Social justice has long been a focal point for the Mountains & 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.
The Earth Initiative Planning Group continues to co-host films, letter-writing campaigns and hands-on sustainability activities at both the Temple and the Monastery. At the Temple, sangha members are working with the Metro-Area’s Billion Oyster Project, and upstate at the Monastery we are working to help eradicate an infestation threatening the regional hemlock trees, and building habitats for native bats.
The EI at the Temple continues to host outings to explore the landscape of city parks and nature preserves on a regular basis.
At the Monastery, implementation for new sustainability projects continues. 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 will limit our reliance on a petroleum-based product and reduce the carbon footprint required for shipping. We also now sell these candles in the Monastery Store.