"Directions" by Tom Lacey

Welcome to the BPF Tampabay Journal! This is the place where you can share your own ideas about socially Engaged Buddhism.

Please submit articles to bpf.tampabay@gmail.com. Or you can submit a blog link. Articles may contain pictures or youtube videos.

To start, I really recommend viewing the video by Robina Courtin called Be Your Own Therapist. I think she has come to a practical knowledge of Buddhism
from her whole life and her work with prisoners, an example of socially engaged Buddhist practice. Robina  expresses herself with a confidence
that comes from understanding society and real life as well as Buddhist praxis. 

I have tried to include video and reference material of the highest quality. Many of the videos are from talks at Google, which is located in Mountain View in Silicon Valley, CA. Google is a magnet for intelligent and earnest young people. I think Google is a very open minded company and a valuable resource (it made the technology for collaboration on this site and free to use by anyone). Those who work at Google are the lucky children, and most have been given love and a good education, as well as the self-esteem to think for themselves and to develop compassion for others.

I think it is important to look at Buddhism in an open minded and critical way, to understand its relevance to helping people in need, including ourselves, and to understand modern society in all its complexity and how the ancient wisdom of Buddhism can still be relevant today.

The purpose of our work is to develop the mind: both intelligence with compassion. Wisdom is not just a few sayings or profound beliefs. It is about having an open and engaged mind that is focused on understanding an ever more complex social and technical reality. 

Yet, the most important part of social change has to do with an ever more complex and dangerous social reality for young people today, particularly that involving substance abuse, psych drugs, and an evolution of youth culture that involves violence and aggression, apathy and despair, which leads to self-destructive behavior. A recent study found that substance abuse plagues 50% of young adults. This is complicated by personality disorders in the neighborhood of 25%. But lest than a quarter of those with problems receive any mental health intervention at all. Most self-medicate themselves with alcohol and drugs, bad relationships. Young women often have an early pregnancy, where having a helpless infant to love provides some emotional support. 

Yesterday, one of my customers told me about a young teen who hanged herself from a tree with an electrical cord. She had been using several psych drugs in combination 
as well as abusing alcohol and illicit drugs. There was also a bad family situation. In Pinellas County substance abuse is the leading cause of death among
young adults. How much better would it be for young people to have some better way to understand themselves and their emotions, to have some social support.
So how can we move in this direction? At this point it is not a matter of charity, of helping the unfortunate, but of providing a practical alternative to a culture of
death and self-destruction.

I do not see Buddhism as a process of accepting suffering but rather as a process of self-education of the mind and spirit as a way of making people happy. 
Life should not be so unhappy, particularly for young people. Why make a needless hell of a young life.

I view the destruction of young minds and emotions as a great tragedy. I think we need to make Buddhism relevant to solving this profound social problem. This is the direction I am mostly interested in going.

What is your direction for Engaged Buddhism? Let us hear from you!

Tom Lacey, Ph.D.