Tag Archives: activism

#OccupySamsara: What It Is Right Now by margoshka


Lately it’s been difficult to write about Occupy Wall Street both for lack of time (what with all the marches, rallies, and meetings) and also because there’s so much to say. It’s hard to know where to start. There are a lot of emotions.


So many meetings, so much to do. There’s so much to fix in our society: corruption in politics, financial sector crime, wars for profit, environmental pollution, human rights abuses, access to health care, growing economic disparity, low quality high cost education system, debt-based economy, and vast societal discontent. Those are just some of the large-scale systems that require big changes. The magnitude and breadth of those challenges are overwhelming. The feeling is one of drowning, can’t tell up from down, which way to swim for the surface.


Many people in, and out of, the OWS movement are angry at the state of the world. Some are also angry at each other. From the micro to the macro, from the Kitchen running out of food when it comes to your turn in line to Bloomberg’s “private army” the NYPD evicting the OWS camp from Liberty Plaza in the middle of the night barring the press and arresting over 200 protestors, there’s a lot to be angry about. Anger is fiery and hot. Most o us tend to refuse the emotion, try to push it away. This aversion only serves to give the anger more power. Sometimes by allowing the feeling to be there I find it roars up in my chest, clenches my belly, tightens my hands… and then it dissolves.


It’s a scary world out there where peaceful demonstrators are beaten, sprayed with chemical weapons, arrested and humiliated all in the name of “public health” or “park regulations”. It’s pretty terrifying that the government officials charged with protecting us are working to pass legislation to allow for indefinite detention of civilians without charges right here in the US of A, land of the free. The prison industrial complex is just one example of modern day slavery systematized privatized and legalized by our corporate-backed government. So if you are scared, don’t worry you’re not crazy. Fear in and of itself is not a problem – take it as a sign that you are seeing clearly. Make friends with your Fear, respect it, maybe have a conversation over tea and cookies.


There’s no shortage of passion among the activists at OWS. But passion can feel like a tsunami, sweeping away logic, reason and normalcy. What’s left in its wake is the raw, naked, vulnerable and tender ground. This is the ground of awakening. It also means that everyone is extra touchy and jumpy. We are all a bit raw from the birth pangs of the revolution. It isn’t easy to develop consensus in a group of highly passionate individuals.


We want a better world so badly it’s absolutely maddening. Desire is like a starving coyote gnawing on my viscera. It’s painful, it’s profound, it’s mystical – this driving force is arguably responsible for all advancements in civilization, all forms of our modern creature comforts, all works of art and ingenuity. The desire for improvement is a beautiful human quality. This allows us to have a vision, to set goals, and to work together in accomplishing important tasks. However the Buddha pointed out long ago that the root of all discontent and suffering is desire for things to be other than what they are. In every moment we humans manage to find fault. I’m either hungry, or sleepy, or lovesick, or homesick, or worried about some near or far future. All this looking forward (and back) is actually preventing me from experiencing the real brilliance of this very moment with all its sparkle, erotic charge, freshness and vigor.


Yeah, this one is such a cliche. We hear the word so often. “Oh, I loved that movie!” and “I love turkey burgers,” or “I love my iPad 2.” We know those are mere perversions, misuses of the word “love”. We are limited by language, but real love, or true love, or unconditional love is actually so big that it encompasses, embraces, caresses all the myriad of other human emotions. Love is what creeps in through the empty spaces between thoughts when I look up at the sky. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or dark, cloudy or clear, sweltering or frigid. Love is what keeps us coming back to 60 Wall St to attend another slew of meetings after yesterday’s chaos at Spokes Council. Love is what drives the direct actions, the meditation circles, the People’s Library and People’s Kitchen. This love is wide open, universal, unequivocal and unwavering. Sometimes it hurts and we know that is the reality of life.

“If your house falls down, get on top of the ruins and dance.” -Doña Leova

Love is both the light and the dark, the harsh and the soft, the strong and gentle, the light and the shadow. This power of goodness exists not in opposition to bad, instead it envelops all experience. This energy of wakefulness is present even in the deepest sleep. Love is the ground on which we walk, the air we breathe, the smile on a friend’s face, the heat of fire, the coolness of ice. Nature exhibits love in all her glory. What better hope do we have than to follow suit?


#OccupySamsara is a column dedicated to the heartfelt yearning for all sentient beings to be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering. Samsara is a Sanskrit word used by Buddhists to describe the cyclical nature of our own and societal suffering and dissatisfaction.

Original Post – http://theidproject.org/blog/margoshka/2011/12/08/occupysamsara-what-it-right-now

Can a Buddhist be an Anarchist? by Jerry Kolber


_/\_ Anjali!

This is republished in it’s entirety. I have edited the formatting a bit (it was just a large block of text) but other than that it is intact. You can find the original here http://blog.beliefnet.com/onecity/2009/02/can-a-buddhist-be-an-anarchist.html Hope you enjoy!☸

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

I’ve had many wonderful conversations over the past few years about the role of anarchism in western society (not the Anarchist Cookbook blow stuff up and call it anarchism juvenile version, I’m talking real deal anarchy that involves re-thinking the way the society is structured.) The more I sit, and take my practice into daily life, the more I’m finding that the way I approach my art, money job, friends, and family (and self) is starting to resemble an approach that I would have called anarchy in the past but now I tend to think of as increased mindfulness. Which led me to thinking about the compatibility of anarchism and Buddhism, and in particular wondering if the eight-fold path makes it impossible to simultaneously be a Buddhist and an anarchist. I guess, at this particularly moment, the question I am exploring is – is social revolution (anarchy) compatible with insight into emptiness (buddhism).
At the crux of the issue are what appear to be two opposing viewpoints:

1) Anarchy requires the destruction/reformation of the state in a way that allows each individual to maximize his or her potential as they see fit, without the imposition of external rule or authority. Theoretically, in a perfect anarchist state common sense and basic human morals would act as a deterrent to crime and violence.

2) Buddhism suggest that we do no harm and that we do what we can to reduce violence and suffering in our own lives and the lives of others. Buddhism, like anarchism, suggests that we question authority and arrive at our own conclusions about whether a particular teaching or perspective is true.
So here’s the problem. Modern society – that is, the one we live in – perpetuates a great deal of suffering on a great many people.

As Buddhists, we can shape our lives as examples (or not) of how to live a “free-er” life within the system by working on understanding the nature of our desires and what constitutes a truly free, productive life, with a foundation of reducing suffering. But the deeper I go into this question, and the more I opt for the de rigeur “less suffering” options in a consumer society (canvas bags, cruelty free products, less meat) the more I see that I am trading one consumer category for another. I’m not becoming more free; I’m merely becoming “MoreFree, Inc.”. As long as we are monkeying around within the system, we’re just monkeying around within the system. This is not a bad thing per se, but it’s just a realization I’ve had and one which has kept me slightly ambivalent about becoming as deeply involved as I had initially thought I would with the IDP activism, at least until I have a better sense of what this question means to me. I know this is a big part of what is being explored in the activism programs at the IDP (how to do compassionate activism), but I haven’t quite settled the question enough for myself yet to be ready to explore this question in a group setting.

Then there’s anarchy. True anarchy (again, not the black coat wearing perversion of anarchy that involves blowing things up and killing people) demands a stateless society, one in which ever-increasing self and community knowledge make it less and less desirable for a state to control, tax, and legislate personal behavior. Not only are there as many definitions of anarchy as there are anarchists, anarchy is such a free-form political philosophy that eventually it bends back around onto itself – left-wing anarchists and right-wing libertarians start to look awfully similar after even a two-drink-maximum. In truly anarchist society could/would they co-exist? At the very least, anarchy’s insistence on no-dogma/no-rules with basic human morality prevailing looks quite appealing from a Buddhist perspective.

If modern American capitalism and the state are, by definition, designed to consolidate power and to encourage increased production at the inherent cost of oppression and re-allocation of wealth, it seems that there is suffering built into the system. Anarchy is not necessarily an answer, but it is an interesting question to ponder with its emphasis on a formless state and re-interpretation of free-market economies, and freedom to do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm your neighbor. The state/society we work in and on cannot ever be considered as abiding by Buddhist precepts – there is too much taking of human life and suffering baked into the system in the forms of war, malnutrition, degradation of women, minorities, and children, and exploitation at the hands of capitalism.

But changing the system also necessitates creating suffering for those who do not want the change. It necessitates deciding that our vision is right, and that our actions to manifest that vision are right. It necessitates a great leap of faith for ourselves and those we want to follow us, which means that we are saying “trust me, I got this”, which seems to lead directly to ego. And I have found it nearly impossible to avoid hatred/derision when considering those who oppose what I think is right, which is something I’m working on – it’s so much easier to be compassionate when contemplating than when confronting, for sure. I’m wondering if this conundrum is what has led to Buddhists historically being known for not taking a whole lot of “action”.

I’ve met many people at the IDP who would never remotely identify as anarchists. Some not even activists. But I have had some conversations with certain folks that have left me with the impression that there might be an anarchist lurking somewhere inside that Buddhist. And so I’m wondering, for real, can you be a Buddhist and an anarchist?