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Q&A with Dharmavidya at the Bodhi retreat. Please see comments below for a summary of this discussion.

Dharmavidya takes questions from the Sangha, he talks about duty, social engagement, and more personally about his life at the moment.

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Thanks for this Dharmavdia, and to those who plied him with such provocative questions.

The discussion between Dharmavydia and Modgala about their respective viewpoints on the state of our contemporary society, put me in mind of this, below.

I'm posting it here by way of a rather verbose New Year good wish to you all. It always cheers me up, and reminds me that the fundamental ground we stand on is always that we don't know whats coming next - not least in terms of economic, cultural or environmental change.

Its from a little book on the ripple effect of James Lovelock's Gaia Theory, edited by Dharmavydia's friend Mary Midgeley, and is written by her husband David.

Today we are confronted with the spectacle of enormously powerful global institutions, invested with the power of decision and the responsibility for setting the policies which will determine our future, resolutely ignoring or actively denying the increasingly self-evident destructive consequences of our present path. To someone whose basic orientation to the world is grounded in the ecological paradigm, this is apt to induce a mixture of rage, despair and mental paralysis. It may be, however, that it is this very pattern of increasing rigidity, this closing of ranks and escalating denial, that we can discern the seeds of hope. The process of rigidification and denial is typical of the terminal phase in the life-cycle of a paradigm, and might be compared to a chrysalis stage in the life-cycle of a moth or butterfly: it could precede a very rapid and radical transformation in the intellectual, social and economic structures of the society. While the outer shell of the organism seems rigid and immoveable, invisible changes are taking place within, which may erupt dramatically when they reach a critical stage of development.'

'Earthy Realism: the Meaning of Gaia', edited by Mary Midgely, SOCIETAS 2007 
chapter: 'Climate Change and Spiritual Transformation', David Midgley
A happy 2014 to you all,
Mat

It is good to put our energies into encouraging the birth and growth of this chrysalis. Moving towards a sustainable global community does require both a wholehearted approach to reducing our consumption and a new economy outside the existing corporate world.  We can help build this new economy now by buying products directly from small local producers as much as possible and encouraging much more reliance on barter. Those with savings need to look at investments that do not support the large corporations and to share as much as possible.

There are many faces of this chrysalis beyond things economic of course. But in the short term our global economy is very likely to crash and certainly any further pressure from such a movement as I have described above would be a factor in the economies that exist suddenly crashing.  This would bring much chaos and suffering; it is shocking for instance to see how rapidly Greece has fallen into much chaos.  I am writing to encourage this change by looking closely at just how each of us can participate and to also have a sense of the difficulties ahead. While many of us still have relative peace and prosperity we are more freed up to do what work seems necessary.

I agree wholeheartedly with your recommendations here Rob. Triodos Bank are great exemplars, in Europe, of people working to change the present system from within - among many others of course.

I also think the language of self- and other-power has really helped me, here. I can hardly think of a better place to witness the vulnerable, fallible and conditioned nature of the struggle to transform ourselves by our own efforts than in our collective response (or absence thereof) to the converging nest of problems referred to as 'the ecological crisis'.

On the other hand, where does the spiritual path lie if not in confronting the systemic cruelties that we wake to find our own lives complicit in? And as you said before, in that context its no suprise avidya is the norm in the developed West, as such discoveries can feel overwhelming. I find when talking to people in their twenties, especially, a frequent sense of deep hopelessness that seems to overhang all of this. No wonder people turn off.

Which is where Dharmavyida's celebration of the great gifts of our historical moment help me. If the root of our motivation to help is guilt, or rage, or just frowning disapproval - or if our efforts to help require the constant reassurance of tangible 'success' to be validated, therein, surely, lies inevitable exhastion and despair?

There's another approach to responding to ecological crisis being offered here, isn't there? Caroline outlines it very helpfully, for me, in the last two chapters of Amida Comes West. (Nembutsu in a Grieving World and Dancing in the Light.) 

But my own understanding of any of this still so very shaky: I lose all confidence, then find it offered to me again, just when I'd given up. Make small stumbled steps in its general direction, perhaps. Most of all I'm grateful for it when I see and hear it in others, and feel that glad 'Yes!' rise up in repsonse. To me its something very different from the culture of mental refinement that, perhaps, charactisies much of Western Buddhism - the endlessly preoccupying project of self-transformation that syphons off the talent and intelligence that might be poured back into changing our present culture's systems of living. The counter-current to that being offered here is part of what drew me to Amida Shu in the first place, and is more generally what I'd like to help nourish in the world how and where I can.

About chrysales(?) and transformations, a friend pointed out to me recently that any outright collapse of our present systems of living - including systems built on the unexamined injustices you speak of - is only likely to produce even more unwelcome and reactionary alternatives. Eg The current rise Golden Dawn fascism in Greece. As Leonard Cohen put it, "You aren't going to like what comes after America." So any temptation to wash our hands of this mess, and leave the system to destroy itself and make way for new growth, perhaps implies a naively optimistic notion of things simply rebalancing themselves.

A cultural transformation spoken of in terms of a 'paradigm shift' that is beyong our individual efforts to make happen... yet which can only happen through individuals' willingness to commit to change: what better arena for an other-power perspective? 

Thanks for your thoughts Rob. Wishing you a gentle wind in your back as the New Year arrives.

thanks Mat and lets hope there is a gentle wind in all our backs as we move into another year.

Caroline wrote in the first page of the references you suggested: Maybe we are in the dark days at the end of a civilisation that has cracked itself open with over- consumption.  As the Romans and Mayans before us, our degenerating society grows fat while barbarian forces muster on the surrounding heights.

To act we really do need to find a point of clarity that cuts through all the complication that in itself brings apathetic withdrawal from acting. Greed in the form of our own personal consumption to me is that point of clarity. Greed in the form of cultural avidya underlies our ecological crisis and is the seed of wars; personal greed is avidya in that it is hidden away behind a measurement of socially relative wealth but can be easily seen for what it is by our resistance and distaste for shining light on it.

We count our blessings but in a very practical sense how freed up are we to give away what is not so essential to our living?  This is the sort of energy that is needed to build a movement that cherishes life.  And it is very spiritual, about faith holding us.

Dharmavidya introduces this segment by reading a Spanish poem titled ‘the hidden spring’.  It suggests that we look into our pain rather than turn away from it and that inevitably we will see the face of death but may find a hidden spring.

The first question relates to other religions that look at God’s will and self will and asks about the Amidist perspective on this.  Dharmavidya discusses how we may practically see self and other power.

 The next question is about motivation and action and how one is able to tell the difference between self and other power and Dharmavidya discusses faith and lack of surety.  Willingness is an important aspect of the path.

The next question is about the notion that things happen the way they should; Do they?  We learn about humility and impermanence from our fragility within the universe.  From having faith we dare to take action. Faith and belief are not quite the same things and we should unhook them from each other.  Faith is a contemplative quality that transcends belief.

The next question asks Dharmavidya to explore any particular working edges that are holding his attention at this time.  Dharmavidya firstly explores the genesis and development of ITZI and from there his experiences with much necessary travel as an outcome of this development.  Dharmavidya tells of an occasion where he was asked to present a practical demonstration of therapy to a large audience in Korea through an interpreter.  From here Dharmavidya looks at some personal qualities; need for solitude, experience of fear and anger.

Dharmavidya was then asked how he felt about the current problems and difficulties in our world and in particular in relation to greed.  Dharmavidya spoke of the difficulty of knowing whether to try to ameliorate such a situation and as a result help to perpetuate it or to let it run its course. He spoke of how fortunate we are to live in Europe; living conditions surpassing any previous civilization while balanced by increases in such things as depression and ecological destruction. 

The next question asks Dharmavidya to comment on his sense of duty and responsibility.  Dharmavidya saw his primary responsibility to the Buddha, the Dharma and from there to the Sangha.  He looks at his role as a spiritual teacher and other aspects such as leadership and authority.

Dharmavidya was invited to discuss his autobiography.

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