Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:30 pm

Thanks, Jason-
:goodpost:
I especially liked the conclusion:
"...it's not about making Buddhism political, but about applying the ideals of Buddhism in all that we do, which for me includes being socially and politically active."

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby SDC » Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:06 pm

Jason wrote:If we live a worldly life, then I think we have some responsibility to engage in worldly issues....


Good post, Jason.

One of things I am trying to get at with this thread is, how do make sure this engagement doesn't come at the expense of our own liberation?

Considering the knowledge we have of the dhamma at what it can lead to, is there a point where we end up sacrificing the opportunity to make great strides toward nibbana by putting too great a focus on the world? I am not advocating for no involvement, but where is the line? And is the sacrifice worth it? How do we balance the opportunity for progress toward nibbana with the positive things we can bring to the world?

You said a lot of great things about how you would be involved, but I am curious where we should draw the line.
Through many of samsara’s births I hasten seeking, finding not the builder of this house - pain is birth again, again. O builder of this house you’re seen, you shall not build a house again, all your beams have given away, rafters of the ridge decayed, mind to the unconditioned gone, exhaustion of craving has it reached.(Dhp - 153, 154)
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Jason » Sun Nov 03, 2013 11:52 pm

SDC wrote:
Jason wrote:If we live a worldly life, then I think we have some responsibility to engage in worldly issues....


Good post, Jason.

One of things I am trying to get at with this thread is, how do make sure this engagement doesn't come at the expense of our own liberation?

Considering the knowledge we have of the dhamma at what it can lead to, is there a point where we end up sacrificing the opportunity to make great strides toward nibbana by putting too great a focus on the world? I am not advocating for no involvement, but where is the line? And is the sacrifice worth it? How do we balance the opportunity for progress toward nibbana with the positive things we can bring to the world?

You said a lot of great things about how you would be involved, but I am curious where we should draw the line.


I don't really think there is a concrete line. In my experience, the more I practice, the more my practice motivates me to be socially involved. Before I became interested in Buddhism, I wasn't socially or politically active whatsoever. After years of studying and practicing Buddhism, however, I began to take more of an interest in the world around me, and this was partially due to cultivating compassion and being more sensitive the suffering of others. Of course, it became clear to me early on that the world was imperfect, and that there is, and always been, suffering in the world. I also realized that it can't be 'fixed,' that there are no perfect solutions. But at the same time, I realized that doesn't mean we shouldn't try our best to do what we can to make things better, and that's certainly compatible with Buddhism and Buddhist ethics in general, in my opinion.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Nov 04, 2013 6:07 am

Jason wrote:I don't really think there is a concrete line. In my experience, the more I practice, the more my practice motivates me to be socially involved. Before I became interested in Buddhism, I wasn't socially or politically active whatsoever. After years of studying and practicing Buddhism, however, I began to take more of an interest in the world around me, and this was partially due to cultivating compassion and being more sensitive the suffering of others. Of course, it became clear to me early on that the world was imperfect, and that there is, and always been, suffering in the world. I also realized that it can't be 'fixed,' that there are no perfect solutions. But at the same time, I realized that doesn't mean we shouldn't try our best to do what we can to make things better, and that's certainly compatible with Buddhism and Buddhist ethics in general, in my opinion.

That's pretty much my experience, too.
And it means to me that there is no place to draw the line, or that it keeps shifting according to where we are on our own path.
Bear in mind, too, that ideally the "me" and "mine" dwindles away as we progress so that there should be less difference between "benefits me" and "benefits others" - both tend towards "benefits someone" or even "benefits living beings", and it doesn't matter (so much) who the people or beings are.

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby SDC » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:35 am

Jason wrote:I don't really think there is a concrete line.


Kim OHara wrote:And it means to me that there is no place to draw the line, or that it keeps shifting according to where we are on our own path.


I'm comfortable with this idea of a shifting balance and do experience it to a certain degree in my own practice.

I guess what I find to be most problematic is when we avoid participating in issues present in our immediate and daily environment in favor of somewhat less immediate, ongoing social/political/environmental issue. If immediate issues are brushed aside while we are able to find time to dedicate to a broader issue I must cry foul. In another topic I commented on how I think it is easier to commit to broad issues yet completely ignore comparable suffering that is going on in our immediate environment, perhaps even in our own household, or even within our own mind. I think we assume a significantly less amount of risk to our overall mental stability with broad issues, then we do with immediate issues. This is even more true when we start talking about people who are practicing the teachings of the Buddha. Dealing with immediate issues demands constant attention - sacrifice, patience, politeness and/or generosity that all must be considered on the spot. It is unpredictable and there is no time to control or plan. For the most part, involvement in broad issues can be controlled - you choose your level of involvement and, FOR THE MOST PART, there is less risk of that participation rebounding negatively into your daily life.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: if we are addressing broad issues with a greater ferocity and enthusiasm then we do immediate issues that balance is askew and that, to me, is an example of sacrificing progress towards nibbana. However if the immediate issues are treated with a similar or greater regard then I see no issue with committing to something broader - in fact it makes sense.

Thoughts?
Through many of samsara’s births I hasten seeking, finding not the builder of this house - pain is birth again, again. O builder of this house you’re seen, you shall not build a house again, all your beams have given away, rafters of the ridge decayed, mind to the unconditioned gone, exhaustion of craving has it reached.(Dhp - 153, 154)
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:20 am

SDC wrote:I'm comfortable with this idea of a shifting balance and do experience it to a certain degree in my own practice.

I guess what I find to be most problematic is when we avoid participating in issues present in our immediate and daily environment in favor of somewhat less immediate, ongoing social/political/environmental issue. If immediate issues are brushed aside while we are able to find time to dedicate to a broader issue I must cry foul. In another topic I commented on how I think it is easier to commit to broad issues yet completely ignore comparable suffering that is going on in our immediate environment, perhaps even in our own household, or even within our own mind. I think we assume a significantly less amount of risk to our overall mental stability with broad issues, then we do with immediate issues. This is even more true when we start talking about people who are practicing the teachings of the Buddha. Dealing with immediate issues demands constant attention - sacrifice, patience, politeness and/or generosity that all must be considered on the spot. It is unpredictable and there is no time to control or plan. For the most part, involvement in broad issues can be controlled - you choose your level of involvement and, FOR THE MOST PART, there is less risk of that participation rebounding negatively into your daily life.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: if we are addressing broad issues with a greater ferocity and enthusiasm then we do immediate issues that balance is askew and that, to me, is an example of sacrificing progress towards nibbana. However if the immediate issues are treated with a similar or greater regard then I see no issue with committing to something broader - in fact it makes sense.

Thoughts?

You're right, I think but it's all (still) a balancing act: where do we separate "immediate" issues from "broader" issues - for instance caring for family and (since you guys know me mostly in that role) climate change vigilantism?
For myself, I use the precepts as training rules and guidelines; I do my best to look after myself, my family and my students; I cultivate my garden; and I act as best I can outside that immediate zone to make the world a (very slightly!) better place.
What I have chosen not to do is address ongoing community-level suffering - homeless people, etc - and that is a conscious decision taken in the light of what I know about the hazards of climate change and what I know of the suffering in third-world countries as compared to my own city. I am lucky enough to live in a pretty nice part of one of the luckiest, wealthiest societies ever and if I have a bit of money to spare it goes towards people who need it far more than the people around me - I will lend to struggling Cambodian farmers through Kiva or give to crisis relief through MSF or Red Cross.
As for climate change, I do (as you suggest) choose my level of involvement and do what I can in the time left over from everything else. In practice that means lots of odd minutes and half-hours at the computer, participating in discussions like those on DW, maintaining a blog, editing a monthly newsletter for an environmental organisation, etc. In spite of how I must appear here, a lot of people who know me fairly well in real life don't even know my opinion on whether global warming is real or not. :thinking:

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby SDC » Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:24 pm

Kim OHara wrote:You're right, I think but it's all (still) a balancing act: where do we separate "immediate" issues from "broader" issues - for instance caring for family and (since you guys know me mostly in that role) climate change vigilantism?
For myself, I use the precepts as training rules and guidelines; I do my best to look after myself, my family and my students; I cultivate my garden; and I act as best I can outside that immediate zone to make the world a (very slightly!) better place.
What I have chosen not to do is address ongoing community-level suffering - homeless people, etc - and that is a conscious decision taken in the light of what I know about the hazards of climate change and what I know of the suffering in third-world countries as compared to my own city. I am lucky enough to live in a pretty nice part of one of the luckiest, wealthiest societies ever and if I have a bit of money to spare it goes towards people who need it far more than the people around me - I will lend to struggling Cambodian farmers through Kiva or give to crisis relief through MSF or Red Cross.
As for climate change, I do (as you suggest) choose my level of involvement and do what I can in the time left over from everything else. In practice that means lots of odd minutes and half-hours at the computer, participating in discussions like those on DW, maintaining a blog, editing a monthly newsletter for an environmental organisation, etc. In spite of how I must appear here, a lot of people who know me fairly well in real life don't even know my opinion on whether global warming is real or not. :thinking:

:namaste:
Kim


Well that makes sense, Kim. I’m in the same boat as far as my participation in the local community. I guess by immediate I was referring to whatever is directly encountered in daily experience (issues with family, work, driving, shopping, talking, etc. ) – using the precepts as a guide. So it seems like we are treading common ground then. I just would not want to make it a habit of bypassing the immediate for the broad. But like I said, if the immediate is being fully embraced, then it naturally expands into the broad.
Through many of samsara’s births I hasten seeking, finding not the builder of this house - pain is birth again, again. O builder of this house you’re seen, you shall not build a house again, all your beams have given away, rafters of the ridge decayed, mind to the unconditioned gone, exhaustion of craving has it reached.(Dhp - 153, 154)
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Taijitu » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:44 pm

Aren't the rewards of following the Dhamma so plentiful that, once achieved, one would wish to spread them with whomever one comes into contact with?

Peace of mind strikes me as such a place where one is happy to share all wealth and time over what is needed to satisfy oneself.

Once one has reached peace of mind one is satisfied with very little.

I know little of Buddha's actual teachings but this makes sense to me.

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby binocular » Sat Dec 21, 2013 8:14 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:I remember being at a Wat and asking a young falang monk ( an intelligent and interesting fellow) if he had thoughts to later in life teach or become involved in community issues. He looked at me as if I suggested he join the circus. He told me "how can I think of the interests of others when I have an entire life of my own to work toward my own liberation?" Perhaps his response was the classic stereotyped Theravada view, that the sole mission is for the practice to lead to one's own release, and that by being released we inspire others and earn their dana. While that view may have been appropriate in 500 BCE, it seems to me that more is required of our practice in 2100 CE than working toward our own interests alone.


How can one be of any help or use to others unless one first straightens oneself out?

When the blind lead - or help - the blind, both fall into the ditch.

It's not selfish to first want to straighten oneself out before one tries to help others. It's the only right thing to do.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby binocular » Sat Dec 21, 2013 8:27 pm

SDC wrote:One of things I am trying to get at with this thread is, how do make sure this engagement doesn't come at the expense of our own liberation?

Considering the knowledge we have of the dhamma at what it can lead to, is there a point where we end up sacrificing the opportunity to make great strides toward nibbana by putting too great a focus on the world? I am not advocating for no involvement, but where is the line? And is the sacrifice worth it? How do we balance the opportunity for progress toward nibbana with the positive things we can bring to the world?

You said a lot of great things about how you would be involved, but I am curious where we should draw the line.

I have the same problem, but I try to reconceptualize it into yet another item in "doubts about the Dhamma." Doing so tends to put things into perspective.
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