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The Price of Liberation is Eternal Vigilance

Today, I would like to examine the comments of someone who deeply disagrees with the work currently being done on Turning Wheel and at BPF.In doing so, I am not aiming to skewer the writer’s personality, or deliberately fan the flames. It strikes me that it’s really important to keep an ear open to our critics. To listen for teachings and points of agreement that may lay beneath. This is the spirit in which I am engaging here, as you’ll hopefully see in my response.

Louis Summerlin left the following statements on the BPF Facebook page:

“It is abundantly clear your main goal is not “peace”, but a partisan side in a conflict. Like many Western “Buddhist”, you cherry-pick the Dharma to promote certain social and political agendas, some of which, if we were intellectually and morally honest, may not be in the true spirit of the Buddha’s Teachings. You use Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Engaged Buddhism”, yet flaunt his prohibition on using the Sangha as a political instrument. When you fight, even non-violently, one side, you do not promote peace, you merely weaken one side to the advantage of another, that is actually WAR. You are an unarmed, but militant, arm of a political movement.

The anti-American, anti-Western, anti-capitalist bias is obvious. I would think the primary activity of students of the Dharma would be to practice awareness and be mindful of the Precepts not just of what the (US) government does, or what “corporations” do, but awareness and mindfulness of OUR OWN behaviors and actions, and the thoughts and feelings that motivate them. Resentment, anger, and envy are possible motivators for the “Left-wing” agenda. Rather than just attack the external “problems” perhaps we can also look within. We should also look to see if the agendas we support/ oppose actually may cause more suffering. If we oppose the economic, or even military, goals of one side, do we not empower the other, and might not that lead to even bigger problems.”

Before I dig in here, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the path to peace in the world is fairly mysterious. That each of us has something to offer in that direction, which is beyond political affiliation, views on social issues, or ways of practice. No one has a monopoly on the truth, and every vision or view is partial and open to critique. In saying this, I’m not saying that everything is equal, or that all views and visions are relative and worthy of respect. My point is that in the face of disagreement and opposition, it’s vital to have a mind that’s flexible enough to hear any wisdom that might be present. To remember the human behind the words, something that’s often a major challenge when situations are heated and words enflamed by the three poisons.

One thing I hear behind Louis’ words is a call to practice and dharma study. A reminder really that if we forget to study our individual minds and hearts, we’re doomed to repeat the same hells we claim to be working to transform. In addition, I fully agree with his comment that we “should also look to see if the agendas we support/ oppose actually may cause more suffering.” Something I have long struggled with as an activist is the failure amongst many of us to maintain vigilance over our views and visions. The price of liberation is eternal vigilance. Being watchful, wakeful, alert. Giving repeated and sustained attention to the current conditions on the ground, and how our aims and actions may, or may not, be in alignment with the social needs (both short term and long term).

And so, while I am in strong disagreement with other elements of Louis’ comments, his words are a valuable reminder to those of us who are active in the world of social samsara to not get complacent, and not forget our formal practices and dharma teachings.

Along these lines, let’s take a look at the following point about Thich Nhat Hanh. “You use Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Engaged Buddhism”, yet flaunt his prohibition on using the Sangha as a political instrument.” I have heard this sentiment many times, and while it’s a worthy warning for social activists, it’s often wrongly applied. Here is what Thich Nhat Hanh actually wrote, as one of the 14 Engaged Buddhist precepts:

“Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.”

The prohibition is directly against becoming a wing of a political party. Of using the sangha to get candidates elected, fundraise for a particular party, speak in favor of solely the policies of a political party, and similar activities. Being partisan is actively supporting only the policies of a single party, and rejecting the ideas and actions of others. In the U.S., things tend to get stuffed into the shoddy binaries of “Right” and “Left,” and Republican and Democrat. The realities are much more complicated.

Frankly, I find it rather laughable to suggest that rejecting capitalism, for example, is a partisan issue. Sure, there are far more folks that get lumped into the “Left” who are against capitalism than those lumped into the “Right,” but neither category has enough clarity or uniformity to be held up as a solid body. And when we consider the more uniform political parties – Democrat and Republican – both actively support capitalism, even if their approaches are somewhat different in doing so. If anything, supporting capitalism could be viewed as partisan, although that really only holds up if it’s about advocating for specific policies that support capitalism.

What I have found is that a hell of a lot of American Buddhist practitioners know next to nothing about Thich Nhat Hanh’s history, or the development story of the Order of Interbeing. The monks and nuns of the Order held clear positions against war and oppression in Vietnam, and also actively worked to support the suffering of everyone during the war, especially amongst the poor, and for their work and views, they received hatred and regular death threats from multiple, partisan groups. Concepts like reconciliation, lifting the oppression of the poor, and working for peace for all really didn’t settle well with any of the political groups of the day. And obviously, still don’t, either there or most anywhere else for that matter. So many who gobble up Thay’s poetic, stripped down, and somewhat simplistic Buddhist books these days have no idea the man spent over two and half decades in exile from his native land, precisely because he dared to stand behind views and actions that threatened whatever partisans happened to be in power.

A lot of us in the BPF community feel that the rather unpopular (amongst the privileged classes anyway) stance of rejecting capitalism, and aiming for a more ethical – even more dharmic –like   economics, is similar to what Buddhists like Thich Nhat Hanh have done in standing against war and working towards peace. We see how intertwined warfare and economics are, and consider it impossible to create a peaceful world under an economic system that produces so much misery and injustice.

Again, this really isn’t partisan. I dare anyone to name a single political or corporate group in power in the U.S. or in most nations across the globe that actively rejects both capitalism and warfare. It’s pretty much impossible. The few nations that cling to some tattered form of Communism – which mostly has been a warped version of what Marxists and others actually advocated for – haven’t really rejected warfare. With the possible exceptions of Costa Rica and maybe Bolivia these days, but even in those places, there are social and economic injustice issues that need to be directly addressed.

The price of liberation is eternal vigilance. I can’t repeat that enough. Louis is absolutely right that social and political movements can be plagued by anger and rage. And that we need to really look into that. What I also find is that convert Buddhists on the whole are terribly averse to anger and rage. They’re highly prone to suppression, deflection, and other spiritual bypassing techniques. In my opinion, we need to actively experience the anger and outrage that comes from living in conditions of injustice, oppression, and environmental destruction. We absolutely must be willing to plunge into the depths of the despair, greed, hatred, and ultimately fears of various forms of annihilation that lay beneath the surface of that anger and outrage. We cannot simply toss around statements about love and expect to create a society built on love. Just as we actively work to dismantle forms of oppression and violence in the world, we also have to actively be vigilant on the anger and outrage that compelled us to do so in the first place. To transform it at the roots, and learn from it what might become steps towards a better society for all.

This is the practice of engaged Buddhism as I see it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all.

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Comments (26)

  • Stephen Malagodi

    I very much agree with both the substance and (mostly) the tone of your response, though to characterize someone’s position as ‘laughable’ descends to mockery.

    And though we might point out glaring inconsistencies between espousal and practice, one answer to your challenge: “I dare anyone to name a single political or corporate group in power in the U.S. or in most nations across the globe that actively rejects both capitalism and warfare” could be the Catholic Church.

    I appreciate your postings; keep up the good work.

  • nathan

    Hi Stephen,

    I debated about using the word laughable and almost pulled it out. Decided that it was more honest to express how I felt about that argument than to try and use a totally neutral word. Perhaps that was a mistake, as my intent was to respectfully enage.

    This is a quandary I find that comes up often. One that I don’t have a consistent answer for. Finding the line between respectful engagement and honest expression. Too much effort to try and not offend or upset tends to weaken or destroy your own voice. And too much honesty at the wrong time, place and manner can be very destructive to others and our relationships.

    Anyway, I appreciate you calling out that point.

    And yes, in theory, the Catholic Church would be an answer to my challenge. It will be interesting to see what actually unfolds under the new leadership.

  • Murray Reiss

    The Catholic Church has been waging a war against women since the day it was founded, a war that continues to this day.

  • nathan

    Yep. I totally agree Murray. And even with the change in leadership, it’s hard to see that war ending anytime soon. That’s one of the places where the church of “peace and social justice” completely fails. Which is why I made my original statement.

  • Stephen Malagodi

    Dogma and orthodoxy everywhere.

    The price of liberation is eternal vigilance.

  • Jeff

    Thanks, Nathan, for your spirited exposition of engaged Buddhism. I for one have no qualms about being partisan, having an agenda, and fighting oppression nonviolently. I’m not saying all Buddhists should feel this way, but I would be deeply ashamed to stand quietly by while most of the world’s peoples were ripped off and poisoned because I didn’t want to “take sides.” No, I don’t have all the answers, but yes, I have chosen a side.

  • nathan

    What I think is compelling about folks like the original members of the Order of Interbeing -TNH’s group – is that they clearly stood with the oppressed and poor – and yet their message was always to create peace and reconciliation for all. I aim to do something similar to that. Odds are some will still label me as “taking sides” or “waging war” somehow, but that just comes with the territory. Like you, I won’t stand silent, and I am sure as hell not going to fake some kind of neutrality. It seems to me that it is possible to both choose “a side,” but also not reject anyone outright. A koan to sit with perhaps.

  • Justin S Whitaker

    Another wonderful article, Nathan. The issue of anger is an interesting one. My own view is that it should be dealt with in private as much as possible: with teachers, therapists, friends, and, of course, meditation. That may have more to do with my upbringing than what I’ve learned from Buddhism, but what attracted me to Buddhism (and philosophy) in the first place was seeing and reading about people solving disputes with words and with loving-kindness, the most difficult people and scenarios being met with silence. This might seem passive, but it has attracted people away from the heated, anger filled disputes that too often end in violence. On the other hand, angrily protesting might stir up short-term support, but -in my experience- the long term effects have been in-fighting and burn-out.

    Yes there are those who join and repress their anger rather than dealing with it and they do implode or explode at some point. But those who get it right… they are the beacons in my little corner of the world.

  • nathan


    I think there are many ways to “actively experience” anger and outrage. Some of them are more likely to slip into harm than others, but nothing is universally correct. Different situations call for different kinds of responses. Silence, for example, might be liberating in one heated situation, and oppressive in another.

    You’re right that angry protest is a short term boost at best. That’s exactly what I am speaking to. The need to pay attention and really experience what’s coming up – individually and collectively – so that it can be transformed into beneficial action. Easier said than done.

  • Andrew Bear

    When people in Vietnam were hungry, the Youth for Social Service (early movement led by Thich Nhat Hanh) organized to feed them. When the government became more oppressive, Youth for Social Service engaged in activities that were subversive. When the bombs started falling, they asked, “Should we stay in the temples and meditate or take to the streets and try to stop the war?” Their answer was to do both. But Thich Nhat Hanh remimds us that no person is our enemy.

    When one person causes harm, or when a group of people perpetrate injustice, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche teaches to have compassion for all sides-the people causing harm are planting seeds of their future suffering. Our aspiration is to relieve the suffering of all.

  • nathan

    Thank you Andrew. Yes, the issue of “enemy-making” is a major one for people to take a deep look into. Especially activists. I totally agree with TNH that no person is our enemy, something that is sometimes hard to remember when you see certain folks doing so much harm.

    It seems like the human mind has an easier time fixating on an “evil” or “bad” person or group of people to reject. Than to look into the wider causes, which are more complicated and messy.

  • Murray Reiss

    What about a distinction between enemy “making” and enemy acknowledging? If I were a gay person living in Russia, for example, I would not have to go out of my way to “make” Vladimir Putin my enemy. He’s done it all by himself. I guess the question I’m asking is what is the most useful way to deal with self-declared enemies in a way that leads to stopping them in their tracks before they can go on to do even more harm to even more people, animals, ecologies than they have already. Just as we need to look deeply into the issue of enemy-making, we have to look deeply into a reflexive blanket avoidance of the term.

  • Tracy Hui

    TWM and BPF seem quite partisan from my perspective and it saddens me that everybody wants to appear like such a good buddhist that they are unwilling to admit it. With that said, Mr. Sommerlin is no pure white snowflake himself. On his facebook page there are links to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, One million people to impeach Barack Obama etc. But I am no different either. We are all stained and fragmented by the struggles in our globalized world and we shouldn’t pretend to speak from a pure, unsullied and objective stance. We inherit that arrogance or defiance from our colonial histories. We are all unconsciously biased whether it be from our gender, race, class, or even our religious ideology’s views of truth, what the “good” is etc. Politics for all of us is very personal and subjective: lets admit it. And life on this plant ain’t a fair equitable place for us all. There is privilege and the powerful are aware of it. Didn’t Warren Buffet say “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Most of us on this planet experience daily humiliation, suffering and worse from STRUCTURAL violence: sometimes without there being any particular, individual agent that takes out their subjective anger and resentment on us directly. We experience this in our own activist/alternately communities even more acutely: white privilege, patriarchy, ableism etc. It still really remains a challenge to all of us to construct a movement that while being anti-capitalist in acknowledging our pain,indignation and oppression is something more than just “anti” and can manifest in an embodiment that powerfully radiates empathy and love instead of resentment. A movement that builds life and community. I really do pray for this. I’m with Louis when he critiques the venom that traditionally has fueled the radical left but there is also resentment in his admonishments. ( Louis, I know you’re tired of self righteous peter pan leftists telling you what to do) His political alliances are more right wing, but he feels that his spirituality can be private and compartmentalized in its “proper place”. Most buddhists do that too though. He criticized TWM for missing the “true spirit” of buddhism, but it made me wonder who was able to: the zen militarists, tibetan feudalists(who persecuted the bonpo), thai billionaire monks…who? And has any religious sect ever been politically neutral? Like what sivaraksa says in his seeds of peace: religion is either priestly or prophetic. Its always already engaged with the state. And the state historically tends to crush and eradicate the heretics if their values and forms of life threaten the social order. Some people love the current system and couldn’t imagine anything else. Engaged buddhism is a marginal group, but it is one of many which often don’t take us western buddhists seriously and even see us as smug. . . just imagine all the varieties of thoughts/worldviews that never interact just on one city block…but I know I strive to be a buddhist, and have been influenced by marx and anarchism as well. A part of me also doesn’t like the rigidity of these labels but we should admit the traditions that have influenced our engagement while remaining critical. Nathan, our inherited political language is hella partisan . . . in some societies it’ll get you killed

  • Jeff

    I can agree, as a Buddhist, that no human being is an absolute, irredeemable Enemy.

    However, anyone who pays attention to the world as a whole can see that our rulers satisfy their addictions to wealth and power by lying, stealing, poisoning the Earth, and, when necessary, killing mercilessly. They may listen politely to peaceful entreaties for justice but they mete out judgment based on cost/benefit analysis or simply out of arrogance. It has always taken massive protests to force them to grant real and lasting improvements in living conditions to the majority.

    So these few bloated parasites and their many sycophants may have Buddha-nature, but in real life they ACT like mortal enemies (note that this is their choice, not ours). Perhaps someday they can be taken in hand like some violent, out-of-control meth heads, persuaded that their addictions are ruining themselves and everyone else, and lovingly rehabilitated. But right now they don’t care about our compassion, they want our labor and our obedience – nothing less will do.

    While some of us can afford to wait patiently for those who are hoarding the world’s riches to act humanely based on appeals to conscience, the desperate and destitute can’t wait that long. Their struggles are happening right now and will only become sharper and more widespread as economic and climatic conditions inevitably worsen. We Buddhists can simply bear witness and make reverent, cautionary comments from the sidelines or we can join with the world’s peoples to make things right.

    Nowhere does it say that our common struggle can’t be imbued with compassion for those deluded megalomaniacs that have set themselves up as the “enemy.”

  • nathan

    Tracy. Partisan is the wrong term. It implies a political will and power that just isn’t there for anti-capitalist efforts in the US. I totally agree with the idea that all this is “political” in the broad, common sense of the word. And yes, social issues are highly personal. But also completely impersonal at the same time. To me, that’s one place where Buddhist teachings can support us. In seeing the “Two truths” of absolute and relative and working to articulate that. Which can give some space to these discussions and hopefully lead to more beneficial action.

    Like you, I don’t want to be about just “anti” this or that. Some of my other writings here have been about exploring other possibilities. Wanting to move beyond the old, stale capitalist/Marxist divide, because I think we need more creativity than that. What I find interesting is how much hostility and skepticism is present amongst a lot of folks when I or others try to envision different ways to build community and live on this planet that don’t easily fall into those two camps. Those who love and/or benefit most from the current systems obviously want things to remain the same. But those who want radical change often seem stuck in destruction mode, as if destroying is their only means of gaining power.

    In highlighting the truths I saw Louis brings up, I sought to help break down stories of purity and truth-keeping amongst Buddhists.

    I don’t claim objectivity, purity, or have a goal of appearing to be “a good Buddhist.” I aim to be vigiliant about all that cropping up as well. Because such postures are hindrances.

    Certainly, I fail sometimes. So it goes. I still think, though, that each of us can both clearly take the stances we take – and recognize the very personal stakes behind that – while also figuring ways to embody compassion for all and recognize the impersonal elements behind social/political issues.

  • nathan

    Murray and Jeff,

    This issue of “enemy” is – for me – about mindset. Which directly imacts action. It’s not about “non-action”; it’s about quality of action.

    Going after Putin might slow down the hatred and destruction of the GLBTQ community in Russia. But getting him to stop, or removing him from power is only one step. And a weak one if that’s the main goal. How many times have we witnessed the toppling of “evil” person x, only to see the same or similar conditions re-emerge soon after under different “leadership.”

    I’m all for recognizing destructive, oppressive actions and directly working to stop them. I just think that folks have a better chance of creating wise and effective “uprooting” action when we move beyond enemy frameworks. However, given the challenges of that, even developing some flexibility and looseness around “our enemies” might be enough. I’ve seen so many activist groups get eaten alive by paranoia and hatred that turns inward. Those that find some humor, see something human in the people/groups against them, and/or who appeal to collective wisdom of some sort beyond us as individuals seem to fair a hell of a lot better.

  • Murray Reiss

    Well, there is that moment in The Godfather, Part Three, when Michael Corleone advises his nephew, “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”

  • Bezi

    hm. Well I’ve read every thoughtful comment in this thread which is very revealing indeed, and since I can agree to greater or lesser extent with everything said so far, I would just add this small piece. Two things that I suspect could most def come from dedicated practice of these Buddhist principles ovah heah seem to be increasing clarity, and better management of energy (chi, prana &c). If that’s true, both of these can then be put to use in intuiting a kind of baseline assuredness – call it confidence, faith or whatever analogous word might best suit one’s tastes – that no matter what our thoughts may be (monkey mind after all, aye?) about what we’re doing or not doing, individually and/or collectively, is exactly and precisely what any given moment requires. It must be at least possible that there’s an underlying cohesive, morally intact correctness to our thoughts and actions, no matter how ambiguous they may seem at present. Or upon reflection for that matter. Monkey mind will be there. Ego also coming. Siddhartha’s teaching addresses these things profoundly. What we then do is of course up to us. It always was. And since none of us can ever really fully map ‘The Mystery’… and certain aspects will always be hidden… then it stands to reason that some arcane confluence of forces we are in control of, and which are acting upon thye whole of materiality without our input, is conditioning our ‘right action’ in a very complex and fluid unfolding of very novel events.

  • Bezi

    “no matter what our thoughts may be (monkey mind after all, aye?) about what we’re doing or not doing, individually and/or collectively, they are exactly and precisely what any given moment requires…” is what I meant to say. My bad

  • Katie Loncke

    Just chiming in to say I’m appreciating this discussion! Thank you Nathan for starting it and holding down the comment section thoughtfully, as usual. Seems like the word “partisan” may be a bit confusing or ambiguous because on the one hand it just means being a strong supporter (which we aspire to be — supporters of peace, justice, alternative social systems, in the best ways we know how), and on the other hand it has connotations of bias or even zealotry (to which we don’t aspire, though we may have elements of it — no one’s perfect!). So I would say, in my opinion, BPF and TWM are both partisan and not partisan — and we’re working on that. :) We are quite lucky, I feel, to be able to talk openly, speak from the heart, and connect with other Buddhists and spiritual political types from all over, trying to make our way toward collective liberation.

    Tracy (and Nathan), I feel you 100% on the wish for movements driven by — and to — empathy, love, and positive vision, not just resentment or worse, righteousness. In my experience of Buddhist community, I’ve perceived a tendency to try to rush past the “negative” feelings when it comes to politics. Folks seem especially quick to shush or hastily “transform” pain and anger, rather than taking time to really understand it on its own terms, and then gradually try to feel out a productive path from there. Do you know what I mean? Nathan, I think you captured this well in describing “The need to pay attention and really experience what’s coming up – individually and collectively – so that it can be transformed into beneficial action.”

    On a positive note (although this isn’t a Buddhist example), there’s a group I organize with sometimes in Oakland called Dignidad y Resistencia (Dignity and Resistance), that does the opinionated-yet-open-hearted thing really well. I think it comes from a combination of trust from working together for a little while, plus sharing the particular vulnerabilities of being undocumented or formerly undocumented workers fired from jobs (in addition to some allies in the group), plus a lot of shared culture in the group, whose members are mostly from Mexico, now living in the SF Bay Area. This, along with individuals’ personalities, all combines to create a pretty refreshing atmosphere where people can sort out disagreements while giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and aren’t obsessed with the need to be right all the time. They / we just want to find the best way forward. I think this also translates into a beautifully proud and defiant spirit in public events, as well. The main sentiment isn’t hatred of the enemy, so much as self-respect, solidarity, and love for our comrades in struggle. Not to deny that there’s shit-talking sometimes, especially about bosses etc. (who, as you say, Jeff, do tend to act like enemies, though ultimately no one is our enemy), but there really is something special about the atmosphere of this group that I rarely encounter in other organizing spaces. It’s been a big inspiration for me.

    Some of my favorite experiences in organizing are not the big showdowns with capitalists or wage-thieving bosses, though those can be important and fun (especially with brass bands), but acts like assembling a care package for a comrade in LA who was dealing with a lot of sexist bullshit, or interviewing 3-job parents to co-craft a proposal for a meeting because they wouldn’t have had time to do it themselves. (It helps that these particular parents are hilarious and a treat to be around.)

    Sometimes what’s difficult for me is wondering how to ‘scale up’ or ‘formalize’ or ‘institutionalize’ the positive, open-minded yet opinionated spirit within organizing circles. Mostly it seems like something people are either naturally into doing, or not, and the leadership sets the tone. Would love to hear from others if you have any tips for this!

    Murray, LOVE the Godfather line! Lol! Truth!

  • Nathan G. Thompson

    Thanks for chiming in here Katie :) I appreciate the point about partisan and it’s dual operation. That’s a helpful distinction for me. I’ve experienced that word being used to shut down social action, and even talk about potentially divisive social issues in my sangha and elsewhere. So, it’s kind of a trigger that doesn’t seem particularly accurate in describing the conditions Tracy described well following the use of the word.

    This issue of energy that Bezi brings up is also important. The ability to see anger, outrage, and pain as energy experiences – as opposed to things with usually “negative” judgement labels attached – is a pretty vital shift in my view.

    “Sometimes what’s difficult for me is wondering how to ‘scale up’ or ‘formalize’ or ‘institutionalize’ the positive, open-minded yet opinionated spirit within organizing circles.” Yeah, I often feel stumped about this as well. We tried to develop a culture like this amongst the folks in the Whealthy Human Village project (offshoot of Occupy Minneapolis) last year, but it mostly didn’t stick. A need for stronger levels of trust was definitely one reason. And I also think the lack of a clear, shared direction or set of aims was another. We assumed similarities that ultimately weren’t present, or weren’t as strong as first thought.

  • Murray Reiss

    “Partisan” is one of those words that needs to be reclaimed from the dingy associations with which the current Republican party in the US, the Conservatives in Canada, among many others have burdened it. It used to have such a romantic aura — think of World War II, the brave groups of, yes, partisans banding together in the woods, knowing they were most likely doomed, but nevertheless taking up what weapons they could get their hands on to resist the Nazis occupying their land for as long as breath stirred in their lungs. I think too of the old union song, “Which Side Are You On?” — “They say in Harlan county / There are no neutrals there. / You either are a union man / Or a thug for J. H. Blair.”

  • Roy Money

    Great discussion. At the risk of repeating a theme that others have touched on I would call attention to the embedding of the 4 poisons in structures and institutions and the necessity to deal with those in addition to the personal dimension. While the ‘left’ often neglects the latter many Buddhists neglect the former. For me it is more meaningful to focus on the ‘evils’ of social structures rather than on individuals as enemies. Even so, I find it always challenging to remember and honor the two seemingly inconsistent truths of the relative and the ultimate – which seems to me so perfectly expressed in Suzuki Roshi’s statement that ‘Everything is prefect just as it is, and there’s plenty of room for improvement’.

  • Belinda G

    Nathan – keep forgetting to circle back here to say how much I appreciate your last point, and how in alignment it is with Joanna Macy’s central insight that manifests in her “Work that Reconnects” (that is at the heart of my practice life these days). Here it is: the feelings of rage, disconnection, despair and agony are themselves the very evidence of our interconnectedness, and the most important lights for us to feel, and follow, if we are to find the strength, energy and wherewithal to make the shifts that must be made, what Joanna calls “The Great Turning” from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society. By avoiding these feelings, we numb out the very messages that the Earth, and our own wisdom, and lots of other beings, are sending us about how urgent is the need for change. Anyway – not exactly on this (very rich) thread but what your thoughts brought up for me. In connectedness, Belinda

  • Murray Reiss

    Brenda — I’m so glad you brought up the “Work that Reconnects.” Thank you. It addresses so many of the threads that are woven through these posts & comments as well as providing skillful means and practices for bringing the inner and outer work together. Anyone who can, I heartily recommend doing a workshop.

  • Bob

    Dear Louis Summerlin,
    I am about to prove you so wrong that I almost feel guilty. So here goes. Why don’t you get mad at the Dalai Lama? Because he said, Quote “I am a Marxist, I prefer socialism”. Boo ya.
    I’m glad you wrote what you did, this is an important topic
    I hope you forgive me being an ass I am super tired

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