As the Iraq war waged meditation teacher Christopher Titmuss wrote Transforming our Terror, exploring the response to 9/11 and the drive to war: ‘They decided that the way to combat their fear was to hit out.’ Vishvapani met him in Totnes to discuss the book and Buddhist responses in a time of war
Christopher greeted me at his house in Totnes, southwest England, in a large black hat, long black raincoat, and trailing black scarf. A senior teacher in the Insight Meditation movement, Christopher is without the cool reserve of some of his contemporaries. In Buddhist circles he has dispensed with his surname and now prefers to be known simply as Christopher. He has large, friendly eyes and an immediately engaging manner. Engagement is one of his themes. ‘I recently told one Dharma group, ‘I think I prefer Moslems to Buddhists. At least they have some fire, some passion …’. It was a provocative way of saying that I think Buddhists can be so ‘nice’, and so passive.’
We met to discuss a book Christopher had published in 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, called Transforming Our Terror: a spiritual approach to making sense of senseless tragedy. ‘I have been visiting the US for 25 years, but mainly just to lead retreats. So the America I encounter is the American mind. And I noticed that after 9/11 there was a great deal more fear and anxiety among the people I was teaching. I started to ask myself, what can Buddhist practice say to this experience?’
The result is an enquiry into the nature of fear, grief, loss, and how the human mind processes and makes sense of them.
This is a post by Modgala - she has agreed that I can share any of her writing:
Student riots and anger that are exploding here in London in response to the increased fees, and conversations with Massimo have inspired me to share – both about past activities and what I feel we can do in the present.
I guess we are all worried, I know my fellows in the faiths forum are worried about the effect of cuts on the needy, and we have been exploring “what are our roles”. Now we have student riots too.
I am reminded of “September 11th”. Dharmavidya and I were at a protest against an arms trade fair in London that day. We had gone to the conference centre with the local people in the official protest and were waiting for the large procession of unofficial protestors to arrive. There was a large police cordon separating the groups however Dharmavidya and myself, in our robes, ringing our bells were allowed to remain in the middle ground, close to the police cordon. Most protestors were not aggressive, however I remember one trying desperately to “wind up” and attack the police. We drew closer to the cordon, ringing our bells, distracting the angry man, as they went by other protestors gave us the thumbs up; fortunately no serious trouble evolved.
The expression socially engaged Buddhism was coined by Thich Nhat Hanh
and developed by Sulak Sivaraksa and has become a widely used term
referring to the activism and social work performed by some Buddhists
either indvidually or as a function of their sangha activity. The Amida
sangha has become well known for its commitments in this type of
activity as a co-ordinated and committed sangha at the levels of
resisting oppression, assisting the afflicted and demonstrating an
alternative, in arenas as varied as the Balkans, India, Africa and city
centre areas of the UK. All well and good. However, it goes further
than this. I would like to float and advance the term Culturally
Engaged Buddhism as a relatively more apt description of what we are
trying to do here. I understand cultural engagement as including
everything that might fall under the rubric of SEB and more, and all of
it with a subtle shift of emphasis. Amida-shu is culturally engaged in
that we are not only engaged in socially useful or politically
implicated actions; we are also engaged in the arts and letters and
performance; we are concerned about the kind of values that underpin
society, and especially that conduce to community; we are concerned to
generate the conditions that give rise to creativity; we are interested
in friendship, co-operation and synergism, and in unleashing the energy
of people who have something to offer, helping them to become both true
individuals and contributing members of 'rightly resolute groups'. We
are not just into service delivery - in fact, we are hardly into that
at all - we are more interested in how to help people to become
creative and helping people to help other people. I want to invite our
members to think about how we can generate the kind of matrix of
conditions, both locally and internationally, that nurture creativity
of many kinds and that build the flowering of community at a more
sublime level. This can include supporting social causes but it is not
limited to it and we need to think carefully just what the Buddhist
cause in society is. We should not simply jump onto bandwagons that are
only tangentially related to our true values; but nor should we flinch
from actions that will bring out the potential in a wide range of
people yearning for spiritual liberation in a wide variety of ways, not
limited to orthodoxly religious ones. Amidism is well placed to bridge
cultures and to help generate the meta-culture (and 'metta' culture) by
which the future of our world may be enriched. Let's do it.
Tibetans in Tibet are appealing for help to stop a Chinese company from mining a sacred mountain.
Since May 16th, hundreds of Tibetans have been peacefully blockading the main road leading to Ser Ngul Lo Mountain in Markham County. Tibetans in the region believe mining is poisoning water sources, leading to the deaths of both people and cattle. More than 300 armed security forces have been deployed to the area, and the situation on the ground is reported to be incredibly tense.
Under Chinese occupation, Tibetans are routinely denied the right to determine the use of their own land and resources. Any Tibetan who dares to oppose mining operations is at great risk of arrest, imprisonment, and even torture.
Help protect Tibetans in Markham and their sacred mountain. Let the Chinese government know the world is watching.