Roshi Joan Halifax: This Is What Compassion Looks Like: A Buddhist View of Occupy Wall Street

It started 28 days ago, with a ragtag group of people who called themselves “Occupy Wall Street” planting themselves at Liberty Square Plaza (aka Zuccotti Park) in New York City, under the shadows of skyscrapers.

 

They gathered together to call attention to the disproportionate influence that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have over our political and economic system. Using the phrase “We are the 99 percent,” they drew a circle of inclusion around the myriad forms of structural violence and suffering that so many of us are experiencing these days.

 

The Buddha would probably agree with their analysis. Numerous Buddhist texts point out that poverty is not any individual’s fate or karma, but rather exists in a web of causes and conditions. The Buddha also noted that the way to build a peaceful society is to ensure equitable distribution of resources.