Buddhism & Diversity: Profiles, Teachings, and Conversations

LionsRoar.com presents a collection of our best teachings, profiles, and conversations on diversity, race, and identity in Buddhism.

Lion’s Roar12 December 2017
East Bay Meditation Center march.
East Bay Meditation Center, a pioneer in supporting diversity in Buddhist communities, marches at “Reclaiming Dr. King’s Legacy: A Jobs and Economy March for the People” in Oakland, 2015. Photo by Deborah Svobodah.

Diversity is increasingly discussed in Western Buddhism today, and with good reason. Supporting diversity serves three goals shared by most Buddhists:

  • alleviating the suffering of others (by addressing oppression in the world at large);
  • sharing the dharma (by making our communities more welcoming);
  • freeing our own hearts and minds (by addressing our biases and limitations).

The Buddhist approach supplies us with tools to work on these three goals. It’s not an easy process, but there’s a wealth of advice, wisdom, and anecdotes from pioneers in the field to help guide us. Below, you’ll find favorites from LionsRoar.com, Lion’s Roar magazine, and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly.


Healing the Broken Body of Sangha

Ruth King presents five ways we can address racial ignorance and division to help ourselves and our sanghas become whole.

We’re Not Who You Think We Are

Chenxing Han examines the stereotypes that have marginalized Asian American Buddhists and reports on the rich diversity and depth of practice of a new generation of practitioners.

Where Will You Stand?

If we are to uphold the dharma, says angel Kyodo williams, we must stand up to racism and expose its institutionalized forms—even in our Buddhist communities.

The False Comfort of the Familiar

Being with people like us feels comfortable and secure—and it’s a big reason why communities aren’t more diverse, says Zen teacher Jules Shuzen Harris.

Buddhism in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter

We need to update the traditional narrative of the Buddha’s life, says Pamela Ayo Yetunde, for people who know suffering all too well. She offers some alternative stories for the time of #BlackLivesMatter.

We’ve Been Here All Along

Funie Hsu says it’s time we recognize the contributions of Asian American Buddhists and address the racism and cultural appropriation that marginalizes their ongoing role in transmitting the dharma in the West.

Facing My White Privilege

When Tara Brach came to recognize her own white privilege, it revealed painful blind spots. That changed her as a dharma teacher and leader.

Waking Up to Whiteness

For our practice to have meaning in today’s world, says Greg Snyder, it must include a thorough understanding of our racial identities and their impact. This is particularly urgent for white practitioners.

It’s Time for Buddhists to Address Ableism and Accessibility

Following two accidents in my teens and twenties, Vidyamala Burch lives with a serious spinal injury, getting around with the help of a wheelchair or crutches and with pain as a constant companion.

Yes, We’re Buddhists Too!

Jan Willis’s 2011 examination of the subtle—and not so subtle—racism that exists in American Buddhism.


We Cry Out for Justice

There will only be social justice in America, says Jan Willis, when we see all people as our equals. She offers an ancient Buddhist meditation to help us do that.

Our Moment of Possibility and Joy

Who am I, really? Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara shares three teachings that have given her solace and strength as she’s asked that question.

Do You Know Your True Face?

Lama Rod Owens says we all need to look honestly at who we are, in all our complexity — and that includes those who teach the dharma.

I Vow Not to Burn Out

Mushim Ikeda says it’s not enough to help others. You have to take care of yourself too.

The Path of Solidarity

Doshin Nathan Woods considers what it means to stand arm in arm as part of our Buddhist practice.

Answering the Call to Awaken

Like the Buddha, we all get our call to wake up. It often comes when life isn’t working and we may have to go a little crazy. Here’s how Buddhist teacher Spring Washam answered her call.


Alice Walker: The Beautiful Truth

From her childhood in the Jim Crow South to her ascent as a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Alice Walker has been on a journey to see things as they really are. Colleen Morton Busch explores Walker’s life, work, and spiritual path.

Why Isn’t the “Angry Asian Buddhist” Angry?

As his cancer goes from bad to worse, the anonymous blogger known as the “Angry Asian Buddhist” strives to accept the absurdity of life.


Beyond Privilege: a Q&A with Rev. angel Kyodo williams

To make diversity real, says Zen teacher angel Kyodo williams, Buddhists must look deep into their own hearts.

Dear White People creator Justin Simien talks Buddhism, empathizing with haters

One element of Simien’s identity isn’t obvious in his Netflix hit: Buddhism. But it’s there. Interview by Sam Littlefair.

Forum: Barriers to the Dharma

A 2005 discussion of race, class and education, and how they’re shaping American Buddhist communities and how they’re limiting who becomes interested in Buddhism. Featuring Paul Haller, Marlene Jones, Charles Prebish, and Guy McCloskey.

Forum: Diversity & Divisions in American Buddhism

A 2006 discussion featuring Duncan Williams, Socho Ogui, Wakoh Shannon Hickey, and Ron Kobata. Introduction by Charles S. Prebish.

The Road Ahead

Gen-X teachers from across traditions are transforming the vision and landscape of American Buddhism.

Personal Stories

On Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender

An excerpt from Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s The Way of Tenderness.

The Elephant in the Meditation Room

Does Buddhism mean you have to be a liberal? Buddhist and lifelong Republican Christopher Ford argues that the answer is “no.”

Coming Home: A Buddhist Transitions Genders

In September, 2010, at fifty-three, Ellie Krug surgically transitioned from male to female. It happened only after years of therapy, great soul-searching, and grudging self-acceptance.

Buddy Nielsen of Senses Fail on trauma, sexuality, and Buddhism

Singer Buddy Nielsen has had his share of boundary-busting transformation. It hasn’t come easy.

See Us Clearly: A Buddhist’s View of Transgender Visibility

Ray Buckner offers a personal view of what it means to be Buddhist, gender-queer, and trans — and why they all fit together like “a miracle.”

George Takei on “Being Gay, Being Buddhist”

The actor, author, and undisputed King of Social Media reflects on his fascinating personal history: his childhood and his family’s internment during World War II, his life as a gay man and activist, how far we’ve all come, and why we must press on together.

Lion s Roar Staff

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.