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Lions Roar : May 2016
tice, mass incarceration, rape, lack of nutrition, and illness. Siddhartha, at age sixteen, twenty-one, or some other youthful age, was shocked when he saw that people actually got sick, old, and died. African Americans encounter death well before they become teenagers and young adults. In fact, many die when they are teenagers. Siddhartha left his home, encountered a new reality, realized he had been lied to, and chose not to return home. Instead, he entered the forest to learn how to avoid illness, aging, and death. After years of spiritual practice in the forest, Siddhartha became enlightened. Then, as the Bud- dha, he proclaimed the first noble truth: there is suffering! This is not a profound insight from an African American perspective. Yet hidden in this story of the Buddha’s life is the substance of myth that can reconnect African Americans to a larger story and inspire them to advocate for their lives. Many African Americans, despite a history of being enslaved with the help of Christian principles of the day (The land and its inhabitants are mine because God willed it), came to relate to the exodus and other libera- tion stories of the Hebrew scriptures. These myths were initially forced on African American slaves but became a means through which the slaves, and their descendants, moved together toward physical freedom. The Buddhist suttas, in my experience, are not taught in ways that emphasize the communal spiritual liberation that is implicit in the story of monks following the Buddha from grove to grove, adding monastics and householders along the way. If the suttas were taught so that African #Black LivesMatter PAMELA AYO YETUNDE, TH.D., is a pastoral counselor and community dharma leader in the Insight Meditation community. PHOTO©ULTIMH/DREAMSTIME.COM