One in nine black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-four is in prison. . The inner city is a pressure cooker, full of tension and anxiety. I think this is a very important aspect of what the dharma can bring to the Western constructs that live inside of dichotomies. As a kid, I saw races separated by signs that said “For coloreds only.” I saw race riots, I lost a lot of friends in Vietnam, and I went through the epidemic of drugs and so forth. When that’s taken care of, then I’m qualified to fight the good fight. I’m a guy that’s always been attracted to science—and cause and effect is what science is about. But if you can, then go. Once I started getting involved in meditation, I realized that I did have an alternative. For me personally, I came up in my tradition with no idea that there were black people in Vajrayana Buddhism. Mentored by Jack Kornfield in the Theravada tradition, and influenced by the Tibetan traditions of Buddhism, Ruth teaches at insight meditation communities nationwide. Some of us are stepping forward and initiating things that we will never see the fruit of. I think that there are ways to work within certain institutions, but it is glacial. It’s not just what we think. He is not mired in a past that cannot be recovered or a future that will never come, but instead works to anchor himself “in the moment.” Like Lama Rangdröl, he is not ensnared in the debilitating, bitter, polarizing, clichéd “mentality of an angry black man.” And Hancock’s comparison of his egoless listening and nonjudgmental approach as a jazz musician to the Dharma reminds us that Buddhist practice has much in common with the process we associate with creating art, which demands openness to all phenomena. Hindu prince of southern Nepal. It’s not like we ever finally arrive. Our resistance to deracializing the mind is high, because we’re humans. Jozen Tamori Gibson: Ancestry is very important for me. There are many pathways to diversity. In one profile, black Americans appear in every walk of life and profession. I had to work it out. In his book, The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, Robert Aitken Roshi said (p.17), "The absolute position, when isolated, omits human details completely. But we’re complicated beings, and although we may have the best of intentions, we are deeply conditioned by a racist society. guāng míng; Jpn.kōmyō; Kor. He takes the side of wisdom. So as a short answer: yes, it’s frustrating to work from within, but it’s necessary. . Introduction. But I could also mention the political violence in our time, from the assassinations of King, Malcolm X, both Kennedys, and so many others in the 1960s to the recent shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing of six others, including a nine-year-old girl, in Arizona. Concentrates on sources particularly influential in East Asian Buddhist traditions. Originally published in 1978. I’ve been very fortunate to have found a welcoming dharma family where I practice, and I’m very grateful for that. . In his article “No Religion,” Buddhadasa Bhikkhu presents a provocative interpretation of the meaning of birth, death, and being reborn. The black American practitioners I’ve presented, all representing different branches (or traditions) of the bodhi tree, have seen in Buddhist practice the most revolutionary and civilized of possible human choices, one that extends King’s dream of the “beloved community,” especially in terms of the Dharma’s emphasis on addressing the “second front” Dr. King told us we must not neglect. If we have compassion and peace, it’s natural to want to help the world live in justice and peace. We are each other’s business. In college, black men represented just 5 percent of students in 2008. I’m very inspired by the work of some of the people and organizations I support. It’s a yes, rather than a no. In nearby Hamtramck, the Detroit Zen Center was founded in 1990. It is a disease that infects all of us, especially in America, and if we don’t talk about it, we’ll never get rid of it. She is a guiding teacher at Insight Meditation Community of Washington and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and the founder of Mindful Members Insight Meditation Community of Charlotte. It’s also necessary to find our own ways of working so that we can create spaces like what we have created in this room, in which we actually work together and envision another way of being in this society. Much of the time it’s either me or you. Question: I’m a liberation feminist theologian. But you have to practice. One thing that is essential for this spiritual revolution is ahimsa, doing no harm to other sentient beings and ourselves. But we know that we planted the right seed and gave it the right energy, and in its due season it is going to bear fruit. Rather, I see it as a matter of life and death for black Americans. . Dr. Kamilah Majied is a mental health therapist, educator, and consultant on inclusivity and contemplative pedagogy and practice. I know you’ll be a buddha someday.”. A distinctively “American Buddhism” is in the process of emerging. Myokei Caine-Barrett: I was raised as a Methodist and I had to go to church every Sunday. What I always think about is what’s going to cause the least amount of harm. of ideas in the black community,” a revolution that encourages nonviolence as “a way of life.” Like their black predecessors, the law of their lives—their historical inheritance—is the quest for liberation. It shows me where I am telling myself all these stories and how I’m living a life that is sabotaging my own liberation. I mentioned slavery and segregation, two social arrangements that could only be maintained through systematic, institutional violence. A member of the Teachers Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, she led, with Larry Yang, Lila Kate Wheeler, and Rachel Bagby, the most diverse dharma teacher training in Spirit Rock's history, which was completed in September. The style of Buddhist singing that may be most familiar to Americans is Tibetan chanting, which includes a distinctive style of throat singing by trained singers who can produce more than one pitch simultaneously. Just because these are Buddhist spaces, we think somehow that people should be sincere, receptive, and transparent. It involves what that community means for us and how we support the community with justice and kindness. African Americans, one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States. The Buddha said, “Don’t take my word for it, see if it works for you.” When I look at the basic teachings of the four noble truths, I see the steps. Ruth King is an insight meditation teacher and emotional wisdom author and life coach. Legal segregation ended a little less than fifty years ago, within living memory for some of us. When you are just taking a side, that can be used and abused by propaganda and mixed intentions. In their honesty, they admit that being nonjudgmental, as Hancock said of his practice, is extremely difficult in our society—a society that so often portrays the angry person as a powerful person, and finding fault as a proper intellectual activity that demonstrates our critical acumen, shows our intellectual superiority and, by virtue of that, feeds our egos. “On the one hand we must continually resist the system of segregation—the system which is the basic cause of our lagging standards; on the other hand, we must work constructively to improve the lagging standards which are the effects of segregation. Most times, actually, I think of myself as being more an African American Buddhist. calming the mind and observing experiences with curiosity and acceptance not only reduces stress but helps with attention control and emotion regulation—skills which are valuable both inside and outside the classroom.”, Vipassana has also proven to be effective at the William G. Donaldson Correction Facility, an overcrowded prison in Alabama. When in spaces with other people of color, there are a lot of different forms in which our liberation can express itself. She is the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace, and co-author, with Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah Ph.D., of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. In locating ourselves on the side of love, we become more whole. Coming together allows us to talk about it, to share our wounds, to heal each other, and to acknowledge the pain and the loss we all suffer when we are separated. This is one of the beauties of the Buddhadharma. A Theravada nun, she has also received dharma transmission from Roshi Bernie Glassman of Zen Peacemakers. Dr. Ronald Cavanaugh, the prison’s treatment director, reported that after this experience, “the inmates are less angry, better able to conduct themselves, they’re more mindful of themselves and others, and overall there has been a 20% reduction of disciplinary action for those who have completed the course.”. It’s the practice of Bodhisattva Jofuku, who says to everyone he meets, even the person who hates him: “I respect you. When I found Buddhism, I knew I had come home. In its broadest sense, it refers to a philosophical inquiry into existence itself. Just in passing, I think it’s important to say that Mumford states that all his uncles were alcoholics and died at a young age. Strength, love, and unity at the first-ever gathering of Buddhist teachers of black African descent. It’s about our liberation. It’s always been glacial. He holds a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation. Not surprisingly, in Buddhist communities, consciousness is often discussed alongside mindfulness. There’s a reason for suffering. I am sharing that gift with my body, with my mind, and with my heart. Question: Some of you have come to Buddhism from other religions. Create your own pathways to change. Rev. If one looks closely one can see some of its elements in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius; in the Rhineland sermons of Meister Eckhart; in Hume’s critique of the self in A Treatise of Human Nature; in George Washington’s advice on how best to select one’s friends (which echoes the advice offered in the Rhinoceros Sutra); and in the aphorisms the writer Jean Toomer published in his book Essentials and in his 1937 poem “Blue Meridian.” In other words, we only call ourselves “Buddhists” for the sake of convenience in a world attached to labels. More African-Americans are embracing Buddhism, a sign of hope to some followers striving for greater diversity By Vanessa E. Jones, Globe Staff | … While African Americans are estimated to constitute approximately 30% of SGI-USA, and while there was a decided increase in African American engagement with and conversion to Buddhism following the 1970s, the history of African American engagement with Buddhism is not fully encompassed by SGI-USA. It’s privilege that allows people to say, “We’re going to have a dharma that’s about not taking sides.” I think colored folks and black folks really bring forth the truth that we can’t afford not to be the dharma that is expressed through these bodies. Ruth King: For me, so much of Buddhist practice is about a deep understanding of our interdependence. The intention is to bring the wisdom of Buddhist teachings into the heart of the struggle, and that is indeed a practice. It is that kind of essentialism that gives rise to attractions and revulsions, our attachments and clinging, and to prejudices that lead to dukkha. 71 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock and over half of black children (56 percent) are fatherless. No matter what happened to me, I could choose my response to it. She received her monastic training in Japan and the US. . From Buddhism to Baha'i: Black Faith Spreads Across All Religions Most African-Americans have historically embraced Christianity as their religion. It’s a question that asks how we cope when our practice is hard and when there’s a lot of struggle around race and racism in the institutions we’re in. They are taken by laity and monks alike, and I took them in the Soto Zen school with the mendicant monk and peace activist Claude AnShin Thomas. The opportunity for African American Buddhist Awakening rests on its wings. They are as politically sophisticated, aware of the history of oppression, and concerned with social justice as their predecessors. Dawa Tarchin Phillips: That is a great question, which deserves a longer answer. It was a very natural process to begin practicing Buddhism and recognizing that the first place to be free is within ourselves, by decolonizing our minds and erasing racism from our self-concept and sense of possibility. We are like a Black radio station where you can learn Buddhism with Soul. Strand, writing for Tricycle (an American Buddhist journal) in 2004, notes that SGI has specifically targeted African-Americans, Latinos and Asians, and other writers have noted that this approach has begun to spread, with Vipassana and Theravada retreats aimed at non-white practitioners led by a handful of specific teachers. If you can’t handle it, don’t go. If we let judgment get in the way of improvising, it always screws us up. Buddhism said it’s up to you, you are responsible, you take charge of your own life. It is also said that Buddhism is not about "metaphysics," a word that can mean a lot of things. Self-description has pitfalls. For Dr. Willis, like Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhism and Christianity, the religion historically associated with black Americans, are not in conflict. A practice of mindfulness is mindless if it’s not driven by a value system. Jan Willis, Lama Rangdröl, Mumford, Walker, the Zen teacher Angel Kyodo Williams, and the approximately fifteen thousand black practitioners of Soka Gakkai (Nichiren) Buddhism, who chant chapters of the Lotus Sutra, belong to the first black generation in America to recognize the relevance of the Dharma for the specific historical and existential forms of suffering that are the residue of slavery and racial segregation in a very Eurocentric country; and they believe this practice may satisfy John Lewis’s call for “a revolution of values . Charles R. Johnson is an American scholar and the author of novels, short stories, screenplays, and essays, most of which have a philosophical orientation. Dr. Kamilah Majied: In terms of whether or not we choose sides, I think about something Dr. King said: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be? Every action I take plants a seed. She currently serves as Head of Practice at Great Tree Zen Women’s Temple in Alexander, North Carolina. If something is causing harm, that’s not okay. . Liberation is impossible if we’re disconnected from others. S. C will it create, li. Gina Sharpe: Sometimes we may think that a Buddhist life comes through the mind. We’re not limited to our own liberation. You may never see it in your lifetime. If you’re just looking to confirm what you’re already thinking about people and the world, the Buddha’s teachings might not be the right place for you. Sometimes we need to figure out ways to be creative and listen deeply to what is needed, without reference to the larger society. In this respect, during the Vietnam War all Vietnamese were black. A report published last November [2009] by the Council of the Great City Schools, entitled “A Call for Change,” states that “the nation’s young black males are in a state of crisis” and describes their condition as “a national catastrophe.” This report shows that. We love our conditioned minds because we’ve been living with them for a very long time and we’re familiar with them. Do not speak of others’ errors and faults. Do not defame the Buddha, the Dharma, or the Sangha. Do not rely on others. by Carol Cooper. Dr. Pannavati: We have to decide whether we want to just fight or fight the good fight. Because cultural appropriation of Buddhism creates suffering for marginalized communities. And this has been so for a very long time. For Dr. Willis, like Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhism and Christianity, the religion historically associated with black Americans, are not in conflict. In some ways, we don’t even have to add the word “Buddhist.” We’re just good people wanting the world to reflect what we feel inside. Because racial justice is an integral part of a Buddhism. For a Buddhist, this approach of “both/and” as opposed to “either/or” is made possible by the condition of dependent origination, Pratītyasamutpāda, which describes all conditioned phenomena as arising from a concatenation of causes, and this makes all phenomena interdependent and interconnected. So we take whatever happens and try to make it work. Do not be withholding, but instead generous. Gina Sharpe: The answer is yes and yes. I’m honored to serve on the board of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, which has a program called Build Block Be: build the good stuff, block the bad stuff, and be in alignment with your Buddhist values. Chimyo Atkinson: We need to understand that dharma centers suffer from the same thread of racism that all the organizations in our society suffer from. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”. They are millionaires, even billionaires, having earned their wealth in business, sports, and entertainment. Sometimes as people of color we get invitations to participate in the decision-making, but the change of pace can be pretty glacial. “You’re going to find freedom one day. And to these dire figures we must add the fact that nearly six hundred thousand blacks have the AIDS virus, with their rate of death two and a half times that of whites who have been infected. The Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple has been in a converted home in the Woodbridge neighborhood for close to two decades. She sees liberation there. black boys on average fall behind from their earliest years. Ruth King: Until we come together as a group of black folks, we don’t actually realize what we’ve been missing. So, we all have the universe inside at our core. At our best we’re nonjudgmental. The second door is, Is it necessary? It’s hard to dive into the unique shapes in the black community when we’re not among other black practitioners and teachers. There must be a rhythm of alteration between attacking the cause and healing the effects.”. Can I tell you how I really feel, but also maintain a sense of respect and humanity? The history of Buddhism in America is evolving as fast as it can be documented. People can rub themselves against your stand and really learn from your stand, and it isn’t so easily misused. Accurate counts of Buddhists in the United States are difficult. It’s important to keep doing our work of activism. Gretchen Rohr: There’s an opening that occurs in spaces where we are within our own affinity groups. And emotional pain and spiritual pain.” Mumford then discovered vipassana, the practice taught worldwide with such success by Satya Narayan Goenke. —His Holiness the Dalai Lama. “I came to Buddhist practice because I had dukkha, dukkha, dukkha,” said Mumford. Each conception of “I am,” “I was,” or “I will” is simultaneously a birth. For Mumford, who said his “ass was on fire,” this extinction of craving allowed him to tame Vivekananda’s conditioned and erratic “monkey mind,” and to understand through mindfulness the operations of his own consciousness—how we perpetually see through the veil of our ideas or Samsara, which Mumford called “fantasy.” Black American Buddhists understand that the reality we experience is our creation, and how we respond to it is our personal responsibility. There are also songs for rituals and religious holidays, such as the celebration of the Buddha's birthday in the spring. Other religions Edit Other faiths are practiced in Africa, including Aleyhim , Sikhism , Jainism , Zoroastrianism and … Placing black Buddhists within American religious history in general, and American Buddhist history specifically, requires that we reconsider the historical paradigms with which scholars have understood the transmission of Buddhism to the United States. This chapter takes a step toward the theorization of discourses of race and racialization within the American Buddhist context. The Dharma is the Light. But actually it involves the mind, the body, and the heart. Twenty-nine leading teachers from across the country gathered in October for the first-ever meeting of black Buddhist teachers. 3 African Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. It teaches us how to detach ourselves from outside provocation and from our habitual patterns of reaction. The civil rights era, the "Black is beautiful" cultural movement urged mindful consumption of dominant media images, and the South African equivalent was called the Black Consciousness Movement. The idea of cause and effect, which is what Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō is about, made sense to me. In this vision, the “self” we struggle so hard and long to bolster and sustain is discovered to be a construct at best. We need our practice of Buddhism to figure out how to wisely engage in situations where there’s conflict. According to 2010s estimates, Buddhist adherents are increasing to between 0.2% 0.3% of the South African … Sometimes you have to take what you can get and make your connections there. Illustrates the buddhism and islam essay fundamental nature of psychological research. . After the trial period, the fourteen-and fifteen-year-old boys were “found to have increased well-being, defined as the combination of feeling good (including positive emotions such as happiness, contentment, interest and affection) and functioning well.” The researcher behind this project, Professor Felicia Huppert, said, “We believe that the effects of mindfulness training can enhance well-being in a number of ways . There must be a rhythm of alteration between attacking the cause and healing the effects. by Ruth King, Gina Sharpe, Myokei Caine-Barrett, Rev. Ralph Steele: It has been lonely for me too. . I’m convinced that in terms of what we traditionally call “ethics,” the twenty-six-hundred-year-old Dharma of Buddhism must be part of that conversation. Some Asian scholars and Buddhists resent the focus on convert Buddhism in the United States. Do we continue pushing from within when we get invited to have a seat at the table, or is there a way for change to happen at a slightly more revolutionary pace? A Buddhist leader told me to chant about it, and it was through my practice that wisdom arose in terms of how I could handle and change that situation. You definitely take sides. Afro-American religions (also African diasporic religions) are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among African slaves and their descendants in various countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of the southern United States. African Americans are mainly of African ancestry, but many have non-Black ancestors as well. This begins with the experience of emptiness or the lack of an enduring, separate, immutable, and unchanging essence or substance in everything. Lama Rod Owens: Representation is very important. But in a different, grim, and depressing portrait, 25 percent of black Americans live in poverty. | An Excerpt from Taming the Ox. Last year, Rebecca informed me that she and Lama Rangdröl, whom she met at the first black American Buddhist retreat in 2002 at Spirit Rock in Woodacre, California, are now married. We can take the first small steps toward this inward revolution called for by the Dalai Lama, and the cultural revolution in black communities called for by Congressman Lewis, by mindfully changing the way we talk to each other—precepts numbers 6 and 7—by eliminating the unwholesome violence and disrespect in our speech. From Buddhism to Baha'i: Black Faith Spreads Across All Religions Most African-Americans have historically embraced Christianity as their religion. think like a criminal and one is instantly born as a criminal. It’s a crazy time right now, so what we do is important. It’s hard for us to see the nonbinary nature of taking sides in which it is actually a wholeness, not a separation. We are the modern World's 1st Black Sangha. It’s due to the spread of Buddhism and where it goes. During that interview, she asked him, “What led to your decision to bring the Dharma to African Americans?” He replied, “When I discovered that it was possible to avoid becoming ensnared in the mentality of an angry black man by applying Buddhism, I felt I had found a great treasure not just for me but also for resonance in millions of black people’s minds.”, Equally interesting is a 2003 interview in Tricycle with George Mumford, a sports psychologist who teaches vipassana meditation to the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, and who overcame years of drug and alcohol addiction. If a few moments later one has foolish thoughts, right then one is born as a fool. That realization, which was systematically expounded by the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, leads naturally to the perception of dependent origination. That’s how we have to go into every struggle, particularly in a time like this when there is no stability to be found anywhere. . Historically, we are a violent nation. We are constant change, reborn moment by moment. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?” When Shakyamuni Buddha said, “My desire and my vow is to make all beings equal to me,” he was talking about the vow to make all beings equal in enlightenment. Dr. Kamilah Majied: I grew up with a black Muslim liberation practice. That’s what it is for me. And in his sermon “Rediscovering Lost Values,” delivered on February 28, 1954, at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church, King railed against “relativistic ethics,” “pragmatism” applied to questions of right and wrong, and the “prevailing attitude in our culture,” which he described as “survival of the slickest.” King knew that we have a “culture” for young black males that catches them up in gangs, despair, fatherlessness, drugs, prison, anti-intellectualism, and antisocial behavior by the time they are eight years old. Gretchen Rohr: I see activism as an engagement with my aligned values. Think of this test as being three questions—or three doors—your speech must pass through before you make it public. It’s a deep stream that has been nourishing and refreshing, and it has fortified us to do what must be done in our communities. Practicing dharma looks lonely because you’re sitting on a cushion all by yourself. On the other hand, Buddhism teaches the principle of nonduality, which some Buddhist teachers say means that you shouldn’t take sides. There are roughly 60,000 Americans living in Hong Kong, an estimated 10,000 of them black, according to an African-American expat who lives and works there. In his 1970 work, Buddhist Ethics, Hammalawa Saddhatissa writes in the preface, “Strictly speaking, Buddhism is not a religion in the generally accepted sense of the word, and it would be more accurate to describe it as an ethico-philosophy to be practiced by each follower. 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