Speaking Up and Speaking Out

On the third Friday evening of every month, the Chicago Shambhala center transforms from a peaceful meditation center to a throbbing hub of music and expression. Gone are the smartly dressed middle class adults, and in come teenagers in sweatpants, Nikes, and baseball caps. Gone are the white majority. There are mainly African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and other people of color at this venue. They are here for an evening down in the basement, where the space is dark except for the spotlight and the stage. The silence and quiet of the center is gone, pierced by the loud proclamations of rap, song, and dance.

It’s my first time experiencing a Speak Up Chicago open mic night and I am not comfortable.

11012083_10205041626055083_6906302464945674683_nIt’s the noise. It’s the darkness. Everything is so different from how things are normally run at Shambhala Chicago. The young people here might not even know this is a meditation center. They’re here for a stage where they can express themselves with no judgement, no matter how twisted and tortured and real the issues they bring up are. As an intern of Shambhala, I, like many others who come to the center, came for the meditation. I came for the beautiful flower arrangements and the pure and tranquil atmosphere. I am all about finding peace and bravery in daily life. And now I’m putting my hands over my ears because the speakers are so loud. I hate staying up late during the night.

11057206_10205045756438340_6815628102654631681_nBut Speak Up Chicago is more than an open mic night. Despite the title. It is simply an open invitation for the youth in Chicago to find support in whatever venture they’d like to explore, whatever creative thing it may be. To tell the tale from the beginning, it starts with the Sakyong. Under his inspiration to “open the flower outwards”, Shambhala Chicago began to interact with the outside community, beginning with a few conferences and trainings with mindfulness meditation.  After the conference “Imagining Peace”, a student named Joshua Lazu, who was a part of the conference, came up to Aarti Tejuja, the current director of Social Engagement at Chicago Shambhala, and asked if he could start an open mic night at the center. Aarti said yes.

Around the same time several young people (including myself), started dropping in and telling her they were interested in working for social justice or the open mic night. Encountering many different challenges along the way, we began to form a core group. We have traveled this strange journey of life together, supporting and helping each other along the way.

Speak Up Chicago seems to have generated a lot of buzz. It’s true, this group is definitely different. But sometimes I and others at Speak Up worry about becoming the poster children of Shambhala. We represent a new vein from the white hippies that eventually became Chogyam Trungpa’s students. We’re a group of people of color who are simply hanging out, becoming a close knit family, sharing our sorrows and joys. Because beyond what we do in this vision of engagement and working for peace in the face of violence, there is a primordial aspect of family in this group. We share each other’s homes, lives, and activities, going to barbecues and birthday parties.

19228_10152948305723412_5264679616843775572_nFamily. That’s an aspect that Shambhala seems to lack, in fact. It seems many come to Shambhala from other religious traditions, where they felt like there wasn’t a genuine spirituality that they could relate to. Shambhala offers something special, fostering bravery and gentleness. But after the retreats are done, we go back to our lives. We return to our homes and come back to the center for the next class or the next meditation session. But how much do we really offer up to share? Everyone knows that acquaintances only share the good parts, the pretty parts of their lives. True family shares everything, the darkness and the light.

11252025_10205041616494844_6454793177550594426_nWithin Speak Up, we offer up something that expands the vision of what Shambhala can be. Shambhala can become more than a meditation center. There is an energy that magnetizes the space, where we continue to challenge the older, more senior folks in creating new ventures, new horizons to reach for. We’re looking for people from Englewood and other violent neighborhoods to interact with people from downtown and Hyde Park. We’ve attended the Sakyong’s “Making Peace Possible” conference, and have traveled to Mexico to attend the Ziji Summit as the largest represented group of young people in Shambhala. We’re planning to do a retreat at the Windhorse center in Wisconsin.

We come from a different part of the city, not the clean, well-educated, protected areas, but the places people whisper about, where some of us have endured traumas that people have only heard of and never have experienced. Some of us suffer from a continuous lack of support and financial means, contributing to the high probability of not graduating from school and being involved with crime and drug abuse. Many of us are scarred by the systematic racism that does not allow people of color and lower economic means to thrive. But we are Shambhala as well, an enlightened society that arises from true reality.

11052466_10205046951348212_1985241463759956511_nWhat is Shambhala exactly then? What are we? These questions come up in the face of our existence. Because the fact remains obvious:  Shambhala is dominated by middle class, college educated white people. Why is it so hard to attract people of color or poor people? Even I, a fairly whitewashed, middle class Asian American college student, feel uncomfortable in the Shambhala Level classes because I am constantly surrounded by white people. And I am committed to and deeply inspired by the Shambhala vision. There is nothing I want more than to be a true warrior. And yet, I constantly struggle with the feeling of discomfort on being the only person of color in the room while attending Shambhala activities. Why do I feel like an alien, like an outsider?

What exactly attracts only white people to Shambhala? Maybe because it’s so squeaky clean and articulate, and offers an image of Eastern wisdom that Westerners long for. But what if that’s problematic? On my return from the Ziji Collective retreat in Mexico, I realized that there was an inordinate number of Harvard graduates and professors at the conference! Is the very culture and language that we have adopted too sophisticated and wordy for the average high school dropout? What if people speak in different ways? How can we foster diversity in Shambhala? It seems our existence forces us to expand the vision of what Shambhala means, because it means different things to different people now.  Speak Up Chicago is a testament to a different kind of Shambhala.

Sai Wei is the intern of Social Engagement at the Chicago Shambhala center. She is currently studying at Shimer College with an emphasis on philosophy. 

13 thoughts on “Speaking Up and Speaking Out

  1. Dear Sai,

    Thank you for your very honest letter. You are talking about things that all of us need to talk about together. Let me share my own perspective with you.

    First, I have attended quite a few Speak Ups and even had the courage, or foolishness, to perform a few times. Rap isn’t my thing, but I love the creativity of it all. I feel privileged to have been invited to someone else’s scene, a young scene. And I’m always treated well.

    I’m not always comfortable, because I don’t want to intrude. After all, what would happen if Speak Up gets packed with a bunch of middle class white folks? Would that spoil things?

    So, the question you raised remains. How do we create family when we habitually split up into so many different groups and find so few opportunities to all be together?

    That’s a good problem. That’s the sort of problem we’ve been training to meet all of lives in Shambhala. The idea of pushing beyond our comfort zones and recognizing the basic goodness in each other is at the center of Shambhala vision.

    For me, personally, it’s always a question of getting to know other people one person at a time. I have so many ingrained stereotypes based on race, gender, age, sexual preference, class, and so on. I see someone and automatically I think I know who they are based on these conceptions.

    Then I take the chance to talk with them beyond exchanging pleasantries. I try to open up about my life and hope they’ll open up about theirs. It’s shaky ground and I feel that the whole thing can blow up any second, that I will end up feeling ashamed, hurt, and embarrassed. Most of the time, though, I find out remarkable things about the other person–things that I never could have guessed–and that person becomes real to me.

    I feel that this is precisely what the Sakyong has been gently prodding us to do. But many of us are new at it, especially in terms of relating to people from very different backgrounds than our own.

    Yes, we still predominantly are a middle-class white organization. And we can get very defensive when that is pointed out to us. Should we feel bad because we got involved with a group of spiritual seekers that we felt comfortable hanging out with, others who looked like us? Not really.

    But I think we should feel bad if we don’t make an effort now to change things, simply because we are aware of the toll that this sort of segregation takes on both us and the rest of society.

    We say we know what what the Shambhala teachings offer is incredibly special and is needed by the world. We also need to understand that we ourselves aren’t that special, and that we will sell ourselves and Shambhala short by not reaching out to learn from other people, religions, and cultures.

    All I hope, Sai, is that you keep taking steps towards me and my other white middle class Shambhalians as I keep taking steps towards you and all other people of color. We can do this as we all embrace the vision of becoming gentle warriors together. These steps may feel awkward for quite a while, but there is real magic in them. We have a wonderful chance to do something that society itself is struggling to do.

    What we know deep down is that we have everything we need to do it.

    Love,

    Tom Golz

  2. Thanks for your insight.
    I wonder if part of this is that mindfulness has been packaged with peace and tranquility, whereas people who come from chaos and trauma seek rather the integrity and strength to face the chaos in their journey
    Great topic and I am sure we will discuss this more.
    Amy

  3. Our words are important. What we write and say matters. So while our individual experiences as Shambalans are important, I think it is equally important to speak up when we see race-based thinking. In my view, passively accepting racial judgments seems to run contrary to our efforts to build a community that is NOT based upon one’s racial background.

    Sai,speaking about the white majority she sees at Shambhala, writes, “Even I, a fairly whitewashed Asian American college student, feel uncomfortable in the Shambhala Level classes because I am constantly surrounded by white people.” The writer is not made uncomfortable by anything her fellow students have done or said, but by their race alone. This is racially-divisive thinking. It views people by their race, rather than as human beings. For a student to be made uncomfortable because his or her fellow students are not of his or her own racial background is not inclusive thinking.

    I am a white person and I took a class alongside Sai. She’s great! I really enjoyed being in the same class as her. But how does it feel to learn now that I was perhaps making her uncomfortable because I was one of the white people she was surrounded by? While I am sure it was not Sai’s intention to be hurtful in her choice of words, when you make blanket statements about whites or blacks or any ethnic group, you are on sensitive ground. And not in a good way…

    Sai also writes, “What exactly attracts only white people to Shambhala? Maybe because it’s so squeaky clean and articulate …” ? What? Those Shambalans who are non-white are being overlooked by this comment. Whites are not the only people attracted to Shambala of course, and thank goodness; but in addition, the “squeaky clean” comment implies that “whites” are only attracted to things they find squeaky clean. This is, again, racially insensitive. I wish someone had discussed this with Sai before she published such a random judgment about whites and their desire for a meaningful spiritual path. Let’s not judge each other racially for, of all things, our choice in spiritual paths. Besides, burning incense, chanting in a foreign tongue,letting go of deistic thinking, etc. would hardly be considered a “squeaky clean” religious tradition for some whites who come from Protestant “white” religious traditions. This overlooks and even attempts to diminish the challenges of whites who come from non-Asian religious traditions and their struggles. Who needs this kind of judging anyways?

    Lastly, I’ve found Shambhala to be an extremely welcoming, family-like group of interesting and thoughtful people. I am very grateful for this. But according to this essay, the concept of family is seen in dualistic and racial terms, in an “us” and “them” contrast. “We’re a group of people of color who are simply hanging out, becoming a close knit family,” Sai explains. But while she establishes that her group is made up people of color where “there is a primordial aspect of family in this group”, she contrasts this with the rest of Shambhala when she says, “Family. That’s an aspect that Shambhala seems to lack, in fact.” This is, again, judging those who are different from oneself, it seems.

    These comments are being presented as one particular person’s experience of Shambhala. But even personal experiences, when published to a larger audience, should be discussed in a way that is sensitive, inclusive and non-hurtful, when people are in need of what the Shambhala vision can offer.

    I have no wish to embarrass or criticize Sai as a human being or writer. I am paying close attention to what we published on the website because the actual words we publish matter. If the essay was already published at Shambhala Times, that doesn’t mean we should agree with the racial insensitivity in it. We read and listen to teachings and every word makes an impact, so the only way I can respond with accuracy to the race-based statements in the essay is to repeat and comment upon them.

    But in my desire not to hurt the feelings of another human being, I don’t think we are called to stay silent in the face of race-based thinking.

    No matter how harmless or individual the intention, engaging in racially-insensitive thinking, where we see people primarily by their race as the “other”, never really benefitted mankind.

    Ann S.

  4. Thank you for your comment Ann. And thanks everyone else for commenting. It brings me good cheer to see everyone taking interest in what I wrote!

    I wrote this article to create discussion about race in Shambhala and to bring the word out about the importance of Speak Up Chicago, so I appreciate all the voices that this article brings out.

    Dear Ann, as the author, I feel that I have a responsibility to respond to some of your articulated misgivings. I have posted my response to your comment below, but I preface them by extending an invitation for you and I to talk face to face about this topic. After all, words may stay frozen in space, but people and life is always changing. There’s a lot of background foundation to talk about in terms of what I wrote and why I wrote it the way I did. There is a lot of material to unpack and to explain every single thing you commented on about would warrant another article if I were to explain in a way that I would be satisfied with. Therefore, this is not an exhaustive explanation. Just a few points. I would also suggest attending “Breathe, Open, & Transform: Diversity and Enlightened Society” with Gretchen and Jean Marie. I highly recommend the film “The Color of Fear” for why we can’t just talk to each other as human beings and that we must acknowledge our existence as racialized human beings and talk about how we are different.

    There are few big things that I must point out. One of which is that you seem to think that what I experienced was some sort of anomaly or unique experience. What I have written about feeling like an outsider is not limited to me alone nor is it limited to the space of Shambhala. It is what every person of color feels when they work and live in pre-dominantly white institutions. Don’t take my word for it, ask any person of color if they experience this phenomenon. Talk to other people of color who are in Shambhala. Shambhala is not a pristine island where race suddenly drops out of the equation of experience. Not to say that we cannot take refuge within the teachings, but no institution can isolate itself from the culture of the times. Not Shambhala, not University of Chicago, not the Mayor’s Office, not the subway, not the demonstrations over Laquan Mcdonald, not Whole Foods, not even people’s minds.

    Point two: it’s not about the people, it’s about the structure.

    My critique on feeling uncomfortable in a white majority was not an attack on the integrity of the participants of Shambhala, it was a critique about the fundamental structure that lives within Shambhala. It is not at all about if people were being ‘bad’ by making me feel a certain way. Other white friends have also commented in a similar vein in what you’ve written, concerned if they have hurt me by being part of this white majority and I’m the lonely person of color. I can say two things: I’m used to it and it doesn’t matter who you are. Why it is that the nicer parts of Chicago are white dominated? Why are the poorer parts mainly people of color? It is fact downright life-threatening if we continue to perpetuate this system of white privilege through the generations, this is a structure that defines the very nature of Chicago. One way to perpetuate this system that dictates life and death, happiness and suffering, joy and trauma, is to police it, to stop people from talking about it, to criticize its relevancy, to accuse critiques of racism as random, aberrant, and irrelevant. Frankly, I don’t like to think about how times I’ve been accused of being crazy and random when I attempt to talk about sexism, racism, privilege, and other “taboo” subjects. This structure is bigger than just Shambhala.

    Point four: squeaky clean and the fetishization and the history of the demonization of Eastern cultures and religions

    The “squeaky clean” criticism is deeply connected to the next part of the sentence of my article “offering an image of Eastern wisdom that Westerners long for”. The fetishization and appropriation of Eastern cultures has a long history, for so long Buddhism and other Eastern religions were seen as practices of the devil and inferior to enlightened Christianity. When European countries colonialized China with spheres of influence, missionaries would literally destroy local shrines, statues, and deities, replacing them with Christian figures. In recent history, another vein has emerged where the fascination of the “exoticism” of the East, the misty, mystery of the Asia, has led to an emergence of interest in traditional Asian practices, like Buddhist meditation. In my experience living in China, cleanliness and dirtiness was a inferior-superior dichotomy where the cleanliness of Western stores and institutions was contrasted with the poverty and dirtiness of local Chinese businesses and institutions. Therefore, as an Asian-American, I have ample reason to probe the motivations beneath the surface. Not to make definite conclusions as of yet, but knowing the history of the systemic destruction of my Chinese culture and other cultures for being barbaric and backward, there is a lot to be uneasy about and to question. Edward Said’s book “Orientalism” is a whole book devoted to explaining what I’m talking about and I recommend it for further reading.

    Point five: It’s important to talk about painful things.

    You conclude your comment with the petition for people to talk about things in a “sensitive, inclusive, and non-hurtful” manner. I too want this. But there are worse things than being impolite that still go on in and out of Shambhala. For example, there is nothing polite or sensitive about cringing when a teacher makes a comment that is not inclusive about your experience. There is nothing polite about silently deciding whether to call out a fellow sangha member about an insensitive comment about race or not because you thought that Shambhala was a place of refuge where people were kind and considerate. This happens a lot, to a lot of people of color who go through the doors of the center. And because some people continue to perpetuate the same cycles because we’ve made the painful topic of racism taboo, there are many people of color who never return to Shambhala again.

    Is that inclusive?

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Sai. I wasn’t initially planning to reply, but since you had offered to speak one-on-one about race, etc. I realized that if I failed to reply, such silence could be perceived as a kind of dismissive lack of care or, worse, rejection of your points, neither of which is the case.

    As you know, my reason for writing in the first place was that I felt, and still feel, that the Shambhala organization should be cautious in publishing racially-insensitive comments on a website that the general public visits in order to learn more about Shambhala. While the Shambhala Times is intended more for the Shambhala community itself, our website is much more geared to general public reading. Such readers might be curious about what Shambhala represents and how it is manifested through written words on the website. Racially-sensitive and inclusive language should be our goal, in my view. I felt compelled to point that out. While I am disappointed that Shambhala is okay with racially-insensitive writing, I’ve made my views known and have been heard in a respectful way, which is enough.

    Thank for your invitation to talk. I appreciate that.

    But while I look forward to our next chance to meet around the water cooler and talk in general about life, I need to mention that I am unable to talk about race on the terms that it appears you seek, which would be focused on our differences. This is because I don’t see you and I as very different from each other. You stated the film “The Color of Fear” will help to make it clear why “we can’t just talk to each other as human beings and that we must acknowledge our existence as racialized human beings and talk about how we are different.”

    But I beg to differ. I don’t need to see you and I as racialized. The Shambhala vision doesn’t seem to go in this direction of pointing out racial difference. You seem to say here that we must talk about how we are different, and yet this is not the case — I don’t need to see you as different from myself due to your/my racial background, because I honestly do not see you as inherently different from me. Sure, as individuals we probably have a ton of differences — musical tastes, food choices, habits, favorite color, etc. But life is many-colored. I have nothing to offer to a conversation about how we could potentially be seen as different, you and I, because I am a lot more interested in our shared humanity, our shared elements. I learn so much from other participants in the classes I’ve taken and meditation sittings that I have attended and I’m continually reminded of our shared human quality and our shared struggles. Not our differences. These fellow participants are both men and women, of all ethnic backgrounds, from what I can tell, although as you say there is a white majority overall. We are people. That’s about it. I just don’t see you as different from myself.

    There is a comment by Richard Reoch that states this outlook better than I could. In a Shambhala Times article titled “Same-Sex Marriage” from October 12, 2012, Reoch says, “The primary allegiance of a Shambhala vision is not to the opinions and concepts that often divide people from each other, but to the ground of our profound, common humanity – the inherent basic goodness of all life.”

    That strikes me as the best place to start, as fellow Shambalans.

    Ann S.

    • Hello Ann,

      It’s hard for me to decided which part of your response to Sai’s article disturbs me most deeply, but if I had to pick one, it would be your surprise that Sai’s writing wasn’t reviewed before being published to see if it would be offensive. Ann, please listen to me, this is the problem. This is the problem. This is the problem.

      For you or I to take offense by a person of color expressing their discomfort among a 99% white community, and to call THEM racially divisive for publicly discussing such a topic, this is an emblem for everything that is keeping the world from progressing and growing out of oppressive systems. We WILL not heal if we, as the ones with the upper hand in virtually every aspect of life, immediately turn things back on minorities for expressing their pain and tell them they are being unfair. That just doesn’t make any sense.

      You said “I don’t need to see you and I as racialized,” and guess what? You don’t! That is exactly what privilege is! You and I don’t need to see race to live successful, happy lives…unless our intention is to live compassionately as warriors. You haven’t used the phrase “color blind,” but you are expressing the textbook principles of color blindness, which actually perpetuates racism. I know your intentions are good, and you are trying to say that you see people’s basic goodness before their color, but there is a reason that only white people claim to be color blind. What statements like this do is actually invalidate minority experiences of racism, and it invalidates their identity. Additionally, by not talking about race, it is impossible to see the disparities that people of color face. We white folks can call ourselves color blind and say race doesn’t matter and go about our comfortable lives, but if a person of color said the same thing they would immediately be taken advantage of, if not intentionally by individuals, than subtly by a world more influenced by race than they were willing to admit.

      I think Sai’s invitation to talk face-to-face about your differences was an incredibly brave approach to the discussion. I think to turn her down because you are ” unable to talk about race on the terms that it appears you seek, which would be focused on our differences” is fearful and perpetuates the problem we are talking about. I would like to encourage you to reach into your own well of confidence and goodness and meet Sai where she is at. The bravest thing you could possibly do in this situation is show up and be open and acknowledge differences with an open heart, rather than to pretend that differences do not exist. If there truly were no differences, then there would be no reason for you to turn down her offer to talk in person.

      As for Shambhala’s public image, I think we all need to welcome these discussions. I think if we preach fearlessness and bravery and basic goodness, but there is a glaring lack of these discussions that actually matter, than any self respecting person seeking an authentic path will move on, as I and many peers have considered doing.

      I’m excited that Sai’s writing is bringing these conversations out of the woodwork and I am damn proud to call her my friend. I am excited to continue unraveling the massive yarn ball of privilege with fellow young people who also notice the elephant in the room and want to progress as an honest, heartfelt community of warriors who are always growing and learning.

  6. Thanks for your reply Ann! I look forward to talking face to face some time. Talk to Akiba at the front desk for my contact information to get in touch if you’re interested.

  7. Dear Ann, Dear Sai,

    I hope you and your sangha are able to come together and take this discussion deeper.

    As the Sakyong has written in the Treatise on Enlightened Society:

    “Enlightened society could be criticized for seemingly not taking in the full breadth of humanity’s problems. This critique is nullified by another important meaning of the word enlightenment: full comprehension of the problem involved. Enlightened society is not an attempt to highlight the culture’s positive aspects and ignore the negative. Rather the totality is illuminated. Thus by definition an enlightened society has the ability to comprehend the full spectrum of human activity.
    “In fact, a society could be called enlightened only if it can comprehend the totality. If it were unaware of the varied conditions within humanity’s theater it would be an ignorant society. Such an ignorant society could not succeed, because the basis of success is the ability to comprehend a problem, to find a solution and to vanquish that problem. Success is dependent upon being unobstructed. If one is unaware of the problem one will be obstructed, and thus one will not be successful.” SMR Treatise on ES, pg.

    In my personal experience, in order to be successful – to truly discover our shared humanity – we must illuminate the totality, in this case a difficult truth. Throughout US history we have developed complex systems of “racialization” that first started with conquering the Native Americans, then with slavery and then racist immigration laws. Today, these systems are held in place with public policy, laws, and both conscious and unconscious attitudes and beliefs. These invisible systems tend to advantage whites and make it possible for many people to “not see racial difference.” Historically, to be a person of color in this country (and even today in Shambhala) is to be in the minority, to not be the norm (the majority). Often this has meant and can still mean less sense of safety in a group. So by sharing our differences we acknowledge the full spectrum of the problem. In avoiding our differences, we close our eyes to these systems and fortify a web of societal cocoons.

    Societal cocoons are fundamentally no different than the personal cocoons we work with on our path of warriorship. We can uncover, acknowledge and cradle them in loving kindness. Awareness of a more diverse world dawns and we appreciate our differences and can truly feel our shared humanity.

    In the Vision of Diverse Enlightened Society,
    Shastri Charlene Leung,
    Chairperson Shambhala Diversity Working Group

  8. I would like to add a brief comment in response to the discussion between Sai and Ann. Although we do share a common humanity that is the genuine expression of basic goodness, we also have individual differences, experiences, feelings, opinions and challenges. Acknowledging our shared humanity is by no means ignoring our differences. We can celebrate them and open our hearts to each others personal experience of living in this world.

    By striving for a community where all people feel safe in sharing their feelings, whether or not we feel comfortable in hearing them, is essential to creating a more enlightened society.

    So thank you Sai and Ann for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this topic. It is this just this kind of open dialogue that can lead us to a better understanding.

  9. In many contemporary writings on meditation, it is said to be a practice of “making friends with our selves.” In my life, the people who are generally nice to me, who smile when they see me and say goodbye when we part, are friendly.
    But it is the people who care to ask about my thoughts and feelings (my mind and heart; chitta); who either know what I’ve been through or understand that they really don’t know what I’ve been through; to whom I am a person rather than an automaton; who don’t accept me as I am, but encourage me to keep becoming, who are my best friends.

    Enlightened society is not a monarchy, and the Vidyadara did not simply turn its reins over to his son. He left it in the charge of the young man who would write the treatise that Shastri Leung quoted. These days, words like “privilege” and “institutional —ism” are commonplace, concepts that weren’t around much in my early life. These are the issues of today, thanks to the warriors who carried the world through the issues of yesterday. Now we are here, and now this is what we face. Creating Enlightened Society has always meant facing difficult things, with bravery, vulnerability, and attentive generosity. Seniority in any sense isn’t a graduation cap, and it certainly doesn’t mean we earned the right to stop being brave, vulnerable, and generous with our attention.

  10. I’m grateful for Sai’s courageous and thoughtful article along with all the other contributors’ honesty and willingness to engage in the, sometimes difficult but ultimately rewarding, conversation about race. The questions Sai posed give us the opportunity to face and wrestle with our society’s systemic inequities, assumptions, and belief systems that are often mirrored right within our own sangha. As someone else already said, Shambhala lives in the midst of a thoroughly racialized society. Even as we intentionally choose to be influenced by Shambhala principles we are perhaps not so intentionally influenced by the social systems operating in the larger society. Since we have committed to warriorship, non-aggression, and enlightened society let’s commit to this continuing this conversation face to face and heart to heart.

  11. To me it seams that the Shambhala programs are organically moving towards presenting the teachings in ways that can reach even more individuals from whatever background they come from. This is by way, however slow, of the individuals coming up through the training, giving talks and teaching by using their individual way and abilities to express it to others while imparting the teachings that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche brought to the west. It took bravery on my part to go to the center for the first time and then continue, as I felt uncomfortable. Certainly it takes bravery and determination to bring our fragmented society together- no matter the skin color or background, people need to get involved with each other! There are no signs that say white people only at Shambhala centers and there are generosity payment options. I have had to be patient with the classes, as they seemed so uncaring for what I already knew about Buddhism and meditation. But, now appreciate the transformation that takes place because of the programs structure.I have great respect and appreciation for this. From what I have experienced, the teachers and people that give talks impart the philosophy presenting the teachings and bringing their own way of speaking and being with people. With more diversity in the centers and people going through the program, there will be more diversity amongst the teachers. There are amazing programs, such as the one featured in the article, happening at centers. I trust that with the addition of free meditation programs and talks, folks can benefit from this and will be more prepared for the Shambhala courses. I personally don’t see them as requiring an Ivy league trained mind to grasp what is presented. I work with “minority” students from a wide range of situations and individual ways of learning and I feel confident that the teachings as they are can reach anyone. It does take a lot of realization and maturity to really impart this wisdom and that role isn’t handed over to just anyone- Anyway, it’s effort on both parts to remove this illusion of a barrier, keep doors open and experience a little discomfort in making the change!

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