Monday, September 14, 2015

Day 4: Economic Justice

CHAPEL SPEAKER:  Jennifer Reed

Jennifer Reed shared an experience of faith and racism on August 15th at the Oklahoma Buddhist Center’s Community Dialogue event, titled “Our New Clear Future”. This event raised awareness on the need for global peace through the discussion of three social issues: racism, nuclear abolition and climate change. Jennifer will be sharing a similar faith experience this morning. Jennifer is a local youth Buddhist leader, born and raised in New Jersey, but currently working to make Oklahoma fabulous. She received her Masters in Human Relations last spring and is on a mission to empower all people. 

Jennifer's Speech

I remember spending weekends at my grandparents house when I was growing up. My sisters

and I would sleep over on Friday evenings and on Saturday morning, my Nana would watch the

news as my sisters and I ate breakfast. “Well, that’s just terrible…”, my Nana would say. “Oh

golly, now why would they tell us that?”, she’d go on. Even this past week I spoke with my Nana

and she had similar sentiments about the news, “It’s all awful. I don’t know why I bother

watching it.” That’s what she’s been saying the last twenty-plus years, though. Now more than

ever, people argue that we are seeing continuous coverage of the same sad news: violence, \\

crime, wars, natural disasters, religious disputes, gender issues, race issues, police

brutality…I’m beginning to think there aren’t even enough words in the English language to

define all of the problems and issues we have accumulated over the years.

How is it possible that we are in the most advanced and prosperous period our world has ever

seen, yet we have the same basic human problems remaining. We have education at the touch

of our fingertips, but millions in the world are illiterate. We have more billionaires than ever

before, but millions in the world live off of $2 a day. We have amazing advances in the medical

field, but millions are dying from simple viruses because they cannot afford or do not have

access to vaccinations. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for futurism and the growth of technology,

science and medicine, but something here doesn’t match up. What we are doing isn’t sufficient

if we have so many people suffering, unhappy and not at peace.

So what has gone wrong? I must preface everything by saying that I am not an expert in this

field. I am simply a young woman with personal experiences, and a lot of opinions, but I believe

we lost sight of humanitarian basics aka caring for one another.

I practice Nichiren Buddhism, a sect of Mahayana Buddhism, that teaches enlightenment is

attainable for everyone in this lifetime and that all people deserve to be happy. This, above all

else, is what will begin the transformation toward world peace. When we seek to become happy

and wish for others to do the same, we drop judgement, bias and negativity toward those

people. If I became angry with someone because of their differing beliefs and told them they

were wrong, then I am only increasing their suffering or potential to suffer by not respecting their

differences. Now I don’t know about all of you, but I have enough suffering in my own life to be

concerned with making others suffer more. That is just too much work! However, when we take

a look at ourselves in a deep and profound way, I mean really observe our minds, we have the

opportunity to change the direction of our lives, our environment and the situations around us.

Through learning all of this, I have ultimately realized that attaining world peace is possible

when change first begins on the individual level. My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, touches on this

belief by saying, “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change

in the destiny of a nation and, further, can even enable a change in the destiny of all


Our attitude begins with our mindset.. It is imperative at a young age to question how your mind

works. When you are faced with a challenging situation, what is your attitude like and how do

you react? Are you the type of person that starts a subliminal tweet war for everyone to see? Do

you work hard to “get even”, or do you brush your shoulders off and keep it movin? Is your

reaction to your situation going to create a negative or positive impact on those around you?

Nichiren Buddhism has taught me that I have a universal responsibility to create happiness for

myself and happiness for others, no matter what disagreements or differences may exist. We

have only one life to live and I am not going to spend it eliminating value from my life and being

a happiness-sucker for someone else.

So, number 1 - all people deserve the right to be happy, and we see the need for their

happiness when we change our attitude. I think that sounds fair. Hopefully, as youthful

champions of peace, you also all agree.

High school is hard. There’s no doubt about how hard it is to be a teenager; self-identity issues,

body weight issues, liking people of the opposite sex, liking people of the same sex…it all

seems so confusing and embarrassing, doesn’t it? And talk about overwhelming…when I was in

high school I was LOST in all capital letters. I felt like I knew who I was, but internally I was a

mess. I didn’t have a way to pay for college, I was fighting an intense mental and physical battle

with my eating disorder, I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend and I were going to break up and the list

goes on and on. It’s difficult to wrap your head around a lot of these issues at such a young age,

but one thing that will bring people closer together is compassion. So #2, Compassion and #1

having the right attitude, are two pathways to creating peace for yourself, your environment and

the world. Quoting our mentor, Mr. Ikeda, “Compassion is the very soul of Buddhism. To pray for

others, making their problems and anguish our own; to embrace those who are suffering,

becoming their greatest ally; to continue giving them our support and encouragement until they

become truly happy-it is in such humanistic actions that Buddhism lives and breathes.”  Being a

compassionate person doesn’t mean you have to volunteer for every cause or put your life’s

savings into an orphanage (I was extreme when I was younger and thought I had to do both of

these things). Instead, I have come to recognize compassion as taking one small step toward

helping at least one other person. One act of compassion I have carried out since middle school

was making sure to say hi to someone I knew little to nothing about or to sit with someone at

lunch that was sitting by themselves. Feel free to copy and expand on those ideas, then watch

your compassion grow. You never know how impactful you can be until you try.

Many times people feel helpless working toward world peace because it just seems too lofty of a

cause. We may think, well, what can I do? I am just one person…well darn’ tootin’ you are! And

what an amazing person you are! #3 Realize your importance and tie that to your mission!

Before I practiced Buddhism, I felt like I was just roller coasting through life. Some days were

great and filled with purpose and others crashed and burned. When I joined Nichiren Buddhism,

I drastically realized that there is nobody on this earth like me. There will only be one me, one

time, for all of eternity; what a precious gift!!! I truly encourage each of you to see that YES you

are important, YES you can do something to change this world and YES you can tie it to any

mission you want. Whether you start by really paying attention to the messages and causes

made this week during your event and choosing to think with a more open mind, or you fight for

clean drinking water on Tuesdays and equal pay for women on Thursdays, go for it! Your

mission is so unique to you and I hope you fight for it with all your heart. Daisaku Ikeda, on a

discussion about the importance of youth, said “Youth and indeed life itself, flashes by in the

blink of an eye. That is why it is important for you to ask yourselves what you can do for those

that are suffering, what you can do to resolve the mournful contradictions that plague society,

and to boldly take on these challenges without shunning the subsequent problems and

difficulties you will inevitably face.”

If there is one other thought I can leave you with, it is to challenge you to find the similarities in

those around you before spotting out the differences. As I’ve gotten older, I have seen and felt

firsthand what it’s like when people have put my color, race, creed and socioeconomic status

before getting to truly know me. You may be extremely surprised to learn that the person sitting

five rows away from you this morning might be going through the exact same obstacles and

difficulties as you. So start a conversation with someone new, ask lots of questions to

understand and remember in all of your encounters: 1. Change your attitude to increase

happiness for yourself and others, 2. Show compassion and 3. tie your importance to your

mission. Don’t forget to thank your amazing teachers, faculty and staff for putting on this

spectacular eye-opening event. What a tremendous high school you are all a part of!

Thank you!!

     Secret Agent of Compassion
            Mission 004 - Sept 14, 2015

Good Morning Ambassadors of Compassion!

Let's expand the concept of you becoming your own renewable source of compassionate energy by considering tools like solar panels and windmills that generate their own electricity. Unlike finite fuel sources (coal, oil, and gas) that are used in inefficient power plants that waste 60-70% of the fuel's energy, renewable sources of energy are limitless and more efficient.

Your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is to further shift your focus to being a producer of renewable compassionate power rather than a consumer of inefficient forms of human energy.

How is this done?

With mindful awareness of how you behave in ordinary situations, that's how.

In your regular interactions with people today, practice common courtesy with heightened awareness. Hold doors open for people, smile, say thank you, and be friendly. You know, do those tiny extra things it takes to be nice to others.

This mission may seem simple at first glance, or even insignificant. But give it some extra thought as you go about your usual routine. If you fully engage in it, you very well may have a transformative experience and, like ripples that spread out when a pebble is dropped in a pond, you will recognize how you can positively influence others. With that in mind, we at IKT HQ request that you report your activities on the Compassion Report Map!

Good luck, Ambassadors.

(Help children understand today's mission by talking to them about good manners, things they may already have some understanding of. Part of the idea here is to bring heightened attention to simple acts of courtesy or everyday kindness. Doing these things consistently and over time is what causes others to see us as kind people. And the more we practice this, the more opportunities for being kind we recognize.)