I’m troubled by how little attention the Buddhist community pays to the needs for food, shelter, and care by people all-around — while busily gathering funds to purchase and maintain properties where a select few can sit and get to know the self (in Dogen‘s words).
Here just three examples. In the mail a plea to contribute to a centre’s annual mortgage payment of $100,000 and for an additional building at $200,000. Then, in the news, the announcement of a $14-million project to house 60 monks and 200 guests and “provide seminars dealing with issues such as conflict, anger or grief.” Also a Buddhist center that offers retreats on such topics as “sacred feminine” and “spirit of creativity,” charging $685 for five days plus voluntary giving for teachers and staff.
How many meals could a soup kitchen serve with that kind of money, how many homeless people receive decent shelters, how many families feed their children, how many sick, lonely, and dying people be cared for? How many opportunities, right where we live, to practice compassion and generosity?
Back in the 1980s, Zen teacher Bernie Glassman created housing for the homeless and started businesses for the unemployed. “Social action,” he writes, “grows naturally out of … spirituality and livelihood. Once we begin to take care of our own basic needs, we become more aware of the needs of the people around us. Recognizing the oneness of life, we naturally reach out to other people because we realize that we are not separate from them.”
Naturally, my worldview is blurred by personal opinions and limited information. So please, if you’re aware of Buddhism-inspired social action projects that address real suffering of real people, kindly send details and web links. Thank you.
later that day: there are now several ideas and links in the COMMENTS.
text source: Glassman, B., & Fields, R. (1996). Instructions to the cook: a zen master’s lessons in living a life that matters. New York: Bell Tower, p. 8. image: “world’s largest Buddha statue” at www.funzug.com/index.php