The origin of Contemplative Social Action Network meetings
These meetings were initially inspired by presentations given by David Loy, who is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. David visited Melbourne in May 2019 to give a talk on ‘Personal and Social transformation in Critical Times’ and to lead a couple of workshops which focused, firstly, on ‘Non-Duality’ and secondly, on ‘A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution and Ethics in the Modern’.
We all live in and act upon the world. Consciously and unconsciously, we co-create the world around us – in other words, we play a part in the way things are. Moment by moment, our acts (and omissions) take place in the space where the external world and our inner lives meet – a field of myriad inter-actions.
In this space we may experience ourselves dualistically; as independent agents determining the course of our lives and influencing the external world around us. At times, we may feel determined and disempowered by others, or by external circumstances and forces that lie beyond our influence. At a deeper level of analysis, we may become dimly aware that we are shaping and shaped by, the dynamics of larger (social) systemic formations, currents and movements – that we are very much men and women of our time. What we learn from contemplative traditions is that the dualism of ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ often obscures the reality that our lives and the lives of others are intimately interwoven or interconnected. We ‘inter-are’ as one renowned contemplative has put it.
Our suffering and our wellbeing is inextricably connected to the suffering and wellbeing of others. Many of us are deeply troubled by the kinds of suffering we witness and so we seek to change the causes and conditions that give rise to this suffering. Motivated to take action, we may become activists in the service of one noble cause or another.
There are many concerned and well motivated people engaged in social activism, but this network brings people together who are interested in exploring how contemplative perspectives and practices can change the way activism is done and consequently make activism more grounded in a contemplative mind, or spirit; more grounded in wisdom, or insight, combined with love and compassion – and perhaps, therefore, less likely to create unintended harm and more likely to succeed in bringing about enduring collective change for the better.
The Structure of Network meetings
To facilitate this exploration, network meetings are usual designed to help people experience:
- Coming together and connecting with people from diverse contemplative, or reflective disciplines, traditions and perspectives.
- Sharing and learning relevant contemplative/reflective perspectives and practices from each others disciplines and traditions.
- Planning, collaborating on, or reporting on, social activism.
- Engaging in reflective and dialogical processes with regard to presentations and emerging experiences of integrating contemplation and social action.
Diversity and Inclusivity at meetings
People attending these network meeting have identified as secular, Quaker, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Pagan and so on. These network meetings are open to anyone. Some people are members of groups within their own religious traditions dedicated to social action. Some people have no affiliation. It’s an opportunity for people to work and learn together across traditions and identity group memberships.
The Organisation of meetings
Those who regularly participate in this meetings are invited to take turns curating or organising meetings. The Contemplary supports the self organising capacity of the group and provides funding for room hire and where necessary the costs associated with speaker presentations.