June – Buddhist Action Month
At the Sydney Buddhist Centre June is BAM – Buddhist Action Month. It is a relatively recent addition to the centre calendar but has been embraced and is set to become a firm tradition.
BAM is an invitation for one month to take part and get involved in practical actions that express our care and concern for our planet and environment and for all living beings everywhere.
The idea for BAM started in 2012 in the Triratna Buddhist Community in the UK. It spread to Europe in 2015 and in 2016 to Triratna centres in Australia and the US. Both Sydney and Melbourne Buddhist centres took up the idea with energy in 2016. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times – there is so much need for ethical responses and action on so many fronts.
The essence of BAM is to encourage individual Buddhists and Buddhist centres to take any action they wish that benefits the environment, other people, our local communities or society. The theme for BAM in 2017 was “Connecting for Change”. At the heart of Triratna is the Bodhisattva Ideal – the aspiration and heartfelt wish to benefit others and the commitment to act in ways that help all beings to thrive.
A central objective of Triratna Buddhist centres is to benefit of others and to reduce suffering through teaching and sharing the dharma or the truth taught by the Buddha. During BAM however the focus broadens to reach out to those needing help in other practical ways, which we may not prioritise consistently. A further focus is to reflect on the ethical issues that that arise as we live in a world that is dominated by individualism, materialism and consumer values.
So BAM invites the development of more conscious connections between our ethical commitment as Buddhists and the needs of other beings – human and otherwise, our society and our environment.
In Sydney this year we developed a program refelecting the passions of our sangha.
Firstly we continued our engagement with climate change activism by helping the ongoing campaign across the country to #StopAdani. Some sangha members undertook nonviolent direct action training offered by the multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC). Following on from that training the sangha supported an ARRCC sit-in at the CommBank headquarters in Sydney by holding a meditation session. We also took the opportunity to erect “Stop Adani” signage on the front of the busy Sydney Buddhist Centre Newtown street frontage and held a public viewing of Guarding the Galilee – a powerful film summarising the key problems with the Adani mine proposal in Queensland.
Secondly we held a “Vegan Week”. Although many in our sangha are vegetarian, veganism is a strong further step toward protecting the planet’s environment and also practising kindness to animals by not engaging with farming them or harming them. Many also say it is a great kindness to your own body: a healthy thing to do. The sangha was invited to sign up for the week and participants encouraged each other throughout the week with helpful tips and ideas. A vegan dinner was held at the end of the week.
Thirdly we focussed on refugee issues and support. We made a special additional effort to contribute to the Food Bank Basket at the Centre. Several sangha members have for some time coordinated the collection of food and its drop off at a local refugee support centre but it was given a really big plug through BAM. By chance, Refugee Week fell during BAM. Sangha members supported two events: “Welcome Respect Unity” organised by the Asylum Seekers Centre and the City of Sydney; and “New Beginnings”, a Refugee Arts & Culture Festival, organised by Settlement Services International.
Fourthly through “Socks for the Homeless”, sangha members collected lots of pairs of woolly socks and delivered them – with bucketfuls of metta or kindness – to homeless people sleeping rough on the cold city streets.
And just for good measure street meditations over one weekend were organised in solidarity with other Triratna centres participating in BAM. A flash-mob style sit was held at Camperdown Park.
I think it’s fair to say that 2018 BAM promises to be another well-supported month of practical actions that express care and concern for the world around us.
If you would like more information about the Sydney Buddhist Centre have a look at our website. Or drop in at 24 Enmore Road, Newtown (although it would be wise to check whether the centre is open before you come).