Dr. David Loy, professor of Religion and Ethics at Xavier University and author of Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution.
On an atypically warm day in May, twenty people gathered at a home in Seattle’s Central District for a conversation with David Loy, Dharma teacher, Buddhist scholar and author. Loy’s recent book Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution explores societal manifestations of the Buddhist three poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. He was in Seattle to speak at the Eco-Sangha Conference at Seattle University. (See related article: Buddhism & Sustainability: A Conference on Buddhist Ecology.)
While in town, he took time to meet with Buddhist Peace Fellowship members and friends and discuss the subject of economics from a Buddhist perspective. Seattle’s chapter of BPF has hosted similar small gatherings with engaged Buddhists and special friends in the past.
Loy’s past and present scholarship has focused on aspects of engaged practice, which makes him ideally suited to discuss the relevance of the Buddha’s early teachings and their application to current global economic crises and what follows. With the magnitude of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico starting to seep in, most present seemed to view the U.S. economic collapse as one of many catalysts for reevaluating our personal and collective economic lives.
Economics as a term was viewed broadly by Loy and many present as comprising the common and academic concepts but also, and more fundamentally, relational dynamics and connections between humans and the planet, growth-based economy and sustainability, exploitation and being exploited, and the like. We pondered the much more personal question: what do we really need and at what cost to the earth and all people and beings on it?
Loy sees economics as deeply rooted in the Dharma as the Buddha lived it but also as requiring a contemporary Dharmic understanding informed by awareness of current forms of corporate power, consumerism and media that stimulate grasping and normalize violence in the service of acquisition. The framework and analysis in Money, Sex, War, Karma helps clarify how greed, ill will and delusion have morphed into powerful sociopolitical systems that perpetuate these “poisons” on a national scale and far beyond.
The seeds of this contemporary understanding of Dharma and practice are in the early teachings on the causes of suffering and its cessation. We discussed implications for our Buddhist or other spiritual practice. Loy and others spoke of compassionate engagement beginning on the cushion and in our daily lives and consumption patterns. Our interconnectedness also necessitates practicing this engagement in all our close relationships, from those with loved ones and those we have as citizens, to those that stretch across continents and to all beings.
Seattle Buddhist Peace Fellowship plans to organize a symposium on Buddhism and Economics in mid 2011. To keep abreast of information regarding this event or to take part in planning, contact BPF through David Berrian at 425-482-3026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.