Reflections from Standing Rock
by 伊凌 yi ling
Reflection Questions from Buddhist Peace Fellowship Contingent
How has the prayerful resistance work of the water protectors influenced your vision of spiritually-informed organizing? What do you think Standing Rock has to offer to those of us feeling tired or overwhelmed about racism, policing, and climate change?
In the beginning of organizing, an elder I lived with warned me to find another way to organize or risk burnout. “We always thought the revolution was around the corner and died every day waiting, fighting. Then we woke up 15 years later, burned out in our bodies, bank accounts, communities, relationships. You have got to find another way.” She was 38 at the time and just left an ED position in the South Bronx, working with her community of queer poor Boricua mujeres. In my time organizing in NYC and Texas, it often was an experience of fire, inner and outer and each injustice fed another.
What I saw in Standing Rock was a way to come from a non anthropomorphic wholeness to address each arising dynamic with generosity and healing. It was a wisdom, ancient and new. For anyone that was invited, we were invited into our hearts, and the heartbeat of the camp via prayer. The reminder to return to prayer (not panic! During a camp conflagration) in all moments kept us united to our ancestors, our descendants, our communities, the breathing land and water. This is 同心協力，一心一意。the strength of shared mind/heart, the united will of one mind/heart. It made palpable a way to face the depths of poison and motivation within and in wholeness of our adversaries and adversities.
What are your main takeaways? How are you inspired to “bring it home”?
I’m contemplating transmission of Dharma deeply, with my root in Taiwan and the seeding of Dharma in turtle island and the existing Dharma here on turtle island. Many questions and actions through contemplative writing.
Is it possible that the Dharma fails to flourish and grow like a strong banyan tree, protecting the marginalized and serving as a spiritual resort for the elites, because it is embedded/rooted in the psychic layer of settler colonialism called USA? What is lacking that there is a missing rigorous engagement with the realities of suffering? What would open up if there were ceremonies to acknowledge and heal this?
How could we educate our Buddhist communities about the necessity of reciprocity and decolonization as a way to prepare to ground of being for Dharma?
Has Buddhism in the west ever been transmitted to decolonized places? And what tools are the most useful in Buddhist practices to support decolonization?
What are the ways that Buddhism has benefited from the entitlement of religions following Christian hegemony? What are ways that decolonized Dharma humbly recognizes the dharma and universal truths and indigenous wisdom and cosmologies that have populated these lands?
At Oceti Sakowin, observing the violence of spiritual appropriation, the rerouting of spiritual energies towards white self soothing, I saw more deeply into the suffering behind cheap appropriation of Dharma. That there was a wish for liberation and an illusion of self and source. Which in turn fed the cycle of violence that turned everything and everyone else into resources. Unfortunately, the unsolved suffering just aggravates the practice of taking taking taking and gross entitlement. We can come to the path through the recognition of suffering, yet without the proper foundation and grounding, even the benefits of the path are consumed. Decolonization is the Dharma practice of cultivating right view and undoing the fetters that bind us to wrong paths and dynamics.
I’m examining my own arrogance and inherited ideas that bypass the complexities by saying Buddhism is the answer, versus a supporting pillar in the spiritualities that enrich the land and people of the west.
Working to publish “decolonizing Dharma” in Buddhadharma, as a follow up to Funie’s article…and in reflection of my responsibility as an inheritor and defender and student of dharma.
Who are 3 people or groups you met at Standing Rock that you’d like other BPF folks to know about? What about them left an impression on you?
Robert–Blue Coat. Author of “Indian Wars since 1492”. I met Robert on one of the last days at camp, when the blizzard had coated the grounds with snow and ice. His posture was so steady and he didn’t need to step with trepidation so when this was his home, it made sense. His somatic wisdom emanated and we talked about sharing tea and writer’s fellowship. Since a lot of my time was dedicated to medic bodywork, and I spent time wondering how to center indigenous somatic practices, meeting him was the beginning of that answer. He knew how to move and walk in the inclement climate, and perhaps that knowledge of how to sit, stand, lie down and walk could be taught to visitors.
Quetzala -Decolonization facilitator and educator. Quetzala’s vision and motivation for those classes and sharing their knowledge impressed me deeply. In the circle Lakota style facilitation space, I’ve never seen someone simultaneously teaching and open to learning and being called in all at once, which humility and fluidity. Their warmth and extension of friendship to so many folks was inspiring and a practice to bring home.
Medic Bus-B.A. was the indigenous elder from Hawaii, via Arizona. Also a veteran who served as a trauma medic, he came to camp ready to host and set up a warming station for folks needing care on the southwest side of camp. I remember his commitment, affability and availability at all hours, as well as care for the caretakers (allopathic doctors Joanna and Alex from Portland), and the blend of security and medic work. Every doctor/medics commitment to be ready to pour their health into the work was humbling and created such a strong bond of trust.