Compassionate Action

Being in the world

A commitment to be of service to our world is at the heart of Zen. Service and compassionate action can take many forms; for some people their paid work is their vehicle for service, for some people caring for family at home or volunteering in the community is their expression of compassion, while others may choose social activism or environmental action. As a Buddhist community, here at the Centre we work on a daily basis to live simply, use resources wisely and build responsible engagement with our wider society. Although the challenges of pollution, waste, poverty, inequality, ecosystem destruction and climate change are truly global in scale, we hold that compassionate, community-based actions can make a difference.

Climate emergency declaration

On the 28 May 2019 Sangha members met to discuss the option of declaring a Climate Emergency. There was unanimous support from those present for the draft declaration. AZC staff subsequently created an online survey to gain further input from the Sangha. There was almost unanimous support expressed in the survey results as well -- one Sangha member supported strong climate action but did not support the concept of a climate emergency. On 19 June 2019 the AZC Trustees unanimously adopted the declaration. 

By declaring a Climate Emergency, we commit to:

  • incorporating climate crisis considerations into the life of our Centre, our decisions, practices, purchases and policies

  • advocating strongly for greater central government and city leadership and action on climate change

  • treasuring and deepening our practice, which enables us to find love, compassion, joy, equanimity, and the courage for action in the midst of uncertainty and change.

This declaration is a way of affirming (to each other and to the wider community) that we are committed to the difficult work of facing the current climate crisis, exploring its roots in human greed, fear and denial, and its social and ecological consequences, and then doing what we can to alleviate suffering.

In making this declaration, we join hundreds of other Buddhist communities, faith groups, councils, cities and nations around the world, in order to serve our living planet and all its beings as best we can. In the coming weeks, months and years we will be working to keep this declaration alive and central in our practice and in our day-to-day activities.

Here are some of the actions that we already taking to be in the world with attention and care:

Our food choices

At the Centre we follow a plant-based diet. We maintain vegetable plots in several local community gardens and during the summer months, many of the vegetables used at the Centre kitchen and on sesshin are grown ourselves. When we are purchasing food, we select mainly local, seasonal fresh produce and also support organic and fair-trade producers whenever possible. All our food waste is composted.

Our product choices

We try to reduce the amount of "stuff" we use at the Centre and when we do need something, we explore low-impact, fair, simple options (e.g. reconditioning second-hand appliances, making homemade cleaning solutions). We take responsibility for what we can no longer use, making sure things are recycled whenever possible, or disposed of responsibly (e.g. we have an annual e-waste collection at the Centre to make it easier for Sangha members to dispose of old electrical equipment appropriately).

Our social choices

We aspire to make the Auckland Zen Centre an inclusive, accessible and welcoming place for those seeking to practice the Way, regardless of race, ethnic or national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or physical capabilities. For many years we have supported the human rights work of Amnesty International by fundraising, writing letters annually on Kannon Day, by staying informed about local and global issues and by taking part in public actions. Centre members also helped to found and continue to support the New Zealand Buddhist Council, which aims to create respectful relationships among New Zealand’s various Buddhist communities and to work with other faith communities to nurture mutual understanding and promote peace.

Our travel choices

We celebrate walking and biking as beneficial modes of transport. We encourage car-pooling and the use of public transport and our Centre is located within minutes of a train station and bus depot.

Our local choices

We care for our local neighbourhood by regularly collecting litter from the streets and in the past few years we have converted a neglected corner of Onehunga into a tiny park: our zendo backs onto a council-owned car park and the area around the car park was a forlorn wasteland, sprouting only weeds and rubbish. With the help of a council grant, we’ve cleared the litter and weeds, mulched the ground, and planted over 100 hardy native plants that in time will draw native birds and insects into this tiny oasis. We have also installed bench seats so locals can enjoy the garden.

Our Green Network

In early 2019 we had a series of talks from Sensei and Sangha members, exploring responses to the climate crisis we are in the midst of. This is such an urgent issue. After the talks we decided to form a Green Network to help keep ourselves informed and inspired about the climate actions that we can take up, both individually and together as a Sangha. At the moment the Green Network has monthly email updates, members are regularly taking part in different climate actions around Auckland, and we have irregular meetings. Contact if you would like to be on the Green Network email list. We also are affiliated with a Facebook group called "Dharma Rain Aotearoa". This is a digital space for anyone interested in exploring practice and compassionate action in this time of climate crisis. Search for the group on Facebook and ask to join -- you are most welcome. 

In addition to this daily work, at the Centre we mark the importance of compassionate action in two ceremonies each year: Earth Day and Kannon Day

Our actions and choices matter, large and small.

 Bread made at the Centre each week for lunches  Pumpkins growing in one of the Centre garden plots  Letters calling for the release of prisoners of conscience written on Kannon Day  Reconditioned 1960s sewing machine, in use at the Centre  Bulk purchase of paper-wrapped toilet paper (from 100% recycled paper).
Amala Wrightson,
17 Jul 2019, 16:29
Amala Wrightson,
25 Jun 2019, 17:38