For the February 2000 demonstration in Washington DC ( the worlds failed attempt to stop a war before it starts) ,my wife and I had decided to walk with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship delegation, a group of twelve or fifteen mindful souls in the midst of several hundred thousand highly agitated protesters. Concurrent with the anti-war demonstration that day there was also a pro-Palestinian rally in the Mall and the combined energy was intense. We bounced back and forth between the Peace folks and the Palestinians until it was time for the march down to the capitol, at which point we hooked back up with the Buddhists, grabbed our signs, and began to meld into the throng. We had decided beforehand to do a walking meditation, focusing on engagement without anger or ill will and so we would stick together, stay cool, and work towards a little enlightened peace making.
Which was all well and good until we reached a point where the entire pro-Palestinian faction, with their colorful clothes and militant slogans began to merge with the peace folks. The atmoshere buzzed and crackled with the directed energy, and suddenly the Buddhists decided to split off from the crowd and walk separately. I’m fine with hanging with Buddhists but I definitely wanted to also be with the People, my people, fired up, mobilized,agitated people. My wife, who has a much deeper practice than I, felt the same way,though she is a little more intimidated by the intensity of mass gatherings. We like the drums and chants and costumes and signs, the beautiful and powerful theatre of it all, and I appreciated the power we represented as an organized opposition. I could understand the meditators desire for a less passionately electrified atmosphere but at the same time felt their calming presence would be a welcome force within the group and that they should integrate and meld rather than set themselves apart.
Being engaged and mindful in this often chaotic melee we call modern civilization is a delicate,even intricate balancing act. The degree of injustice combined with the increased sense of urgency means less space for the deliberative, contemplative approach desirable in ideal situations. Times shape tactics, and the luxury of personal spiritual fulfillment is weighed against the brutal reality of death and hunger and blood and suffering. It would be nice to change the consciousness of the planet one meditation at a time. But sometimes you have to take to the streets.
"..the experts decided,in the interests of public safety, that they must have a powerful standing army, consisting mostly of veterens- for they put so little faith in raw recruits they deliberately start wars to give their soldiers practice, and make them cut throats 'just to keep their hands in',as Sallust rather nicely puts it."
Thomas More Utopia