Demonstrating an Alternative

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  • #2694


    Demonstrate an Alternative is a phase much associated with Amida Shu. I first encountered it in the early days of the Amida Trust when there was a lot of activity around animal rights, peace campaigns, immigrant advocacy, etc. I am not sure whether the phrase was coined originally by Dharmavidya or borrowed from another source.

    What does “Demonstrate an Alternative” mean? It is the third word in the acronym,“RADICAL.” R is, “Resist Oppression.” A is, “Assist the Afflicted.” And D is, “Demonstrate an Alternative.”

    In Gandhian non-violence, “Demonstrating an Alternative” is the “Constructive Program” of the social movement for change. It means modeling the change we want to effect in the world.

    If we are trying to build a new society, a more compassionate society, we can’t just tear down the old one. We can’t be completely negative and destructive. We need to build our new society within the old one, providing a positive alternative to the social structure we are trying to change.

    The first element of demonstrating an alternative is recognizing that the end is found in the means. As the Buddha states quite concisely, “Hatred is not overcome by hate. Hate is overcome by Love. This is a universal Truth.”

    If we want to create a more caring and compassionate world — a less violent world — then hatred cannot be our motivation. Hatred and anger arise naturally and unbidden, but we cannot allow them to drive our actions.

    Our path to social change must be one of healing. The Buddha is the world healer. The Dharma is the medicine we bring to the world. Living the Dharma, following the Dharma, we seek to heal others and ourselves of hatred, greed, and ignorance. This is the Dharma revolution.

    Amida is Amitayus, the Buddha of measureless life. To say the Nembutsu is to affirm the value of life in all its forms. Thus, we protect life and try not to harm others. We affirm relationships, and strive not to break trusts. We offer truth even in the face of deceit and lies. We avoid escaping the harsh realities of life through intoxication and instead cling to the Nembutsu in all circumstances. We strive to live simpler lives, recognizing that the Pureland is “at-hand” and ready to flow into the world in each moment.

    We all want to be the next Gandhi, of Ambedkar, or Dorothy Day, or Dr. King. We won’t be! Ours is not heroic work. Our work is anonymous, unrecognized, and unrewarded. It is the work of the many anonymous and forgotten African Americans who took part in the Montgomery bus boycott. It is the humble work of the thousands of people who offered food and kindness to the downtrodden and impoverished in the Catholic Worker houses of hospitality. It is courageous work of millions of mostly unknown Dalits practicing the Buddha Dharma, rejecting Hinduism, and challenging the Hindu caste system.

    Demonstrating an alternative means doing our little bit, no matter how humble. Certainly, we should do as much as we can to transform this world into a more compassionate realm. But the real alternative is living genuine religious lives in which all are welcome at our table and we are constantly seeking the welfare of others.

    Namo Amida Bu!

  • #2718

    Vajrapala Moerman

    Thank you Ananda.

    Very inspirational! Let us think further and hope we can contribute where possible.

    Namo Amida Bu

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