July 2nd, 2006, Serial No. 04351

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AI Summary: 

The talk examines how American foundational principles, particularly those encapsulated within the Declaration of Independence, resonate with Buddhist teachings about liberation and universal happiness. It discusses the correlation between American ideals of independence and Buddhist concepts of interdependence and cooperation, emphasizing how both systems advocate for the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

- **Historical documents referenced:**
- The Declaration of Independence (1776)
- The U.S. Constitution, notably the Bill of Rights

- **Individuals referenced:**
- Thomas Jefferson: noted both for his contributions to American independence and his paradoxical personal practices, such as slaveholding.
- Founding Fathers of the United States
- Various U.S. Presidents including George Bush and Dwight Eisenhower, highlighting their influence and policies related to national security and civil liberties.

The discourse also delves into contemporary issues such as the War on Terror, highlighting concerns over governance practices that contradict the democratic and ethical precepts both nations and Buddhism uphold.

AI Suggested Title: "Buddhism & American Ideals: Paths to Happiness"


Good morning. I'm very happy to have the children here this morning. So the first part of this talk will be for the children. The adults can listen if you want. In fact, some of what I say might be related to what I say for the adults. But first of all, good morning. And I want to talk today about this weekend, which is an important American Buddhist holiday. So this is the weekend of the Fourth of July, which we sometimes call Independence Day or Interdependence Day. And I wanted to ask the children if you know why we celebrate Fourth of July. Anyone? Anyone know why we celebrate Fourth of July? Oh, yes. Why? Good, yes.


So we commemorate our independence from Britain. So it's a funny thing. Britain used to be our enemy. So sometimes enemies become friends. This is very important to know. Anyway, July 4th is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which was written in 1776. Does anyone know who wrote it? Does anyone know who Thomas Jefferson was? Have any of you ever seen a nickel? If you look on a nickel, you'll see a picture of Thomas Jefferson. He wrote the Declaration of Independence and it was signed on July 4th of 1776. He helped write it anyway. So I want to read a little bit about it. I'm going to read a little tiny bit of it and talk about why I think this is an important Buddhist holiday. So he wrote, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their


creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So this is again, this is for the children. Do you like happiness? Yeah, I got some head shakes on that one. Good. Yes, in a hand. Okay, good. So that's what we celebrate on the 4th of July, that we have the right to be, to try and find our own way to be happy. And this is also a very important Buddhist idea. So one of the things we chant in the morning says, the loving kindness scripture says, may all beings be happy. May they be joyful and live in safety. So this is also a Buddhist idea. And we also, are any of you old enough to go to school and pledge allegiance to the flag? Do any of you do that? Anybody? Okay, well, we say then, we pledge, yes, a couple of hands, liberty and justice for all.


So this is also an important Buddhist idea. We are doing what we do here to try to benefit all beings. So this is very much like the American idea. So America has many reasons for welcoming Buddhism and Buddhism has many reasons for enjoying being in America. And we celebrate that on Interdependence Day, on Independence Day, the 4th of July. So part of what this means if we have, if we have liberty and justice for all, and everybody can try and find happiness their own way, that we have to learn to cooperate. So I understand that cooperation is going to be the theme for your program this morning when you leave here for the children. And that's also what Buddhism is about. How do we cooperate and find liberty and justice for all? So another thing that happens, do any of you know other things that happen on


the 4th of July? Have any of you ever seen fireworks? Yeah, yeah. Do you know why we have fireworks on the 4th of July? Anyone? No? Well, I think it has something to do with a song called the National Anthem of the Star-Spangled Banner. Have any of you ever heard that? They play it at baseball games. So I used to think the last word, the last line of the National Anthem was, play ball. But actually, the last line says, oh say does that star-spangled banner still wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave? So, the reason why we have fireworks, I think, is that the person who wrote that song was actually a prisoner of the English in another war we had with England later on. And he wanted to know if the flag was still there. And there were bombs bursting in the air. So we had


fireworks to celebrate that. And he could see that the flag was still there. So I wanted to ask you about the flag of the United States of America that we pledge allegiance to. So there are things like flags that represent important ideas for us. This statue behind me is of a bodhisattva, a helpful being, an enlightening being named Jizo. And he particularly is, helps people having a hard time. Helps people having a very hard time. But he's also a protector of children. He's the children's bodhisattva. So this statue represents protecting children and trying to help people having a hard time. So many things represent something to us besides what they are themselves. This teaching stick represents that I was given authority by my teacher to teach Buddhism and meditation. This robe represents that


I'm committed to keeping that alive. But I wondered if the children can tell us what do you think the American flag represents? Any ideas? Any of the children in the back? Any ideas? Well, one thing might be liberty and justice for all. Is there a hand? Yes. What do you think the flag is for? Good. Fifty states and thirteen colonies. Good. So it represents liberty and justice for all. Any ideas? Well, this is something we sometimes salute or pledge allegiance to, just like we sometimes make, bow to images of Buddha. And this is something we celebrate on the fourth of July. So any of you going to go see fireworks


this week? Yeah. Okay. Well, enjoy the fireworks. And you have some idea about what the flag represents? But you're going to go see fireworks. Good. So when you see the fireworks, remember that that represents our flag and liberty and justice for all. And everybody working together to help everyone. And cooperating together. So thank you for being here. Please enjoy the fourth of July. Sometimes fourth of July is also picnics. So have a good fourth of July. And thank you all for being here. Bye-bye. So there's plenty of empties offers in the front for anyone who wants them.


Bye-bye. So this part is for the adults. As it happens, twelve years ago on the fourth of July weekend, I gave the Sunday Dharma talk here and talked about why I think American ideals of freedom and liberty are very complementary with Buddhist ideas of liberation. So, you can find that on my Sangha website, but I'll say a little bit about that. I'll repeat some of what I said then. But also on this occasion of the fourth of July weekend in 2006, I feel that it's required of me as a religious person responsible to precepts to speak about this again today. And what these ideals of American freedom and liberty and justice for all mean. And to give a Buddhist perspective on the current state of our country's commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


So I do think there's a strong relationship between the American idea of freedom or liberation. One of my favorite sayings by Thomas Jefferson, he said, the price of liberation is eternal vigilance. Actually he said the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. But whether we're talking about political liberty or our own personal liberation or our psychological liberation together as Sangha, what's required is, to maintain that, is eternal vigilance or constant vigilance, constant attention. So, in our meditation practice, we sit and pay attention to our mind. We are vigilant for, first of all, just to study how it is that our mind works. How it is that our own habits of greed and anger and confusion can cause harm. And how it is that that happens


between us and our friends and family and so forth and people around us and in the world around us. But also, part of this is to see how this happens with our governments, with our society as a whole. To be vigilant. To constantly pay attention. So, the most important word in Buddhism is attention. We give our attention. We study our attention. We try to present our attention to what's happening in front of us in various ways. And, of course, we sometimes get distracted, or maybe lots of times we get distracted. But we keep returning to uprightness, to being present, to paying attention to what's going on. On our own cushion or chair, in our relationships with our friends and families and coworkers and so forth, in the world around us, for our friends who are having a hard time, and also in our society.


So freedom, liberty, liberation, is not about escape. Sometimes we want to be free of certain problems. But what we learn, studying ourselves in this meditation, is that freedom actually means not to run away from the situation we're in. And that we can't do that. We cannot escape our own karma, personally and collectively, socially. We can't escape from the patterns that are part of how we behave, how we respond to each other, both collectively and personally, individually. Liberation does not happen somewhere else, up in the sky, or up in the mountains, or in Tibet, or Japan, or Tassajara, or someplace else. Liberation is about actually being present in this body and mind, and paying attention, and seeing how to respond, with


this idea of the commitment to benefit all beings, with this idea of liberty and justice for all. So this is also true in our society. We have to see people and ourselves in the context of our conditioning, of our culture, of all the people we've ever known. And this is also true for our society. So we know now that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and that he even fathered slaves. So it's hard for us not to have some judgment about him, and his misdeeds, we might call them, or his flaws or shortcomings. So I want to come back to that and look at that more closely. But I have a great deal of respect for Thomas Jefferson, and for our founding fathers of this country. I think there was a noble experiment


to try and have a society where, well, at first they said all men are created equal. But this ideal, you know, it's taken a while, but in the Bill of Rights, actually in the Constitution, I have the Declaration and the Constitution here to celebrate the occasion. Article 19, the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power by appropriate legislation to enforce the provisions of this article. So women were finally given the vote in 1920. It took a long time. We take it for granted now. Of course women should vote. Maybe children should vote too. They have a lot more years at stake than we do. So I think that American ideals of liberty, of freedom, of justice for all, of equal rights


under the law, are very complementary to the ideals of Bodhisattvas. This is the branch of Mahayana Buddhism which we follow here in Soto Zen, to try to awake together with everyone, not just personal liberation for oneself, but that we awake together with others, together with all beings, that we see our practice and awakening in the context of all beings and benefiting all beings. So I understand that one reason I like Thomas Jefferson, but in an earlier draft by some of his co-writers of the Declaration, he said the unalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of property. And Thomas Jefferson insisted on changing it to the pursuit of happiness. So we might, maybe that's another Dharma talk to look at what does it mean to pursue happiness and what does happiness mean after all and is that the most important thing. But with a broad view of happiness and happiness for all, anyway I'm glad that Thomas Jefferson


changed the Declaration. Again, we have to see all of this ourselves and our society in the context, in the wider context of our own personal karma and our country's karma. So we know that the United States is a violent society, that things that are happening today are consequences of centuries of slavery, of genocide, of almost genocide of the Native Americans of many tribes. Thomas Jefferson also vowed eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the human mind. That's a pretty good Bodhisattva ideal that he would constantly fight against, work against. Maybe hostility is a rough word, but anyway. Some things, the tyranny over the minds of people, over the human mind, we can think about that in many levels. In terms of people's right to choose how they live, free from the


government telling them what to do, but also our right to choose how we're going to conduct ourselves free from our habits, free from our conditioning. This is what we look for in our meditation and to do this together. So as a Zen person, I'm very impressed with Jefferson's letters. He was very active, alert, engaged mind. He had many interests. And also he had many religious concerns. Buddhism wasn't available then to him, but I think he would have been interested in Buddhism and interested in what happens at Green Gorge Farm. He was also an agriculturalist. He was a farmer. And also he was a slaveholder. He considered it evil. In fact, early on, he tried to make efforts to end slavery, but he was victim to his own economic needs and the economy that he grew up in. And he was dependent on


his slaves. He freed some of them in his will. So we might be horrified at that. But Thomas Jefferson also declared the separation of church and state. He was for religious freedom. In fact, on his tombstone, he wrote his own epitaph for his tombstone. He didn't even mention that he was President of the United States. He mentioned the Declaration of Independence and that he founded the University of Virginia. He was very concerned about education and that he wrote Virginia's statute that was the basis for the Bill of Rights about separation of church and state and religious freedom. He believed that each person has their own right to find their own way to express themselves spiritually, to find their own way to the sacred and the divine. And I think this has been very much misunderstood.


So, Jefferson was fighting so that there would not be one state religion imposed on everyone. This was something that happened in other countries at that time quite regularly. But he opposed the fundamentalism of all traditions and that each person has the right to look at their own spiritual practice, their own approach to religion in their own way. This does not mean that we should not bring spiritual values to our national and societal concerns. Not at all. So, it's important, I think, to not just allow in our time the fundamentalist so-called Christians to control the rhetoric of how spiritual values apply to our society. And I think Buddhism has something to offer. And I think we should look at spiritual values in terms of what's going on in our country. The Declaration of Independence. Have any of


you read the Declaration of Independence recently? It's not something that people read usually, but it's some interesting things. I'll read a little bit more than I read for the children. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its power in such form as to themselves shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light


and transient causes, and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Very strong stuff. That's the Declaration of Independence we honor this weekend. So I feel a responsibility to the Buddhist precepts, to ethical precepts to speak today about what's happening in our country. And for me this is not about politics.


If Buddhism were only about finding our own personal peace of mind, it wouldn't have survived for 2,500 years and it wouldn't deserve to survive in the West today. So the Bodhisattva vow is to benefit all beings, including even people who speak Spanish or Arabic, and to ensure that Buddhism would not advocate building walls to keep them out or throwing them into torture camps. So again I would rather speak today, I'd rather speak when I come here about meditation and some of the Zen texts from the 13th and 12th century that I've translated and my new book coming out next year about Dogon and the Lotus Sutra. I'd prefer to talk about that, but it's the 4th of July weekend and I can't. In 2006 our country has become the land of the fearful and the home of torturers. So I want to say, there's a lot I want to


talk about today. Again, for me it's not about politics, certainly not about Democrats or Republicans or Liberals or Conservatives, but about Bodhisattva approaches to what's going on. And so I have to agree with the historians who say that the current Bush-Cheney government is the most profoundly corrupt in American history. But again, this isn't about Democrats or Republicans. Many Democrat leaders have been supporting this, governments and its policies, and many of its strongest and most incisive and courageous critics are Republicans, honest military people, former intelligence agents. So I need to say right away, I sincerely, I really do not personally hate George Bush or Dick Cheney. I am appalled at their actions and policies. I sincerely hope that they might find their way to awakening


to the consequences of what they're doing. So this needs to be said today for the sake of the children. So this government and our President, the President has proclaimed himself above the law. He has said he's entitled to wage preemptive wars of aggression when he says so at his will. He has said he has the right to establish torture camps all over the world, which he has done. That he has the right to spy on Americans without oversight from the Congress or the courts, which he has done. And to issue signing statements when he signs laws of Congress, which he's done hundreds and hundreds of times, in which he says, I will choose which parts of this law I will follow. He calls himself the decider,


which is to say he's the unaccountable dictator of the country's policies. Probably the most alarming thing is that all of this has happened without significant opposition from Congress or the mainstream media. So this is not just about our government, this is about us too. This is about the culture of corruption that is in some corporations anyway, that all of us are related to, are part of. We all have our own quotient of greed, of fear, of anger, of confusion. We're all connected to this. What Buddhism teaches is interconnectedness or interdependence. We are not independent of what our government does. And I think this is a large part of the message of the Founding Fathers. So what is an appropriate Buddhist response to all of this? Of course, there's not one right response. I'm just speaking


for myself now, I'm not speaking for Buddhism. We don't have in Buddhism someone who can speak for all of Buddhism. But I want to share some, my views about this, and I'm looking forward to the discussion and hearing your views. So I think the first thing we can do is to resolutely speak the truth as we see it, which is what I'm trying to do today. So Buddhism is about awareness and about caring, to care what is happening to our country, to care about that, and to be aware, and to develop our awareness, and share awareness, and share information, and share viewpoints. I don't know how we're going to stop the war. I don't know how we're going to restore accountable governance. As a Buddhist, I do know that awareness is transformative. I know it for myself personally, I know it for many people


I've practiced with. Awareness has great transformative power. So we need to not be afraid. We need to talk about what's going on, especially on the 4th of July. So one thing I do as a practice is just to share information. I have an email list and I send out articles and commentaries from alternative sources to the mainstream media. Any of you who are interested in seeing alternatives might look at truthout.org, truthout, one word, on the web, to get a range of alternative commentaries and information about what's going on that you won't see on Fox News, or CBS, or NBC. So another thing that I want to say, that this is again, is not about making anybody


into the enemy. If we really take seriously benefiting all beings, then it's not that some group of people, whether they're the people who speak Arabic, or the people in the White House, or the Democrats, or the Republicans, or whatever, there's no group of people that are the enemies. I think we have to stop thinking that way. There are people who are doing things that are harmful. But once we decide that somebody is the enemy, we have a problem. And as the War of 1812 proves, sometimes our enemies become our friends. This is a wonderful thing to consider. Of course, sometimes our friends become our enemies, and this is very sad. But how can we cooperate with all beings? How can we find a way to talk with all beings, whether they speak Arabic, or Spanish, or English? I also feel strongly


that hopelessness is not appropriate. And one of the ways that, when our government encourages fear, one of the things that can happen is we can feel hopeless. We can feel there's nothing to do. I don't believe that. Buddhism teaches, and our meditation experience teaches that all of our actions have consequences. Each of you is part of the change that our country needs. And everything changes. This is axiomatic in Buddhism. So this too will change. But we don't know how transformation comes. And that's true personally or socially. Sometimes after some long consideration, there's some big personal change. We change our jobs, or we move to another city, or we fall in love, or we fall out of love. Things happen


seemingly suddenly, but there are many reasons and causes and conditions. The same is true socially. So people could not have imagined the apartheid ending relatively peacefully in South Africa just a few months before it, or the Berlin Wall coming down, for example. We don't know when suddenly something like peace might break out. We can't see all the causes and conditions. We can try and look at some of them, and try and see some of the more clear ways in which causes and conditions work. But we have to act in the best way we can, and try and bring awareness and caring to our world in the best way we can. And I also want to say that there's not one right response for someone bringing awareness and caring to this situation or any other situation. Each of us has our own particular


ways of responding. So again, I don't know how to stop the Iraq War. I've been trying to do that since before it started in various ways myself, including going to demonstrations and speaking at demonstrations and so forth. But that's not necessarily the way you should do it. I actually believe that some people just doing dedicated meditation practice will help stop the war. But some people's meditation might be strong enough for that. One of my students in my group in Chicago decided to start practicing Zen after the 2004 election. She was so upset that she decided she had to do something, and for her it was sitting Zazen and doing Zen. So there's not one right way to respond. But each of us, from our own heart-mind, from our own awareness, has the ability to respond. We have responsibility.


So, one of the things that I did, that I've done, I started at the beginning of the semester, I helped organize a teach-in and vigil about torture and the unaccountable presidency in front of the UC Berkeley Law School. I teach nearby at the Graduate Theological Union, and one of the UC Berkeley Law School professors is named John Yu, Y-O-O, and he's one of the legal architects of the Bush torture policy and of the idea of signing statements. So we made it explicit that we weren't trying to get them to fire him or lose his job, but we just wanted people to speak out against torture. One of the things that John Yu, in one of his legal documents, when he was working for the White House, so this is a de facto law now, he decided to define torture as something


that leads to loss of life or loss of an organ. Anything less than that was acceptable. So if you don't know about the torture going on by our government around the world, I need to say something about it today. At a debate with a Notre Dame professor and scholar of international human rights, this man asked John Yu if the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, is there no law that can stop him? And John Yu said no, and that it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that. This is not just theoretical. There's a very courageous man named Craig Murray, who was the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and he talked about


witnessing torture of people who were sent there on American planes, renditioned to Uzbekistan, where they do torture regularly. These are people who are picked up in Iraq or other places. Many of the people in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and Babran, which is even worse in Afghanistan, have done nothing. They were just named by other people nearby who didn't like them. Anyway, I have documentation on some of this, and if you're interested we can talk more about it in the discussion, but I want to read what Craig Murray said. This happened in Uzbekistan. I met an old man from Andijan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services, and this


is the standard, he said, that we're living under with a president who looks the other way while children are being tortured. So probably you've all seen the pictures of Abu Ghraib. This is not about a few bad apples. One of the people who spoke at our teach-in in Berkeley was a citizen of Uruguay whose uncle and aunt were tortured, so he knows about it personally. The same kinds of things that were going on in Abu Ghraib, the same techniques have been used in South America for some years. This is not just something that some bad apples made up in the middle of the night. The difference now, so this kind of thing has been going on in the world, but the difference now is that George Bush proclaims his right to do that and that he's going to continue to do that, and that he's not subject to law.


So, there are other vigils that are happening about torture in this country. In New York, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship chapter in Eureka started one. Anyone of you could start a vigil against torture. You could go down to the depot once a week and do it. And if you want to contact Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley, we've put together a kind of kit with information and pictures. So this is something that people should know. The first person who spoke at our combined vigil and teaching in Berkeley was Dan Ellsberg. He also spoke in May at the San Francisco Zen Center Touching the Earth Lecture Series. I kind of think he's a national treasure. I talked about him in my book about Bodhisattvas as an example of someone who gave up considerable worldly power for the sake of letting people know the truth, at great risk to himself. So a month after the San Francisco Zen Center


lecture he gave in May, earlier this last month, he said in a television interview, I am very, very uneasy at the idea of going month by month without the public understanding that we've got a man who's proclaimed himself dictator right now. That we've got a constitutional crisis. We can't go three more years shying away from the subject because it isn't popular. Because it might lose us some votes or something. To mention that our president is not only committing crimes and violating the constitution, but that he's claiming his right to keep doing it. Ellsberg goes on. The crime itself may or may not be that serious. We don't know exactly who he's listening to. So he's talking about the wiretapping that the president has acknowledged he's doing of American citizens. Maybe the public would happily accept it if they knew what it was. But he's saying, I don't have to tell you what it is. I agree that it violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is clear-cut legislation intended to prevent this. But I've gone beyond that. He says, Bush is saying, I'm not going to tell


you how much I've gone beyond it. And I'm going to keep doing it. This is an announcement, Ellsberg continues, that he has broken free of the constitution and his oath of office and that he's a dictator while there's a war on. He believes this very explicitly. That as commander-in-chief during wartime, he has the inherent powers to do anything. There are no limits. Torture, sure. The head of the Yale Law School named Harold Coe said, if Bush has powers to do this, this torture, then he has powers to commit genocide, to wage war of aggression, which of course he's done, and proposes to do again, to do anything. He might as well reenact slavery. There's no limit to what the president can do in wartime. That's what they're claiming. That's what the president believes. And Ellsberg says, I think we're in a situation like Germany, just before the Reichstag fire. The next 9-11, not the last one, that was just a precursor, Ellsberg says. The next one is going to be our Reichstag fire, and that means the day after it, our freedoms are gone.


So anyway, you may not agree with this viewpoint, and that's fine, but I want you to hear what Dan Ellsberg says. As a child in the 50s, I wondered about Germany and how the German people could have allowed that to happen. And I don't wonder anymore. So how do we find awareness? How do we understand what's going on? How do we explore and learn what's going on in our country? It's our country. I do think that the mainstream media is very much responsible, and I say that as someone who used to work in television news. I was a film editor for many years, and worked in NBC News in New York and for Bill Moyers Journal, and then I worked for several television stations in San Francisco. And maybe I should have stayed


working in the news and tried to support good journalism. At any rate, 27 years ago, I gave that up and went to work at Tassajara Bread Bakery for San Francisco Sun Center. I don't regret it. But it brings up an important issue that I think is the context for a lot of this, or one context for Buddhism. In Buddhism, we talk about right livelihood. So I think that right livelihood, you know, I think it should be one of those unalienable rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that Tom Jefferson talked about. That everybody should have a right to work, to have a job that supports themselves and their family, where each of us can use the best of our abilities, can use our interests to do things constructively, to be supported to do that. This is not unreasonable. That everybody who wants to work should have


a job, should be able to have a job, and should be able to do something constructive. So right livelihood from the Buddhist context would include having some sense of the consequences of our work. Having some control over the workplace, or not control, but having some participation in what happens in our work situation. And doing work that is in accord with precepts. I could say Buddhist precepts, but it's okay if they're Christian or Jewish or Muslim precepts. But in our case, to support life rather than killing. To support generosity rather than stealing. To support truth rather than lies. So going back long before George


Bush and Dick Cheney, I think we have a big problem with right livelihood in our culture. And those of you who are struggling with jobs you don't like, or who are out of work, understand this. How do we find a way to live in the world and support ourselves and our family in a way that feels upright, where we can maintain our inner dignity? That includes of course service jobs. But anyway, what's happened in our economy is that we've had to make a lot of mistakes. We don't make anything anymore here. Well, computers and computer software, and I don't want to overstate it, but I think our economy is based on weapons now. So I want to read something from a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower in his final


talk as President of the United States in 1961 said, the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence, economic, political, even spiritual, is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We must recognize the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave. Proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. So that was Dwight Eisenhower, Republican President, saying that. In another speech, Dwight Eisenhower said, if all that Americans want is security, they can go to prison. They'll have enough to eat, a bed and a roof over their heads, but if an American wants to preserve his dignity and his equality as a human being, he must


not bow his neck to any dictatorial government. So part of the problem we have, and I think we just have to face the problems we have, this is our Buddhist meditation practice, we can't run away from them, is just in the way that Jefferson was dependent on slavery, our society and economy and all of us in various ways, more or less, are dependent on military spending and the missile economy. Almost every congressional district includes military bases, and no matter how liberal, almost all the Congress people will fight against base closures. So this is what our country does now. And it's not that we shouldn't have military, I respect military people quite a lot. We need people to protect, appropriately protect


us from those who would harm us, and to be available when necessary. So Buddhism is about non-violence and trying to resolve things non-violently. Sometimes we do need police and military and even prisons for some people. But there's the other side of the coin, the effect of our economy being based on weapons is quite pernicious. I don't know, how many of you saw Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine? Yeah, it was quite amazing. I didn't realize this before that film, that high school where these two young men killed a bunch of people, horrible. It was right down the street from Lockheed Martin. That high school and that community was in the shadows of one of our biggest military weapons producers. And


the expected profits in 2006 for Lockheed Martin are $1.7 billion, for Northrop Grumman $1.5 billion, for General Dynamics something over a billion. The Center for Defense Information Statistics are that in 2004-2005 worldwide military spending was $1,025,500,000. Of that the United States spent $505,800,000, almost half. And that does not include the $25 billion spent in 2005 for Iraq and Afghanistan. So there's a lot more to talk about, about all of this. I'll just ask how many of you have seen the film about Al Gore and Global Warming and Convenient Truth? Please go see


it. Things are going to get worse in various ways. We need to be aware of what's going on and we need to do this for the children. I think it's important that children hear about American ideals as well as Buddhist ideals. I think the ideals of the Declaration and of the Constitution are wonderful and important. And they're going to need to hear about Buddhist or other spiritual ideals too because in what's coming they're going to need spiritual resources. So I think, well first of all just as an American Buddhist I feel like I have to speak the truth of the brokenness of the American ideals but also to express my appreciation for them. I think they're very congruent with what we're about doing Buddhist meditation and Buddhist practice. And I think Buddhism has something


to offer to help us face all of this and each of us find our own way to respond to this. So I like what Gary Snyder said, and he said this a little while ago, but it's even more true. This is an urgent situation. We need to both act as if our head's on fire, an old Buddhist kind of image, and also act as if we have all the time in the world. Well we don't necessarily have all the time in the world if the Greenland ice cap melts, which is happening. Anyway, Katrina might be just a small precursor of what could happen. But I don't want to instill fear. I think we have to face our fear. And part of that is finding the calm to act as if we have all the time in the world. So we have a tradition that goes back 2,500 years. We chant the names of ancestors, of people who have kept alive our practice for all that time, every generation, in the morning here. We have to have a wider


sense of the possibilities of humans, and of the planet, and of the possibility of responding. Hopelessness is not only, you know, it doesn't feel good, it's also, it's not accurate. We don't know what's going to happen. Your efforts can make a difference. So if anyone's interested in hearing more about how to start a torture, anti-torture vigil, let me know. Almost done. I wanted to mention one other thing that I heard from Cindy Sheehan, who probably many of you have heard of. She lost her son in Iraq and went and sat in front of the President's house in Texas and said, what's the cause for this war? There's still no answer to that that they're willing to give. But at any rate, I had the honor of introducing her at a talk in Berkeley a couple of months ago. She said something that really struck me very deeply.


She was talking about opposing the war, but I think it's deeper than that. She said, we have to get out of our comfort zones. So I think also in our Buddhist practice, we have to get out of our comfort zones, go beyond our personal comfort zones. When we see that we are about benefiting all beings, including all beings, cooperating with all beings, it's a little uncomfortable. Sometimes we all need to take a break, take a rest. It's not that we should look for discomfort, but we have to be willing to sometimes go beyond our own personal comfort zones. In Buddhism, we talk sometimes about renunciation. For some of us who take particular vows, there are particular forms of that. But all of us, when we turn


towards awakening, there's something that we're letting go. Sometimes it's personal comfort, or various kinds of personal comfort. Each of you can help make a difference in our country. I don't know how, and you don't know how. Yet, if we're paying attention, this is possible. Awareness is transformative. In Buddhism, we believe in nonviolence and truth-telling. Our caring and awareness does make a difference. Again, we don't know how. It might be that this government is the humanity and our nations working out of the karma of


slavery, of the genocide of native people, and of trying to solve problems through warfare. With all the weapons we have, that's an outmoded way of solving problems. But this is a way to do it. This is an opportunity, this terrible situation we're in, for something deeper to emerge. In Buddhism, we have the image of the lotus growing out of the mud. Please try and find ways to cooperate and use this opportunity to develop awareness, to respond to the world around us, to not forget the world on your chair or cushion, and the need to take care of our close relationships, too. We need to pay attention on all these levels.


I look forward to discussion after the talk. Right view in Buddhism is that none of us have the whole truth. We need to share information and viewpoints, but the price of liberation is ongoing, continuous vigilance. Thank you very much.