Engaged Buddhism

Zen practice is a wholehearted engagement with all dimensions of life. We do not seek to escape the complex systems that govern the human world, but to enter them as gates of awakening.

At the heart of awakening is the vibrant truth of interconnection. All beings are mysteriously linked in a web of evolving relationships. Free from attachment, compassion flows forth to transform relative structures – personal, cultural, ecological, social economic, technological. The bodhisattva vow is infinite in its manifestations. This is our collective liberation!

Engaged Buddhism Committee’s Core Values

  1. To acknowledge and respond to the suffering caused by inherent biases and prejudices based on systems of power and oppression by promoting and integrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion throughout ZCO and in the larger community.
  2. To acknowledge and respond to the climate crisis that threatens all life on earth by working internally and locally to support environmental sustainability.
  3. To be a good neighbor by identifying and responding to needs in the local neighborhood that we may be uniquely positioned to positively affect.
  4. To identify and offer education and activities about these issues for ZCO leadership, Teachers, Sangha members and the larger community.
  5. To fulfill our Bodhisattva vow by infusing these activities with compassion, Zen Buddhist tradition, Dharma and practice for the benefit of all beings.


Inclusivity statement

The Zen Community of Oregon welcomes everyone. We study together and practice for the benefit of all beings and this living earth. We recognize the suffering caused by biases, prejudices, systems of power, privilege, and oppression based on race, sex, class, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. We aspire to do no harm and to dismantle barriers that cause separation and suffering, recognizing that our liberation is interconnected with the liberation of all.

Awakening to Whiteness

Awakening to Whiteness is structured as an “affinity group” for white people to explore the elements that have contributed to this often unconscious identity. We explore in this way with an understanding that our own liberation/awakening is intimately bound to one another. Our work is inspired by White Awake, a non-profit whose mission is to combat white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to engage people who’ve been socially categorized as “white” in the creation of a just and sustainable society. We express appreciation to that organization.

Diversity Equity and Inclusion

Zen Community of Oregon is committed to racial justice and being an anti-racist organization. We have an active committee working to analyze our current practices and procedures, to help transform ZCO into a more inclusive community that prioritizes equity. Check back regularly to hear more about our progress.

Engaged Buddhism

Here at ZCO we are discovering that we are all Engaged Buddhist…we are Engaged in taking care of one another and in the well-being of others. We are Engaged in practicing the precepts daily life and in all our affairs and our daily life. We are Engaged in responding with compassion to the cries of the world. We are Engaged in the work of passing on the light of the Dharma in a world where we teach that there is no separation.

Our engagement echoes the teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha who said “In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate.” In the last 50 years it is Thich Nhat Hanh who began to use the term Engaged Buddhism as he took the teachings of the Dharma into the streets during the Vietnam War. His vow of non-violence, compassion and mindful help for others has reverberated throughout Buddhism surfacing today in many communities of faith including ours.

Although ZCO has always been active in spreading the Dharma and supporting the work of other Buddhist communities, the recent emergence of an Engaged Buddhism/Social Justice thread weaving its way throughout the activities of the sangha was initiated with Chozen Roshi’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement and Hogen Roshi’s long connection with Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

We are challenged by our vows to “… save all beings…”,to dedicate our merit, our focus and our mindful awareness to the benefit of the world. In the Metta Sutta the Buddha reminds us of our responsibility to others…

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a bound-less heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world…

Recently we put together the following list of the Engaged Buddhism activities at ZCO from January to August, 2018 so that everyone can see how this community has responded to this commitment.

As a result ZCO has established a goal (#4) in the strategic 5 year plan to “Nurture a Heart-connected and Socially Engaged Spiritual Community” and “facilitate Engaged Zen Buddhist practice on issues like climate change and racism…”

ZCO Engaged Buddhism and Climate Change Activities January –August, 2018

In January ZCO contributed over $1000.00 worth of food and cash to the Portland Schools Backpack Food program.

The second session of White Awakening facilitated by Lori-Ann Lima, Linda Cho-on Frishmeyer & Jim Honer, had 35 participants from ZCO, other Buddhist groups, Lewis & Clark College which began in January and concluded in June.

James Baldwin’s “I Am Not Your Negro” was shown and discussed at Heart of Wisdom in honor of MLK Day. January 15th.

Various members attended Race Talks at McMenamins’ Kennedy School

Many members participated in several marches and vigils including
March For Our Lives, March
March for Science 2018, April
Families Belong Together, June
IMIrj Thursday ICE Peace Vigil & Walk, every Thursday
Interfaith Prison Vigil & Service of Solidarity at the Federal Prison in Sheridan, OR, June
Interfaith Press Conference on Immigration and Sheridan detainees, June
Occupy ICE, ongoing

Great Vow Zen Monastery held the annual 24 Hour Chant for Peace, and raised over $500.00 for the Oregon Peace Institute, May

Lama Rod Owens presented three public talks and a two-day workshop for men dealing with “Undoing Patriarchy and Scared Masculinity”, June

Chozen & Hogen Roshis signed the Soto Zen Buddhist Association Statement calling for an end to the separation of children from parents seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border. June

Heart of Wisdom hosted the Oregon Peace Institute’s Introductory Bystander Intervention & De-escalation Training, June

The first informational session about the “No One Dies Alone” bedside vigil program with Portland coordinator Jim Pheifer, was held at Heart of Wisdom in June. Over 20 ZCO members attended and expressed interest in volunteering with the program. https://www.4signatureservice.com/hospice/no-one-dies-alone.

Heart of Wisdom Climate Change Group continues to meet monthly to discuss, view videos, read books and collaborate with Buddhist and environmental organizations on local and global environmental justice issues. The group was particularly interested in legislation concerning “Clean Energy Jobs” (2017-2019) or the Carbon Tax Legislation due to be brought to the legislature again in 2019. Other areas of interest and activity were world wide plastic debris problem , study of the book Drawdown , a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming, and methods of personal change in support of climate change.

For about 10 years ZCO has provided tuition for two monastics enrolled at Buddhist University in Cambodia through the KEAP scholarship program. This scholarship program was piloted by the Zen Community of Oregon with the Buddhist Association of Cambodia. https://www.keap-net.org/monastic-education.html

For the past two years ZCO has provided boarding school tuition of $1000.00 for a Tibetan Nepalese child through Dan Brown’s “Pointing Out the Great Way Foundation.” https://www.pointingoutthegreatway.org/completed-projects/

On July 4, ZCO members of the first Awakening to Whiteness session contributed $700.00 to the Urban League of Portland in recognition of the history of racism in our country and in the spirit of reparations for historical white privilege.

Many ZCO members and monastics have careers in social service/social and environmental justice and volunteer in various local agencies and organizations. For example, Cho-on volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank’s Woodlawn Elementary School distribution center and Sojin volunteers at the Community Warehouse on Wednesday afternoons. Linda Vick volunteers for the Portland Audubon Society, Laura Stevens works for the Oregon Sierra Club, Soten Lynch and the Great Vow Choir sing at Cornerstone, an adult care home in Clatskanie, and monastics and residents at GV contribute tomato starts and volunteer with Seed to Supper Gardening Program in Clatskanie.

So this has been a strong and Engaged 9 months at ZCO. We invite you to participate in the Social Justice and Engaged Buddhism activities in the future. We also invite you to make suggestions, express your ideas, talk back to us about what you want to see or do in the future.

Speak up! You may be our next Teacher in a world that needs to hear from all of us.

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