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Meditation & Social Change

When Year 12 visited Parliament earlier this week we found ourselves in the middle of the protests about University tuition fees. One minute we were standing in the beautiful and calm surroundings of the House of Lords, the next we were on a pavement with police and protesting students, the atmosphere was far from quiet. Many of our sixth form requested to attend the demonstration, and for very good reasons. But it did make me reflect on the relationship between social change and meditation. When is it right to participate in the sound of the universe? When is it right to leave silence and speak? At St James we take the place of silence very seriously indeed but our formation also emphasises the role of speech.

Richard Reoch comments: ‘the Buddha was a social radical, a social transformer. After attaining enlightenment, he crisscrossed northern India, teaching. He established communities that were alternative social models to the caste society he grew up in and was destined to rule in. But in these new societies, you took a vow, part of which was that you wouldn’t refer to what your previous caste had been. Men and women wore robes and shaved their heads so that they wouldn’t be distinguished by the traditional marks of gender or wealth. They went out and begged for food from all classes—scandalizing the brahmins by mixing food from brahmin households in the same bowl with food from “untouchable” households. And when the monks walked along the dusty roads in their bright saffron gowns, they were a walking advertisement for a completely new way of living. Now meditation is a part of that change, but it goes hand in hand with it, not before or after. Ultimately, from the point of view of the dharma—at least, my understanding of it—cultivating your mind through meditation is also social radicalism. Because if the goal is to produce more people who are manifesting the attributes of enlightenment—namely, wisdom and compassion—then that, by necessity, is a transformation of the social situation as well.” For more on this click here.


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