Sometimes in the West, Buddhism is seen as concerned with 'turning away' from the world, meditating, living a life 'in retreat'. But compassion and compassionate activity for the sake of all beings has always been a central teaching. Wisdom and Compassion are the two wings of the Dharma bird, both necessary and mutually dependent. The Triratna Movement and Order has always had a vision of changing the world.
Buddhist Action Month is a festival of socially engaged action, encouraging us to focus on our impact in the world. This year, we are asked to look at compassionate activity in three areas:
Generosity and Awakening Money
Caring for Others
We'll be looking at each of these areas in the next three weeks. There's no right or wrong, what we should or should not be doing; this is not about feeling guilty. It's about our attempts to keep opening more to generosity and compassion, doing less harm; our willingness to look at what we actually are doing.
It can be difficult to look at world problems - there's the enormity of it, and our own feelings of powerlessness. It can just seem too depressing, and we want to turn away. So for the first week of BAM we looked at how to turn towards these problems through a sense of deep interconnectedness. It's a fundamental Buddhist teaching - the separate self is an illusion, we are all intricately interconnected with all living beings.
We used the work of Joanna Macy that she calls 'The Work that Reconnects'.
This starts from Gratitude - a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life. Then it moves into Honouring Our Pain - being able to turn towards suffering, our own and others. Here we had a powerful led reflection (which I'll describe in the next blog). Then it moves to engaging with Interconnectedness, feeling ourselves part of the flow of life, not acting alone, but feeling what acts through us.
'I try to remember that it's not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rainforest. Rather I am part of the rainforest protecting itself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into human thinking'.
John Seed, rainforest activist
We can ask ourselves - 'what happens through me?' Are consumerism, materialism, a fragmented and individualistic society, exploitation of other living beings being strengthened through me? Or am I opening up to allow generosity, simplicity, care for others, a sense of interconnectedness and community to work through me?
Finally the work moves to Going Forth - into what we can do, which we'll be thinking about over the next three weeks.
'It doesn't matter how humble a level we are operating at, or how undramatic our work may be. The tru individual is not so much the King of the jungle as the indefatigable earthworm. However powerful the existing order may seem, it is not invulnerable to the undermining influence of enough individuals working, directly or indirectly, in co-operation.'