I am bombarded with protests all around me, and would like to be of benefit in this situation but have taken the stance of quite a “free thinker” by portraying what’s really important namely peace, restraint, and compassion. In my subjective experience I’ve been working diligently in my work, and helping people of color in any instance I see an opportunity arise. I’ve been restrained in conduct, and developing my meditation well because of that. Anyone see anything wrong with this approach, and not being involved intensely with the specific “police brutality, and black lives matter”. Isn’t this wholesome? I do know of the news, but I choose to work on the specifics that apply to MY life, because that’s what’s in my control. The way not to make this “privilege” is to do more renunciation, tightening up virtue, and of course more kindfulness IMO. I’m “saving myself” so to speak. As the “2 acrobats” suggestion. Any thoughts?
Other than that, should we be focusing our yoniso manasikara onto where everyone else is at, constantly until justice is served? I have mixed “brahmaviharas and kammattanas” I’ve toggled, not just compassion in this time. I’m realizing that being happy pisses others off sometimes and equanimity might be the good default for times like this
Am I correct in thinking that ‘George Floyd’ is the african american who was killed by police in America recently? I only have the barest exposure to ‘the news’. It might be useful to give a very short summary of what the situation is, that you are looking for responses to, - saves me/others having to google news sites
Also Apologies, if the term African American is ‘wrong’… I have no idea what the latest PC term is, and I just want to refer to this group of individuals respectfully, but just don’t know the current status or way to do this, within the USA language usage, or that of other places in the world.
I look forward to the advice and sutta resources people will give
with a truck load of metta
Yes, that’s right and I believe African American is acceptable. Thanks for your interest
One of the things that strikes me - over and over and over and over - is that there is no shortage of suffering in Samsara.
Everywhere we look - with no ‘solutions’ evident. So easy to succumb to depression in these circumstances.
Wise attention is something that I use as a backbone of practice or try to
Furthermore, I’ve come to a position where the ‘specific’ instances that cause suffering are not the focus. It sometimes feels like there is a ‘competition’ for our attention for suffering… what is the worst, most deserving, suffering that we should be doing something about…
For a while I held a position of being a representative for the peak body of Disability Organisations in Australia to the Australian Federal Governemnt. The Caucus of disability organisations themselves recognised this ‘weird’ dynamic of competition among themselves (and for the donation dollars). What is worse? What is more deserving?
When we broaden this out it becomes almost unbearable… Not just the body that causes suffering, but the organisation of our society… There is no equality in the experience of life at all.
So What is Yoniso Manisekara? As you yourself ask -
The Buddha said that everything has to be let go of, self view, thought, the holy life, and even the Dhamma itself at the very end. It is the gradual training, so first we focus on letting go of the hindrances and fetters. Letting go of ill will and greed are fantastic things to do!! Sadhu Sadhu!
It is hard not to get wept up in the hype and reactions all around us… and discerning wise action in the face of this is not easy. I look forward to reading what others have to offer.
Each of us has to decide where to act from a stance of wholesomeness. For some, that form is attending a protest. Others donate or meditate or create art or talk to their family. You work within your means and your circle, though there is room to stretch ourselves in a useful way, whatever that means to you.
Working to give up greed, hate, and delusion is worth a ton. Those are the root causes of the situation right now.
However, it’s important to know that the Buddha praised working for one’s benefit and the benefit of others as the highest. When we have stability of mind and heart, we’re more able to help others. Whether it’s by speaking out, being generous with our time and/or money, checking on a friend, etc.
African-American is acceptable. “Black”—as in black person, black man, black individual—is also acceptable and more general, as it covers not just Americans but non-American people of African descent as well.
Just linking to a recent post of mine on another thread which I think is useful at present, especially given you mentioned equanimity.
It’s a great tragedy that many Buddhists believe that we should not engage in criticism of things worthy of criticism. This has led to many misunderstandings of what is skillful and has pitched Buddhists as individuals who are somehow estranged from the society we live in because of our religion. However, the Buddha allowed for skillful criticism. and often spoke out about governance, social ills, workers rights and so on. Take the Potaliya Sutta AN 4.100 where the Buddha corrects Potaliya’s wrong idea that equanimity is better than praise or criticism:
Potaliya: “Master Gotama, of these four people, it is the person who neither praises those deserving of praise at the right time, truthfully and substantively; nor criticizes those deserving of criticism at the right time, truthfully and substantively. That is the person I believe to be the finest. Why is that? Because, Master Gotama, equanimity is the best.”
The Buddha: "Potaliya, of these four people, it is the person who criticizes those deserving of criticism at the right time, truthfully and substantively; and praises those deserving of praise at the right time, truthfully and substantively. That is the person I consider to be the finest. Why is that? Because, Potaliya, understanding of time and context is the best.”
The idea that Buddhists should be neutral, uncaring and unflinching beings, who just look on in exaggerated detachment is not only incorrect, but dangerous. Rather than tuning out we need to tune in to that discomfort in ourselves that wants to hide when others suffer. We need to understand that inaction is also an action and that intentionally doing nothing whilst others suffer is also kamma, so, much better to act with wisdom and compassion.
I don’t want to be argumentative and while I agree with your premise, I see see an equal danger in pushing the need for specifc types of action.
To ignore suffering, or to use distractions to avoid having to face it, are indeed unskillful, just as you say But I strongly believe that the choice of response, in a considered fashion, from each individual practitioners perspective, is not something that that can, or should, be generalised or judged.
I see too much fall-out from misplaced perceptions that at one should be able to ‘fix’ things… (look at the spiraling depression statistics, over 25%) . This is in no way saying, don’t act in compassion.
It all comes back to Wise attention, skillful action and balance, like between the ‘acrobats’.
With much respect and gratitude for your caring and compassionate work on so many of the issues that cause suffering
I don’t think I’m calling for particular responses from anyone, but saying that no response to others suffering is not good! Maybe we might think about this from our personal point of view. If you were being beaten, would you like me to just stand by and close my eyes and do absolutely nothing? Or, if I was not present, but heard of the incident, would you like me to speak out, saying that it was wrong that you were beaten? And encourage others to care about you and your wellbeing? And aim to stop people beating you in future?
It’s often said that silence is assent. It’s all very well to live in an abstract world and talk about generalisations, but if our practice of compassion is only internal and doesn’t show up in our lives in practical ways, then I wonder what the point is.
The simile of the acrobats feels unsuitable here, sure, we look after ourselves before and during the performance, but if one person did fall and was injured, only caring about oneself when we are fine whilst the other lies there hurt, would manifestly be the wrong response.
This is probably the best course of action, I think. Especially given the way the political stage is evolving, engaging in protests may not be particularly wise. We have some cynical political forces who are stepping in to create mayhem, and it isn’t always a safe place to be. In any case, the people who have the real influence are the political decision makers, the supervisors of police forces in the inner cities, and so on. If you are one of those people or have some influence over them, that’s where you can help politically IMO. Engage in the democratic process, but be smart about it, I guess is my advice.
Beyond that, I think we really need to find ways to reinforce empathy and wisdom in society because it’s becoming hard to find on all sides.
I am in Madison, Wisconsin, only blocks from the state capitol where there have been nightly protest marches, combined with some breaking of storefront windows and looting of merchants. A kind of controlled chaos, with Madison police and the National Guard having joined up to patrol the Capitol District and to create a mass police force to keep the protests in check. My son is a grad student at UW-Madison, and he has a souvenir of a tear gas canister thrown at him by a cop as he was videoing the crowds.
See Killing of George Floyd - Wikipedia . Mr. Floyd was murdered by a member of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Here’s something that Bhante Suddhaso posted on Facebook today:
As a Buddhist monk, it is my duty to directly state what is wholesome and what is unwholesome; what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is evil.
Therefore, to be perfectly clear:
Racism is evil.
Cruelty is evil.
Torture is evil.
Killing is evil.
There is no valid justification for racism, cruelty, torture, or killing - at any time, for any reason, under any circumstance.
The cruel, torturous murder of George Floyd is but one recent episode in a centuries-old story of evil acts perpetrated in this country under the guise of law enforcement. As a Buddhist monk, it is my duty to point out such evil atrocities as being just that.
This is not a “political” issue. This is a moral issue. And as a Buddhist monk, I will not back down from my duty to speak about morality.
May all beings be happy and free from oppression!
In the past two days, I have received numerous messages criticizing me for daring to openly state that racism is immoral and that police should stop killing black people (or anyone at all, for that matter). I have been told several times that a monk should keep to himself and not “pontificate” about morality.
To that end, I present a quote from the Buddha’s words:
“Monks, how is a person practising for their own benefit as well as for the benefit of others? Here, monks, a person refrains from killing living beings themselves, and also encourages others to refrain from killing living beings.” -AN 4.99
PS thanks @Viveka that was very kind of you to say.
Sadhu, sadhu sadhu to Bante Suddhaso for articulating the bottom line so clearly.
@Westbury08, just letting you know that I moved your thread to the Watercooler as it doesn’t invite text-based discussion of the suttas.
The only other thing I can is send loads of karunā into the terrible dukkha that’s around in your community.
FYI This topic has been discussed a lot on the forum, and there are many great resources and references available
Linking the search results for you below. I hope this helps
There are certainly many, many divergent opinions, views and interpretations. May you navigate them with wisdom
Actually this is is a common reaction, if we aren’t directly impacted by something or feel it’s beyond our control, we often go to the extreme of ‘checking out’ because it’s too hard or too complex. But there’s always something we can do, always always always, and yes sometimes that will mean just meditating alone… However, in a more worldly sense, waiting for an election is no guarantee anything good will happen either.
Influence is something we can exert from the bottom up, or wherever we are in the social scheme of things. Waiting for others to exert influence over our “betters” in the political classes can sometimes lead to people believing that they are disempowered and unable to contribute to society.
Whilst I take @Viveka’s point that we can’t “fix” all the world’s problems, and that people need to take care of themselves whilst engaging, so they don’t become exhausted or unwell, there are still many opportunities to “do something” even if we don’t leave the house, including simple activities like reading books about race or signing petitions.
I also saw the horror show that @UpasakaMichael referenced above on FB. Many interlocutors there were greatly disturbed that simply stating that racism and killing is bad should lead to such vile vitriol from supposed Buddhists. As Bhante Sujato said to me this morning, some people simply aren’t very good at their religion. True. But if Buddhists are even debating the merits of stating anti racist, anti violent views, then you have to wonder what has gone wrong… To me it’s unhelpful that so many Buddhists advocate for an idealised exaggerated detachment from issues that cause entrenched, systemic suffering in our world. I’m tired of hearing the facile argument “you can’t change the world” but we can, actually, have some influence, and that’s how we removed slavery and got things like women’s liberation happening. Sure we can’t fix everything, and sure, it might not fix all our problems and might not necessarily lead to awakening, but neither does eating toast for breakfast or buying your mum a present, but we still do it.
It’s interesting looking at the quality of conversation in Buddhist circles and looking elsewhere on the interwebs - call me näive and idealistic but you’d think that Buddhists would be at the forefront of kindness, compassion, using wisdom and knowledge to condemn views and actions that harm others, but no… instead—believe it or not—even light and fluffy fashion and lifestyle magazines manage to make Buddhists look ossified and coldly heartless as we grimly cling to our ancient texts in a solipsistic reverie of stasis! The fash mags, however, have no compunction about whether it’s right or proper to condemn violence and be an ally against racism, they give us spiritual types something to think about, oh the irony! ! Hello to my conceit of spiritual superiority; rigorously challenged by a fashion magazine designed for teen girls!
So, here are some very practical resources not from ancient Buddhists texts but from glossy fash mags specific to supporting social justice against racist oppression that @Westbury08 and others might be interested in and that don’t necessarily involve protest. [EDIT I should just mention that these fashion mags are not my usual reading, just in case you’re wondering… but all came up from the google search “how to be an ally to BLM without protesting”]
First up is Teen Vogue (as an aside, I have to say teen Vogue seems to have come a long way from the glossy vapid magazine it was in my youth… I think maybe this demonstrates the literacy that younger generations have around social justice discourses and why they often feel that older generations sometimes just don’t “get it”). Here they advocate for things like contributing to bail funds, being informed and aware of police corruption and donating to victims families.
nme.com has an interesting list of things you can do if you can’t protest, such as signing petitions, supporting black businesses, following black leader’s social media accounts, being aware of disinformation and writing to your political representatives.
Even Elle Magazine has a plethora of self education materials on race, including the Australian indigenous context, as well as podcasts, hashtags and accounts to follow.
And another lifestyle magazine, Marie Claire discusses at length how to be a better ally to BIPOC people. Fascinating!
Sure some of these ideas may not be for everyone, some people might not care about these issues or want to do anything about them. But I hope these resources may be of use to some. It’s easy sometimes to forget that our ignorance is the biggest challenge to seeing clearly, to waking up to what is going on around us, and how we are participating in it, even without knowing. Ignorance/delusion is a root defilement, it’s not going to be easy to see what is wholesome or unwholesome, but if it’s beneficial to us and beneficial to others then hopefully we are on the right track.
EDIT: adding this image.
You misunderstand me…
That is all. As long as actions are taken with compassion and awareness, and if a Buddhist, in alignment with the Buddhas words, it is ok. What is right for each of us, at this moment, is different, and it is also guaranteed to change over time.
However, to ignore suffering, or to use distractions to avoid having to face it, is indeed unskillful, and especially disappointing if coming from Buddhist practitioners.
Your list of resources is really great , and I hope that some people find them useful, if they want to do something but weren’t sure how. However, no-one should feel compelled to do so. One is not a bad person, who will create bad kamma, if one doesn’t.
Standing and watching something happening, like in the getting beaten up example, is completely different if it occurs completely outside ones sphere… The wisdom of getting involved in the injustice of getting beaten up (violence), when the specific incident is nothing to do with you, when not in the same geographical area, or even country, requires different questions to be asked. Wise attention and wise effort need to be individually determined, according to the circumstances. Is violence and killing bad? - Yes. Should I actively or passively condone it? - No. In the case of person x kills person y, what should I do about it? - it depends.
So to be clear, I’m not saying it is right to be ‘engaged’ or right to be ‘disengaged’ in social justice. Rather, wise action is dependent on the conditions.
What we do completely agree upon, is that compassion is a bedrock of Buddhist practice. I’m just highlighting that how this is expressed, in individual circumstances, is variable.
I really don’t want to argue, and am disengaging from further discussion in this topic, as this is the only point I want to make. My comment just now comes from the desire that people are informed, and able to make decisions on how to act, but that no-one feels compelled or guilty or that their choice is bad, if, after conscious reflection, they decide not to.
Note - I fully realise that this is not your intention at all. I say this just in case…
May we all grow in wisdom and may all beings be free from suffering
From Thanissara’s and Kittisaro’s newsletter, just in:
If we don’t know what to do right now, that’s OK. Allow all to be present within the night womb of unknowing potentiality. In this space, seed your most radical and courageous intention for undoing and healing racism, internally, externally, systemically.
I find myself contemplating how it would be to be able to act on and in the world, coming from a space of totally stable inner peace.
Hi Paul, I don’t really understand what you are saying here. The privilege that a white person has due to the colour of their skin is inherent in the institutions of the USA. The reason why black people are disproportionately killed by police officers is due to structural racism in the police force. How does the privilege that one gets for free just by being white get reduced or eliminated by the white person doing “more renunciation, tightening up virtue and doing more kindfulness”?
A white person is still (massively) less likely to be knelt on and killed by an American police officer than a black person. And white person gets that privilege regardless of what they do in terms of renunciation and virtue. By doing nothing to address the structural racism of the institutions, a white person is just doing what is in their own best interest and maintaining their privilege. This seems counter-intuitive from a Buddhist point of view.
I think I must be missing something in your approach.
This is a great talk happening now. I am very moved by Bhante Suddhaso and Ayya Soma working together to speak out against the killing of George Floyd in the face of criticism from Buddhists and others.
Bhante Suddhaso talks about the importance of monastics condemning killing and points to several relevant Suttas to show the Buddha’s approach. He rejects the label of politics. Ayya Soma here talks about her shame at not doing this talk sooner, waiting a week… because she since heard many more stories of police abuse in the last few days from their community members and now realises that their centre was not the safe space for black people that they thought it was because they had never felt comfortable to share those stories with them before. And how we need to use compassion to understand what’s going on and try to stop the suffering of minorities. Very moving and relevant dhamma talk.