Following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the ensuing wave of protests across the United States, a number of Buddhist centers and organizations have released statements in response to the continued police brutality against Black lives. Below are some of those statements.
Black lives have once more been taken. We are heartbroken and sickened by murders that are the latest expressions of a culture of white supremacy that from our nation’s inception has sown violence into its soil. We must speak their names – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery – each torn without the slightest cause from this world, as were so many of their ancestors before them.
Yet it is not enough to speak of these horrific deaths alone when racialized structures ensure black bodies are dying at disproportionate rates in the COVID pandemic. These too are names that should be known, should be spoken for having been unjustly denied their birthright to breathe freely in a country that so boldly claims freedom as its foremost, unassailable value.
It is not enough even to speak their names without recognizing how unemployment too is tearing disproportionately through communities of color. The pain this will cause is still untold. Nor is it enough without recognizing that those who grasp white privilege too often take little responsibility for confused, racialized fears that lead them to pick up the phone and call upon the very racist structures that steal the lives of innocents.
It is not enough to speak of even this without saying clearly that every person who benefits from the racial hierarchy of our nation must take responsibility for these fears, this hatred, this confusion as it arises in minds and behavior, and contributes to the logic and landscape that allows a man to be slain by a knee to the neck before the whole of the world.
As Buddhists, it is not enough to speak of greed, hatred, and delusion as abstractions. They must be named in their historic specificity, as they show up in the lives of this nation. We must name white supremacy as a deluded form of hatred that benefits and fuels the greed of those with power in our racialized society.
In not naming these poisons clearly, whether for fear of politics or offense, we break our own precepts. In abstraction, we are liars. In abstraction, we are thieves. In abstraction, we are killers. In abstraction, we reveal our greed and intoxication with a world that lays privilege at our feet. It is not enough to speak of greed, hatred, and delusion. Every day we must name and work to end the mindsets, behaviors, and institutions that continue to take the lives of our beloved human family.
Whether speaking in religious abstractions or not at all, moral superiority and spiritual aloofness cannot be afforded in our current age. This is not a time for dualism, not a time for separation, not a time to believe in the delusion of an individual, separate self. It is the silence of those who hold themselves beyond the fray while benefiting from racialized supremacy that forges the conditions for seizing the breath of black people everywhere.
The body of our nation is on fire with greed and hatred and so our streets are on fire with grief and rage. When so many nonviolent gatherings and takings of knees are ignored and berated year after year, who would be surprised when the “enough already” bursts and shatters our cities.
When it comes to the Bodhisattva’s vow of compassionate liberation for all beings, is this a rarified path of fantastical tales woven in the dharma hall? Or is ours a path borne of the unflinching courage to clarify and uproot the causes of violence endemic to our country?
Our community must remain committed to the work of recognizing, clarifying, renouncing, healing, and correcting the racial harm that runs in the blood of our bodies and our nation. With the support of our Buddhist ancestors, may we devote ourselves to the healing of a society so painfully out of harmony with the Dharma. May we endeavor to realize in our bodies, psyches, institutions, systems, and culture, the love we know at base is the interconnected fabric of life itself.
We as a nation must admit and renounce white supremacy once and for all, and summon a moral imagination that paints the first strokes of a different world. Whether such a world can ever unfold will surely pivot on our taking of responsibility for our past, on our honesty about this moment, and most certainly on a shared moral courage toward a future that holds the possibility of a true home for us all.
Kosen Gregory Snyder
Dharma Teacher & Senior Priest, Brooklyn Zen Center
Shingetsu Laura O’Loughlin
Dharma Teacher & Senior Lay Practitioner, Brooklyn Zen Center
In deep grief over the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Soto Zen Buddhist Association acknowledges the deep-seated, systemic, and structural racism that poisons life in the United States of America. We vow to continue the work we are currently engaged in, and call for a fresh and coordinated effort to dismantle racism at every level of our culture, society, government, our Zen communities, and our own hearts.
Today, we see and hear the searing pain and anger of Black people, who have endured centuries of oppression in the United States and who, as a community, continue to suffer acts of violence and discrimination, including at the hands of law enforcement.
We grieve the disproportionate number of people of color who have died of the coronavirus, and see that many people of color performing essential functions of society are undervalued and oppressed economically. Those of us who are white fully avow our complicity in perpetuating this harm.
We look to the Dharma to support us as a community, and to inspire and inform our actions off the cushion. As Soto Zen Buddhist priests the Dharma is our guide as we sow the seeds of compassion and inclusion toward all people. We recognize the deeply embedded ways racism and white privilege deprive us of the world we have vowed to co-create with all beings. We vow to overcome racism in ourselves, our Sanghas, and our world.
We call on all members of the SZBA to dig deeply into our own roles in institutionalized and systemic racism and engage in the following actions:
- Center voices of color and their needs in our Zen communities. Without conscious centering, these voices and needs can get lost in our predominantly white-dominant spaces.
- Reach out to your members of color and offer emotional, spiritual, and practical support.
- Commit to 49 days of meditation, ritual, and mourning for George Floyd and for all who suffer from systemic racism and other forms of injustice.
- For these 49 days begin your services with the SZBA’s Statement of Recognition and Repentance. Include the statement in your monthly Full Moon Ceremony.
- Commit to amplifying the voices of Buddhists of Color, especially Black Buddhists, and their teachings.
- Speak directly about anti-racism with your Zen communities, through Dharma talks, workshops, and community discussions. Ask for feedback to make sure your message and actions strike the right note for people of color.
- Engage your community members to make actionable plans for stepping up and speaking out, honoring Right Action and Right Speech. Create community accountability for these plans.
- Listen deeply. Allow space, voice, and permission for anger and rage without judgment, guilt, or pressure to bypass these emotions.
- Reach out to Black clergy and Black social justice organizations in your community and offer your support.
- Have your communities commit to a series of brave, fierce conversations on race, privilege, and bias.
- Vow to hold ourselves, and our leaders, accountable.
Acknowledging the suffering racism causes, we commit to creating refuges for all who breathe, and for those who feel they cannot breathe. The SZBA acknowledges that we have not always been a refuge for Black and Brown people. We atone for this and we renew our vow to untangle racism’s tenacious tendrils and cultivate the blossoming of a new and better world. We will practice the humility that is essential to listening deeply and that leads to real and lasting change.
With palms together,
The SZBA Board of Directors
Tenku Ruff, President
Charlie Pokorny, Vice President
Chimyo Atkinson, Secretary
Dokai Georgesen, Treasurer
Gyozan Royce Johnson
Koshin Paley Ellison
Inryū Bobbi Poncé-Barger
The SZBA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility (DEIA) Committee
Rakugo Annalisa Castaldo, Committee Chair
Dokai Georgesen, Board Liaison
Kaku Robert Gunn
Ryuki Tom Hawkins
We hear again and again about systemic police brutality against African-Americans and we see it played out year after year. Now this brutality is playing out again, with the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Many people are asking if there will be justice, if the officer will be convicted, if we are at a turning point? Despite the overwhelming evidence of guilt, I dread the very real possibility that there will be no accountability or justice for the murder of George Floyd. Again, the police officers will be acquitted. Again, the senseless killing of an African-American will have no consequences. In this uncertain atmosphere I would like to invite any of you who feel inclined to join me and the monastics of Gampo Abbey in a prayer vigil on Friday, June 5th from 1-1:30 EST, for George Floyd, for his family, and for the countless African-Americans who have been, and continue to be the recipients of police brutality My personal intention during this vigil will be to meditate for justice for George Floyd and all those suffering from systemic racism. May George Floyd’s death not be in vain and may we always be brave enough to face the ways that this injustice continues to live in us. I am moved by those members of law enforcement across the United States, as well as those people around the world, who are showing their solidarity with the protestors; and I aspire that this spirit of compassion grow and flourish in the months and years to come.
As countless Americans take to the streets across this country to raise their voices in response to the murder of George Floyd, none of us can stand on the sidelines as passive observers. We are all responsible for our society and for the justice and compassion that it succeeds or fails to uphold.
At this time of sorrow and anger, Upaya Zen Center stands alongside the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Dominique Clayton, as we recall with anguish and shame the countless other Black lives that have been ended by white violence.
It is imperative that we transform the toxic views that feed racism and other forms of egregious injustice and hatred in our country. We must also address the harsh reality that we live in a culture of oppression stemming from the very origins of our nation, which has continued relentlessly throughout our country’s history.
This is why we are saying “Black Lives Matter.” Because we have to face individually and collectively the truth of the presence of brutal discrimination in our country, and not turn away from the grave harms against people of color in our nation. We as practitioners of the Dharma have a moral responsibility to uproot our own racism and transform the systems of oppression that feed bigotry in our society. And we must as well remedy all forms of violence toward our Black brothers and sisters with insight and actions that are courageous and just. And we must do this now.
From Josh Bartok, on behalf of the GBZC Spiritual Direction Committee,
the GBZC Board of Directors, and the senior teaching community of GBZC
drawing from statements from the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA)
In deep grief over the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, let us acknowledge the deep-seated, systemic, and structural racism that poisons life in the United States of America.
Today, we see and hear the searing pain and anger of Black people, who have endured centuries of oppression and violence in the United States and who, as a community, continue to suffer acts of violence and discrimination, including at the hands of police.
Those of us who are white fully avow our complicity in perpetuating the harms of white supremacy in all its oppressive forms including police violence and mass incarceration.
With heavy hearts we further acknowledge:
- That the colonization of what we call the Americas, and the rise of the United States as a global power, rests upon the enslavement of African people taken violently from their homes and forced to labor under brutal and oppressive conditions.
- That we as individuals and communities live in a world in which only some, because of the color of their skin, are accorded safety, as well as social and economic privilege—and we recognize the willful blindness that upholds this privilege.
- That we as individuals and communities have systematically treated Black people with discrimination, disrespect, cruelty, and violence because of their race—and that we have upheld policing systems that enact this discrimination for us.
- That we as individuals and communities are complicit in an unfair, classist economic system that divides humanity into winners and losers, exploiter and exploited, and that encourages selfishness and conflict.
- That as human beings, we cannot separate the gift of our own existence from the violence being done to Black people in the United States.
As individuals, as a sangha, and on behalf of all those who came before us, we atone for our participation in all systems that perpetuate white supremacy, domination, violence, greed, and injustice in this world we co-create with all beings.
- Let us vow to overcome systemic racism, supremacy, and dominator culture in ourselves, our Sanghas, our nations, and our world, in the service of all beings throughout space and time.
- Let us commit ourselves to the work of untangling racism’s tenacious tendrils and cultivate the blossoming of a more just world.
- Let us pledge to face, acknowledge, study, understand, and hold the weight of our collective karma so that we may show up with clarity, vulnerability, and truthfulness.
- Let us commit ourselves to continue with renewed urgency our Bodhisattva work and call for a fresh and coordinated effort to dismantle racism at every level of our culture, society, government, as well as in our Zen communities, and our own hearts;
- Let us commit to taking individual actions—such as direct financial support to organizations, protests, educating others, advocacy in places we have privilege and power; and
- Let us commit ourselves to creating true refuge for all who breathe,
and for all who cannot breathe.
The above statement draws from the SZBA Statement & Call to Action on Systemic Racism by Tenku Ruff and the SZBA Board of Directors, as well as from the SZBA’s Statement of Recognition and Repentance, crafted by Koun Franz, Norman Fischer, Greg Snyder, and many participants of the 2018 SZBA conference. Adapted by Josh Bartok.
To our friends, readers, and community–
At Shambhala Publications we take immense pride in the work we do to enrich people’s lives, temporally and spiritually. It has been our mission for the last 50 years to create works that are timeless, authentic, and transformational. Until recently we had little to no regrets about how we have been fulfilling that mission, but current events have us questioning if we are doing enough for our community—particularly our BIPOC community—and the answer is no.
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Dion Johnson, Tony McDade . . . the list goes on and on and on. We must say their names, we must remember them. We must listen, learn, and make substantive changes in their honor. We are heartbroken, angry, and ashamed at just now fully realizing the extent of the systemic problem. It is appalling. It is disgusting. It is inhumane. Black Lives Matter!
Reading death row inmate Jarvis Masters’s Finding Freedom this weekend, we were particularly struck by and resonated with this passage:
I open my palms to the sky,
surrendering to my human hopelessness,
that it doesn’t despair me.
For life needs no more,
no more despair, I pray.
Over the last week our company endeavored to write a statement that expressed our collective outrage and plans of action. It is clear to us now that it is nearly impossible to make a statement that satisfies the many voices of our passionate team. One thing that we feel that we can say on behalf of us all is this:
We are inspired by the activism and courage of the Movement for Black Lives and express our support and solidarity.
So much needs to change and it needs to come from all corners of every walk of life and every industry. We are still figuring out what that looks like for us. Shambhala Publications’s primary purpose and commitment will always be to support genuine spiritual awakening and uplifted living, with a particular focus on Buddhism. These are the founding principles of this company, and as the second-generation owners, we hold this mission close to our hearts and take it very seriously. But how can we fulfill that purpose in a way that is more inclusive and more representative of the world we want to live in? These are the questions we have been asking ourselves intensely over the past week. This is going to be a process, one that will not manifest perfectly overnight, but one we are dedicated to.
As a start we are:
• expanding our efforts to publish more BIPOC voices and to assist in elevating their platforms;
- committing to diversity training within the next 3 months for our staff along with continued education and conversation around awareness and advocacy;
- forming a committee dedicated to diversity in the workplace, our freelancer base, and authorship;
- making charitable donations to organizations we see doing good work with tangible, positive impacts.
If real change is going to manifest in this world, we need to be in it together. We are honored to embark on this journey with you.
“There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty, social injustice, inequality, oppression, environmental degradation, and as long as the weak and small continue to be trodden by the mighty and powerful.”
— His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
Ivan and Sara Bercholz
Co-owners, Shambhala Publications
Dear Community —
As we witness yet another instance of violence against Black Americans—a moment which stems from hundreds of years of systemic oppression—we Shambhala leaders wish to speak out not only to express our sorrow, outrage and emotion over this moment in time but to demonstrate a tangible commitment to action.
Doing so without acknowledging our own failings as a community would be insincere and hypocritical. For years, our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers, leaders and members have been asking for change, and directly expressing what they need. There have been many well intentioned efforts to both educate our white sangha and to listen to and support our BIPOC members, and yet white fragility and racism are still as prevalent as ever. This acknowledgement is not intended to discredit those who have tried to enact meaningful change in our community, particularly the ongoing work in many of our local centers. Many initiatives have started, but often did not receive the support and resources needed. Shambhala has lost some of its most dedicated members and teachers of color due to these failings. This must be acknowledged. We must do better.
As many of you may already be doing, those of us on the Shambhala Board are making personal donations to organizations that support the protestors, fight for social justice and do political advocacy work. These include:
- ACLU Foundation
- Amnesty International
- Black Lives Matter
- Color of Change
- Equal Justice Initiative
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Massachusetts Bail Fund
- National Urban League, Inc.
- Northside Achievement Zone
These donations are only a start and cannot be the whole of our action.
We would like to invite individuals and groups within Shambhala to apply for a second round of Community Grants that will focus on initiatives of diversity and inclusion. We would also welcome proposals that collaborate with groups or individuals outside of Shambhala who bring knowledge and experience on these topics. If you have an idea for such a grant, please contact the Board at [email protected].
Internally, in the near future, the Office of Community Care and Conduct will be releasing a policy on Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination, along with the new Code of Conduct policies, and a training on Right Use of Power. We hope this policy and training will serve as a catalyst for dialogue on how each one of us and our community can address systemic discrimination and support diversity and inclusion.
Those of us who identify as white must take action to understand whiteness. The Board is committed to listening to BIPOC voices, educating ourselves, and further developing an ongoing course of action. We urge you to join us in this work.
Black Lives Matter.
The Shambhala Board
For the past few days we have been trying to process what we’ve felt upon hearing the news of George Floyd’s death. George Floyd was a son, a family member and a friend. Our condolences are with Mr. Floyd’s family and community as they deal with this tragic loss.
This man should not have died. We are saddened and outraged by the blatant disregard for human life, and we are also reminded of the great mission we have to transform the deeply-rooted racism in America and the disrespect for life that is so prevalent today. We strongly object to the needless and tragic loss of life due to violence at the hands of anyone. Based on the awareness of the interconnectedness of all life, we recognize that our “own happiness can never be built on the misfortune of others.”
We, of the SGI-USA, wholeheartedly and unswervingly believe in the equality and dignity of all people and that every person deserves to be treated fairly and without discrimination.
Sensei states, “There is no other solution to the problem of racial discrimination than realizing the human revolution in each individual. In other words, an inner reformation in the depths of people’s lives to transform the egoism that justifies the subjugation of others and replace it with a humanism that strives for coexistence among all peoples.”
From this moment forward, let’s advance with the spirit of Buddhist humanism and together:
Reaffirm our commitment to actualize our mentor’s guidance;
Resolve to be a powerful source of the hope that’s needed more than ever in our families, friendships, and communities, based on the strategy of the Lotus Sutra; and
Pray for the health, safety and protection of all of our treasured friends.
Every single one of us, without exception, can and must be the protagonist to enable America to become a society of beauty and unity, dedicated to peace and justice based on Sensei’s guidance.
Adin Strauss General Director
Naoko Leslie Women’s Leader
Kevin Moncrief Men’s Leader
Olivia Saito Youth Leader
Ryo Kuroki Young Men’s Leader
Maya Gunaseharan Young Women’s Leader