Brooklyn Zen Center leadership issues “Thanksgiving & Ferguson” letter

Dearest Sangha Members, This Thanksgiving week and holiday season are a time of remembrance. It is a time to consider both the blessings of our lives and one of reflection.

Lion’s Roar
1 December 2014
Photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis.

Brooklyn Zen Center co-founders Greg Snyder and Laura O’Loughlin, along with head teacher Teah Strozer, have issued a letter to the BZC community and the Buddhist community at large. Brooklyn Zen, as you’ll see in the profile about them in our new, January 2015 magazine, places a premium on inclusivity and the kind of inquiry that fosters it. Their letter strikes similar notes.

Dearest Sangha Members,

This Thanksgiving week and holiday season are a time of remembrance. It is a time to consider both the blessings of our lives and one of reflection. While you are with family or friends or alone enjoying a meal or maybe a football game, please consider with the deepest gratitude all the daily blessings given to us just for being alive. It is not to be overlooked.

Then take a moment to reflect on our own and other’s suffering, both historic and current. This country was founded on the genocidal removal of indigenous people and our economy on the backs of African descendants enslaved as chattel, not to mention the brutal exploitation of countless others. We today are dealing with the consequences of those tragedies, of ‘othering’ and harming so many with impunity.

As Buddhists it is our job to see clearly the conditioned thoughts, beliefs and assumptions that make us blind to the systemic, daily injustices still lived by so many of our sisters and brothers.

Ferguson could not have happened without this background of prejudice and history of hatred. We encourage each of us as practitioners to respond in some way, even if it is only to begin looking more deeply at our conscious and unconscious beliefs about race. To turn away and pretend we are not one of those who carries this violence forward is to set ourselves outside the interconnected truth of our lives.

To bring this conditioning to the surface and understand how we are a part of what is happening is the next step toward sanity and love, toward ending and healing the violence that has until now seemed intractable in our nation’s history. 

Brooklyn Zen Center can be a place for authentic exploration and expression as we find our way through this continuing tragedy. We believe that for all of us gun violence and racism are not the collective life we want, not the society we want. Fortunately, when we turn toward it in this way, our practice provides a path for real transformation. We know we share with many of you a vow to live for and protect the freedom of all beings. May we begin living together in a way that allows this shared birthright to be realized someday very soon.

As you talk with people in the days ahead, if you do, please listen carefully to where they are coming from and where you are responding from. There is no need to make further division but it is our job to stand up and say something to address this ongoing, national tragedy that effects us all. No one should have to live in fear.

Let us both appreciate the blessings of life itself and reflect on how we can free ourselves and each other from the conditioned mind that creates a false separation, which is the cause of suffering for so many.

With love and appreciation,
Teah, Laura and Greg

For more on Brooklyn Zen Center, check out our January 2015 feature, “Open Hearts, Open Doors,” which also includes Greg Snyder’s four tips for building a deep and helpful relationship with the community around you, as well as “Beyond Privilege,” an interview with Zen teacher and BZC supporter angel Kyodo williams. Or, visit BZC on the web, here.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.