At last Sundays service I read aloud New York Buddhist Churchs statement that denounces all forms of racism, oppression, and injustice, and takes a stand with Black Lives Matter and all people who peacefully protest social injustice and inequality and who seek a more equal and just society. The full statement can be found on our NYBC Facebook Page and NYBC webpage at www.newyorkbuddhistchurch.org.
I have been deeply gratified by the positive support of the statement and urge you to read it. It was written in response to the horrific death of George Floyd who lost his life with a police officers knee on his neck for over eight minutes as he gasped for breath and repeatedly said I cant breathe. This tragic event sparked the mainly peaceful global movement of anti-racist demonstrations which continue, as does the fearful coronavirus pandemic .
While our statement was prompted by George Floyds shocking death, it is vitally important to acknowledge that racism in any form, and discrimination against any group because of its race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities and gender is unjust, and causes suffering for everyone. Presently the focus is on George Floyd whose death hopefully can become a catalyst for meaningful change. Equally outraged and hopefully united, a strong need for a more just and inclusive society is being expressed by a broad diversity of our nations population who turned out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of his passing.
I find the emotional outpouring of such a desire for justice and equality to be inspiring and life-changing. If I werent so strictly following the stay-at-home guidelines, I would be out there marching with the demonstrators. Growing up in Hawaii we certainly had discrimination but I have never before witnessed it first-hand to such an extreme. Watching and listening to the recurrences of racially motivated injustices gives me a greater insight into the sufferings of all human beings, and how each of us deals with it. It has given me a deeper sense of awareness of the reality of such suffering, and it has forced me to look deep within and ask myself, am I fulfilling my own responsibilities? These occurrences have awakened me to the need to walk the talk and to respect and deeply listen to everyones views with an open heart and mind, monpo.
Also on Sunday I spoke of how learning so vividly about the black experiences in America has awakened in me a stronger sense of empathy. It has also developed in me a greater appreciation for the hardships my own grandfather endured working as a contract laborer on a sugar plantation in Hawaii. He and my grandmother came from Hiroshima. Life on the plantations was very difficult for the laborers, with horrible living and working conditions, extremely low pay, and brutality from the plantation overseers, known as Luna, who carried and wielded whips, and did not hesitate to use them. My father told me stories about my grandfather, including one about the time my grandfather in anger and frustration grabbed the whip away from a Luna after hed had enough of the inhumane treatment, spurred on by the miserable conditions.
My sincere wish is that we can reach a point where the history of injustice stops repeating itself, where we close the gaps in our differences, get rid of the labels, and we all consider ourselves one family, ohana. When we see that were all in this existence on earth together, and that what happens to us happens to others elsewhere, just like it does in the concept of the story Indras Net, we will attain a greater understanding of the meaning of our lives. Indras Net is a metaphor for the profound cosmology and outlook that permeates Hinduism and later Buddhism. Indras Net symbolizes the connectedness and interdependency of all members of the Universe. Stretching throughout the universe, at each point where the imaginary nets threads meet we are able to visualize our interconnectedness as one glittering jewel reflects another individual jewel, then another, then another, together forming a whole, a oneness. As I see it, thats what the teachings of all Buddhas are about. So let us ask ourselves how do we put the truths of the Dharma into action today to recognize the deep and powerful interconnectedness that exist between all of us?
Namo Amida Butsu.