Buddhists Occupy

Here are a few articles giving a Buddhist perspective on the Occupy movement. The whole thing is much more subdued here in Oz, so I don’t have any direct experience or stories to add. But I’d love to hear your experiences or thoughts in the comments!

What is clear, however, is that the Buddha consistently spoke for the responsibility of those in power to share their wealth and look after those in need. Violence in society is, in texts like the Cakkavattisihanada Sutta, firmly blamed on inequality cause by unchecked greed. Sound familiar?

Where the Buddhist approach differs from the more socially activist movement is, as always, in the depth of response. It is not just enough to blame the ‘other’. Yes, it’s been the 1% who have got obscenely rich. But it’s the 99% who have bought the gadgets, turned off our minds, and blindly let ourselves be led down the Walmart of temptation. Yes, the structures that have led to the current situation are wrong and must change. But we have to change also. This is why I love Ari Pliskin’s slogan: ‘We are the 100%’.

This is not a matter of blaming the victim. If our compliance has enabled the crisis, this means we have power: withdraw compliance. Step out of the illusory Tavatimsa heaven of shiny things, and into the human realm. Let your hearts be shiny.





5 thoughts on “Buddhists Occupy

  1. Bhadanta,

    There is a “compendious but brief” history of the Occupy Wall Street movement written by an author whose work I’m aware of for the unrelated reason that he has previously researched (and published on) the subject of Theravada Buddhism in Japan:


    I think that you and I would agree more about the Pali canon than we would about politics. Conversely, whatever disagreements we might have about the canon would probably be more meaningful and worthwhile than any disagreements we might have about politics. The latter is probably a better index as to what we would (or should) discuss with one-another.

    A perspective worth having on this might include the indigenous peoples of what is now Wall Street, and the fact that their language is now on the brink of extinction. The name “Wall Street” itself alludes to a wall that was a part of the history of the former conquest and ”’occupation”’ of the land, i.e., by Europeans. The indigenous people there were Algonquian, and, I believe, they were the Lenape specifically (some sources already list Lenape as an extinct language, others say there are a few families of living speakers remaining, scattered into odd corners of the map by the mix of brutality and indifference that characterized the British Empire).

    Explicitly or implicitly, all of these political debates are talking about the endgame to cultural genocide. That casts a very long shadow, and provides a very different sense of scale in “enframing” the discourse that has lately emerged from the campus cliques of New York universities.

    If you check the “about the author” blurb in my latest article you’ll see that I’m living up to my own hype on this issue. http://www.iias.nl/the-newsletter/article/indigenous-history-antidote-zomia-theory

    I’m not sitting idly by while the languages indigenous to this continent go extinct. These extinctions (past, present and looming in the near future) raise questions that are very difficult for Buddhists to address; to use the Charles Prebish dichotomy, it is a problem that is unanswerable both for the “immigrant Buddhist” paradigm, and for the “western convert” paradigm. In both North America and Australia, both of these paradigms exist in the shadow of the British Empire, and very much on the land that was defined by a history of conquest and genocide –and will continue to be defined by it forevermore.

    So, you tell me: who is occupying whom?


  2. If it wasn’t unbuddhist I would nominate Time Magazines Ajahn Brahm for the “Protester of the Year”


    NEW YORK (Reuters) – From the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, “The Protester” was named Time magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year on Wednesday.

    Time defines the Person of the Year as someone who, for better or for worse, influences the events of the year.

    “Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough,” Time Editor Rick Stengel said in a statement.

    “They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change,” he said.

    On almost every continent, 2011 has seen an almost unprecedented rise in both peaceful and sometimes violent unrest and dissent.

    Protesters in a lengthening list of countries including Israel, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and now the United States all increasingly link their actions explicitly to the popular revolutions that have shaken up the Middle East.

    Admiral William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command and overall commander of the secret U.S. mission into Pakistan in May that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, came in at second place on the Time list.

    Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, whose 81 day secret detention by authorities earlier this year sparked an international outcry, came in at No. 3, followed by U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

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