Aryaloka has aspired to create a community that embodies what is best of our humanity. We cherish life and the qualities of awareness, kindness, compassion and freedom. We stand united in peace against the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance, in whatever form they may take through human behaviour. Racism is a manifestation of the poisons that continues to undermine the safety, opportunity and happiness of many people, and it is our responsibility as Buddhists to become aware of any racist tendencies in ourselves or in our communities, and do the work of understanding and uprooting those tendencies.

The recent police killing of George Floyd, along with increased awareness of this country’s history, both distant and recent, of oppression of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) has given rise to anger, outrage, grief and suffering in many all over the world. There is important attention being given to this area of human suffering through the momentum of the Black Lives Matter protests, anti-racism work, white allyship work, and other initiatives. 

It is particularly challenging at this time to not react with anger, fear and horrified anxiety; it might also be challenging at times to not look away from the problems. It is crucial that we look at the conditions that give rise to racist views and behaviour, and do what we can to change those conditions. As Buddhists we are fortunate in that we have many tools to help us in this work. The practice of the Metta Bhavana – the cultivation of loving-kindness – helps us to develop a kind heart, not just towards those we find easy to love, but towards those we find most challenging. We are committed to bring the love we have cultivated on the meditation cushion out into our everyday lives and treat all we encounter with kindness and compassion. This love is by its very nature, a counter to the momentums of hatred. As the Buddha said, “Not by hatred are hatreds ever pacified. They are pacified by love. This is the eternal law.” It is our practice as Buddhists to live the full meaning of those words in facing the pain in our communities  and finding a compassionate response.

2500 years ago, the Buddha wandered northeast India communicating his teachings and meeting all sorts of people. He received much respect and goodwill as well as some resistance and scorn. In forming his community, he eliminated all caste distinctions, and is often depicted as challenging caste assumptions. This was disruptive to the status quo. The Buddhist tradition disappeared from India in the 13th century, and did not see a significant revival until the 1950’s when Dr. Ambedkar composed the law that outlawed caste and led hundreds of thousands of ex-untouchables in conversion to Buddhism. Caste had been outlawed, but many were (and are) still abused with caste prejudice. Converting to Buddhism was a path of freedom from caste; a way to throw off the yoke of oppressive and cruel discrimination and find a community where the value and practice of kindness was a core tenet. 

Triratna’s founder, Sangharakshita, was in India at that time. Dr. Ambedkar died soon after the first mass conversion, and Sangharakshita did what he could to address the spiritual needs of the new Buddhists he had contact with, to help them form their new communities, and find a way to understand and practice Buddhist principles. The connections that Sangharkashita made persist to this day, and nearly half the population of our Order is in India. The lessons we learn from the examples of the Buddha, Dr. Ambedkar, and Sangharakshita in relation to social uplift, inform our ethos in building community at Aryaloka. 

To encourage a proactive response in understanding and undermining racist tendencies, we’ll be launching some relevant initiatives soon. We encourage all who participate in the Aryaloka community to take up this work however they can, and in times of difficulty, to find the touchstone of metta in their hearts. 

The Aryaloka Board – 

Alisha, Amala, Deb, Dharmasukta, Satyada, Singhatara, Suddhayu