Jack Kornfield: Statement on Racism from Buddhist Teachers & Leaders in the United States


May 14, 2015

“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together.”– Lila Watson

As Buddhist teachers and leaders we are distressed and deeply saddened by the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police—most recently brought to light with Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY, Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, Freddie Gray of Baltimore MD and too many others–and the frequent failure of the courts to bring justice to these cases. Most grievous is that these tragic events are not isolated incidents. They are part of a systemic injustice in the United States that is rooted in centuries of slavery and segregation, and manifested in continued economic and social exclusion, inferior education, mass incarceration and ongoing violence against African-Americans.

The Buddhist teachings are grounded in a clear recognition of suffering, an ethical commitment to non-harming and an understanding of interdependence: We can’t separate our personal healing and transformation from that of our larger society. The historic and continued suffering of people of color in this country—of African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and others—is our collective suffering. The harm caused daily is our collective responsibility. Once we see this suffering, our freedom unfolds as we respond with a wise and compassionate heart.

Right now, we believe there is an immediacy and urgency in focusing our attentions and efforts on the pervasive and ongoing violence done to people of color in our country. We are inspired by the courage and leadership of the people of Ferguson and many other communities in recent months in drawing a line in the sand and saying, “Enough”, “Black Lives Matter”, and calling for deep-rooted changes in our economic and justice systems.  As Buddhists we see the timeliness of adding our voices to theirs, knowing it will take a dedicated focus to recognize how the hidden biases and assumptions of our society deprive people of color of their basic rights to justice, opportunity and human dignity.

Our collective aspiration within the Buddhist traditions is to become truly inclusive and beloved communities.  In this process we are committed to honestly and bravely uncovering the ways we create separation and unintentionally replicate patterns of inequity and harm.  In the same spirit, we are committed to engaging with other faith and social justice groups in support of undoing racism throughout our society.

In response to tragedy, grief, and anger, we see the seeds of profound possibilities for healing the wounds of separation and building communities based on respect and love. Since their inception, Buddhist teachings and practices have been explicitly devoted to liberation. In his time the Buddha was a revolutionary voice against racism and the caste system: “Not by caste, race, or creed, or birth is one noble, but by heart alone is one a noble being.” The Buddhist trainings in mindfulness, wisdom and compassion, create the grounds for wise speech and wise action.  These teachings and practices free our hearts from greed, prejudice and hate and serve an essential role in societal healing, and in the awakening of all.

We offer prayers for healing and peace.

  Name                                                                                                                                                       Affiliation (included for identification purposes only)

Mr. William Aiken Soka Gakkai International-USA
Dr. Tatsushi Arai Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research
Dr. Asoka Bandarage
Ms. Kristin Barker One Earth Sangha
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi Buddhist Global Relief
Mrs. Debra Boudreaux Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
Dr. Tara Brach Insight Meditation Community of Washington
Mr. Richard Brown Soka Gakkai International-USA
Dr. Grace Burford Prescott Insight Meditation Sangha
Dr. Hugh Byrne Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW)
Rev. Joshin Byrnes Upaya Zen Center
Rev. Myokei Caine-Barrett Nichiren Shu Order of North America
Mr. Krishna R. Chakma Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh
Ven. Shinge Sherry Chayat Zen Studies Society and Zen Center of Syracuse
Mr. Vincenzo Cursio World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
Mr. Khiet Dang Giac Hoang Temple, Washington, D.C.
Ven. Lama Surya Das Dzogchen Center
Rev. Michelle Dunson Buddhist Council of New York
Rev. Sangwon Hwang Won Buddhism
Rev. Earl Ikeda BCA, New York Buddhist Church
Rev. Noriaki Ito Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
Dr. Christopher Ives Stonehill College
Dr. Jane Naomi Iwamura University of the West
Rev. Martin Janowitz Shambhala International
Ms. Jennifer  Kim Shantideva Meditation Center
Dr. Sallie King James Madison University
Rev. Shumyo Kojima Zenshuji Soto Mission / Soto Zen
Dr. Jack Kornfield Spirit Rock Center
Mr. Peter Kovach Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW)
Dr. Kenneth Kraft Lehigh University
Dr. Lorne Ladner Guhyasamaja Center, FPMT
Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago
Mr. Lou Leonard World Wildlife Fund & One Earth Sangha
Mr. Hanford Lin Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation
Ms. Katie Loncke Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Dr. Kamilah Majied SGI-USA, Howard University
Ms. Martine Miller Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers
Dr. Willa Miller Natural Dharma Fellowship
Mr. Timothy Moraca IMCW & MPG-Annapolis
Mr. Daniel Nagashima Soka Gakkai International-USA
Rev. Toshikazu Nakagaki Buddhist Council of New York
Dr. Mohan Nirala Indian Buddhist Vihara – Accokeek
Ven. Joshua Paszkiewicz Dharmakaya Buddhist Association
Ms. Deirdre Peterson Village Zendo – NYC
Ven. Sophouns Pheach Wat Jotanaram
Ms. Sierra Pickett Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Dr. Ronald Purser Korean  Buddhist Taego Order
Ms. Sue Quinn NACOLE
Mr. Rajeev Rauniyar Guhaya Samaja
Mr. Richard Reoch Shambhala International
Hon. Gretchen Rohr Insight Meditation Community of Washington
Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke Clear View Project
Ven. Miaohsi Shih Fo Guang Shan – Hsi Lai Temple
Dr. Judith Simmer-Brown Naropa University and Shambhala
Rev. Gregory Snyder Brooklyn Zen Center
Mrs. Sylvie Jinchou Sun Buddhist Global Relief
Ven. Losang Tendrol Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center
Ven. Raungrit Thaithae Wat Thai DC
Dr. Sovan Tun Cambodian Buddhist Society, Inc.
Ven. Phap Vu Blue Cliff Monastery, NY – Thich Nhat Hanh
Ms. Thanissara Weinberg Chattanooga Insight / Dharmagiri South Africa
Dr. Duncan Williams University of Southern California
Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams Center for Transformative Change
Mr. Larry Yang East Bay Meditation Center
Ven. Nan-Jun Yu Dharma Drum Mountain/Chan Meditation Center

Leave a Reply