During protest “mic checks” across this country at “Occupy” sites, you might have heard the call-and-response: “Show us what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” As the groundswell of support for the movement has gained momentum, it is obvious that the notion of democratic nonviolent occupation and a fundamental questioning of the status quo has proven widely appealing to followers of the Dharma.
If as a Buddhist you would like to know more about the Occupy Movement but don’t know where to start, there are a few websites out there that can serve to launch you and your heart off the cushion and into action.
A great first stop for followers of the Dharma who want to get involved is www.occupysamsara.org. Buddhist teachers Michael Stone and Ethan Nichtern “encourage all teachers, leaders, sanghas and communities that pursue awakening to join with these inspiring activists in working to end the extreme inequalities of wealth and power that cause so much suffering and devastation for human society and for the ecosystems of Earth.” Teachers in solidarity with the movement also include Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Joan Halifax and Jack Kornfield, among others.
If you feel the call to dig deeper Dharmically, be sure to visit the Interdependence Project. The website’s podcast page hosts a powerful two-part conversation titled “Ethan Nichtern, David Loy and Michael Stone Discuss Occupy Wall Street” that will ignite your “occupy mind.” The trio takes a comprehensive look at the systemic roots of suffering, how the three poisons (i.e., greed, hatred and ignorance) are institutionalized, and how the Occupy Movement can wake us up to this immense awareness.
If you happened to witness the horrifying images of students at UC Davis being doused with pepper spray in late November 2011, or if you have digested the reality of the National Defense Authorization Act, chances are you might have experienced shock and outrage. I recommend looking here for Michael Stone’s poignant Occupy Montreal speech on caring for your anger. And if you wish to meditate with the Occupiers, head to the Buddhist Peace Fellowship website to learn more about how to support their “Occupy The Moment” call to meditation.
I would encourage you to read Roshi Joan Halifax’s article on Huffington Post, in which she discusses compassion and wisely explains how the movement can justify itself. Also on Huffington Post, you can also check out Lewis Richmond’s article wherein he discusses how Buddhists must look at all beings from the “100%” viewpoint. Lastly, my final suggestion for a must-read is David Loy’s article, “Waking Up from the Nightmare: Buddhist Reflections on Occupy Wall Street.” Loy ends the piece by asking: “Is it time to bring our spiritual practice out into the streets?”
If after visiting any of the above sites you can answer Loy’s question with a resounding “YES!” then it might just be time to get up off the cushion and join your local Occupy Movement!