Dear Dharmavidya, Like so many Americans I am deeply saddened by the ever increasing deadly violence in my country.Despite this relentless blood bath our "leaders" refuse to enact even the most common sense gun laws or help for the mentally ill. What can I as an American Buddhist do in a concrete manner to improve these intolerable conditions?
Namo Amida Bu, Stephen Greenberg

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Comment by Stephen greenberg on January 5, 2016 at 12:31
Good morning gentlemen, both of your answers bring up very valuable insights.I do support groups and candidates who promote non-violent approaches to societal problems.We are currently building a Sangha based on Jodo Shin Shu practice and,now that I'm a member of Amida Shu, I'm gradually introducing Dharmavidya's teachings.We are fostering a supportive, open hearted approach in which all members have equal say.Leadership is based on the A.A. Model ,in which we shift leaders monthly.This only applies to running our practice Gatherings.
Thank-you for your wisdom and kindness. Namo Amida Bu, Steve
Comment by Paul (Ananda) Normann on January 5, 2016 at 0:48

Aloha Stephen,

I want to echo Dharmavidya's sentiment. Our Amida Sangha is definitely a refuge and a support. As an American Buddhist, I struggle with many of the issues that you mention in your post. I am often stunned at the level of violence that permeates and is acceptable within our culture. Working in a non-profit that serves the impoverished and disadvantaged in our community, I see daily the impacts of structural violence and injustice. Obviously, what we need is to begin to transform our society into one more inline with the values of compassion and non-violence. However, this is a long game. We can begin by sharing the Dharma with others, creating pockets of people who share common and positive values. Individually, it is important for us to do work in our community that reflects our desire for a more peaceful society. This may involve supporting a organization doing good work in the community, or perhaps joining with like minded individuals to address a social ill. If we do not do something concrete in our own neighborhoods, then we will likely be overwhelmed by the negativity that we hear on the news daily. Really, there is very little we can actually do about the majority of issues we learn about each day. But in our neighborhood, in our community, there are definitely concrete steps we can take to build a compassionate and peaceful society. Start where you are. MLK started with a bus boycott. Gandhi started in South Africa on little issues. Mother Teresa started by teaching orphan children she encountered. I hope this helps. Namo Amida Bu! Ananda

Comment by David Brazier on December 7, 2015 at 16:20

I imagine that some American leaders are in favour of gun control and some are not. President Reagan, for instance, clearly was not and spoke forth-rightly on the subject, but in due course himself was the recipient of a bullet fired in anger. President Obama, on the other hand, seems to be in favour of gun control but, perhaps, is unable to do anything effective in this regard. The fact seems to be that there is not sufficient public support to enable gun control laws to be passed. If one feels strongly and wants to do something on this issue one, therefore, has to affect public opinion. I imagine that when leaders think there are votes in it they will do something. To affect public opinion one needs a broad alliance with as many sympathetic groups as possible and one needs a good publicity machine. One also needs to evolve convincing narratives that counter those of the opposition. I imagine that those who oppose gun control believe that free availability of guns protects freedom, prevents crime and sustains the "frontier spirit". One therefore needs to promote narratives that show that gun free countries are freer, more honest and less oppressive.

Looking from Europe, the gun situation in USA seems medieval. Reagan maintained that the fact that ordinary Americans are armed was a guarantee against dictatorship, but, of course, it is also true that having an armed population makes civil war a greater threat. Many Americans believe that they have to defend their own home and it is a fact that if criminals are armed and ordinary citizens are not the latter can feel vulnerable, so merely controlling guns legally may not be enough. One would have to actually take the guns, including the illegal ones, out of circulation. In the case of the USA this would be a big job and take some years to accomplish.

Leaving the socio-political question and thinking about the more personal aspect of your question - "What can I as an American Buddhist do in a concrete manner" - I think the answer has to lie in the area of building a different kind of community. What is most notable about our Amida sangha to most casual visitors who stray into one of our events or gatherings is the warm spirit of friendship, welcome and security that they experience in our midst. This is one of the commonest forms of feedback that we receive - that within a very short time the visitor felt at ease and in a more secure social situation than they were used to experiencing elsewhere. The merit of our practice shows very directly in this way. The sangha is an example to the world of a way of being such that the felt need for weapons disappears. That is what can really cut at the root of he problem, I think. Namo Amida Bu.


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