Social justice has long been a focal point for the Moutains & Rivers Order. While Shugen Sensei was based at the Brooklyn Temple, the Beyond Fear of Differences Initiative was formed, initially holding retreats and study groups for the sangha. Since May 2016, a planning committee of nine MRO practitioners have been meeting to help build the newest iteration of the Initiative: a monastery-based program to study oppression and privilege as it manifests both in the sangha and the world at large. With support and guidance from a local consultant who specializes in institutional change and diversity, Monastery residents have been meeting together, engaging in study of the theoretical foundations of oppression, and sincerely reflecting on our own unexamined bias. With a strong commitment to social justice, the teachers provide guidance on how to continue taking up this work as dharma practice, within the MRO sangha and beyond. BFoD will continue to develop programs in response to the sangha’s needs and interest, with the intention of actualizing our intention to study ourselves and to create a sangha where all feel welcome to enter, at the Monastery, the Temple, and in all affiliate groups.
In preparation for the Peoples Climate Movement March on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC, the Earth Initiative Planning Group is hosting films, a teach-in and poster-making at both the Temple and the Monastery in the early spring. The march is a broad coalition of groups and individuals concerned about climate change and environmental justice, and is a follow-up to the first Climate Movement march on Washington in 2014 which this sangha also attended. For information about buses from the New York City area see our coalition partners at www.compassionnyc.org/rolling-retreat/ and at www.peoplesclimate.org.
The EI Planning Group also hosted a number of outings during the past year exploring the landscape of city parks, biodiversity, and regional birding, and will resume this spring and summer so stay tuned!
At the Monastery, implementation is underway for new sustainability projects. One initiative is the on-site production of soy-based wax candles for use at the Monastery and Temple. Replacing paraffin candles currently used on all the altars, this change will end our reliance on a pretroleum-based product and reduce the carbon footprint required for shipping.
On Saturday, January 21st, a tremendous outpouring of support from around the US and the world for the rights and well-being of women and all who suffer injustice, discrimination and inequality. Over thirty Sangha members traveled to the Women’s March on Washington, many riding as a group from the Monastery overnight. In the capital they joined hundreds of thousands of men and women spending the day together at a rally featuring inspiring speakers and performers, and marching through crowded streets.
In New York City, dozens of sisters and brothers from the Zen Center of New York City marched alongside other NYC Buddhist groups. Other sangha members participated in marches in Poughkeepsie, Woodstock, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charlotte, NC. Yuan and Joen Hayes participated in a march in Montpelier, Vermont, where 7,000 people were predicted, but 15,000-20,000 showed up, including Senator Bernie Sanders. Yuan said, “Speechifying was very diverse, and the tone was good—about kindness, fairness and inclusion.” The sense of solidarity worldwide was incredible, and participants came away both energized and more determined than ever to continue stepping forward.
Monastic Danica Shoan Ankele, the main organizer for the Monastery delegation, said, “I am so glad we’re doing this rather than being stuck with pain and grief and feeling immobilized. There is the possibility of action, of revolution, of change…We’re inspiring one another, and we’re beginning a movement that can sustain itself over the next four years.”