) transformation.

Wall Street is the most concentrated and visible part of a much larger nightmare: the collective delusion that our present economic system – globalizing, consumerist, corporate capitalism – is not only the best possible system but the only viable one. As Margaret Thatcher famously put it, “There is no alternative.” The events of the last few years have undermined that confidence. The events of the past few weeks are a response to the widespread realization that our economic system is rigged to benefit the wealthy (the “1%”) at the expense of the middle class (shrinking fast) and the poor (increasing fast). And, of course, at the expense of many ecosystems, which will have enormous consequences for the lives of our grandchildren and their children. What we are waking up to is the fact that this unfair system is breaking down, and that it should break down, in order for better alternatives to develop.

It is not only the economy that needs to be transformed, because there is no longer any real separation between our economic and political systems. With the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision last year – removing limits on corporate spending to influence elections – corporate power seems to have taken control of all the top levels of federal and state government, including the presidency. (Obama has received more campaign contributions from Wall Street than any other president since 1991, which helps explain his disappointing choice of economic advisors.) Today the elite move back and forth easily – from CEO to cabinet position, and vice-versa – because both sides share the same entrenched worldview: the solution to all problems is unfettered economic growth. Of course, they are also the ones who benefit most from this blinkered vision, which means the challenge for the rest of us is that the people who control this economic/political system have the least motivation to make the fundamental changes necessary.

Although the Democrats have not become as loony as the Republicans, on this basic level there’s really not much difference between them. Dan Hamburg, a Democratic congressman from California, concluded from his years in the U.S. Congress that “the real government of our country is economic, dominated by large corporations that charter the state to do their bidding. Fostering a secure environment in which corporations and their investors can flourish is the paramount objective of both [political] parties.” We still have the best Congress money can buy, as Will Rogers noticed way back in the 1920s.

From a Buddhist perspective, the point is that this integrated system is incompatible with Buddhist teachings, because it encourages greed and delusion – the root causes of our dukkha “suffering.” At the heart of the present crisis is the economic, political, and social role of the largest (usually transnational) corporations, which have taken on a life of their own and pursue their own agenda. Despite all the advertising and public relations propaganda we are exposed to, their best interests are quite different from what is best for the rest of us. We sometimes hear about “enlightened corporations” but that metaphor is deceptive – and the difference between such “enlightenment” and Buddhist enlightenment is instructive.

The burgeoning power of corporations became institutionalized in 1886, when the Supreme Court ruled that a private corporation is a “natural person” under the U.S. Constitution and thus entitled to all the protections of the Bill of Rights, including free speech. Ironically, this highlights the problem: as many Occupy Wall Street posters declare, corporations are not people, because they are social constructs. Obviously, incorporation (from the Latin corpus, corporis “body”) does not mean gaining a physical body. Corporations are legal fictions created by government charter, which means they are inherently indifferent to the responsibilities that people experience. A corporation cannot laugh or cry. It cannot enjoy the world or suffer with it. It is unable to feel sorry for what it has done (it may occasionally apologize, but that is public relations).

Most important, a corporation cannot love. Love is realizing our interconnectedness with others and living our concern for their well-being. Love is not an emotion but an engagement with others that includes responsibility for them, a responsibility that transcends our individual self-interest. Corporations cannot experience such love or act according to it. Any CEOs who try to subordinate their company’s profitability to their love for the world will lose their position, for they are not fulfilling their primary – that is, financial — responsibility to its owners, the shareholders.

Buddhist enlightenment includes realizing that my sense of being a self separate from the world is a delusion that causes suffering on both sides. To realize that I am the world – that “I” am one of the many ways the world manifests – is the cognitive side of the love that an awakened person feels for the world and its creatures. The realization (wisdom) and the love (compassion) are two sides of the same coin, which is why Buddhist teachers so often emphasize that genuine awakening is accompanied by spontaneous concern for all other sentient beings.

Corporations are “fuelled” by, and reinforce, a very different human trait. Our corporate-dominated economy requires greed in at least two ways: a desire for never-enough profit is the engine of the economic process, and in order to keep the economy growing consumers must be conditioned into always wanting more.

The problem with greed becomes much worse when institutionalized in the form of a legal construct that takes on privileges of its own quite independently of the personal values and motivations of the people employed by it. Consider the stock market, for example. On the one side, investors want increasing returns in the form of dividends and higher stock prices. On the other side, this anonymous expectation translates into an impersonal but constant pressure for profitability and growth, preferably in the short run. Everything else, including the environment, employment, and the quality of life, becomes an “externality,” subordinated to this anonymous demand, a goal-that-can-never-be-satisfied. We all participate in this process, as workers, employers, consumers, and investors, yet normally with little or no personal sense of moral responsibility for what happens, because such awareness is lost in the impersonality of the system.

One might argue, in reply, that some corporations (usually family-owned or small) take good care of their employees, are concerned about effects on the environment, and so forth. The same argument could be made for slavery: there were a few good slave owners who took care of their slaves, etc. This does not refute the fact that the institution of slavery is intolerable. It is just as intolerable today that our collective well-being, including the way the earth’s limited “resources” are shared, is determined by what is profitable for large corporations.

In short, we are waking up to the fact that although transnational corporations may be profitable economically, they are structured in a way that makes them defective socially. We cannot solve the problems they keep creating by addressing the conduct of this or that particular example (Morgan Stanley, Bank of America), because it is the institution itself that is the problem. Given their enormous power over the political process, it won’t be easy to challenge their role, but they have an umbilical cord: corporate charters can be rewritten to require social and ecological responsibility. Groups such as the Network of Spiritual Progressives have been calling for an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA) to the U.S. Constitution which would mandate that. If our destiny is to remain in corporate hands, corporations must become accountable most of all not to anonymous investors but to the communities they function in. Perhaps Occupy Wall Street is the beginning of a movement which will accomplish that.

If so, it won’t be enough. There’s something else at stake, even more basic: the worldview that encourages and rationalizes the kind of economic nightmare that we are beginning to awaken from. In Buddhist terms, the problem isn’t only greed, it’s also ignorance. The theory most often used to justify capitalism is Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”: pursuing our own self-interest actually works to benefit society as a whole. I suspect, however, that CEOs are more often motivated by something less benign. It’s no coincidence that corporate influence grew at the same time as the popularity of social Darwinism, the ideology that misapplied Darwin’s theory of evolution to social and economic life: it’s a jungle out there, and only the strongest survive. If you don’t take advantage of others, they will take advantage of you. Darwinian evolution eliminated the need for a Creator and therefore the need to follow his commandments: now it’s every man for himself…

Social Darwinism created a feedback loop: the more people believed in it and acted according to it, the more society became a social Darwinist jungle. It’s a classic example of how we collectively co-create the world we live in. And this may be where Buddhism has the most to contribute, because Buddhism offers an alternative view of the world, based on a more sophisticated understanding of human nature that explains why we are unhappy and how to become happier. Recent psychological and economic studies confirm the destructive role of greed and the importance of healthy social relationships, which is consistent with Buddhist emphasis on generosity and interdependence.

In other words, the problem isn’t only our defective economic and political system, it’s also a faulty world view that encourages selfishness and competition rather than community and harmony. The modern West is split between a theism that’s become hard to believe in, and a dog-eat-dog ideology that makes life worse for all of us. Fortunately, now there are other options.

Buddhism also has something important to learn from Occupy Wall Street: that it’s not enough to focus on waking from our own individual dream. Today we are called upon to awaken together from what has become a collective nightmare. Is it time to bring our spiritual practice out into the streets?

“If we continue abusing the earth this way, there is no doubt that our civilization will be destroyed. This turnaround takes enlightenment, awakening. The Buddha attained individual awakening. Now we need a collective enlightenment to stop this course of destruction. Civilization is going to end if we continue to drown in the competition for power, fame, sex, and profit.” -Thich Nhat Hahn



With the recent Occupy Together protests starting with Occupy Wall Street I thought it would be fun and maybe even helpful to protest samsara. So we now have #occupysamsara There are as of yet no plans, no demands, just a simple idea: Sit down, shut up, and breathe. Please join us on the facebook page and discuss your practice, share inspiring quotes, let us know about cool book, etc.

108 kinds of emotional distress by Grand Master Sifu Benny Meng


Benny Meng is an Mater Level Instructor in many Martial Arts. I study Shaolin Wing Chun under one of his students. This is taken from a post he made on Facebook. What makes his Wing Chun system “Shaolin” is that he teaches Chan Buddhism along with the physical movements. Chan is also used in fight stratagy. If you are anywhere near a Meng’s Location I highly recommend checking it out.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. Gotama Buddha

108 kinds of emotional distress: This doctrine is from the Abhidharma; The different kinds of Emotional Distress are the afflictions of mind that stain or defile comprehension of realities (dharmas). Most kinds are conceptual errors (false views) and can be eliminated by the path of insight, which is proper knowledge of the four truths. The most intractable must be eliminated through the cultivation of meditation practice because they are habitual and ingrained compulsions.

1) disbelief in cause & effect

2) clinging to views

3) belief in the ego

4) belief in extremes

5) belief that rituals will lead to salvation

The 108 different kinds are calculated as follows:

There are 36 in the Realm of Desire:

10 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of Suffering: greed, hatred, ignorance, conceit, doubt & the five false views (disbelief in cause & effect, clinging to views, belief in the ego, belief in extremes, and belief that rituals will lead to salvation)

7 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of Origination: The above ten except belief in the ego, belief in extreme views, and belief that rituals will lead to salvation

7 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of Extinction: The same as above

8 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of the Path: The same as above except belief in that ascetic practice or rituals will lead to salvation is added.

4 eliminated only through practice of meditation: greed, hatred, ignorance & conceit – To a degree these four can be eliminated by knowledge of the Four Truths as conceptual errors, but there is a habitual and ingrained aspect to these that can only be eliminated by the intensive practice of introspective meditation. Doubt and the Five Views can be entirely eliminated through knowledge.

There are 31 each in the Realms of Form & Formlessness (Total of 62): In these two realms there is no hatred because they are purified from the desire for food or sex. Since the Realm of Desire associated with much suffering, it is easier to eliminate the relatively more crude afflictions. Since the Realms of Form & Formlessness are associated with more subtle kinds of contentment, it is more difficult to eliminate these afflictions.

9 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of Suffering (like above but without hatred)

6 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of Origination (like above but without hatred)

6 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of Extinction (like above but without hatred)

7 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of The Path (like above but without hatred)

3 eliminated in each by greed, ignorance, & conceit

The 10 secondary afflictions (Upaklesas): absence of shame, absence of embarrassment (before others), envy, stinginess, regret, sleepiness, restlessness (distraction), sloth, anger, and the concealment of wrongdoing.

36 + 31+ 31 + 10 = 108

Buddhist Anarchism: Are Governments Moral?


_/\_ Anjali

This was posted by Lightfiend on on May 1, 2010. I have reposted it here in its entirety.

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. ~ Gotama Buddha ☸

Is government a legitimate means of improving society or can humans influence each others’ behavior in more effective ways?

Violence Breeds Violence

More and more through science we are confirming the Buddha’s teachings on karma. In an article last month at, kindness was shown to breed further acts of kindness.

Experimenters created a game where “selfishness made more sense than cooperation,” however, “acts of giving were tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who were directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more.” Here is a visual representation of those effects:

Understanding karma, I believe this multiplying effect should also hold true for acts of violence, coercion, or threat. If we treat people poorly, they are likely to treat us poorly in return. Therefore, evidence seems to show that we should follow the good ol’ golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

The Non-Aggression Principle

As I understand it, the Buddhist moral notion of karma is congruent with libertarian-anarchist ethic of the non-aggression principle – which states that all initiation of physical force, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons is inherently illegitimate.

Although Buddha obviously cannot comment on the political theories past his time, I think if he understood our current understanding of government he would see that it is in strict violation of this principle.

Libertarian anarchists consider non-voluntary taxes (a process used to fund almost any government that has ever existed) to be a form of initiated aggression. Therefore, no matter the well-intentioned goals of politicians, the very means of government is seen as immoral. In Ayn Rands words, “Force and mind are opposite; morality ends where a gun begins.”

I think Buddha too would agree that you cannot create a moral society through the immorality of government coercion. Only free choice builds moral fiber. Even when people are forced to pay for others health care, housing, or food, they are in the process of becoming slaves, not saints. Not only is this a morally illegitimate way of building the society we want, it is impossible. In Buddhism the means don’t justify the ends: the means determine the ends.

Lead By Example, Not By Force

Karma teaches reciprocity. Only by being the change we wish to see in the world can we make a positive difference. We don’t create society by stepping into a voting booth once a year, we create society through our day-to-day actions and how we treat others. We lead by example; and when we do this, we inspire people’s hearts and minds to do the same.

An individual’s freedom is a prerequisite for all moral behavior. You cannot force or threat others to be good, you can only guide them through example and reason. People too can be guided the wrong way through example and reason. Morality is always and everywhere a battle of ideas. It starts in our minds and it spreads through our actions.

Government: Old Idea, Bad Idea, or Both?

The need to govern others is an ancient idea: master and servant, leader and follower, boss and worker are all distinctions buried in our unconscious. It is not just an old idea, but an idea we often take for granted. Modern America condemns it’s history with slavery but doesn’t yet see the the shapes and forms it takes through the veil of democratic government; in which, even Thomas Jefferson considered “mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” Today this is sometimes referred to as tyranny of the majority. To learn more I recommend Hans Hermann Hoppe’s great book, “Democracy: The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order.”

Schools somewhat condition us to accept government; democracy being the glorified system of “fairness.” Many people I know find it hard to even imagine a peaceful society without any form of government. Instead they hear “anarchy” and imagine Molotov cocktails being thrown through windows – complete chaos and rebellion. But the truth is humans self-organize all of the time without the help of government bureaucracy. Even children can put together community baseball games without authoritarian oversight. The Austrian economist Friedrich A. Hayek would probably draw a parallel between this kind of social behavior and the “spontaneous order” of a laissez-faire economy.

My point is that the absence of government is not equal to a state of disorder. Humans organize voluntarily (out of their own free will) all of the time; of all people, Buddhists should recognize this inherent interconnectedness between individuals. So we shouldn’t need government to command our actions like some sort of ant colony – our ability to get along with others is a built into our humanity.

Am I suggesting that anarchy is a utopia? It may sound like it, but I assure you that I am not. How can you expect a perfect society from imperfect individuals? You can’t. It’s not realistic. But it is realistic to believe that humans can coexist peacefully without big brother government. Sure, there will still be crime and evils in the world and we will have to deal with those accordingly. But government may not be the answer to poverty, drug abuse, or even murder. Perhaps before looking to our paternal state for all the solutions to society we should take a deep gaze into ourselves; and see how we as individuals are personally responsible for the world around us.

The Dalai Lama – Capitalism, Socialism, and Income Inequality


Anjali _/\_

In this video His Holiness The Dalai Lama discusses the gap between rich and poor.

Complete video at:

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.~ Gotama Buddha ☸