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Lions Roar : May 2017
International conflict will intensify and environmental destruction will worsen. Facing the reality of this suffering, we remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness and nonattachment does not mean nonengagement. Today, we ask ourselves: What does it mean to be Kwan Yin in the modern world? What does it mean to be a bodhisattva-citi- zen, someone who is willing to engage with society to help protect and awaken others? Examining our deepest values as Buddhists, we discern through wisdom the most skill- ful ways to live and uphold them. The wisdom teaching of inter- dependence is the bodhisattva-citizen’s guide to the web of causes and conditions that create suffering. While Buddhism has traditionally emphasized the personal causes of suffering, today we also discern how the three poisons of greed, aggres- sion, and indifference operate through political, economic, and social systems to cause suffering on a vast scale. While continuing to work with ego and the three poisons in our personal practice, the insight of interdependence calls us to address the societal causes of suffering as well. As we resist the height- ened threat of many of the new adminis- tration’s policies, we also recognize that underrepresented and oppressed com- munities in the United States have long suffered from systemic greed, aggression, aversion, and indifference. The wisdom of interdependence deep- ens and inspires our compassion. Under- standing that none of us is separate, we know that the suffering of others is our suffering. While some argue that the prin- ciple of nonduality suggests that Bud- dhists should not engage in or take sides on political or social issues, we believe the opposite is true. It is because we and oth- ers are not separate that we must act. Whatever our political perspective, now is the season to stand up for what matters. To stand against hate. To stand for respect. To stand for protection of the vulnerable. To care for the earth. We can see clearly the work ahead of democracy and social fabric are at risk. We join in solidarity with many others who are also hearing these cries, know- ing that together we can be a remarkable force for transformation and liberation. Religious leaders and practitioners have always played a vital role in move- ments for justice and social progress, contributing their wisdom, love, courage, and commitment to others. People of all faiths are needed on the front lines now, resisting policies that will cause harm and offering a new and positive vision for our country. We believe that Buddhist teachers and practitioners should be among them, locking arms with all people of goodwill to protect the vulnerable, counter sys- temic violence and oppression, and work for a more just and caring society. Bud- dhism is respected around the world as a religion of compassion and peace. We are wanted and needed in this movement, and we have much to contribute. Buddhism in the United States brings together people of many different back- grounds, interests, and views. Some Bud- dhists emphasize meditation practice, while others focus on study, community, or faith. Some are politically liberal and others conservative. Some prefer to keep their Buddhist practice separate from political and social issues, while others are deeply engaged. Yet one thing binds us together: our commitment to ease the suffer- ing of all beings. The dharma is not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor is it a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. It is a powerful teaching that frees and strengthens us to work diligently for the liberation of beings from suffering. What is happening now strikes at the heart of this, our central commitment as Buddhists. It transcends our differences and calls us to action. If the policies of the new administration prevail, millions of people in vulnerable and less privi- leged communities will suffer. Hopes will be dashed. Undoubtedly, lives will be lost. us. It is the work of love and wisdom in the face of racism, gender- and sexual orientation-based violence, xenophobia, economic injustice, war, and environ- mental degradation. We have to work together to shift the tide toward what will benefit our children, the natural world, and the future. As Buddhists, we know that real change begins with ourselves. We must explore and expose our own privilege and areas of ignorance, and address rac- ism, misogyny, class prejudice, and more in our communities. We can set an exam- ple for the broader society by creating safe, respectful, and inclusive sanghas. Our Buddhist communities can become centers of protection and vision. This can take many forms. It can mean providing sanctuary for those in danger or skilfully confronting those whose actions would harm the vulnerable among us. It can be standing up for the environment or becoming an active ally for those targeted by hate and prejudice. It is true that our numbers are small, yet we can join with others who share our convictions and values. For those who are new to this, please remember that there are many people who have dedicated their lives to the work of social change. They have the useful skills of compassionate organizing and building sustainable movements. Find them, get involved, and learn from them. While we share a common commit- ment to ease the suffering of sentient beings, that does not mean all Buddhists should or can respond in the same way. Some will march and engage in direct action. Others will support community well-being through clinics, gardens, crimi- nal justice reform, or youth empowerment. Some will work in the next election, some will meditate more, and others will try to be kinder and more civil in their day-to- day interactions. Some manifestations of Kwan Yin have a thousand arms because there are many ways to serve others. For now, we prepare to face challeng- ing and stressful times. To prevail, we LION’S ROAR | MAY 2017 14 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE