How Extinction Rebellion Buddhists happened

By Joe Mishan

XR Buddhists emerged as an active group in the October 2019 Rebellion. Its roots were in Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE). DANCE itself was the brainchild – or more accurately perhaps the heart-child – of a group of dharma teachers based in Gaia House in 2013. The intention was to provide a ‘a forum for the wider sangha to explore bringing Dharma responses to the climate crisis.’ It emphasised a ‘commitment to kindness and compassion, to live from an understanding of our interconnectedness, and interdependence.’ (see DANCE website) There are a number of DANCE groups, but it was London DANCE that initiated the formation of XR Buddhists. DANCE had taken part in the early XR action in November 2018, most notably an occupation of Barclays bank in Piccadilly Circus where we meditated for 3 hours (finally being physically removed, but surprisingly not arrested). Then during the larger rebellion in April 2019 DANCE led protest meditations in the roads, and took a leading part in organising the Regenerative Culture workshops during the uprising.

Members of DANCE occupying a Barclays Bank

The decision to form an XR Buddhist affinity group was made before the October 2019 rebellion. Members of DANCE felt that at the next rebellion we needed to be more recognisably XR and more integrated with the XR organism. (The problem with the DANCE acronym is that it is often confused with the moving about kind of dance which is clearly not a good way to describe sitting quietly with the eyes closed). And so XR Buddhists was born.

Members of DANCE had not really thought through what would happen to the XR Buddhist group after the rebellion; but two weeks of activism on the streets and in a wet tent in Trafalgar Square formed a strong and enduring bond within the group. And so DANCE now remains to provides a wider forum for Buddhists activists who may not want to be identified with XR, but both XR Buddhists and DANCE share a strong belief in the uniqueness and importance of a Buddhist contribution to climate activism – and many folk belong to both.

I am confident that as the climate movement unfolds in the years to come, that the presence of meditators will continue to bring the message of peaceful determination and grounded spirituality to the streets of our towns and cities.

Joe Mishan
April 2020

Posts and articles are the views of their authors and not necessarily of the XR Buddhists group.

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