Turning brokenness into beauty: Buddhists respond to anti-Asian violence

Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Som, who co-facilitates the Asian American Deep Refuge Sangha at the East Bay Meditation Center, agreed.

"Asian Americans and Asian American Buddhists specifically have been under attack the whole time we've been in this country, and there's a whole story about people being pressured to convert to Christianity to be 'more American,'" she said. Maintaining the dharma — Buddhist teachings — maintaining the faith, and maintaining a temple is "already pushing against the violence, the erasure and the racism."

Gajaweera, the anthropologist and co-director of the Asian American Buddhist Working Group along with Som, Louije Kim and Dorothy Imagire, elaborated: "It might not seem like activism, but it is the day-to-day activism of keeping your doors open and supporting your community."

Brother Phap Dung, a dharma teacher at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, said between 200 and 300 members of the public come to the mountain monastery each Sunday to take refuge from the discrimination, loneliness and the basic fear and anxiety that is pervading society.

"We don't just look out for Buddhists," he said. "We try to take care of all the people who are facing discrimination — African Americans, Latinos, gay and lesbian, LGBTQ."

Monastics offer support by just being there, listening, taking visitors on hikes, showing them a sunset and reminding them of the wonders of life.

"That can also be good medicine for taking care of the mental toxins and discrimination we have received from others," he said. "Finding ways to joy and wonder helps us not be overwhelmed and monopolized by the hate in society."


Hsu said she has also found solace in the Buddhist idea of Indra's net: an infinite web of connection with a single, shining jewel at each point of connection. Each jewel reflects every other jewel in the web, and whatever affects one jewel affects them all.

"That was one of the ideas we were trying to emphasize with May We Gather," she said. "That we are not separate from each other."

For the one-year anniversary of the Georgia shooting rampage, the organizers of May We Gather published reflections from Buddhist leaders and practitioners inspired by the dharma. Contributions came in from Buddhists in California, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Canada and elsewhere.

They expressed sorrow for those lost — and gratitude for the opportunity to grieve together.


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