Buddhist community declares emergency

Applying the Dharma for the preservation of planet Earth and its inhabitants
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Kim O'Hara
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Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Oct 30, 2019 6:46 am

In October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stated that without dramatic action we will not be able to limit global warming to a 1.5C increase. They state “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid and far-reaching changes… at an unprecedented scale.”

In 2019 the UN Biodiversity report estimated that around one million species “already face extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.”

It is clear from these reports that planet Earth is at present under severe ecological threat. The community at Taraloka has been discussing how best to respond and act under these circumstances. We have been talking with each other and with our trustees. As Buddhists we have a responsibility to meet the situation with love, awareness, creativity and wisdom, and to alleviate suffering where we can. It is an unprecedented situation and no-one has the answer, but we can seek to make our response adequate to the situation and to our practice of the Dharma.

We are all clear that what Taraloka already offers the world is a precious and significant contribution for these times. However we also feel that further action could be taken. We have therefore decided to declare an ecological emergency and to commit to becoming a zero-carbon centre.

What do we mean by declaring an ecological emergency?

We are saying ecological rather than climate emergency because the problem is wider than just the climate and global warming; and emergency because anything else feels like an understatement of the issues. However declaring an emergency isn’t synonymous with panic and overwhelm, or a collapse into nihilism. Rather we are simply saying that this issue requires urgent attention, clarity and decisive action...
:reading: https://thebuddhistcentre.com/action/ta ... -emergency

:namaste:
Kim

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fwiw
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by fwiw » Wed Oct 30, 2019 7:06 am

Which raises the question: should Buddhist communities officially engage in political activism?
... in my opinion

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SethRich
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by SethRich » Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:22 am

Greetings,
fwiw wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 7:06 am
Which raises the question: should Buddhist communities officially engage in political activism?
If they're "engaged", I guess they can be but just as we have different traditional traditions (e.g. Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana) it would be best for them to be accurately labelled Engaged or Left Wing. Any inference that their activism represents Buddhists at large, or the Dharma itself, should be immediately quashed, lest the Buddha or the Dharma be slandered through misrepresentation.

:candle:
Last edited by SethRich on Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Let us neither be perpetrators nor victims!" (DN26)

:candle: "...his name was Seth Rich..."

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fwiw
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by fwiw » Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:25 am

I would use what I'd perceive as a more moderate tone, but I agree overall
... in my opinion

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lyndon taylor
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by lyndon taylor » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:34 am

climate activism is not left wing, its just plain common sense, only idiots would be against it
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk.

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:44 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:34 am
climate activism is not left wing, its just plain common sense, only idiots would be against it
I would use what I'd perceive as a more moderate tone, but I agree overall (to borrow a few well-chosen words :tongue: ).
More particularly, it has been politicised, here and in the US, but it is not necessarily political, so a Buddhist (or Christian) community taking a stand on it is not necessarily political. In fact, the more diverse the group of people taking a stand, the less political the issue will be seen to be. That reasoning suggests to me that the community is moving in the right direction.

:namaste:
Kim

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fwiw
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by fwiw » Wed Oct 30, 2019 3:14 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:34 am
climate activism is not left wing, its just plain common sense, only idiots would be against it
The problem is some people in a given Buddhist community may disagree, and that should not be a reason to break up the community.

Also, if Buddhist communities start taking official positions on matters not absolutely fundamental to Buddhism, they run a risk of turning off right-wingers who may have otherwise been integrated. It may foster a church-ization of the Buddhist community, which I don't think would be a good thing.

I think it's fine for engaged Buddhists to engage in climate action, but maybe not officially in a church-like manner?

Here is an article I've read some time ago, which I think is relevant:


Engaged Buddhists, Not Engaged Buddhism
In any case, the inevitable happened in our little sangha. After a fiery dhamma talk decrying social injustice and opining for Engaged Buddhism: someone from the political right spoke up. She spoke in favor of policing and against the protesters. Most of my family are from the right, so I’m used to hearing these opinions voiced openly by people that I love and admire. But most of the sangha was left a little thunderstruck. There was an almost audible thought, “Who let her in here?” This is the drawback, the danger of engaged Buddhism. Saying that Buddhism should be engaged is very close, perhaps inevitably the same as saying, Buddhism should be political.

It was very dispiriting, and it was a prime example of what I’ve believed for a long time: we need engaged Buddhists, not engaged Buddhism.

Buddhism is about caring for the person in front of you. But Buddhism should not be political. This is not to say that Buddhists shouldn’t be political. For the most part it is impossible to actually entirely avoid politics. Getting up in the morning, going to work, and paying taxes are all political acts. Going to the forest and living as a hermit would be a political act, too. But taking a strong stand on political controversies will inevitable, inevitably, divide the sangha. This is why the Buddha said that talk of kings and generals and wars was not the task of the renunciate.
... in my opinion

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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by DNS » Wed Oct 30, 2019 3:42 pm

It appears that organization is part of the Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly FWBO).

Bundokji
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by Bundokji » Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:23 pm

fwiw wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 7:06 am
Which raises the question: should Buddhist communities officially engage in political activism?
I think of environmentalism more as a new religion than political activism (there is a strong relationship between religion and politics). The fact that most environmentalists are leftist is because most of them don't believe in old religions or tradition, so protecting an abstract "the environment" is not too different from worshiping God (another abstract). Protecting the proletariat or women or gays or minorities or whatever you want to call it seem to be a fanatic religious sentiments which turns into political activism where humans beings can create a utopia (heaven) on earth. Many Buddhists are not immune to that.
'Too much knowledge leads to scepticism. Early devotees are the likeliest apostates, as early sinners are senile saints.' – Will Durant.

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SethRich
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by SethRich » Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:10 pm

Greetings,

:goodpost:

Also, the more I think about it, this notion of a Buddhist community declaring a climate emergency appears replete with delusions of grandeur. It's a bit like having your local fish and chip shop take it upon themselves to declare a climate emergency.

:redherring:

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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by DNS » Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:50 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:23 pm
I think of environmentalism more as a new religion than political activism (there is a strong relationship between religion and politics).
There is even a sort of doomsday, book of Revelations feature to it; global calamities of bibilical scale due to sea levels rising, hurricanes more violent and frequent, cyclones, etc.

Scientists and political activists could be called the prophets.

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:41 pm

fwiw wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 3:14 pm
lyndon taylor wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:34 am
climate activism is not left wing, its just plain common sense, only idiots would be against it
The problem is some people in a given Buddhist community may disagree, and that should not be a reason to break up the community.

Also, if Buddhist communities start taking official positions on matters not absolutely fundamental to Buddhism, they run a risk of turning off right-wingers who may have otherwise been integrated. It may foster a church-ization of the Buddhist community, which I don't think would be a good thing.

I think it's fine for engaged Buddhists to engage in climate action, but maybe not officially in a church-like manner?

Here is an article I've read some time ago, which I think is relevant:


Engaged Buddhists, Not Engaged Buddhism
In any case, the inevitable happened in our little sangha. After a fiery dhamma talk decrying social injustice and opining for Engaged Buddhism: someone from the political right spoke up. She spoke in favor of policing and against the protesters. Most of my family are from the right, so I’m used to hearing these opinions voiced openly by people that I love and admire. But most of the sangha was left a little thunderstruck. There was an almost audible thought, “Who let her in here?” This is the drawback, the danger of engaged Buddhism. Saying that Buddhism should be engaged is very close, perhaps inevitably the same as saying, Buddhism should be political.

It was very dispiriting, and it was a prime example of what I’ve believed for a long time: we need engaged Buddhists, not engaged Buddhism.

Buddhism is about caring for the person in front of you. But Buddhism should not be political. This is not to say that Buddhists shouldn’t be political. For the most part it is impossible to actually entirely avoid politics. Getting up in the morning, going to work, and paying taxes are all political acts. Going to the forest and living as a hermit would be a political act, too. But taking a strong stand on political controversies will inevitable, inevitably, divide the sangha. This is why the Buddha said that talk of kings and generals and wars was not the task of the renunciate.
:goodpost:
- and I do agree with the title of the blog post you quoted: we need engaged Buddhists, not (or at least more than) engaged Buddhism.
On the other hand, there's the ever-present problem of inaction in the face of untruth, injustice or outright evil: at what point does a religious organisation have a moral obligation to step up and say, "This is wrong and we must oppose it"?
At that point, the organisation's leaders are leading, which is surely a good thing, and they will encourage their flock to do the right thing - but may lose whatever members of the flock who are not ready to accept that it is in fact the right thing.
If we look around our communities, this process is playing out, very publicly, right now in many Christian churches as they debate gay marriage and ordination. We also see fundamentalist US churches openly supporting one party or another. :rolleye:
Going back a bit further, the complicity of the Catholic church with the Nazi regime reflects very poorly on its (then) leadership, and the blindness of all the Christian churches to the evils of slavery (yes, particularly in the Home of the Free) is ... :toilet:
The only way I can make sense of these apparent aberrations is by remembering that "silence implies consent" and that failure to engage is also a kind of engagement - the kind that supports the status quo regardless of ethics or morality.
When we look as religious institutions primarily as institutions or organisations and remember that all organisations have their own internal dynamic, seeing them act in such a way as to preserve their own power (regardless of morality) is understandable but profoundly disappointing: they are putting the institution ahead of its primary (and nominal) purpose.

I have used Christianity for my examples above but as far as I can see the arguments apply equally to Buddhism. What do we want prioritise - the dharma or the organisation?

:namaste:
Kim

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:48 pm

DNS wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:50 pm
Bundokji wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:23 pm
I think of environmentalism more as a new religion than political activism (there is a strong relationship between religion and politics).
There is even a sort of doomsday, book of Revelations feature to it; global calamities of bibilical scale due to sea levels rising, hurricanes more violent and frequent, cyclones, etc.

Scientists and political activists could be called the prophets.
:smile:
Yes, but no-one is going to be saved. There is no heaven. There is no Planet B. Reincarnating as a human being will not be an option for a long time because there will be such a long queue.

Oh, and no divine/demonic intervention is necessary. We're doing it to ourselves.

:oops:
Kim

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SethRich
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by SethRich » Thu Oct 31, 2019 12:34 am

Greetings Kim,
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:41 pm
On the other hand, there's the ever-present problem of inaction in the face of untruth, injustice or outright evil: at what point does a religious organisation have a moral obligation to step up and say, "This is wrong and we must oppose it"?
This is where you make the leap from individual action to collectivist action... or more specifically, actions prompted by decision-making in the upper eschalons of an organization, that the rank and file must be seen to go along with and support, in order to be complying with the organization's directives.

It's bad enough when this coercion is applied in Buddhist communities on unavoidable Buddhist and community matters, but to amplify fwiw's earlier point, it seems socially destructive to coerce such sweeping action at an pan-organizational level, when the reason for doing so is not clearly aligned to the organisation's raison d'être.

If these sorts of decisions and declarations do need to be made, this is all the more reason for such organisations to be explicitly nominated as "Engaged Buddhist" or "Left-Wing Buddhist" so that anyone thinking of being a part of that community has clear expectations of what they're walking into. By my way of reckoning, operating under false pretenses is disrespectful towards the individual autonomy of others. This is where at least people like Thích Nhất Hạnh were being upfront when he called his community the Order Of Interbeing - he was totally transparent about what it was. It wasn't some kind of bait and switch to say, "Welcome to our Buddhist community, and hey, guess what, we're actually an organization of political and environmental activists with a sidebar interest in Buddhist vibes, green tea and funny robes."

:candle:
"Let us neither be perpetrators nor victims!" (DN26)

:candle: "...his name was Seth Rich..."

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by Kim O'Hara » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:11 am

SethRich wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 12:34 am
...It's bad enough when this coercion is applied in Buddhist communities on unavoidable Buddhist and community matters...
You disapprove of it and call it coercion. I approve of it and call it leadership.

:thinking:
Kim

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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by SethRich » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:16 am

Greetings,
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:11 am
You disapprove of it and call it coercion. I approve of it and call it leadership.
I guess telling others what they ought to think and believe would be viewed as leadership by some.

Image

I'm sure it works wonders in cyberspace too, for facilitating the growth of online discussion forums.

:roll:

:toilet:

Kind regards.

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:candle: "...his name was Seth Rich..."

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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by fwiw » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:37 am

SethRich wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:16 am
I guess telling others what they ought to think and believe would be viewed as leadership by some.
Yeah, like... the entire Sangha, perhaps?
... in my opinion

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SethRich
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by SethRich » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:42 am

Greetings fwiw,

And who is the leadership of the Buddhist Sangha telling us all what to think and believe?

Last I checked, the call of the Dhamma was ehipassiko (i.e. "come and see")... I must have missed all the "thou shalt"s.

:candle:
"Let us neither be perpetrators nor victims!" (DN26)

:candle: "...his name was Seth Rich..."

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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by fwiw » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:44 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:41 pm
On the other hand, there's the ever-present problem of inaction in the face of untruth, injustice or outright evil: at what point does a religious organisation have a moral obligation to step up and say, "This is wrong and we must oppose it"?
Well this is a bit tricky because as far as I can tell, the Buddha did a bit of both. He openly opposed the culture of animal sacrifice but said nothing about slavery, which was around at his time.


they are putting the institution ahead of its primary (and nominal) purpose.
I am not convinced of that. They may put the quest of enlightenment ahead of climate change activism
... in my opinion

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fwiw
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Re: Buddhist community declares emergency

Post by fwiw » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:49 am

SethRich wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:42 am
Greetings fwiw,

And who is the leadership of the Buddhist Sangha telling us all what to think and believe?

Last I checked, the call of the Dhamma was ehipassiko (i.e. "come and see")... I must have missed all the "thou shalt"s.

:candle:
The Buddha says "if you do this, you will go to hell". The difference with the christian "thou shalt" is only cosmetic. Also as far as I know Marx never tried to force everyone to agree with him, nor do all those you call cultural marxists. But you insist that they do, once again treating a subset as if it were the entire set, in a way that bolsters your narrative.
... in my opinion

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