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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
62 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 1 7 the election of President Trump and the prospect of continued war, environmental degradation, and growing hostility toward migrants and political minorities, the question is increasingly poignant. Fortunately, Buddhism offers resources to address the growing inequality and political uncer- tainty of the present moment. What may be par- ticularly helpful now in guiding us forward can be found in a further expression of the Buddhist view of renunciation—that of solidarity. Typically defined as a sentiment or expression of mutual support, solidarity can be equally under- stood as an act of collective or shared responsi- bility. Solidarity in this sense is expressed in the Buddhist notion of karuna, or “active sympathy,” the conduct of “bearing the pain of others.” Often translated as compassion—suffering with others— karuna is central to all of the Buddhist traditions and involves aspiration, training, and perfection of conduct. While prajna, the wisdom of clear seeing, is a defining feature of the bodhisattva path, it is the embodiment of karuna that defines enlightened activity. Karuna opens one to relationships of col- lective responsibility and to meaningful expressions of solidarity. In December 2015, Dr. Larycia Hawkins announced on Facebook her intention to wear a hijab for Advent in an act of “embodied solidarity” with Muslim women. “Muslims and Christians,” she explained at the time, “share the same god.” Although grounded in important theological rea- soning, it was the concern over the uptick of anti- Muslim sentiment that led her, as a Christian, to wear the hijab. For this, Hawkins, the first African American woman to earn tenure at Wheaton Col- lege, was terminated from her position as professor. An outburst of protest followed, along with a spate of critical reflections on how to demonstrate soli- darity with the oppressed—in this case, Muslims in a predominantly Christian, and increasingly Islamo- phobic, society. Hawkins’ choice of activity is instructive: by wearing the hijab she transformed separation. In so doing, she embodied solidarity, actively sharing in human dignity under conditions of oppression. The looming sense of political uncertainty and division that haunts our current moment is a symptom of rising global inequality. Everywhere we see increasing deprivation and estrangement, loneliness and isolation, oppression and the ampli- fication of old injustices. It is in this context that we also see the emergence of protests—such as Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matters, Standing Rock—that are concerned with enacting visions of human dignity. From across the political spectrum, these movements have been criticized in terms of moral standing and political acumen, but here I’m interested in their visions of collective solidarity. Where, for example, Occupy sought to embody participatory democracy—redistributing author- ity—in the context of rampant economic and politi- cal inequality, Black Lives Matter has attempted to enact, in the present, an aspirational future where the wholeness of Black lives is both embraced and shared. More recently at Standing Rock, we have learned to heed the wisdom of “water is life” and to participate in coalitions directed through indigenous leadership. Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock—all have provided opportunities for us to renew our commitment to the common good and, by sharing how the welfare of the many is defined, to renounce inherited notions of hierarchy and privilege. They have invited us to learn from others and transform suffering through collaboration. Recently, while attending a symposium on diver- sity and mindfulness aimed at helping POC and low-income communities access mindfulness-based doShiN NaThaN WoodS is a novice Zen priest at Sweetwater Zen Center. he holds a Phd in cultural anthropology and teaches at the university of the West in Rosemead, California. kristenGorenFlo