Living the Legacy of Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Victoria Mausisa
“When Charleston hit, I was so devastated … so many people around me were not as upset as me, and that upset me even more … I was filled with despair, sadness, grief … I felt I could not rely on the larger Sangha. I recognized we need to start asking questions and deeply look at why.” – Retreat participant
During the “Breathe, I Am Alive” retreat at Deer Park Monastery in October 2015, we held a gathering named “Racial Equity Sharing.” More than eighty participants joined to listen and share reflections related to racial justice, power, and privilege. The energy in the room was palpable as panelists spontaneously shared unrehearsed personal insights:
“My observation is that to be a white ally, it takes a lot of listening.”
“As a white person, more so even as a white male, again, as a straight white male, I get up every day completely comfortable in the world that I live in, in my surroundings, my skin.”
“We’re having a conversation with each other and hoping to offer what a conversation could look like with mindfulness, as we’re discussing some painful subjects.”
As the session concluded, Sister Peace commented, “This work is legendary ... and it’s going to take some time.” Building upon the energy and momentum from this gathering, the Plum Village Racial Equity Sangha emerged as a core group of practitioners from our fourfold community.
Our intention is to keep the conversation of racial and social equity alive in our international Plum Village practice communities. While much work has occurred previously and continues today, we wish to bring focused attention and intention to looking deeply towards healing racial and social inequity. We are invited to engage in a process of understanding. Our intention is to support and strengthen the healing and transformation so needed within our community. As a community, we are a reflection of our world. We are the continuation of the legacy of our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, and of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to build and nurture Beloved Community.
We recognize that racial justice intersects with all sectors of marginalized populations, with the emerging Sacred Activism work, and with the work of Earth Holder Sangha.2 We see we are in a continual learning process as we practice together. While our energy is strong to organize, we value the importance of jointly holding the space of Sangha and deeply listening to one another from a place of inner stillness. We are “healing our hearts together” as we continue our individual healing, understanding, and transformation, while also organizing for social and racial equity.
Already, many actions have taken root towards deepening racial understanding in Sanghas in Seattle, Denver, Oakland/Berkeley, San Diego, New York, and other parts of the world. If your Sangha is involved in this work, please let us know at email@example.com.
What actions can you take next?
You can review resources at pvracialequity.wordpress.com and explore topics with your Sangha.
You can start a study group with a book such as Thich Nhat Hanh’s Together We Are One: Honoring Our Diversity, Celebrating Our Connection.
You can join with a friend or Dharma sibling as “awareness partners” to meet regularly and delve more deeply into this topic.
If you identify as having European/White ancestry, you can create or join a White Awareness group. To learn more about White Awareness, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit pvracialequity.wordpress.com.
We look forward to walking this collective path towards racial and social equity in building and nurturing Beloved Community.
Will you join us?
1 The Charleston church massacre was a mass shooting at the Emanuel
African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina,
on June 17, 2015. During a prayer service, nine people were killed by a gunman, who later confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war.
2 To learn more about Earth Holder Sangha in the Plum Village tradition, visit earthholder.org.
Victoria Mausisa, True Eternal Garden, has been practicing in the Plum Village tradition since 2002. She offers volunteer spiritual care to the community, having completed the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. She lives in Oakland, California, and enjoys practice with the Mindful Peacebuilding Sangha, hellajust and compassionate People of Color Sangha, and Couples Sangha.