US Buddhists Call for a United Stand Against Injustice and Suffering

By Anne Wisman
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-04-11 |
Protesters hold up a sign saying Protesters hold up a sign saying "Love Trumps Hate". Photo by Lucas Grindley. From

United States-based Buddhist journal Lion’s Roar has announced a compassionate call to action in response to the crisis in US politics. Authored by 13 noted Buddhist teachers and supported by more that 120 practitioners,* the initiative urges Buddhists and people of all faiths to “take a stand against policies of the new administration that will create suffering for the most vulnerable in society.” (Lions Roar)

While emphasizing that Buddhism does not align itself with any political ideology or party, the authors of the call for action acknowledge that, regardless of individual political preferences, the cries of those suffering can no longer be ignored:

In this time of crisis, we hear the cries of millions who will suffer from regressive policies of the new US administration targeting our most vulnerable communities. We hear the cries of a nation whose democracy and social fabric are at risk. We join in solidarity with many others who are also hearing these cries, knowing that together we can be a remarkable force for transformation and liberation. Religious leaders and practitioners have always played a vital role in movements for justice and social progress, contributing their wisdom, love, courage, and commitment to others. People of all faiths are needed on the front lines now, resisting policies that will cause harm and offering a new and positive vision for our country. We believe that Buddhist teachers and practitioners should be among them, locking arms with all people of goodwill to protect the vulnerable, counter systemic violence and oppression, and work for a more just and caring society. Buddhism is respected around the world as a religion of compassion and peace. We are wanted and needed in this movement, and we have much to contribute. (Lions Roar)

Noting that the US has a long history of underrepresented and oppressed communities who have suffered from systemic aggression, greed, and indifference, they identify the following vulnerabilities threatening society today: economic injustice, environmental degradation, gender-based violence, racism, violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, war, and xenophobia. Emphasizing that non-attachment does not always mean non-engagement, and that peacefulness is not equivalent to passivity, they ask all Buddhists to serve as examples by initiating and creating change within themselves, in their own homes, and in Dharma centers: “We must explore and expose our own privilege and areas of ignorance, and address racism, misogyny, class prejudice, and more in our communities. We can set an example for the broader society by creating safe, respectful, and inclusive sanghas.” (Lions Roar)

Thirteen noted Buddhist teachers authored the call for action. Myokei Shonin by Jan Louy; Mushim Ikeda by Lauren Rudser; Greg Snyder by Marcia Lieberman; angel williams by Christine Alcino; Jan Willis by Marlies Bosch. From: lionsroar.comThirteen noted Buddhist teachers authored the call for action. Myokei Shonin by Jan Louy; Mushim Ikeda by Lauren Rudser; Greg Snyder by Marcia Lieberman; angel williams by Christine Alcino; Jan Willis by Marlies Bosch. From:

This is not the first time that Buddhists in the US have expressed concern and taken up action against policies of the current administration,* but the call for action to be published by Lions Roar in May, may be the first large-scale united outcry addressing Buddhist across the nation. It is a call that many have been waiting for, as evidenced by the disgruntled reactions to an article in January by Buddhist journalist Ken McLeod for the US-based Buddhist journal Tricycle on how to “be present with difficult feelings without trying to change or control what we experience.” Some readers felt that a “call for action” was missing from the article, to which Ken McLeod responded with a challenge to engaged Buddhism.***

In February, US-based Buddhistdoor Global columnist Vanessa R. Sasson, responded to the changes in the American administration and narrated her own decision not to sit by.**** Recounting the story of the Buddha halting the Kosalan army three times, before accepting karma and watching the Sakyan society destroyed, she writes:

But from where I stand now, on the shifting sands of samsara with my unawakened mind, what I see is a global village in which everyone is my kin. Every place my home. I cannot do as the Buddha did in this case and refuse to fly to sit beneath the tree. . . . I do not benefit from the Buddha’s magical capacity to read karma and so I cannot be trusted to know what is ripening or what lies ahead. And even if I did, I don’t think I have it in me to stand back and watch samsara unfold with philosophical muteness. . . .  Instead, I will fly to the tree each time I see the armies approaching and sit in protest. I will teach what I understand and not what I don’t. I will watch my mind and call upon my compassion over and over again.

* The full list of signatories can be found here.

** Buddhist Group in New England Marches in Support of Immigrants and US Buddhists Protest Donald Trump’s Travel Ban on Seven Muslim-majority Countries (Buddhistdoor Global)

*** A Crooked Tree in Changing Times (Tricycle)

**** The Trump Presidency and Lessons I Refuse to Learn (Buddhistdoor Global)

See More

Stand Against Suffering: An Unprecedented Call to Action by Buddhist Teachers (Lions Roar)

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