Sangha building in New Orleans
I guess the point of this blog is to keep a notebook of my studies in engaged buddhism. My name is Tim Roust, I am writing from New Orleans. I've been living here for over a year now....I was drawn here out of some strange faith that this is where I would find the peace movement that I've been searching for my whole life. Thich Naht Hahn often writes about flowers growing out of compost. That is what drew me to New Orleans. Somehow it felt like New Orleans was a place where the deepest scars of this country were suddenly ripped wide open, leaving the deepest wounds of this country exposed for all to see. These wounds have been with our country from the very beginning. The healing of New Orleans is connected inextricably with the healing of the United States. And somehow it feels like my own personal healing is now wrapped up with the healing of this city as well.
I first learned about the engaged buddhist movement while living in Berkeley California in 2001. I learned about Thich Nat Hahn in September of that year, shortly after the events of 9/11. On September 25th, Thich Nhat Hahn gave a speech at the Riverside Church in New York called "Embracing Anger", which was broadcast the next day on Democracy Now, which I heard broacast on KPFA radio in Berkeley.
Transcript - www.dharmagates.com/embracing_anger.htm
Audio, part 1 - www.democracynow.org/2001/9/26/thousands_gather_to_hear_vietnamese_monk
Audio, part 2 - www.democracynow.org/2001/9/27/thich_nat_hanh_part_2
Shortly after, there was a panel discussion held on the campus of UC Berkeley about a spiritual response to the events of 911. Michael Lerner spoke of engaged judaism, and Joanna Macy spoke of engaged Buddhism. I was struck by her serenity, and her gentleness and her sad and loving smile, and her overwhelming sense of hope and faith. She talked repeatedly about the need to build "rough weather networks", and I intuitvley understood what she was talking about. And that is what I've been searching for and trying to build in my life ever since. She talked about the idea of "interdependent coarising". "This is like this, because that is like that" she said repeatedly.
I was immediatley drawn to both Joanna Macy and Thich Naht Hahn for their clarity, their sanity, and their overwhelming compassion, but it would take many years before their teachings really took hold in me. And now, years later, I find that a hunger has awoken in me. I am being drawn more and more towards engaged buddhism, and am activly seeking out other radical peace activists who are also being drawn to those teachings.
That is why I was so excited to stumble across this site.
Today I took the ferry across the Mississippi and biked along the levee to the Barnes and Noble bookstore, and spent a while browsing through the Buddhist section, hoping to find a Thich Naht Hahn book that I haven't read yet. But instead, I picked up a book called "One Dharma - The Emerging Western Buddhism" by Joseph Goldstein, and "The Buddhist path to Simplicity" by Christina Feldman. I do not have a community of practice in New Orleans, and so I carry these books with me so that I don't feel so alone. And tonite I decided to start this blog, as another place where I could turn where I felt lost and alone....as a sort of virtual "rough wheather network". And so I am happy to be here, and I am inspired by the community that you have formed in Vancouver, and I feel that it won't be long before something similar begins to take hold in New Orleans. "This is this because that is that". So thank you all. This site strengthens my hope and my faith and my will to persevere.