A Next Step by Thanissara

So we are nearing the end of what has been a huge month for the Climate Movement mostly because it went from a disparate number of groups to an actual global movement. Because of this I feel we should celebrate, even as we feel the dread of the very real challenges ahead. Still let’s take a moment to really enjoy and feel the goodness of what has just happened.

There is a party in NY next week. Unfortunately many of us can’t attend (love a party if there’s good dancing music!) Even so we can each celebrate what is a huge accomplishment. We can give thanks to the deeper spirit of humanity that moved so many to step out for the earth, her animals, creatures, forests and plants, and for our future generations.

Climate March

In case you missed what we are celebrating, here’s a few catch ups:

Peoples Climate Story

Great Pics

Inspiring Videos

Religions for the Earth Conference

Pics of Faith Contingent

Most Amazing Interfaith Service @ St John the Divine NYC 

So after the party we must continue to forge forward with determination. There is no time to loose as we mobilize together to tackle the changes that need to happen. Basically this amounts to:

1. Reduce carbon emissions completely (Stop the Fossil Fuel Industry & their government subsidies. Legislate a fee for carbon use & create a dividend for most impacted peoples. Also divest from fossil fuels on massive scale)

2. Sequester existing carbon (Save and increase forests, plant high carbon absorption crops like hemp which can also replace many oil based products. Ensure ocean health)

3. Massive investment in renewable energy (Replace subsidies for fossil fuel to renewables – mobilize renewable energy as if mobilizing a war effort)

4. Re-think consumerism and reclaim the sacred within ourselves and of the earth. (While thinking along those lines, you may enjoy Elder Bing Gong’s Podcasts)

5. Shift from a meat based diet to plant based one.

More about this later, alongside specific possibilities for “what we can to do” together and how we can practice reclamation of the sacred.

Meanwhile, I invite you to join me and our great One Earth Sangha team (check out co-founder of 1ES Lou Leonard’s blog piece The March to March) and sixteen leading Dharma teachers during the month of October. Each Sunday, for an hour and a half, we have teachers input, conversation in break out groups, questions and dialog focused on the layered dimensions of life impacted by climate change. We are already well over 1000 people signed up.

So do join us dear Dharma Friends & Climate Activists as we “break bread” and “share in beloved community.” You can join in wherever you are in the world via Skype or inexpensive phone card. (EST is New York time, USA.)

To sign up and register for free, please click here onto One Earth Sangha. “See” you there!

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The Challenge of Climate Catastrophe to Axial Age Religion

I’ve just finished reading Chris Hedges piece “The Coming Climate Revolt.” His closing paragraph is daunting.

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Gathering for Flood Wall Street

The response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of … revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power. The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.

Hedges preceding words detail a grim litany of usurped power by the “corporate state” that “perpetuates the facade of democracy.” Why I feel so daunted by Hedges diagnosis is that much of it unfortunately rings true. In the face of corporate and oligarchic power once again I feel like a Hobbit journeying to Mordor. I would like to stay in the Shires and not have to venture further into a terrible journey of confrontation, struggle and risk.

hobbits-at-mordorI am also reluctant to move to this “reality check” while still coasting on the good feeling of our Peoples Climate March and its hopeful buoyant joyful exuberance.

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For now, I’m still digesting the impact of the last week as well as the implications of the challenges ahead. In the midst of that I’ve been talking with friends and teachers about our “Buddhist” piece in all this. Basically, we seem to agree that the reality of our current times is going to profoundly challenge Buddhism along with other Axial Age religions which forged many evolutionary shifts in their time. These focused on an individuated experience and relationship with the divine/ transcendent while also connecting that to an inner moral imperative. However they also shaped a profound split with nature in the tendency to posit “salvation” and “nirvana” as apart from this world.

While Buddhism has followed its own evolutionary arch which dissolved that fundamental split in texts like the Heart Sutra, it is still deeply embedded in the philosophical template that sees the world as samsara and therefore “bad, seductive, lesser and corrupting.” It is this fundamental split and the rise of a patriarchal — earth and female averse — religious doctrine that contributes to our catastrophic and perilous situation.

Rev angel
Rev angel

Fast forward to this last week. I listened to Rev angel Kyodo williams at Shambhala New York talking a straight message. Rev Williams explored “de-white-ing” our collective conditioning. While an obvious reference to skin color and the entitlements of “whiteness” she made the point of including everyone in our “whiteness” focus. The decolonizing of the mind means moving beyond our tendency to characterture and package everyone according to painful social and racial conditioning which generates the inability to actually see each other. In response to her talk, a young African American woman gave the example of arriving at the meditation center where another attendee said to her and her black friend, “Oh the fun people have arrived.” This was painful because immediately the young woman was objectified and stripped of depth, gravitas and seriousness. While it may have been a clumsy attempt to reach out, it actually gave the message “you are other.”

When it comes to the revolution that is needed to ensure our collective survival, we have to understand that part of the problem is our chronic “othering” which denies the reality of a seamless web of life. At Flood Wall Street I was interviewed (a rare occurrence I assure you) and found myself talking about this “othering” as a crisis in consciousness that underpins our energy crisis. We have to stop seeing the earth, the world around us, and the vast diversity of peoples, animals and creatures as apart from ourselves, our tribe and our “special entitlements.”

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Bhikkhu Bodhi @ Flood Wall Street

This new evolutionary arch is summarized brilliantly in Zenji Dogen’s statement Dogen-zenji[1]Enlightenment is the intimacy of all things. Buddhism, when at its best, has never divided evil and good but sees the origin of all dualities within our own mind. We have not launched holy struggles against “evil” but seek to purify our own heart and transform our own consciousness. In doing so, the Buddha engaged Kings and Generals and he sought to stop wars and social injustice. But he did so from an inclusive consciousness.

So blog pieces should not be too long. To be brief here. While I believe Chris Hedges analysis – we have to have a revolution that takes down a rogue fossil fuel state machinery – how we do this is critical. We saw this last week that people power is indeed a brilliant power. We also saw that when it coalesce diversity, youth, grandmothers, indigenous peoples, workers, leaders, people of faith, and a variety of concerned citizens across the globe with creativity, joy, focus and determination, then we have found ourselves a movement. A movement that expresses our new evolutionary edge.

We are warriors and we do have a battle to engage; but we will not default to hatred and violence (though we may feel both impulses.) And it is at this crux that Buddhism has a valuable offering to make. I hope we can get beyond our tribal sangha competitiveness, our narcissistic introversions and sanctioned quietism, our inner splits and entitled “whiteness,” and our fear of the sacred feminine enough to meet the coming wave. Our work is cut out!

Santussika Bhikkhuni carrying a banner made by her 6 year-old grand daughter
Santussika Bhikkhuni carrying a banner made by her 6 year-old grand daughter

The week the world changed by thanissara

Pause and take a moment to realize what a phenomenal and unprecedented happening has occurred across the globe this week in support of immediate climate action. We are witnessing the birth of a people power united across race, geography, faith, class, gender, expunging all other socio-colonial-patriachal defined “isms.”

Climate March in New York

We the people have walked and we now speak for a reality which has been dangerously twisted, distorted, denied and suppressed by the corporate-fossil fuel-oligarchic owned media agenda. This reality is catastrophic climate chaos is upon us, it is real, it is happening, and if we don’t act now, we will destroy the biosphere and render the earth unsustainable for all life. There as no one on the 2,700 marches across the globe, or the 400,000 marchers in New York City that didn’t know this to be true.

London marching
London marching

The march was a statement for political leaders gathering right now to talk our planetary future. Take another moment to watch this stunning opening offering from 26 year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. As world leaders hash it out in the UN Climate Action Summit, we need to acknowledge the true leaders that are among us which is the First Nation Peoples who led our 4 mile long (7+ kilometers) people march through the streets of New York. They know the territory, they understand the disease and they have the remedy.

They have the remedy because they also understand we all have the remedy. We know this when we listen beyond our colonized minds to hear the deep, urgent impulse of sanity that is aligned to the heartbeat of the earth, of the ancestors, of the animals, and of the total web of life. This is the deep feminine primordial mother earth who births all things and who cries out to us now, each of us, to hear her urging. Stand up and be my protector. Do what you can, embody the sacred masculine and be a warrior-lover of the earth, of each other, of our best heart.

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NYI

So dear friends, our task is before us. We must take the inspiration of this historic moment in the climate movement and bring it into our lives while also speaking out to share the message the best we can. While there is no turning back, it is important to remember we are doing this together.

As a Buddhist practitioner it was especially great to see a strong gathering of cross denominational Buddhists turn up to align forces with People of Faith. The determination I felt on the march from those stepping out alongside me was palpable. We must go forward and work hard to secure our collective future.  As we do so, we will see game changers happening.

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Already as the momentum for change is building, results are coming in. Divestments from the fossil fuel industry are happening fast. Yesterday it was announced that Rockefeller’s divested $860million, the World Council of Churches representing 590 million people in 150 countries have divested, 30 cities in the USA, Stanford is dropping coal holdings from its 18 billion endowment funds. (C’mon Harvard, you can do it!) Especially love Dogs for Divestment! Meanwhile investments in renewables is the leading edge in the market.

What’s happening is a eco-re-evolution. When we tune into this our life will start changing, inwardly and externally. As the truth is all things are interconnected, the coming years of this energy and consciousness re-evolution will impact us all in destabilizing, challenging and positive ways. So time to put our practice to use as we connect with refuge, community and our own inner spirit and guidance.

Yesterday I observed Flood Wall Street and had the honor of hanging out with David Loy most of the day as we walked with this activist happening. David was not averse to getting arrested (I was not  up for arrest – not right now anyway.) As we became surrounded by police and as the march moved into a “sit down” David and I went for coffee, aware that it was turning into a long day with an inevitable outcome.

Polar Bear gets arrested
Polar Bear gets arrested

As those on the front line aimed for the belly of the beast, our capitalistic-addicted-steriod-crack-pumped-disembodied-bull-market-machine, (commonly called The Stock Market), David and I talked Buddhist fem-eco-activist-evolution. More about that later, meanwhile, here’s David’s talk from the Eco-Dharma conference in August, Tale of Two Icebergs.

David & DaRa (from NY Insight)
David & DaRa (from NY Insight)

I’m going to finish off by reverting once again to my dear friend Gayle Markow and her “bring it home” advise, after the great joy of walking with a million+ people, across the world, for our mother earth.

Today was truly remarkable because of the really Huge numbers of people that did turn out, their enthusiasm, their creativity, their diversity (in the positive extreme), the enormous positive energy of this march that went on an on and on and on, it was fulfilling and hopeful.  And we All have a lot of work to do to save our Home, our planet, our Mother Earth. This magnificent demonstration was the culmination of much planning and organizing, but Only the Beginning of the Serious Journey to be undertaken. May we all go forward shoulder to shoulder. Much love from NYC. 

I echo that – Much love from NYC – what a city! What a week!

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What a day! by Thanissara

Friends, today in New York there was a seismic shift in the climate movement. In its report Huffington Post estimated more than 400,000 people were on the street. Our message was clear. We want action now and we’re not going away! This is just the beginning.

NY1I was in the Faith block. When we first arrived it was pretty spacious, but we were a few hours early. By the time it was our turn to march I was squeezed in check by jowl with Buddhist friends and barely able to move, such was the volume of people. (Fortunately it got more spacious as we began to march!) We were a happy, joyous, bunch, but also determined. We are the immune system of the Earth rising…I’ll have more to say but it’s late into the night and time to catch some sleep, so here’s two pics for now…Oh and an update from the UK and a brief snippet around the world.

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Buddhists Rock!

It’s late and it’s been a loooong day – so instead of writing an update myself, I’m going to post on from my dear friend Gayle Markow who will join the Peoples Climate March with us here in New York City tomorrow. Gayle and I have known each other for many years. Our friendship began early 2000 when she became central to our fund raising campaign at San Francisco Insight for Dharmagiri’s HIV/Aids community outreach work in South Africa.

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Now many years later we shared the journey on the Climate Train and today’s events which Gayle records here. This was at at New York Insight. There were about 200 people from a diversity of geographical backgrounds, as well as New Yorkers, meeting to “Prepare the Heart to March.” In the evening we attended a symposium of climate leaders at New York Society of Ethical Culture. Over to Gayle.

I got up, got dressed and hailed a taxi for Insight New York down on 27th Street. Turned out to be the MOST awesome 3 hour event. The two nuns (Ayya Santussika and Santacitta Bhikkhunis) who were on the train with us, Thanissara, Bikkhu Bodhi, Wes Nisker, David Loy, and some other brilliant speakers. It was Mega-awesome!!! A major event unto itself!  

At NY Insight, I “scored” possibly the last available ticket for Bill McKibben’s talk tonight. I never heard him before, or read him, but people spoke highly and I was curious. He was awesome. Then other speakers who were also awesome. Mary Robinson, first woman President of Ireland, and now UN Special Envoy for Climate Change (previously UN High Commissioner for Human Rights). There was Sean Sweeney, founder and co-director of the Global Labor Institute, etc etc… Other speakers All wonderful too. Too numerous to name here right now. Sweeney said that ALL NY area Unions have endorsed the People’s Climate March. Bill McKibben said there will be more than 2700 marches  and events going on around the world (150+ countries) this weekend in Solidarity with the Climate March. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will also be joining the Climate March. So much more got said, and it was all of intense interest, and the 800 or so people there tonight were electrified. The energy was palpable.

The Climate March is gonna be huge. Seriously. Huge. And it will transform the movement for change. This is gonna be a wild and interesting ride. Not just the march, which is gonna be Huge. But the next few decades. Because the Earth, and mainly the survivability of our human (and lots of other) species is Seriously at risk, like Never Before. We’re moving rapidly toward what they call the “tipping point” where it will be too late to reverse, to salvage things. It’s already not clear whether we’ve already passed that point, but there seems to be some hope that we haven’t, but that also we don’t have much time, actually hardly any time.

There is a tremendous sense of urgency here. It’s contagious, and at the same time,hopeful. Because people – in large numbers – have gotten serious. I think we might be witnessing the “hundredth monkey effect”. Wow. So, anyway, that was my day. If you can, get out and demonstrate tomorrow, and then be sure to watch the news, and see what kind of news we make here.”

Just to add onto Gayle’s report a mention the presentation at the NY Society of Ethical Culture by Lester Brown who is considered one of the world’s most influential thinkers. He gave a brief preview of his forth coming book which was packed full of truly inspiring data about the fast moving energy transformation from fossil fuels to wind and solar happening all over the world. Countries like Germany and Denmark are leading, and while lagging behind, the USA has the capacity to really fast forward this momentum, given the political will. Brown thinks that we’ll see a significant energy revolution in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, it’s important to keep the pressure on for change. Here’s more urgency from S.Africa’s Kumi Naidoo – ED of Greenpeace International, spelling it out on the eve of the Peoples Climate March happening all over the world on September 21st.

Rev TK - Japanese American at NY Insight today talking about Nuclear Waste being like having a house with no toilet. (Meaning, we sh#ite in our own home) Time to shift from Nuclear!Back to NY Insight for a moment. The day included speeches on climate, Dharma, and activism, by Ayya Santacitta (we are in climate chaos and there’s nowhere to hide), Ayya Santussika (who reported on the Climate Train, Tar Sands and the Climate Pledge), Bhikkhu Bodhi (who talked of transforming fear into samvega – urgency – and desire into fearless compassion), David Loy (a shift of relationship to body, self and earth), Wes Nisker (the mystery of our cosmological reality, conveyed with humor and lightness), Rev TK (nuclear waste is like having no toilet in your house!), and myself (journey out of denial and reading from The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra.)

Thanks to all who came to share the day and to Kevin Hansen for doing this video of what he called the “new anthem” of the Climate Movement – You heard it here ppl – at our New York Insight event which, as said by Gayle, was AWESOME!

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The Climate Train – A Kaleidoscope of a New World Dawning by Thanissara

earthFrom Emeryville Berkeley CA to New York Penn Station, we were a tribe of nearly 200 diverse peoples, rolling along 3000 miles of train track through exquisite ancient lands. We shared fifty remarkable workshops with the energy of a movement whose time has come. There was clear diagnosis of the forces of destruction, a refusal to succumb to despair, a commitment to dissent, and a determination to see through the energy revolution now needed on our planet.

Snaking through mountains, along riverbeds, past the stake outs of our Petro Empire – oil refinery’s, targeted fracking grounds, graceful and noble rivers, now polluted — we, First Nation Peoples, Faith Leaders, People of Color, white haired granny’s and granddads, tattooed and pierced beautiful youth, musicians, artists, scientists, political buffs, and even many of our Amtrak hosts, were of one voice.

earth on fire

Climate catastrophe is now. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We wait no longer for the powerful to chart our suicidal trajectory. We the people are standing up for the rights of Mother Earth, for the return of the Sacred, for a USA and world that practices social and economic equity. We are unstoppable!

Reflected in words of Elder Bing Gong, quoting his Buddhist master in a workshop on Eldership, we taste an exquisite flavor of our truth.

This human body truly is the entire cosmos

Each breath of mine, is equally one of yours, my darling,

This tender abiding in “my life”

Is the fierce glowing fire of inner Earth,

Linking with all pre-phenomena.

10557673_10152713668453395_5991929044823195638_o Flashing to the distant horizon

From “right here now” to “just this”

Now the horizon itself, Drops away —

Bodhi Svaha!!

Myogen Steve Stucky

 

The Train … Part 2, by Thanissara

As we pulled into Denver CO, we were warmly welcome by a great rally on the Amtrak platform. A wonderful crowd cheered us on as more folks joined the train with a great send off from their community. Ayya Santussika spoke – “If they don’t pay attention to our March, we’ll be back with more marches, and more….”

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As the train chugged on through the magnificent landscapes of the Rockies, we passed a meadow on our descent. Amma Thanasanti stood with a friend holding a wide banner cheering us on (picture will be uploaded later!) A very sweet moment!

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Today 1st Nation Elder John Pappan of the Omaha Indigenous Council NE spoke about time to listen to the First peoples of this land. They are the ones who have always been connected with the earth and who are guided by spirit to protect it.

His work with the Indigenous Council on Tar Sands involved making an unlikely alliance with Nebraska farmers. As a group they organized a great activist happening earlier in the year at Washington DC; the Indian-Cowboy Alliance. He spoke of the importance of being in equal alliance, and the patient work of communication. Listening to the farmers complaining that Oil companies come onto their land, uninvited, to assess the possibility of extracting oil. How disempowered they felt. “Ah” said an Indian Grandmother, “I get it. You are now the Indians.”

We are all now the “Indians” as our rights to a healthy environment are stripped away. And we are also all part of the same gathering, known for time immemorial by the 1st Nations, of deeper spirit who now moves within us to reclaim the sacredness of the earth, of the children, and of all living things. John spoke with great gentleness, honesty and encouraged us all to take the most difficult journey from “head to heart.” He said sometimes he gets “goosebumps” when he feels the new world that is on its way, as to the prophecy of his people.

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John L Pappan, President, Indigenous Council NE
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Talking about the reclamation of the sacred

The next workshop was with Peter Clay who joined the train last night. He is part of the Great March for Climate Action, a group of about 30 walking across the country, from LA (from March 1st) to arrive in DC on November 1st. This is a huge and inspiring undertaking. (When I have more internet connection, I’ll post a most inspiring speech from one of the Marchers.)

The last workshop I attended, and was part of, was a “panel” of interfaith representatives, hosted by Ayya Santussika. (I say a “panel” but it was a 30 people squeeze in a small train car, with everyone invited to speak.)

Represented were Christian, (Unitarian, Catholic, Quaker, Episcopalian), Buddhist (Theravada, Insight, Thich Naht Hahn), Jewish, Mohawk 1st Nation and others. Many points were raised which generated a web of connection that led us into a discussion about our times where there is no “other.” Yet at the same time, there are those who oppress. The core issue of how to meet violent oppression without enmity was spoken to extremely powerfully by 1st Nation Cherokee Pennie Opal Plant. She has been on the front line, with many other activists, doing prayer circles outside of the Chevron plant in Richmond East Bay, a traditionally marginalized community. (Pennie noted that prayer circles rattled the industrial folks more than demos.) Pennie spoke of making a point of warmly greeting every police officer and Chevron worker before their acts of prayerful resistance. Over time some of the police have become their protectors.

A young man in the meeting spoke passionately about how the police function as the oppressive arm of the corporate empire. How he witnessed tear gas cans being thrown at children during Occupy in Oakland. Pennie spoke of the need for the grandmothers – the grey haired ones – to lead, to be in front, to create the least violent atmosphere. It is hard for police to beat up a grandmother. She apologized for not being at the Occupy, that they were caught unawares, however, she stated, they would not be caught unaware again.

If you are interested, here is a list of workshops on the train.

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Thanissara, Pennie, Ayya Santacitta

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