My dear friends in Dhamma,
Even in the quiet here, i have heard from many friends about much devastation to loved ones and life in Japan and about fears of environmental disaster with warnings of tsunami and nuclear fallout coming to us here on the West Coast of the USA.
It is not easy to see such images and hear or read such warnings when in the midst of the busyness of life as nearly usual, as we are compassionate beings, and in need of time to absorb, process, reflect upon, gain insight into and respond to what is happening around us in our world and within our own bodies and minds.
It is important to give ourselves time of pause, that is, to stop for moments to allow ourself to fully see and know ourselves, and what is happening in our bodies and minds. And to care for that. It is important, in our busyness, not to allow ourselves to be dehumanized by being too busy to take the time we need. It is part of the beauty of our humanity to feel shared pain and grief and sorrow that is compassion. And it is part of our humanity and being alive to be able to hold this in awareness, and also respond compassionately. And wisely.
Wise and Compassionate Response
Compassionate response comes first from our heart. For all those who have learned and practice metta bhavana -- the meditation on loving kindness and its sharing -- it begins here with this. Together with all four of the Brahma Viharas also known as the Divine Abidings or Four Immeasurables: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
Wise response knows the strength of the elemental nature of our world. And knows the truths of impermanence, instability, and our true non-ownership of all material form.
But a wise and compassionate response should not just end there, but flow, liberated and unhindered into our action. If we are unable to respond with compassion, blocks develop in our heart that hurt and hinder ourselves in many ways and spheres. Even when suffering appears very large, it is important to know how much difference each act of loving kindness makes to both ourselves and others. It makes a great difference whether we can act or not. Even when our acts are unknown to others, they benefit us ourselves; and it is important to know that even with very large organizations, it is the large number of small donors who often make the biggest difference. (One billion persons donating $1 is greater than 10 millionaires donating a million dollars each!) In this time of global village it is important that all of us who feel the hurt together be able to participate in its healing together.
There are many aid organizations that are contributing. If you would like to participate in a Buddhist response, you might like to join in the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation's Compassionate Relief efforts. Tzu Chi Compassionate Relief was founded by a Chinese Buddhist bhikkhuni from Taiwan sometimes called "Buddhism's Mother Theresa". You might also like to join Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi and many others in Buddhist Global Relief, or join your local Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Churches of America in their relief efforts (see attached). Or, if you are an avid web user, you might be interested in these simple ways that you yourself can help on, quickly and easily, on the internet.
Nuclear Power, Safety and our Environment
The danger to and from Japan's nuclear power plants has highlighted in the mind of many friends the direction our own country is taking with regards to the wisdom of sustainability and renewable energy.
Again, it is very important to care well for our own feelings of anxiety or powerlessness that may arise, as well as moves within our own hearts towards wise and compassionate action, for both our own short and longterm welfare as well as that of our loved ones, our next generation, our greater human society, and all living beings on this lovely green planet of ours.
It is possible to bring calm, ease and perspective into our hearts, our bodies and minds, as well as to take right and wise action in ways large and small. Even small actions -- like participating in some way in the development of an off-the-grid place of meditation and renewal like our Aranya Bodhi forest hermitage -- can be greatly inspiring, energizing and renewing to our own hearts, liberating blocked energy in our lives. And there is much more that can be done. I was inspired by this article in Scientific American, "A Plan to Power 100% of the Planet with Renewables" - from the lay sphere. Perhaps lay friends may be inspired by Green Monasticism from the monastic sphere? :-). There are innumerable good ways to act and to participate.
Finding the Balance
Right View in the Noble Eightfold Path - the Fourth Noble Truth taught by the Buddha -- teaches us the truth of conditionality or conditional causality. Conditionality on the one hand means to understand cause and effect, and thus to completely know that our every act of body, speech and mind is meaningful and effective. This is the entire basis of the remainder of every other fold of the Eightfold Path, which leads us to a proactive and progressive engagement with our our body and mind and that of others and our world. On the other hand, conditionality also means the impermanent and non self-nature of all phenomena of body and mind, internally and externally. This leads us to a great relaxation, letting go and freedom, that is, to engaging with right effort in a nonattached way.
And this is the balance that is the Middle Way for all those practicing with the Buddha's teachings. There is the insight into the natural of reality, the relaxing and letting go, together with the wisdom of right action, and the efficacy of cause and effect, which is the basis for our activities. The wide road where these -- this great relaxing, ease and effective and progressive practice -- join without any duality. Right view and right effort work in harmony and synchronicity with right mindfulness and deepening insight -- feeding back into right view again -- the feedback loop that is called "the turning of the Dhamma Wheel".
As for the Buddha, visions of death and concern for oneself, for one's loved ones and for all of us, can be the spark that galvanizes us to go ahead in doing the work of our hearts and lives -- doing what needs to be done that makes us truly human and our lives full and complete in meaning.
I want to share my deep appreciation with you in your practice and your care for yourselves and all of us during this time.
With great loving kindness
Ayya Tathaaloka Theri
Mar 15, 2011
Tzu Chi Compassionate Relief
Buddhist Global Relief
Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Churches of America (donation info letter attached below)
Huffington Post Article A Buddhist Response to Japan Tsunami
Shambhala SunSpace The Japan Earthquake: Healing After Trauma
Being Alive Now Fear of Dying Intro Class Video at UCSF Center for Integrated Medicine
Ajahn Brahm on Transcending Disasters
17th Karmapa Offers Prayers for Japan Earthquake Victims
HH the Dalai Lama Expresses His Sadness Over the Recent Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
March 14, 2011
From: Buddhist Churches of America Headquarters
To: Buddhist Churches of America Ministers and Presidents
Subject:Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief
Dear Ministers and Presidents,
As you know, on March 11, 2011 (local time) Japan was struck by a 9.0 magnitude
earthquake followed by a catastrophic tsunami. The Buddhist Churches of America is currently
collecting donations in the name of the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief for this disaster.
We ask you and your members for your donations to this fund. Donations for the
Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Fund may be made in the following manner:
1. Donations should be collected at the local temples (checks should be made payable to your
2. After the funds have been collected at your temple, please make one check payable to
the BUDDHIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA. Please note JAPAN EARTHQUAKE/
TSUNAMI RELIEF in the memo section of your check.
Please send your donations to the BCA Headquarters by April 20, 2011. The relief
Agency to which the donations will be forwarded will be announced at a later date.
We thank you in advance for your support and dana.
Koshin Ogui, Socho
Buddhist Churches of America
Everett Watada, President
Buddhist Churches of America
(forwarded from Rev Shoyo Taniguchi, Buddhist Churches of America Minister, Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church, Fremont, California, USA)