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Lions Roar : March 2019
race riots, I lost a lot of friends in Vietnam, and I went through the epidemic of drugs and so forth. At a certain point, though, the practice begins to teach you how to let go and let things be. But you have to practice. After you reach ten thousand hours of practice you begin to let things be, and when you go over ten thousand hours of practice... yeah, now you’re smiling. The Buddhist practice is not passive. It’s very seriously active. Ruth King: The question is a brave one. It’s a question that asks how we cope when our practice is hard and when there’s a lot of struggle around race and racism in the institutions we’re in. What I can say to you, from our journey this weekend, is that we’re all playing with some variation of that. The intention is to bring the wisdom of Buddhist teachings into the heart of the struggle, and that is indeed a practice. I want you to know that you’re not alone in this exploration. It’s not like we ever finally arrive. We are constantly arriving and humbling ourselves and tenderizing our hearts around what it means to walk in the world with an open heart. Chimyo Atkinson: The loneliness is very much a part of my life too. Practicing dharma looks lonely because you’re sitting on a cushion all by yourself. But we sometimes forget that one of the triple jewels of Buddhism is sangha, community. You can begin dharma practice on your own—you can begin it anywhere, even right now sitting right there—but it’s very important to find other people you can practice with. It’s going to take some effort. I don’t like to call it shopping around, but sometimes you know what fits when you walk in the room, and other times, you have to give people a chance. Some- times you have to take what you can get and make your connec- tions there. It’s an effort on both sides. Do not give up. We’re sitting here, come find us. This interconnection of all beings is real. Question: Many of our Buddhist communities are still white- dominated. Sometimes as people of color we get invitations to participate in the decision-making, but the change of pace can be pretty glacial. Do we continue pushing from within when we get invited to have a seat at the table, or is there a way for change to happen at a slightly more revolutionary pace? Gina Sharpe: The answer is yes and yes. There are many path- ways to diversity. I think that there are ways to work within certain institutions, but it is glacial. It’s always been glacial. Just because these are Buddhist spaces, we think somehow that people should be sincere, receptive, and transparent. But we’re compli- cated beings, and although we may have the best of intentions, we are deeply conditioned by a racist society. Our resistance to deracializing the mind is high, because we’re humans. We love our conditioned minds because we’ve been living with them for a very long time and we’re familiar with them. An extraordinary amount of patience is necessary. Some- times we need to figure out ways to be creative and listen deeply to what is needed, without reference to the larger society. Learn through your own love, compassion, and kindness. Create your own pathways to change. They’re there, but they have to be excavated. So as a short answer: yes, it’s frus- trating to work from within, but it’s necessary. It’s also necessary to find our own ways of working so that we can create spaces like what we have created in this room, in which we actually work together and envision another way of being in this society. Ruth King: Sometimes we have to intervene and sometimes we have to pass and care for ourselves. Sometimes we intervene at the individual level in our relationships. Sometimes we intervene at the group level and we find people like ourselves. Sometimes we intervene at the institutional level. But we can’t intervene in all of it all the time. There needs to be some choice- fulness around how we respond to the wackiness that’s in the world. For many of the teachers, who were from different Buddhist groups across the country, this was their first chance to meet. As one teacher said, there was “tremendous liberation” in connecting with each other. LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 40