Buddhist Suggestions for Helping in Gaza, Iraq and Ferguson

Hello,

This was kind of an impromptu post (apologies for typos), but I was inspired by these twitter posts here and here. With all the humanitarian problems happening in places like the Gaza Strip, northern Iraq and Ferguson, MO, I wanted to share some ideas about how Buddhists, or anyone can help. These are not “officially Buddhist” suggestions, there are just personal ideas. Every person should be free to decide how they want to assist, so feel free to take or reject these ideas.

Having the Right Attitude

First and foremost, it’s important to have a proper attitude when approaching situations like this. The Buddha encouraged things like mutual respect, respect for the sanctity of life, peace and tolerance, such as this quote from the Dhammapada:

129. All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

130. All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

131. One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.

132. One who, while himself seeking happiness, does not oppress with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.

133. Speak not harshly to anyone, for those thus spoken to might retort. Indeed, angry speech hurts, and retaliation may overtake you.

Or from the 10th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra:

The abode of the Tathagata [another word for the Buddha] is a great compassionate heart for all living beings; The robe of the Tathagata is a flexible and forbearing mind; The seat of the Tathagata is the emptiness of all things.

Here “emptiness” means that all things are not separate from one another; they all depend on one another. Further, they are impermanent too.

Point being, even if you don’t like the other side, it’s important to remember that they are still human. Everyone has fears and shortcomings. This is easier said than done (believe me), but it’s a gold standard to work towards in your own life.

Helping Directly

The best way to help of course is to help directly. Helping on the ground, where possible and feasible, is a brave and noble thing to do. However, also make sure you coordinate with people on the ground to see if you are needed or not. If you do not plan this right, you could end up getting in the way, or putting people at risk. So make sure you do your homework first!

If you cannot help directly, you can still directly contribute by offering donations of food, clothing, water or whatever is needed. The amount isn’t important. What’s important is that you take the first step in giving. Showing up is half the battle! However, make sure you donate through reputable organizations as scam-artists can appear at times like this. Again, do your homework and make an informed decision.

When donating, spend time to think about what’s needed most. Better yet, ask your charity of choice. This is not a good time to “clean out your closet“. Instead, learn what’s most helpful and focus on that. Things may change too, as the situation changes.

Buddhist Prayer and Sutra recitation

In addition to the above, or if you are unable to help, you also utilize Buddhist prayer and sutra recitation as well.

For example, the Golden Light Sutra is a famous sutra for peace and prosperity in a nation. In many parts of the ancient Buddhist world, monks would routinely recite this sutra chapter by chapter, end to end as a way of encouraging peace and prosperity.

For readers at home, you don’t have to recite the entire sutra. Traditionally many people have recited only the first chapter, or maybe their favorite chapter in general (I personally like the 4th chapter a lot).

Additionally, you can also recite parts of the Lotus Sutra, or chant the namu myoho renge kyo which is a particular chant in praise of the Lotus Sutra. Either option (or any Buddhist chant) is appropriate.

When reciting any Buddhist sutra or chant, it’s helpful to first relax your mind a bit (meditation, prayer, whatever works), sit in front of a Buddhist altar if you have one.

Then, when complete, you then dedicate the merit toward peace in general, or a specific place and people. It’s up to you.

People may be skeptical about whether this works or not, but remember, we are all connected. Karma and merit are powerful things, as explained in the 5th chapter of the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra:

“Karma is tremendously powerful. It is capable of covering Mount Sumeru, is capable of plumbing the vast ocean depths and is even capable of obstructing the holy doctrines.

Spread the Word

In addition to the above, you can also help but getting information out. However, remember to maintain a spirit of goodwill and be cautious about spreading misinformation or rumors. It’s tempting to want to be the first, but slow down and keep a cool head. Sometimes good intentions can only stir up trouble if you don’t balance it with the light of wisdom.

Finally

If you cannot assist with any of the above, or still want to do more, focus your efforts more locally. Since all living beings are connected (or “empty” as stated above), you can still do a lot for humanity by helping in your neighborhood, even if you’re just carrying groceries for your elderly neighbor. No effort is wasted. Trust me, you’ll see the difference in the long-run.

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

About Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.
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4 Responses to Buddhist Suggestions for Helping in Gaza, Iraq and Ferguson

  1. viewpacific says:

    It is hard to know what to do. Many teachers advise that the first thing is to be. Grounded in being, our actions will be more harmonious and fruitful.
    In these events in Israel and Palestine, New York and Ferguson, MO, seeing people hurting their neighbors brings more suffering to the world.
    I’m reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh during the war in Vietnam. He did begin in groundedness and peace within. Being there he continued into action, engaging all sides in reconnecting. He found that for most of it, those involved in the conflict first chose their aggression and viewed him as an annoyance or difficulty or worse. He persisted, and that’s the remarkable thing.
    He did not stop, and is still continuing.
    When we can look deeply as he’s done, we can know that conflicts are not only in some faraway place, they are within each of us.

  2. Doug says:

    Hi Viewpacific, great example (re: Thich Nhat Hanh), thanks for sharing!

  3. Tommy KANEKO says:

    Remember Mahatma Gandhi, He never ever used violence agaist violence. Instead, he showed us how to defend the violence which is to use Non-violence march against British Soldiars. To apply his message in this current world. Declease your energy, money, material greediness. Moat of fight rooted Individula, areal, country greedines. Therefore, we human beings have to decrease your own ego or greediness, and live simply with the nature. Who are rewarded by fights or wars, they
    are Arms Production Companies. Who are damaged by fights and wars, they are US like ordinary citizens. SOONER OR LATER, YOU ARE SURE TO DIE IN FUTURE, WHY DON’T WE STOP
    KILLING AT FIGHTS ANS/OR WARS ? From an Asian Buddhist

  4. Doug says:

    Hello Tommy Kaneko and welcome,

    Yes, very true, violence is caused by ego and greediness and it doesn’t benefit anyone.

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