Upholding the dignity of black lives

The Shambhala Meditation Center of Boston stands with the black community in proclaiming the dignity and worthiness of black lives. Black lives matter.

Dear members of the Boston Shambhala community,

The murder of George Floyd while unarmed, in handcuffs, by a white Minneapolis police officer is deeply disturbing. This is just one of the most recent and publicized murders of black people – including Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Tony McDade in Florida, and Nina Pop in Missouri among others. However, I recognize that I experience the whole situation from a protected distance – that I do not (and will never) feel the pain, sadness, fear and rage experienced by the black community.

These murders are not the result of individual ‘bad apples’, but are the fruits of the karmic seeds of racial oppression that stretch back before the United States declared independence. And we all perpetuate this oppression, often unconsciously. (If an analogy helps, think of the ways we perpetuate the pollution of our world through fossil fuels just by living our lives.) Ending the violence will require structural and societal changes, as well as the inner work of recognizing and abandoning the seeds of oppression.

This work of untangling ourselves from ideas, ideologies and identities that cause harm isn’t different from the path of dharma. We practice and study to recognize how a construct like ego, or race, with no more reality than a drawing on water, distorts our perception and leads to harm. To engage in this work out of love for our fellow beings is the work of a bodhisattva, of a Shambhala warrior. It is not enough to simply develop mindfulness. We continue developing the strength and wisdom of our hearts and minds for the benefit of all.

“We don’t use meditation to avoid pain and confusion of social challenges,
but to deepen our capacity to meet them directly”
Rev. angel Kyodo williams

Stirred by recent events, the board and I are re-examining the centrality of social justice to our mission. Our former Director, Ashley Hodson, as well as Deidra Montgomery, Brandon Sloan, Miguel Gomes, Nick Kranz, and Roland Mendiola (among others) put a great deal of energy and care into this work. I have so much to learn, but I’m deeply grateful to them for opening this door for me and for creating a ground for our community to work from. For those looking for where to start now, check out Anti-racism resources for white people , and donate to one of the organizations below.

Shambhala as a community and an organization still has a lot of our own work to do in terms of recognizing whiteness, understanding trauma, accountability for those in power, serving those who have been marginalized, and practicing like our hair (and world) is on fire. Let us do this work out of love, not shame. Let us live to benefit others rather than at their expense. Let us uproot the seeds of racism and oppression that live in us. Let us learn from those who are offering their wisdom and join the efforts of others who are working to bring about change and justice.

We see the need for action and want to engage the community in conversation, practice and planning. If you are interested in, or curious about what this work will look like, please join us for two community gatherings on racism Saturday, June 6th or Thursday, June 11th.


Where to donate

The Mass Bail Fund has received a lot of support and recommends donating to the following organizations (those with an * are black or POC led):

*Families For Justice As Healing (scroll to bottom of page)

Black and Pink, Boston (queer abolition)
Whose Corner Is It Anyway (street based sex workers in Western MA)
*New Beginnings Re-Entry Services
Boston Release Network
*Youth Justice & Power Union
bit.ly/youthpower2020 with the designation “Defending Black Lives”
*Sistes Unchained