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The theme for BAM 2018 is Transforming Self, Transforming World.
As always, the theme for BAM is inspired by contemporary issues, and this year’s emphasis invites us to stop and look at the big picture:
It is becoming evident that our society urgently needs a new story, a new myth to live by. As an example. George Monbiot puts it very well in this recent short interview * where he outlines the need for a psycho-spiritual approach that is thoroughly meaningful and that may well help transform and world. *(https://youtu.be/dBe7bNSBa0w)
He says, “We have lived with a politics that is built around the mistaken assumption that we are selfish and greedy; politics we call neoliberalism, a politics that says – not only are we selfish and greedy, but we ought to be! It is a good thing because we can use it to accumulate as much money as possible and that wealth will then trickle down to reach everyone.”
“But what if this view is not true?! What if it turns out that …. altruism and empathy are in fact humanity’s dominant characteristics, but are constantly thwarted by the very negative and disturbing environment in which we live. Then altruism and empathy is what we ought to build on.”
At the moment the neoliberal story is still the dominant story that governs everything and that most of us tend to fall in line with, but there are more and more voices calling for the need to create a new ‘common sense’, a new narrative to live by. How can we do this? How can we emerge from this neoliberal chapter of history when we don’t know what kind of future we aspire to? Without a compelling and potent narrative based on values that connect us with others, we will remain globalised consumers with little agency who are neither inspired nor convinced that anything can, or needs to, change. Surely the Dharma has a lot to say on the underlying values for a world that values individual growth and happiness, harmonious relationships and allows us all to live without breaking through the limits of our planet.
“whoever creates the most powerful story, rules the world
So can we celebrate our deepest shared values during this year’s Buddhist Action Month? What kind of world do we want to live in? What kind of future do we want for us and for the next generation? What is the story, the myth, that gives our life meaning and that which we want to live by?
We suggest Padmasambhava as the bodhisattva we evoke during Buddhist Action Month - calling his powers of transformation to our aid, and offering up our practice and our vision of a different way to live by.
In addition to the theme of creating a new myth to ‘transform self and world’; we will have other suggestions of actions and pledges that you may want to take on as an individual, or even better, share at your local Buddhist Centre or Triratna Group and involve other people.
There will be more info on these over the coming months. One of these themes will be looking at the emerging evidence of how unhealthy our handheld devices and social media are for our well-being and for society. Technology in itself is fine, but when we abandon our power of choice due to craving-led habits, we lose our agency and easily become enslaved to the screen. Let’s take June to examine or (even better) to experiment with our relationship with our handheld gadgets and our use of social media. We might choose to limit our screen-time, to change our settings, for example.
Christine Thuring will write more on both of these themes mentioned above. She is the coordinator of Buddhist Action Month (BAM!) for the Network of Buddhist Organisations and a GFR mitra from Sheffield (soon to be Vancouver!)
Buddhist Action Month was initiated by the Network of Buddhist Organisations in 2012 and invites practicing Buddhists and other spiritual practitioners to take the month of June to take the Dharma into the world, in solidarity with others. By orientating our energy and attention towards important issues that usually overwhelm us, we may transform our habits and thereby transform the world around us, for the benefit of all beings.
Christine says, ”BAM takes place every June, and invites practicing Buddhists to extend our practice into the world in some way. Typically BAM has emphasised social and environmental justice, but anything goes: taking time every day to “just sit in nature” is a personal favourite of mine, for example. Basically, if there are any adjustments you’d like to make to your lifestyle but never seem to get around to it, why not take the month of June to try it out, in solidarity with others?
This year’s theme addresses two tricky aspects of modern life. With respect to “transforming self”, we are encouraged to examine our relationship with handheld gadgets and social media. Practically this might involve less screen time, adjustments to settings, noting habits and responses.
With respect to ”transforming world”, BAM 2018 invites us to dedicate some time in June towards reflecting on the world we wish to inhabit. What is your personal Buddhafield? Can you describe it in detail? What alternatives do you envision as replacement to the status quo? Describe the world you want your (grand-) children to inherit. Let’s use June to envision, with fierce courage, the world we want to inhabit. If each of us takes time out to reflect on this, ideally in a group or with a buddy, we can collate these at the close of BAM into a collective narrative.”
Another theme will be taken a close look at the ethics of the clothing and fashion industry. Vandaka will share some of her knowledge and experience from her years of working in the fashion industry and give us some clear tips on what to look out for when we’re out shopping!
Watch this space! And do get involved in your local Centre or Triratna Group and take part in some of the ‘actions’ - or suggest some yourself!