What is the Buddhist Quaker Synergy?
In the many conversations I've had with Quakers about Buddhism, it's clear that different Quakers find their Quaker way overlaps with different aspects of Buddhism. I think these aspects mirror the three layers of the eightfold path:
- Virtue (sīla)
- Meditation (samādhi)
- Insight (pañña)
Virtue might include the Buddhist precepts and the Quaker testimonies.
Meditation including the use of stillness and mindfulness.
Insight practice as an an inward looking that understands the impact of the self, transcends it and leads to insight and transformation.
I wonder where you find the B-Q overlap touches you the most.
Kingston Quaker Meeting
Kingston Mindfulness Meditation Group
Twickenham Mindfulness Meditation Group
I agree that the Quaker Testimonies are virtuous aspirations, and Quaker Meeting is similar to meditation but with a sense of communal waiting. I value the social aspects of Quaker Meeting every Sunday, contributing as treasurer, and getting involved in discussion groups and charitable activities. There are two Quaker meetings near me in Mid-Wales, whereas there are no local members of the Western Chan Fellowship to which I belong.
To my mind there are significant areas of opportunity for synergism:
Engaging in the Quaker business method of decision-making, in which there is careful listening to everyone’s contribution before discerning a way forward that is acceptable to all present, is more satisfying and effective than the confrontational ‘argue then vote’ method common elsewhere, including amongst Buddhists.
Buddhists could learn a lot from Quakers about effective social action – abolishing slavery, female emancipation, de-stigmatisation of homosexuality, same-sex marriage…
However, Quakers are often subject to burn-out through over-enthusiastic attention to the world’s woes at the expense of their own wellbeing. Buddhists in contrast focus first on the problems of the illusory ego, following well-established and well-taught practises for stilling the mind, and being aware of their reactivity to change. Such diligence is unknown to Quakerism.
At the Buddhist-Quaker sits we have every month or so in our local Quaker meeting, we start with Buddhist meditation plus a short liturgy, then kin-hin walking meditation. We then have a discussion period on a topic of overlap, such as the difference between meditation and Meeting for Worship, and end with Meeting for Worship. One comment I received was that starting with the discipline of Buddhist meditation led to a much deeper experience in Meeting for Worship. It is insights such as this that inspire me to explore Buddhist-Quaker synergy: the sum could be far greater than the separate parts.
J M Senior