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Jan 02
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Community as Path

photo by Charles Blackhall

photo by Charles Blackhall

Enlightened Society Celebrates Diversity

by Fay Octavia Elliott

I often laugh with my South African friend about us being the color element in the Boulder Shambhala Center. While we are not the only people of color in the center, there are perhaps only a handful altogether. Though this is reflective of the surrounding community of our center (and may not be true in more diverse communities), it also reflects my experience in the greater Shambhala mandala. It has been true whether I am in a room with hundreds of people like a sangha retreat or in my recent experience in Scorpion Seal where I stuck out like a chocolate chip on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream amidst a sea of swirling white. Interestingly, I was seemingly the only obviously disabled person in the program too, dragging my oxygen canister behind me everywhere I went.

These are just two of the many categories of diversity including: ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, class/wealth, ability/disability, language, political ideas, and roles in society. As Shambhala moves forth with its mandate to know ourselves, others, and society as basically good, the question becomes how do we extend this invitation to all beings regardless of their differences? How do we create centers that feel welcoming and accepting to the diversity of beings that may show up on our door steps? How do we help people who may be underrepresented in our communities still feel connected and part of our community? How do we recognize the ways in which we may unwittingly create barriers or obstacles to extending our welcome?

As part of the Shambhala Community as Path Project, the Diversity Working Group along with Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown have developed a video and program for Centers interested in exploring issues relating to diversity. Acharya Simmer-Brown’s talk From Basic Goodness of Self to Basic Goodness of Society: Exploring Diversity is an uplifted and gentle exploration of recognizing the basic goodness in ourselves, others, and society. She points out that basic goodness manifests in diverse ways, and that our opportunity and challenge in the 21st century is to live with the “other,” not out of guilt but by opening our hearts. It’s another chance to delight in going beyond fixed mind. She explores her own and invites us to look at our experiences with exclusion. The Acharya encourages further discussion amongst ourselves by asking some stimulating questions at the end of the talk.

For those centers interested in continuing the diversity discussion, there will be a second talk by Acharya Simmer-Brown that helps us to recognize how our positions/roles/identities shield us from recognizing the suffering of those without our level of privilege in society.

The Community as Path Project is a series of talks on Shambhala community life as it relates to Enlightened Society. Centers are invited to host sangha gatherings to view these talks. The other five talks include:

* Touching the Earth: Environment and Sustainability in Shambhala – Sir Martin Janowitz
* Balance for Families and Children in Shambhala – Acharya David Schneider
* Cultivating Mindfulness and Wisdom: Growing Older in Shambhala – Acharya Emily Bower
* Accessibility, Disability and the Shambhala Path – Acharya Dan Hessey
* Engaging Youth and Social Transformation – Acharya Noel McLellan

Talk to your Center’s Societal Health and Well-being (SHWB) Director or Center Director about scheduling a gathering to view these talks and discuss these important societal issues. If you have questions about diversity in Shambhala or want to get more information about the Diversity Working Group, please email Shastri Charlene Leung, Chairperson, Diversity Working Group [email protected]

View other articles in the Enlightened Society Celebrates Diversity column here.

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