“Our Bodhisattva Vow promises that we will show up, over and over again, embracing right action and serving all beings. But this is not just an idea: it is a promise, a vow. We have no choice but to serve.” – Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara
Viewing Action as one of the indispensable Five Expressions of our practice, the Village Zendo has long participated in political actions as a sangha since its founding. We have marched against war, for gay rights, and we were leaders in AIDS activism. We have gathered for specific demonstrations around peace, climate change, racism, women’s rights and criminal justice.
Below we share some of the Village Zendo’s current Expressions of Action. We encourage you to join in, or to share your own with us on our community groups.io email list.
Sanghas Supporting Refugees
Beginning in the Spring of 2022 a group of Village Zendo members began organizing a project to sponsor and help resettle a refugee family in New York City. The group quickly expanded to include members of many New York area Sanghas as well as non-Buddhist volunteers. We are partnering with HIAS, an established refugee resettlement agency. Click here for additional information.
Dharma Song Zen Temple
In the Fall of 2004, the Village Zendo received a request from inmates at Sing Sing Correctional Facility for a teacher to come in and lead their Zen group. Answering that call, Roshi Ryotan Eiger has coordinated the Dharma Song Zen Temple, our sangha at Sing Sing, since early 2005. Every Sunday, teachers and students from the Village Zendo travel to Ossining, New York to meditate with our dharma siblings who are incarcerated there. Thanks to the efforts of this rotating team of volunteers, our sangha’s practice at Dharma Song continues to flow like the Hudson just beyond its walls. For additional information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sing Sing program is still paused due to COVID.
VZ NYC Jails Program
In the Winter of 2019, the Village Zendo was approached by the New York City Department of Corrections (NYC DOC) to meet with inmates who requested Buddhist services. As a natural extension of our work at Dharma Song Temple, this request led to the creation of the VZ NYC Jails Program. This program currently serves inmates at the Manhattan Detention Complex each month, with the aspiration to expand to other NYC Department of Corrections facilities. For additional information, contact email@example.com.
The jails program is still paused due to COVID.
Lifelines to Solitary
The Village Zendo Lifelines to Solitary Group began in September 2015, in collaboration with Solitary Watch, a nonprofit national watchdog group which investigates, documents, and disseminates information on solitary confinement in our nation’s prisons and jails (solitarywatch.org).
Through our VZ affiliate, sangha members correspond with incarcerated persons in prisons around the US who contact Solitary Watch to request a pen pal. Not all our prison correspondents are currently in solitary. We may also correspond with incarcerated persons who independently reach out to the sangha. Our Lifelines group meets quarterly to share experiences, tips, references and resources; to discuss issues arising from our correspondence; and to provide each other support in this practice. We communicate online with each other through a dedicated IO group.
The quarterly meeting is announced in the VZ calendar and is open to anyone who wishes to learn more about our ministry. If you are interested in joining, or would like more information, please contact Shuka at firstname.lastname@example.org or ChoGaku at email@example.com.
People Of Color Sitting Group
After helping to facilitate a year long exploration of ability, race, and gender for our community called The Path of Awakening, several sangha members of color began holding space for a People of Color Sitting Group in early 2017. They’ve expressed that “The group aims to create a sanctuary where People of Color can study and support one another as we discuss how, in a system of oppression and racial bias, we can create a community where we recognize our interdependence. We approach this in the spirit of the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness, Loving Myself and Others.” The group meets twice a month, receiving visitors from across the city and tri-state area. To learn more about the People of Color Sitting Group, reach out to Mukei at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VZ Action arose out of a shared desire among several students and teachers to more consistently practice taking action together as a sangha. Launching in early 2018 with Roshi’s encouragement, the VZ Action team shares several actions each year with the sangha. Together we’ve Court Watched, marched to End Family Separation, acted to #CLOSErikers and #FREEnewyork, and hosted a workshop about city government, amongst many other expressions. In addition to answering our regular calls-to-action, sangha members interested in getting more involved with VZ Action can get more information at email@example.com.