Electronic Journal from Sakyadhita USA
Issue No. 14 Spring 2017
Mary Grace Lentz
Compassion and wisdom are two key components in Buddhism as well as the wish to help others. One of the ways we can cultivate our altruistic intention is to develop an awareness of the complexities of cultural differences and how those differences impact our interactions. To be able to have that awareness, we need to know that many factors, both internal and external, influence how we perceive and are perceived by others. If we want to be in partnership with all beings to create an equally just world, we need the willingness, confidence and skills to meet others with an awareness of who we are in the world, as well as our unaware privileges, biases and prejudices that prevent us from making meaningful connections. The first Sakyadhita Conference of Buddhist Women in the West was held on April 1, 2017 in Rosemead, California. As informed Buddhist practitioners, willing to take risks, admit mistakes, and take action, we engaged in discussion, both in and out of the formal conference setting as we grappled with these complex issues.
How do we harm others unintentionally through our ignorance with our speech, assumed privilege and limited lens? What are some of the issues that surface under the general term “diversity.” This term is often associated just with race, but also includes gender and gender identity, class, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, nationality, and more. How can we use our practice to strengthen and support the growing need for social justice in our society and in our dharma centers?
As a white woman, engaged in Buddhist practice for many years, I am all too aware of the “whiteness” of our Buddhist communities. Those of us who are privileged and white do not need to feel the ‘white guilt’ that can immobilize us. As a white middle class woman, I have cultivated the habit of assumed privilege and entitlement. Through the winds of karma I was born with white skin in a middle class community. I acquired implicit and explicit bias.
As long as ignorance exists, our implicit bias and conditioning, continue to move us unconsciously together in mass to the root of the cause, like pilings attracted to a magnet.
This conference was a continuation of the work happening in many dharma communities. Working with dharma practitioners around issues of race and disparity, we discussed how to apply our practice to disrupt this force. This is best accomplished through practice, reflection, and accountability.
As a white woman, I am privileged and know that I will mess up when dealing with issues of race and bias. My need to be perfect, right, and “on it” is my programing, burned into my neural pathways. I will make mistakes, say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing. I know that my friends of color will call me out. This is where the practice comes in. How do I take the feedback? Do I make it about me? Do I feel guilty? Do I always need to liked? Or do I move forward, accept the feedback, and try again?
Nothing in this world is permanent, it can all collapse - our jobs, economic status, and security. This is a concept that is unfathomable to most of us born with white privilege in the United States. However, to feel this, to consciously invite this into our meditations, we begin to deconstruct the illusion of a permanent sense of self. True compassion and the cultivation of the intention for equanimity can pull us away form the polarization of complacency. Engaging in conversations about justice and inclusion with dharma practitioners, allows and supports our desire to take action. We look forward to the continuation of these discussions at the Sakyadhita in the West conference next year in San Jose, and this June in Hong Kong.
The Person Behind My Self-Care Presentation
by Secundra Beasley
"Hugs" is the only name I know. I never asked for her first or last name. On the e-mails it read, "Hugs, Hugs." During the early stages of the formulation and design of the conference, Hugs requested that the topic of self-care and empowerment be part of the discussion. I agreed with Hugs and seconded her request.
As presentations were being finalized and slots filled, I kept the self-care presentation on the radar. I had embraced the topic as a "must happen." I knew the benefit of self-care in my own life and wanted others to benefit as well. I nudged [the conference organizers] until I was given the go ahead to turn the topic into a poster presentation. The rest of the time was spend (over-)researching, discussing design options, and drafts. Lots and lots of drafts. There was one thing that got lost in the presentation─Hugs.
As things were coming down the wire, and I was readying to fly out, I missed a chance to let Hugs know that a poster presentation on her topic was going to happen. I hoped to see Hugs in person and express thanks for the suggestion.
Time became fleeting and an opportunity was lost in seeking Hugs out..
I did mention Hugs in my intro but not by name. The name is "Hugs, Hugs." If you come in contact with her, please tell her, "Thank you."
M. Jane McEwan
What stands out in my memory of the conference are the admonitions to
"Be All In"
Funie Hsu's presentation and her description of the care she received from women at Hsi Lai Temple, as a child after her mother died, motivated me to stay a day longer in L.A. and visit the temple.
I appreciated spending the day at Hsi Lai Temple very much, especially since it was the remembrance day for ancestors. Even though I do not know Chinese and could not even recognize most of the English phonetic words in their chanting book, I sat amid the hall full of practitioners chanting and felt the collective energy of all of our gratitude to those who have come before us: our ancestors, our teachers and the Buddha.
Later, a man greeted me and told me he had peaked over my shoulder to see if I was on the right page of the chanting book and saw I was. I laughed and confessed it was only because I recognized the word Namo which was repeated enough for me to keep up. He laughed and said he had trouble following along himself.
When I watched a video with English subtitles about the temple founder, I recognized the Dhamma teachings I have learned elsewhere. The signs of the statues around the court yard were informative and the museum had exquisite displays. The vegetarian buffet lunch and the "bake sale" treats I took home topped off a fulfilling day. Even the drive out of the city on the freeways back to my home in the desert felt more peaceful than when I had come.