Update on Statement by SnowFlower Sangha on Racial Injustice
For many SnowFlower members, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Engaged Buddhism is what drew them to this sangha. Aware of the disproportionate number of people of color in Wisconsin prisons, for over a decade SnowFlower members have regularly visited prisons to teach mindfulness and witness incarceration with the prison’s prisoners. Others are members of Circles of Support through JustDane (formerly Madison-area Urban Ministry or MUM), which provide weekly support and structured encouragement to a formerly incarcerated individual. And others have been involved in immigration issues, helping to found a multicultural outreach center for immigrant workers in southwest Wisconsin.
In response to the police murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and too many others, as a majority White sangha whose members are also Black, Indigenous and Asian, we have paused to reflect on our patterns, biases and understandings.
Thich Nhat Hanh borrows a powerful phrase from Rinzai Zen founder, Linji: “Are you sure?” in asking, “This is what you think, but is it true?” We recognize that now is an important time to stay with this question. In our first summer cycle, many dharma talks and discussions addressed racism and unconscious bias. In September and October several of us have joined Called Forward: A 5-Week Anti-Racist Study Group, facilitated by SnowFlower members and focusing on the ARISE Five Mindfulness Trainings for Pandemic and Racial Justice.
There is another simple question from Linji that Thich Nhat Hanh asks: “What are you doing?” It is a reminder of mindfulness both in the present moment and in life itself. We will continue to ask ourselves both, “Are you sure?” and “What are you doing?”