Commentary: This Nation Needs Our Awakening Together

East Bay Meditation Center’s core teacher Larry Yang provides commentary on what the nation really needs following the US election.

Larry Yang
10 November 2016
Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Have you noticed? We are not an enlightened society.

Perhaps aspects of that are getting more and more clear for many of us in the period leading up to and including the 2016 elections. More and more, our dharma practice is necessarily not just a personal practice concerned about our personal transformation into awakening or enlightenment. We are called to bring the force of transformation into our collective experience which the Buddha named as Sangha and Community. This force of raising collective consciousness, of awakening our world, continues to create non-harm in ever expanding ways.

We can work to change the world because we hate the injustice, because we cannot abide the abuse and despise the corrupt immorality, because we resent the harm being caused, because we are enraged by the disparity and oppression, or because we are driven by the immediacy that the urgency of pain demands.

With our hearts open as wide as they can be, we cannot do anything else but alleviate suffering in the world and pursue further freedom.

Or we can be inspired to change the world because we love it so dearly, because it reveals its precious value each and every moment, because we hold it with such wondrous awe in its resiliency, creativity, and courage. And with our hearts open as wide as they can be, we cannot do anything else but alleviate suffering in the world and pursue further freedom for as many beings as possible, knowing it is never too late to have compassion for ourselves, for others, for the world.

These are two very different experiences—one can support and sustain our spiritual path throughout our lifetime, and the other can drain and burn out the very energy of our life.

Margaret Wheatley has written: “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” That caring is our Collective Compassion. That Collective Compassion is the possibility of Awakening Together.

Over twenty years ago Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and lovingkindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation.”

This Nation needs our Dharma.

This Nation needs our Practice of Compassion, Wisdom, and Ethics.

This Nation needs our Awakening Together.


Larry Yang, Democracy, Sangha, Community, Buddhism, Lion's Roar, Buddhadharma, East Bay Meditation Center

Larry Yang

Larry Yang teaches meditation retreats nationally and is committed to creating access to the dharma for diverse multicultural communities. He is a Spirit Rock teacher and is a core teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center (Oakland) and Insight Community of the Desert (Palm Springs). His book Awakening Together is available at Wisdom Publications.