Socially Engaged Practice

Socially Engaged Practice:
Awakening Together

It is true that Buddhist meditation practice requires seclusion and inwardly focused depth. But wouldn't the embodiment of dharma in the world be more complete by also reaching out and addressing the grinding miseries that are ailing humanity? I know we engage in lofty meditations on kindness and compassion and espouse beautiful ideals of love and peace. But note that we pursue them largely as inward, subjective experiences geared toward personal transformation. Too seldom does this type of compassion roll up its sleeves and step into the field. Too rarely does it translate into pragmatic programs of effective action realistically designed to diminish the actual sufferings of those battered by natural calamities or societal deprivation.
- Bhikkhu Bodhi

In a restless world where the harmful effects of our (humanity's) greed, hatred and delusion are so clearly noticeable, many of us waken to a deep, experience-based understanding that our thoughts, words and deeds - when based on kindness, love and wisdom - have the unique capacity to bring about widespread and lasting peace, happiness and well-being. Our contributions to global warming, acidification of oceans and lakes, air pollution, species extinction, racism, gender discrimination, modern-day slavery, and widespread poverty are amongst the most damaging consequences of our individual and collective volitional actions that are particularly related to patriarchy, industrialization and population growth. An increasing number of us realize, however, that there is a pressing need for us to take swift and appropriate action to heal the harm we are inflicting and to protect the cleanliness of the air, water, and earth upon which we and many other life-forms depend.

What Can We Each Do?

"Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sounds. By such means, ...awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world. If we get in touch with the suffering of the world, and are moved by that suffering, we may come forward to help the people who are suffering."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

  1. Start by trying to identify - through practising mindfulness - how when, where, and to what extent we ourselves are influenced by our greed, our hatred and our delusion.  

  2. Ensure as best we can that whatever we do has minimal harmful effects on ourselves or others.

  3. Educate ourselves about the causes and conditions that bring about harmful results and about those that lead to healing so that the actions we take are based on wisdom and compassion.

  4. Decide where we want to focus our efforts to make most effective use of our inclinations and talents.

  5. Develop our communication skills to enhance our ability to more easily build relationships and bridge differences of opinions.

  6. Identify and connect with other like-minded groups so that we can act collectively and, in doing so, increase our effectiveness and reduce our sense of powerlessness and overwhelm.

  7. Engage wisely and compassionately with our chosen areas of interest with a "don't know mind". This means that we have no idea whether whatever we do is going to make any difference but we do it anyway. It's what we are here for and it's what we find ourselves called to do.

What Supports Can RIMC Offer to Enhance Social Engagement?

Action isn't a burden to be hoisted up and lugged around on our shoulders. It is something we are. The work we have to do can be seen as a kind of coming alive. More than some moral imperative, it's an awakening to our true nature, a releasing of our gifts.
- Joanna Macy

  1. Form an EcoSangha (see below for an explanation) within our broader community framework.

  2. Within the EcoSangha, develop focused "kalyana mitta" ("spiritual friends") groups in which members can exchange information and prioritize actions connected to each group's area of interest (e.g., racism, global warming, modern-day slavery and so on).

  3. The EcoSangha can network with other similarly concerned organizations in Regina and elsewhere.

  4. Using RIMC's within-sangha expertise, bring social engagement more to the fore in our Wednesday Night Sitting Group, in our Dharma Movie Nights, and in our retreat program.

  5. Within RIMC, develop focused kalyana mitta groups in which members explore their relationship to what is happening in our world including feelings of powerlessness and overwhelm, as well as empowering us to engage more directly with the suffering.

What Is an EcoSangha?

EcoSanghas are local groups made up of individuals from within one or many spiritual traditions. Based on the understanding that a sense of community provides critical support to us as we face and respond effectively to the ecological, social, and political problems we encounter in our world, EcoSangha members explore teachings, practise together and organize engagement activities. Many EcoSanghas, including ours in R.I.M.C., have emerged organically through One Earth Sangha's online EcoSattva and other trainings. One Earth Sangha provides critical support to EcoSanghas by helping them connect, inspire and collaborate with one another.

A Buddhist Declaration 
on Climate Change

Today we live in a time of great crisis, confronted by the gravest challenge that humanity has ever faced: the ecological consequences of our own collective karma. The scientific consensus is overwhelming: human activity is triggering environmental breakdown on a planetary scale. Global warming, in particular, is happening much faster than previously predicted, most obviously at the North Pole. For hundreds of thousands of years, the Arctic Ocean has been covered by an area of sea-ice as large as Australia but now this is melting rapidly. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecast that the Arctic might be free of summer sea ice by 2100. It is now apparent that this could occur within a decade or two. Greenland's vast ice-sheet is also melting more quickly than expected. The rise in sea-level this century will be at least one metre �" enough to flood many coastal cities and vital rice-growing areas such as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

If you are interested in reading the rest of this declaration, please open: www.ecobuddhism.org/bcp/all_content/buddhist_declaration/



One Earth Sangha

This group brings essential wisdom and practices from the Buddhist tradition to collective engagement on critical ecological crises.
350.org sees climate change as the most important issue facing humanity; organizes co-ordinated days of action that links activists and organizations around the world.

Buddhist Peace Fellowship
BPF serves as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism; its purpose is to help beings liberate themselves from the suffering that manifests in individuals, relationships, institutions, and social systems.

Ecological Buddhism - A Buddhist Response to Global Warming
A most useful information source.

Fossil Free
This is an international network of campaigns and campaigners working toward freeing communities from fossil fuels.

GoodGuide Inc.
Has rated and reviewed 250000+ products based on safety, health, and environmental factors.

Joanna Macy
Joanna is a respected activist in movements for peace, justice, and ecology; her website opens doors to the new bodies of thought, time-tested spiritual practices, and pioneering group methods that she finds to be powerfully inspiring.

Zen Peacemakers, Inc.
This is an organization that is committed to nonviolence, inclusivity, free expression and experimentation as it seeks to connect and empower peacemakers throughout the world.


Decolonizing the Mind
Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, (1:12)

Healing Ecology: A Buddhist Perspective on the Eco-Crisis
David Loy (1:35)

Let Them Drown
Naomi Klein (1:28)

Three Dimensions of the Great Turning
Joanna Macy (5:55)

Why People Don't Believe In Climate Science
Joe Hanson (7:33)

Reclamation of the Sacred - Thanissara (1:00)

Books and Papers

Bales, K., 2012. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. University of Calfornia Press, 298 pages. More than twenty-seven million people are still trapped in one of history's oldest social institutions..... Kevin Bales's disturbing story of slavery today reaches from brick kilns in Pakistan and brothels in Thailand to the offices of multinational corporations.

Bodhi, Goleman, D. 2009. Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. Broadway Business, 276 pages. Reveals the hidden environmental consequences of what we make and buy, and how with that knowledge we can drive the essential changes we all must make to save our planet and ourselves.

Gore, A., 2009. Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 416 pages. Illuminates some real solutions to the climate crisis and describes a comprehensive global strategy to implement them urgently.

Hanh, T.N., 1987. Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism. Parallax Press, 116 pages. Ethical guidelines that remain a penetrating expression of traditional Buddhist morality and how to come to terms with contemporary issues.

Hanh, T.N. and Cheung, L., 2010. Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne, 304 pages. Teaches us how to integrate mindfulness practice into eating, exercise, and all facets of our daily life, so that being conscious and present becomes a core part of our being.

Hansen, J., 2009. Storms Of My Grandchildren: The Truth About The Climate Catastrophe And Our Last Chance To Save Humanity. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 320 pages. Suggests an agenda going forward to create a groundswell, a tipping point, to save humanity — and our grandchildren — from a dire fate more imminent than we commonly suppose.

Hawken, P., 2008. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World. Penguin Books, 343 pages. A leading environmentalist and social activist explores the diversity of the worldwide movement for social and environmental change - its brilliant ideas, innovative strategies, and hidden history, which date back many centuries.

Herriot, T., 2016. Towards a Prairie Atonement. University of Regina Press, 110 pages. Begins with the cause of protecting native grassland on community pastures, then connects today's ecological disarray to the legacy of Metis dispossession and the loss of their community lands. With Indigenous and settler people alienated from one another and from the grassland itself, this book offers hope and courage by proposing an atonement that could again bring people and prairie together.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2014. Climate Change 2014. Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.). IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 pages. An integrated assessment of climate change that addresses observed changes and their causes; future climate changes, risks and impacts; future pathways for adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development; and adaptation and mitigation (https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full_wcover.pdf)

Irving, D., 2014. Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race. Elephant Room Press, 288 pages. The author openly shares her struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, and offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance.

Kaza, S., 2008. Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking. Shambhala, 144 pages. Offers ways for us to think more deeply about our impact on the natural world, engage in environmental change, and make green living a personal practice based in compassion and true conviction.

Loy, D.R., 2016. The Bodhisattva Path in the Trump Era. https://app.box.com/s/l0aczqngcivvsfw88pysdbeapg4vdkby (pdf accessed 2016/12/31). 9 pages. Transcription of a talk given by the author two weeks after Trump became President-elect of the U.S.A. - outlines how this election can be experienced as a call for us to realize that our engagement with the world is not a distraction from our practice, but an essential part of our practice.

Macy, J. and Johnstone, C., 2012. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy. New World Library, 274 pages. Shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face the planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions created by climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval and mass extinction, so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power.

Rothberg, D., 2006. The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World. Beacon Press, 256 pages. The core of the book comprises ten spiritual principles and associated practices that will enable readers to engage all the parts of their lives - whether personal, interpersonal, or political - into a seamless whole.

Stanley, J., Loy, D.R.,  and Dorje, G., 2009. A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. Wisdom, 312 pages. Teachers from all Buddhist traditions - Zen, Vajrayana, Theravada, Vipassana; from the West and the East - offer a unified response to a matter of utmost urgency providing a clarion call to action and a bright beacon of hope.

Thanissara, 2015. Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth -- The Buddha's Life and Message through Feminine Eyes. North Atlantic Books, 224 pages. An inspiring exploration of awakening from within a feminine view where the archetypes of lover and nurturer are placed as central and essential for a sustainable world.

For Further Information

For additional information please contact one of the following:
Jill:    Tel.: 306-533-7228 (text or voice); e-mail: jill_forrester@yahoo.com
Lorna:    Tel.: 306-731-1435; e-mail: lornatyler@sasktel.net
Stacie:    Tel.: 306-773-3773; e-mail: stacienw@sasktel.net