This week we are starting the book Time to Stand Up by Thanisssara. I have been trying to read a good portion of the 1st chapter but I find myself wandering back to Thanissara’s introduction. It feels like we need to stop here and explore the fundamental question of why are we practicing before moving into how to practice as socially engaged Buddhist.
Let me first say – I LOVE THIS BOOK! I really enjoy Thanissara’s dharma talks and her writing style is equally engaging. In her introduction she starts with acknowledging that she “would have preferred to write something lighter, happier and more innocent”. Instead she is going to ask us to “look at a burnt and tortured earth with its polluted rivers, dying oceans, razed forests, devastated wastelands and its litany of extinct species”. I wish I could just rewrite everything she says but I won’t. I will just share that we are going to explore the difficulties of social engagement through Buddha’s wisdom within the Four Noble Truths and in doing so, cultivate a resilience that will enable us – as practitioners – to be of benefit to the world. Each of us really needs to buy this book (whether or not you attend Thursday nights). It will challenge some of our habitual thinking around practice and social action.
For instance, Thanissara asked the reader – “…what value is all this meditation and mindfulness if we just sit by and let the world burn [and suggests that] the old premise of ‘getting involved in politics is inappropriate for a follower of a contemplative tradition’ isn’t going to hold ground when the ground beneath us is disappearing…” To begin, she invites us to “follow our own heartbreak” by scanning our consciousness for the issue that keeps us up at night and set an intention to do something about it.
I would like each of us to pick ONE social issue/concern that breaks your heart and bring it with you tomorrow night. We may all have different issues. In fact, it would be great if that were true. But even if we have similar issues, we will not have the same intentions nor the same capacity to get involved. We will then explore what we perceive as the limitations and strengths of our practice. Although, we will be reading Thanissara’s book about social action for the Earth, we will apply it to our own issues/concerns. See you tomorrow…