Why I’m rebelling

By Kaspalita

Kaspa sitting with XR Buddhists

Over the past year I have been experiencing a great grief for the natural world. I read about the collapse in dolphin numbers around the UK, or see images of floods in Bangladesh, or imagine what the future might look like and I am upset. We have lost so much already, and if we continue with business as usual we will lose so much more.

The government make some concessions to a greener future, but don’t take the obvious and necessary action of stopping burning fossil fuels right now. Without that, everything else won’t make much difference.

So I will take to the streets.

I know that how I protest and demonstrate is important. If I want a future that cares for the whole world, my actions must also be grounded in care. This is why I love turning up with other Buddhists.

We ground ourselves in peace. As we are protesting we are also showing that there is another way to be. In a society propelled by greed, our practice anchors us in love.

Kaspalita is a Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist and member of XR Buddhists

Magical Moments

By Naomi West

Naomi is now a member of the red rebels

[The October rebellion was] a chain of such magical beautiful moments; that all together, made up one of the most life affirming and precious moments of life. I remember turning towards George (my Jersey companion), in the midst of a small crowd at Millbank by Westminster; we were singing, sitting, sharing together, amidst myriad shifting forms of spontaneous creativity and diverse people. We looked at each other with an expression of knowing that we were thinking the same. He was the one to say out loud, “This is what life’s about”. There is something very special about community in shared participative creativity, and this rebellion was full of it.

Naomi is a member of XR Buddhists, XR Jersey and since the October rebellion has joined the Red Rebels.

Meditating on the front line

My name is Abbie, I’m 44 and I live in Brighton. I work in a mental health service. Like most of us I have been concerned about the Climate Emergency for decades. I recycled, refused to have a car, got green energy…  However, it was when environmental activism and my Buddhist practice came together that my feet took to the streets. I heard a talk from one of my Buddhist teachers Yanai Postelnik from Gaia House, just before the April Extinction Rebellion event. Yanai talked about his frustration with the lack of progress around environmental issues, and of how he overcame his own fear and joined climate demonstrations: using the symbol of palm outstretched, “Abhaya” in Pail, a gesture of the Buddha. This resonated with me, as someone with a history of problems around anxiety. Yanai also talked about the spiritual crisis we are facing, and how activism was a deep expression of our Dharma practice, a gesture of our commitment to love and truth.

So I joined the April Rebellion in London and was deeply moved by the courageous actions and loving atmosphere that I found. I then became part of XR Buddhists, feeling particularly drawn to meditating at the frontline of protests: this to me was less about trying to secure a particular outcome (although of course this is crucial), but a way of bearing witness to this pivotal moment for humanity, a prayerful action, carried out with others. In the words of another of my teachers Rob Burbea “Opening to the pain of what is going on in the world in all its confusion and complexity, in a celebration of human togetherness”

If any of this speaks to you, I would encourage you to get in touch with your local XR group, or come join XR Buddhists, you would be most welcome.

Abbie is a member of XR Buddhists and Brighton XR Meditators

The Rebellion is coming

XR Buddhists will be there!

Latest rebellion plans

See this GoogleDoc for the latest timetable of actions etc.

When is it?

The next Rebellion has been announced. Local groups will take actions in their own areas from the 28th August, and from the 1st September the rebellion will concentrate on Cardiff, Manchester and London.

Where is it?

If you are in the South West or Wales and would like to get involved please get in touch with Amber at Amber.reeve7@gmail.com or check out the Cardiff vigil here and if you are in the North of England or Scotland see this invitation from XR Buddhists North. If you think you will be coming to London then you can keep in touch with what we are doing by joining our Broadcast Telegram group. Many of us are planning to stay in London for at least the first week (starting from the 1st September). If you have any questions about how to get involved or queries about what that will look like then you can contact us at info@xrbuddhists.com.

What is it?

Usually at the Rebellions XR Buddhists take part in a mixture of walking and sitting meditations.  These are an opportunity to bear witness to the climate and ecological crisis.  A Sangha on the streets.  There is no need to get arrested as part of this practise.  XR Buddhists who have been involved in previous rebellions find that it’s a very powerful experience to meditate on the earth in such public spaces as part of a group.

We are very conscious of mitigating the risk of Covid transmission during the Rebellion.  We will be practising social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising.  

Details of actions and daily check-ins are on the XR Buddhists event page.

What can I do now?

  • Let people know that the Rebellion is happening, and reach out to your Buddhist friends to see if they would like to be involved in some of the events.
  • Help us out with spreading the word by looking at these activities we require help for (both at home activities and on the street activities) and let us know if you can help!
  • Ask your Sangha if they can put something in their newsletter about the Rebellion.  You could send them one of the letters we have written to prepare the community for the Rebellion.
  • Ask your Buddhist group if they would like someone from XR Buddhists to join a meeting and talk for 5-10 minutes about what XR Buddhists are and that’s happening with the Rebellion.
  • If you are thinking of coming to London then think about accommodation.  You can either book a hotel, hostel or airbnb, or use XR’s accommodation finding service to link you with other Rebels who may have a spare couch or garden you can camp in. 
  • If you are going to take part in an action (or even if you aren’t planning to) you then make sure you have done your NVDA training.  You can do it online if you sign up to the Rebel Academy
  • Come to a planning meeting

What happens next?

We will keep updating this page and our events page with more details of what XR Buddhists will be doing.  Joining our Telegram Broadcast and Telegram Chat channel is the best way of getting the latest updates. 

Being a Rebel

By Satya Robyn

Satya being arrested during the October Rebellion

Being a rebel feels like a natural consequence of living as a Buddhist. The Buddha wasn’t afraid to speak up against the culture of the day – peacefully and with strength – and that’s what I see Extinction Rebellion doing, in a time of great crisis for our sacred Earth. I was arrested in October 2020 but this was the least of the week I spent with other rebels – walking in meditation through the chaos with my fellow Buddhists, joining with those of other faiths and singing ‘Amazing Grace’ together on the bridge, sitting quietly beside a young girl locked into a bath-tub. We achieved a lot that week – the public conversation about the climate was different once we’d finished – and it’s time to remind Parliament that we mean business.

Buddhist Q&A

BY ANDY WISTREICH and Joseph Mishan

As Buddhists we recognise and carefully consider any problematic impacts of direct action. Here, Andy and Joe respond to Dharma challenges by a long-term practitioner.

Q Few practitioners are at the advanced stages of the path necessary to be able to cope with the challenges experienced during direct action.

A It is our experience that even relatively beginner practitioners may progress spiritually through supported, compassionate, mindful engagement with the challenges of direct action. Clearly one should only engage in direct action if one is not in danger of losing one’s spiritual foundation, and we would certainly encourage anyone who is impacted in this way to take care of themselves in whatever way they needed. There are many ways to take action of course e.g. in a support role, and not everyone will be willing or able to join protest actions on the streets. 

Q Throughout the suttas there are warnings about exposing ourselves to situations where it is difficult to guard the sense doors.

A It’s true that practitioners are advised to hold back from activities that would undermine their inner stability. Therefore each person must choose how to engage in a way suitable to them. The  retreat experience in which we can and do guard the sense doors is invaluable, but we continue to practice when we move out into the world. For most of us this movement in and out of the world is the reality and both can contribute to our spiritual development.

Q Direct action creates attachments that hinder our progress to awakening. Once we are thus-achieved”, or well-advanced along the path, then direct action may be possible, even advisable, but very few of us are.

A We practice mindfulness during actions in order to hold back from being drawn into attachment and anger. This is a valuable practice in and of itself.

A key offering of the Dharma in the context of direct action is non-attachment to results. This is our perspective. It is freeing and takes the stress out of our action. Instead we focus on cultivating the wholesomeness of our motivation and do our best to be well prepared.

Q The Buddha tells us how to develop our practice. It’s a well-trodden path. Most of us in secular dharma (who aren’t monastics) have a difficult job following this anyway because our lifestyle puts us in the way of worldly distractions. So, we should not make it more difficult by going looking for them.

A  Direct action on climate change is not a distraction any more than any other compassionate action in the world. We have chosen a focused compassionate practice of non-violent direct action. This isn’t a ‘worldly distraction’ as it arises from a deeply held compassionate sense of universal responsibility, which is the very foundation of the path of awakening.

Q There may be wise ways of responding to legitimate concerns about the environment that involve little or no such dangers. It may therefore be more appropriate to explore these even though it may seem to us they are less effective or exciting, judged by the world’s standards.

A It is important for each individual to choose forms of action that suit their capacity and temperament. The most important point is the intention. If the intention is to generate excitement, then the action is indeed worldly; if the intention is universal compassion and responsibility, then the action is Dharma.

Q Then there is the consideration of the suffering of those adversely affected by XR protests. Some would say the few must suffer for the many” but this is hardly compassionate.

A As XR Buddhists we favour actions that do not cause suffering. We are confident that our actions arise out of compassion for all beings; but actions toward a more sustainable and more inclusive world inevitably will cause discomfort even suffering to some. There is no way to avoid this, but to do nothing is to allow and perpetuate a system that causes huge suffering,  particularly to the poor, the non-dominant cultures and to the other species. If our system continues as it currently does it threatens our very existence with the unimaginable suffering this will cause. There is no way to avoid suffering, we can only attempt to minimise it.

Q The non-violent meditator who stands apart from the world and its norms is likely to receive short shrift.

A This is not our experience. Our meditations may be quiet but they are also very powerful, conveying peaceful determination and rootedness. Very often when we meditate within the wider extinction rebellion movement, others will join us and sit with us. It is often evident that other activists and members of the public are inspired and moved by our meditation. Although we may be sitting apart we have placards that make clear the issues we addressing in the world.

Q. I agree with the goals of XR, but I’m not likely to engage in street actions: is there anything else I can offer from my meditation practice?

Yes. Thank you.Here are two suggestions for prayers and vows; please adapt them to your own needs and heart:

Prayer for the Earth

  • May people around the world including Governments, awaken to the reality and urgency of the ecological and climate crisis and act quickly and with wisdom.
  • May climate justice prevail in this world, so that inequality and harmful exploitation everywhere is ended for the good of all
  • May there be spiritual and ecological harmony in the world between people, in our treatment of animals and in our relationship to the environment, providing wellbeing and happiness to all beings everywhere.

And from a personal perspective here are the Eco-Satttva vows:

Eco-Sativa Vows (from: The Eccosattva Training course by One Earth Sangha)

Based on my love of the world and understanding of deep interdependence of all things, I vow:

  • To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume.
  • To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings; to discern and replace human systems of oppression and harm.
  • To invite personal discomfort as an opportunity to share in the challenge of our collective liberation.
  • To draw inspiration, strength and guidance from the living Earth, from our ancestors and the future generations, and from our siblings of all species.
  • To help others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
  • To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows 

Joseph Mishan is a mindfulness teacher in the Vipassana tradition, a psychotherapist and the coordinator of Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement in London and a joint coordinator of XR Buddhists UK. 

Andy has been studying, practising and teaching Buddhism within the Gelug Tibetan tradition for 40 years. He joined XR in 2019, and is active in his local XR group in South Somerset.

Locked on

By Yogaratna

Yogaratna locked on

I felt very happy to take part in this action protesting against the fossil fuel corporation Schlumberger, and the £150m bailout recently given to it by the UK Government.  I always feel a little nervous and irrationally guilty about risking arrest.  And the D lock round my neck for 4.5 hours was a little uncomfortable!  But I did some good meditation, and felt very cared for and supported by my fellow protesters.

Book review: Mindfully Facing Climate Change

Reviewed by Katja

Mindfully Facing Climate Change by Bikkhu Analayo

Bikkhu Analayo is a Theravadin monk, scholar and meditation teacher. In this book, he looks at how buddhist practice can help us facing climate change and its impacts. The book is based on a series of four talks and essays each based on one of the four noble truths. You can either watch the talks that all also include a meditation, or download the book for free. As a scholar, he is really interested in early buddhist texts and explores questions like the relationship to nature in early Buddhism and different understandings of interdependence. He gives some examples of sutras and explores what those mean for our understanding of ecology and acting on climate change. I’ve found this to be really helpful knowledge when talking to other Buddhists who might be skeptical about why buddhists should need to act on climate change. The other area of inquiry is how to not be overwhelmed and here his approach is based on the Brahma viharas/divine abodes. There is also a conversation with him and Joseph Goldstein on the website introducing the topic: Mindfully Facing Climate Change

Katja is a member of XR Buddhists

Three generations of rebels

By Peter Clare

Peter’s son and grandchildren

I joined the October 2019 Rebellion in London as a reaction to the existential crisis we face.

Being part of the Rebellion was a joy, it was just like being with family. Knowing this we joined the Manchester Rebellion as a family. John shares our belief in the need for action in the face of the twin crisis. Stan and Rudi came along because we told them they would enjoy it – and they did. The Manchester Rebellion felt even more like being with family. Stan and Rudi were spoiled by all the kind, loving people we mixed with. Rebellion means many things to many people for us it means belonging. Belonging to a diverse non-discriminating community. We listened to talks from Amazonian Indians and conversed and were entertained by fellow Northerners. Rebellion is a taste of what the world could be like, an amazing sense of togetherness.

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