Welcome to the first edition of the ARISE Newsletter!
The ARISE Sangha (Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity) is a community of mindfulness practitioners who come together to heal the wounds of racial injustice and social inequity, beginning with looking deeply within ourselves and using the energy of compassion, understanding, and love in action.
As practitioners in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, we aspire to engage our global community in the work of healing through social action. We seek to nourish and protect Beloved Community in our Sangha and beyond.
Included in this Newsletter:
In May 2019, Antoinette Gonzalez and Victoria Mausisa were invited on KPFA local radio to discuss ARISE and the living legacy of Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village tradition.* Practicing with the Four Noble Truths in the World
The First Noble Truth: The suffering of racial injustice exists, by Marisela Gomez
* I Can Breathe
A Meditation on Surviving Acts of Hatred, by Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 8am Pacific/11am Eastern
* Call for Volunteers
* Passage from Fragrant Palm Leaves
Engage Buddhism in Vietnam teaches that good works do not need to be reserved for the pagoda, but can be extended to towns and villages.
DVD: Race, the Power of an Illusion from PBS
The 1619 Project from the NY Times
My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menekam
A musical meditation from the CD Mountains of Interbeing
* Gatha for Healing Racial, Systemic and Social Inequity
The Origins of ARISE
“I invite you to talk about race, power, and privilege, to really sink into those words and what they really mean. It’s a continuing process and it’s an ongoing learning process.”
In May 2019, Antoinette Gonzalez and Victoria Mausisa were invited on KPFA local radio to discuss ARISE and the living legacy of Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), and our Plum Village tradition.
From the interview:
What drew you to co-create ARISE Sangha? What was the impetus to do that?
Antoinette: ARISE, Awakening Through Race, Intersectionality and Social Equity came of the need to really not only host and explore, but also to center PoC, people of color, communities especially as there has been a rise and continues to be a rise of anti-Black violence by the police in many ways in our society. There continues to be anti-Latino violence, there continues to be just violence that really wasn’t being spoken of, and so it came out of a need to be seen, to be heard, and to really create ourselves spaces that bring healing and spirituality together.
Victoria: We, who created ARISE, really felt the need to be seen as Antoinette said. And to really encourage everyone to look deeply at what really is happening not only in our world, but as we sit in Sangha, communities of practice. Who is in the room? And how we listen, and really encourage even deeper listening…what are ways to really listen to suffering and really put into practice compassion but also really opening up the dialogue in terms of racial injustice and social inequity and name it, name some of these words that may be uncomfortable but it’s happening in our world. We are a microcosm of our society, any group, any organization is a microcosm of our society and so it’s important to look exactly where we are sitting first, looking deeply within ourselves so that we can be present and be present for others…
Please enjoy the interview!
Practicing with the Four Noble Truths in the world
The First Noble Truth: Understand that the suffering of racial injustice exists
If we were to practice with the suffering in the world we would be invited to acknowledge and understand this truth and the different ways it manifests, its history, and its legacy. We can acknowledge the history of the US, built through racial oppression of enslaved African Americans, Native Indigenous peoples who inhabited this land before the colonists arrived, and other people of color who migrated from the global south such as Asians, Latinx, and Pacific Islanders. The legacy of this history continues today, in different forms since 1619 when the first enslaved Black person was brought to the US. The nobility of acknowledging truths that lead us to our liberation is our path. The pain of this suffering, experienced by both BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color), and non-POC can be acknowledged and embraced: ‘Hello my trauma, anger, sadness, impatience, and hurt of racism; I know you are there and I will do my best to take good care of you; I will not shy away from you and cover you up. I will learn skillful ways to recognize how and where you manifest, the effects on my body and mind, and how this pain affects others, and slowly heal you.’
The Second Noble Truth: Abandon the path leading to the suffering of racial injustice
When we take time to understand the history of racial oppression we begin to understand why the inequity between whites and people of color exists today and practice with abandoning this path. For example, we understand that enslaved African Americans were exploited to cultivate the land and labor in all sectors of society to provide great wealth to plantation owners who in turn participated in an economy that enriched white people in all sectors of society. The effect of individual and collective greed fueling and leading to aversion/hatred of people of color- mediated through a collective delusion of race and class-based inferiority, superiority, and equality complexes- fabricated the ideology and structures of the US and beyond. This fabricated society assured that there was no opportunity for African Americans to own land, to attend schools, to be paid for labor, to receive appropriate medical care, to live in adequate and safe housing, etc, etc. This tremendous disadvantage for African Americans for the past 400 years-and BIPOC in subsequent years- has resulted in the greatest wealth and health gap between whites and African Americans- and BIPOC. For example, the life expectancy of neighborhoods of low income black people can be 10-15 years less than neighborhoods of higher income white neighborhoods. This continues to occur across the US in every city. These structural inequities were enforced against populations of people, based on their race and class. This violence caused pain and suffering, traumatized African Americans and other BIPOC. Racial oppression causes trauma in our body and mind. Hatred is an energy that diminishes the energy of love. No one benefits from hatred and everyone requires healing. We can take care of this suffering: ‘My dear body and mind, I know that the generational trauma of racial injustice still lives in my body and mind; I hold you dearly, with love and tenderness and release you to mother earth for transformation and healing. I know that the effects of such violence still live in my body as a descendant of the oppressed and of the oppressor and I acknowledge this pain in me and will take good care of you. Because we are interconnected, the searing of the whip against a black body is my scar today that I hold with tenderness and release. There is no separation, as my heart heals and the scars diminish in this oppressed/oppressor body, a heart heals and a scar diminishes in the oppressor/oppressed body. I make the determination to continuously practice with abandoning the ways I have internalized and continue to externalize this legacy of violence in my thoughts, speech, and actions.’
The Third Noble Truth: Realize the end to this suffering of racial injustice
As we turn toward this suffering of racial injustice and heal the wounds in our body and mind, we begin to heal this trauma. The release and realization of this suffering in our body and mind heals the fear and anxiety of continued racial trauma. Even while we might continue to experience racial injustice or intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate racial injustice, we meet these new experiences with a heart and mind that is better able to respond to this. Our response and suffering will not be motivated from an old trauma/second arrow but instead can address and take good care of the first arrow: the acute suffering of a new form of racial injustice. We will be able to practice right action and take good care of new forms of racial oppression thereby preventing new traumas and scars from forming. ‘I make the determination to realize racial healing and equity in my thoughts, words, and actions; I will not be afraid to acknowledge this pain when it arises, take good care of it, and realize freedom from this pain, in each moment. I recognize that I must stop and find stillness, in order to realize the end of this suffering in each moment and prevent new suffering to develop’.
The Fourth Noble Truth: Develop a path leading to the end of racial injustice
This path is our path of understanding and healing. We practice the noble eightfold path by resolving to not continue to perpetuate racial injustice, neither accepting it nor producing it. Our right view of racial injustice moves us toward right actions of ending existing racial injustice as we fearlessly identify it occurring in us and around us, in our personal interactions, and in the structures that actively and silently perpetuate these actions. We practice to prevent new forms of racial injustice motivated by right effort and do not participate in livelihoods that lead to racial injustice. Our mindfulness and concentration allows us to notice when we are participating in thought, speech, and action that perpetuate racial injustice, inside us and around us. This path leads to the cessation of racial injustice. ‘I am determined to stop and find stillness so I can be aware of and address new forms of racial injustice as it appears, prevent new forms that appear, and cultivate a heart that heals and understands so I am not affected by the inferiority, superiority, or equality complexes that easily support the enactment and suffering of racial injustice’.
The Four Noble Truths of racial injustice in daily life
The four noble truths guide us on our path of spiritual practice. Directly applying these truths to the suffering of racial injustice is our path of liberation from this injustice. For example, when the president of the US disparages fellow government leaders based on the color of their skin, how would we use the four noble truths to take care of this suffering? As a person of color I first would acknowledge that this is painful, for me and others like me. I can acknowledge the fear I feel in my body that there are people like him in the 21st century in the US who still are emboldened to publicly violate and traumatize me and others like me. This is a truth and it hurts me and I hold fear in me for this- this is a fear that is alive, that if I walk down the street in the midst of a group of white people, I can be physically, verbally, or emotionally attacked. Then I would practice to abandon any new triggering of feeling worthless and inferior that this violence might have initiated in me and take good care of old feelings of worthlessness and inferiority that may have been watered by this president and his supporters. Unhealed or unattended old wounds of racial trauma become the second arrow that could easily and quietly take me down old roads of pain. I must remain heedful and practice to let go of these feelings again and again and through right effort, action, mindfulness, and concentration bring myself to clarity that this new arrow by this white male is not my truth to take on. Practicing with the five precepts I maintain a solid base of mindfulness that provides compassion for myself and others during times of difficulty. I can understand the making of a president (the causes- structures and behaviors- and conditions- ideology, beliefs, experiences, personality- that led to this US born, English speaking, Christian, able-bodied, wealthy, heterosexual white male’s understanding and behavior) who is moved to act in violence and model racial oppression causing suffering for himself and others. I can also act outwardly to organize with others to end violent racial policies against immigrants of color from the global south through petitions, protests, and building a powerful base of people who are ready to respond to this violence. I can support others who are organizing voters to get out in 2020 and send energy to other campaigns that are addressing the broader policies and procedures that allow the rich to buy political power, evade equitable distribution to the tax base that assures all of our human rights, and assure continued wealth and health inequality. The four noble truths, practiced in daily life, wakes us up to racial, intersectional, and social equity.
I Can Breathe: A Meditation on Surviving Acts of Hatred
May I come back to this body,
May I come back to this breath,
May I come to know this body as the earth itself.
May I breathe myself back home,
And once again be introduced to this great life.
May the great light of this Earth surround me,
May I be released from past harm and imposed hatred.
May I come to recognize my existence in the true nature of life.
May I come back to this breath,
to this body, as the sacred place in which I remain awake
and connected to the fragrance and taste of liberation.
May I remain visible on the path of spirit,
and be seen and heard,
May love given be returned tenfold,
May awakening be known in this body,
at this time.
And when I can’t breathe,
May, I breathe in the next moment,
May I say, I can breathe.
What stood out most after what was claimed the “wrongful death” of Eric Garner* were the words, “I can’t breathe.” It became a collective mantra. Soon many were wearing t-shirts that said, “I can’t breathe.” This collective voice rose to a crescendo and announced that we cannot inhale or exhale. We are dying; black people are dying.
At the same time I heard inside myself another mantra. “I want to live. I want to live.” Suddenly, the mantra “I can’t breathe” evolved into “I want to breathe. I am breathing. I insist on breathing. I can breathe.” It became an exploration: How is it that I am breathing while surrounded by bigotry and hatred?
Reverend Zenju Earthlyn Manuel wrote this as part of a healing response to the choking death of Eric Garner, a black man and father of six who was choked to death by Staten Island, NY police in July 2014.
Call for Volunteers
We would love to hear from you! If your Sangha currently offers sanctuary to people of color and/or working on white awareness work and you’d like to be included on our Directory, please let us know.
We are also looking for volunteers to help make this Newsletter, run the webinar, write stories about individuals and Sanghas engaged in mindfulness and racial liberation, suggest resources, and more.
To get involved and share information, please email us at email@example.com with “Newsletter” in the title.
Sunday, November 17 at 8am Pacific/11am Eastern
ARISE will host our first 90-minute webinar entitled, “What Does It Mean to Awaken Through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity?”
We will send out more Information including the Zoom link in early November. Stay tuned!
Engaged Buddhism in Vietnam teaches that good works do not need to be reserved for the pagoda, but can be extended to towns and villages. Thu explained to Mr. Bay, “People are suffering so much that even the Buddha no longer sits in the temple all the time. The Buddha himself goes out to the people.” I was surprised at how skillfully Thu expressed these ideas. Buddha does not just sit in the temple anymore! Of course, the only reason he ever did was because people placed him there. But the Buddha does not want to be isolated amidst offerings of rice, bananas, and flowers. How can a Buddha or a bodhisattva stay indoors? If Bhaisajya Guru (Medicine Buddha) spent all his time in the temple, who would heal the people’s wounds of body and spirit? Avalokiteshvara must continue to move if she is to hear and respond to the cries of those who suffer. It does not make sense for students of the Buddha to isolate themselves inside a temple, or they are not his true students. Buddhas are to be found in places of suffering. Thu said it perfectly.
Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962-1966, Thich Nhat Hanh. Pg 197
For people searching for where to start on their journey of racial justice and healing, try watching “Race – The Power of an Illusion.” This three-part series offers a comprehensive introduction to the history and present-day issues of racial injustice. Find a friend, family member, or Dharma friend to watch this with you and discuss how your body, heart, and mind react to each segment. This series is specific to the United States but covers concepts that are universal. Now available for rental on Vimeo.
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from the New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
For people looking to take their practice of racial justice and healing further, look out for My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and our Bodies by Resmaa Menakem. This book offers a deep dive into trauma healing with personal stories, scientific findings, and accessible practices. Again, this comes from an American perspective but we trust that it can be adapted to other locations and situations. This is a unique resource that brings trauma healing to our collective lives for collective liberation, explaining the science behind many of Thay’s teachings that our ancestors live on in us.
Gatha for Healing Racial, Systemic and Social Inequity
Aware of the suffering caused by racial, systemic, and social inequities, we commit ourselves, individually and as a community, to understanding the roots of these inequities, and to transforming this suffering into compassion, understanding, and love in action. As a global community of practitioners, we are aware of the disproportionate racial violence and oppression committed by institutions and by individuals, whether consciously or unconsciously, against African Americans and people of color across the United States and beyond. We know that by looking deeply as individuals and as a community, we can engage the collective wisdom and energy of the Sangha to be our foundation for Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Mindfulness, and Right Insight. These are the practices leading to nondiscrimination, non-harming, and non-self which heal ourselves and the world.