Tag Archives: Peoples Climate March

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
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Fear and Hope by Thanissara

There are two energizing and focusing principles in Buddhist practice, which act as the proverbial carrot and stick, traditionally called samvega, and saddha. Samvega is a sense of urgency, born of the awareness of impermanence and the preciousness of the time we have. Saddha is faith and confidence in the possibility of overcoming the causes of suffering, while at same time, honing our life to awakening.

These two motivating factors are very present in the Climate Movement. The awareness we don’t have much time, and the hope we can turn our catastrophic trajectory around, even at this late hour. This last week, the thought came to mind that when it comes to climate change, our culture has a dearth of samvega. We are sleep walking into a highly precarious and deadly situation. In the face of this, we are simply not frightened enough. Perhaps we are personally, but not collectively.

If we understand the science, our fear would mobilize us to prepare for war. We would be moving way beyond eco light bulbs and a new Prius (as good as they are), to systemic change. Such a change will not happen unless there is uprising on a mind-boggling, unprecedented scale, with the purpose of taking down our psycho fossil fuel empire and its addicted manipulative bride, Wall Street Capitalism gone rogue.

For this reason, I’m setting out to join the Peoples Climate Train, and the Peoples Climate March, making my way to New York. Here’s an update about THE march:

  • 50 US States represented
  • 1,100+ organizations join & endorse the march + 28 faith groups
  • 374 Buses and Trains (check to join one)
  • 26 City blocks the NYPD has reserved for participants
  • 20 (minimum) marching bands – (we dance as well as march)
  • 300+ college campuses mobilizing to come to NY
  • 1500 Global actions in 130 countries. Join or create an event
  • 401 ppm carbon (needs to below 350)
  • 0 progress if we do nothing

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This week, I started my preparation to board the train. On Sunday night, 7th September, I joined a small group of 20 people at St Mark’s Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN. We watched Disruption. I won’t give a précis, instead I invite you to watch it. In the discussion afterward, one elderly man boomed out, his voice ricocheting around the fairly empty church, “This is a prophetic moment – a major crossroad. Don’t waste time trying to convince people in denial, instead do what you can.” Nice clear words said with great passion.

Then, this week, a small headline, nearly lost in the flood of news. It caught my and many others notice. It was a hope against the odds – a small yellow flower growing through concrete – moment. In Massachusetts, district attorney Sam Sutter dropped criminal charges against climate activists, stating the welfare of future generations trumped any possible “illegality” of their actions. He further stated not only was he overturning charges, but also he himself would attend the Peoples Climate March. When sanity trumps the system, a ray of hope lights the heart! (Read more here from The Rev Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, one of our co-Faith collaborators)

sam sutter
Sam Sutter

So now I am making my way from Chattanooga to San Francisco to get the train. Yes, the irony is not lost on me that flying is bad carbon footprint. I don’t try to justify it, I admit bad practice, but right now – I suppose – I take the view of Eco-activist Bill McKibben and his strategic use of fossil fuels for the greater good cause (I further confess, my use of air travel is not always strategic.) American airports – the Indian, spiced, copper taste chai in Atlanta concourse B Buckhead Bookstore – our fossil fuel way of life – It’s so dam good! …. Yet, sad to say, now so deadly …

So packing… I’m on the road to join “my tribe” of Buddhist and Faith folks bringing the humane, ethical, and the sacredness of life into the mix. We have organized meet ups, services, songs, bells, bands, discussions and who knows what… We’ve collaborated over dozens of conference calls, hundreds of emails, while making alliances over the last months. Soon we will gather on the street to see ourselves in body, stepping out into a hopeful new future, informed, sincere, committed, and I do believe, unstoppable.

Filling a suitcase. It’s not easy – what to do with all those possessions? Leave it behind in a few boxes. These are times for inner simplicity and fluidity – not to be weighed down with “stuff” – physical, emotional or whatever was left undone, the mistakes made – Doesn’t matter now – My theme to myself, keep trying to hone down, keep letting go. Even after years of Dharma practice, letting go — the sheer simplicity of it — is still a practice. The Buddha called it nekkhama – renunciation – a very useful training for inner freedom.

At the same time –whatever emerges in my inner landscape – It’s all “us.” I fly, I consume, I use money, and now, it seems, I MARCH. And while I feel the terror of what we face, I also disconnect and watch Netflix. I care and sometimes, I don’t care. All of this has to be touched with loving awareness. This is my practice too. It’s not “my” loving awareness. It is the divine working through us…playing her dualistic game. She is interested to see what we hobbits will do. Will we throw the poison ring back into the fires of Mordor[i], or will we succumb to its intoxicating seduction?

hobbits-at-mordor

[i] Mordor – See “Lord of the Rings” a great metaphor for our times. If you’ve already seen it, still, invite some friends over, get a bowl of eco-vegan-organic chips – and see it again!

Peoples Climate March – Journey to New York by Thanissara

I’ve created this new blog to share my journey to New York to join in the historic Peoples Climate March, along with tens of thousands of others, including over 1,000 organizations.  Here’s the info if you missed it!

I’ll be leaving next Monday on the California Zephyr to travel with 170 Climate Activists and People of Faith on a 4 day, 3 night journey across America – via Chicago – onto New York.

PCT

I’ll keep you posted on the journey – what’s happening – events on the train, folks joining in, and so on. We arrive on the 18th – rest up, to start the events.

I’ll be in NY for 10 days, there’s a lot happening – If you can’t make it, I hope you can join me on this journey via this blog. They’ll be Faith gatherings, an event at NY Insight with myself and Santacitta, Santussika, Pannavati Bhikkhunis, Bhikkhu Bodhi, David Loy, Wes Nisker…They’ll be activist happenings – like Flood Wall Street – I’ll  keep you posted with pics and updates.

Here’s our Banner for the March

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The Peoples Climate March is just the beginning (well, not exactly, environmentalists have been at this a looong time), but this is the beginning of the Peoples Movement to secure a sustainable planet. Join us, as we become an unstoppable force.

OK – see you “on the road!”

Thanks to Diane Wilde of Sacramento for designing our Buddhist Banner – and thanks to Valerie Love of the Center for Biological Diversity, and Ayya Santussika Bhikkhuni, for arranging the Climate Train.