Buddhism and Other People’s Crises: Lockdown and Curfew, Monasteries in the Making… #BlackLivesMatter

Maybe sometimes entire societies should go on extended retreat, shut down temporarily, and contemplate their existence. So societal lock-down doesn’t have to be so bad, whether for pandemic or riot-inspired curfew, not if you take advantage of the opportunities implicit therein.

After all, monasteries are essentially locked down all the time, and the only people complaining are those who never really wanted to be there in the first place. The ones who are there by choice are not complaining about the poverty implicit in such a situation, either.

In fact, any true monk takes a vow of poverty just for the privilege of being in lock-down. Implicit in the monastery deal is that there will be a community of supporters to take up the slack, of course, at least in Buddhism, and that is the sore spot for any Western culture, which tend to avoid class distinctions, even, or especially, when the class involved is a priestly one.

I suppose this system works best, then, in SE Asia, where people are accustomed to such a system, and who find much value in it. I personally would probably prefer to grow my own food, if given the chance, even as a monk, and that is what many Buddhist monks in Japan do, if I’m not mistaken. I’m not sure about China or Taiwan, but I’ve never seen monks doing the morning alms walk in either, of that I am sure, ditto Korea, especially the north, haha.

And for those who are in lock-down, but not by choice, maybe you should consider that as an attractive option, if only temporarily, for many non-monks also pay for the privilege of extended retreats. And while it is tempting to march in the streets right now in the name of rights and justice, that may not be the wisest option, and I’m not sure how much good it does, anyway, especially when some people of lesser ideals are obviously taking advantage of the uncertainties implicit, thus making the idealists complicit.

In desperate political situations, aren’t the best remedies economic, i.e. boycott and/or divestment, or at least disinvestment? Isn’t that what changed the government in South Africa (if not the economy)? Isn’t that what drove the British out of India? People ask what is the Buddhist response to injustice…

The Buddhist response to injustice is to provide a refuge to make you a better person, so that you will make good decisions. Nothing is gained by hate or anger or violence, and that includes language. Now is the time to create a new society, calmly and soberly and without prejudice. Reject the drama. Embrace the dharma.