Stories of Rebels

Quanyin at the September Rebellion

By Kaspa

Buddhist rebels gather in Parliament Square
Gathering in Parliament Square by Mikey

It was near the beginning of the September Extinction Rebellion actions in London. A dozen or so of us Buddhist rebels sat in a circle in the centre of Parliament Square. Around us other rebels began to appear: people with flags sticking out of their backpacks, or banners folded up under their arms, or carrying instruments. There were tired faces peering into coffee mugs. There were people chatting in small groups. Around the edge of the square there was a scattering of police in canary yellow jackets. Behind me people were meditating and praying. They were lined up against the fence, facing parliament, sitting in the multi-faith vigil. 

We were also meditating. I felt the cool air against my cheeks, the solid earth beneath me, and my heart beating quickly as I anticipated a day of non-violent civil disobedience.

The meditation ended. I opened my eyes and noticed the others here with me. I had been sitting in Zoom meetings with these people throughout the year and I suddenly felt immensely grateful for their company and support.

Did we check in before or after the meditation? I can’t remember, either way at some point each of us said a few words about how we were feeling. Someone asked if we could chant together.

Satya agreed to lead us in chanting a Quanyin mantra. She began by inviting us to picture Quanyin as large as the Statue of Liberty, and to imagine her smiling down at us, or to imagine that we were being held in the palm of her hand. Then Satya began to chant “Namo Quan Shi Yin Bosat.” The rest of us joined in – a circle of Buddhist rebels connecting with the One Who Hears the Cries of the World.

Statue of Kuan Yin, Ming Dynasty, by Chaozhong He
Statue of Kuan Yin, Ming Dynasty, by Chaozhong He, photographed by Mountain at the Shanghai Museum.

I have been reciting this mantra for many years. As a Pure Land Buddhist my main practice is nembutsu – reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha – but like millions of Buddhists around the world I often find it easier to connect with Quanyin (Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit), one of Amitabha’s bodhisattva attendants and a bodhisattva of compassion.

Now, in England’s third COVID lockdown, feeling exhausted by the past year, and knowing I am not alone in my exhaustion, I find myself thinking about a story of Quanyin that I have heard many times.

Quanyin – The One Who Hears the Cries of the World – hears of someone suffering in the world and responds to that suffering. She helps them, and then she hears another person in trouble. She works tirelessly lifting people out of their difficulties. However there is always another suffering being and the work seems endless. Still she continues. One by one she helps everyone that needs it.

Seeing the endless suffering she is overwhelmed and splits into many pieces. Amitabha notices this shattering and goes and tends to Quanyin. He puts her together again, giving her eleven heads and a thousand arms. She goes back into the world renewed, and continues the work of helping people.

If you look carefully at images and statues of Quanyin you will often find an Amitabha Buddha in her headdress.

I know how it is to become exhausted by responding to needs, both in my personal life and as a climate activist where I feel called to respond to the immense need of the earth and her ecosystems for healing.

When I deeply examine my own inner life I find that the things that most exhaust me are emotional responses and impulses that come from self-protection. When I act from a place of anger it is quickly tiring. When I act from a place of rescuing it is tiring. When I am afraid for myself it is tiring. All of these thoughts and feelings have their own good reasons for showing up, and because they are self-protective they take energy from us and leave negative karmic traces.

When I am empty of all of these things, and act from this place of emptiness, it is not tiring.

What remains when greed, ill-will and ignorance empty out? It is love: love without agenda; love that needs nothing for itself; love that longs for the well-being of all.

This all-accepting love is the particular quality of enlightenment that Amitabha exemplifies.

Are any of us fully-enlightened beings? I tend to agree with Suzuki Roshi who said there are no enlightened people, only enlightened moments. For myself, I know that greed, ill-will and ignorance continue to rise.

It was mid-afternoon. A large group of rebels had sat in the road of Great George Street along one edge of Parliament Square. A line of police were strung across one end of the road, stopping us from disrupting the traffic on Parliament Street. Someone noticed that there was a clear space in front of the police line and suggested that would be a good place to meditate. We took our cushions and benches and settled into our mediation postures in front of the police. We were joined by other rebels until there were two dozen or so of us meditating in two lines across the road.

In many areas of my life I often feel ambivalence. Questions as big as should I take on this piece of work, to as small as would I like tea or coffee lead me to a place of self-doubt and indecision.  The decision to sit in the road was one of the easiest I have made.

Blessed by Quanyin, my mind was clear. Blessed by Quanyin, I felt completely grounded. Blessed by Quanyin, I felt a great compassion for the earth.

We sat and meditated in the road for hours.

XR Buddhists meditate in the road, in front of a line of police
XR Buddhists in the road

Every now and again there was a stirring in the police line. One officer left and another replaced them, a message was passed from one end of the line to the other.  At around half past four an officer knelt down and started speaking to someone near the edge of the road, five or six people away from me. After that conversation the rebel stood up and left the road. “Here we go” I thought.

Another hour passed in which very little happened and then officers began speaking to rebels one by one, letting them know Section 14 of the Public Order act was in place, and that if they didn’t clear the road they would be arrested. 

Satya was sitting next to me. Out of the corner of one eye I saw an officer approach, kneel down and speak to her. After a couple of minutes, Satya was carried away by two officers and moments later I was arrested as well.

Later that evening, after a long journey through traffic in the back of a police van with two other rebels, I was signed into a cell at Lewisham Police Station.

The metal door closed behind me. I looked around the cell. A bed with a thin, plastic covered mattress was fixed to one wall. There was a steel toilet in the corner. “Don’t worry, ” I had been told, “the camera can’t see the toilet.” The camera was behind a dark globe of glass in one corner of the ceiling.  The floor and walls were all covered in pale blue plastic. Everything was easy to wipe down.

A fluorescent light offered a flat, too bright, illumination.

I walked up and down the cell. Once, twice, three times. I lay on the bed and looked at the ceiling and remembered the stories I’d heard of Tibetan monks maintaining compassion for their jailers in much, much worse circumstances than this.

I wasn’t feeling much compassion.  I felt anger and frustration at the lack of awareness of the climate crisis in government, and at the position I found myself in.

In chapter twenty five of the Lotus Sutra it says:

If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he evokes the strength of Guanyin,
His bonds will open and he will be free.

I put my attention on my breath and with each cycle of breath I said the Quanyin mantra to myself. At some point my thoughts started to wander and after a while I fell asleep.

I woke up and shivered. I had no idea what time it was. The light in the ceiling was still bright. I had been promised a meal and no meal had arrived. I had been told I could ask for a blanket if I was cold and I was cold.

I looked at the silver call button on the wall and couldn’t bring myself to press it and ask for a meal or a blanket. A deep seated fear of disturbing authority figures had caught hold of me. I sat on the bed, enmeshed in fear. Sometimes this is how it is to be human. Despite the mantra of Quanyin my self-protective feelings had taken over. 

Sometimes the clouds cover the sun, and all we can do is trust that the sun is still shining in the sky, high above the clouds, and wait for the clouds to clear. The same is true in my practice, sometimes I just have to trust that the strong feelings will clear and then I will see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas again. And somehow this act of trusting seems to help.

I turned away from the button and continued to recite the mantra silently, following my breath. A police officer knocked on the door and offered me a blanket. Later, I got to speak to my solicitor, and eventually in the early hours of the morning I and a handful of other rebels were let out.

Rebels meditating in Trafalgar Square, wearing placards which say 'In grief and love for the Earth'
Meditating in Trafalgar Square

Early Friday evening, as the light was beginning to fade, around a dozen Buddhist rebels sat in a circle in Trafalgar Square. We had just taken part in a mass meditation with many other rebels. There had been around sixty of us altogether, creating a calm centre in the middle of the busy square.

As we sat quietly I remembered the opening circle just a few days ago. So much had happened since then: sitting in the road, walking meditation through the city and the many different emotions rising and falling within me throughout the whole week.

Each person said a few words about how they were feeling and then the request came again, could we share some chanting together. Satya asked us to imagine Quanyin standing high above us again, perhaps up on Nelson’s Column. We chanted her mantra together.

I was reminded that thoughout all of these actions, and alongside all the suffering in the world, we are supported by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas: there is an unconditional, wise love that flows towards us and through us, and takes root in our hearts.

Without this remembrance, I could not face the climate crisis, and without this remembrance I could not take action.

Namo Quan Shi Yin Bosat

Kaspa Thompson is a Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist. He is the coordinator of Buddhist Action Month. He co-leads the Bright Earth Buddhist Temple in Malvern.

Protest and spiritual practice

By Yogaratna

A group of red rebels reach out as a woman dressed in green, with a wreath of leaves around her head is dragged through the street with a rope around her neck.  The woman holds a large earth in front of her as she walks
Photo Credit: Keith Hepple/ Cambridge Independent

A lady dressed in green, with flowers in her hair, is holding a big blue planet Earth in her arms. She has a rope around her neck, and she’s being dragged through the streets of Cambridge (UK) by some scary-looking monster academics, complete with black gowns and mortar-boards — and very black hands. Dancers all in red are miming their grief. There’s a samba band, and a procession of people with banners and placards, many of them with black hands too.

It’s the Oily Hands Extinction Rebellion protest, drawing attention to the University of Cambridge’s long-standing refusal to take approximately £400m out of investments in fossil fuel extraction, and to sever its many links with the climate-wrecking fossil fuel industry.

I’m nervous. We’re right under the noses of many police. As we get near Trinity College (the College with the largest fossil fuel investments) I make sure I’m near the front of the procession. Suddenly I’m jumping over a low parapet and heading for the nearest part of the College, fumbling in my bag for the chalk-spray can. I put my left hand on Trinity College’s wall, and spray around it like a stencil, leaving an image of my hand just like people did in the Stone Age. I manage this 5 times, before feeling a gentle but firm grip round my arms, and a deep voice saying something about arrest.

A man in a blue boiler suit stretches out his hand against an old stone walled building.  He is using his hand and black chalk paint to create outlines of his hand against the stone.
Photo credit: Cambridgeshire Live

9 of us were arrested and charged, mainly with ‘criminal damage’ — despite the fact we deliberately used chalk spray, which is very soluble in water, and the images were cleaned off almost immediately.

Yoga on the ground in front of some industrial gates.  He is wearing a mask and has a D lock around his neck and attached to the gates.  He wears his kesa around his neck.
Photo credit: Anon

That was 28 August 2020 — near the end of a summer which had felt quite busy for me. I’d d-locked my neck to the main gate of the Schlumberger Research Centre (infrastructure support to the fossil fuel industry) for 4.5 hours. I’d mimed in an inflatable dinosaur suit (mocking Darwin College for failing to evolve and divest from fossil fuels). On a hot busy Saturday afternoon,along with 15 others, I had stood completely naked for 40 minutes outside Kings College (the Naked Truth about our vulnerability to climate and biodiversity breakdown). And so on.

Outside a brick building Yoga wears an inflatable grey dinosaur suit, a lady in academic robes reads a proclamation, someone dressed in a fake beard and top hat approaches Yoga with a small butterfly net.
Photo credit: Jeremy Peters

Some Buddhists see this kind of activism as nothing to do with Buddhism. Some Buddhists feel that they do want to take direct action on these issues, but aren’t sure how to do that in ways appropriate to their spiritual practice.

I’m in the second category, but the question of how to respond appropriately is very live for me. I agree that the climate/natural world breakdown, and the global structural racism underpinning it, is a desperate emergency. I also agree with the XR emphasis on ordinary law-abiding people speaking out non-violently in many different ways, including disruptive actions risking arrest and imprisonment. But exactly how to speak out? How far to go? Is everything that is non-violent OK? And what is non-violence?

Starting from first principles, I think as Buddhists we need to respond in ways appropriate to what’s actually happening around us. When he came across the sick monk, the Buddha did not say to himself: I will benefit the world more if I spend the next hour teaching meditation and giving a Dharma talk. He himself cleaned up the sick monk — and then gave one of his most memorable teachings about responding to suffering. (Vinaya Pitaka, Mahavagga 8.26.1-8).

I’m not suggesting that Buddhists should do nothing but various kinds of social work and activism. Personally I do see activism as a crucial part of my spiritual practice, not the whole of it. But I think that things are so urgent today, that people of faith in particular need to speak out. And it’s important that we do that from as resourced and as skilful a place as possible. We need to go on retreat, to meditate, to do traditional Buddhist practices. But we need the life of activity, as well as the life of calm. We need to ground our practice in reality, to test the qualities and insights we develop, by challenging what is going on.

Outside an impressive stone building (Kings College, Cambridge) a group of people lie naked and semi naked on the grass as if they are corpses.  Someone is covering the people on the ground with a white sheet.
Photo credit: Jeremy Peters

You might agree with all that in principle, but still question the efficacy, or even the ethics, of these slightly confrontational direct action tactics. And isn’t it all a bit undignified — even un-Buddhist?

Well. I do wonder if we sometimes get into a somewhat etherealized notion of Buddhism, or even the Buddha. The Buddha of the Pali Canon was on occasion perhaps surprisingly down-to-earth. At one point, for example, the Buddha criticised his cousin Devadatta in very forthright terms. He later argued that what might seem harsh speech was, in this very particular case, a lesser evil (Abhaya Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 58). The wisest way of responding in that particular situation. The Buddha also spoke out against some of the most sensitive and tightly-held beliefs supporting the social power-structures of his day, including the caste system.

I wonder if sometimes we want to escape from samsara by turning our backs on samsara. Perhaps we just don’t want to get our hands dirty with the world’s problems. Some Buddhists of my kind of age-group (I’m 54) seem to see activism as a youthful phase they’ve long since grown out of. I’m just referring to negative tendencies we can all slip into. I accept that we all need to rest from engaging with the world’s problems from time to time (I do anyway) — and traditional practices can be vital spiritually. But majoring on them exclusively can also be a negative turning away from the world, a mask for inertia and fear.

I do accept that there can be serious ethical issues around direct action. People can be seriously inconvenienced, or even feel bullied, by roadblocks for example. People can feel personally attacked when an institution is criticised. But to me it seems like there is a fire, and we need to shout to get peoples’ attention. Shouting will annoy people, at least momentarily, but that really is a lesser evil compared to not raising the alarm.

The global response to the pandemic graphically demonstrates how most people have not got the message about climate and biodiversity breakdown, as well as the global structural racism that underpins it. Coronavirus has been front page news every day since March 2020, economies and businesses have been turned upside down, not to mention the ordinary lives of billions of people. But the breakdown of the Earth’s living systems is a far bigger problem, which calls for this kind of response as a bare minimum, and that is not happening anything like enough.

The Earth’s living systems, and issues of global justice, are talked about in contemporary politics, but with almost no positive results overall. So how do people’s worldviews change? How do important institutions change? There is some similarity with women in the UK 100 years ago being excluded from the political process. The mainstream ‘common sense’ view was that women should not have the vote, that women were not even capable of thinking politically. Does anyone think that women would have been given the vote, if they hadn’t spoken out, argued and campaigned for it?

Protest can make a difference. On 1 October 2020, the University of Cambridge announced that it would divest from all direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels by 2030 and cut its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2038. That was after a five year campaign by Zero Carbon Cambridge, and many people. It’s hard to believe that change happens without people speaking up for it.

Having said all that, I don’t think that any tactics are justified. Of course we should be non-violent in the sense of not hurting people physically. But what about emotional non-violence? I think certain tactics, such as perhaps breaking things, can provoke so much revulsion that the tactic stops being a lesser evil and becomes counterproductive. There is a sweet spot: enough disruption to raise people’s awareness and hopefully lead to dialogue eventually, but not so much that people turn off and completely shut down. It’s a hard thing to assess. And the people causing the disruption will always be unpopular, all the more so when they’re bringing bad news.

In my own life I have been emphasising this more ‘spiky/spicy’ end of activism, risking arrest and so on. But that hasn’t always been and (I hope) won’t always be the case. Useful and meaningful resistance is a wide spectrum, which for me definitely includes all Buddhist practices. Writing letters, holding up banners, theatre, music, going on marches and so on can all be effective ways of making a point or getting dialogue going. There are myriad ways of doing activism, or supporting it. Some of the best activism might be trying to skilfully talk about these issues with anyone we know personally.

Whatever form of speaking out, resistance, activism is right for you — I wish you well with it.

Can activism be a real spiritual practice?

I think what is spiritual practice will be different for every person. But here are some thoughts about my own experience. I think activism has helped me develop deeper metta, equanimity and even insight. I notice that I generally feel much less angry about these issues than I did when I first got really concerned about climate breakdown back in 2006. And I’m glad not to be so angry! Anger can be a positive energy for me, but can also take me into tiredness and depression — especially if the news isn’t good. I’ve had to really reflect on my own views and states of mind. I’ve encountered people with opinions and worldviews diametrically opposite to mine, or just different to mine. Like many activists, I’ve been shouted at, criticised in the local press and on social media, and physically assaulted. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the conditionality of those people, on mine, on the impermanence of everyone and everything I love — including the beauty and impermanence of the natural world itself.

So I’ve been trying to help preserve what I love, whilst also trying to accept that there will not be a happy ending, almost certainly there will be a great deal of human suffering and destruction of the natural world.

The situation has almost forced me to move towards my fears. I’m not just afraid of what will happen to the world, myself and people I love in the future. I also just feel afraid of speaking out, of being seen as wrong or even criminal — afraid even of being seen.

I think under the pressure of my ongoing activism my Buddhist practice has helped me let go of my negative emotions, such as fear and anger — to some extent! And I’ve been almost forced to clarify: what do I really think, what are my values, what do I really care about? I’ve been almost forced to look after my heart, to nourish and connect with my spiritual inspiration — a deeper energy.

And my heart has opened, keeps opening more, to the power of sangha. The extraordinary beauty of other people’s idealism, which inspires and sustains me.

There are many ways of practising, many ways of doing activism, and there can be a grittier side. At the time of writing this, I’ve been charged with criminal damage (for chalk spraying on a wall). I’ll be self-representing at my trial in a few months time. I’m pleading not guilty, but will probably be convicted and have to pay a fine, compensation and court costs, possibly have to do community service, and the prosecution is seeking a Criminal Banning Order. In the longer term, I will have a criminal record and that might threaten my job as a carer. And I am surprised at how much this one case is affecting me (and my partner). Partly I find there’s a sort of emotional weight to the whole thing of being called a criminal.

Now, all that might sound a bit daunting, and there are limits to what I’m happy to give. But I’ve almost no regrets so far, and this still feels the right direction for me. It’s how I feel free, richer, happier, and more authentically myself. I do actually feel like I have been touching the Earth more — coming into a closer relationship with reality both internally and externally. In the end, I need to speak out somehow.

Staying open

By Paul

Paul as a Green Spirit featured in The Economist

I found myself at the October Rebellion emerging fresh out of a profound  experience at Buddhafield Festival.

At the festival in July I had engaged in Joanna Macy’s “Work that Reconnects”, and having set an intention to  “tussle” with Mara in the Going Forth part of the Spiral a penny the size of the London Eye dropped and I realised that the Mindfulness work I had been doing with International Corporations over the last 20 years  was simply not working in a world on the brink of Ecological melt down.

I discovered that my attempts  to influence business leaders to really embrace sustainability was not going to do the urgent  job needed, and the organisations I truly thought could be part of the solution had become a big part of the problem.

It was time to let go of this work, and more importantly in order to do the work I was being called to do, to  abandon the income that came with it.

That set  me free to embrace XR and its Vision and values.

After a few days at the Ocotber Rebellion, despite  enjoying being part of the  crowds of beautiful people , marvelling at  the silence of the  London  streets, and indulging in  the joy of the Samba bands , I started to feel a little bit like a tourist.

It was time to commit.

So I contacted my affinity group and announced myself “arrestable.”

This was a huge commitment for me and the feeling that came with it is difficult to describe, but it had  a distinct flavour of letting go of self and of fear, and of purpose and  joy.

Then unfolded a saga of waiting….. and waiting…. and waiting.

In that time I felt truly held by the Bodhisattvas around me. They were caring for me, looking out for me, and protecting me.

In the end, despite receiving the requisite 5 warnings, the police changed strategy at the last minute and I (and a few others ) were left, a  little confused and slightly bereft.

I imagine it might be like working up  to a blind date where the actual date didn’t show up  in the end.

By the time the massive Samba band arrived on the scene and surrounded we arrestables, it was obvious that arrest was not going to happen.

But the story didn’t end there.

I was due to attend  a family event in Liverpool on the Friday night, and so on my last day the one thing I wanted to avoid was being arrested. I headed for Trafalgar Square with an intention I often use which is “stay open to possibility.”

 My call was answered within minutes. Ping went my phone, it was Chrissie a very good friend, and part of an XR group in South Devon.

“Hi Paul Are you around?” She asked.

“Hi Chrissie, I am actually, what are you up to?”

“ I’m at the Church in Waterloo, can you get round here, straight away, we need a hand “?

“ Ok, I’m on my way”

I arrived and found Chrissie with a few Green Spirits and lots of Red Rebels.

Without really having lots of time too think it through within the hour I was fully dressed and in procession with the Reds and Greens. Over the next 5 hours I experienced one of the most profound meditation experiences that I have ever had in my 26 years of practice. Providence had moved in big time, and Goethe’s words have never been truer.

Next week in London, at the 2020 Rebellion I will endeavour to  be mindful and to “stay open to possibility at every opportunity”!

With love and solidarity,

Paul

Paul is a Trustee at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, he has studied with many teachers, and most recently with Stephen Bachelor, on his Secular Buddhism programme at Bodhi College. He regularly offers Mindfulness based courses for both activists and the wider communities. He no longer offers work to Corporations. All is work is given freely.

First, do no harm

By Katja

First, do no harm.

Not doing harm is the first precept or training principle in Buddhism. Not harming is also part of the Hippocratic oath that was part of my training as a doctor.

But what does it really mean to not harm? For me personally, it means being ethical and truthful to those around me. It means not eating meat. It means trying to live a simple life. 

Nowadays my work is more about the health of populations rather than clinical work with individuals. And here not harming is much broader. Harming is continuing a system that destroys the planet we live on and is our basis for life. Harming is continuing the traffic that creates the pollution that gives young children asthma and kills people in my city. Our continuing addiction to fossil fuels and consumption in general is harmful. And not telling the truth about the possible catastrophic consequences of climate change is harmful too. 

That’s why I joined XR. I don’t like causing inconvenience or blocking roads or even standing out. In fact, I have spent lots of effort on blending in as best as I can, first as a working-class person at college and uni and then as a foreigner in the UK. But after years of making personal changes and campaigning in less obstructive ways, I feel non-violent civil disobedience is the only option left.

Last rebellion there was one day after the protest had effectively been banned where we were marching and I really felt intimidated by the amount of police. Police standing on the side of the road, police on horses, police in helicopters. I must have looked terrified when a fellow rebel saw my tears and was kind. That helped me to go on. I felt fear but I also felt intensely connected to my values and this community of like-minded people. For me its really important not just that I protest but also how, and I am glad to have found a way with XR (and XR Buddhists) to stand for what I believe in and hopefully make a change – avoid harm.

Katja is a member of XR Buddhists

To share your own story and photo to inspire Buddhist rebels email web@xrbuddhists.com

The valuable gift of COMMUNITY

By Joseph Mishan

Joe meditating in front of a police line

Actually what stays with me from the April 2019 rebellion when this photo was taken (that’s me sitting), is not the lines of police, the arrests or even the powerful meditations I engaged in. It was the experience of community. I have never before been a part of such closeness, passion and just overall love and good-will in any community or group. It is this that has endured in my memory and heart; and  have heard this echoed by many rebels after each rebellion.

The Buddha’s response to his cousin Ananda’s suggestion that the sangha was ‘half of the holy life’ was to say “do not say so Ananda; the sangha is the whole of the holy life.’ I feel greatly privileged to be part of the XR and XR Buddhists community; it has helped me – perhaps forced me –  out beyond my small sense of self, into a profound sense of interconnection with others and with this precious planet of which we are all part. This is an incalculably valuable gift.

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. 

To share your own story and photo and inspire other rebels email web@xrbuddhists.com

Preparing for rebellion

Satya writes for Buddhistdoor magazine:

“In five weeks’ time I will be traveling from our small rural town to London for a fortnight of rebellion. I will probably do some things that are illegal. I may get arrested. I heard anecdotally last week that those willing to be arrested are often supported by their faith. Is that true? How did I get here again and, as peace-loving Buddhist, why am I planning on causing disruption?”

Read the article here: Preparing For Rebellion

Satya is co-coordinator of XR Buddhists, a Buddhist priest, a psychotherapist. & writer.

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

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.