Dharma Action Initiative – June 2018 Update

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Earth Initiative, Sangha News · , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is a brief update on the MRO’s Dharma Action initiative – progress to date, ongoing work, and events and meetings that have been planned.

Over the past couple of months, sangha-led Dharma Action focus groups and initiatives have formed (or in a couple of cases, evolved) largely around interests that MRO sangha expressed through the February Dharma Action Survey and with the support of sangha members who have stepped forward to help organize our collective work:

Beyond Fear of Differences (BFOD)

BFOD’s vision is to ensure that our sangha reflects true equality of all human beings where everyone feels welcomed, seen, heard, and included and recognizes this as their spiritual home; to appreciate that racial and gender equality, and anti-bias work, are an integral part of the journey of awakening; and to integrate social justice into Buddhist life and practice.

BFOD is currently running meetings for the residents at the monastery. Additionally, Fire Lotus Temple is hosting a white affinity group and a people-of-color group. The monastery BFOD planning group has recently formed a subcommittee to focus on programming for the non-resident sangha and hopes to offer an initial program shortly.

Diamond Net

The Diamond Net provides a circle of support for Sangha in need, whether it be birth, accident, illness, or difficult life transitions of any kind.

The Diamond Net planning group met several weeks ago and identified the following focus areas for our work: developing vision & mission statements to define what we are doing now and how we would like to develop; considering how best to utilize the Health & Healing list to inform people of the existence of the Diamond Net; and developing an intake form to help identify the needs of those who request support from the Diamond Net.  So far, we have about 7 individuals who have expressed an interest in coordinating the Diamond Net initiative, but we welcome anyone who is interested in developing and coordinating this effort. Please email Shoju Greenwood at julie.shoju@gmail.com if you are interested in supporting our work.

Our next meeting is on June 3rd at 1:00 pm in the Sangha House.  Rev. Trudi Hirsch aka Jinpu will be joining us. We’ll be discussing our mission and how to implement it.


This new group, which meets at the Monastery, aims to support members of the sangha who identify as LGBTQ+ through conversation, sharing, education and event participation. This group has met once and has a second meeting planned for Sunday May 27th at 1pm, in the Tangaryo Room in the Sangha House. This group is open to all who identify as LGBTQ+ (the “+” refers to any gender and/or sexual orientation variation not included in the LGBTQ acronym). Everyone who participates will have a voice in how its mission and overarching agenda unfolds. For more information, please contact Koren at charlarubym@gmail.com.

Earth Initiative (EI)

Arising from profound love and deep respect for the earth, the Earth Initiative is an ongoing effort by the sangha of the Mountains and Rivers Order to address the individual, institutional, national and global degradation of our planet. Recognizing that all life springs forth from an intricate, causally-related web of interdependence, every action intended to benefit one part must benefit the whole. This effort aims to help us consider the whole of the Earth, its creatures, and human society.

Currently the Earth Initiative has teams located at the temple and at the monastery. However, we are looking to reinvigorate our work, and aspire to have a more active group at the monastery. We will be announcing upcoming planning meetings soon. Please contact Hosui at tamara.vasan@gmail.com if you’d like to join the next planning meeting.

Criminal Justice

The Criminal Justice group has identified three focus areas for our work: 1) The National Buddhist Prison Sangha; 2) social and criminal justice advocacy; and 3) treatment and support for recovery from addiction.   

The first focus area is the National Buddhist Prison Sangha. This organization was formed by the MRO over 30 years ago and serves our incarcerated sangha in two ways. There is a national correspondence component, with training advisors and volunteers writing to inmates about their practice and answering any questions they may have regarding training in the MRO. The second component of NBPS is volunteering to go to the prisons we work with in New York State and to sit with our incarcerated Sangha. We also do one-day sesshins four to five times a year. Please contact Gokan (gokan@dharma.net) for more information.

The second focus area involves working with several of the local social and criminal justice organizations that many of our sangha members already support. This includes ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network), SURJ (Show Up for Racial Justice), and Citizens Action. There are many regularly held events, screenings, book studies and meetings related to parole reform, bail reform, court monitoring, and other matters related to unjust incarceration, racial profiling and issues taken up by The Poor People’s Campaign. If you are interested in supporting this important work, the MRO’s point person for E.N.J.A.N is alecmac3@gmail.com.

The third focus area of our Criminal Justice group is treatment of addiction and support for recovery. As of this writing, 62% of those incarcerated in the US are there for drug related charges, mostly possession. There is a national Buddhist Recovery Movement in this country to help people find treatment instead of ending up incarcerated. The MRO’s Shokan McNamara is running two Refuge Recovery meetings locally. Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist inspired program of recovery from addictions of all kinds. It was developed by Noah Levine, based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path.  These local actions would benefit from more sangha support. Anyone who identifies with this group is welcome to attend meetings and/or volunteer to help with events in the future. These meetings are open to those who suffer from any form of addiction and those who have loved ones or friends that suffer from addiction. Addictions include codependency, substance abuse, eating disorders, gambling, sex, love, internet gaming, social media etc. Please contact Shokan at filmcoman1@mac.com or at 917-783-9352.

Practice of Somatics

Dharma Action Somatic Practice is a transformative body practice through which participants examine the seeds of social action through their individual embodiment and physical relation to others. It is open to anyone regardless of physical ability or experience.

Thirteen Somatic Practice sessions were offered by Fusei Forth during Spring Ango with participants from the resident sangha and a few outside sangha. After the conclusion of Ango, we will form a weekly Somatic Practice group. There is an email list of about 15 people who are interested in continuing this work, and anyone is welcome to add themselves to that list.

The next practice session will be offered at ZMM on Sunday June 3rd at 1:30pm.Those in attendance will help set the schedule for future sessions. All are welcome to come, even if you have not attended any other sessions. For more information email Fusei Forth at clydeforth@gmail.com .

Other Somatics applications and activities are being discussed within the Refuge Recovery and Diamond Net groups. It would be wonderful if one or two people (with or without a somatics background) could reach out to Fusei to help her organize and facilitate activities.

Dharma Action Presents: Movie Night

To keep ourselves inspired, informed, and connected, we plan to hold quarterly events for the MRO sangha 

and the wider community. These evenings and afternoons will be hosted at the Monastery by Dharma Action volunteers, and will feature films, speakers and artists in areas relevant to our work.

Our first Dharma Action Presents night is scheduled for July 1st from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the Sangha House.  We will screen the highly acclaimed film Human (Vol. 1) by director Yann Arthus-Betrand. The creators of Human describe the film as:

…a collection of stories and images of our world, offering an immersion to the core of what it means to be human. Through these stories full of love and happiness, as well as hatred and violence, HUMAN brings us face to face with the Other, making us reflect on our lives. From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who we are – our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and what is universal. Our Earth is shown at its most sublime through never-before-seen aerial images accompanied by soaring music, resulting in an ode to the beauty of the world, providing a moment to draw breath and for introspection.

Call for Volunteers

We are looking for volunteers to lend a hand with some of the ongoing general planning and support work for the Dharma Action initiative such as organizing sangha participation in marches and rallies, helping set up for and run the Dharma Action Presents events (including the July 1 Movie Night), Dharma Action communications, and so forth.  If you are interested, please let us know at dharmaaction@mro.org .

MRO Dharma Action Mailing List

Finally, if you are not yet on the Dharma Action mailing list but would like to be, or if you have any questions or suggestions, please email dharmaaction@mro.org

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