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Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism: Views from a Nobody

September 10, 2010

Paula Green delivers a keynote talk

If you’re looking for an account of the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism — hosted last month in pastoral Montague, Massachusetts — from a reputable, authoritative, or well-known source, I can tell you right now: you’re barking up the wrong bodhi tree.  The Symposium was chock-full of dharma celebrities; I am not among them.  I’m not a Roshi, Bhikkhuni, Director, Founder, or Professor.  I am a Nobody.  At least in this context.

But, you know, a Nobody isn’t such a terrible thing to be.  You get a very interesting vantage point as a Nobody.  You see things that others don’t get to see.

For example, as a Nobody with No Money, I witnessed the gestation and birth of the volunteer program for the Symposium.  Back in January, when I first learned of the national event from an ad in Tricycle magazine, I called up the ZP folks and said, “Hello!  I’m interested in socially engaged Buddhism, but I don’t have $600 for registration fees.  What can I do?”

Months later, after a few rounds of phone tag (and the beginning of a friendship with fellow young’un and ZP Media Master Ari Pliskin), a Volunteer Application Page was added to the website.  Something like 40 people applied to fill 15 slots.  And sure enough, the 15 of us who would show up a day early and work the whole week had two things in common.

We were broke, and we were Nobodies.

Except, instead of being Nobodies, we were now Volunteers.  A select team.

Volunteers Seth Josephson, Ashley Berry, and Jane Gish take a sunrise trip to the Peace Pagoda

And we had fun!  We stayed in the beautiful ZP farmhouse — beneficiaries of amazing hospitality and generosity from the residents.  We joked and collaborated and griped and ate together, bonding over tasks and talks.  We even went on group field trips, a couple nights and dawntime mornings.  Truly, the Volunteers were a vibrant, splendid bunch, with stellar direction from a pair of unpaid volunteer coordinators, who as far as I’m concerned accomplished the work of five people between the two of them.

And like paying participants, we got to hear and join in the week’s rich conversations, beautifully facilitated and well-crafted (if a little heavy on the lecture-vibe for my tastes).  We asked questions, mingled, savored those jolts of mutual recognition with kindred spirits.  We also got to discuss with some of our dharma heroes.  For me that included Roshi Joan Halifax, Jan Willis, David Loy, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Alan Seunake (who I already knew from the Bay Area), Matthieu Ricard, and Frank Ostaseski.

Still, unlike participants, and unlike presenters, we were Volunteers.

Volunteer and founder of Boston Dharma Punks, Sean Bowers, listens to a talk from just outside the door

Part of being Volunteers meant a waived registration fee, with all our meals and lodging covered.  Everyone felt extremely grateful to the Zen Peacemakers for welcoming us so fully into the household.

But another part of being Volunteers meant taking on responsibilities that prevented us from participating on an equal basis in the week’s events.

Frequently we had to leave presentations early in order to go work a shift.

Occasionally we missed entire morning programs, assembling bag lunches in the caterer’s basement restaurant in nearby Amherst.

Because of a Volunteers meeting, a few of us got pulled out early from the breakout discussion group on Diversity: the sole mini-program, out of a whole 6 days, dedicated to race and all other types of demographic categories.  As a Nobody among Nobodies (I may very well have been the only person of color under 30 years old, out of a conference of hundreds), in that moment I felt particularly lonely.

And finally, being a Volunteer meant having a green-colored nametag for the week.  Participants had white nametags and presenters had blue ones.

But while everyone else had their first and last names (helpful for recognition and networking purposes), ours had only our first names.  Melissa.  Karen.  Sean.  Kyeongil.

(Weeks later, when I told my dad about the Volunteers’ nametags, he said to me, “And I’ll bet you took a marker and wrote in your last name yourself.”  Knows me well, that man!)

Now, I really don’t want to paint a negative picture of this tremendous event.  And I don’t want to give a false impression: in my human-to-human experiences, no one ever treated me as less-than.  On the contrary, it was one of the warmest, most jovial conferences I’ve ever attended.  I left feeling inspired to organize a radical sangha in my own community, to collaborate with existing groups in the Bay Area, and to keep up the work of socially engaged dharma with renewed vigor.

In the Zen Peacemakers farmhouse

But the nametag thing, inconsequential though it might seem, really underscored for me the subtle class hierarchy between workers (Volunteers) and participants.  My goodness!  If, consciously or unconsciously, we continue to reproduce class divisions and mental/manual labor splits in the name of advancing “Socially Engaged Buddhism,” then it’s almost certainly a doomed movement.

I understand the need to raise funds.  I do.  But fundraising, while vital to movement building, must never be conflated with it.  As much as possible, especially in a Buddhist or dhammic context, we should endeavor to collect what’s needed by promoting dana (generosity), a sense of interdependence, and erosion of the economic and social hierarchies stratifying our society.

Across many different social change movements, this common problem emerges.  People with less material wealth automatically wind up washing dishes to ‘earn their place’ in the big annual strategy session.  Unfortunately, this is sloppy generosity, and serves no one.

At the same time, washing dishes together can be a great way of strengthening community and camaraderie!  Collective manual labor is indispensable to healthy movement activity.

Volunteer event photographer Clemens Breitschaft worked tirelessly! And brought smiles to everyone, too.

The issue isn’t the volunteer work itself, but whether or not it hinges on obligation — explicit or implicit.  There’s a big difference between (1) registering as an event volunteer in order to get in the door, and (2) entering like everyone else, and then signing up, along with anyone else who wishes, to do the work that needs to get done.

Furthermore, the work-exchange problem isn’t only a matter of economics, but diversity, too.

Volunteer Jane Gish expresses her 'social engagement'

Volunteer Kyeongil Jung reflects

Low-income people, the ones most likely to rely on work-exchanges, are disproportionately young, of-color, queer, criminalized, and marginalized.  If we want a diverse movement, we need to make sure everyone enters on as equal a basis as possible.

Many organizations inside and outside of Socially Engaged Buddhism are finding cool, creative ways of solving the money problem for giant gatherings.

Some run almost exclusively on dana (donations), or institute a very manageable sliding-scale fee.  Others charge for tickets while encouraging all buyers to purchase an extra for someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.  Donations (of food, lodging, advertising space) often play a key role.

As Larry Yang of the East Bay Meditation Center says of its dana-based system, the basis is not an economy of exchange.  It’s an economy of gift.  And what a treasured legacy, passed down through various lineages, spiritual and otherwise.

ZP founder Bernie Glassman honors U.S. Socially Engaged Buddhists

Would it really be feasible to host an event as large and snazzy as the Symposium using dana or suggested donations alone?  Honestly, I don’t know.  Maybe we’d need to give up some of the scope and the snazz for the sake of inclusivity and fairness.  My hope is that last month’s event will act as a jump-starter for higher sustained levels of regional collaboration among socially engaged and politically active dhamma practitioners.

Mayumi Oda with one of her gorgeous thangkas in the background. Image by Dennis A. Landi

And maybe the next time we get together on a national level, our enthusiasm, commitment, resourcefulness and generosity will generate a door large enough for everyone to enter as guests; not customers.

In the exquisite Zen Peacemaker spirit of bearing witness, not-knowing, and compassionate action, I believe we can learn from the worldly divides between haves and have-nots, investigate our own blind spots, and skillfully improve on eradicating these hierarchies — the echoes of capitalism — within our own organizations and initiatives.  Our means and our ends can better align.

Together, we can move from Nobodies and Somebodies toward Anybody and Everybody.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2010 2:22 am

    Thank you, Katie Loncke, for giving us our names back! :D And thank you for your thoughts!!

    I try to put down some too: There are, of course, also other sides on that: Being just »Clemens Photographer« or »Clemens« takes helpfully away all the stuff I represent or »should« represent at other times… – »Hi, I’m a function« helps as a shortcut. That’s for my nametag…

    In that logic, all ours should have probably been like »Katie Dinnersupervisor«, »Kyeongil Dishwasher«, »Sean Water Carrier«… – or, as we changed all the time our functions (except me) – »xy Volunteer«… – it can help to see for participants (i got more from »them« than being consumers!) who’s more in a this or that function (to help out).

    Of course, nobody wants to be reduced to something.. – but aren’t we always a kind of reductions of something, just because all is functions too? Being all (or at least a lot more) and being seen as this – in a reduction?!

    …the idea to open all these kind of functions to all participants? I would love that! But it probably would become really another kind of Symposium..

    But you’re »right« – it can also be seen as a – for sure! non-intended – mistake of taking away or reducing. As I happen to know, Laurie Smith did EVERYTHING for the symposium, she did a huge job on that. In my sense, little mistakes like that – she was probably asking Karen Idoine and Karen Brandow how to do it – can happen… – what I don’t like: The critic goes directly to the one who did so much work and had to think of everything…!

    Then another thing: It can also become quite complicated: What should it say on my nametag: Clemens Breitschaft? Or Clemens M. Breitschaft – or with my full middle name: Clemens Matthias Breitschaft? Or just my Dharmaname, Daishin? Or all together – Clemens Matthias Daishin Breitschaft? Or including my function? :D – Kinda weird, no?

    »Hej, call me whatever you want and see me as a function. And if you consider your intentions or REALITY while doing that, you’re practicing…« ;o)

    But I know, now, I’m a bit going on the other side of your perspective above…

    The other thing is the money thing: This extraordinary building and the organization of all this needs for sure a HUGE amount of money, I doubt that you can do it with Dana. I even think, it should have costed MUCH MORE for all the needs a big organization like the Zen Peacemakers is generating and has generated. The restoration of the HOOP, the whole campus (planned to have other houses), people working, … – lots of money needed too! That’s why I decided to make little albums and to offer them as a little donationteaser for the ZPM.

    I heard that one of the idea was indeed to bring this people together to generate more and empower locally and nationally and internationally projects and DO something – as Socially Engaged Buddhism becomes more and more a movement. So probably, something like this won’t be repeated. But I hope it will!

    And then: Probably it would have been nice to ask Laurie Smith if she could have changed the nametags… – I’m pretty sure she would have done that… ;o)

    Sure, not everyone has the same perspectives (isn’t that cool?!), and there is no »they«. Hej, let’s bring all our voices in! In Doing, in functioning. And malfunctioning is for me a part of functioning too: It’s less good to no to do then to do in a bad way – with intentions of learning, practice.

    Good to reflect. Thank you. I hope it makes sense.
    Love
    c:

  2. nathan permalink
    September 11, 2010 11:16 am

    First off, Katie – this is a wonderful reflection. I think you should send it to the Zen Peacemakers because it does a great job of honoring the event, but also looking at what might have been missed. I have to say that the $600 turned me off, and by the time I saw your post about volunteering, it was too late for me to go. People with means seem to forget that it’s $600 + airfare and/or whatever transportation is needed (and that’s assuming meals and housing are covered, which was the case for the Symposium for you all, but that’s a rarity for these kinds of events.) Point being – it’s a lot of money to find for us low income folks.

    Speaking of money: “The other thing is the money thing: This extraordinary building and the organization of all this needs for sure a HUGE amount of money, I doubt that you can do it with Dana. I even think, it should have costed MUCH MORE for all the needs a big organization like the Zen Peacemakers is generating and has generated.”

    There’s something a little too “American” about this answer. Sorry if that offends, but I think what you are saying reflects the “Big Big Big” that often seems to derail social change in the U.S. We build huge organizations that require large amounts of funding to support infrastructures that are, in part, extraneous. And then, because we have these huge organizations that require tons of money, we hold extravagant events that cost so much to attend that many of the very people most impacted by the issues being addressed can’t even get in the door. So, from the beginning, there is often a proxy representation that occurs, whereby people with economic means are the ones who get to decide what’s important, and then has the power (maintains the power) to influence through crafting the message, providing the funding, and getting praised for their “good works.” (Man this sounds cynical, but good luck trying to find examples to help disprove it.)

    What I find interesting about this particular event is that from what I’ve been reading, the Peacemakers are trying to spread themselves out more, to create smaller entities (Peacemaker Houses) that aren’t completely independent, but certainly are supposed to function in a way that is fairly self sustainable. In this sense, I think the “big” organization is actually making some moves that help break down these class based issues. They seem to “get it” on some level that one big organization really isn’t the way to spread the energy and action of grassroots social change.

    Clemens, I will agree with you that in this society, doing anything on dana is currently really challenging. It’s possible though. There are Buddhist groups doing their work on mostly or even solely a dana basis. Part of the problem, I think, is the view that dana = money. We need a much, much broader view of dana, one that is easily found in Buddhist teachings, but which gets lost in the capitalist sea we’re floating in. “Economy of gift” is definitely a good place to start, since “gift” immediately expands the possibilities.

    Here are a few questions to consider – what can giant gatherings accomplish? when are they the best response? and what do participants do following the giant event?

    I’m from St. Paul, MN. We have a lot of Buddhist centers of different stripes here in the Twin Cities. In other words, there was the potential to have had a decent sized contingent of people go to the Symposium, work together there, and then come back and spread the work into our community. However, I have no idea if anyone from around here even went. I’m almost certain no one from my own sangha went, and we are the largest one in the state. When I contemplated going on my own, I wondered of what purpose it would have been. Do I come back a lone wolf with the responsibility to rev up my community and other sanghas? Do I go for some intellectual stimulation? For a nice vacation? Honestly, I’m a go getter when I need to be. I’ve led lobbying efforts, organized speaking events, started a non-profit, been a board chair – but in all those cases, I had plenty of wonderful people I knew along side of me.

    So, the thing about big events in a single location is that I’m often wondering what purpose they have beyond making a splash so to speak. I can imagine there were groups of people from certain locales that got together at the Symposium and were able to start building, or enhance what they were doing. But was this deliberate (i.e. did these folks plan to come and work together) or was it by chance? And if by chance, if the majority of the Symposium was lecture-based, what are the odds that people from the same locales would have the time/space to collaborate? Or begin collaborating?

    (Gosh, I’m sounding critical now.) I actually had a desire to go to the Symposium, but couldn’t figure out why I’d be going, why I’d spend the money to go, and then wondered if I’d come back with a lot of wonderful ideas that would just sit within me, stewing. And I’ve experienced enough of this over the years of getting revved up and excited at conference X, only to return and find that there were maybe a handful of people who could relate to whatever issues I brought up and that they needed me to be both the issues educator and leader – in other words, I’ve found that these kinds of events can lead to burnout if there aren’t enough initial players involved to spread the work out from the beginning.

    Katie, I’m really so happy you’ve been able to get a group of folks together so quickly to begin a radical sangha. I don’t know if the same would be true here in “liberal” but not progressive Minnesota, where the vast majority of convert practitioners are white, middle and upper class Democrats. Several years ago, a few of us from two sanghas tried to revive the local Buddhist Peace Fellowship group. We just didn’t have enough people interested, even though it was the worst period of the Bush Era. A lot of “politics and Zen” shouldn’t mix kind of comments. I just think there are a lot of obstacles, and it’s really important that we all think about those obstacles when putting together future events and actions.

    Even though this might sound like a condemnation of the Symposium, but it isn’t. Everyone I have seen who has written about it has been excited about what happened. And I’m sure it has spawned some new work, actions, and collaborations – simply by getting all those folks in the same place together. In addition, it’s existence offers the rest of us an opportunity to consider what could come next, which is valuable.

  3. September 11, 2010 1:41 pm

    Thank you, Katie. I will add my own reflections to this in time. I did really hate to leave that discussion on Race and Diversity. I think it is always important to think critically about our events and efforts, to think about how the practicalities involved in carrying them out either reflected our beliefs or didn’t reflect as well as they could have – did we reach everyone we wanted to reach – did we meet our goals – how much did our goals reflect our beliefs and true purpose – how has everything grown so that next time things will be a little different? I think this is a valuable process and I thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am at the Zen House this weekend, so this is particularly valuable to me today. Miss you!

  4. Elizabeth Halloran permalink
    September 11, 2010 3:16 pm

    Thank you, thank you…

    I can breathe now.

    Much metta,

    ~ Elizabeth

  5. September 11, 2010 10:45 pm

    Hey everyone, thank you so much for sharing your views — I’m looking forward to sitting down and really absorbing them soon, but I found out today that my dad is in the hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit, so I’m kind of running around and I’ll be spending a lot of time with him in the next week.

    Thanks again for your patience and kindness; and please feel welcome to keep the conversation flowing with each other in my absence.

  6. September 12, 2010 3:14 am

    All the best!! Love, Clemens

  7. nathan permalink
    September 12, 2010 6:11 am

    Best wishes to your dad and your family. May he be healed and may you all be well together.

    Peace. Nathan

  8. Elizabeth Halloran permalink
    September 12, 2010 11:00 am

    Be in healing.

  9. September 13, 2010 10:14 am

    Thank you for this post, Katie. Metta for you and your father.

    This is also a reminder about how much I love the all-dana EBMC.

    And, along the lines of some other comments, when you ask, “Would it really be feasible to host an event as large and snazzy as the Symposium using dana or suggested donations alone,” part of me wants to ask back: Do we want/need events that are large and snazzy? Maybe lots more small events (with more Nobodies!) is actually preferable in some ways?

    Kudos to you for finding a way to go, and for being able to compassionately support the event while keeping some of the criticism on the front burner for them.

  10. September 13, 2010 6:18 pm

    Hi Katie,

    Thank you for another insightful, awesome post. I’ll share it with readers of The Jizo Chronicles, to round out the ‘coverage’ of the Symposium.

    And I’m sending lot of healing prayers for your dad… may you and your whole family be well…

    Maia

  11. September 16, 2010 2:32 pm

    Hi Katie. It was really nice to meet you at the symposium. Hope your dad is recovering well.

    You were quite elegantly visible to me! May be I was trying to look for people who look like me. I did not use my regular name tag till later part of second day because I simply forgot to open my registration packet. And that is when I noticed some select people had special official green tags with first name printed! As a participant I felt a little low class and less visible for a tiny few seconds :-)

    I remember when I was about your age I got quite angry over a name tag in my spouse’s Corporate X’mas party! All the accompanying guests cum drivers were given a narrow invisible wrist band unlike the employees who got nice sassy printed pin-up very visible name tags. I wrote a testy anonymous letter to the CEO about their lack of respect and sensibility towards the guest drivers, mostly women of course (the manual mental and gender thing perhaps). Apparently some did not see any problem with that, but the company listened and gave an option of choice of name tags.

    Loved the symposium overall, the warmth and human connection I felt with everyone on or off the podium and the generosity of the volunteers. May be we are getting enlightenbed bit by bit after all. You are the only person who stood up and kind of vaildated me when I spoke somewhat emotionally ( as my friend Nina Spero nudged me to stand up) about the need for system change aka Capitalism…this is something that was not addressed in the symposium. Two days during lunch several of us got together to discuss it and I am yet to hear from the young woman who gathered us together.

    For socially engaged Buddhists how does all these tie into with the practice of no-self, impermanence, compassionate wise action and saving all suffering sentient beings?
    I am chugging along the middle way of passion and dispassion like a choo-choo train in Chattanooga as far as the experiment in Deep Conscious Capitalism goes. Come on all aboard happy!!!

    Peace
    http://conscious-capitalism.blogspot.com

  12. September 17, 2010 6:32 pm

    Hey all, just want to check in and bounce around with your great responses a little. (And say thanks for the well-wishes for my dad!)

    Clemens, I really hear you on the enormity of Laurie’s workload! And I in no way blame her for the way the nametags were printed. The way it happened was that Karen I. wrote all of our names down and gave that list to Laurie. And actually, when I realized that she was only taking down our first names, I immediately asked her to include my last name. Since it was the very first day with all of us together, though, she mixed me up with Jane! So Jane was the only volunteer with her first and last name printed. :)

    My point is that I really appreciate everyone’s efforts and extraordinary levels of work on all the logistics, big and small, of the symposium. And it’s not my intention to talk behind people’s backs or anything. Rather than complaining about a mistake, I was more using the nametag example as something I saw as a symptom of the underlying class hierarchies. Those underlying hierarchies are material, based in the difference of who can afford to come as a participant and who can’t. But the ways they get manifested culturally (regardless of who’s the one printing the nametags) can be telling. Superficial, but telling. Does that make sense?

    nathan, it’s so apt that you mention the burnout problem, because I’m experiencing exactly that right now! I came back from the East Coast with all these ideas and all this enthusiasm….and after a few weeks of going full-blast, I’m pretty frickin’ exhausted. So it’s heartening to hear you normalizing that post-conference phenomenon. And yes, I’m very lucky to know other people around here who are also on the same page, so these ideas can start to gather momentum on their own.

    Kye, your presence was so incredibly meaningful and inspiring to me, and I am always eager to hear more of your thoughts! Hope you’re enjoying the beginning of the school year. I miss you, too, and hope you might be able to take a school vacation in California sometime. :)

    Mita, I really enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your projects. The material-psychological connections within capitalism are so complex and interesting, and I’m glad you’ve found a way of channeling your passion into this nexus. Looking forward to learning more.

    Maia, jeffliveshere, and Elizabeth, thank you for your presence here! Hope you are well. And jeffliveshere, I hope we get to collaborate locally sometime.

    love,

    katie

  13. September 29, 2010 12:41 pm

    Thank you, Katie, for a well-written, insightful, and compassionate constructive critique. Thank you, everyone, for the rich dialogue.

    I wasn’t at this event, and as a lower-income person I wouldn’t prioritize the funds I have to go, although I’m very grateful it happened. Exactly because of the structural critique that Katie has done here, I personally would be interested only in a socially engaged Buddhist conference that was structured from the beginning to bring in a group of people who are diverse in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, class, Buddhist lineage (an often overlooked diversity dimension in U.S.-based SEB efforts), and ability. There would need to be a structure in which the playing field was leveled as much as possible, so to speak — with everyone having the same kind of name tags, and all of the participants participating in things like food prep, cleanup, etc. so that everyone might have the experience of having to potentially miss a conference activity in which they were interested, and everyone having a little more time to attend more activities in which they were interested. This could lead to more structural awareness of how everyone’s needs could be accommodate in an equal way. For instance, if one person had to leave a session early to work in the kitchen, another person could volunteer to be that person’s buddy and to share their notes at the meal afterward and fill the first person in on what they missed. Having to miss sessions or parts of sessions in order to do work that supports the conference’s functions would therefore not be linked to whether or not a person was on a work/study scholarship.

  14. October 2, 2010 12:12 am

    Hi Mushim, thank you for your contributions! The structural setups you describe sound great to me. I’d love to participate in a conference like that!

    The way you describe the sharing of responsibilities and accommodating of needs reminds me of a story. In my sophomore year of college, I was co-organizing a conference on feminism with two of my friends. We worked hard for the better part of a year to build it, and as the date drew near we arrived at the postering/flyering/publicity phase. Each discussion facilitator for the conference (I think there were about 10: also friends of ours) received a stack of flyers and a t-shirt, and were asked to distribute the flyers in their dormitory. One of the facilitators was my boyfriend of the time — a very smart and politically active upperclassman. But when I delivered his shirt and stack of flyers, he said to me, “I put in my dues as a freshman. I don’t do flyering anymore.”

    I was astonished, hurt, and furious. Didn’t he care about me? Didn’t he care about the conference, and want it to succeed? How could he consider himself ‘above’ a task that I, one of the spearheaders of the whole event, was also doing myself?

    Eventually we talked through it, and it turned out he was feeling hurt and overwhelmed, too: by the fact that flyering would take time away from his senior thesis, which was stressful, and by the way I had expected him, rather than asked him, to carry out the task.

    But my point is, the systemic manual labor allocation of any event has a serious impact on the emotional life and well-being of the participants. I think it’s crucial to keep this in mind. Again, I think the kind of structure you outline would promote a wonderful culture of equality, mutual respect, consideration, generosity, and co-operation.

    Thanks again, and I hope to see you soon!

  15. Sean "Dharma Hooligan" Bowers permalink
    December 11, 2010 12:08 pm

    Katie,
    Meeting and talking with you was an amazing experience. You challenged me to question my perceptions. We still may not agree on some stuff, but that gift of further questioning things I will cherish always. I meant to get at this, so I put it in my favorites. Everything was hectic after the symposium, with the move, and the break up between me and my girlfriend at the time. Since being back in Portland, it has been go, go, go. Looking for work, getting work, waiting to start, being denied the the job due to criminal history, getting involved with local 12 Step groups, starting new 12 Step groups, getting involved with the Dharma Punx group, getting involved with the local White Plum group, blah blah blah. Anyway, just as of late (like in the last two days) I have made a decision to not associate with any Buddhist group, or practice, that even mentions money. I have been ignored by Dharma Punx author and Buddhist teacher, Noah Levine, when I asked if there were scholarships to his facilitator/teacher training. I was asked to pay membership dues to a local sitting group, and when I told them that i don’t have any money, I was told I could come sit, but I couldn’t take precepts. So in the wake of that, I decided to go through my bookmarks and finally got a chance to read your article. Almost paralell to my current misgivings. Anyway, I have to cut this short. Keep up the good fight.

  16. December 20, 2010 9:12 pm

    Sean! I’m so happy to hear from you! You were such an inspiration to me, too. Integrating the dharma into life in a super real way. And it sounds like you’ve been super busy this year. Bushwhacking your own path; can’t say I’m surprised. ;)

    Yeah, feeling you on the money issue. That sounds really frustrating and disappointing, with Noah and the local sitting group. For me it’s one of those things where I feel even more grateful to have encountered places that are really solid on the dana/money stuff, so that I don’t have to just accept it when other orgs say, “That’s just the way it is; it’s financially impossible to do this another way.” Meanwhile, you and me and lots of others can just continue making our way. More folks might come around eventually.

    Sending you so much love and many hugs. Your sister in struggle,

    katie

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