In this issue of Inquiring Mind we consider the violence of inattention—in our cities, our prisons, our ecosystems, and our day-to-day lives—and explore ways that mindfulness and compassion can bring healing to our world.
American-born monk Ajahn Sumedho introduces our theme in a dharma talk affirming the power of mindfulness to transform our habitual reactivity to violence into a compassionate response. Next is an interview with Kiran Bedi, former warden of New Delhi’s Tijar Central Jail, and Lucia Meijer, administrator of the North Rehabilitation Facility in Washington State. Both are forerunners in a worldwide movement introducing vipassana meditation retreats into prisons, as seen in the recent film Doing Time, Doing Vipassana.
Next, visionary rain forest activist John Seed brings our attention to the environmental crisis. He suggests techniques for remembering our identity with nature and the cosmos and offers new ways to understand our own violence and self-destruction. Ironically, most of us are least mindful of the environment in which we live, the city; Australian Zen teacher and filmmaker Susan Murphy urges us to “look around” with awareness at the “street,” countering what she calls the terrorism of indifference. Jerry Brown, mayor of Oakland, California, describes the challenges of bringing a social and spiritual vision to governing a major metropolis, while Thai social activist Sulak Sivaraksa takes a deep look at consumerism as it shapes our society. Judith Stronach presents the methods taught by Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chân Không to practice mindfulness in painful community and family relations. We close our section on the violence of inattention on our poetry pages, where Thich Nhat Hanh and Vietnam War veterans testify to the power of mindfulness to heal the suffering and wounds of war.
Zen and vipassana teacher Gil Fronsdal and his dharma student Nancy Van House challenge us with some crucial questions about ethics for teachers of Buddhism. On the Practice Page, Marie Mannschatz reminds us how we can stay grounded while in the storm of difficult emotions.