It is with a heavy and broken-open heart that I share with you some of the thoughts, feelings, and intentions of the Staff and Board of BCBS during this time. We realize that a statement without a commitment to change and meaningful action will ring hollow.
There have been numerous conversations among Staff, Teachers, and Board members over the past few weeks as we renew and strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity at BCBS. This is a shared spiritual home for teachers and practitioners from many different Buddhist traditions so we see firsthand how a variety of views, practices, and experiences can be mutually nourishing.
It took some time to include everyone in our process, and I am glad we did. We stand with black, brown, and indigenous communities in demanding justice, equity, and respect, and we are recommitted to listening, and taking further action to cultivate an inclusive and welcoming practice space at BCBS. We invite your suggestions to that end.
With deep love and solidarity,
From the Staff and Board of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Eric Garner. Their killings, and the deaths of countless black people killed by the police, confront us all. We recognize this violence as a manifestation of our racialized history and racialized present that conditions so much of contemporary life.
In this moment, we are called to critically reflect, feel the tremble of our collective heart, and affirm our commitment to a just, equitable, and safe society for all. We have seen images of what this might look like in the gatherings of so many people around the world: a beautiful multiplicity of religions, races, classes, ethnicities, genders, abilities, and ages singing, chanting, and marching in solidarity, motivated by a vision of collective liberation. And we are called to act, each in our own way, to contribute to this vision.
At BCBS, we also are called to continue our efforts to critically reflect and reimagine ourselves as an inclusive, equitable, and diverse community. Buddhist traditions suggest that the conditions of our actions of body, speech, and mind are often hidden, even from ourselves. Clearly, meditation alone is not enough to meet and address what is called for in this moment. We believe, however, that Buddhist practices can support us in unflinchingly looking at our own shortcomings, and to bear witness to the wounds of our world. Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, “we are determined not to avoid or close our eyes before suffering.” And we must do this in community.
Buddhist teachings are grounded in the recognition of suffering, an ethical commitment to non-harming, and an understanding of deep interdependence. We cannot separate our personal healing and transformation from that of our broader society.
Our mission and values are inspired and informed by Buddhist teachings on compassion, ethics, right effort, and right understanding. Guided by these values, we committed ourselves several years ago to ongoing education and training for staff and board on inclusion, diversity, and equity. We are also making significant progress in diversifying our board, teachers, and the range of programs that we offer.
More than ever, with record unemployment, we will continue to expand the amount of financial assistance we offer to increase access to participation in both residential and online programs, including our scholarship funding for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-income participants.
BCBS is planning listening circles to be hosted by BCBS teachers and board members, Sebene Selassie and Peace Twesigye (for BIPOC sangha members) and Brian Lesage and Jessica Morey (for white sangha members).
To the black, indigenous, and self-identified people of color in our community, we are poised to listen to you and be accountable, as we are committed to decentering whiteness at BCBS. To the white members of our community, we ask you to participate in ongoing learning about race, bias, and systemic racism that is necessary to end the widespread discrimination against BIPOC communities. We trust in the wisdom and experience of our community members to inform our work and invite you to share your thoughts.
Our liberation is bound together, without exception. May the merits of our practice lead to our collective freedom from hatred, delusion, and greed. Let us stand in solidarity with all who are working towards dismantling racial inequities and other forms of systematic oppression.
May you continue to be nourished by the dharma,
The Staff and Board of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
Resources for engagement and education: