Engaged Buddhism

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/

Buddhists Help Get Out the Vote, September 29, 2018
This is a critical time in American society. As Buddhist teachers and leaders we recognize the importance of all who are eligible to participate in decisions that affect the well being of the whole. A mutual caring community is one of the central teachings of the Buddha.

Many have wondered what you can do at this divisive time. Across the country, tens of millions of eligible voters do not cast their vote – often because they don’t believe their voice matters!

We are joining together with Faith In Action, a NON PARTISAN group of churches, mosques, synagogues and faith communities to help make sure all who are eligible are supported to vote. continue reading …

Sangha Member Doris Hampton’s Speech at NH State Rally in support of Keeping Immigrant Families Together – Concord, NH July 1, 2018
” Even as a mother protects, with her life, her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart, should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world…”

Doris Hampton speaking at rally

Hello.  I’m Doris Hampton and I have been active in a small community grassroots group, Canterbury Citizens for Democracy. Probably most of us have a specific image or piece of news reporting that pierced our core as the waves of stories of mistreatment of children and families and immigrants and asylum seekers washed over us. Days into feeling horror at the unfolding story, the image of a young, single father and his son being turned away from seeking asylum at our nation’s border felt especially personal.

Oh—the recognition, the recognition of this happening before,  in my family. Both of my parents as teenagers were able to escape as Jews from Nazi Germany and gain entrance to the U.S. But that wasn’t the case for so many, many people, 6 million and more as historians tell us, including my grandfather, Karl, and my uncle, Hans.  Both of them were murdered at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. I have been reading letters my father saved written by his family, letters documenting their visits to the U.S. Consul in Berlin to request visas in 1938 and 1939: the lines of people, the questions and requests for more documentation, the arrogance, the return appointment dates, until they were told no more visas would be available until two years later.  They didn’t have two more years.

The letters of hope of starting a new life in America, the land of freedom, turned to letters of fear and despair that there was no country that would take them, most especially their young son. Any parent, who, with her child, leaves her homeland behind to face a hostile and perilous journey for the chance of finding safety from a society overwhelmed by violence, is not a criminal. She is instead,  incredibly brave. She is instead, incredibly devoted to her child. Instead, she has an incredible faith in humanity—that we as Americans will offer them refuge.

When we have been called upon to do this before, we have failed. We failed with the treatment of native peoples; we failed with the institution of slavery ;  we failed with the detention of Japanese Americans during WWII; we failed to open our doors to Jews escaping Nazism,  And  today we are failing immigrant families in our state and at our border as well as the Muslim refugees waiting in camps around the world. We have another opportunity not to repeat history, and I ask that together, we try to make it different this time.

Faith Initiative Task Force of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

VIMS has again this year, in January 2018, contributed a statement for use by this group’s ongoing efforts to abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire:

“When, even for a moment, we have the attitude in our minds and hearts that allows for the killing of one person––no matter what the reasons––it makes possible the killing of others. The approved use of the death penalty supports the use of murder as a solution in other, less controlled venues, and with less deliberation. It opens up an ancient taboo and feeds the hatred and fear that are so easily triggered in our nervous systems and in our collective community. The restraint and the clear seeing which are necessary for wisdom and compassion to emerge are eroded by the public killing condoned by the death penalty. The death penalty actually cultivates a culture of violence. Killing never ends by killing, but only by finding a way not to kill does killing end. I urge the New Hampshire legislature to repeal the New Hampshire law that authorizes the death penalty. Repeal of the law will be a wise and compassionate act now, and it will enhance the well-being of future generations.”

Doreen Schweizer, Senior Teacher, Valley Insight Meditation Society, Lebanon, New Hampshire, A Buddhist Community

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

Buddhist and Mindfulness communities will come together on April 29 in Washington, D.C. and at sister marches around the world as part of the People’s Climate Mobilization. One Earth Sangha and its partners are gathering the Buddhist presence at these events. Together, Buddhist and Mindfulness communities can bring the gifts of mindfulness and the Dharma and join with others in calling for the viability, dignity, and freedom of all beings, near and far, born and yet to be born. You can learn more about the Buddhist presence at these events and stay up to date on the One Earth Sangha event page.
Locally in the general community, 350Vermont is organizing a bus from the Upper Valley to travel to Washington for the march. For more information and to register for the bus, go to http://350vermont.org/peoples-climate-march-2017/
Sister marches are also being organized close to the Upper Valley, in Concord and Montpelier, and further away, in Boston and New York City, as well as other locations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. For information about VIMS participation, email info@ For the march in Concord, you can contact Allyson Samuell – allyson.samuell@sierraclub.org. For marches elsewhere, go to peoplesclimate.org/sister-marches/ and click on the location on the map that shows all locations.
 “Future generations, and the other species that share the biosphere with us, have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom, and leadership. We must listen to their silence. We must be their voice, too, and act on their behalf.”

                      – 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.

Bhikku Bodhi marching
Doreen Schweizer and Karen Summer


Doreen Schweizer and Gina Sonne

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