Beyond Fear of Differences

Awakening Justice: MLK Jr 2021

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Sangha News

By Taikyo Gilman

Honoring the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not on the MRO’s annual calendar of events until sangha member Tanya Bonner brought it up. She asked the teachers, Why do I have to go somewhere else outside of my practice community to honor this ancestor? While not a Buddhist, Rev. King embodied the moral and ethical faith imperative to respond to suffering in his lifetime. So, planning began for the first annual event held in January 2019, organized by Tanya, other Black and POC sangha members and MRO staff.

Simultaneous MLK Jr. events at Brooklyn’s ZCNYC Temple and upstate’s Monastery were powerful reminders of the bodhisattva activity in the world, and the sangha’s deep need to honor our connection with these ancestors who support us in our moral and ethical precepts—in social and racial justice work—within dharma practice.

Brave Together 2021 panelists from the left, Tanya Bonner, Chikei Levister, Pamela Ayo Yetunde, and Yama Faye

This year’s 2021 MLK events were sobering reminders of how entrenched the violence, trauma and racialized inequality continues to be in our nation. Many months in the planning, Hojin Sensei and Tanya developed Brave Together: A Conversation Panel with Black sangha members and special guest Pamala Ayo Yetunde, co-editor and author of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom for mid-January.

Joined by sangha members Yama Faye and Degna Chikei Levister, the four panelists took up questions related to how they encountered Buddhism and connected with the Dharma, and their experiences as Black practitioners entering this and other sangha communities. A lively discussion brought to light the challenges of creating sangha and the need for more awareness of the bias and confusion that are part of being conditioned, cultured beings. We all need to be brave and stay open, to stay vulnerable and genuine when we hesitate or blunder, trusting with openness and integrity.

Sunday MLK Jr. Awakening Justice: 2021, sangha member Tanya Bonner introducing the day.

On Sunday the Monastery and virtual sangha honored MLK Jr. with an event created by Black sangha members, Awakening Justice, to bring into the room an awareness of on-going struggle. Sangha member Carmen Phelps organized a reading of over 155 names of Black people murdered by police from January to August of 2020—and the acknowledgment of others yet unnamed—was a stark reminder that racial bias is still a dynamic source of trauma and pain. We honor all who work to change systemic bias and to uproot racial violence and hatred.

The morning included dharma words from Hojin Sensei and Shugen Roshi and featured a short video created by Yama Faye and the planning committee showing the stark reality of neighborhood inequity in food, housing, policing and green spaces in a five mile ride from Yama’s home in Brownsville to Boerum Hill where the ZCNYC Temple is located, giving a visual experience of these differences in real time.

Still from video, courtesy of Yehui Zhao and Yama Faye, (c)2021

Aware of these persistent inequities and our Bodhisattva vow to alleviate suffering, an increasing number of sangha members are engaging in social justice as an integral part of their dharma practice. More than half of last ango’s participants engaged in study sessions on anti-racism work as dharma practice, many for the first time but also many with experience spanning decades of engagement in social justice and personal study. Some may be studying on their own, and the teachers and the sangha want to encourage everyone who has not yet taken up this bodhisattva practice and study to step in.

It is important—imperative—for the MRO sangha to be creating a shared, public dialogue across the silences with events of this kind, and study such as “What is Whiteness,” exploring the harm of entrenched, persistent inequity and bias. Our different experiences and unique circumstances need to be clearly understood and expressed, regardless of where we are coming from. Together we take up this living vow to bring an end to all suffering, trauma and injustice.

ZCNYC Temple’s first Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, last January 2020
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Remembrance and Atonement on Thanksgiving Day

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Earth Initiative, Teachings

We share with you this liturgy and dedication for Thanksgiving Day. Developed by Hojin Sensei and Shugen Roshi, this liturgy is offered at Zen Mountain Monastery on Thanksgiving to honor our ancestors, the original inhabitants of this land, and all beings of the great earth that support our lives.

Call and response:

LITURGIST : The Sangha has gathered on this day to witness and transform the karma of this land. May we do so with a mind of reverence and solemnity.

SANGHA: On this day of remembrance

LITURGIST: May we know that these sacred lands belonged to indigenous people for thousands of years

On this day of remembrance

May we honor the people of the tribes Munsee, Lenape, Mohican and others who lived and flourished here

On this day of remembrance

May we know that they revered and lived in intimate contact with all the many creatures of these mountains and rivers

On this day of atonement

May we atone for the violence, deceptions and destruction that was brought upon these peoples

On this day of atonement

May we atone for the ways this was concealed, ignored and diminished in the histories we have learned

On this day of atonement

May we atone for any harms that our presence on these lands has caused and take responsibility for understanding and addressing them, and honor and mourn the lives lost

On this day of gratitude

May we express our appreciation for this land’s ancestors and all they contributed to this nation

On this day of gratitude

May we demonstrate our appreciation by living in peace and harmony with the land and all beings

On this day of gratitude

In offering flowers, candlelight and incense, may the bountiful harvest of these mountains and rivers we are about to receive nourish our wisdom and compassion on this earth.

Sutra of Great Compassion
Kanzeon! At one with the Buddha.
Related to all Buddhas in cause and effect
And to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Joyful, pure, eternal being!
Morning mind is Kanzeon
Evening mind is Kanzeon
This very moment arises from Mind
This very moment is not separate from Mind.

LITURGIST: When we carefully observe the true nature of things, all are the marvelous manifestation of the Tathagata’s truth. Atom by atom, instant by instant, all are none other than self-nature’s mysterious radiance. Because of this, our virtuous ancestors extended loving care and reverence toward even such beings as birds and beasts.

Let us then be truly grateful for the food, drink and clothing that nourishes and protects us throughout the day, these being in essence, the warm skin and flesh of the great masters, the incarnate compassion of the Buddha. Let us reflect on all that we receive which supports our lives and the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and offer gratitude with our body, speech and mind.

As we awaken this deep, pure faith, offering humble words and taking sincere refuge in the Buddha, then with every thought there will bloom a lotus flower. May we extend this mind throughout the universe so that we and all sentient beings may equally bring to fruition the seeds of wisdom and compassion.

All Buddhas, throughout space and time

All Bodhisattva Mahasattvas, Maha Prajna Paramita

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Books on Refuge: Sanctuary, Street Zen & Contemplative Caregiving

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Reviews

Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness and Belonging, by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel; Street Zen: the Life and Work of Issan Dorsey, 2020 reissue, by David Schneider; Contemplative Caregiving: Finding Healing, Compassion & Spiritual Growth Through End-of-Life Care, by John Eric Baugher

Home and homeleaving, taking refuge and building a sanctuary—these phrases resonate with our sense of place and belonging. Written decades apart, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness and Belonging, and the 2020 reissue of 1997’s Street Zen: the life and work of Issan Dorsey, take us to the heart of homeleaving, spiritual inquiry and taking refuge. A third book, Contemplative Caregiving by educator John Eric Baugher, takes up the practice of spiritual care that both Issan and Zenju teach as refuge.

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Two Statements from the MRO responding to the ongoing killing of Black People in our country

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Sangha News, Zen Training

Two statements—the first from the MRO People of Color Affinity Group, and second from Shugen Roshi and the white members of the BFoD Planning Group—were posted here in response to the surge in violence against men and women of color, and the persistence of unjust, white supremacist systems of oppression which remains invisible to the majority of Americans.

As a sangha we are unified in our vows to serve, to alleviate suffering and the causes of suffering, and to respond with compassion and wisdom as challenges and conflict arise. We affirm our responsibility as individuals and as a community to support each other’s vows.

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Uppalavanna’s Courage

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Mountains & RIvers: Zen Dharma and Practice journal, Sangha News, Teachings

This dharma discourse by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold is excerpted from Mountains & Rivers: Zen Dharma and Practice, 2020 available here.

The bhikkhuni Uppalavanna said to Mara the Evil One: Though a hundred thousand rogues just like you might come here, I stir not a hair, I feel no terror; Even alone, Mara, I don’t fear you. I can make myself disappear. Or I can enter inside your belly. I can stand between your eyebrows, yet you won’t catch a glimpse of me. I am the master of my own mind, the bases of power are well developed; I am freed from every kind of bondage, therefore, I don’t fear you, friend.

Then Mara the Evil One, realizing, “The bhikkhuni Uppalavanna knows me,” sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.

Of all the many things we might imagine, as we begin practicing the dharma, we might not think of courage as being something we will need to draw upon, and yet it’s there in the teachings, from the beginning.

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From Mountains & Rivers: Zen Dharma and Practice

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Dharma Discourses, Mountains & RIvers: Zen Dharma and Practice journal, Sangha News, Teachings

This excerpt, Manifesting Buddha by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, is from the new journal Mountains & Rivers: Zen Dharma and Practice and explores how Buddhist practice manifests in our daily lives as illustrated by the Ten Guiding Values of the Beyond Fear of Differences. The journal features original contributions of dharma teachings and more from MRO dharma teachers, sangha artists and practitioners.

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BFoD presentation March 2019

Delving into “What is Whiteness?”

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Sangha News, Zen Training

by Eve Romm

The first two meetings of the ZMM sangha’s new “What is Whiteness?” (WIW) group began the same way: enlarging the circle of chairs in the Sangha House to accommodate far larger numbers than expected. The overwhelmingly high attendance on Sunday afternoons didn’t come as a surprise. Since the BFOD forum last March which invited the larger sangha into the anti-racism work—which smaller planning groups have been engaged in for a decade—many white sangha members have expressed different versions of the same sentiment: “When can we start?”

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Transcending: Trans Buddhist Voices

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Reviews

Book Review by Finn Jogen Schubert

This book is unlike any book I have ever read. Like a quilt, each piece contributes a unique perspective and style, coming together to provide warmth and comfort on the dharma path. Whether you are cisgender, trans, questioning, or something else entirely, you will find fresh perspectives on the dharma that will speak directly to your own experience, as well as perspectives that you may have never considered before.

Transcending: Trans Buddhist Voices, Edited by Kevin Manders and Elizabeth Marston, North Atlantic Books (2019)
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Perspectives: Beyond Fear of Differences

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Reflections, Retreats, Sangha News · , , , , ,

The Beyond Fear of Differences (BFoD) Planning Group held a public forum at the Monastery on Sunday, March 3, 2019—a moment 10 years in the making. It was a chance to welcome the whole Sangha into the development of the BFoD mission and vision process, to share the details about the process that the committee had been involved in, and to let people know how they can get involved. A similar forum was held one week later at the Zen Center of NYC.

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Precepts in the World: Sangha Reflections

· Beyond Fear of Differences, Reflections · , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Originally published in Mountain Record journal: “Morality in the World” (2002)

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