Mindful money

Where you bank Matters! 

As Buddhists we are encouraged to cultivate and practice compassion, both for ourselves and our world. Some of the ways we do this are well known to us, such as in our relationship with others, ourselves and the world.

But how are our financial choices harming or benefiting the world? Are they also an expression of compassion?

With no consultation with us our bank may be using our money in a manner directly contrary to our Buddhist values; in ways that cause serious harm to the planet, people and other living beings. 

Many high street banks are major financiers of the coal, oil and gas projects which are directly responsible for the climate crisis. In 2022 the five big UK high street banks (Barclays, HSBC, Santander, Lloyds, and NatWest) provided £37 billion of financial support to fossil fuel companies [1]. 

These banks are also financing industries like nuclear weapons, arms manufacture, single-use plastics and old-growth forest clearance; furthermore these projects are frequently associated with human rights abuses, and poor workers’ rights.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The Mindful Money Campaign

The Mindful Money campaign is inviting individual Buddhist practitioners and their Dharma centres to become more aware of the impact of their banking choices, and to change their banking practices where necessary. . 

Some banks actively create benefit and avoid harm, investing their money in areas such as community housing, renewable energy projects, rewilding, and sustainable farming.

For example, Triodos Bank, The Co-operative Bank, Charity Bank and Nationwide all have strong ethical policies. (See below under Get Informed for more detail.)

Switching banks to an ethical one is an important form of compassionate action. It ensures our money is not being used to do harm in the world. It also sends a powerful chorus of disapproval to banks who invest simply for profit, without regard for the consequences for our suffering world. 

Here are some important actions you can take:

1. Get informed

There are many sites online which will help you assess your bank’s ethics. For example:

See how ethical your bank is with this simple tool:  bank.green 

Find more information and information on individual banks at Good with Money

Find detailed information here: Banking on Climate Chaos

2. SIgn the open letter to Dharma centres here  

3. Switch Bank 

Use this current account switch service to change your current account simply and easily. 

4. Tell the bank why you have left 

Here are letter templates for the big five UK high street banks: Barclays Template Letter, HSBC Template Letter, Santander Template Letter, Lloyds Template Letter, NatWest Template Letter.

5. Spread the word! 

Many people are understandably unaware of the harm their bank is causing with their money – and without their consent. They may also be unaware of the enormous good their money could do in the hands of an ethical bank. Tell your friends and share this page!

Thank you for your compassionate concern and your action on this issue.

[1] see Make My Money Matter 

This campaign is organised by XR Buddhists and TIpping Point’s ‘Bank Better’ 

Contact:  joseph.mishan@phonecoop.coop

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Exploring the Intersection of Greenwashing and Buddhism: Beyond Surface Appearances

In the age of environmental consciousness, the term “greenwashing” has become increasingly prevalent. It refers to the deceptive practice of presenting a false image of environmental responsibility to conceal less eco-friendly activities. While the concept of greenwashing primarily pertains to business and marketing strategies, its implications extend to broader ethical and philosophical considerations, including those within Buddhist principles.

Buddhism, with its emphasis on interconnectedness, compassion, and mindful awareness, offers valuable insights into addressing the root causes of greenwashing and fostering genuine environmental stewardship. At its core, Buddhism teaches us to look beyond surface appearances and cultivate a deep understanding of the interconnected web of existence.

One of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism is the concept of impermanence (anicca) and interdependence (paticca-samuppada). This worldview underscores the transient and interconnected nature of all phenomena, emphasizing the inherent interdependence between humans, nature, and the environment. In this light, greenwashing can be seen as a manifestation of ignorance (avijja), where the true consequences of our actions are obscured by superficial appearances.

Furthermore, Buddhism encourages ethical conduct (sila) as a means to minimize harm and promote well-being. The practice of right livelihood (samma ajiva) emphasizes the importance of earning a living in a way that is aligned with ethical principles and contributes positively to society and the environment. Thus, greenwashing contradicts the ethical foundation of Buddhism by perpetuating deception and exploitation for short-term gains.

Mindfulness (sati) is another key aspect of Buddhist practice that offers a powerful antidote to greenwashing. By cultivating mindful awareness of our thoughts, actions, and their consequences, we can develop the discernment needed to see through deceptive marketing tactics and make choices that align with our values and the well-being of the planet.

Moreover, Buddhism teaches us to cultivate compassion (karuna) for all beings, including future generations who will inherit the environmental legacy we leave behind. This compassionate perspective urges us to transcend self-interest and consider the long-term impact of our actions on the planet and all its inhabitants.

In essence, the teachings of Buddhism provide a profound framework for addressing the underlying causes of greenwashing and promoting genuine environmental sustainability. By embracing mindfulness, compassion, and ethical conduct, we can move beyond surface appearances and cultivate a deeper connection with the natural world, fostering a more authentic and sustainable relationship with the environment.

As practitioners and stewards of the Earth, let us heed the wisdom of Buddhism and strive to live in harmony with nature, transcending the illusion of greenwashing to embody true environmental stewardship for the benefit of all beings.

Matt Bianca

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Buddhism’s Call to Environmental Action: Navigating Climate Change with Compassion

In a world increasingly affected by climate change, the urgency to address environmental issues has never been more pressing. As we grapple with the consequences of our actions on the planet, seeking guidance from various philosophical and spiritual traditions can provide valuable insights and motivation for change. Among these, Buddhism stands out for its profound teachings on interconnectedness, impermanence, and compassion, offering a unique perspective on how to approach the challenges of climate change.

At the heart of Buddhist philosophy lies the concept of interdependence—the understanding that all phenomena are interconnected and mutually dependent. This fundamental principle underscores the inseparable relationship between humanity and the environment. In the face of climate change, which knows no borders and affects all living beings, recognizing our interconnectedness with nature becomes crucial. As Bhikkhu Bodhi, an influential Buddhist monk and environmental activist, aptly puts it, “The world is a single, interconnected organism, and human beings are not separate from it but an integral part of it.”

Central to Buddhist practice is the cultivation of mindfulness—a state of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness encourages us to observe the world with clarity and compassion, allowing us to recognize the suffering caused by environmental degradation. By being fully present to the reality of climate change, we can acknowledge the pain it inflicts on vulnerable communities, ecosystems, and future generations. This awareness serves as a catalyst for action, motivating us to adopt sustainable lifestyles and advocate for policies that prioritize environmental protection.

The Buddhist concept of impermanence reminds us of the transient nature of existence and the impermanence of all phenomena. This teaching invites us to reflect on the fleeting nature of the natural world and the fragility of life on Earth. In the face of environmental destruction, it urges us to embrace change and adapt to new circumstances with resilience and wisdom. Instead of clinging to unsustainable practices that harm the planet, we are encouraged to cultivate a mindset of flexibility and innovation, seeking solutions that align with the principles of ecological balance and harmony.

Compassion lies at the heart of the Buddhist path—a deep empathy for all sentient beings and a commitment to alleviating their suffering. In the context of climate change, compassion compels us to extend our concern beyond human boundaries and encompass all forms of life impacted by environmental degradation. Buddhist teachings inspire us to act with kindness and empathy towards future generations, recognizing our responsibility to preserve the Earth for their well-being. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, “We need to wake up to the fact that the earth is our mother as well as our home.”

Buddhism offers not only profound philosophical insights but also practical guidance for addressing the existential threat of climate change. By embracing the principles of interconnectedness, mindfulness, impermanence, and compassion, we can cultivate a deeper understanding of our relationship with the environment and inspire meaningful action to protect it. As stewards of the Earth, let us heed the call of Buddhist wisdom and work tirelessly to create a sustainable and compassionate world for present and future generations.

Matt Bianca

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Climate Change: Buddhism

From Conor Deedigan:

At last year’s ‘The Big One’ I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the XR Buddhists there as a part of an Eco Anxiety film series I am making for TrueTube a free educational site for schools, the films will come with lesson plans and are shared directly with its users (teachers and educators) for use in schools for lessons such as RE, PSHE, and assemblies. 

Today we have released ‘Eco Anxiety – Religion and the Climate; Buddhism’ featuring XR Buddhists! Link below;

Climate Change: Buddhism

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Donation from James Low

XR Buddhists would like to give their thanks to James Low for his generous donation to the work we are doing. You can find out more about James Low and his work at the Simply Being website.

James also shared this beautiful dharma poem, which we would like to share with you:

All compounded things are impermanent and arise due to the interplay of many factors.

Like a wave emerging from the ocean, forms are here and then gone.

This world, this fragile patterning of the potential of the five elements, is like a mirage.

When we grasp at the ungraspable and try to define and control the flow we forget how to collaborate with it.

Due to this we act on the world as if it is separate from our own presence here and now.

Our experience is like a dream, precise, immediate yet ungraspable.

Whether we experience happy dreams or terrifying nightmares, may we not stray from the wisdom of emptiness and the kindness of infinite inclusion!

May we all we relax our grasping and awaken to the wonder of which we are a part!

Wave on the ocean

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Going local, reaching out

Somerset Silent Rebellion in action outside Barclays Bank in Yeovil, Somerset 16th September 2023

At a recent meeting of the XR Buddhists Action Design Circle we discussed the themes from XR strategy of local engagement and outreach. We decided that it would be good to open up the discussion to the whole XR Buddhist sangha. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience here in Somerset as an example.

My first action with XR, involved sitting outside Barclays Bank in Yeovil in February 2019 as part of an action organised by South Somerset XR (SSXR). So it was meaningful for me when this July, in response to a call from XR Buddhists (XRB) to organise local actions on the same day, sitting at Barclays Banks, to try to get something happening at Barclays in Yeovil again.

Six of us participated – me from XRB, a retired vicar from Christian Climate Action (CCA), and four members (old friends) from SSXR group. The action was a great success, with a nice write-up in local media. The CCA guy was the only one with experience of this type of action. The local rebels were most happy with the way it enabled them to get the message out without any aggression, and in a visually arresting way. One of them had never meditated before, and really enjoyed it. They said, please invite us next time.

Afterwards I reflected on the fact that I had been the only Buddhist present, despite my having invited my local sangha, so I decided that in future we would need a more inclusive name, and with permission from the Cambridge group, Silent Rebellion, I created Somerset Silent Rebellion, with a Telegram chat group, now 23 members strong.

So, when the opportunity came along for another local Barclays action in September, I put out the call, and this time nine came (50% increase) – the same six from before, plus a local buddhist, a guy from Animal Rebellion, and another CCA person. Another successful action – no local media, but useful photo sharing in various buddhist and general forums, plus a plan for a Barclays meditative action at the XR southwest regional gathering (Unite to Survive) in Bath on 28th October.

The reason I’m writing this article is to encourage XR Buddhists to follow the strategic direction of XR central towards going local and reaching out to other groups. Since involving with XRB in late 2019 I’ve been up to London lots of times to join actions, but it takes time, money and effort from here in Somerset. XRB friends from further afield just don’t make it. XRB actions have been rather southeast-centric.

You can see the benefits from our Somerset experience – more people involved, more local visibility (arguably more impactful than sitting in a busy London street), less traveling, and adding to the range of styles of action that general rebels know of.

If you would like to share your thoughts on this, please write a response in the Telegram chat group and/or join the XRB Action Design Circle, on whose behalf I’ve written this piece. The XRB Action Design Circle is committed to providing materials and guidance to support people organising locally.

Andy Wistreich

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Momentum

A reflection by by Mat Osmond

Three years ago I took part in civil resistance for the first time when I joined Extinction Rebellion for their October 2019 uprising. On my fourth day with XR I was finally arrested, minutes after my friend Satya Robin had been carried past me by six police officers, sobbing deeply. I’ve written before of that first experience of arrest but what’s kept coming back to me from those four days isn’t that, but rather the long walk home along the Thames on each of the previous three nights.

There were about 5000 of us taking action in Westminster that October, but the moment you stepped outside the protests there was no sign at all that anything was happening. Everywhere else, London just hummed along as normal. So too on the UK news channels that we all kept looking to for evidence of our actions’ ‘impact’. Barely a mention. The dissonance this generated – as if stepping back and forth each day between two completely different realities – came to a head on the third of those slow night-walks home, as I found myself looking across the Thames at the ongoing redevelopment of Battersea Power Station. The familiar old chimney-stacked giant was surrounded by the dark outlines of cranes, all lit up with red safety lights. It presented an eerily beautiful spectacle: the massive station hulked against the dark skyline beyond the river’s swirling current, surrounded by little votive lights. As I stood looking at it the unease finally gathered itself into a question that, once spoken, has never really gone away: Who exactly are you kidding?

Battersea PowerStation at night, high grey buildings in the foreground topped by brightly illuminated tall chimneys. In the background, a collection of tall cranes.
Battersea PowerStation

Last week I travelled up to London to take part in my first action with XR’s offspring, Just Stop Oil. There’s much to say about how the nature and tone of this new campaign has changed since 2019. As has XR’s, perhaps. What’s on my mind here, though, is how it felt to revisit the now fully revamped power station – or rather, shopping mall – the day before our JSO team walked out into a busy Aldgate junction and sat down.

Stepping inside the illuminated interior of this newly completed playground for the rich (‘every inch monetised’ as one reviewer put it) wasn’t so different to looking at it from across the river three years ago. Here in this newly unwrapped shopping mall, then, I met more or less what I’d come expecting to meet: a palpable sense of the overwhelming momentum which these civil resistance campaigns have been attempting to set their shoulder against – the brightly lit state of entrancement at the heart of our oil-fuelled consumer economy. But the reason I’m bothering to talk about this here isn’t simply to go over all that. It’s a conversation I had with my friend Geoff the following day, my limbs still heavy with that spectacle of cheerful omnicide, a few hours before heading off to meet up with the JSO team.

Geoff’s an artist and builder, and someone for whom honesty’s an involuntary virtue. When we first met around twelve years ago I’d recently become drawn to Japanese Pureland Buddhism, in large part through the unforgettable book on this tradition by the novelist Hiroyuki Itsuki: Tariki: embracing despair, discovering peace. Itsuki’s spiritual memoir spoke deeply to me at the time, as it does now. It also connected with Geoff in a way I doubt any other ‘dharma book’ would have. The melancholic authority of Itsuki’s account of his lifelong survivor’s guilt, and of how he found in the Pureland dharma of Other Power a recourse that stayed his hand more than once from taking his own life – all this feels as alive and real to me now as it did then. As I sat with Geoff in a cramped Conway Hall coffee shop I talked with him about that sense of overwhelm, stood before the old power station three years ago and last night – and about the shrillness or silliness, as it seemed to me, of any of us imagining we might somehow turn this juggernaut around ‘in the next two or three years’.

Geoff listened, intent as always. Then he asked if I might not have all this the wrong way around. Suppose it was more the case, he said, that whatever turn this is, it’s something already here – embodied not least by each of these little London roadblocks: an inexorable process of slippage with its own unpredictable tipping points, as our lethal dominant culture transitions or collapses, for better or worse, into whatever comes after it. We might choose to try and influence that transition or not, as we wish, but whatever it may or may not evolve into later is not only radically unknowable from where we stand, but curiously irrelevant.

At the heart of Itsuki’s memoir is a memory. As a 13-year-old boy he nearly lost his life when he attempted to swim the Taedong river, in full spate after heavy rains. As he reached the middle of the river Itsuki realised he wasn’t going to make it, his limbs weakening in the cold as the river’s ferocious undertow began to overpower him. By the time he somehow made it back to the bank and crawled out, this experience of the inexorable drag of the Taedong current had filled the young Itsuki with a deep sensation of his own powerlessness – a physical sensation rather than an idea, one that never left him. It’s this heavy-limbed understanding of his incapacity as an isolated individual, Itsuki tells us, that forms the beating heart of his lifelong understanding of Other Power: ‘A single drop of water in a mighty river. A person is a single drop of water in a mighty river.’

For more than ten years now this sense of being born on an invisible current is how I’ve most viscerally related to a sense of Other Power. Sometimes I’ve spoken of this current as Mother – Our Mother at the Bottom of Time, as my rosary-praying friends like to say – sometimes as Amida, Oya Sama – sometimes simply as Spirit. Whatever. I’m not very good with names – an incorrigible fidget – but insofar as Other Power feels palpable to me, it’s in these gravitational terms. Like Itsuki says, an involuntary bodily sensation rather than an idea – neither a reward for anything, nor something achieved through effort or ‘spiritual attainment’. Just, how things are when we stop trying to manipulate reality to suit our preferences.

As the familiar long wait to be processed after the JSO roadblock played itself out I spoke to my arresting officer about the chances of survival if one were to fall into the Thames at night. Not good, apparently. One of the things I learnt from this man is that the Thames has up to eleven different currents moving within it at any one time, which along with the deep cold are part of what makes it so dangerous. I don’t know where any of this goes next, and seem to have lost track of what I’d even mean by hope or despair, but I think Geoff’s right about these campaigns. Our individual actions and these transient alliances they sometimes coalesce into are of course integral to whatever transition we’re living through. A single drop of water in a mighty river. But more simply than that, what our involvement in these campaigns offers us is a way to live our lives right now as if causing harm to others – or rather, seeking not to – matters. To align our daily lives with the steadying current of nonviolence, ahimsa, caught up as we are in a collective act of intergenerational harm whose scale renders it literally unthinkable within the entranced bubble that is business as usual.

None of this feels resolved, but in here somewhere is why I feel the core of my own response to biospheric collapse, now, is to find and connect with friends with whom to lean back into Other Power with whatever years I have left. To keep turning towards living the dharma in company, as we align together with whatever un-nameable current these friendships form part of, whether or not we find ourselves presently locked or glued on to anything.

Namo Amida Bu

Mat Osmond

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Mat Osmond is a writer and illustrator based in Falmouth, Cornwall. Find more of his writing at Dark Mountain and Borrowed Time

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you have not yet been defeated

An XR Buddhists/Plum Village Touching the Earth event at Glasgow COP in November 2021

I spent most of 2021 planning for COP in Glasgow, I helped to organise an interfaith pilgrimage from London and Bristol all the way to Glasgow. I stayed in Glasgow for the duration of the conference, along with many other activists peacefully holding space in the streets. On the last night of the conference I took part in an overnight interfaith vigil with many of the people I’d travelled with in the previous months. We lit candles and sat together and took turns to walk silently in small groups down to the conference centre with our placards and send our love to the people inside who were working on getting a deal. I remember being disconnected from everything in Glasgow – but I cried that night. I cried leaning against the chain link fence, where we had tied our ribbons with their messages of hope. I cried as dawn broke with all the anger I felt there being so little to show for our year of efforts.

It took me several months after coming back to recover from being away for so long, and from the heartbreak of another COP opportunity wasted. And life turned again, I had to find work, retrain, and reorientate my life. And so this year I’ve been far less aware of COP, and it’s taken me a while to find space to stop and breathe and allow myself the openness to engage a little with what is happening. COP is happening in Egypt this year from the 6-18th of November. And there will be vigils once again.

I go through cycles in my relationship with activism. Sometimes the scale of the challenge seems so vast, and the immediate results so vague and minimal that my motivation dwindles. But what I come back to is that just because I live in a world of complex political, social and economic systems – it doesn’t let me off the hook from engaging. I can’t control what happens in the outside world, but I can choose to turn towards suffering. To witness it. To be present for it. I can choose that.

There were emails fluttering into my inbox about COP, about vigils, and about political prisoners in Egypt and it’s taken me a while to turn towards that suffering. I was sent this article about COP by Naomi Klein about what it means to have COP in Egypt.

The Egyptian communities and organisations most affected by environmental pollution and rising temperatures will be nowhere to be found in Sharm el-Sheikh. There will be no toxic tours, or lively counter-summits, where locals get to school international delegates behind their government’s PR. Organising events like this would land Egyptians in prison for spreading “false news” or for violating the protest ban.

Naomi Klein

In the article, she focuses on a British-Egyptian citizen Abd El-Fattah who is being held in prison in Egypt on terrorism charges for a post he made on social media about torture. He is a pro-democracy activist and figurehead of the 2011 uprising. A book of his writing, many of which were smuggled out of prison, has just been published. It is called You Have Not Yet Been Defeated (the title of this blog post). The title reminds me that I am not in prison, and I can speak out, and that there is still hope.

So I’ve bought the book. And I’ve signed up for some vigil slots. And so my COP this year is going to be less on the streets. But I do want to use this as an opportunity for myself to turn towards suffering, particularly the intersection of political struggle and climate. I’m grateful for all the activist work that is happening, often at much greater cost than I face when I go to the streets or even when I am arrested. This year I’m going to spend some time understanding more about what is happening in Egypt, and sharing that with people when I have the opportunity.

If you would like to take part in the daily vigils in London they will be outside the Carriage Gate entrance to Parliament between 1 and 2pm daily between 6th and 18th November – more information here. Sarah MacDonald is also organising a daily vigil between 1200 and 1300 on College Green in Bristol during COP and you can contact her at sarahmacdonald43@gmail.com for more information.

By Mikey.

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Siddhartha’s Fourth Sign

By Andy Wistreich

The life story of the Buddha is a great source of teachings, very relevant to today.
Born into a royal family, before enlightenment, the Buddha was Prince Siddhartha. There had been a prophecy after his birth that he would either become a great emperor, or a great spiritual teacher.

Because his parents wanted a successor, they feared the latter possibility, so they kept him closeted in the palace, entertained (distracted), and satiated with every sort of worldly pleasure. Rather like our privileged lives before we notice that all is not well in the world, this was all he knew.

Driven by curiosity, just like us at a certain stage in our life, Siddhartha secretly ventures outside the palace four times, each time encountering a sign that causes him to reflect on the reality of the human condition. The first three signs are of ageing, sickness, and death respectively.

In our time, at a global level, we face the challenge of a global pandemic, and of mass extinction, which correspond to the second and third signs.

On his fourth venture into the outside world, Siddhartha witnesses a meditator sitting silently and peacefully on the ground, engaged in the deep inner process of going beyond ageing, sickness, and death. The prince is inspired. It is this fourth vision that leads him to renounce his palace and its pleasures and set out into the world to seek enlightenment, whereby he will transcend his own suffering and more importantly become a genuine and powerful support and teacher to others lost in the confusions of the world.

When people witness XR Buddhists’ actions – sitting in silent meditation inside or outside banks and other sources of the climate and ecological emergency, something touches them deep down. They are often drawn to read the placards around our necks and the leaflets we offer them. It’s not just the words they read that touches them, but the power of the stillness with which we sit in meditation.

There are many kinds of protest, violent and non-violent, loud, and silent etc. Protests make demands on those in power, to do what the protesters want. Occasionally they produce change of direction by their targets. They either inspire or annoy passers-by, probably in equal measure.

I am not sure that XR Buddhist actions are really ‘protests’ in this sense. The term ‘vigil’ is nearer to what they are, but still doesn’t quite convey the power of witnessing meditation, since vigil implies watchfulness, and meditation is more of a deepening into inner stillness.

Siddhartha’s consciousness was transformed by witnessing the fourth sign. As a result, he took a totally new direction in life, and completely turned his back on the old way of life.

Today there is no hope for our world if we continue with business as usual. The only possibility for emergence from the polycrisis is a global transformation of consciousness and collective will towards a completely different society, culture, economics, and politics.

If passers-by witness an XRB action it is hard to say just what is the impact. May it be transformative and help them to recognise the need for a new civilisation, harmonious with the ecology and with one another. When I participate in an action this is my wish.

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