By Grace Ford
Dharma talk notes, 9/18/18
This week Jon and I, Grace Ford, gave the Dharma talk together. Informal, it was more of a Dharma conversation with the whole group about what touches each of our hearts and fuels our practice. Our goal was to share a conversation Jon and I have been having for several months about the intersection of social justice work and engaged Buddhism. Jon started by telling about the origins of the Order of Interbeing in which he is ordained. Thich Nhat Hahn founded the Order to support those working to rebuild bombed villages during the Vietnam war. He saw that people needed support to continue their engaged practice. In our Sangha, we also need ways to support each other so that we can sustain our Boddhisattva idea of serving all beings.
I come to meditation and Buddhism with a dedication to working for social justice. It has been rich to be in conversation with Jon about how social justice theories and practice can be supported by the teachings and practices of this tradition. We cannot achieve liberation alone, as we are interconnected.
One question I have had is how can I share my work with the Sangha, who is my community, without pushing my agenda on others. It was helpful to learn the concept of Dharma Gates – which is anything that opens our hearts. We will each have our own Dharma Gates. The question is how we can support each other in our work in the world, honoring our different Dharma Gates. As well, Jon suggested that there may be a common Dharma Gate that the Sangha chooses to focus on – what might that be? At this point in time, all across the world Sanghas are grappling with how to engage with the social justice challenges that touch us.
When the topic of social justice, racism or privilege comes up, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or guilty about not doing enough. Several people spoke to this and I often feel this way, which this closes my heart. I hope that the Sangha can support me in embracing the qualities of sufficiency and abundance. This work can feel heavy and like a big “should”, but actually engaging with the suffering of social injustice can be a path to liberation. Both Buddhism and social justice movements seek liberation, collective liberation. That is why I am here practicing with you, because I seek liberation for myself and all beings.
Recognizing that everyone is doing different work in the world, Jon invited people to share what their Dharma Gate is. We heard stories of grief and challenges caring for others. Others told of how volunteer work was bringing great joy and meaning into their lives. Appreciation was expressed for having this kind of sharing - for getting to see each other more fully by hearing about our individual lives and passions.
Submitted with gratitude,