November 14, 2011

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

If you are a Yoga Teacher please sign on to support: www.occupysamsara.org

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 confront 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.

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
Adam Lobel, Acharya
Anne Cushman
Ari Pliskin
Cyndi Lee
David Nichtern
Dr. Gaylon Ferguson, Acharya
Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown, Acharya
Dr. Robert Thurman
Eihei Peter Levitt
Koshin Paley Ellison
Maia Duerr
Rev. angel Kyodo williams
Robert Chodo Campbell
Roshi Joan Halifax
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’hara
Sarah Powers
Sarah Weintraub
Sean Corne
Susan Piver
Tara Brach
Ted Grand
Testu’un David Loy
Trudy Goodman
Ty Powers
Zoketsu Norman Fischer

If you are a Yoga Teacher please sign on to support: www.occupysamsara.org


Dear Friends, our letter is published initially. Please help spread the word to your friends and communities if you are so inspired.

Links below. Apparently it’s on the front page of Huffington Post right now!

I hope you enjoy tweeting and so on as much as I do! :~)

In the vision of a more compassionate world,


Tweetable (and Facebook-able) Shortened link to the Huffington Post version of the letter on my blog:


Link to Shambhala Sun coverage of letter:

Link to send teachers and leaders of Buddhist/Meditation/Yoga communities who’d like to sign on (we will shortly start directing everyone there):


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