Standing Up to Patriarchy’s Last Stand (and looking after ourselves at the same time.)

Just as the ocean’s salty water taken into clouds turns sweet, the stable mind works to benefit others; turning poison into healing nectar.  — Saraha

My sabbatical was supposed to start in October, but like multitudes of others, it’s been “all hands on deck” for the emergency of the election, Standing Rock, and now the psychopathic Blitzkrieg strategy exploding around us. What a truly appalling time. It feels like the air is being sucked out of the planet; each day it’s a little harder to breathe.

This acute crisis, initiated by a reptilian consciousness that truly disorders ones brain, is having us dig deep into our resources. As the poisonous millennia of patriarchy, misogyny, white supremacy, and predator colonialism born of divisive consciousness spews forth, we cannot avoid the full measure of the beast. It’s clear that to defeat this sadistic and wanton regime of hate, we have to dig deep enough to find our passion for love and life. We have to really want to fight for HER within us all. The planet, the compassionate, caring, merciful, inclusive, collaborative, healing, world of our future.

We have to allow the immune system of nature to rise up through us like the Kundalini roar of thousands of voices from rivers of people in the pouring rain while surging down Market Street in San Francisco into the night of the phenomenal Woman’s March. My body will never forget emerging from the subway into that surge, carried by the sheer exhilaration of our passion, power, and determination.

So, there’s the marches, the petitions, phone calls, money to ACLU and the like, collaboration, sharing, facebooking, boycotting, divesting, getting in shape, reading up, listening to African Americans and Indigenous folks who have been at this shite forever, and then there’s the long arc ahead of us. For what’s coming I need to drop out of the river of this first surge for a while to digest, recoup and regather. Forgive me for not being visible for a while, but be reassured, you, who are feeling this, whose heart is breaking, who is moving to defend what we need to protect, you are in my heart.

And, it is all in my heart, in all our hearts. All is resident within the shared field of our aware undivided consciousness. In other words, this is an intimate world. The beauty and the beast dwell right here intwined. And so it is here, into the silence, the deep listening, the meeting of demons and angels where we can also work. Energetically, prayerfully, ceremonially through connecting with ancestors, forces of spiritual power, and the Dharma. In this journey we welcome it all. We become a conduit for the deeper intelligence of awareness so it can guide, inform, and engage through our bodies, hearts and minds.

This is our evolutionary journey. The collective shadow and the collective intelligence have brought us to this momentous moment. We do what we can to save us all, but let’s also remember to take care of ourselves. When some of us step to one side, others will carry the torch, when others need a breather, we will pick that torch up. Because it’s a long road ahead. We will have to help each other. Together, with our hearts aligned, we will find courage and resilience way beyond what we ever thought possible.

So I’ll catch you later. If you find what I write supportive, then check out the book I wrote  Time To Stand Up. It’s for these times. You will find something there to nourish, to bring courage, to inspire, but also to be utterly realistic. We do what we can, but whatever happens, whatever gets destroyed, we must know, trust, that our heart, our conscious spirit is, in reality, indestructible.

ttsu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Higher Dream: Keep it Safe. Speak Its Voice.

You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.
– Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed.

I woke with fragments of a dream. A dream that confirmed the knowing of bodies that feel the blow; the dread, wrath, and fear. We didn’t need it confirmed, but it’s now crystal clear. Those, in their intoxicated vacuous soulless state, who try to fill their bottomless hovel of a heart with power, money, and control of it all, have no capacity for grace or love. They have not an iota of adoration for the guiding ethos of a higher dream. A dream hijacked over and over through millennia by the ones who crave and usurp power. It’s a very old story; the difference is that now the destiny of the planet is at stake. Alongside a mean agenda to shred civil society, the willful misinformation and denial of global warming is a hideous crime and primordial sin. 

In my night dream, reluctance pulls. I must stay hidden in the crowd. But the urge to move is greater. I walk toward a platform and microphone. I have to say something. I wobble with each step, vulnerable. Words dissolve before reaching my tongue. I keep moving. I stand before a Senate Floor, a Parliament, Knesset, Federation, Duma, before the .01% faceless power players … appealing. From beyond the platform I look out to a grey, thick, fog rolling in. The last begging words that surface into pre dawn darkness, “I ask you to reconsider.” Awake. Move to the meditation mat, light a candle, soften into the grief, feel moist eyes, and breathe. Breathe – feel – breathe….

Mindfulness of the breath, sub kaya pati samvedi. All body – through (strive-mastery) – wholly feeling. (Anapanasati Sutta) Be mindful within breath by entering through direct feeling inside embodied experience. This is the feminized version of mindfulness. The patriarchal version is more toward an abstracted, clinical, disembodied watching that maintains the observers subtle, superior gaze. Both seem to have a place. But to simplify and fast track; the first has the pitfall of entangling, but has the potential to lead into the emptying intimate gestalt with it all; the nourishing Eros of embodied completion. The second lifts us from the mess, but tends to leave us empty and prone to falling into aloof disconnect, spiraling the self-structure into an endless need for affirmation. I set up my mindfulness stall and sell you techniques so I can be seen. (I am not judging. I have the craving need.)

The point is balance. The reclamation of the lost feminine within us all is vital. She is the instinctive knowing of the sacred interconnection of all things. She is the power of the imaginative that births the creative. She relates through participation, bounteousness, and collaboration rather than dominance, withholding, and control. She is the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World. We have to actualize her power to offset this tip into psychopathic shadow patriarchy with its mission to destroy the life-giving creativity that it wants so badly. But it cannot have what it craves to control. When you don’t know or trust anything beyond ego walls, you can’t enter the tender pathways of love. Putrid patriarchs can’t get filled, so they have to grab. They have to control women’s reproductive rights, squash the joyful freedoms of the LGBT community, and push back POC into dungeons of white fear cages. Shadow Kings can only plunder and sell nature through their sadistic prostitution of Eros in faceless shopping Malls, (abetted by our sleepy collusion.) They have nothing of beauty to give.

But, she, the Anima Mundi, the Sacred Feminine, Mother Nature, has enduring power. You will know her energy coursing in your veins as outrage, courage, and the unending intent to be here for everyone, regardless. You will know her by the anguish you feel at the desecration of our ecosystems. You will know her by the insistent voice within and around you that speaks, that shouts out, refusing to collude any longer. So accept the full impact of what is felt. The disturbance and the nightmares that haunt are the barometer of what the deeper soul already knows; the threat is real and deadly. 

From therapeutic process we know the body remembers everything. When we are threatened, trans-marginal stress is activated. That means the usual coping mechanisms that subdue intolerable feelings, are breached. When that happens, the pain of devastating wounds to sensitivity from early on (baby and preverbal), are activated. The abandoned unformed agony held in the body, can, in a finger snap, spin into a self-other harming fest of paranoia, rage, frozenness, and suicidal hopelessness. The self-structure, losing all sense of ground, can spiral into a disorientated fog. We need to remember that the tweeting President Elect, through his daily rants of idiocy and abuse, displaces the inordinate pain held within his shattered soul by projecting it onto our collective body. In doing so, he ignites our shared trans-marginal stress over and over. So, be mindful, be steady. Hold your ground.

We are not victims, receptacles for the pain of Shadow Kings. We, as the resistance, are awakening the power of soul. We must invoke her rise, her power. Allow her voice to come through, even in the face of the vulnerable, wobbling, walk to the platform. As I grew up, I had no voice. I hardly knew I existed. As a teenager, I once painted myself as a wisp behind an ill-fitting mask. I was someone who hid, until her voice started to rise. Ironically, the real catalyst was the excruciation of misogynistic monastic Buddhism within which I had encapsulated myself. There, her subdued voice, shaped within a prayerful mode, began its ascent. I sensed its power, its clarity, its depth, and ultimately, her ancientness.

She, as primordial intelligence, now urgently calls. She, the immune system of the planet, formidable Mother Nature, is about ready to roll over us. But, for a few more geological seconds, she begs us to come to our senses (literally), to feel her pounding heart, her awe-inspiring beauty, to desist from destruction through the passionate work of sacred reclamation. I believe, I suppose, that she, and us together, have brought our selves to this terrible mirror so we can fully study the reflection of our ego madness. Like the handsome portrait of Dorian Gray, hidden in the attic, so alluring, but only to be unmasked as the terrible, twisted sadist, there, underneath all along. How appalling to finally see the depth of our world’s soulless shadow grown over such a long time. But, let’s now finish here, scrambling around in the swamp of nightmarish trolls.

Last summer, in the gentle green pastures of England, Kittisaro and I met Anne Baring for tea. Five o’clock cake and tea, poured from a proper teapot into china cups in a hobbit land of cricket lawns, cottages, and pubs along the Chaucer pilgrimage route. Anne is a hero. She, as author and teacher, has produced a vital guide for our times in her magnum opus The Dream of the Cosmos. Anne expressed dismay that a Trump victory would shatter the higher dream of the whole world. That stark reality has come to pass, and her worst fear is now ours. But I’m wondering about a deeper intelligence beyond human fixation. Yes, a shattering will happen. But that shattering will also take down the false, which is the idea of a dominant and superior person or people that can take it all. What we are witnessing, I believe, is the last desperate stand of a colonizing, racist, misogynist, ego driven mindset that will ultimately fail because the false simply cannot endure.

We must quicken its demise by resisting its dangerous agenda, by organising to bring down its monopoly, and by continuing to midwife the new world struggling to be born. We are the midwives. We have to make sure the higher dream of humanity, the dream of our soul, is not still born, that the emerging child is not crushed under the feet of a fetid and jealous patriarch. That voices heralding the child’s arrival are loud and clear. It’s an endless journey, no doubt, but we must hold the faith. As the great man, Rev. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Dedicated to Aloka – Petrus Willemse (Zimbabwe) Dec ’56 – Jan ’17

once-upon-a-time
Once Upon A Time by Judith Clay

The Descent

So, there it is. A total wipe out.

For now, let’s stop battling and shoring up strategies. Instead of floundering around for certainties, for pockets of hope, let’s accept the invitation into something else. That is, a profound stripping away. The world that was, that we knew, that perhaps we loved, is fast being mutilated. Right now I’m not sure the United States of America will survive. I am not sure the United Kingdom will survive. Neither am I sure Europe or South Africa will survive. Certainly Iraq, Syria, and many other places have not survived. Actually, I’m not sure anything will survive in this age of climate mass extinction and nuclear codes in the … well, you know… the full catastrophe of the small handed one.

So, as we enter into solstice week, the encroaching night at the heart of seasonal shifts, let’s not run from defeat, but welcome its bitter medicine. Let’s taste helplessness, futility, exhaustion, confusion, upset, devastation, pain, abandonment, and the fear of not knowing if we will survive. This, friends, is what many others have felt before, (Chile’s stolen C.I.A election). This, is what many are experiencing in far, far more deadly ways right now (Aleppo.) And this, is what some have gone through with horrific pain and at high speed, (Oakland housing crisis & Ghost Ship fire)

Yes, we can draw together and warm ourselves in like-minded company, but not to exclude the encroaching night, instead to encourage our entry into its deeper teaching. Like therapy, usually we have to feel our deepest wound, the pain of it, before we can begin to circle back into health.

The pain we feel is the removal or our illusory comfort zone where we thought everything was sort of OK. But as everything is not OK, we need the curtains pulled back. Behold, the psychopathic, heartless gaze of the deadly machinery of predator oligarchic colonial capitalism. Behold its decaying, soulless, craven, narcissistic, violent, and ugly face. It’s sheer lack of beauty, grace, sanctity, poetry, love, and wise counsel. This machinery is set to destroy everything for profit and power. Before we can take it on anew, we have to fully get the depth of its utter moral and spiritual bankruptcy. It’s total lack of humanity. We have to FEEL, not just intellectualize. This is so we can really get those already sacrificed to its relentless agenda.

So, we have a new curriculum. One that many marginalized, oppressed, and vilified people have already been schooled in. One that the Indigenous Peoples of Standing Rock know well, which is why so many were pulled to go there, like moths to a glowing light. We needed their courage, their guidance, their deep understanding of sacred resistance for these times.

We will also need everything learnt from our spiritual practice. Ajahn Chah said that practice is preparation for when real challenge arises. That preparation is over. Now is show time. We may not be in perfect shape, we certainly won’t be in perfect shape, but if we undergo the stripping down of this solstice devastation, if we can hold to each breath in order to track this unlit pathway; we will be taken into the sanctuary of our unshakeable, indivisible, brilliantly sane, undying, and loving heart. And it is this true heart that will save us. With this heart, tuned to the deeper intelligence of the Dharma, the spirit, we will be ready for whatever is ahead. Together, we will get through this.

 The Ending of Hope

 Crushing abrupt
tectonic shifting
power
washing away bridges
into chaotic descent.
Ice melt, ocean rise, land erodes,
and certainty makes no sense.

Blind election vortex
schemes twisted thoughts
conspire and distract
within intensifying solar fire.

Yet, between
this thought
and the next,
in that unguarded pause,
hope waits its constant song
where angels soothe
and breathe their shining
along uncertain pathways.

Their voices lilt high
over fields of desolation.
For all times, they say,
we are the holders of your dream.
The whispering seed planted,
the remainder of your journey
through the bleakest watch of night.

So, invoke angels appearing
within this shattering world,
dragging the light
into shadow kings
that march fear along
highways of predator folly
and perpetual toxic news.

But, when even hope vanishes,
and what can’t be won
disturbs our waking nights.
Then, in that ripe hour,
distant bells will summon
our hallowed dissension.
As jaws soften and hands open,
prayer turns to a new dimension.

The movement beyond city voices.
A gentle wind that blows so quiet.
A silent singing from this turning earth.
A calm knowing of life’s worth.

The dream of this fevered longing
will wake us up cold.
There is a knowing within each breath
that keeps this holy world gathered
within spheres of our communion

Here we always are,
moving in the ancient stillness
with fluid steps tracking
our one recurring song.
It echoes across the halls of destruction and creation,
this timeless breath with you, my love.
It’s a long, cold, lonely night.

— Thanissara, Dec 19th, ‘16

angel
The Wounded Angel  by Hugo Simberg, Finland.

 

Electoral College: Last Stand Against the Putin-Trump Disunited Oligarchic States of Oil. One final act, (for now!)

The aligning interests between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s choice for U.S. president (Donald Trump), and Big Oil represents the gravest threat to humanity (and democracy) since the rise of the Axis powers in the 1930s.  — Mark Summer

So here we are, on the cusp of handing over the power to destroy the world to someone we wouldn’t even trust to look after our cat for one night. This amounts to nothing short of a screaming red alert, a wailing siren across the lands, an unprecedented and terrifying threat to everything we hold dear. If you felt on election night, as I did, that American democracy suffered a coup d’état, you were right. While there are many causes that brought about this elections outcome, the core of Trump’s pyrrhic victory points to Putin’s hijack of American power.  So, while a very slim chance, we can take one last stand, which is to write the Electoral College the next few days. (Details of how to below.) This is the very last ditch attempt to overturn Trump’s tainted and increasingly illegitimate ascendency to the highest office in the land.

This action transcends partisan politics. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all agree on the danger of a Trump presidency, particularly in the light of mounting evidence of Russia’s involvement. (During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, ‘he would be a dangerous president who would put the ‘nation’s sercurity at risk.’) But we don’t really need anyone to tell us what we already know, that a Trump presidency threatens the very fabric of American society. It will rip apart the already threadbare rights of marginalized, struggling, and oppressed, and will undermine constitutional freedoms such as the right to protest, the right to free press, and the right to free speech. But perhaps we still have to understand that the extensive surveillance and powers of State afforded to Trump and his craven cabinet, could very well mercilessly erode each and every hard won rights for you, for me, for everyone.

A Trump presidency will also likely take the environment, the global community, and all species to the brink of collapse. It absolutely threatens a sustainable Earth for future generations, even to the point of endangering human civilization. We cannot allow the demonization of climate science and the ripping up for the Paris COP21 agreement. Neither can we afford a reckless acceleration of extreme oil extraction alongside the total decimation of environmental protections, and unrestrained state sanction of severe predatory capitalism that seeks to colonize indigenous lands, state parks, and wilderness sanctuaries. We cannot allow the further dismantling of worker and union rights in order to cement an archaic feudalism that inflicts degradation and poverty while shamelessly and vindictively misdirecting anger toward the vulnerable, further endangering and demonizing Muslims, people of color, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, and women.

So friends, please set aside half an hour, even less, the next few days to do this one act of contacting the Electoral College. I feel, even as a newish citizen, I have a duty to implore the Electoral College to protect this United States of America, your children, grandchildren, and future generations. If you’re up for it, below are details of how to do that. Also below is the constitutional justification for an Electoral mandate to stop Trump. Right now is exactly the historic circumstance that the Electoral College was made for.(Non USA citizens can also lodge concerns)

HOW:

Online: Go to Ask the Electors to voice your concerns. Once there, you can write your letter. Here is the template I used. (Thanks to Maia Duerr for this, founder Five Directors Consulting, Liberated Life Project, former ED of Buddhist Peace Fellowship.)

Snail Mail: This is a great site to write via snail mail to your State representatives at the Electoral College. (I just sent a letter to all 11 electoral representatives in Tennessee.)

Protest: Join in protests at State Capitals across the country on December 19th.

This is also an action (below) that keeps the pressure on to investigate voter fraud & suppression, and the hijacking of the election.

Call: The Department of Justice is tallying phone calls regarding those who want the Vote Audited. Call 202-514-2000 and choose option number 4. At the end of the message, state your full name and say, “I am a US citizen, I live in _____, __ and that I would like to add my voice to all those calling for an audit of the 2016 presidential election.”

WHY:

The Electoral College is tasked with stopping someone who is:

  1. A demagogue
  2. Cannot practice foreign policy and national defence of the country appropriately.
  3. Who is influenced by a foreign power.

In the Federalist No. 1, Hamilton warned leaders about demagogues and tyrants, as did Madison at the constitutional convention. With this in mind, a series of checks and balances – the senate as a “necessary fence” and the Electoral College with an independent, non-partisan vote – have the authority to stop such a person from becoming president.

Trump qualifies as an authoritarian demagogue on the following counts:

  • His use of the presidency and world stage to feed his megalomaniac narcissistic need for domination, affirmation, and sycophantic adoration.
  • His extreme vilification of those challenge him, even to the tiniest degree, using the full force of his new found power in attempts to destroy them.
  • His threat to undermine and remove democratic checks and balances by attacking the free press, right to protest, disrespecting government feedback loops, avoiding answerability, and refusing culpability.
  • His hypnotic and repetitive statements that only he alone can solve America’s problems while at the same time dismissing and undermining intelligence briefings, the diplomatic corps, the state department, the C.I.A., and other norms of government that ensure responsibility and accountability.
  • His extremely divisive oratory demonizes marginalized peoples and communities, while energizing a fascistic white supremacist agenda, the most crass forms of racism, repulsive misogynistic rhetoric, and the sadistic belittling of the disabled and vulnerable.
  • Boasting he is above the law, “When you are a celebratory, you can do anything and they’ll let you.” “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not loose votes,” and his invitation to Russia to hack the DNC, Mrs Clinton’s emails, and to interfere with the election process.
  • His disregard (gaslighting) of facts while promoting wild and gross untruths at the same time responding to criticism and fact checkers by seeking to vengefully discredit critics, or their businesses. This has led to people receiving death threats, to companies losing $millions on the stock market overnight, and to legitimizing a violent culture of witch hunting.

Trump has numerous conflicts of interest and therefore cannot practice foreign policy or protect the national defence of the country appropriately:

We have already seen many conflicts of interest as Trump flagrantly uses his new position to further his personal assets. His private phone calls to heads of state, the ignoring of intelligence advice, diplomatic norms, and government checks and balances, has, for example, already triggered an alarming response from China. Provoked by his pandering to Taiwan and his dismissal the the “One China” policy, China just flew a nuclear bomber over the South China Sea as a direct message to Trump.

However, Trump’s most brazen conflict of interests is the Tillerson-Trump-Putin Oil alliance, which, due to policy being influenced by Russian interests, will definitely weaken America’s ability to negotiate as a world leader, while threatening historic alliances. In brief, Trump’s conflation of political power, the presidential office, and his and his families own business interests will usher in a full-blown American Kleptocracy.

A Trump presidency will be wholly influenced by a foreign power.

Analysis from the below seventeen agencies attest to Putin and Russia’s direct influence and manipulation of the election in favor of Trump. (Thanks to Genevieve Chase, founder & ED of American Women’s Veterans for this list.)

  1. Twenty-Fifth Air Force, United States Air Force
  2. Defense Intelligence and Security Command, United States Army
  3. Central Intelligence Agency
  4. Coast Guard Intelligence
  5. Defense Intelligence Agency
  6. Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
  7. Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  8. Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  9. Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Treasury
  10. Office of National Security Intelligence, Drug Enforcement Administration
  11. Intelligence Branch, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  12. Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, United States Marine Corps Defense
  13. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Defense
  14. National Reconnaissance Office
  15. National Security Agency/Central Security Service
  16. Office of Naval Intelligence, United States Navy
  17. Director of National Intelligence who oversees all of the aforementioned.

This sets an extremely dangerous precedent, which opens the door to Russian blackmail of the president, his staff, and the GOP. Further, Trump’s proposed Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Chairman of ExxonMobile, is someone who has deep ties with Putin and Russian oil interests. Besides ExxonMobile is a corporation under investigation for threatening global sustainability due to deliberate policies of misinformation about the devastating impact of climate change. As said by Bill McKibben,

Exxon helped organise the most consequential lie in human history.

Tillerson, Oil, and Russia:

Tillerson is close to Vladimir Putin. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens. Tillerson came up through the ranks at ExxonMobil by managing the company’s Russia account. After Tillerson became CEO, ExxonMobil bet billions on Russia’s vast oil resources through a partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft, owned partly by the Kremlin. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal. Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat. Further, Tillerson has advocated that the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine be dropped and economic ties between the two nations be restored. When sanctions were imposed, the Arctic drill deal between ExxonMobil and Russia tanked and ExxonMobil suffered as much as $1 billion in losses. Basically, Trump’s appointment of Tillerson is the equivalent of the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.

None of this is good news at all. To be honest, it’s hard to finish on an up note. Right now, there really isn’t one. Though, on a brighter day, I do believe that the up note is that human resilience is tremendous. When we pull together in non-violent acts of resistance, as demonstrated at Standing Rock, we begin to generate a different kind of power. The power of collaborative community. It is this power that will ultimately show the exit door to the reign of Moy’s. (A term used by the 12 Indigenous Grandmother’s, which means boy-men (not necessarily limited to gender), who want it all for themselves at the expense of everyone else.) This is the last ugly gasp and grasp of the Moy’s. It has to be. We have to organise to turn this around. But meanwhile, it seems clear that we are being asked to enter into the depth of the shadow, to see clearly the total catastrophe so we can wise up and be fully on board for the resistance movement. We do that while never giving up on midwifing the new world still struggling to be born.

end-empire

 

STANDING ROCK: Being in a Living Prayer & the Art of Collective Resistance

Standing Rock is an Indigenous led resistance through the power of collective prayer and ceremony. Its context is the 500-year long impact of Colonialism on First Nation People, which inflicted one of the largest genocides in human history, alongside mass invasion of Native lands, a litany of broken treaties, legislated cultural oppression, including removal of children through forced Christianized education at boarding “schools”, and ongoing marginalization of Indigenous rights. This generational domination remains firmly in place illustrated by the State of North Dakota attempting to force, through intimidation and violence, the Sioux Tribe to accept what white society, a few dozen miles away at Bismarck city, rejected; the Dakota Pipeline through the heart of their community. The assurance of Energy Transfers Partnership, who are laying the pipeline, that there will not be an oil spill into the Missouri River, which the line traverses, are empty given that that there have been hundreds, if not thousands of pipeline spills, including those from ETP pipelines.

campStanding Rock, one of the most unique gatherings ever, is a front line against the most powerful corporation ever, the oil industry. Certainly, this is the first time, since the Battle of Little Bighorn in the 1800’s that Seven Lakota and Dakota Nations have come together, alongside over 30 other Indigenous Nations. This gathering of Indigenous Nations from all over Turtle Island (the Native name for America) has not been known in historical memory. The tribes represented have been joined by First Nation peoples from South America, New Zealand, and beyond, and allies from around America and further afield. Also joining are over two thousand military veterans who have vowed to protect this courageous and determined community.

sr-stand-offAt the heart of this resistance is commitment to break the cycles of violence born of a colonial mindset, which feels entitled to extract for self-benefit regardless of the impact. This mindset is now the front line everywhere, within and around us all. Increasingly, our choices will be influenced either by a colonizing, psychopathic corporate agenda servicing extortionate amounts of wealth for a minuscule percent of the global population, or they’ll contribute to a necessary resistance upon which our survival now depends.

Standing Rock offers an indigenous template for wise choice from seven Lakota values around which the camp orientates itself. These values, elaborated on by what I experienced and heard at Standing Rock, speak to collective resistance as both an inner training as well as guidelines for family, community, society, and business:

  1. Prayer: Honor and respect the sacred within all life, which includes nature, the earth, the elements of fire, water, air, and those living beings that are not two legged. (The reductive term animals, is not in indigenous language.) Purify the heart, connect with ancestors, and the overall indwelling spirit of creation while aligning within community through ceremony. This involves resistance as ceremony.
  1. Respect: Respect begins with deferential listening, and from that, a willingness to shift into new ways internally and behavior externally. It means not pushing ego agendas and strategies. Instead be willing to listen to wise elders, to feedback, to what is needed for the overall good of the community.
  1. Compassion: Take care of one another. Be compassionate towards ones self, and to self and others when making mistakes. The stronger let the physically weaker go first, for example, at meals, the elders, women and children go first. As a practice, step aside from assuming entitlement due to race, gender, class, wealth, and instead tune into the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable.
  1. Honesty: Be true and authentic with each other, while being self honest about our conditioning and how that plays out in ways that generate harm, even subtly, to others and the environment.
  1. Generosity: Put in more than you take out. Generosity is not just sharing physical goods, but is essential to generating sustainable life for all. It is the direct opposite of colonization, which is based in domination and ownership at the expense of others.
  1. Humility: Be grounded in your own being, while checking your expectations of others and what is around you. Hold off from pushing your agenda, particulalry if it is dominating the space with “I have a better way”, “My idea is best.” Be sensitive to internalized colonized conditioning, and be willing to own it.
  1. Wisdom: We all carry wisdom within us, but within the context of Indigenous or Elder wisdom spaces, listen and be guided by the understandings offered. Resist an “extractive” mindset, or cultural appropriation, of what is not offered. Be respectful of elders and learn to listen to all voices, even those you don’t agree with.

At the heart of this sacred, prayerful and ceremonial resistance at Standing Rock is a commitment to complete non-violence. My understanding of this, from what I witnessed, heard, and experienced, is that there is an invitation to align with a deeper power. This power, articulated as guidance of ancestors, forces of nature, and the overall guiding intelligence of the Great Spirit, pulses within us. At Standing Rock, I experienced my heart being stripped down to its essential rawness. In place of socialization strategies, what arose was strength of authenticity, of sharing, of camaraderie, and a wonder at the resilience of human beings rising up.

Here’s some of what I heard from an Indigenous man who is a Water Protector and leader of the heart and spirit.

What should be remembered about Standing Rock is that it began with children calling us to pray with them. Elders too. We must mean and do what we say. Fighting from violence disrespects the ancestors. The ancestors are fighting the battle also, and they need us to be here without violence. You must pray for yourself, to take out your pain and have love put in your heart instead. As we unify with nature, she will heal us. Respect Mother Earth.

He also said,

One day, at the height of the Iraq War, an Elder Grandmother prayed to the ancestors at the sacred fire to ask that the war stop. They responded by saying to her that her prayer was a good prayer, but it was not enough. That everyone must pray to stop war. We are at a precipice. Everyone must now pray.

to-waterWater is Life. This meme is the underlying stream of consciousness at Standing Rock. The pipeline threatens the clear and beautiful waters of the Missouri River. Every morning, as day broke, the pre-dawn circle around the sacred fire, buoyed by shared wisdom from Elders and water protectors, enacted a ceremonial and collective walk to the bank of the river. There, offerings are made. Sometimes formations of geese fly across the limpid snow grey sky as the still glass waters and spirit of the Missouri responds. It is felt as a subtle jubilant uplift within the heart. This earth is alive and she feels our intentions, our actions, and our hearts.

sr-missouriEveryday we use water. We depend on it for life, and yet we entirely take it for granted. One late afternoon, a woman spoke at the fire. She had come from Flint, Michigan to join forces. She spoke of poisoned water in her city, of people drinking and having their teeth dissolve, of people getting sick, dying, and of her own infertility and pain at not being able to mother children due to the poisoned water.

Standing Rock is not just about Standing Rock it is about everywhere and our struggle to reclaim the sacredness of water, of the elements, and of the Earth. It speaks to our need to reconnect with each other in more direct, generous, authentic and respectful ways, and it speaks to our true spirit, which seeks to release from the mechanistic, disassociated, drudgery of a desacralized life, by undertaking acts of loving service and sacrifice.

Bring it Home! Not everyone can get to Standing Rock, and not everyone at Standing Rock can go on the front lines. But every one of us must now pay heed to what is unfolding there, because all of us need to play our part to ensure a livable planet for future generations. We can’t rely on politicians or other leaders, instead we have to all pull together. We are on a precipice and the lights are going out. We are losing the Arctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the great forests, most wild life, and we are being threatened by a craven political and corporate agenda that cares for no one, except it’s own profit. Those who crave money will find out soon that they cannot eat their money. Those standing at Standing Rock stand for them too, and for their children and their grandchildren.

protectWe do this for all of us. The Army Corps of Engineers, who claim the land of Oceti Sakowin Standing Rock, have stated the intention of evicting the camp on December 5th. It now looks like the peaceful Water Protectors will be confronted by a highly militarized police force, alongside a private, mercenary army on behalf of the State, the pipeline and the oil company, who have already proved their capacity for shameful, wonton violence. Chief Arvol Looking Horse has asked us to join together in prayer and ceremony. To do so can help to help avert this potential catastrophe. Please do what you can.

Whatever happens on that fateful day: whether Standing Rock and its incredible blazing heart stands of falls, what is assured is that voluminous, potent seeds are fast growing in support of collective resistance. The Indigenous People are showing the way, as have many oppressed people throughout history, and for this, words of gratitude seem paltry. What one is bequeathed through the gift of Standing Rock is a clarified, strong, heart, burning with a light of commitment and hope in the face of incalculable odds. This then, is our offering of gratitude. To pick up the flame of hope, and to carry it long into the shadowy night that is fast encroaching us all.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Here is a fund raiser to support the Dharma Dome @Standing Rock, for practitioners, meditation, and prayer in support of the camp and water protectors. Donations beyond needs of the Dharma Dome go to www.standingrock.org and will distributed according to priority by Indigenous leadership.

11/9: The Day America Fell is The Day We Rise Up.

It’s been a very long night-day-evening-night (is it day or night?) … I can’t remember how long since the sinking and rising horror evoked by the disappearing blue and bleeping red states. As we grasped the straws of “urban votes still to come in”, it was the text from my friend that broke the spell, This is terrifying Thanissara! What is going on?! This, our most terrible nightmare, is going on.

This weekend isn’t the moment for strategies, (though Michael Moore’s Morning-After-To-Do-List is good.) First, we need a breather to feel what we need to feel – all of it. To let the full impact sink in. It is incredibly, incredibly painful. Words from my Facebook feed: scary, torn down, devastated, dark night, despair, rage, implode, collapse, praying, danger, damage, heart-break, robbed, coup d’etat, cracking, catastrophique et funeste, shocked, leaving U.S.A., I cannot believe, disconnect, armageddon, horrifying, toxic, etc, etc.

We have to allow the full cellular body blow of anxious, grief-rage waves of feeling so we really get the heart of this shadow energy that we emotionally feel, instinctively know, and intellectually appraise as a profound threat to all we hold dear. A friend just wrote the phrase “the age of the dangerous psychopathic masculine is breathing its last through many leaders, male and female, around the world.” This election result friends, is the deep cry of resistance at the heart of white supremacist patriarchy that knows it’s on history’s losing side. Yes, it is also from those who feel utterly run over in the march of Reagan-Thatcher neoliberal capitalism that has unhooked itself from ethical constraints, social responsibility, environmental care, and increasingly, from sanity and reality.

This shadow energy, that at its heart pulses with anger and disdain, is rippling around the world and finding its foothold through legitimisation by those politicians who crave power and greed. This, as succinctly termed by Van Jones, is the whitelash of our times, the attempt to “take back” what was put in place by colonialism, racial supremacy, and class division. This is an anger and sense of entitlement that justifies utter disregard for the vulnerable and marginalised. Except now, the vulnerable and marginalised is going to be pretty much everyone, even those who voted to try and hold onto the illusion of control.

The greatest loser from this election though, the most gut wrenching blow, the true victim of the ultimate witches hammer of inquisitional sadism, is our beautiful, and now deeply vulnerable Mother Earth and her innocent species. As new cabinet members are being lined up, we are bearing witness to the psycho-fest and ghoulish nightmare of the twisted and deformed soul at the heart of this shadow patriarchy. This shadow patriarchal mind set, now emboldened, is aiming to plunder her completely, to take it all. Friends, feel it, feel the utter grief and shock of what we have done.

We have to feel this full impact, this terrible dark night of the soul and planet, to know this shadow energy that is fast focalising in America’s halls of power, because we have to face down its tentacles within our own psyches. We have to feel the blow to be woken from our deepest recesses of denial and our lingering allegiance to our comfort zones that are literally costing the earth, and are throwing disenfranchised communities, people of color, immigrants, the poor, and future generations under the bus.

We have to wise up to how this shadow energy operates at systemic, psychological, political, legalistic, and emotional levels. How it psychopathy manipulates, divides, intimidates, and distorts our natural heart energy. How it seeks to control and destroy the soul for its own fetid gain. Friends, we have to know that the power elites, the corporate fossil fuel oligarchs now emboldened, the war machine marching to tunes of the debauched masculine and crazed feminine will not give up until there is nothing left; no beauty, no wild places, no humane, sensitive and dignified modalities of relationship, no sacredness.

We have to know that we have reached the bottom.

Only then can we be stripped down to our blazing true heart, our invincible courage, and to the absolute certainty of what actually counts; our love of each other, our willingness to sacrifice for each other, and the bedrock of our humanity, which is the ethical commitment to protect what needs to be protected — the environment, nature, all other species, each other.

So, this election has had the result of fast forwarding us into an urgent curriculum. These are some of its central themes:

  1. Keep the heart strong
  2. Gather together in sacred community
  3. Resist
  4. Organize
  5. Overcome the machine (sorry, I am friends, from the wave of the 1960’s!)

This is what we practice for. When times of crisis and extreme challenge is upon us. This, friends, is what mindfulness is ultimately for. To hold steady at the face of the inferno.

We are in uncharted territories… but the walk has been walked by heroes before. We have their blessing. Our ancestors are here, the legions of earth defenders, seen and unseen, are here. We will hear the guidance as we listen.. listen in, listen out, listen…

Listen, because we are exactly where we need to be. We are the immune system that has just been given shock therapy so it can rise up.

One more word from the twitter storm and facebook scroll of that dark night: A word my nephew in Dublin signed off on at the close of our WhatsApp, what the feck’s going on, chat.

Reality.

My friend Andrew Harvey says, “Let’s get real.” Friends, let’s get real. As real as we can. Our real hearts together will lead the way.

Before I wrote this, I didn’t know what would be written. As I sign off, I now know that for the first time I feel something as really true. It’s banded around as something we should feel, but frankly, while giving lip service, I wavered all over the place around this. But signing off, I realise there is a true bedrock that I now do authentically feel. It is encapsulated in this one word.

Hope.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever we’ve done — I love you, I love me, I love us all, and in this moment, I love the frightened heart of the “craving to be seen” vulnerable masculine, and the confused contraction of the disempowered feminine, within and without. So, yes, one last word for our revolution.

Love.

Take courage friends, show up, rise up, and with your blazing heart in full operational mode, together, let’s meet the challenge of our times.

Let’s do this thing!

earthheartbeating

 

Buddhist Response to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

A dear friend, Israeli clinical psychologist, therapist, and Buddhist teacher Itamar Bashan, was invited to attend the Buddhist World Peace Conference at Sagain Hill, Mandalay, Myanmar in January of this year to deliver a lecture on peace. Itamar and his family are on the front lines of this “peace koan”, “What is a wise response to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Below, you can read Itamar’s compelling, honest, and moving response “DEPENDENTLY CEASING in the MIDDLE EAST: A Personal Account.” I’ve taken the liberty to context Itamar’s speech with these few paragraphs to encourage Buddhist participation in this dialogue. It’s important because, as Itamar lays out so very well, the Dharma has a valuable contribution to make. 

While a strong progressive Buddhist voice is emerging for climate and racial justice in the form of articles, petitions, activism, websites, social media, and trainings, for the most part Western Buddhist leadership 8and Sanghas’ have remained silent in response to the extreme use of Israeli force against a highly vulnerable Palestinian population, especially since the Israeli Defence Forces 2014 military operation in Gaza. For those who deeply care about this conflict, our Buddhist silence has become deafening. In the face of Western involvement in the destabilisation of the Middle East, including the unchecked provision of American, British, and other Western funds that are enabling Netanyahu’s “forever rule by the sword“, here’s an invitation to widen awareness and engagement.

I do understand the reluctance. The Israel-Palestine dynamic is a hot, divisive, complex, and loaded issue, even to mention, never mind negotiate. Most people shrug and conclude that it’d likely be easier to configure the Rubik Cube blindfolded than try and reconfigure the Middle East in alignment with a just and collaborative solution. Yet, all conflicts tend to come down to simple, common themes, which is why, even though ideal solutions remain illusive, israel-palestine1middle ground can be gained through the recognition of our shared human suffering and aspirations.

A middle way is exactly what the Buddha pointed to, both as a subtle Dharma insight and as a non-violent response to conflict. Over the last decade, my husband and teaching partner Kittisaro and I, have led retreats and workshops in Israel. We love the passion, heart, intelligent inquiry, and depth of soul of the Sangha there. Yet, the power of the Israeli gestalt and the poignancy of Israel-Palestine haunts. It just seems impossibile. After the Buddha’s awakening, he too felt that the task at hand was impossible. So why then, did he persevere and teach his Dharma for four decades? Because even in the face of darkness and ignorance, he recognised all beings have potential to awaken, to transform, and to live good lives.

Ultimately, it is the practice of mindful awareness, depth inquiry, and empathy, both personally and collectively, that opens up the middle ground the Buddha walked. These days, a little more middle ground, wherever it can be found, is the difference between maintaining democracy or sliding into fascism; between life and death.

DEPENDENTLY CEASING in the MIDDLE EAST:
Personal Account by Dr. Itamar Bashan, Bhavana House, Tel Aviv.

What should a peace seeker do in such times? Facing violence, hatred, injustice and
atrocities, what is right action? What is right speech?

iamarI was born in Israel a few years after World War II to parents who were Holocaust survivors. Most people in the neighborhood where I grew up were survivors of the inferno ignited by the Nazis, people that have lost family members, friends, property, hopes.
Many of them have lost their sanity too. Interrupted life. During the two years after the war, my parents were in a refugee camp in Italy, and in 1947 they crossed the Mediterranean from Europe to the Middle East, the same route taken currently by hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees in the opposite direction. After a perilous journey on a rickety boat they arrived in their ancestors’ historical land, with the hope of a new life. The Arab inhabitants received them jewish-exoduswith suspicion, hostility and violence. Shortly after their arrival the War of Independence broke out and a few months later the State of Israel was founded. Since then to this day, nearly 70 years, Israel is in a constant state of war with its neighbors.

For many years I could not understand how the citizens of Nazi Germany kept silence when Hitler came to power, declared war and conducted the Final Solution, the demonic plan for the mass murder of all Jews in the world, based on a racist ideology. I could not understand how ordinary people – teachers, merchants, artists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, people of law and justice – most certainly honest, decent, educated people – could keep silent. How could they remain silent in view of the human monster that developed right before their eyes. That silence was incomprehensible to me, a crime that was second only to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

As a karmic irony, the answer is given to me now on a daily basis. And that answer is painful. As an Israeli, I am a citizen of a country that lives by the sword. A country that was founded to address the needs and to protect the rights of Jewish war refugees to have a new and just life, but gradually became violent and oppressive towards a population that lived in this country for many generations, the Palestinians. Gradually, after its greatest military victory in the Six Day War in 1967, Israel has become an arrogant, depriving, occupying state, violating the international law and trampling basic human rights. Last year, following the strengthening of the extreme right wing forces in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and in the government, this process gained momentum, and I see how ordinary people – teachers, merchants, artists, journalists, politicians, intellectuals, people of law and justice – most certainly honest, decent, educated people – keep silent. I see first hand the mechanisms of incitement, I see the threats and violence that are directed towards those protesting against the repressive actions, and I understand directly how this was possible in Nazi Germany, how it is possible today in Israel, how it is possible anywhere. We, human beings, have the potential to be either pure or evil. It is our responsibility to choose, we are the owners of our actions and we inherit the results.

In the summer 2014, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a military operation in the gazaGaza Strip following the incessant firing of rockets at Israeli towns. According to the United Nations, 2,176 people were killed in this operation of which 72 Israelis (65 soldiers, seven civilians) and 2,104 Palestinians (including 495 women, 253 children).

The large number of dead children and women among the Palestinians caused conscientious Israeli citizens to take to the streets, protesting against the lack of proportionality in exercising power by the gaza2IDF. These demonstrations sparked waves of hatred and violence against the Israeli left wing, whose strength has dwindled considerably in recent years. A question was raised whether such demonstrations, provoking so much anger and hatred, is a skillful action, or whether silence is the right action during times of tension. I would like to ask you, dear Dhamma friends: What should a peace seeker do in such times? Facing violence, hatred, injustice and atrocities, what is right action? What is right speech?

From its inception, Israel advocated liberal values, humanism, equality, democracy and human rights. Though it did not reach the level of evil of Nazi Germany at it’s peak, witnessing it’s gradual withdrawal towards becoming a racist, nationalist, clerical-fascist state in a short period is scary and sad. The nationalist right wing is growing stronger, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just informed the citizens that “we will forever live by the sword”. Israel was well known for encouraging pluralism and independent thinking, but now the Ministry of Education advocates uniformity of thought, and it finds an echo in the mob: whoever deviates from the rigid Jewish-nationalistic identity dictated by the government is marked by broad sections of society as a traitor and a collaborator
with the enemy.

These words that I write just now will probably be interpreted by the Israeli majority as unfaithful. I would like to emphasize that this is not an exaggeration: Those who seek protest-signspeace, who are asking to maintain coexistence with the Palestinian citizens of the country, who support equal rights to all citizens either Jews or Arabs and support the founding of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, are considered by a growing portion of Israeli society as traitors. This ethical and moral decline is a result of the continuous state of v3iolent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. These are the fruits of unskillful emotions such as fear, insecurity, hatred and revenge. “The Other” is tagged as daemon and inhuman, and thus develops the view that he is untrustworthy, the only security lies in having him exterminated.

Describing the process of change it is going through, I’m not pointing at Israel as the guilty party. It must be said clearly, loudly and with deep compassion that both parties in the conflict are based on painful and traumatic foundations, suffering victims of mutual ignorance. The Holocaust for the Jews and the Nakbah (disaster; the Palestinians’ exodus in 1948) for the Palestinians are constitutive events, personal and collective traumas, the core of both identities. Generally speaking, both sides refuse to acknowledge the other’s narrative and painful 20th century history. The process of dehumanization, based on denial of the other’s catastrophe, is mutual, and is blinding both peoples’ eyes to see that “The Other” also has family, dreams, rights and feelings of fear, insecurity, grief, insult and revenge.

4Trapped in these views and fears, both sides tend to identify with their views and fears and define themselves through them, then those feelings and views dictate acts of violence and revenge in an attempt to destroy “The Enemy” that makes them feel that way. They hope to achieve peace, security and survival by eliminating and destroying what is perceived to be violating the security and peace that they crave for.

When we are not aware of “views as views and of emotions as emotions”, as instructed by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta (MN10), when we identify with these mental states, when we define ourselves by them, consider them as “me, mine and myself”, we continue to operate automatically according to old patterns and mental impurities. This process is well described in the first link of the Dependent Origination: ignorance conditions karmic7 formations (avijja paccaya sankhara). Becoming aware of mind states and mind objects allows us to know our views and emotions, their source in conditions and circumstances, and allows us not to attach to these mind states and objects. It also allows a more empathic view of “The Enemy”. With clear comprehension, the idea of separation disappears and wisdom (panna) arises, seeing clearly the dependent arising of phenomenon and the eternal law: “You can not stop hatred by hatred, but only by the lack of hatred” (Dhp 5). And more importantly: alongside the development of awareness and wisdom, the Brahmaviharas* also develop and enable the reversal of the dehumanization process.

And there is the argument of “he started it”, pointing the finger to the other whilespecifying the point in time when seemingly all began. But with Right View, it is clear that there is no such a starting point. Each event that we indicate as a starting point stems from the conditions and circumstances that preceded it, thus in a beginningless chain of events. There is no point in looking for “the guilty side” in this story, because it’s not a story of a victim and a victimizer but a story of mutual ignorance, blindness, denial, refusal to acknowledge the other’s narrative, that results in shared human suisraelffering. It is a story of two peoples dependently arising, or maybe I should say dependently ceasing, in an endless deadly conflict. The fruit of violent acts arising from fear, hatred and desire for revenge, is more hatred and more violent acts of revenge by the other side and so, in an endless chain reaction, the tendency to act violently out of hatred and vengeance is getting stronger every decade creating a mutual revenge cycle. So it is according to the law of karma and so it is in the bloody actuality of the Middle East:

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desire, … upon thoughts of ill will, … upon thoughts of cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of non-cruelty to cultivate the thought of cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of cruelty. (Dvedhavitakka Sutta MN19)

The more we incline towards thoughts and actions of a certain quality, the stronger becomes our inclination to repeat them. This, together with discernment between the wholesome and the unwholesome, is the basis of Right Effort. The individual’s mind works in this way, and it works in the same way in the collective consciousness. What each and everyone of us can do is take care of our own minds, our own actions, and open our hearts. We have no responsibility for the collective consciousness.

Having said all this, I’m still torn by doubts. One can cultivate Right View and Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood, train the mind, cultivate the wholesome and weaken the unwholesome, maintain awareness and stability of the mind, develop compassion and equanimity, be aware of mental proliferation and not let it develop. All these have wonderful fruits. But is this sufficient in view of incitement and political persecution? Is this an answer to the moral decline of an entire society? Is this enough to affect the decline of my homeland that my parents came to, as refugees of war, with the hope of establishing an egalitarian and just society? I have full faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, but is cultivating The Noble Path sufficient in view of the frightening and painful disintegration of Israeli society and its deterioration into a fascist and repressive one, that is happening before my eyes? I made the long journey from Israel to hear from you, good Dhamma friends: what is your answer to this question?

Some of my Buddhist friends claim that the right attitude is to keep practicing and propagating the Dhamma, and just “bear it”, as the Buddha advised Angulimala (MN86); bear the worries, the concern, the frustration, the pain of heart. Mind my own mind. But this doesn’t seem to be enough.

During the Saffron Revolution here in Myanmar in 2007, we watched on TV with great admiration and with deep appreciation, the quiet daily march of tens of thousands of burma1monks and nuns and citizens protesting against oppression and social injustice. The four assemblies were out on the streets. It was a non-violent resistance with a clear and courageous saying: Enough is Enough! Though it was a non-violent protest, it caused a lot of violence, with too many casualties. But for me and for many others around the world, and probably for many here in Myanmar, it was an inspiration to what is Right Action and Right Speech in times of oppression and social and moral crisis.The Suttas tell us that Right Speech is gentle and soft. But sometimes it is harsh and painful, and I refer you to the conversation between the Buddha and Prince Abhaya regarding the simile of a child that put a stick or a pebble in his mouth. “I would take it out even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have compassion for the child.”, said the prince. And the Buddha said: “…Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial, but which is unwelcome and disagreeable to others: the Tathagata knows the time to use such speech.” (Abhayarajakumara Sutta MN58). It was clear to me and to the Lay Sangha at Bhavana House in 2007 that we can’t stand aloof. With other Buddhist groups, we demonstrated in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Tel Aviv, to protest. We were shouting, but with a mind of lovingkindness, without inner hate: “Free, free, Aung San Suu Kyi!” I still feel the shiver uttering these words. They might have been not very soft, agreeable and gentle words, but they came out of compassion and great care and love to the people of this country. To people everywhere.

‘Accepting reality as it is’ does not mean non action and just observing. Because compassion is not just another mental factor or feeling in the heart; it is wisdom in action. And equanimity is not indifference and detachment. True, the violent conflict in the Middle East ‘is what it is’. But facing it, an action is required, because as the Medieval Italian poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

It is each and everyone’s responsibility to take care of the situation. What is needed in this conflict, and maybe in every conflict, is a mutual emphatic acknowledgement of the2 narrative, suffering, fears and humaneness of the other, seeing clearly the mutual dependent arising and ceasing of both sides. Not only that we can’t allow ourselves to leave it to the politicians, we also can’t allow ourselves to hide behind perceptions like acceptance, equanimity, gentle speech, ‘the way it is’, etc. Understood with wisdom, these words are not to be grasped at or taken as a justification for non action. Yes, we have to act skillfully, with the Right Intention, with Loving-kindness and Compassion, with a pure heart, not with hatred and violence. But we have to take a stand in view of oppression and injustice. We have to speak up and engage. Otherwise, all this practice of the Buddha Dhamma is futile.

May all beings be free from hate, sorrow and blindness.

May all beings wake up. Thank you.

THANK YOU Itamar. Find out more about Itamar’s work here: Bhavana House (Buddhist teaching & meditation); and this article in Israeli Daily Newspaper Haaretz: Happiness Through Abstinence.  

Keep Informed via:

Breaking the Silence: Israeli soldiers talk about the occupied territories.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: BDS works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.

Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights: Co-founded by Buddhist practitioner Sally Bowden-Schaible

Jewish Voice for Peace:  Work with diverse communities across the U.S.A. to achieve a lasting peace for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis based on equality, human rights, and freedom.

Tikkun: To heal, repair, and transform the world.

Get Directly Involved:

UK based Sangha Seva: Being Peace Retreats in Israel-Palestine

Connect with Israeli Sangha

Bhavana House, Tel Aviv & Tovana Meditation Centre

*Brahmaviharas – Four innate qualities of the pure heart, that can be consciously cultivated: Loving-kindness, compassion, joy at the welfare and success of others, equanimity.

Dharma & Climate Action