“Don’t turn away from suffering. Stay with it.
Something will occur to you to do, and it is very important that you do that thing.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen monk and peace activist
Since its inception in the mid-1990s, Valley Insight has had a commitment to what is known as “Engaged Buddhism.” Among our early founders were political and social activists who had discovered peace of mind and a greater understanding of the world in the wisdom of the Buddha. In addition to increased mental clarity, we — somewhat surprisingly — experienced “hidden reserves of strength and energy that we didn’t know existed” (Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2010) through our committed and deepening meditation practice.
An involvement in social, racial, economic, and environmental justice issues has continued to be a part of Valley Insight’s collective spiritual development, as well as that of individual sangha members. For twenty-five years this relationship between our formal Dharma practice and our active presence in the world has helped to grow our sangha into a caring community, one that has relevance, to us as individuals and to those with whom we share this world — our families, friends, and the greater communities of which we are a part, locally and globally. Dharma teacher Gregg Kramer calls this approach “the Whole Life Path.” What we do in this world has an effect in the world and in our own hearts. Waking up happens everywhere. Altruism brightens our hearts.
Joel Lazar, a board member and activist, noted, “Our commitment to the Dharma informs and sustains our capacity to respond with greater mindfulness, compassion, resilience, and wisdom … Our activism, in turn, broadens and deepens the significance of our aspirations toward inner transformation. The Engaged Buddhism initiative offers opportunities and support to sangha members who wish to participate more fully in the justice activities of our time — racial, economic, gender, environmental, and more — as an essential dimension of greater personal and collective awakening.”
We believe one of our roles as an engaged Buddhist sangha is to support our community members in exploring how Dharma study and practice can help frame and stabilize our participation in activism and service. Many of our other initiatives focus on raising awareness within our group around specific issues of concern and on sharing information about the local opportunities for involvement. We understand that is important for us to work together with our friends and neighbors in the Upper Valley community and beyond.
Valley Insight Affinity Group
A group of activists within the sangha gathers monthly as an Engaged Buddhist practice group. After a time of silent meditation, there is an informal discussion where participants talk about their experiences and ideas about current issues within the frame of Buddhist understanding. They share their work and often inspire and support one another. At times, they work on a project together. For more information, or an invitation to these meetings, please contact Joel Lazar: joel.S.Lazar@dartmouth.edu or Doreen: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valley Insight Book Group
The book group meets bi-weekly to read and discuss a mutually agreed-upon work from our perspective as Buddhists. Thus far, our selections have been chosen because they correct the historical record and offer perspectives that are important counterpoints to a European-centric point of view. We’ve read Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson; Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi; and Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Anyone can participate in the group but discussion of any one book is limited to 25 people. Joel Lazar, Joyce Mechling, and Karen Summer coordinate the group. For information, contact us: GreetingsfromValleyInsight@gmail.org.
We maintain an informal mailing list, primarily for people within the sangha or other local Buddhist groups, who are interested in learning about educational programs or direct actions related to social and economic justice issues, especially, but not exclusively those in the Upper Valley area and in the states of NH and VT. Please contact us at GreetingsfromValleyInsight@gmail.org if you’re interested in being added to this list.