Occupy Samsara ~ Support From Spiritual Teachers


An Open Letter from Buddhist and Yoga Teachers and Leaders in Support of the Occupy Movement

Posted on November 6, 2011

As teachers and leaders of communities that promote the development of compassion and mindfulness, we are writing to express our solidarity with the Occupy movement now active in over 1,900 cities worldwide.

We are particularly inspired by the nonviolent tactics of this movement, its methods of self-governance, and its emergent communities founded in open communication (general assemblies, the human microphone, the inclusion of diverse voices, etc). These encampments are fertile ground for seeing our inherent wisdom and our capacity for awakening. We encourage all teachers, leaders, sanghas and communities that pursue awakening to join with these inspiring activists, if they have not already done so, in working to end the extreme inequalities of wealth and power that cause so much suffering and devastation for human society and for the ecosystems of Earth.

This movement has given voice to a near-universal frustration with the economic and political disenfranchisement of so many. It offers a needed counterbalance to a system that saps the life energy of the overwhelming majority –– the so-called 99% –– generating vast profits for a tiny handful, without maximizing the true potential for widespread wealth creation in our society. While our practice challenges us to cultivate compassion for 100% of human beings without villifying an “enemy,” our practice also calls on us to challenge a system that causes such clear harm and imbalance.

We share in the thoughtful calls to address massive unemployment, climate change, the erosion of social safety nets, decaying infrastructures, social and education programs, and workers’ wages, rights, and benefits.

Moreover, the current legal structure of large corporations compels individuals to act with shortsighted greed, acts for which they are not held personally accountable. If we aren’t encouraged to act with awareness of our connection to the seven billion humans who share our global community, the social fabric of our society is torn apart by legalized acts of selfishness and fear. These acts are performed in human society, by nonhuman entities, oddly granted the legal and political status of people, which have no ability to adequately perceive or react to the negative repercussions of their choices. The whole planet pays the price.

Most importantly, we believe that individual awakening and collective transformation are inseparable. For members of spiritual communities, mindfulness of the situation before us demands that we engage fully in the culture and society we inhabit. We do not view our own path as merely an individualistic pursuit of sanity and health, and we believe it would be irresponsible of us to teach students of mind/body disciplines that they can develop their practice in isolation from the society in which they live. We are inspired by the creative and intellectual work of the Occupy movement as an essential voice in facilitating a more compassionate and ecologically grounded basis for practice.

The Occupy movement has re-ignited our belief that it’s truly possible to build a culture of non-harm, honesty and respect for all creatures. We recognize our human failings and know that we’ll fail ten thousand times in our efforts to awaken. We now vow to bring our practices and methods of teaching more into alignment with our deepest values.

The structural greed, anger and delusion that characterize our current system are incompatible with our obligations to future generations and our most cherished values of interdependence, creativity, and compassion. We call on teachers and practitioners from all traditions of mind/body awakening to join in actively transforming these structures.

Letter Signed, Ethan Nichtern, Shastri, New York, Shôken Michael Stone, Toronto

Supporters: By signing this letter we believe we can unite in our commitment to align our practice and values and work together to help our society.

Sharon Salzberg
Stephen Batchelor
Seane Corn
Roshi Joan Halifax
Testu’un David Loy
Dr. Robert Thurman
Jack Kornfield
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Susan Piver
Dr. Gaylon Ferguson, Acharya
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara
Tara Brach
Trudy Goodman
David Nichtern
Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Acharya
Anne Waldman
Rev. angel Kyodo williams
Adam Lobel, Acharya
Anne Cushman
Eihei Peter Levitt
Sarah Powers
Fleet Maull, Acharya
Ruth Ozecki
Jessica Robertson
Rev. Danny Fisher
Gayle Van Gils, Shastri
Gina Sharpe
Koshin Paley Ellison
Robert Chodo Campbell
Ty Powers
Sarah Weintraub
Dr. Miles Neale
Waylon Lewis
Pamela Bothwell, Shastri
Ted Grand
Maia Duerr
Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey
Ari Pliskin
Seth Freedman
Kate Crisp
Jessica Stickler
Paula Carino
Laura Kuchynka
Elaine Jackson
Rev. Karen Harrison
Kim Stetz
Jessica Li Phillips
Sheryl Lilke
Sherry Sadoff Hanck
Amy Dara Hochberg
Jennifer Musial, PhD
Dominic Tambuzzo
Chap. Mikel Ryuho Monnett, BCC
Elizabeth Gosselin
Roberta Wall
Erica Hamilton
Maria Ciccone