Sunday, October 08, 2006

BPF Gathering for Discussion November 19

Exploring the BPF Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism

Sunday, November 19
2:30 pm -4:30 pm
Belmont Library

We will explore internally and with each other the meaning we find in BPF's Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism. How can each of us make it our own? How can this exploration of the mandala inform our lives?

The mandala can be found here.

All are welcome to attend BPF Portland's bimonthly public gathering for discussion.

Monday, September 18, 2006

October activities

October 6

Showing of An Inconvenient Truth at DRZC, Friday, 7 pm. Tina is facilitating (should show up here. )

October 8

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. Film and Discussion. Enji's place, 7 pm.

The film is short, we'll have time to reflect and share in a mindful discussion until around 9 pm. RSVP for location: sign up here.

October 14

Wholehearted Practice in Troubled Times
Saturday, 10:00 AM 5:00 PM
Nalanda West, 3902 Woodland Park Avenue N, Seattle, WA USA

A BPF-Seattle Dharma Symposium. Buddhist teachers and practitioners with varied backgrounds will share their practices, personal experience, challenges and efforts.

More info here.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

September activities

September 9

Belmont Street Fair. Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm
We're invited to have a booth at the Nichiren Buddhist Temple, SE 20th and Belmont. Info about the street fair here.

September 11

Prayer and Fast for Peace. Monday, 10 am - 6 pm
South Park Blocks, SW Salmon and Main
sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

Every hour on the hour, 15 minutes of prayer, song, or chant, followed by quiet time in the park. All are welcome, even if not fasting. Includes Nichiren Shu at 10 am, Great Vow at 2 pm.

September 21

Declaration of Peace Portland. Thursday, 11:30 pm-2 pm
downtown Portland
Organization: Civil Resist Portland and others

A combination of street theater, permitted public street hearing on the war, and non-violent civil resistance. More info here.

September 23

Candlelight Vigil on the Bridges Saturday, 7:30-9 pm
Organization: Living Earth Gatherings

A Candlelight Vigil on the Bridges of Portland, to stand side by side in witness for peace. We'll stay on walkways, honor pedestrians, and hold our gentle light in friendship and quiet reflection, to declare peace with one another, peace with our neighbors and all nations, and peace with the Earth.

More info here. And on the Living Earth website.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Notes from 8-16 mtg, future plans

Bimonthly meetings and planning

All present willing to be considered 'core members': Enji, Rich, Bud, Aaron, George. (Tina and Rhea not present, also core members.) We will conduct the 'business' of BPF Portland via email, plan bi-monthly gatherings, involvement in events, etc. For now we will use email, and if it comes up that we need to discuss stuff in person, we will arrange a meeting.

We will plan to have bi-monthly gatherings,usually in January, March, May, July, September, and November. Our overarching theme for the year the same as BPF, and we will have discussions and/or presentations available to BPF members and the public at our bi-monthly gatherings.

We'll try this out, and see if we'd like to expand our meetings to bimonthly discussions, and 'business' meetings the opposite months, next year. The idea of 'core members' is not meant to exclude, but simply to acknowledge that these are the people willing to do the clerical/planning work of the chapter on a consistent basis.

Meditation vigils

We had a short discussion, mostly questions, about our involvement in the big rallies. How many are affected by the meditation vigils? Hard to say, we've had as many as 20 at a time, as little as 2, but people coming and going, affecting a good amount through the day. We certainly have people taking fliers and brochures and leaving donations. Are there other Fellowship of Reconciliation groups in Portland? Maybe. Bud exploring connections if possible.

Providing space for coming together

Rich raised concerns about how many activists are skeptical about the connection between meditation (inner peace) and activism for world peace, which led to a discussion of what we have to offer as Buddhists.

Rich: Could be helpful to have time/space for coming together where peace and justice groups can share their tools, have a dialog.
George: We could be in a position of creating dialog in the peace community. A place to reconcile how each group carries out activities, create an awareness of what drives each group, create an opportunity not to defend or change, but to show.
Enji: good idea, we could provide a space for listening. we have the model of listening circles from BPF and elsewhere.
Addendum for action: it's possible to start we could invite other peace, justice, and Buddhist groups to share in a listening circle as one of our bi-monthly meetings?

Park Festival

Enji intends to ask all previous teachers if they can act as a nominating panel for future teachers at the festival. This would take pressure off organizers as well as eliminate some touchy situations such as unknown visiting teachers and maverick teachers offering their services. On the question if we want to make it "our" event: we're in a good position to host, being an ecumenical group. We're doing the most work on it. Good to keep it co-sponsored with NWDA, also ecumenical, and keep it in the realm of a multi-sangha collaborative effort.

  • could change the structure to more of a workshop basis, have topics covered throughout the day, and related to the theme of the festival.
  • could have panels that cover those topics, rather than teacher after teacher covering beginning instruction as well as dharma talks.
  • would not need then to depend on leading area teachers, but other sangha members qualified to cover the topics, nominated by teachers who've gone before
  • would be an opportunity for discussion

Action: Enji will compose letter to teachers, and additional letter to past organizers and NWDA regarding workshop format proposal

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

8-16 BPF Portland meets

What's Next? BPF Portland meeting.
Where: Belmont Library (SE 39th near Belmont)
When: Wednesday, August 16, 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm

Enji Hoogstra will be available to discuss her recent experience at the BPF member gathering in New York, "Peace in Ourselves, Peace in the World: Wholehearted Practice in Difficult Times". We'll talk about that, and what's next. All are welcome.

24 Hour Interfaith Peace Chant

July 28-29, 7 pm to 7 pm. Detailed info here.

BPF Portland participates at 1 pm on Saturday, July 29. (Enji leaving Portland at 11:30 am, if anybody wants a ride.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BPF Gathering: Closing

As this conference/retreat went on, the interconnected energy of the folks there grew to a ripe fullness in a way I haven't experienced in retreats, nor in a similarly structured weekend training through the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Maybe it's because of the position I was in, being responsible for coordinating the rituals, or the space of mind I was in to, receptive to the vibes of the group, but I think it was also because of the nature of the gathering. Maia said in a post-gathering email, "Probably the most important thing all of us did was get to know each other better... as Viki from Seattle reminded us, building relationships needs to be the foundation for all of our work. I am so grateful for the time we had to learn, practice, and break bread together and strengthen those relationships."

We had time for reflection before dinner on Friday and Saturday, based on the Meeting of Friends' worship sharing. To introduce it I read a quote from the North Pacific Yearly Meeting website. This filled a need exactly as I'd hoped it would: we could share as a group the things that had touched us as we went our separate ways during the day, in a thoughtful, mindful way. As I said in our first Reflection period, I enjoyed being able to meet people's eyes and get hugs, not something that happens in meditation retreats. Alan Senauke lightened the mood with the poem Meditation on Grasping and Clinging by Barton Stone, which tells us birth and death are relentless and proceeds to list all the things that will not save you, for example, "Organic produce will not save you/ Your vows will not save you/ Mutual funds will not save you...Extended orgasms will not save you..." (damn!)

Saturday evening we had a 'peace jam'. One or two poems were shared. Alan gets more animated talking about music than he does about Zen (sometimes). If you follow this link he's the one on the right. We'd been told to bring our songs, our poems, our instruments. I brought a toy wooden fish drum, at least I can keep a beat if I can't keep a tune. A woman I'd met, formerly from around here, but who now lives in New York, led us in beginning a body-drumming session. She has the kind of voice you'd like to hear in a relaxation spa, hypnotic, cadence slow and thoughtful. Judy instructed us to put a hand to our chest, to listen to the frogs, the rain patter, feel our heartbeat. Listen to the world's rhythm, feel how it fits in with our own, and start a beat along with our own heartbeat. It was something that started out slowly, concentrating on my own heartbeat and trying not to switch to my neighbors'. Soon some started adding voice, or other sounds. The clink of a pen on glass. I picked up my drum, drawn to the bumpy fin where I could scrape the stick and mimic the call of the frogs. We didn't get all too wild, and somehow one or two drew it down, brought us to quiet again.

We moved on. Alan sang a great song about Bodhisattva Never Disparages, a bodhisattva most sacred to the Nichiren-Shu. No matter what anybody does to him, this bodhisattva always bows and says "I will never disparage you, I will never despise you. I know you will be a Buddha someday." He also sang a Tom Waits song that mentions a bodhisattva. Then Rick from Florida picked up his guitar and shared a song I know from our Buddhist Sunday school. "There's ol' Buddha, sitting under that Bodhi Tree (bodhi tree)..." (At my Zen Center we sing it faster....got a lotta songs to sing, after all.)

I hadn't thought I had anything to bring, but after the body-drumming, I wasn't ready for that sort of thing to end, so I suggested we could do a similar sort of thing with Portland's street chant that Portland BPF also brings to the 24 Hour Chant for Peace. Maybe together we could come up with a new rhythm. We didn't, but I think I'll seed the room with sticks and shakers and other drumming things to get people inspired to make it lively. Rick also led us in Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. Sure, we had our share of political words we stuck in there, but we also stuck Buddhist stuff into it, like "ain't gonna let no samsara turn me around..."

Jesse had commented to me that he wished he could know what people's personal practices were. So I conferred with Maia and Alan, and I asked people to think about a piece of their practice they could bring to this Sunday morning ritual. It could be a snippet from a ceremony we might otherwise not know about, something that was special to them. Together we could create a mosaic that is a BPF shared ritual. We'd had some practice in other segments of the weekend in 'sharing time equally', and around 50 people shared their practice introduction and actual piece in just a half hour. I remember a Theravadin chant in Pali. My own repeated "Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu". (Bodhisattva of Compassion, Japanese) Somebody else mentioned Kwanzeum Bosal (the same in Korean). Somebody mentioned walking as a meaningful meditation practice for them.

Finally, we got a dharma talk from Alan. All along, he sat among us, democratically, no separation. Now, he put on his rakusu and spoke with wisdom. I found myself resonating with his words on identity action. Searching for the root word, I find he has written of this before. It could be called non-duality, but I sense that doesn't quite capture it. Non-duality in action, that is what we want to cultivate. I find the word: samanattata. Some translate it "adaptability," others "putting oneself in communion". It is knowing just the right thing to do because there is no separation. Alan shifted papers in front of him, reading quotes from here, notes from there. He spoke off the cuff, didn't have a written draft, and it was a great talk. Lucinda, one of the attendees, volunteered to transcribe it.

This is our touchstone as we work for peace. This is what we were doing at the gathering, creating a space in which we connected on a personal and spiritual level. I felt as if we moved through water, each movement affecting others, each of us a bubble dancing among the waves. Identity action works with those waves, not against, because the bubbles are not separate from the waves. (There is a traditional metaphor in Buddhism about bubbles floating on the ocean, something that occurred to me after this image came up...I'm not sure if my thoughts fit with the traditional understanding.)

On that final morning we had opportunity to discuss the board's strategic plan. We'd been slightly worried that the mosaic ritual might go over time, but this was the piece that cut into lunch. Enough concerns arose that it became clear chapters and membership need a way to express their ideas to the board before it's adopted. One woman reflected my own feelings about the weekend and the people there. She said "I've fallen in love with people here, and we need to trust them to do this right." I too felt that intimacy of love.

Finally, we dedicated the merit of our gathering. It's pretty much traditional across all sects of Buddhism to dedicate the merit of a ceremony. Once or twice in the weekend someone mentioned the unheard voices, the voices of women needing to be heard. Tellingly to me, this white-haired sweet woman kept raising her hand and raising her hand while the mike kept getting handed to someone else. Even here, for a while, she wasn't seen. Appropriately we ended with a dedication that remembers the women, and we chanted the lineage of women ancestors as done at my Zen Center, with similar ones emerging elsewhere in the US. (Sallie Tisdale recently release her book, Women of the Way that tells the stories of the women's lineage, my reading material for the plane.)

I could have caught a ride with someone heading back to New York, but I opted to take the train so I could talk to Viki. We talked shop, and connections. At Grand Central Station, we parted. She took the subway to LaGuardia, me to the Hotel Chelsea. As we hugged goodbye she said, "You were the glue that held it together, Enji." (wow, who me?) I'd certainly felt a feeling of special connection to many people. It wasn't me, but I guess I was swimming in identity action. It seems to be something I think of as love.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

BPF Gathering: Open Space Technology

On Saturday afternoon (6/22) we had three hours slated for Open Space Technology. But before that was...lunch. Did I mention that the food was really good even though it was good for you? Funny thing, now I can't remember details, because there were so many other things occupying my brain. I remember a cheesy polenta, fresh salad greens at every lunch and dinner, and a barley dish better than any I've had. (That one bitter green was *not* in the salad until the very last meal....hmmmm.) Whatever it was this hour, I thought I'd wait until after a little side trip to Cold Spring, but I snagged a little just in case I ran out of time.

Chris, the really local local guy, of the Middle Way Meditation Center of Cold Spring, told us all about a little peace demo that happens (once a month? week?) on the main drag of Cold Spring. He himself hadn't had a chance to go to it because his Saturdays are usually otherwise occupied. Five or six of us carpooled just a few minutes away for the half hour vigil. I found myself holding one end of a banner and standing next to a silver-haired Vietnam vet who told me they'd been doing this since the war began, with just a short period of time when it disbanded. At first there was a counter-demo, pro-war, but that dwindled and stopped. Also at first local cops gave them a really hard time, most of them being ex-military, but that too has stopped. I was bubbling over with the idea from Aidan Delgado on sending packages to the troops, as I'd just come from that workshop. He seemed to think it a good idea too. Oh yeah, someone drove by in a pickup blaring one of those schmaltzy patriotic new country songs. I do believe I got a hug before I left. I ended up eating just a little more lunch.

I am so glad we made sure Viki from Seattle made it to the gathering. She introduced and facilitated the open space time. For those who don't know, open space is a way to have meetings that has only four rules and one law:
  1. Whoever comes are the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time
  4. Whenever it's over, it's over

The Law of Two Feet

I hadn't experienced it before, but I was the one who suggested we find a way to include it. With only 3 hours, we just had time for two sessions. As far as I know, no one really utilized the "law of two feet." Viki told me she suspected that might happen, that "Buddhists would be too polite." The second sessions were all small, people escaping from the stifling heat to rest, no doubt. We certainly had a packed schedule. Our thematic question, related to the theme of the gathering: What practices for creating peace in difficult times do we hope to learn together? (and to lead to items for action) How will we do this?

We had about 4 or 5 offerings in each session. Each one had notes and action items to come out of them, which will probably also be on the BPF website soon. I offered one based on a long-standing conundrum of mine (of any organizer I suppose) on how to get people involved and stay involved. I came up with a metaphor from physics: if you drop a balloon on a nail sticking up, it will pop, but if you drop a balloon on 10 nails, it will be held up. My topic for discussion was, "How to get more Nails?" Five or six of us talked about what our experiences in our chapters were, including Denis from my 'mentor chapter'. In fact I think that was a possible action item: identify mentor chapters. Also match chapters up with like interests.

A theme from the Fundraising workshop continued here for me: work from our core values rather than focus on numbers. Maybe rather than create stratification with 'steering group' and 'members' and 'friends', simply identify a few core people who can work together to do a few tasks, and not worry about how many members we have. Another plan of action for me, rather than ask the Portland group generally about a need for more help with various tasks, to ask for help with specific tasks. Denis stressed the importance that BPF chapter meetings *not* be about business, but practice and discussion, something that keeps people wanting to come back. Business is taken care of via email and other meetings among the core group. Actually, I just remembered a related conversation with another BPF Chapter Council member, Jeff. (During a break...the very sort of thing that inspired open space technology.) He said we (he and I) find ourselves in the position of being a leader but not trying to be an authority, that we then end up being more of a 'leader-servant'. I've really got to talk to him more about that. (Can you tell I've been over-extending myself?)

I stayed in the same room for Denis' offering, "Right Relationships". (I think he did that on purpose.) There were only 3 of us, or was it 4? Viki said often small is better, and she was right. This almost was a continuation of the previous session. No one had left, and no one wandered in, either time. (darn) Denis was thinking about the relationships between groups, and between chapters and BPF. How do we define our relationships? I took the notes for this one, which helped me see patterns develop in our conversation and zoom in on spots that needed clarifying. We identified core values that our groups would bring to relationships to other groups, and that alone was pretty impressive, I thought. I look forward seeing the write-up, hope it still makes sense. We also got a start on answering the questions, "What responsibility does BPF have to chapters?" and "What responsibility do the chapters have to BPF?" Having been on the chapter council for over a year, and dealt with non-responses from chapter contacts, I found it interesting that Denis was long on responses to the first, but not on the second. (Denis is not a chapter contact.) I got one possible solution for the non-responsiveness later from Viki: get more core member contacts from chapters, and include them in my queries.

Later, during the break, one of our a/v guys set up the pre-recorded video of Aitken Roshi's dharma talk. I wanted to watch, but I also had taken on the task of making the notes legible from both my sessions, so I sat in the room and copied. This time, I was too preoccupied to hear the full quote about getting naked in the streets. Of course I realized he'd just said it when everyone else in the room reacted. Heh. I'm hoping to get a copy anyway, so I could show it here in Portland. I also hope to get a copy of the 11 minute film they showed to us on the very first night, "Being Peace in Time of War." It has footage of peace demos that BPF was involved in, and bits of interviews with Aitken Roshi and Sulak Sivaraksa, two BPF venerables.

Friday, July 07, 2006

BPF Gathering: The Workshops

It was really hard to choose from the workshops. Anchalee of the refugee work had one called Strengthening Our Global Connections. At the same time I could choose one on Prison Dharma, led by BPF's staff for that program, Michael, and Alan Senauke, spiritual advisor to BPF. I would go to that one as much for Alan's presence as for the subject. At the last moment I chose to go to one I'd already decided against, because of my intention for the weekend. Since I wished to help others take joy in their interconnections, I realized the best thing for me to do would not be some new, intriguing subject, but something that I would be likely to bring back and use here at home. A few year years ago I was there when the group synergy led Maia (before she was director) to come up with the Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism. Before I reflected, it seemed as though this would be review. When I made it not about me, but what I could share, this was obviously what I needed to do. The bulk of my work lies in creating community...I'm not likely to find the time to follow up on Prison Dharma or global connections. Going to those might be educational, but they would be a distraction.

I came out of that workshop excited to bring it back home. Maia and Jesse (board member) said they'd presented the Mandala to chapters before, but never as a workshop. I couldn't imagine it any other way. Drawing my own Mandala, engaging it and sharing my engaged dharma with another gave it a focus for me that merely knowing about it hadn't. Also, my Seattle compadres were in the workshop, and during one part we were encouraged to form into groups according to region, and talk about actions we've participated in that had been a positive experience. We emerged determined to fortify our chapter connections and our friendship. Viki and I both felt there needed to be a fifth segment to the Mandala: cultivating or serving as a conduit. We both felt so much of the work we do is just that, cultivating community and peace and just letting what wants to happen, happen. And personally, the question for our personal mandala, "What's missing?" gave me a clear answer: more zazen.

I'd already considered Viki a mentor, but found myself really drawn to Denis as well. As one of the opening ritual Directions, he'd expressed some uncertainty over his piece of it. Actually, they all did a little. It had come together so perfectly, in my exuberance I'd gone to each of them and asked for a hug, because I could. In my usual experience of Buddhist retreats, there is no eye contact, and definitely no hugs. Well, not until the last day and we let our hair down. Later, Denis found me and asked for a hug.

Again, I had a dilemma for the afternoon workshop. Alan Senauke's "Dharma of Martin Luther King Jr.", or "Fundraising Inside Out: Relating to Money with Joy, Equanimity, and Courage." I can only hope I have a chance again to hear Alan talk of MLK's Dharma. I don't need to raise a whole lot of money, but the little that I do has been like pulling teeth, so I went to the fundraising one. This actually turned out to be quite an inspiring workshop (as did Alan's) and throughout the weekend people were referring back to one or the other. Kristi developed this model as a consultant because as a fundraiser, she herself had cringed at the way traditional fundraising went against her core values. For example, creating classifications of membership encourages stratification, which goes against a core value of equality. Or when money buys access to seating or clubs or inner circles, it encourages homogeneity when a core value is diversity. She gave the vibrant example of Maya Angelou receiving some award and reading a poem, and all the people in front surrounding her were white. She mentioned Lynne Twist several times: Soul of Money. I'm going to have to check it out just to find the poem by Tagore that Kristi said was in there. It brought me to tears. This workshop certainly has me thinking about changing the way we ask for money in our membership brochure, but it also brings a thread of articulating core values that I want to bring back to my core members (and determined to get those core members to come forward).

Saturday morning we had one more workshop. Again I had the chance to attend Anchalee's global connections. I was also intrigued by the one on the Department of Peace campaign, but I just had to go to the one presented by Aidan Delgado, Buddhist Conscientious Objector. Earlier he had given a talk in which he told his story: enlisting on the morning of 9/11; beginning to realize during basic training that this wasn't for him; starting a Buddhist practice; Abu Ghraib; putting his gun down; having his armor taken away. He told us what we know publicly is only a small piece of it. What happened over there, all over not just Abu Ghraib, was so bad that he saw people go one of two ways: they either got more deeply spiritual, or they got incredibly hateful and cruel. He told us that while he was made a pariah...he had to stay there during the year his CO status was decided...while it was really bad, it wasn't as bad as the deep pain in his heart when he'd held the gun that was pointed at Iraqis. See Alternet interview with Aidan here. This 24 year old was quite self-possessed and a good speaker, partly because he's spoken hundreds of times at colleges and some high schools. Friday night he'd been gratified to hear from me, a long-time practitioner, that I can feel like I'm not doing enough zazen. It had taken me a long time to realize this for myself, but it was easy to see he needed to hear what I told him: "You will do what you need to do when you need to do it."

To wind up his speech he told us he had some practical ideas that we could do, and he would talk about that in his workshop. There was no doubt I wanted to attend this workshop. I am hungry for something to do that doesn't feel like I was just spinning my wheels. When our videographer suggested we could continue to film Aidan if the workshop stayed in that room, a quick group decision confirmed we wanted that. (Audio and video may be available sometime soon at the BPF website.)

Aidan began the workshop with an analysis of peace work as it exists, and how that relates to the enlistment and deployment process. There is a downward curve in numbers of soldiers: say a million enlist, slightly less make it through basic training, less again are deployed, slightly less come back home and of those, many are disaffected, and of those disillusioned soldiers, only a few hundred become involved in peace groups, and only a few, like Aidan, become prominent spokespeople. Basically he outlined a strategic plan, and for once in these several years I've been actively working for peace, I feel like I've come across something that could work.

Aidan said we have a lot of activists going after the recruitment numbers, and that's good. Anti-recruitment (Aidan would prefer we said "honest recruitment" because recruiters make promises that are never filled all the time) is working, recruiters are not making their goals. But there are two key areas that are ignored by us. There are many enlistees that realize their mistake in that first week or two of basic training. If they could, they would get out. What they don't know is that they can. They are told they will be arrested, but they are not usually told they can still change their mind. They don't know all their rights, and the military isn't going to volunteer information. We could find ways to do that.

Another weak time for the military, strong for peace workers, is that time when soldiers are first deployed. Like Aidan, they may know in their hearts this is the wrong thing for them to do, but they are stuck. Again, that's not true, but it is a difficult process to achieve Conscientious Objector status. To succeed, a soldier needs skills s/he may not have, such as good writing skills, and being persuasive. It is at that point too, that Aidan said we could be most effective in getting information to the soldiers about their rights and about the GI Rights Hotline, and even helping them put all their ducks in a row by volunteering for the GI Rights Hotline. We could send the soldiers mailings, care packages, include some simple information, some hotline numbers. This had me very excited. This is something so simple and so concrete that we could do as religious communities, as chapters of BPF. If we could help even one soldier get out of the insanity, it would be worth it. Aidan has promised he will write up the process on how to go about sending care packages.

A weak point for us peace workers is a culture gap. There may be many soldiers returning from deployment that are for peace, but they don't get involved because, as Aidan said, "We are freaks." The military is ritualistic and formal, and he said it "could be frightening to come to a drum circle." Some of us chuckled, thinking of the very ritualistic and formal Zen. (Claude AnShin Thomas is doing good work there.) We can't just plan an event and invite veterans and wonder why they don't come. Then there's the gap of pro-peace but uninvolved vets. They may need some skills training so they are better able to become public spokespersons, more regional, not necessarily national like Aidan. A strong message I heard from Aidan is that we need to meet the soldiers where they are at. All too often, and I agree, progressives cannot help but wax holy on how bad war itself is, violence itself is, social injustice itself is. If we cannot meet an anti-war returning vet where he is, it is no wonder the perception persists among soldiers that if you're anti-war, you're anti-them. It is not very peaceful to hold ourselves apart, and I have found this to be a critical flaw in the peace movement: everyone must have their specific critical pet issue represented. When veterans return with PTSD, with doubts about the war, with confusing reactions to their own homes and families, they don't need to be lectured about "abolishing the military". Number one, they need skills to find peace within themselves, and two, they need to find an outlet for their convictions that honors the skills they do have, or want to have.

Still to come: open space technology and closing.

BPF Gathering: Aitken Roshi

Something I'm sure we all felt most honored to experience was a dharma talk on Friday night (6/23) by Robert Aitken Roshi. Just that week he turned 89 years, and long of ill health, there was no way he could travel from Hawaii to New York, but he gave the talk via telephone, and took questions from us. A highlight for many was his dharma advice to do something drastic...we should be getting naked in the streets. He is known for saying that there is no Buddhism that isn't engaged, but he also will be in your face with his messages. It wasn't the easiest dharma talk to listen to, faint speaker phone line along with his old gravelly voice, so either people were too shy or they'd been too busy concentrating to be ready with questions for him. One person asked him to repeat the naked in streets line, but both times I couldn't hear exactly what came before or after. Some Zen quote, I think.

Something he'd said prompted me to ask, "What would you say to Buddhist teachers who will not talk about politics in dharma talks?" (My teacher does not, and I haven't had a problem with that. I see my ecumenical group as the place for people to channel those energies.) I was curious what this feisty and venerable teacher would say to that. He said, "Well they don't want to be of the world!" And actually that answer quite aptly reflected my thoughts about my teacher lately: he does set himself apart from us, his students. He's very good at helping us grow up spiritually, but I'm beginning to realize there's a way in which I could never be his peer, never be 'of his world'. Eh, well, my teacher still learns too.

Another person referred to Aitken Roshi's mention of Phil Berrigan, and asked something about doing actions that get one arrested. Roshi told us to consider others who are involved in our lives. It was a hardship for Phil Berrigan's children all those years he was in jail, and sometimes his wife was in jail too. He gave a similar answer about withholding income tax too. Roshi and his wife did that for years, but when the IRS finally decided to pursue them, it was a horrible experience trying to jump through all the hoops asked of them. It was clear he was thinking of the pain his wife went through. I heard in that a very keen understanding of the Middle Way. We must speak, we must act, we must put our very naked bodies on the line for the good of the world, but in doing so we must consider our loved ones and all who could be affected by our actions.

[I learned after I got back that while I was in the city on Monday the 26th there was a rally/walk/civil disobedience in Manhattan to close down Guantanamo. Dan Berrigan was there, as well as Phil's daughter, Frida. A person from the BPF Gathering found herself walking beside Frida, "an eloquent courageous activist." Slideshow found here.]

It was around this time, maybe a little earlier, that I realized this BPF gathering was really coming together. In the way that it was a retreat, our container for the practice was making us a community. I noticed that while some people were naturally quiet or reserved, those same quiet ones would step forward quickly to move chairs or offer help, eager to feel a part of the group. As ritual coordinator, I had no lack of timekeepers for the optional meditation periods. Magically, just as I was thinking some kind of movement would be appropriate for a shared ceremony time, a woman approached me offering to lead some qi gong as it was something she did every morning.

BPF Gathering: Arrival

First of all, I loved the chance to experience the New York transit system. After a night in a hotel near the airport (6-21), I took the AirTrain and subway to Grand Central Station. Of course I got a late start because noon was my 9 am, but I didn't have to be anywhere until late afternoon. OK, it wasn't absolutely perfect...the hotel only supplied Folgers coffee. I made my first touristy purchase in a little shop at Grand Central when I realized how hot and muggy it was and I hadn't packed any hair sticks to get my thick long hair up off my neck. I put one of the two hairsticks immediately in my hair.

I went to New York to take part in the Buddhist Peace Fellowship's Member Gathering.

BPF booked the Garrison Institute in Garrison, about an hour from the city. It was really kind of funny, this place. It's very beautiful and seemingly serene, but there were little things that were like annoying little gnats: they supplied us with only one towel for 4 days; the dishes all seemed designed to spill; they had a rule about using fragrance-free soaps. I joked that it seemed they wanted to mess with our spiritual practice. (Really, the glasses were narrower at the bottom, and if you tilted your glass just a little the water sloshed like a mini water funnel up and over the side...I spilled more water that weekend....) It was hot and muggy and it was deer tick season and they put us on the third floor, the hottest and no elevator. On the other hand the meals they provided were great, except at the very last when the salad had one certain bitter leaf that made you scrunch up your face. That was pretty much symbolic of the Garrison Institute. Oh, and they also had hot tubs, that was a good thing. The others wouldn't believe me when I told them it helped a person cool off.

In spite of the bitter-leaf-in-the-salad, the 4 days were perfect. I'd helped to plan the schedule, and a couple days before Maia, the director, had given us responsibilities for pieces of the weekend. She asked me to take point on the ritual portions of the schedule. This member gathering, it wasn't exactly a conference, it wasn't exactly a Buddhist retreat, but it was somewhere in between. An Engaged Buddhist Middle Way, of sorts. We'd already established that since BPF is ecumenical and egalitarian in nature, we wanted the ritual portions to come from the attendees and their particular practices. We also knew we wanted the opening ceremony to be something completely reflective of BPF, and not some particular sect of Buddhism. We'd rounded up a few volunteers to lead some ceremony, but I had many more schedule bits to fill.

While on the phone with Maia I'd mentioned to her I was just beginning to think of *my* intentions for the weekend, that until then I'd been focused on what it would be for other people. She took that thought and incorporated it into her idea for our opening ceremony. We had 4 people who spoke of specific concerns that came from the regions they represented, and they offered 4 responses to the suffering. Then we went around the room, when each participant could tell who they were, where they came from, and a succinct expression of their intention for the weekend gathering.

Lance began in the West. He spoke of the war, and our need to bear witness and not just think about the suffering but feel it. He led a tonglen meditation, once a 'secret' practice but made not secret by Pema Chodron. Basically you breathe in the ills of the world, and breathe out healing and happiness. Then Anchalee in the East, originally from Thailand. She has worked with refugees ever since she graduated from college. She especially wanted to mention those who were put into involuntary servitude. The ritual piece she brought was beautiful: homage to the 3 refuges in Pali, and the precepts in Pali. She said it's something one always recites in her Theravadin practice at the beginning of any ceremony. When she was young she didn't understand why but now she realizes it is to set the intention. Then it was to Jose in the South. Originally from Argentina, he spoke eloquently of how people 'were disappeared' in the politics of Latin America. But now, the ways of his country seems to be transplanted to this country, while in Latin America there are indigenous movements that are transforming the politics. He read a poem of Neruda, mostly in English, some Spanish. Finally there was Denis from Seattle in the North. He spoke of the riches we have, but of the suffering we have, war, environmental concerns, people in poverty, without health care. He invoked interbeing, and how we all need to find ourselves in the other. He read a poem by Robert Bly about how two people had no more to do but be, and love that third being in the room that was their connection.

In the go-round, some people expressed some very anguished distress over the state of this country, and the hope they could find some answers in the weekend. That was a tall order, but I think there were some answers found. I certainly found some. My intention had just come together that evening: I wanted to take joy in our interconnections, and help others make their interconnections, and get my self out of the way. In my role as ritual coordinator, that came together for me in a profound way.

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