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Mar 21
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A Reflection on Diversity

Working toward inclusion and diversity as a fundamental aspect of my path

by Danielle Loeb

I felt I had to leave myself at the door and assimilate in order to fit in. And even then, I couldn’t change the way that I looked. I ended up feeling the same sense of isolation and alienation that I experience in mainstream society. Yet I knew Buddhism was my spiritual home.

—Dr. Marlene Jones, “Moving Toward the End of Suffering” in Dharma, Color, and Culture

When we take the Bodhisattva vow to save all sentient beings, no matter how numberless, we are making an inconceivable commitment to diversity and accessibility. No one is left out of this aspiration. Thus, the commitment to finding ways to make the Shambhala Buddhist path and society available to others is at the heart of Shambhala Buddhism itself.

—Acharya Dan Hessey, Notes on Diversity and Accessibility

“A cultural politics of race needs to involve group work, community activities. It cannot be a matter of an isolated individual’s practice and exploration alone. Bondage and collective liberation are both born in social life, our humanly vibrant, lived experience with others.”

—Acharya Gaylon Ferguson, “All Color, No Colors” in Mindful Politics: A Buddhist Guide to Making the World a Better Place

Together these three quotes summarize my passion (as a queer, white, privileged person) for diving into explorations of diversity, bias, and privilege within Shambhala. In the first quote Dr. Marlene Jones describes a feeling I have heard about countless times from people of color within our community. At first it was so heartbreaking to hear that I tried to pretend voices like hers were isolated. However, the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in our sangha speaks volumes. She is clearly not alone.

At the same time, Acharya Hessey’s assertion that ensuring the accessibility of the Shambhala Buddhist path is the heart of the path resonates strongly with me. It points to the need for change within our sangha so that people of non-white, non-European backgrounds do not feel the need to leave themselves at the door. We need to change, so others do not feel that they need to change themselves in order to be part of our community. Lastly, Acharya Ferguson’s comments on the role of community in working with race challenge me to make myself vulnerable, joining with all of you in looking at my own privilege, biases, and longing for diversity. In my experience, this work can become extremely uncomfortable and can challenge my own self-perceptions. As difficult as this work can be, I have grown more from these explorations than almost any other experience.

On the weekend of March 30th, together with the Social Engagement Team, Shambhala Meditation Center of Denver (SMCD) will offer a workshop with Shastri Leung, the Chairperson of the Shambhala Diversity Working Group, and Michaela McCormick, leader of Queer Dharma at the Portland Shambhala Center and Member of the Shambhala Diversity Working group. The workshop, Enlightened Investigation: Uncovering Social Bias and Creating Vibrant Community, aims to create a “brave and caring space” to explore our individual and community blind spots and biases. It is offered to all members of the community. For those interested in ongoing work on social bias, we are offering a “deeper dive” on Sunday April 1st. Over the course of this weekend, we hope to launch a recurring group dedicated to creating a more inclusive and inviting environment in our center and society at large.

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1 response to “ A Reflection on Diversity ”
  1. Linda Willow
    Mar 25, 2018

    Excellent Danielle–wish I could be there! I’ve met Michaela a few times at and around Portland programs and always admired their bravery, kindness and brilliance.

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