Compiled by XR Buddhists Action Circle
Never forget that justice is what love looks like in publicCornel West
XR Buddhists’ Action Circle has a remit to help design and facilitate actions, so please feel free to contact this group for any advice you need. The Telegram group is here: https://t.me/+8G5XAWUYoLZlY2My
In this guide you will find guidance on background to XR Buddhists actions, planning, pre action phase, action phase, and the post action phase.
Background to XRB actions
Following the tradition of Engaged Buddhism, the form our actions take arise from our intention to bring our faith tradition, its wisdom, ethics and compassion, into the public sphere. We do this to both make a statement about an injustice or harm as well as to illustrate a different way of being in the world. This often includes (but may not be limited to) a meditative element. You might think of actions as an opportunity to practice in a rather different Dharma hall than usual!
Being attentive to the visual and sometimes auditory manifestations of this (e.g. wearing black/chanting) contributes both to a spiritual feel to the action for the participants, and to an action that is visually powerful and thought-provoking for onlookers.
The Pali word ‘Sati’ is usually translated as ‘mindfulness’ but a more literal translation is ‘to remember’. The importance of offering an opportunity for participants to remember, to bring to mind and heart, why they are doing an action cannot be overstated. This promotes connection to where we are moving from: what matters to us both spiritually and emotionally, and it is from this place that we can act powerfully and skillfully. This mitigates against impulsivity, and it also follows XR’s emphasis on the importance of nurturing a regenerative culture.
Our actions therefore have 2 broad phases
- Engagement – which includes the pre-action phase, the action phase and the post action phase.
when an idea for an action arises you might consider the following:
- is it relevant to the overall agenda of XR
- is it expressive of XRB’s intention to bring our faith tradition into actions (as above)
- is it a current issue (is the timing right)
- what is the target, and the location of the action
Consider the visual impact of the action. Aim for harmony and simplicity. Even if the public doesn’t read the leaflets you may give out, they can’t help but see you. Your action can be a powerful communication in itself, conveying a quiet, contemplative groundedness. It’s for this reason XR Buddhists often suggest people wear one colour (usually black) and sit in a roughly evenly spaced line for meditation. Also consider:
- what are you asking the target to do if anything
- what impacts are you highlighting
- what is the main message of the action (keep it simple and snappy) –
- is the message in keeping with a non-blaming stance
- how will the message be expressed (eg visuals, movement, sound)
- Location: If there is a specific location (building etc) for the action
- is it accessible for enough people in the group
- Do you need to do a reconnaissance of the area before deciding
- Can you identify a reasonably secluded nearby site where you can incorporate the pre-action and post-action phases set out below
- If you are planning a meditation does the location (eg pavement width) allow this
- If you are planning walking meditation try to avoid crossing major roads if you can and consider how long you want the walk to be. Consider if you are going to do a walking meditation before and/or after.
If the action will take up significant pavement space affecting pedestrians or traffic, you will need stewards; contact email@example.com giving details of your action.
- Are there connections with other groups that can or should be made?
- Considered how attractive or accessible this action is to other non-Buddhist groups?
- Is there enough notice for the date you are suggesting?
- Is the start time realistic?
- What time do you plan to end?
- What is the weather likely to be like?
- Is it physically safe to do an action at the location?
- If doing a walking meditation is there a safe route to walk without too many roads to cross?
- consider pollution levels and noise levels at the sitting location?
- where is the nearest toilet to the gathering place (surprisingly important!)?
- What is the likely risk of arrest?
You will need at least one person as :
- An organiser to coordinate and organise the action
- A facilitator on the day of the action
- A media person to take photos, and/or send a press release
- Protest (police) liaison if there is a risk of arrest
- Have you publicised internally on the XRB chat and on the website or newsletter?
- Will you be doing a press release?
- Who will you ask to do photos/media for this action?
- Who is willing to do outreach/ leafleting if any? Aim to have about one third of the group engaging the public if this is planned.
- Send out information on the target, aim of the action, and ensure outreach people have enough information on the issue
- What materials will you need: e.g. placards, leaflets, props etc.
- What are the costs of these?
- Can you ask members of the group to create something for the action?
- Will you ask people to wear particular clothing eg wearing black or some other colour?
- Note: under the new Public Order Bill rope/cable ties/gaffer tape used for hanging banners could be considered as locking on material and could be grounds for arrest.
On the day of the action there are 3 phases to move through which make for emotional and group coherence, with a beginning middle and end
This phase is for welcoming/gathering the group, giving information about the action, planning, and engaging in reflection.
Welcoming and gathering: after greeting everyone offer a brief grounding meditation. Then invite a check in: eg name .. and something else (eg how you are feeling)
Orientation to the action: give a brief description of what the action will entail. Include in this the pre-action phase, the action and the post action phase.
Give any information on the target and on what the protest is asking, to help orientate people the issue (outreach people will need to know this in particular)
Discuss the plan for the action: let the group know/discuss if there will be walking meditation before and/or after the sitting, and agree the length of time for any sitting meditation and for any chanting.
Discuss with leafleteers how they will engage the public. What to say as the public hurries past: a smile and a hello and an open question is useful: eg ‘Hi, are you worried about/how do you feel about …. ‘ Explaining what the action is and why you are personally there is the most effective approach.
People may decide to alternate sitting and leafleting.
Reflection: invite a period of reflection in any form you wish. This might include meditation, and/or dyad (or triad) work. For dyad work you may wish to follow a Joanna Macy informed format. For example, in twos or threes, the question ‘what brings me here today’ is reflected on by one person whilst partners are present and engaged but not responding verbally. Another relevant question might be ‘when I think about the climate crisis what worries me most is… ‘, or ‘when I think about the climate crisis what gives me most hope is’ . The timing for this can be 3 minutes or so for each person.
Gather the group afterwards, hand out placards, offer another brief meditation perhaps and then it’s the ….
The action should take place in silence unless there is chanting. Present it as an opportunity for practice.
Walking meditation: You might want to describe how to do walking meditation if some of the group are unfamiliar with it.
Sitting meditation: the group sits in an evenly spaced line with placards and a banner, if available, in front. Ideally end the sitting with a bell. Be conscious of the appearance of the group and how harmonious it looks: ask someone to organise this as people take their places.
Transition quietly to the final walking meditation if you are doing this. Or just leave quietly to go to the post-action gathering place.
Post Action Phase
The post action phase is an opportunity to offer grounding, connection and reflection for the participants. You might invite people to share their experience of the action, including anything that might have been impactful or moving. There may also have been things that could have been done differently next time: timings, meetings places, roles etc.
Support might be needed if someone has had a difficult experience. (The XR trained emotional support network is available here: firstname.lastname@example.org )
The format might be:
- A brief meditation, followed by the sharing in the group. Or the sharing could be done in dyads/triads and then coming back to report in the group.
- End with a brief meditation, perhaps dedicating the merit, and thanking the members for their presence.