The Begging Bowl

Buddhist monks, in practicing their call to holiness, rely upon the alms of the lay faithful to provide them with food, clothes, and other needs. Often, these alms come in exchange for spiritual services the monks perform for the laity such as weddings and funerals. The posture a monk observes when receiving alms is holding the empty bowl in hand so that the almsgiver may place the alms in the bowl. However, when a monk turns the begging bowl upside down, rendering the possibility of giving alms impossible, the monk is withdrawing consent from the the spiritual practice of the community.

In Burma, the upside down bowl became a powerful symbolic action in response to the military junta's repression of the pro-democracy movement. In a devoutly Buddhist country, the withdrawal of the monk's begging bowl represents the denunciation of the systemic violence and oppression of the country's military leaders.

15 April 2008

Tax Resistance: Non-Cooperation

Gandhi wrote: "When a government becomes lawless in an organized manner, civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty and is the only remedy open specially to those who had no hand in the making of the Government or its laws. Another remedy there certainly is, and that is armed revolt. Civil Disobedience is a complete, effectives and bloodless substitute."

I believe our government, "the greatest purveyor of violence" in the world, to borrow some words from another prophetic advocate of nonviolence, refuses to be accountable to the people it is supposed to represent. When Dr. King spoke these words, he was assaulted by many people. People he thought were friends accused him of betrayal for expressing his non-consent for the war in Vietnam. "Injustice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Because my voice is not being heard when I contact my "leaders" or large, public actions such as protests are, at best, glazed over by mainstream media, the only way this renegade war, started and continued with very little support of the the people, is to stop giving the government the money to fund the war. Over 50% of our income tax pays for military expenditures, past and current. The war in Iraq has cost, in the past 5 years, $600 billion. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist, estimates the real cost of this war to be $3 trillion, when we consider all the factors of war (Veteran's Healthcare, Rebuilding, Reparations, etc.)

I will not fund that. The money I would have paid the government has gone to the Chicago Anti-Hunger Foundation. When votes no longer matter we vote with our dollars. I vote for the works of mercy and feeding the hungry. And if it means the IRS is gonna come knocking on my door for $119, I will offer them some food too. And if they ask for a check, I'll go with them to jail. That's another work of mercy, visit the imprisoned. If we took the works of mercy as seriously as we took our 1040s and economic stimulus package, the Kingdom of God would be at hand.

Nonviolence is a way of life, it is the way of the cross, the way of truth. There is too much suffering in the world right now. Just imagine, if all of us who profess a faith in Jesus, the man who said "pick up your cross and follow me," such great suffering would redeem us.

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