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April 24, 2022

Why local Boulder Buddhist Wynn Bruce burned himself to death in front of the Supreme Court yesterday.

We can debate ethics of burning oneself to death, but we can’t debate climate change, or the urgency of awakening to it, or the effectiveness of local Boulder Buddhist Wynn’s heartbreaking protest in front of the Supreme Court yesterday.

We know Wynn Bruce, the gentle-man who burned himself to death in front of the Supreme Court yesterday. He’s a local Boulderite, a Buddhist, a gentle presence in this town.

Well, he was.

His action reminds me of the quote “riot is the language of the unheard” (MLK). Climate crisis will kill many millions/billions of sentient beings, and we are not taking it seriously. Similar protests happened around the Vietnam War by Buddhist monks, and around the Free Tibet cause more recently throughout Tibet.

From Andrew Bear, on Facebook:

Yesterday, on Earth Day, a man named Wynn Alan Bruce set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court Building, in Washington DC. Those who knew Wynn describe him as very kind, someone who cared about the devastating suffering that climate change is bringing and will continue to bring with greater severity.

I did not know him personally. Friends of mine did know him. I do not know why he chose to do this. But I do want to share two things. First, I will share the words that Wynn posted on his Facebook site that express his faith in the Shambhala tradition of Buddhism. Second, as I thought of this when reflecting on Wynn’s action, I will share words of Thich Nhat Hanh about the monks and nuns who burned themselves in Vietnam.”

First, the words that Wynn shared on December 25, 2021:

I have lived in Boulder, CO since 2000. I share a few words from the spiritual tradition that I learned of here – Shambhala.

Now I awaken basic goodness in my heart.
I confidently awaken my innate qualities —
Goodness, wisdom, kindness and strength —
Within the sun of basic goodness.
Society is basically good.

May the basic goodness I discovered today continue to grow and grow. May its brilliant rays shine through my life. May this primordial truth, the inheritance of all humanity, be a brilliant torch to guide all beings. May the warm-heartedness, I have discovered, be a parasol to protect all beings. May the love that I have tasted be shared with the entire world.

May the courageousness of this moment never be forgotten. May there be harmony between biospheric family, friends and nations. May the Earth be healed. May the elements be balanced. May humanity have-peace. May enlightened society manifest on this Earth. May all see the Great Eastern Sun of Shambhala.

And here are the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“The press spoke then of suicide, but in the essence, it is not. It is not even a protest. What the monks said in the letters they left before burning themselves aimed only at alarming, at moving the hearts of the oppressors, and at calling the attention of the world to the suffering endured then by the Vietnamese. To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance…. The Vietnamese monk, by burning himself, says with all his strength and determination that he can endure the greatest of sufferings to protect his people…. To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, that is, to suffer and to die for the sake of one’s people. This is not suicide.”

A dialogue:
Charlie Walker
Horrible. We need to focus on solutions rather than partaking in more destruction.

Waylon: yes, but, and, reminds me of the quote “riot is the language of the unheard” (MLK). Climate crisis will kill many millions/billions of sentient beings, and we are not taking it seriously. Similar protests happened around the Vietnam War by Buddhist monks, and around the Free Tibet cause more recently throughout Tibet.

Charlie
Waylon Lewis riot is not on the same level as killing oneself. I don’t find the actions of killing oneself earnestly helpful to any cause.

Waylon:
I hear you but it can be the action of someone who loves and cares and wishes to protect and is desperate and unheard.

Charlie:
Waylon Lewis yes. But I feel it is desperation to the point of mental illness, and should not be applauded. I’m certain there are more effective ways to feel empowered.

Waylon Lewis
Charlie: I hear and agree with you, but think of those hopeless Tibetans or Vietnamese monks who view this as sacrifice, perhaps in the same way firefighters view endangering one’s life as an act of peaceful protection might view their path.

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