Call For Submissions: Decolonizing Our Sanghas
In the words of Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, “Buddhism, with its non-theistic framework, grounds its ethics not on the notion of obedience, but on that of harmony.” On the individual level, the teetotaling Fifth Precept of Buddhism, a training to abstain from taking intoxicants, is meant not in a moralizing way, but as a practice to help us avoid unnecessary disturbances and disharmony of the mind.
“Intoxicants are to be avoided partly because of their effects on one’s state of mind, but also because in an intoxicated state one is more likely to break the other precepts. Intoxicants may also have psychologically (or sometimes physically) addictive effects…” (ClearVision)
But what happens if we look at the Fifth Precept from a systemic perspective? What other kinds of “intoxicants” might have addictive effects, or make it more difficult for us to keep wholesome trainings like non-killing, non-stealing, abstaining from lies, and avoiding sexual misconduct?
As socially engaged Buddhists Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Sulak Sivaraksa, David Loy, and others have noted, “intoxicants” or sources of mass delusions, include social institutions and discourses beyond drugs and alcohol. What we consume as media, ideology, and socially perpetuated forms of privilege and separation also impact our discernment in our efforts for personal and collective liberation.
If colonialism involves taking over and exploiting territories, erasing the histories of the people living there, and establishing hierarchies by which the colonizers continually drain resources from the colonized, then the process of decolonizing means remembering history, challenging long-held dominant doctrines, and asserting that the peace we want comes not from subjugation, but from justice and true equality.
We want to hear from you! In the realm of spirituality and social justice, where is there a need to decolonize our sanghas(spiritual communities) and our activist organizing? How does this help us move toward the peaceful world we desire?
Top photo via: Nippon Myhoji Buddhist monks in the San Francisco Bay Area have built longstanding relationships with Ohlone and other local indigenous groups.