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December 9, 2014

Attending to the Issue of Racism in Our Life and Community

Dear Sangha,

I join millions of people in this country and throughout the world in my sorrow and deep outrage at the long-standing injustices—large and small—towards minority communities in our cities and suburban areas. The disintegration of trust, the fear and the corrosive relationships involving law enforcement and people of color cry out for our attention. What will it take for each of us to bring renewed attention to the issues of racism in our life and community, our karmic conditioning and our own actions?

The abbatial leadership stands with me in support of the letter below issued before Thanksgiving from the leadership of the Brooklyn Zen Center to its members. This group is a Branching Streams sangha affiliated with San Francisco Zen Center. Its guiding teacher, Soshin Teah Strozer, is a dharma heir of Sojun Mel Weitsman and studied directly under Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Dainin Katagiri Roshi. Please take a moment to read this letter.

Eijun Linda Cutts, Central Abbess, SFZC
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Brooklyn Zen Center co-founders Greg Snyder and Laura O’Loughlin, and guiding teacher Teah Strozer (photo: A. Jesse Jiryu Davis).

Brooklyn Zen Center co-founders Greg Snyder and Laura O’Loughlin, and guiding teacher Teah Strozer. (Photo: A. Jesse Jiryu Davis.)

Dearest Sangha Members,

This Thanksgiving week and holiday season are a time of remembrance. It is a time to consider both the blessings of our lives and one of reflection. While you are with family or friends or alone enjoying a meal or maybe a football game, please consider with the deepest gratitude all the daily blessings given to us just for being alive. It is not to be overlooked.

Then take a moment to reflect on our own and other’s suffering, both historic and current. This country was founded on the genocidal removal of indigenous people and our economy on the backs of African descendants enslaved as chattel, not to mention the brutal exploitation of countless others. We today are dealing with the consequences of those tragedies, of ‘othering’ and harming so many with impunity.

As Buddhists it is our job to see clearly the conditioned thoughts, beliefs and assumptions that make us blind to the systemic, daily injustices still lived by so many of our sisters and brothers.

Ferguson could not have happened without this background of prejudice and history of hatred. We encourage each of us as practitioners to respond in some way, even if it is only to begin looking more deeply at our conscious and unconscious beliefs about race. To turn away and pretend we are not one of those who carries this violence forward is to set ourselves outside the interconnected truth of our lives.

To bring this conditioning to the surface and understand how we are a part of what is happening is the next step toward sanity and love, toward ending and healing the violence that has until now seemed intractable in our nation’s history.

Brooklyn Zen Center can be a place for authentic exploration and expression as we find our way through this continuing tragedy. We believe that for all of us gun violence and racism are not the collective life we want, not the society we want. Fortunately, when we turn toward it in this way, our practice provides a path for real transformation. We know we share with many of you a vow to live for and protect the freedom of all beings. May we begin living together in a way that allows this shared birthright to be realized someday very soon.

As you talk with people in the days ahead, if you do, please listen carefully to where they are coming from and where you are responding from. There is no need to make further division but it is our job to stand up and say something to address this ongoing, national tragedy that effects us all. No one should have to live in fear.

Let us both appreciate the blessings of life itself and reflect on how we can free ourselves and each other from the conditioned mind that creates a false separation, which is the cause of suffering for so many.

With love and appreciation,
Teah, Laura and Greg
Brooklyn Zen Center

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This letter and its accompanying images were published by Shambhala Sun here on lionsroar.com.
Visit our main website for information about the Branching Streams network of dharma centers.

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