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Insight Meditation Teacher and Emotional Wisdom Author and Consultant
Transcript from Tricycle’s Video Series Teachings for Uncertain Times. My Talk: Racism is a Heart Disease, And It’s Curable, was offered on February 17, 2017
Uncertain times are all we have. We never know what’s going to happen—and added to that is this time of racial inflammation in our social system. I’d like to talk about that a bit. For many of us our hearts are shaky and heavy. Some of us are outraged. Some of us can afford to distract ourselves through comforts and other privileges or distractions. But so many of us are afraid, afraid of what’s happening or what might happen to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to other people in the world that are suffering from racial distress, injury, separation, and fundamental hatred that’s really pervasive right now in the world.
Devastated, heavy hearted, weary, bruised. A taste of what our Native and African ancestors must have felt. How did they endure? How do we? Standing Rock ~ today, standing for all of us. The trauma many of us feel may be difficult to metabolize, but it is possible. What is happening requires that we look, feel, understand, and respond. History offers perspective, and maybe a splash of hope, but don’t count on hope. Count on doing what must be done. Grieve and rest. Don’t get too far ahead of now! Now is enough to digest. Stay in the heart and heat of it. Let grief transform you, then make a conscious choice to be a light. ~ ruth king
This article was published in BuddhaDharma Magazine, Summer 2016, under the title: Healing the Broken Body of Sangha by Ruth King
As Buddhist and mindfulness practitioners, we have an opportunity to understand the dynamics of racial suffering and the flesh we put on its bones. Honoring our relatedness, our belonging, and our impact is a necessity for awakening in general and for transforming racial suffering in particular—in our own hearts, and in our communities and institutions.
As an African American Western Buddhist practitioner and teacher, I have sat on my meditation cushion in silence, with hundreds of other yogis, ripening my capacity to live in gentle and wise awareness. I’ve done this, sometimes for months at a time, without ever speaking to the yogi who sat beside me, and within me there was great comfort in knowing that despite our differing paths, we had somehow landed on our cushions and were opening our hearts together. This, in my mind, is a miracle.
On May 20, 2016, Bill Aiken, Office of Public Affairs, Soka Gakkai International-USA, shared that The White House had offered a formal statement on the Celebration of Vessak which should be posted on the White House website soon and is copied below. Very exciting!
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2016
Statement by the President on the Celebration of Vesak
Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to Buddhists in the United States and around the world in their celebration of Vesak, a day honoring the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Buddha. During this season, we reflect on Buddha’s universal teachings of peace, service, and recognition of common humanity — shared values that also bind us all as Americans. This occasion gives us an opportunity to commemorate the many contributions of Buddhists to our progress and to recommit ourselves to building a brighter future for all communities, cultures, and religions. As we come together in hope for wisdom, courage, and compassion, our family sends our best wishes during this season.
Prior to devoting myself to the Dharma and to teaching the Dharma, I had a corporate job as a training and organizational development consultant working in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco. I specialized in executive coaching and supported leaders in understanding the power dynamics and behavioral implications of mergers and acquisitions — what happens and can happen when you bring diverse cultures together. As I have experienced Western convert Buddhism, especially Theravada Buddhism, two of the three jewels are commonly emphasized — the Buddha and the Dharma — but less care is given to the third jewel, Sangha — the training ground for the embodiment of spiritual values through practice and kinship. My experience has taught me that there are predictable dynamics we can glean when we turn our attention towards the relational quality of culture and of sangha.
As Buddhist teachers and leaders we are deeply shaken and saddened by the intentional and premeditated murder of nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. We send our heart-filled condolences to the families, loved ones, church, and communities, who have experienced this grievous loss.
While this terrorist act was apparently perpetrated by a single individual consumed by racial hatred and a desire to ignite a race war, the soil in which this massacre took root is the legacy of slavery, white supremacy, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and the resulting racial inequalities and injustices that persist in our individual and collective consciousness and institutions. The daily experience of violence against people of color has become more recently visible through highlighted media coverage of the ongoing brutal treatment and killings of unarmed African-Americans by law enforcement agents across the country.
As Buddhists we realize the interdependence of all of our experiences—and that violence towards one community is violence perpetrated upon us all. As spiritual leaders, we must be committed to healing the wounds of racism that are such a primary and toxic part of the landscape of our country. This calls on those of dominant white communities to inquire deeply into and transform patterns of exclusion to power, inequity in resources, unseen bias, and unexamined disparities in privilege. There is an urgency to affirm that Black Lives Matter and work with religious and secular communities to respond to racial injustice.
Did any of you see Meet the Press this morning (June 21, 2015)? On the tails of hearing from one grieving family of the Charleston mass murder espousing love and forgiveness (who, understandably, chose not to discuss race at this time), we also hear republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee justify the confederate flag, the non-racist community of South Carolina (Charleston being one of the original places of slave trade), and minimize a need to address climate change, we also must see a video clip of black men in jail apologizing for killing someone. This constellation of media is disturbing. After Twitter gives Chuck Todd an immediate kick in the head, which he attempts to justify by explaining his intent but ignoring his impact, he then shifts the conversation to gun control and poverty. We then hear two African Americans on his panel evade the core issue of the mass killing as racism by focusing on Obama and race and how we should, in general, keep the conversation going. No one seemed able to hold the point that the choice to show a video of black incarcerated men apologizing for using guns shifts the conversation away from a white man killing mass numbers of black people in the context of national and generational killings of unarmed black people. I wonder who paid (figuratively) Chuck to show that video at this time? And who paid the two African American national commentators to avoid making this point clear? What do we lose in having an honest dialogue on racism? What do we gain by avoiding it?
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