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Samsara & Selfhood: Mindfulness is Revolutionary

It’s quoted on coffee cups and bumper stickers everywhere because, of course, Mahatma Gandhi was right. Social justice starts with being the change you want to see in the world.

To this end my most, dearest friend posted this image on my Facebook wall a few weeks ago. I immediately loved it, and thought it connected perfectly with the IDP’s participation and official statement on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Revolutions do begin within, which is why so much of feminist activism has begun with consciousness-raising. In many ways, the OWS movement is a large-scale, public consciousness-raising project. We cannot make change in the world, until the world understands that change is needed (and that change is possible).

Of course, this is also a foundation of Buddhism and the exact reason being a Buddhist starts with meditation. Change is needed (3rd Noble Truth), and change is possible (4th Noble Truth) but all of that starts within. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could sit in community with everyone in Liberty Plaza. I am seriously inspired by this personal attention within, balanced publically with social justice and consciousness-raising work out in the world.  

To me, finding this balance is the most important, and most delicate, Buddhist endeavor. You must start within, and become the person you want to be in the world. My blogs generally focus on this first step. But following the Mahayana tradition, being mindful and compassionate means being in the world and working toward making it a better place, not simply for yourself, for all. We don’t get to check out, or even lose ourselves in self-reflection. But we also cannot expect radical social change to ever happen without first radically changing how we move through the world as individuals. Like everything else, it’s all about finding the Middle Way

And so I pose these questions, not rhetorically, but out of genuine curiosity. How do you balance the effort it takes to revolutionize the self, with the effort it takes to revolutionize the world? When our society so desperately needs occupied, how do remind yourself to look within for the revolution? When our selves, as socialized in this world, so desperately crave alternative ways of being, how do you stay committed to fighting the good fight? How do you do both, while living in a world dominant by hegemonic forces that frankly want neither?

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I want that image on a T shirt. Where can I find that image online?


I want that image on a T shirt. Where can I find that image online?

i wish i knew too!

it was circulating on facebook. which is where i got it. i have no idea where its from, but yes it should be a teeshirt :-)

The 100% discourse misses the point

The notion that the 99/1 juxtaposition is problematic seems to rely on the presumption that it represents a reflection of fixed identities. It does not.

Rather, practitioners should see this framework as an act of self-care; a demand that those in the 1% join us *as equals* in horizontal, participatory community. In the Mahaparanibbana Sutta, the Buddha stakes out the very consensus process unfolding at OWS as the foundation for the survival of the Sangha - the survival of a community. If we operate from the understanding that he meant that, it follows that we would demand those presently ransacking our collective lives humble themselves and join us, on the terms of a broad community.

And it makes as much sense that such a demand would have teeth. The Buddha certainly pulled no punches, here, either. If one looks at the Horse Trainer Sutta, he speaks of metaphorically "killing" (abandoning, casting out) those who refuse wise and reasonable instruction, as a horse trainer would an unteachable horse.

The flattening that comes with all the 100% lingo is in certain ways dangerous, as it threatens to flatten diffence through uniformity. The 99% in its incompleteness also suggests a certain heterogeneity and multiplicity. This is essential to inclusivity, and the liberation of difference (racial, gendered, etc). We really need to come to a skillful understanding of "we are all one" as a colonialist sentiment; one that appropriates and erases difference. If we were all one, we'd have no need of solidarity, of the demands it places on us not to control, but support -- to exercise power with rath than power over.

Certainly, our aspiration ought to be to move beyond opposition. But not without it.

Thanks for your comment. I

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate the call "to come to a skillful understanding of "we are all one" as a colonialist sentiment; one that appropriates and erases difference."

This is often true.  "We are all one" is sometimes used to make oursleves feel better about the part we play in the institutionalized "isms". It is broad, vague and not that useful. It is also an expression of the absolute truth of emptiness and interdependence. At the same time, a critical understanding of interdependence in our society nesessitates an understanding of social inequity and oppression.

I find the contemplation of "just like me" more specific than "we are all one".

Just like me, this person wants to be happy.

I beleive that "just like me" is the path to working with the suffering casued by social hierarchy. Each person's capacity to envision themselves outside of the social oppression model will lead to its demise.

It is tricky, we must constantly hold both the relative and the ulitimate view. Oppression exists. We are part of it. We benefit from it or we are vistims of it, or both AND everythig is impermanent. The way we fight social injustice can be a means to solidify it or deconstruct it.

Thanks for writing Angela and thanks for the comment and the opportunity to dialogue about this.

Occupy the Moment

These protests are about the greed of many of the wealthiest individuals, which makes it in many ways a spiritual problem, and one that the teaching of the Four Noble Truths and Three Poisons is very pertinent too. This is a very appropriate moment to share these teachings with the many Americans unfamiliar with them who might find they help explain the suffering we are now going through.

At the same time, there is some concern among Buddhists about dividing people into the 99% and the 1% rather than seeing us all as the 100%. Those who protest the poison of greed ought not to do so through the poison of hatred.

Still, while it is important to feel lovingkindness for all in an emotional sense, I believe that use one's rational faculties to make distinctions between wholesome behaviors and the unwholesome behaviors of many on Wall Street.

I have been participating in Occupy Boston and led a mindfulness meditation there. I've put some of my thoughts in a 99 cent ebook called Occupy the Moment. The majority of the proceeds are pledged to the Occupy movement.

Rick Heller

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