“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, and encourage you to join, or to share your own with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, Sensei Ryotan Eiger has coordinated the Dharma Song Zen Temple, our sangha at Sing Sing, since early 2005. Every Saturday, teachers and students from our sangha travel up to Ossining 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.
Free Judy Clark – It’s The Right Thing To Do
Since 2010, Myoko Sensei has engaged our sangha in the campaign to Free Judy Clark, and she, Myogetsu, and Rinsho have organized multiple letter writing campaigns to the Parole Board to support Judy’s release. In addition, the Village Zendo has supported multiple Candles For Clemency vigils outside of Governor Cuomo’s mansion, to encourage him to grant clemency to Judy and others inside New York prisons and jails. While he finally commuted Judy’s sentence in 2016 due to community pressure, the Parole Board denied her release shortly thereafter, and so our advocacy efforts continue. Learn more about Judy and the campaign here.
Lifelines to Solitary
Our Lifelines to Solitary Group, facilitated by Shuka and Gessho, began in September 2015. In collaboration with Solitary Watch, sangha members correspond with people held in solitary confinement in prisons around the US who have requested a pen pal. In addition to maintaining their individual correspondences, the group meets periodically to share experiences and support each other, as well as communicating regularly through a Google Group. Reach out to Shuka at email@example.com if you are interested in joining.
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 has labored to share one or two actions a month 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 join the Google Group or quarterly in-person gatherings at the Zendo. For more information, reach out to the VZ Action Team at email@example.com.