Practice Guides June 1, 2021

Interdependence & Engagement

Just as we never master the practices of meditation and lovingkindness, but always find that there’s more to experience, more to learn, and more to awaken to, the practice of waking up to the conditions that shape our world is ongoing. The study of history, focusing on social justice and the practice of collective action that expresses compassion for the suffering of the world, can be thought of in Buddhist terms as the study of conditionality. The Buddha described conditionality as that which connects any situation or experience with what happens next.

When this exists, that is; due to the arising of this, that arises.
When this doesn’t exist, that is not; due to the cessation of this, that ceases.

(SN 12.21)

This teaching points to how everything we experience arises from actions in the past and their results in the present, and how our actions in the present become the conditions for the future. We understand conditionality to be both one of the most central teachings of the Buddha and a powerful lens through which to understand the relationship between the Dharma and social action.

The painful impacts of past actions such as those that fueled colonialism, slavery, Indigenous genocide, and environmental devastation are still resonating throughout the world. Unless both individuals and communities understand their relationship to those conditions, and work to change the social structures that perpetuate oppression, the nature of conditionality is that the harm is bound to continue.

This page offers a selection of resources that bring together Buddhist and social justice practice, both from within Buddhist communities, and from teachers and groups we find resonant with the core values of the Dharma. These lists are truly just a beginning. In this time of global crisis, we offer them in support of an equitable and reparative spiritual community, and toward the cultivation of wise action. May our practice and study be for the benefit of all.

The ‘system’ gains more momentum when we decide we don’t want to deal with it, that things are hopeless. With social action work, we have to be patient, discerning, equanimous. We have to be willing to try and to fail. We have to recognize that sometimes things will work and sometimes they won’t. And that they always work out in ways we may never have conceived.

Ajahn Pasanno, The Dhamma and the Real World

Buddhist Organizations Focused on Social Action

East Bay Meditation Center (Oakland, CA), founded by Spirit Rock teachers Larry Yang, Spring Washam, and others.

Buddhist Peace Fellowship (Oakland, CA), founded by Robert Aitken, Roshi, with engaged Buddhists from Zen and other lineages.

Sacred Mountain Sangha (Sebastopol, CA), founded by Spirit Rock teachers Thanissara and Kitissaro.

One Earth Sangha (virtual), founded by Spirit Rock CDL graduate Kristin Barker, with several Spirit Rock teachers including James Baraz, Mark Coleman, Kaira Jewel Lingo, and Susie Harrington.