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Buudhist Take on Spirituality and Social Justice

A Report by Allison Ristaino '14

Ryumon and her adorable dog Arthur joined us at the Chapel for lunch and a conversation about spirituality and social justice.

On a Wednesday in late February, students shook the snow off their boots and came into the warm Bodman Lounge for a Buddhist Lunch and an interesting spiritual lecture and discussion with Ryumon Baldoquin Sensei and her lovable dog, Arthur. The title of discussion was "Spirituality and Social Justice: Two Faces of One Coin." Ryumon Sensei explained that for her, the two sides of the coin represent Buddhism and social justice, and spoke on how these themes are both separate and connected to each other in her life. She commented on how "people say Buddhists don't do anything except sit and look at their navel." She said that this was one thing that she has pondered on in her life, especially on one retreat she went to. She felt that her efforts were needed more at a social justice rally nearby than at the Buddhist retreat that she was on. Her retreat leader asked her, "As you go up to do that, is there peace in your heart?" This question affected her a lot as she thought further about her role as a Buddhist and as one who fights for social justice.

Ryumon Sensei also spoke on the many different levels of social injustice. "Nobody escapes suffering," she said. "Isn't that nice?" Everyone in the world must experience suffering in order to grow as a person. In fact, suffering is one of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. She told us some revolutionary stories connecting social injustice and spirituality. For instance, she mentioned women who belonged to their fathers or husbands in India, who left in order to study Buddhism.

In the end, she stated that, like the name of the talk she was giving, social justice and spirituality are two sides of one coin. But what is the coin? "The coin is love," she stated. Our spirituality is an important part of social justice because, as Ryumon Sensei put it, "Social justice without spirituality is ignorance."