Robert Aitken Roshi – Affinity Groups

March 18, 2007

Robert Aitken Roshi – from

Robert Aitken Roshi encourages us to think of BPF groups as potential sites of spiritual and social resistance and liberation.

The roots of this idea come from the Base communities of Latin America and other places, as well as the Spanish Revolution. Another term, which Roshi uses here, is Affinity Groups.

[from an email that Maia sent with this:]

Affinity Groups

In 1995, I took part in a conference in Thailand entitled “Dhammic Society Toward INEB Vision” where I read the paper “Envisioning the Future” and Alan Senauke, Greg Mello, Gilly Coote and other old friends were in attendance. This paper was published in my book Original Dwelling Place in 1996.

In my paper, I discussed the Base communities as the organs of liberation theology in Spain, Latin America and the Philippines. These are little groups of 15 or 18 people who gather in homes, often with a priest or a nun in attendance. The participants are often rather poor and relatively uneducated. The function of these Base communities is to encourage a realization that Jesus is a man of the poor. The participants are empowered to feel that their religion supports social action. There are literally thousands of these little communities in the Spanish speaking world. They formed the structure of the Spanish Revolution and were instrumental in the ouster of Marcos in the Philippines.

I suggested that the Buddhist Peace Fellowship might broaden its base by the encouragement of such communities among members….

It seems to me that the original idea is still a good one and that we should find another name. How about “Affinity Groups”? This name also has historical roots. In Spanish, it is “Groupo de Affinidade” (not sure about the spelling). It was the term used by the Republicans in the Spanish Revolution and the English translation was used by the Movement for a New Society in their anti-nuclear and peace demonstrations. So it will not be an innovation.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship has formulated its own vision of the future, and included “kitchen table organization.” It seems to me that this kind of organization might take off as a movement if it had a good name like “Affinity Groups.” What do you think?

Lots of love,



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