Staying away from activism?

Alleviating worldly suffering along the way.

Staying away from activism?

Postby Music » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:52 am

Must Buddhists stay away from activism lest we develop attachment to the world? I am not saying we must be cold and uncaring, but must we practice holy indifference with respect to the world? I will give an example. There are the poor and sick. Many NGOs and charities are already doing what they can, plus there are rich philanthropists who also do their bit. In this context, our so-called activism is practically redundant, useless. Others, who are more powerful and richer, are doing a better job already and our contributions won't be missed.

So my point is: must people like us, who are living normal lives and not from privileged backgrounds, ignore the world completely and focus only on our salvation (not because one is uncaring and selfish but because there are other privileged folks who are in a position to care).
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Josef » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:58 am

There is nothing more active or engaged than directly confronting the source of suffering.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Music » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:00 am

Josef wrote:There is nothing more active or engaged than directly confronting the source of suffering.

Not sure I understand. Could you explain?
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby dharmagoat » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:45 am

Music, what you describe is a way to rationalise an unwillingness to help.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Music » Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:03 am

dharmagoat wrote:Music, what you describe is a way to rationalise an unwillingness to help.


Trust me, I am not doing that. I am asking an honest question.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby catmoon » Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:13 am

An honest opinion? I think the goat knows what he is bleating about. There is always someone who can do more. That's no reason to do nothing.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby futerko » Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:52 am

For example http://www.shenpennepal.org/ set up by Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche .
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:30 am

dharmagoat wrote:Music, what you describe is a way to rationalise an unwillingness to help.


Precisely. And yes, I'm afraid plenty of Buddhists do just that - using either this rationalization or its equally ugly twin, the idea that since all that pertains to the samsaric world is perfectly hopeless, we shouldn't get our hands so uselessly dirty. Charity work, all kinds of socio-political activism, mundane kindness, etc. - they're all hopeless and useless and certainly not worth devoting one's precious time to. Better not to waste a second on such distant and abstract problems as someone else's, or our future, everyday suffering, and sit instead in the warm and comfy armchair. Or on a cushion.

Interestingly, entertainment for some inexplicable reason is an enitrely different category of course.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:36 am

Music wrote:Must Buddhists stay away from activism lest we develop attachment to the world? I am not saying we must be cold and uncaring, but must we practice holy indifference with respect to the world? I will give an example. There are the poor and sick. Many NGOs and charities are already doing what they can, plus there are rich philanthropists who also do their bit. In this context, our so-called activism is practically redundant, useless. Others, who are more powerful and richer, are doing a better job already and our contributions won't be missed.

So my point is: must people like us, who are living normal lives and not from privileged backgrounds, ignore the world completely and focus only on our salvation (not because one is uncaring and selfish but because there are other privileged folks who are in a position to care).


This is a Mahayana forum. We don't want our personal salvation only.

Also, no activism is redunant. The suffering of sentient beings is boundless. NGOs, charities and the few philanthropists are only scratching the surface of a vast mountain of pain. Even the tiniest act of kindness is precious.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby oushi » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:48 am

Music wrote:So my point is: must people like us, who are living normal lives and not from privileged backgrounds, ignore the world completely and focus only on our salvation (not because one is uncaring and selfish but because there are other privileged folks who are in a position to care).

The idea that you can deliberately ignore the world/or not ignore it, is the only ignorance there is. Just go on with your life without pre-meditation. Buddhism is not about planning a perfect life, and sticking to the plan. It's about "sticking" to the present moment in which you react spontaneously to whatever happens.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby uan » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:08 pm

Buddhism is not about guilt trips.

Being actively involved and engaged in activism or charity work or etc doesn't make someone a good buddhist. Not being involved doesn't make you a bad buddhist. The reverse is also true--being engaged doesn't make you a bad buddhist, not being engaged doesn't make you a good buddhist.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:17 pm

The lack of social engagement in past times and the subsequent irrelevance of Buddhism in Chinese society prompted Chinese Buddhists to develop something called "Humanistic Buddhism" where the bodhisattva path was reinterpreted as being a full-time agent working for the betterment of society under the banner of Buddhism. Such work became thought of as practice equally important to meditation, if not more so in most cases.

How Buddhism is practised from country to country differs.

I'm personally of the mind that all I can offer is palliative care until I am liberated myself, at which time I'm in a definite position to help others permanently remedy suffering.

However, not everyone conceives of their lives and aspirations like that. A lot of Buddhists are emotionally and materially invested in the institutions which transmit Buddhism from generation to generation (which is of course necessary), so their devotion and practice revolves around such activities as that rather than engaging heavily in wisdom studies and meditation.

Most Buddhists don't meditate or engage in wisdom studies, so doing social work and activism is probably more suitable for them than trying to get them to meditate or read heavy material. Activism and social work are ultimately palliative care for walking corpses (you cannot fix samsara), but still it is worthwhile and cultivates both merit and roots.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Josef » Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:49 pm

Music wrote:
Josef wrote:There is nothing more active or engaged than directly confronting the source of suffering.

Not sure I understand. Could you explain?

If we are practicing genuinely we are directly confronting the causes of samsara.
There is no form of activism (that I have encountered) that is more engaged than that.
I find the notion to "engaged Buddhism" to be quite ridiculous because it assumes that the actual work done by dharma practitioners is somehow not enough for the world.
It is a very limited point of view.

There is of course nothing wrong with engaging in other relative beneficial activities as long as we maintain the point of view that defines our practices.
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:57 pm

Music wrote:Must Buddhists stay away from activism lest we develop attachment to the world? I am not saying we must be cold and uncaring, but must we practice holy indifference with respect to the world? I will give an example. There are the poor and sick. Many NGOs and charities are already doing what they can, plus there are rich philanthropists who also do their bit. In this context, our so-called activism is practically redundant, useless. Others, who are more powerful and richer, are doing a better job already and our contributions won't be missed.

So my point is: must people like us, who are living normal lives and not from privileged backgrounds, ignore the world completely and focus only on our salvation (not because one is uncaring and selfish but because there are other privileged folks who are in a position to care).
Are engagement and non engagement the only options?
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"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Bambo Leaf » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:41 am

When it comes to the lay Buddhist practice, Activism is considered doing good deeds. Good deed is recommended by the Buddha. Lay Buddhist should engage in activism. For example, working together to help end world hunger, to help the homeless, the sick, the depressed, etc....
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Virgo » Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:59 am

dharmagoat wrote:Music, what you describe is a way to rationalise an unwillingness to help.

As Josef explained there is no greater activism than seaking enlightenment. A Buddha can manifest limitless forms to help sentient beings. The yogi in the cave does as much for others as the volunterr in the Peace Corps.

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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Konchog1 » Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:16 am

According to legend, Chenrezig made a a vow that he would not rest until he had liberated all the beings in all the realms of suffering. After working diligently at this task for a very long time, he looked out and realized the immense number of miserable beings yet to be saved. Seeing this, he became despondent and his head split into thousands of pieces. Amitabha Buddha put the pieces back together as a body with very many arms and many heads, so that Chenrezig could work with myriad beings all at the same time. Sometimes Chenrezig is visualized with eleven heads, and a thousand arms fanned out around him.
http://buddhaofcompassion.org/Chenrezig.htm

A thought.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby Bambo Leaf » Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:17 am

Music wrote:Must Buddhists stay away from activism lest we develop attachment to the world?


Even monks who have completed their practice should spend time to guide people in doing good deeds and understanding dharma. The Buddha himself spent 45 years guiding people after his six years of practice for enlightenment. The gift of dhamma is the highest gift. Lay people have not left the world should definitely perform good deeds in the world . Activism is one way in which we put compassion into action. Developed monastics who completed their practice should encourage people to perform good deeds by creating opportunities for people to do so. Silent meditation and doing good deeds balance each other out quite nicely. Both are important aspects of the lay Buddhist practice .
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby lobster » Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:58 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Music wrote:Are engagement and non engagement the only options?


There is always more . . . :twothumbsup:

The alleviation of suffering is endless. So lots of fun tasks available.
If you are a buddha, you know who to smile on and when . . . meanwhile on the whole [according to legend]
smiling, being kind, doing good works out best for all concerned . . . :namaste:

More however entails stepping up your game . . .
for example one can be engaged in life and engaged in non-taintment (not to be confused with non-attainment)
This is one of the benefits of mindfulness.

Do you feel practice should calm our karma to the point of non action?
Perhaps you are ready to stop chasing and now wish to ride dragons . . . :woohoo:
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Re: Staying away from activism?

Postby kirtu » Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:06 pm

Virgo wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:Music, what you describe is a way to rationalise an unwillingness to help.

As Josef explained there is no greater activism than seaking enlightenment. A Buddha can manifest limitless forms to help sentient beings. The yogi in the cave does as much for others as the volunterr in the Peace Corps.


The yogi in the cave is a long way from Buddhahood. Has Jamgon Kongtrul manifested Buddhahood for example? He has done great things over lifetimes but people are still hungry, hopeless, being killed, being destroyed. The Peace Corps volunteer might have done some positive things and helped change some people's lives. Some bodhisattvas are actually helping people and then showing them Dharma in a form appropriate for them.

Our world is drowning in poverty and the results of that poverty. While samsara can't be fixed, we can still save beings from abject misery and guide them to Dharma. Instead we write them off my neglecting their very real material needs.

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