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Lions Roar : May 2016
communal and collective endeavor, we can seek temporary ref- uge from the pain of racism for refueling purposes, but not for the illusion of safety. There is no absolute safety, as Siddhartha discovered, only relative moments of painlessness. This reality can inspire us to think about how we can tell the Buddha story in culturally relevant ways to other targeted populations. Syrian refugees in the U.S. are being set up for years of suspi- cion because they have come to this country at an unfortunate time in U.S. politics. What Buddha story will we tell them? How will they cultivate confidence to rebuild their country post Bashar al-Assad? Can Buddhism be relevant to that enterprise? Many girls and women throughout the world are sold into sexual slavery. Their suffering is shared. What Buddha story will we tell them to help them build confidence that they are respectable? If we stick to telling the Buddha story we have always been told, we will continue to tell a story that is not relevant to the suffering of many people. What is the point of that? Let us dwell in the spaces in the Buddha story where there is no reason and no logic. Let us dwell in the spaces where magic appears. Let us think about the various ways people suffer and allow ourselves to be more culturally competent and creative in how we share the Buddhist teachings. Let’s continue to support daily meditation practice, loving- kindness practices, and meditation retreats as a way of life. For an oppressed and invisibilized population, this contemplative and heart-centered way of life cultivates a remarkable relational resil- ience. A remarkable relational resilience, I have learned from my study of African-American lesbians in the Insight Meditation tra- dition, is what helps oppressed people persevere in the midst of ongoing multilayered assaults. Culturally competent dharma can only inspire invisibilized people to become relationally resilient. The dharma is not about sticking to the script no matter the audience. The dharma helps people transform their suffering. Let’s help people transform their particular ways of suffering in the age of #Black Lives Matter, and in the ages of various oppressions that are here now and are sure to follow. ♦ seek out the company of certain beings and avoid others? Opening ourselves up to feelings of discomfort is not easy at first. We need to be ready and willing to enter into mental spaces where we are not necessarily at ease. We need to face our fear of letting go. The Buddhist path requires it. It would be too deterministic to believe there is some set of simple instructions or protocols that can lead us to a place of harmony. If you have a strategy or tactic or some kind of fix that you think will have a particular result, you’re coming from a place of knowing rather than not knowing. Coming from a place of not knowing is more likely to lead us to greater har- mony and openness. So we begin with simply not knowing. Not knowing is derived from the fourth noble truth, the noble eightfold path. It is a way of expressing right view in all of our relationships. As a central aspect of the eightfold path, right view means no view. If we eliminate all concepts and views, we have not knowing, and this allows us to expand beyond the notion of self. So examine your ideas and beliefs and be ready to drop them. Embrace the practice and the dharma as the way to approach diversity and inclusivity. Everything we need is already immediately before us—we simply need to move past any fixed perspective. ♦ A psychotherapist and Zen priest, JULES SHUZEN HARRIS is the founder of the Soji Zen Center in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. 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. I RECALL THE EARLY DAYS of my Buddhist practice when, either on retreat or attending a Sunday morning program, I was the only person of color in attendance. Over the years I’ve raised the question in various Buddhist settings: “Why aren’t people of color present? Why isn’t there a wider representation of people of differ- ent educational backgrounds?” My fellow teachers would nod and agree that, as Buddhists, we need to reach out to people of color and different socioeconomic classes. But that’s as far as it went. There is a basic human tendency to seek comfort in the known, in a familiar world that mirrors our prior experiences. Because of this, people naturally tend to self-segregate and align themselves with others with whom they find similarity, familiarity, and comfort. As a result, we find a notable lack of significant racial, ethnic, and economic diversity in many com- munities—including Buddhist communities. This powerful desire to align ourselves more closely with what we already know, rather than that which feels uncertain and insecure, gives rise to a willful, if somewhat unconscious, inability to see and experience the truth. We are locked into a narrower perspective and miss out on an array of possibilities in every area of life, including Buddhist practice. As Buddhists, we would do well to ask ourselves, where is no-self when we surround ourselves with people we feel most comfortable and aligned with, consciously or not? How genu- ine is our bodhisattva vow to save all sentient beings when we LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 37