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Category Archives: Harmony and Difference

Which Side Are You On?

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Which Side Are You On?



Justice is traditionally represented by the symbol of a scale, where the strengths of a case’s opposition and support are weighed out, ostensibly with impartial objectivity.

This symbolism is noble but doesn’t take into account the often-unconscious biases that we carry into so many situations, the collective sum total of which amount to institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and more.

Even so, the scale is an important symbol that helps us to visualize countervailing energies.

I believe that somewhere there is a metaphorical scale that is collecting the courageous responses that have been flowing so strongly these past weeks: from the thousands of people of color and white folks showing up in the streets of New York, Oakland, Chicago, St. Louis, and other cities – often in the face of police armed with military-grade guns and equipment, teargas canisters, and even tanks – to individuals who are writing brave words, folks like Paul Gorski talking about the challenging conversations we need to be having, and like Jessie S, naming how anti-black racism lives in each of us and what to do about it.

On the other side of the scale are the acts that have provoked these responses and the silence that so often accompanies them. This past week it was the decisions from Missouri and New York grand juries to not indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. But these are simply the latest in a long long long line of injustices, and the conspiracy of silence and complicity which keep those injustices in place.

As terrible as these grand jury decisions have been, they are serving the purpose of waking up a lot of people who have been oblivious to or in denial of racial injustice. It’s pretty impossible to deny that something is horribly wrong when you watch the video of Eric Garner – a peaceful and unarmed man who did nothing more than selling a few cigarettes on the street – pleading for his life.

And then you realize that the officers involved are not being held accountable in any way.

And then you learn that young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by the police compared to their white counterparts.

And that African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites

The scale is there, waiting for you to weigh in. Which will it be? Speaking out the truth of this suffering and finding ways to respond to it… or remaining silent, eyes closed, living in the ignorance of your personal comfort zone.

I am speaking right now particularly to those of you who identify as Buddhist, and who happen to be white. If you choose to remain silent now, to turn away, you are weighing in on the side of perpetuating the injustices that run rampant in our society.

Because you see, something big is a’brewing right now, and you, me, we have a precious opportunity to step up and help it happen. This waking up is not just an individual thing. This process that the Buddha illuminated more than 5000 years ago involves everything and everybody. This is what he said at the moment of his waking up, “I and all sentient beings on earth, together, attain enlightenment at the same time.”

I realize the title of this article will irritate dharma practitioners who have studied and practiced the way of non-duality. I am one of you (a longtime dharma practitioner), and I get that. I get your concern.

And – this is an invitation to realize that non-duality includes points at which we need to take a stand on the side of love. You can hold a place of compassion for an individual officer who may have been trying his best in the moment, and yet call out the ways that he (or she) acted from a place of unexamined bias, and call out a ‘justice’ system that is blind to the reality of racism.

It’s time.

Which side are you on?

If you’re ready to stand on the side of love, here are some starting points:

  • Use your dharma practice to help you settle into a place of receptivity and curiosity…. And get in touch with your deep intention to help all beings be free from suffering, yourself included.
  • Listen. Listen to the experience of people of color without jumping to defensiveness or explanations. Be willing to be in a space of ‘not knowing.’ We have much to learn.
  • Understand that racism hurts all of us. Don’t act out of guilt. Realize it is in everyone’s best interest, including yours, to dismantle an unjust system.
  • Organize a conversation about institutionalized oppression, racism, and privilege in your sangha. Get inspired by the models of the East Bay Meditation Center and Brooklyn Zen Center who have put the values of diversity and inclusivity at the heart of their practice.
  • Show up in support of actions that are happening in your city.
  • Join up with Sangha in the Streets, a Facebook group where you can find out about ways to offer a contemplative presence at these actions, or initiate one yourself.
  • Start a conversation about what the Beloved Community would look and feel like, talk about your vision and listen to others. Check out this video from Dr. Lee Lipp, a senior practitioner at San Francisco Zen Center.

Above all, don’t be silent. Don’t turn away. You may not know what to do, but you can at least talk about that… talk about what you are seeing that deeply disturbs you, reach out to others, start a conversation about what needs to happen. And listen, always listen.

Robert Aitken Roshi on Gay Marriage: A Zen Buddhist Perspective

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The big headline of the past couple of days has been the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing on the issue of same-sex marriage. There have been some excellent commentaries from Buddhist bloggers on the matter as well, including this one from Justin Whitaker at American Buddhist Perspective and this one from Kenji Liu on the Buddhist Peace Fellowship website.

But one piece of writing on this topic from a Buddhist teacher that isn’t so easy to find comes from the late Robert Aitken Roshi. Way back in 1995, he offered a Zen Buddhist perspective on the matter and came down clearly on the side of equality and justice.

One of the few places I’ve seen the document online is on the Queer Resources Directory:

I’m re-posting the document here. As I read it, I am reminded once again of Aitken Roshi’s fiercely compassionate intelligence.



On October 11, 1995, some religious leaders gave testimony to the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law in support of same- gender marriage.  It was one of the most moving meetings of the Commission. Of the approximately 9 speakers, three submitted written testimony (two Buddhist and one Lutheran).  I have retrieved their testimony from the archives and will post each on to the internet.  The first is appended below.

Robert Aitken served much of World War II as a prisoner of war of the Japanese; one of his captors introduced Robert Aitken to Zen Buddhism. Today Robert Aitken heads the western region of the United States.


Tom Ramsey

Co-Coordinator, HERMP

Robert Aitken’s Written Testimony to the
Commission on Sexual Orientation 
and the Law

October 11, 1995         

I am Robert Aitken, co-founder and teacher of the Honolulu  Diamond Sangha, a Zen Buddhist society established in 1959, with centers in Manoa and Palolo [macrons are over first a’s in each word]. Our organization has evolved into a network of Diamond Sangha groups on Neighbor Islands and in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.  I am also co-founder of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and a member of its International Board of Advisors.  This is an association whose members are concerned about social issues from a Buddhist perspective.  It has it headquarters in Berkeley, California, and has chapters across the country, including one here on O’ahu, as well as chapters overseas.  I am also a member of the Hawai’i Association of International Buddhists.

I speak to you today as an individual in response to the Chair’s request to present Buddhist views, particularly Zen Buddhist views, on the subject of of marriage between people of the same sex.

The religion we now call Zen Buddhism arose in China in the sixth century as a part of the Mahayana, which is the tradition of Buddhism found in China, Korea, Japan and to some extent in Vietnam.  Pure Land schools, including the Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji, as well as Shingon and Nichiren, are other sects within the Mahayana.

The word Zen means “exacting meditation,” which describes the central practice of the Zen Buddhist and from which emerge certain quite profound realizations that can be applied in daily life. Most practitioners come to a deep understanding that all life is connected and that we are each a boundless container that includes all other beings.

The application of this kind of intimacy can be framed in the classic Buddhist teaching of the Four Noble Abodes: loving kindness, compassion, joy in the attainment of others, and equanimity.

Applying these Four Noble Abodes to the issue of same-sex marriage, I find it clear that encouragement is my recommendation. Over my long career of teaching, I have had students who were gay, lesbian, trans-sexual and bisexual, as well as heterosexual. These orientations have seemed to me to be quite specific, much akin to the innate proclivities which lead people to varied careers or take paths in life that are uniquely their own.

We are all human, and within my own container, I find compassion—not just for—but with the gay or lesbian couple who wish to confirm their love in a legal marriage.

Although historically Zen has been a monastic tradition, there have always been prominent lay adherents. Those who enter the state of marriage vow to live their lives according to the same sixteen precepts that ground the Buddhist monk’s and nun’s life in the world. This way of living opens our path into life. Like life itself, marriage is absolutely non-discriminatory and open to all.

Buddhist teaching regarding sexuality is expressed in the precept of “taking up the way of not misusing sex.” I understand this precept to mean that any self-centered sexual conduct is exploitative, non-consensual—sex that harms others. In the context of young men or young women confined within monastery walls for periods of years, one might expect rules and teachings relating to homosexuality, but they don’t appear.

Homosexuality seems to be overlooked in Zen teachings, and indeed in classical Buddhist texts. However, my own monastic experience leads me to believe that homosexuality was not taken as an aberration, and so did not receive comment.

All societies have from earliest times across the world formalized sexual love in marriage ceremonies that give the new couple standing and rights in the community. Currently both rights and standing are denied to gays and lesbians who wish to marry in all but three of the United Sates. If every State acknowledged the basic married rights of gay and lesbian couples, young men and women just beginning their lives together, as well as those who have shared their lives for decades, a long-standing injustice would be corrected, and these fellow citizens would feel accepted in the way they deserve to be.

This would stabilize a significant segment of our society, and we would all of us be better able to acknowledge our diversity. I urge the voters of California to keep gay and lesbian marriages legal. This is the most humane course of action and in keeping with perennial principles of decency and mutual encouragement.

The Dharma and the Border

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Early this morning, I wrote this post for the Upaya Zen Center website. I wanted to share it here as well because it is such a wonderful illustration of socially engaged dharma and because in the past I have written on immigration issues on this blog. I was very moved by all the speakers, and particularly by two of them who shared that they were Buddhist or had practiced Buddhism. The dharma is deep and subtle, and knows no boundaries.

Last night, the deep quiet of the Upaya Zen Center temple embraced 20 visitors who started their journey a week earlier in Tijuana, Mexico. The Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity is comprised of men and women who have lost loved ones to the “drug war” waged by the United States since the 1970s.

Poet Javier Sicilia is at the heart of this band of pilgrims, leading them on a one-month journey across the U.S. to share their stories and to help Americans understand that our fate is entwined with theirs… in other words, to shine a light on our shared responsibility and karma in this war that has no winners and that has created so much suffering.

More than 100 people in the zendo listened with great attentiveness and compassion as members of the Caravan spoke about sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, who had been killed or disappeared in the course of this war. Sicilia’s son, whom he made clear did not use drugs, became a victim of drug war violence and his beaten and asphyxiated body was found, along with six of his friends, in a car along a highway in the state of Morelos in 2011.

The visit coincided with the last evening of Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program summer intensive training period. Roshi Joan Halifax and Sensei Fleet Maull welcomed the guests, along with Upaya’s head monk, Shinzan Palma, originally from Mexico himself. Fleet, who had himself been a drug trafficker in his youth and spent 14 years in a federal prison on those charges, gave the group his unconditional support and recognized the responsibility that we all shared in this situation.

The group from the Caravan was clearly moved by the deep listening and support from the audience. At the end of the evening, we all chanted the four bodhisattva vows together, as Roshi reminded us that we were offering the chant in this case to these bodhisattvas from Mexico.

The Caravan will spend two more days in Santa Fe and then head to El Paso, TX, on August 20. Their final destination is Washington, DC, which they plan to reach on September 10. You can learn more about the Caravan here:

Interview: Arun of “Angry Asian Buddhist”

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This is the second in a series of monthly interviews that I’m sharing with inspiring and interesting socially engaged Buddhists of our time. For the first interview with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, please click here.

Today our guest is Arun, the author of the blog Angry Asian Buddhist. While Arun and I have never met in person, for the past year I’ve admired his writing from afar and appreciate the intelligence and honesty he brings to conversations about Buddhism, race, politics, and more. I’m grateful that he took the time to correspond with me and engage with these questions.

JC: Where do you call home?

Arun: Los Angeles is where I currently live, although as a fourth generation San Franciscan, I must say that my home will always be by the Bay.

JC: What are you reading right now?

Arun: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. I spend very little time reading books about Buddhism, although I am hoping that this book will help me launch a creative expression program at a local temple. This book has done a great job at challenging my notions of both “creative” and “expression.”

JC: Who inspires you – Buddhist teachers, activists, writers, artists…

Arun: There are so many individuals who inspire me, from family to friends to strangers long before my time. These days, one of my greatest inspirations is my friend, co-blogger and fellow temple committee member who blogs under the pseudonym “John” at Dharma Folk.

I have known John for six years. In that time I have had the pleasure of watching him grow into being an enormously influential Buddhist community leader. John inspires me with his kind and effective leadership, commitment to practice and mastery of writing, such that I am always learning from him when I am around him. I could write pages of praises about John, but suffice it to say that he is one of the most inspirational people in my life.

JC: What social issue is close to your heart right now?

Arun: There are several social issues close to my heart, but in the Buddhist blogosphere, I am perhaps most well known for my discussion and exploration of the marginalization of Asian Americans in American Buddhism and, more broadly, Western Buddhism. This sort of marginalization takes many forms. We are repeatedly excluded from the Western Buddhist narrative and often reduced to immigrant caricatures when included. Our communities and practices are denigrated wholesale as retrograde, foreign or inferior. Even our grievances on this very issue are invalidated, such that our arguments and observations are portrayed as achieving nothing more than division and discord.

The heart of the problem is that these actions dissuade Asian Americans from embracing Buddhism. Our exclusion tells us that the we are irrelevant. The denigration of our communities tells us that we will not be accepted for who we are. The silencing of our protests tells us more clearly than anything else that there are yet people in Western Buddhism who believe not that marginalization is the problem, but that we are the problem. The vast majority of Western Buddhists, hundreds of thousands of whom are Asian, abhor racism and firmly support the principles of fairness and equality—and yet this marginalization so regularly recurs.

JC: How does your dharma practice inform your involvement on that issue?

Arun: On this specific issue, my involvement is rooted in the practice of community. I have spent weeks struggling over this question, but it all boils down to the importance of cultivating community. Even when I blog as the Angry Asian Buddhist, I do so as part of the community of Buddhist bloggers and more broadly as a Western Buddhist and a Global Buddhist. Community involvement challenges me to acknowledge a vast array of deeply ingrained habits that are easy to ignore on the cushion. Not only that, this involvement broadens my understanding of the wonderfully diverse Buddhist community in the West and the many different ways that I can help strengthen the practice of the Dharma within these communities.

JC: If you could invite people to join you in taking one action on that issue, what would it be?

Arun: I would encourage readers to engage more with Asian American Buddhists. You can even interact with us online. Just recently I began following the group blogs of the Young Wisdom Project and dharmas, both of which include a number of young Asian American Buddhist bloggers.

JC: What else would you like people to know about you?

Arun: I would love for people to know that the “angry” in Angry Asian Buddhist is an homage to the Angry Asian phenomenon, of which the Angry Asian Man and the Angry Little Asian Girl are the most famous examples. Our names speak to the stereotype of Asian Americans as passive and submissive, and my blog title speaks to the same stereotype held for Asian American Buddhists. Even while I do get angry, the point of my blog is not to glorify anger. Even from a young age, my father taught me that anger is something over which we each have ultimately responsibility, and this sort of teaching is at the heart of my Buddhist practice. “All living beings are owners of their actions, are heirs to their actions, born of their actions, related through their actions, and live dependent on their actions.”


Thanks to Arun for taking time to be part of this interview series!

10 Asian+Asian American Buddhists Who Make a Difference

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Canyon Sam

I’m taking this cue from Arun over on the blog Angry Asian Buddhist, which explores issues of race, culture, and privilege in American Buddhism.

As Arun notes in his May 23rd post, this is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. He suggests: “…it would be great if the Buddhist blogging community took advantage of the eight remaining days in May to spend a little time—maybe just one post—recognizing the voices of Asian American Buddhists.”

I want to take Arun up on that invitation and highlight a few of the contributions of Buddhists of Asian and Asian American descent to the field of socially engaged Buddhism. Please note that the list includes people born in the U.S. as well as born in other countries… I couldn’t imagine a list about engaged Buddhism that left off folks like Kaz Tanahashi and Thich Nhat Hanh, so that’s why I expanded on Arun’s original suggestion.

This list is by no means exhaustive… I’m only touching on a few of the engaged Asian and Asian American Buddhists that I have known, worked with, and deeply appreciate.

Anchalee Kurutach was born and raised in Thailand but has lived in the U.S. since 1988.  She has been involved with refugee and immigrant work for over twenty years in both Asia and the U.S. Anchalee is very active in both the Buddhist Peace Fellowship as well as the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.

Anushka Fernandopulle, a dharma teacher in the Theravada tradition, is on the leadership sangha of the East Bay Meditation Center, in Oakland, CA. In addition to her past service as a board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and her support for many other progressive organizations, Anushka brings a dharmic perspective to politics: she serves as a mayoral appointee to the San Francisco Citizen’s Committee on Community Development, a commission that advises the city on community development policy.

Canyon Sam  is a third generation Chinese American activist, author, and playright. She is the author of Sky Train: Tibetan Women On the Edge of History. After spending a year backpacking through China and Tibet when she was in her twenties, Canyon became very involved in advocating for Tibetan human rights and she helped to found the Tibetan Nuns Project.

Duncan Ryuken Williams, a Professor of Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley, has written on Japanese Buddhist history, Buddhism and environmentalism, and American Buddhism. He is the author of several books, including Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnection of Dharma and Deeds (Harvard, 1997).

Sister Jun Yasuda, whose picture graces the new masthead of the Jizo Chronicles, is part of the Nipponzan Myohji order. She has led and participated in peace walks to address issues such as nuclear disarmament, prison reform, and Native American rights for many years now. Sister Jun-san lives at the Grafton Peace Pagoda in upstate New York.

Kaz Tanahashi

Kaz Tanahashi, born in Japan, has lived in the U.S. since 1977. Besides being an artist, author, and translator (his recently updated translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo was just published earlier this year), Kaz is very active in environmental and peace issues. He founded the organizations A World Without Armies and Plutonium Free Future (with Mayumi Oda).

Rev. Ken Tanaka  is a scholar and co-editor (with Charles Prebish) of the book The Faces of Buddhism in America. A leader in the Shin Buddhist community, Rev. Tanaka has called for the development of an “Engaged Pure Land Buddhism”

Mushim Ikeda-Nash  is a Buddhist teacher, author, diversity consultant, and community peace activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mushim was coeditor of Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities. Her work has been featured in two documentary films, “Between the Lines: Asian American Women Poets” and “Acting on Faith: Women and the New Religious Activism in America.

Ryo Imamura was politically active on the Vietnam War issue and farmworkers’ rights, and along with Robert Aitken Roshi helped to found the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in 1978. Ryo is currently a professor of East-West Psychology at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Thich Nhat Hanh –  No list on engaged Buddhism would be complete without mention of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, who coined the term while he was still living in Vietnam during the war. Thay’s activism includes founding the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS) in Vietnam, but probably his most important contribution to socially engaged Buddhism is his embodiment of what it means to “be peace” as a way of working toward peace.

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.

Chaplains Speak Out on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal

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I am heartened whenever I hear about an individual or a group of people who use their credibility and voice to speak up for something, to put their necks out for a cause bigger than themselves.

Sometimes this is called “being an ally,” sometimes it’s called advocacy, sometimes it’s just simply doing what’s right. It’s easier to not speak up, and most of the time people don’t look much beyond their own interests.

But when it does happen, I think it’s a modern manifestation of the bodhisattva ideal.

Last week, I attended the annual conference of the Association of Professional Chaplains in Dallas, TX. I was there on behalf of the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. I don’t consider myself a chaplain, at least not in the traditional sense, so this was not my “tribe,” so to speak. Even so, I enjoyed meeting people and learning more about this profession.

Earlier in the week, I had mentioned to a student in our program that I had been following a couple of news stories this past year that involved chaplains and I was surprised and disappointed that the APC didn’t seem to have expressed an opinion on them. One was the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the other was the growing presence of Muslim chaplains on college campuses and other settings.

In both cases, fear-based fundamentalists grabbed on to these events and turned them into an opportunity to spread their distorted points of view. [Distorted in my opinion, anyway.] In the case of gays serving openly in the military, the position was that chaplains were having their rights violated. In the case of Muslim chaplains, well, there wasn’t anything remotely close to a rational objection… the responses were racist, pure and simple.

Here was the perfect opportunity for a professional body of chaplains to refute these destructive beliefs. And yet I hadn’t seen anything in the media. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The APC actually did make a statement on DADT, and I was told that APC president David Johnson also spoke out in strong support of Muslim chaplains.

It may be that the APC needs some more savvy media help to get these statements better press coverage, but I am gratified to know that at least they put this out.

So in the interest of helping to spread the word, I’ll share the statement on DADT with you here:

November 4, 2010

The largest organization of professional chaplains in the United States, in a statement issued today, says that the beliefs of a faith group about homosexuality do not preclude a chaplain from serving “both God and the U.S. armed forces,” as claimed by some retired military chaplains who do not want the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy revoked.

Association of Professional Chaplains President, Rev. Dr. David Johnson, D.Min. BCC, says, “All board certified chaplains (BCC) must abide by our Code of Ethics, which requires serving people without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Our Code further prohibits chaplains from imposing doctrinal positions or spiritual practices on those they serve.”

Chaplain Valerie Storms, M.Div. BCC, president-elect, says, “Chaplaincy is grounded in the common belief in the dignity of every person and the ability of each person to experience the presence of a loving Creator in a time of crisis, hardship or circumstances that bring them into the presence of a chaplain. We do not work as promoters of a particular faith tradition but as ministers of hope to all in need.”

Attacks on North American Buddhist Temples

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Arun of the blog Angry Asian Buddhist points out a disturbing trend this year–what seems to be increased incidents of vandalism and attacks on Buddhist temples around the U.S. and Canada, including in Iowa, Kentucky, and Minnesota. (See map here.)

Not surprisingly, most of these temples are made up of primarily Asian/Asian American members. In March of this year, the sign on the Phuoc Hau Temple in Louisville, KY, was defaced with the words “Budduh’s [sic] in hell.” This was the fifth time the temple had been vandalized in the past five years.

It’s terrible that our Buddhist brothers and sisters are suffering the consequences of our fear-based and xenophobic political climate. What can we do? A few ideas –

1) Help document these incidents to raise more awareness of them. Arun is compiling these incidents on a Google map; if you know of others, put a comment on this post on his blog.

2) If you live in one of the affected communities, reach out to that Buddhist temple to let them know that you support them, and ask them what they might need for help. Some of the citizens of Rochester, MN, did that this past June for a Cambodian Buddhist temple that had been recently vandalized and whose members had been harassed — read the story here.

3) If you live in a community with an Asian Buddhist temple, get to know your fellow dharma practitioners. Many Thai temples, for example, host sumptuous meals that are open to anyone. (See this Yelp review of Wat Monkgolratanaram in Berkeley, CA.) Come visit, make a donation, and meet some wonderful people — there’s nothing better than building bridges.


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