By John Bell, Chaya Ocampo Go, Andrew Deckert, Sara Henry, Shephali Patel, Simona Coayla-Duba, Sister True Vow, Stephanie Knox Steiner on
In our regular column in the Mindfulness Bell, the Earth Holder Community would like to offer our Earth and Racial Justice framework, which serves as the foundation of our work. May it nourish our practice and action.
All life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny… I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be—this is the interrelated structure of reality.Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As Earth Holders of North America/Turtle Island, we see that the global ecological and climate crises do not affect us all in the same ways. The delusion of separateness and disconnection from one another and from Mother Earth has been a part of our collective experience since colonization. The historical and ongoing exploitation of both land and people—through the genocide of indigenous peoples, the stealing of ancestral lands, and the enslavement and forced labor of Africans in the Western Hemisphere—is one of the greatest untended wounds of our time.
As Earth Holders, we uphold the framework of earth justice as the interweaving of social, racial, and ecological justice. Whether it is the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on Black communities in New Orleans, the destruction of First Nations territories by the extraction of tar sands, the persecution of activists across the Global South, we see clearly that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation—we also see that BIPOC leadership, knowledge, and resources are vital for our collective survival.
We are aware that the human-centered extractivist nature of dominant sociopolitical and economic systems—manifested in capitalism, colonialism, heteronormative patriarchy, white supremacy, and structural racism—is driving climate chaos. The Earth Holder Community believes that inclusive voices are foundational to the earth justice movement and that we support all taking our seats around the circle, being seen and heard. The leadership of marginalized peoples such as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and others who are differentially impacted by systemic exploitation is critical to our collective movements. We therefore aspire to continue to grow in inclusivity, coalition-building, allyship, apprenticeship, healing, friendship, and liberation. On this small and precious planet we inter-are.
As a spiritual community we are called to look more deeply at our discriminative thinking and into the poisons of greed, hatred, ignorance, violence, othering, and disregard for life that contribute to these systemic inequities and suffering. We stop, breathe, and ground.… We see that when we devalue our fellow human beings, we continue to create the conditions that further degrade all life’s ecosystems, the climate, and our Great Mother Earth. The suffering and well-being of our human and more-than-human families inter-are. As individuals and sanghas, we are entrusted to act mindfully with wisdom and compassion.
There is a connection between how we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet. None of these realms are separate. They all influence each other.Kaira Jewel Lingo, lay Dharma teacher in the Plum Village lineage
The Plum Village Tradition of Engagement
Mindfulness must be engaged. Once we see that something needs to be done, we must take action. Seeing and acting go together. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?Ven. Thích Nhất Hạnh in At Home in the World
Ven. Thích Nhất Hạnh came to the United States of America in 1966 to give voice to the immense suffering being wrought by the American war in Vietnam. He worked tirelessly to light up the lamp of awareness and compassion, so that our society could awaken to the collective suffering of war. As spiritual brothers with a lifelong commitment to peace and justice, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ven. Thích Nhất Hạnh stood in solidarity to work to transform the hatred, discrimination, ignorance, and fear in the hearts of humankind. Today, we continue in their footsteps to meet the needs of our time.
We see the work of earth and racial justice as intimately linked. It is an intergenerational endeavor, a marathon, the work of our lifetimes. And much like mindfulness, anti-racism is a daily, ongoing, and evolving practice that we, as Earth Holders, aspire to bring into all we do. Therefore, from our hearts, we have committed to the following actions and engagements as the Earth Holder Community’s Care-Taking Council (EHC CTC):
- Created a CTC that is at least 50 percent BIPOC, with BIPOC-centering roles and initiatives. (See: About EHC for relevant past CTC actions);
- Continue to sharpen our focus on how social, racial, and ecological justice inter-are through our communications: EHC Newsletter, EHC Facebook and Instagram, EHC Online Sangha, and EHC Retreats;
- Engage with EHC Earth and Racial Justice Resources; offer them to the larger Earth Holder Community; and continuously practice deep looking at our individual and collective privileges (i.e., gender, sex, race, class, age, religion, ability, and so on);
- Allocate a fixed percentage of EHC funds to support Black/BIPOC-led climate justice organizations annually;
- Commit to mindful and honest communication and action among ourselves about assumptions, sensitivities, hurts, power, privileges, and structures.
As members of the EHC CTC, we recognize that this is an ongoing process, and we are committed to continue deepening our understanding and acting more wisely from a place of interconnection and compassion.
We need to engage in skillful action and sometimes that may be difficult. We might trip over ourselves a little bit, but it’s important to start, to begin.Valerie Brown, lay Dharma teacher in the Plum Village lineage, Skillful Action for a Path Forward, June 8, 2020
Earth Holding Together
We invite you to join the Earth Holder Community. Whether individually or collectively as Sanghas, we all have roles to play in social change. We are encouraged to explore the following practices of embodying earth and racial justice:
- Participate in nonviolent forms of direct action for blocking harm, building alternatives, and/or deepening our interbeing (learn more about the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s Block-Build-Be lens);
- Offer support in the forms of time, amplification, and/or financial resources to Black/BIPOC-led racial/climate justice organizations e.g., Climate Justice Alliance, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), and Indigenous Environmental Network;
- Regularly study Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity (ARISE)’s Contemplations on the Five Mindfulness Trainings: A New Paradigm for Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic and A Call to Love in Action;
- For white friends, or any who wish, please read The Scaffolding Document and estimate where you are in understanding white privilege and white supremacy and avail yourself of the materials suggested for that stage (e.g., the resource list Climate & White Supremacy by Zen teacher and climate scientist Kritee Kanko, PhD);
- Begin or continue our individual and collective journeys in being more skillfully anti-racist and inclusive (e.g., ARISE Resources, NYT Race and Climate Crisis Reading List).
We recognize that inclusion and diversity in our spiritual communities provide a necessary foundation for Earth Holding to cultivate BIPOC leadership and growth in our Plum Village (PV) Mahasangha, we therefore invite and encourage our lay PV Sanghas and monasteries to:
- Support an ongoing BIPOC scholarship fund to attend PV retreats;
- Support BIPOC-only Dharma-sharing groups and cultural sanctuary spaces for BIPOC group opportunities;
- Support BIPOC aspiration, membership, active participation and leadership in the Order of Interbeing (OI) and as Dharmacharyas (Dharma Teachers).
The Earth Holder Community’s Care-Taking Council aspires to interweave social and racial justice work in all aspects of earth holding practices. To this end, the EHC CTC is:
- Offering a six-week “This is It” Earth Holder Online Retreat featuring lay, monastic, BIPOC, and white teachers to explore the interconnection, intersectionality, and interbeingness of ecological-racial-social justice
- Providing scholarships to people of color, youth, and LGBTQIA+ at all Earth Holder retreats. (Note: everyone who asked for scholarship support in the past received what they requested.)
- Uplifting and amplifying the teachings of people of color practitioners and Dharma teachers as they facilitate the Earth Holder Community Online Sangha. See our YouTube Channel here.
- Supporting BIPOC-led earth justice organizations.
- Completed 1) a racial equity organizational self-assessment tool, and 2) an optional demographic and interest survey for This Is It registrants.
The Earth Holder Community Care-Taking Council (2021)
Andrew Deckert (True Wonderful Direction)*
Chaya Ocampo Go (True Radiant Cloud)
John Bell (True Wonderful Wisdom)
Sara Henry (True Manifestation of Offering)
Shephali Patel (Radiant Kindness of the Heart and Spiritual Action of the Heart)
Sister True Vow / Chân Thệ Nghiêm
Stephanie Knox Steiner (True Earth Dwelling)
and Simona Coayla-Duba (Dancing Presence of the Source), EHC Coordinator
* (lineage or Dharma name)
For more information or to get involved, please visit www.earthholder.org.