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"I don't want to dance if there isn't a revolution."

Derrick Jensen did a quick spin on Emma Goldman's " I don't want your revolution if I can't dance." 

We saw him speak in Berkley:

"By now we all know the statistics and trends: 90 percent of the large
fish in the oceans are gone, there is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in the oceans, 97 percent of native forests are destroyed, 98
percent of native grasslands are destroyed, amphibian populations are
collapsing, migratory songbird populations are collapsing, mollusk
populations are collapsing, fish populations are collapsing, and so on.
Two hundred species are driven extinct each and every day. If we don’t
know those statistics and trends, we should." 

I woke up this morning, my blog writing morning, and had two dreadful feelings:

 1. I didn't feel I had anything to write about.

2. I didn't call my fathers yesterday because I was in the San Joaquin valley from 9am to 9pm, looking at farmland using stolen water (water that did not fall on that ground and was pumped from the delta, channeled, imprisoned and used to irrigate...corn?) Acres and acres, rows straighter than the horizon, and not one weed in that dark, poisoned soil. 

And this is to say that I've been holding out on folks that read this blog; I also don't want to dance unless there is a revolution. I was out looking at the dance floor yesterday.

I don't want to dance unless we can stop killing our planet, end patriarchy, and dismantle capitalism. 

I don't see these issues as separate. There's someone at the top, someone to step and stand on, and the planet underneath it all, stomped to mudholes.  This conventional truth is not separate from universal truth. Samsara is an illusion but karma is relentless.

I do wonder if this is "political" or "radical"  and if I can be available to all beings and still feel the way I feel. 

This brings to mind the image of a massive fire, which Tenshin Reb Anderson likens to Camu's philosophical question of suicide as the only real question, and that touching and turning away are both wrong. The Buddha saw the caste system; I see Derrick's quote above.

The way is not political or radical, but it is in solidarity with all beings. I fear violence, but touching or turning away could lead to its support- If I don't support the resistance out of fear of our precepts, I may be supporting the other side of that resistance, which knowingly kills in ten directions, every day. We don't want to pick sides, but I think we are always on some side, whether we want to be or not. Our hands are covered in blood, whether we want them to be or not, every time we get in a car or even eat a piece of nitrogen hungry organic lettuce. 

What is most controversial is that I don't think people will stop killing the planet, patriarchy will end, or capitalism will fall without an armed resistance.  As a Buddhist, as a person training to become a priest, I know this is a red flag for most.  I'm looking at this red flag. I don't think it is what I think it is. 

What do you see?

How do we walk through life upright with joy and enthusiasm and compassion?

I need to call my fathers.


  1. I see an incredibly successful species dominating the biosphere for a time. I think we'll most likely destroy our planet as we know it and then, at some point, die off. If we're to accept our own personal death why not accept the death of our species or planet? If the sound of murder and birth and laughter are all breath, if everything is change, then our speck of dust in the cosmos is just matter and energy cycling along.

    7 billion is too many. We are too complacent to change.

    It brings me to my knees, but that's what I see.

  2. The the use of arms; resistance; scarcity; competition are precisely patriarchal. Break out of the mind prison of such dynamics.
    You said Angulimala was why you are all in, why do we hear from him now?
    Hope is a true dharma armament, do not misplace it.
    Your last question is the important one.

  3. There are Nat Turners, Henry David Thoreaus, and Harriet Tubmans.

    Harriet Tubman carried a gun. An armed Underground Railroad was a train that could keep moving. An armed resistance is one with teeth; having teeth is different from using teeth indiscriminately. The analogy to Angulimala is a gross misuse of the Buddhist cannon.

    The use of arms as patriarchal could be offensive, as if it's not something a lady should do. Scarcity and competition result from a system being exhausted by patriarchs, not because they think they are patriarchs.

    Have you seen a mother lion?

    Mind prison is this: pacify all those at the bottom, even better, get them to pacify each other. I'm not going to bare arms; I'm not Nat Turner or Harriet Tubman; I do aspire to be a Thoreau, who fed and hid run away slaves.

    Angulimala was a murderer. The Buddha didn't invite every murderer to join the sangha. Once, as a captain on a ship he read the mind of one person who had the plan of sinking the ship and killing 500 people. The Buddha sunk an axe in his head. He saved 500 people and the man from his own karma. Some teachers believe that no karma resulted from this action.

    These precepts are not something to hide behind. There is universal truth and conventional truth and a line to walk. We're here to take care of what's around us.

    1. I'm not qualified to argue canon. But I have put in a few decades in social change work -- including environment -- and have been down this mental road you've outlined more than a few times during that period.

      Please recognize that I would not even comment if I didn't care for you and the path you are pursuing. And the passionate attention with which you are pursuing it.

      Angulimala -- to me-- is the mind that would consider killing as an option.

      There is enough for everyone, even now. Patriarchy and capitalism create scarcity and competition as overarching reality boundaries, augmented by concepts such as private property, individual wealth, corporate personhood.... Yes, those operating metaphors are now creating actual scarcity, but I think you are focusing on the results instead of the causes. May be irrelevant but that was the point I was attempting to make.

      As for armed resistence, you have several points about Thoreau and Tubman. But I don't see folks like the Dalai Lama nor Bukkhu Bodhi nor generations of other learned and deeply accomplished Buddhist practitioners advocating anything like what you've outlined.

      Your original post above struck me as the thoughts of someone who was losing hope -- if I was incorrect then my apologies. That may just have been my projection.

      As a side note, I buy the story that Buddha killed the boatman no more than I buy the story that Jesus walked on water. These are teaching stories or amplifications added by later writers in my view. But even if it were true, then it might allow an armed resistence of perfect Buddhas, but as for the rest of us?

      I still think your last question is the most important one.


    2. It seems you have bought the story of Angulimala. How do we choose which stories are worth selling again and which ones aren't?

      In reference to the reality of war, the Dalai Lama writes:

      "I want to make it clear, however, that although I am deeply opposed to war, I am not advocating appeasement. It is often necessary to take a strong stand to counter unjust aggression. For instance, it is plain to all of us that the Second World War was entirely justified. It "saved civilization" from the tyranny of Nazi Germany, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it."

      I agree with the Dalai Lama whole heartedly. Please see the quote from the post above to witness the "aggression" towards this planet.

      I have other things to offer for your response, other blind spots I'd like to address. However, I'm not sure you really want to debate.

      I accept your apology; hope is not something I've lost, as it's not something I practice; where are our instructions to hope?


    3. Touche on Angulimala.

      How I choose which teaching stories work for me depends on which resonate. Upon review I have already stated why applying the Boatman story in this context doesn't work for me but that's me and this is your blog.

      I no longer understand though what you meant when you said Angulimala is why you are all in. Perhaps I didn't understand in the first place.

      You're right, not seeking debate. But I'm glad to have this conversation. LIke I said, I'm not qualified to debate canon, layperson here.

      I was attempting to offer some thoughts from my own experience in social change and environment, and offer encouragement, while disagreeing with your conclusion, and asking you to consider another angle from which to view the landscape. I guess we've established you weren't seeking or needing such.

      So as I reread all of the above, I will just say I don't believe armed resistence would be effective in the context you propose in part because the entire system, from my perspective, is configured -- highly refined at this point -- to respond to exactly that. That approach is responding within the context in its home territory, its comfort zone, in its own vocabulary, as opposed to changing the context itself, or any other transformative approach one might attempt to bring to bear.

      And my understanding of the bodhisattvas is that they go down into the valley of swords and bring what peace they can. I used to meditate nightly on Tich Quang Duc, just trying to understand.

      The HHDL quote above is news to me, so it will take a while to absorb. Sort of like when I found out he ate meat.

      I don't know where I read it or heard in a Teisho, regarding Buddhism never asking us to Believe, or to have Faith, but that hope is something we should not lose track of. That one resonated, so it stuck. If I ever find the source I'll pop it in here.

      Again, everything offered here I offer in care.

      Bowing right back to you,

    4. I think "Armed" needs to be redefined. When I mention this, people see bullets flying, and that's not what I mean.

      I mean we are not doormats and the land base we love is not available for destruction.

      I offer this in care, too. I think twice about having children because I'm not sure what will be left of this planet for them. And I'm sure that dominant culture will exhaust our resources until population is at 10 billion and humans survive off of genetically engineered algae, sucked through straws.

      On my last post, you mentioned global issues were new for us. In a text from 1896, called Return to Nature, Adolph Just and Benedict Lust wrote about changing atmospheric conditions and climate- not that it was going to happen, but that it was happening. So, I am in solidarity with all those who came before me and struggled to make change, but did lay down a foundation for awareness. However, as time passes, more and more is destroyed, which I think is different from impermanence. It's more like opening the cupboard and smashing plates.

      Finally, thank you for enduring my environmental rabies. The above post was the result of going on a field trip to the central valley, where water is stolen, trapped, and fed to mono-cropped, petrochemically fertilized fields. Heartbreaking, as my mind returns to future children.

      I'm all in because of Angulimala because you're right, I might be Angulimala.

      Tired bow,


    5. Thanks for the above. I've toured that region, though at the time the focus was on farmworker safety (lack thereof).

      Yes, children. Having had two ourselves, all those considerations you raise are very present for me.

      Peace to you. And again thank you for the conversation, who you are in the world, and what you are doing.

  4. Thank you Pigasus for sharing your thoughts with us. I feel honored that you trust our ears and hearts to listen. Many of us are too scared to honestly explore the darkest caverns of our minds.

    Touching and turning away are both wrong. In this case I'm not sure what touching looks like but I know that turning away looks like dismissal and condescendingly sharing your opinion as truth. Which is often what I hear from folks in response to difficult topics.

    Kate I totally ring in true with you. I am on my knees. I may be a pacifist but it is not because I am Buddhist. As a younger person I learned about the Holocaust and even then I asked over and over why did we not get involved earlier. Why didn't we try harder to stop the merciless killing of millions of people. Did I ever think that we could have stopped that train without an armed resistance? I don't really think so. Do I think that slave rebellions should or could have occurred without arms? No.

    Accepting impermanence is part of life but it doesn't mean we do nothing. I love the story you mentioned above and the Buddha on a boat. I love it not because it answers any big questions about karma but because it makes me think. Makes me think about what is life, what is murder and death and killing? Are they all the same? How do we save all beings? Many many ways. And just as we accept the inevitable death of all living things maybe we accept the infinite ways people try to save them....

    And finally, I have many different dances. All of them interpretive.

  5. Side note, maybe my above feelings make me not a pacifist and thats ok too :-)


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