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The Practice of Diversity

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Larry Yang

Today I want to share a dharma resource that I think is really useful — and I have a feeling that not many people know about it.

“Directing the Mind Towards Practices in Diversity” was written by Larry Yang, who is one of the core teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center in California and a psychotherapist.

These eight guidelines are inspired from Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness trainings, and encourage us to see diversity in the light of dharma practice. As Larry writes, “The practice of these trainings is an opportunity to begin the journey towards narrowing the experience of separation. As humans, we all participate in the harmful behaviors that these trainings are addressing. We all have been the perpetrator and victim, at one time or another. These trainings are for all of us, not just for any particular group or community. And in our conjoint practice are the vision, hope, and possibility of both cultivating non-perpetration of oppression and increasing compassion in how we live our lives and understand each other.”

I am curious to hear your thoughts on these practices, and if and how you can imagine working with them in your life and your sangha.

Directing the Mind Towards Practices in Diversity

1. Aware of the suffering caused by imposing one’s own opinions or cultural beliefs upon another human being, I undertake the training to refrain from forcing others, in any way through authority, threat, financial incentive, or education to adopt my own belief system. I commit to respecting every human being’s right to be different, while working towards the elimination of suffering of all beings.

2. Aware of the suffering caused by invalidating or denying another person’s experience, I undertake the training to refrain from making assumptions, or judging harshly any beliefs and attitudes that are different from my own or not understandable to me. I commit to being open-minded towards other points of view, and I commit to meeting each perceived difference in another person with the willingness to learn more about their world view and individual circumstances.

3. Aware of the suffering caused by the violence of treating someone as inferior or superior to one’s own self, I undertake the training to refrain from diminishing or idealizing the worth, integrity, and happiness of any human being. Recognizing that my true nature is not separate from others, I commit to treating each person that comes into my consciousness, with the same loving kindness, care, and equanimity that I would bestow upon a beloved benefactor or dear friend.

4. Aware of the suffering caused by intentional and unintentional acts of rejection, exclusion, avoidance, or indifference towards people who are culturally, physically, sexually, or economically different from me, I undertake the training to refrain from isolating myself to people of similar backgrounds as myself and from being only with people who make me feel comfortable. I commit to searching out ways to diversify my relationships and to increase my sensitivity towards people of different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, genders, and economic means.

5. Aware of the suffering caused by the often unseen nature of privilege, and the ability of privilege to benefit a select population over others, I undertake the training to refrain from exploiting any person or group, including economically, sexually, intellectually, or culturally. I commit to examine with wisdom and clear comprehension the ways that I have privilege in order to determine skillful ways of using privilege for the benefit of all beings, and I commit to the practice of generosity in all aspects of my life and towards all human beings, regardless of cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, age, physical or economic differences.

6. Aware of the suffering caused to myself and others by fear and anger during conflict or disagreement, I undertake the training to refrain from reacting defensively, using harmful speech because I feel injured, or using language or cognitive argument to justify my sense of rightness. I commit to communicate and express myself mindfully, speaking truthfully from my heart with patience and compassion. I commit to practice genuine and deep listening to all sides of a dispute, and to remain in contact with my highest intentions of recognizing Buddha nature within all beings.

7. Aware of the suffering caused by the ignorance of misinformation and the lack of information that aggravate fixed views, stereotypes, the stigmatizing of a human being as other and the marginalization of cultural groups, I undertake the training to educate myself about other cultural attitudes, world views, ethnic traditions, and life experiences outside of my own. I commit to be curious with humility and openness, to recognize with compassion the experience of suffering in all beings, and to practice sympathetic joy when encountering the many different cultural expressions of happiness and celebration around the world.

8. Aware of the suffering caused by the cumulative harm that a collective of people can impose on individuals and other groups, I undertake the training to refrain from consciously validating or participating in group processes, dynamics, activities, decisions, or actions which perpetuate the suffering that these trainings describe on a familial, social, institutional, governmental, societal, cultural, or global level. I commit to exploring, examining and eliminating the ways that I consciously and unconsciously ally myself with forces that cause harm and oppression, and commit myself to working for the benefit and peace of all beings, in all directions.

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About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work.

5 responses »

  1. Oh this is so wonderful, I had to print it out and post it on my desk! It would be wonderful, also, to find out more about how to practice this when it is hard. For me, for example, to practice not imposing my own ideas and being compassionate to someone like Rush Limbaugh. Or how to be tolerant of intolerance — that’s been the most difficult hurdle for me in my practice.

    Thanks for this post!

    Reply
  2. Thanks so much for this post, Maia! Larry Yang has been a huge influence on a local PoC group that I often attend. These are a really beautiful set of mindfulness trainings.

    Reply
  3. Thank you, Maia,

    My ego took a beating as I read through the trainings. I hope it doesn’t get in the way of such a comprehensive practice. And when it does, I hope to be able to begin again.

    Sincerely,
    Don A Williams
    PS
    The web reference is my wife’s web site, not mine. I think she is really cool.

    Reply
  4. I’ve shared this with the members of the Albuquerque Buddhist Fellowship.

    Palms Together in Boundless Love and Respect,
    Dug

    Reply

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