The Buddhist Bill Of Rights
Brothers/Sisters and Friends,
I am very proud to send you the first copy of the Buddhist Bill of Rights. Please review this document and let me know what you think of it. I eagerly wait to hear of any suggestions and improvements you can think of for the next revision.
Attached to this email is a press release and the Buddhist Bill of Rights. You can help Buddhism throughout the world by doing the following.
1. Read the Buddhist Bill of Rights you can publish the document in your media such as Newspaper, radio, television and magazines.
2. Distribute copies among your members and friends.
3. Provide copies to libraries, schools, churches, universities and other places you can think of.
4. Openly discuss the points with others.
I thank you for your assistance.
Venerable Dr. Kevin O'Neil
July 11, 2005
New York City
The American Buddhist Church Approves Buddhist Bill Of Rights Guidelines for Buddhists
Guidelines include a wakeup call for Christians and those of other religions. A 21st Century document to promote religious freedom and tolerance.
New York City., July 11, 2005 – American Buddhist Church, a leading group of Buddhists in America has released the Buddhist Bill of Rights to raise the standards of Buddhist groups, temples, meditation centers, and organizations around the world. This document describes the best practices that Buddhists should consider embracing as they live in the 21st Century. This is a call for Buddhists to become more proactive as they demand the same respect that they give to followers of other religions.
Venerable Kevin O’Neil head of the American Buddhist Church says, “The Buddhist Bill of Rights should also be a wakeup call to Christians in America. It asserts that Christians should respect and show tolerance to people of other faiths. America is a multicultural country in which all belief systems and religions should be able to express themselves in the fabric of American society”.
Contact: Venerable Kevin O’Neil
websites: http://www.wayofthebuddha.org/, http://www.americanbuddhist.info/, www.buddhismonline.us,
BUDDHIST BILL OF RIGHTS
American Buddhist Church
By Venerable Kevin O’Neil
July 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005
As Buddhists each of us should uphold rights that involve human dignity for all human beings whether Buddhists or not. Since we are human beings we must first respect ourselves then other human beings. Once this respect is ingrained within our minds can we honestly turn our attention to what exist around us? The key to being effective is to first clean up our own lives.
This Buddhist Bill Of Rights exists to help us get along with each other as well as everything in the world around us. These rights also offer you protection from negative Buddhists and others who may try to hurt you in one way or another. These rights can also serve as a resource that every Buddhist can use to keep on track.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN BUDDHIST CHURCH (ABC)
The American Buddhist Church is the first American form of Buddhism, reuniting all forms of Buddhism and the religions that evolved based on the Way of the Buddhas. American Buddhism comprises an open ended circle which emphasizes that this path of the Buddha is always expanding, growing and benefiting people in the most effective ways. ABC came into existence in 1980 through the efforts of various Buddhists from around the world and within the United States. Their hope was to once again open the Buddha’s teachings to all Buddhists as well as to those with other beliefs.
Dividing Buddhism up into egotistical schools and traditions was seen as counter-productive to the principle of “Freedom of Religion.” There are far too many Buddhist schools and traditions that teach prejudice, elitism, anger, intolerance, and perverted views instead of the Way of the Buddha. Today there are ABC members and ordained ministers throughout America as well as some foreign countries.
Because one of the purposes of the American Buddhist Church is to bring Buddhism to everyone in an unrestricted way, we offer these Buddhist Rights. Because the ABC is concerned with the peace, happiness and enlightenment of all people a committee headed by Venerable Kevin O’Neil was established to document these rights. You are invited to visit us on the following websites:
1. Religious Freedom is each individual’s birthright.
Religious freedom means a right to believe or disbelieve in any religion and belief system. No individual should be forced, expected or encouraged to believe in a teaching within their accepted religion once they reject it. A person should not be shown the door when they do not believe what everyone else believes.
2. Everyone Seeks Freedom.
In today’s world human beings are no longer born free. We are born into a country, society and culture. Because of our educational system, media or lack of either, our thoughts are not our own. Each of us is programmed to think in a certain way. We are programmed to think that what is best for us is best for everyone else in the world. Thus, our freedom is taken away from us. Many individuals live their whole lives without ever generating an original thought. This is a total waste of a person’s mind. Group thinking is the prevailing system of thought in America at this time. If we want freedom we must first free our own minds. To free the mind is an almost impossible thing to do. Learning the way of the Buddha is one of the most effective ways to regain control of the mind.
3. Check Negative Discrimination.
Many individuals discriminate and put up divisions between themselves and others. This is done in order to build a false sense of security. In reality all it does is create divisions of human suffering. This suffering is generated within the discriminating mind as well as the mind of the victim who is being discriminated against. Compassion should be shared with everyone regardless of their beliefs.
4. Respect of Human Life.
Respect for life begins with your own life and is extended to all human lives. When one does not have this respect, love or compassion, all other forms of respect, love and compassion are not real. Some people say that they love animals and the environment. Their love is so strong that they will kill and destroy other human beings in the name of fur, or the environment. They don’t see their own sickness.
5. Rejection of Slavery.
Most of us would agree that physical slavery as it exist in the past and present is wrong. Very few of us understand slavery within our own body, spirit and minds. When what we think or believe hurts, enslaves and causes suffering to ourselves or others we become aware of it. In how many ways are our minds a slave to the past, our ethnicity, culture, country, gender, or religion? How does what we think, believe, feel and do hurt us and others?
6. Reject Torture.
Torture exists when we cause pain and suffering to those who are weaker than us, those in our custody, and those we are angry at. Individuals torture others when they want something from them. Torture often exists in the military, during war, in prisons, jails, and even in the home. Each one of us has a responsibility to end torture whenever it raises its head. We should also try to understand in what ways we currently torture ourselves.
7. Obey Just Laws.
This also means that we should use our minds to find ways to disobey unjust laws. Unjust laws hurt people and cause them suffering. It does not matter what the justification is. Examples of unjust laws are the death penalty and legalized wars. Killing human beings under any condition or situation is unjust. It is the responsibility of every Buddhist and good person to find ways to stop it. It is each citizen’s responsibility to become aware of unjust laws and eradicate them. Laws must serve all people and not be used to give some people an advantage over others.
8. Never Support Unfair Detainment.
Never support a government’s use of unfair detainment of anyone. Each human being deserves the protection of the law not its excesses. When the government oversteps its bounds to create suffering on its citizens it is up to the citizens to stop it. Kidnapping citizens from their country should always be opposed.
9. Valid Until Proven Invalid.
Every school and teaching of Buddhism should be considered equal and valid teachings of the Buddha until proven unworkable, destructive, anti Buddha, and destructive to the peace and happiness of all Buddhists. There are some teachings and practices in Buddhism that do not lead one to enlightenment or Buddha-hood. These teachings and techniques serve to bind the mind and body to a particular teacher, group, school or tradition. When you find that something does not work for you exercise your freedom to drop it. Do not allow yourself to be addicted to, trapped in, or become a prisoner within a Buddhist group. Never allow a teacher to make you their property. Seek a teacher who is strong and broad enough to allow you to learn from other teachers and traditions of Buddhism.
10. Truth Versus Value.
You are more important than any Buddhist school or tradition. Walk away from Buddhist traditions that proclaim that they have the true and only Buddhist way. Beware when a group or teacher says that they have the highest teachings and that you need not go anywhere else. Do not be subdued by appearances. Bald heads, Buddhist robes, clever words and large groups should never be the determinants of what good Buddhism is. Value should be what you are after. Are you experiencing change in your life? Are you constantly growing and expanding? Are you being told what you need to know? Are you learning in what ways you are wrong? Are you hearing only what you already agree with? Do you have a personal relationship with the teacher? Can you freely communicate up and down the organization or group? Are you denied access to the highest levels? Are you able to go elsewhere to obtain guidance? These are some of the questions you must ask yourself to find value. Are you getting positive results today like you did in the past?
11. A Right to Examine Doubts.
Every person has a right to explore and examine the doubts within their mind. You have a right to not be forced to accept anything you do not understand or feel uneasy about. Your right to challenge a teacher is fundamental to learning and advancing along the Buddha path. As long as your doubts are real and you are not doubting for doubts’ sake, you are on the right path.
12. Right to Knowledge and Wisdom.
Every Buddhists has a right to the knowledge within Buddhism. Buddhist knowledge is documented in a voluminous amount of written material that can be found in many places around the world. The internet is full of Buddhist sources and knowledge. This knowledge is expressed in sutras, books, articles, commentaries and publications. There exists more written knowledge about Buddhism than anyone can read in a lifetime. This is the major reason why reading cannot be trusted alone to relay what the Buddha taught. Wisdom is a combination of knowledge, practice and experience. This combination is only expressed in the life of a human being. Wisdom has nothing to do with a person’s title, position, ethnicity, culture or label. When a person uses the title teacher, monk, or minister it does not mean that they have the wisdom to relay the profound teachings of Buddhism. Make sure that your teacher is connected to an organization that you are free to explore.
13. Right To Mental Independence.
Each of us has a right to what is in our mind. Mastery and ownership of our mind is a fundamental freedom. Use and control of our mind is important for our own enlightenment and happiness. What we think and how we think should be left up to us. Media, government and doctrine should not be allowed to tell us what and how we should think. Our mind and mental freedom is our birthright. Culture, country, political persuasion, ethnicity, selfishness, greed, position, title, anger, hatred, gender and religion must serve us not we serve them.
14. Freedom to Study Buddhism.
Every Buddhists has the freedom to simultaneously study and practice any Buddhism of their choice. No Buddhist teacher has a right to confine a person to their particular form of Buddhism. We all have a right to go where we want to learn and practice Buddhism. Any teacher who tries to discourage this freedom should be abandoned.
15. Right to a Multi-Cultural World.
Each of us has a right to a multi-cultural America. We also have a right to a world in which various cultures exist. These cultures must be those that agree and disagree with our culture and beliefs. As Buddhists we must have the freedom to mingle, pray, and practice with other Buddhists who believe in and practice different teachings than our own. It is not enough for our teachers or leaders to visit and mingle with other Buddhist traditions than our own. Individual Buddhists must also visit with and practice among Buddhists outside their school, sect, tradition and group. It is also extremely important for us to visit, practice with and socialize among followers of other religions and belief systems.
16. Right to Be World Citizens.
Each of us has a right to become world citizens. It is not enough to be a citizen of our country, state or city. We must reach out to others around the world. This is especially true for those we consider enemies. Just because our country considers a person or group an enemy does not mean that we as Buddhists should also pick up the mantle of anger, hatred or enemy. Buddhists should make peace with everyone in the world. Never allow others to choose your enemies.
17. Freedom To Say What We Believe.
Buddhists should have the freedom to proclaim their religion in the United States just as Christians do. Today we do not have freedom of religion equal to Christians in this country. Religious bigotry and prejudice manifest their ugly heads in all aspects and corners of America. Buddhists are intimidated and excluded from having the dignity of their religion shown in American religious and cultural life. Buddhists are insulted everyday as they are forced to profess the Christian religion above their own. Just take a look at our money, legal system, congress, senate, business, media, and common social manifestations. If you think that this is not religious intolerance, bigotry, prejudice, oppression and exclusion, try recommending that our money say “In Buddha We Trust”, legal system “Put Your Hand On The Tipitaka”, congress “Open Session With Buddhist Prayer or Mantra”, Television “Sign Off With A Buddhist Minister”, Corporate meetings “Lets Begin with a Buddhist Prayer or Mantra.” How many hospitals, colleges and universities do you know of that have a Buddhist Minister on staff? There are hundreds and maybe thousands of examples of religious intolerance, prejudice and bigotry in the fabric of American life. Buddhists have a right not to be victims of this indignity. Why does the president not say “Buddha Bless America”?
18. Workers’ Rights.
Buddhists have the right to work in environments that do not impose Christian beliefs and values on them.
19. Right to Education.
Buddhists have a right to an education that states that Buddhism and Buddhists are also Americans and part of American Culture. Media should also provide free time to Buddhists so that they can express their religion on radio, cable and late night television as Christians do.
20. Right of Disagreement.
Every Buddhist has a right to disagree with doctrines or teachings within their group or tradition. No Buddhist should be ostracized, condemned, or excluded because of a disagreement.
21. Children’s Rights.
Religion should not be forced on any child. Just because parents are Buddhists does not mean that their children are also Buddhists. Every child has a right to choose their own religion when they come of age. It is wrong and should be illegal to force a child under the age of 18 to become a Buddhist Monk or Minister. No child is born a Buddhist.
22. Peaceful World.
All people have a right to a peaceful world, country, city and state. No government or country has the right to bring war and destruction to others for any reason. Every country must give up the right to go to war.
As Buddhists we are ultimately responsible for our own lives. The content of our mind and the type of life we live is up to us. Either the world controls us or we control our world. We cannot change other people but we can change ourselves. Each of us has the responsibility to show others how Buddhism affects our lives. We should let no one take our dignity away from us. We should live the Way of the Buddha everyday.
 Share the Buddhist Bill Of Rights with your friends.