Bodhisattvas of Burnaby Mountain

A poem and article in honour of the bodhisattva spirit on Burnaby Mountain


This poem and article is written in dedication to those who gave their life force to the protection of our Mother Earth and her children during the recent weeks at Burnaby Mountain. May the merits of your actions extend to all sentient beings, may your hearts be further opened and strengthened through the challenges and victories of our time, as mine has been through your selfless actions.

I sit in gratitude, knowing that while I was personally unable to attend the vigil on Burnaby Mountain, representatives of my values and heartfelt convictions were present to uphold those things which I hold most sacred and dear to me. The human spirit, when united in solidarity for something that transcends individual interests alone, is possibly the most inspiring and vivifying power available to human kind. It has touched me and awakened in me an urge to express my gratitude in the way that my gifts can best be used, as a voice that speaks from the heart.


Before continuing, I must share that I am no scholar of Buddhism and that I am likely to make many statements that do not accord with the Buddhist canon of the bodhisattva. While I have taken the Bodhisattva vow, I am but a baby on this path. Should one wish to learn more about this term there are sources available. The intention of this piece of writing is to reflect what I see and appreciate in the hearts and minds of the many people I know who have involved themselves with the protests on Burnaby mountain — whose form of action has reflected to me the spirit of the Bodhisattva as I envision it applied to social justice.

Poem —

Bodhisattva’s of Burnaby Mountain
I celebrate each step you gain
In the battle against indifference
To protect earths children from being slain

May our fight be lit by awareness
That all is a reflection of mind
That in the heart awakened
Illusion of ‘other’ no longer binds

With this knowledge I confidently rest
That victory of earth and heaven are ours
That between our poles of forgiveness and compassion
Shall flow to us innumerable powers

I know you call upon our ancestors
On our many warriors of truth as guides
To lead us into battle with fearlessness
With light to illuminate where darkness hides

In this shadow play we dance
This fight is ancient as the sands of time
As the forces that gather on this battlefield
Are as real as they are signs

Signs that a new dawn is coming
Where the enemy is ourselves in disguise
With this knowledge victory is assured:

Darkness is the source of its own demise

Pièce de résistance:

Bill Moyers: You say that mythology is the study of mankind’s one great story. What is that one great story?

Joseph Campbell: That we have come forth from the one ground of being as manifestations in the field of time. The field of time is a kind of shadow play over a timeless ground, and you play the game in the shadow field, you enact your side of the polarity with all your might. But you know that your enemy, for example, is simply the other side of what you would see as yourself if you could see from the position of the middle

The term “Bodhisattva” is an ancient concept that comes from Buddhism. The bodhisattva is the closest thing to our concept of a warrior in a tradition not usually associated with the idea of warriorship, but rather with images of a peaceful figure meditating with benign hand gestures found in yoga studios, gardens, and Facebook posts for inner peace. A bodhisattva is a spiritual warrior who longs to alleviate suffering, their own and that of others. It is this deep urge to take action that will prevent or alleviate the suffering of other sentient beings that is at the heart of the movements that are underway within the world.

What makes a bodhisattva such a profound phenomenon is that their weapon is a double-pointed arrow: one pointing at themselves and the other pointing outward. In both aspiration and action, the bodhisattva recognizes that the source of suffering originates within the mind of sentient beings and therefore conducts a from of dual warfare — subjugating the inner tyrants of fear and desire so that, in their battle against them in the outside world, they are able to fight without falling prey to hatred, ignorance or delusion. Thus they fight without furthering what Charles Eisenstein, author of sacred economics, has called “the story of the separate self”.

One of the keynotes of the bodhisattva is a willingness to sacrifice. On the inner-realm, we sacrifice our own attachments to material possessions, to our bodies, and to our mental enjoyments in order to be of benefit to other beings. What I witnessed from reports on the mountain was a confluence of bodhisattva spirit, a willingness to sacrifice so that others would be spared the suffering of actions that were being undertaken without considering the well-being of others.

The true mark of a bodhisattva, however, is the capacity to hold the poles of forgiveness and compassion so that the rivers of action become a purifying force for all involved. To quote a Facebook post of a friend who wrote this after being on the mountain:

“As Karen Mahon, former Clayoquot organizer read out the tenants of non-violent protest, she named, “we must fight against evil, not against those who enact it.” May our protest include a prayer for the restoration of the hearts of those parading as our enemy.”

This same sentiment is mirrored by many of my friends who were on the mountain, known and unknown, and is the very sentiment that gives me the deepest hope that we are in the midst of the most conscious revolution that we have ever known. It defuses any of my inclination to judge traditional notions of activism, and inspires me to want to be more engaged in the efforts of my brothers and sisters who are striving to create the more beautiful world their hearts know is possible. It is a revolution that furthers, with awareness, the one great story of humanity.

To act with such awareness is the hallmark of the bodhisattva, of the spiritual warrior. It is this very quality that has inspired our love for the great bodhisattva’s of our time: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi and others. It was not so much their willingness to fight for what was right, but their capacity to embrace and bless the polarity of this shadow play that inspires us with a devotional quality that can only be described as love. For love, in its purest form, knows no division in action— though it may appear to be the case by someone who is looking at it from their side only.

It is this awareness of oneself as “playing a role” that allows the bodhisattva to engage in enlightened action, aware of the side that they are playing in the drama yet seeing it from the position of the middle all the while. It is a sacred dance whereby the bodhisattva enacts their side of the polarity with all their might— knowing that their vow and commitment is to uphold what is deemed to be the greatest good for all—while understanding that for this to be possible the whole situation must ultimately be healed. This means we must see the enemy as ourselves, to recognize that the fears and desires besetting them also exist within us; that in knowing our own vulnerability we can recognize the vulnerability of others and therefore have compassion for actions that arise from the need to protect this vulnerability.

This also means that we are never surprised —we can predict the movement of our opponent, exposing their weakness and using it against them if necessary. For evil, if we want to play the polarity game, is vulnerable to its own darkness; to the fear of losing that which it has gained and must protect as a dragon does its lair.

When the spiritual warrior fights in this manner they are beyond reproach because they have entered into a field of honour. They have a cloak of invincibility, for they are not capable of being reduced to the inferior motives of those who fight for selfish gain. It is this form of warriorship that has inspired me, and I am grateful to all those who embodied the bodhisattva spirit on Burnaby mountain.

For this is the fight of the future.

It is a call to warriorship that requires us to transcend and include our own shadows so that we may embrace our enemies in such a manner that our fight is without resistance, our victory without pride — it is none other then a battle against ourselves, where victory of our side is truly the victory of all.

Bodhisattva’s of Burnaby Mountain— I honour you


“He who sings for peace with the song of his heart”