For information about the United Valley Interfaith Project and our campaign for immigrant support, please go to the new UVIP page on this website: valleyinsight.org/uvip/
Valley News Letter to the Editor August 16, 2017
Buddhists Make Call to Action
Valley Insight Meditation Society is a local group practicing in the Buddhist insight tradition, one of the main sources of the secular mindfulness teachings so prevalent in our world today.
In the earliest teachings, mindfulness is not simply a way to meditate or a skillful way to attend to a task. It is part of a system carefully designed to lessen our tendency toward quick reactivity and to foster a harmonious society. Within this ethical context, mindfulness opens the space to think clearly and plays a strong role in our active engagement in the world. This understanding underlies a recent “Unprecedented Call to Action” formulated by Buddhist communities and teachers nationwide. The full document can be found at www.lionsroar.com/stand-against-suffering/.
“(We) call on Buddhists and all people of faith to take a stand against any policies of the new administration that will create hardship for the most vulnerable in society.
“Buddhism does not align itself with any party or ideology. But when great harm is at stake, (we all) must take a stand against it, with lovingkindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage. … People of all faiths are needed on the front lines now, resisting policies that will cause hardship and offering a new and positive vision for our country…
“(Mindfulness teachings) are not an excuse to turn away from the suffering of the world, nor a sedative to get us comfortably through painful times. … We remember that peacefulness does not mean passiveness …
“Some will march and engage in direct action. Others will support community wellbeing through other ways.”
Along with three weekly meditation groups, Valley Insight offers a long-standing meditation program at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Institute in Berlin, N.H., and is actively involved in the work of our local Show Up for Racial Justice group. We are members of the United Valley Interfaith Project, a strong and effective local political action group. We invite you to join us.
Doreen Schweizer, Guiding Teacher,
Valley Insight Meditation Society
Gathering a Mindful Presence for the People’s Climate Mobilization
Saturday, April 29, 2017
– A Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change
Confronting Racism Around and Within Us On January 28, ’17 Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Upper Valley Vermont-New Hampshire, and Upper Valley Young Liberals hosted a program in which panelists presented their perspectives on race and racial justice in our Upper Valley community, in Vermont and New Hampshire, and across the nation. 160 people attended this event. VIMS, Hanover Friends Meeting, and the Meriden Congregations Church were supporting organizations. A few weeks later, Peg Meyer offered a class that investigated systemic racism called “Waking Up White. Details here.
Advocating a National Food Policy: Read researcher, Dartmouth professor of sustainability, and sangha member Anne Kapuscinski’s article about the importance of a national food policy that is “coordinated across all relevant federal agencies, aimed at promoting healthy and affordable food, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity for all.”
Changing Climate, Changing Minds – Some Highlights This Dartmouth symposium, held April 8 & 9, 2016 was sponsored by eight local community organizations, of which Valley Insight was one. Doreen Schweitzer, Valley Insight’s guiding teacher, served on the core organizing committee. Goals for the conference were to “combine insight and creative thought with a third aim: wise action. Reflection reveals what we can and must do in response to climate change, but its realization is collective action in league with all beings.” It was a remarkable evening and day in which the featured speakers and audience members brought forward stories that combined personal growth and experiences of connecting that bolstered their commitment to activism.
Three questions focused the discussions. (1) How do we face difficult truths about climate change without retreat to denial or despair? (2) How do we act in urgency without compromising wisdom and compassion? (3) How do we align local interests with the global necessity to address climate change?
The most frequent suggestion from the presenters and others in the audience was that action is the antidote to despair. David Loy, Buddhist teacher and activist, reminded us that when we act, we must do so without attachment to the result. There is a reinforcing cycle in which fearlessness––not averting our gaze––leads to acts of imagination, leading to collaboration, and then to community, which strengthens fearlessness.
Keynote speaker Terry Tempest Williams, author and passionate environmental activist, described her new company, which purchased oil and gas leases at a recent federal auction. The company plans not to pump, but to keep the oil in the ground. Terry conveyed her astonishment and antipathy that the U.S. government was auctioning land in Utah on the edge of a national park for drilling rights at $2/acre; then later in the day at $1.50/acre. She urged us to hold public lands as sacred spaces, saying, “We lose nothing by loving.”
Dr. James McCarthy, lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on “Assessment of Global Climate Impacts,” said that we are now at a time when we must take political action, despite our incomplete knowledge of the best tools to use. Dr. McCarthy stated that there are many causes for optimism. College students are absolutely dedicated to making a difference; China leads the world in building new solar and wind capacity; Iowa is 30 percent dependent on wind for its electricity.
David Loy asked us to consider that climate change may not be the real problem. Our economic system exploits the natural world for the goal of profit, with the deluded idea that money satisfies all desires. We are sacrificing the natural world (real wealth) to maximize something that has no value, in and of itself. The ecological crisis is forcing us to see the world as one. He continued, in the Buddhist terminology, saying that we have institutionalized the Three Poisons: Greed is the prime mover of our economic system in which individuals and corporations are addicted to short-term, very narrow considerations; Hatred is embodied in military systems; Delusion is the basis of corporate media and advertising. David suggested we all consider becoming involved in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s One Earth Sangha. We need to bring serenity and a nonattached mind to today’s social and economic crises. We do the very best we can, not knowing if what we do will make any difference whatsoever. Civilization as we know it is coming to an end.
The Reverand Sally Bingham, president and founder of Interfaith Power & Light, delivered an impassioned talk which focused on global warming as the moral issue of our time. She echoed Pope Francis in saying that we are the gardeners of the planet. We have an important role in stewardship of creation. She encouraged us to get involved in the Regeneration Project, the Interfaith Power and Light, to support the EPA’s Green Power Plan and to read Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change. We need to approach civil disobedience as an expression of religious faith – and be sure to vote!
David Loy ended by reminding us to strengthen our inner stability, citing Thich Nhat Hanh’s allegory that if a boat is in trouble, one calm person in the boat can save all. Crises will come, David continued. What kind of choices will we make at those times? Audience members suggested that we should talk calmly with others, even if they don’t believe that humans are changing the climate; and address climate change among poorer communities by focusing on saving money and improving health through cleaner air and water; and by going into the woods as an antidote to despair.
See the Sustainability Cafe for further programs on climate change and activism. Details here. Audio files of the Symposium will be available in the future.
Addressing Climate Change – People’s Climate March
September 21, 2014 in New York City
VIMS is part of the world-wide network of teachers and sanghas who are concerned about climate change; acting on this commitment, several people from the Valley Insight Sangha attended the People’s Climate March, an action designed to encourage world governments to address the looming planetary crisis.
Ecological Buddhism, a Buddhist Response to Global Warming is a deep website on climate change emphasizing Science, Wisdom, and Solutions.
Here’s a song for the Climate March and beyond:
Sing for the Climate
One Earth Sangha, another Buddhist site with layers of content, is for teachers and practitioners.