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Embodying Fierce Compassion At The Peoples Climate March In Washington DC

02 May 2017 5:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

With gratitude to FCM Member Andrew Rock for this Sharing.

Several members of FCM were among the estimated 200,000 marchers in Washington DC on Saturday, April 29th for the Peoples Climate Mobilization. So were six monastics from Blue Cliff monastery and many others in Thay’s Plum Village traditions, together with hundreds of other Buddhists from various lineages and traditions.

Fittingly, April 29th set new seasonal heat records for Washington DC: 92 degrees and high humidity. But the marchers remained cheerful, peaceful, exuberant and determined as we gathered on the Mall, marched down Pennsylvania Ave. to surround the White House and then rested on the grass around the Washington Monument.

Earlier in the morning about 250 Buddhists gathered in a park near the Capitol to practice together before joining the march. Organized by One Earth Sangha, the group included teachers and practitioners from many lineages and traditions. A Tibetan nun, Sister Ani Losang Tendrol, read us a poem about our connectedness with the earth and our responsibility for how we relate with all living beings, written by the Dalai Lama. Then Adam Lobel, a senior acharya (teacher) with Shambhala International, led us in a practice to raise windhorse, the power and energy of the sacred warriors who rise up in times of great need. Next Sister Ocean, from Blue Cliff Monastery, called on all her Plum Village sangha to join her, and together we led the entire group in singing “We are all the leaves of one tree.” We closed the morning program with a metta meditation led by Amy Smith, a teacher in the Washington insight Meditation community.

From Upper Senate Park, the monastics led us on a silent, mindful, joyful walk to the Capitol end of the Mall, where the faith contingent was gathering to line up for the march. Organized by the multifaith climate action group Greenfaith, there were Catholics from the Franciscan Climate Network, Muslims, Hindus, Episcopalians, Jews, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and many other faiths, all united by the perception that our crises of climate change, inequality and injustice at root are spiritual and ethical problems, and therefore require spiritual and ethical reformation and leadership.

Then an hour of sweltering heat and close packed (but high-spirited) crowds, as people gathered and waited for the step-off of the march, sharing signs, banners, music and enthusiasm. Once we started moving, around 12:45 pm, the crowd spread out and our FCM group kept together (Diane Powell, Patrick Bendure and his daughter, Dan Tisch, Patty Meyers, Nancy Natilson and me, and also Sue Brandon and her friend Sandy from Shambhala St. Petersburg and the Florida EcoSattva Group). We held our signs and banners high as we walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Soon after, we came to the White House, and the march spread out to surround it.

At 2 pm, we all sat down where we were on the streets around the White House, for a few minutes of silence, and then we began a powerful heartbeat rhythm as we all gently tapped our chests in unison. And then we all stood as one, in our tens of thousands, and we roared, yelled, and cried out, with determination and intensity, to demand a sensible climate policy in cooperation with the rest of the planet.

April 29th was chosen for the march precisely because it was the 100th day of the climate-denying Trump presidency. The EPA’s environmental programs had already been gutted, scientific research on climate change defunded, dismantled and ignored, permits hastily issued for new oil and gas pipelines and offshore oil wells. A decision is expected from the Administration within days whether to withdraw the US from its commitments under the Paris accord to roll back carbon emissions and accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources. We know Trump and his fossil fuel friends would like to scrap the Paris agreement, but he fears the reaction from the public and the more progressive elements of the business community. Trump himself had fled from Washington for the day, to rally with some 7,000 of his remaining supporters in Harrisburg, PA, and the streets of Washington belonged to the people.

From the White House it was a short distance to the very welcome green space around the Washington Monument, where we lay in the shade of the big trees, rehydrated our sweaty bodies, and rested. Tired, happy marchers were everywhere, some heading for the Metro system and home – how wonderful to be in a city with an efficient light rail system! – and some staying around for a few more hours of music, speeches and movement building activities around the Washington Monument.

The organizers intentionally called the April 29th gathering a people’s mobilization, not just a march, because this is not a one day event, it is a movement that must continue to grow in strength, wisdom and impact. It is particularly important that practitioners of mindfulness and the Dharma bring to this mobilization our practices of understanding, compassion, non-attachment and love. As our root teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote many years ago: “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what's the use of seeing?”

It was our group’s privilege through the day to carry three of One Earth Sangha’s beautiful banners, emblazoned with the image of the bodhisattva Kuan Yin and the words “Embody Fierce Compassion.” We are happy to report that Fierce Compassion was indeed embodied in our nation’s capital on April 29th and held high for the Peoples Climate Mobilization.


  • 06 May 2017 1:43 PM | Anonymous member
    I had so much wanted to be present. Though in Colorado, my awareness was at times focused on the March. I felt powerfully connected bi-locally to DC and to my own determination re a health issue. Thank you Andrew for transporting me and allowing me to share the group’s experience. Your recounting opened my heart and tears quietly streamed down my face and I too feel with all the “tens of thousands who roared, yelled and cried out, with determination and intensity” demanding climate policy responsiveness. May our “policymakers” feel the pain of all living beings and come to their senses.
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