The SZBA acknowledges that its membership is mostly white, and that while some members have been actively involved in racial justice in various ways, for most of us, the integration of Soto Zen teaching and practice with racial justice work is still in its early, humble beginnings. The talks and resources offered here are part of our collective effort to grow in this realm.

Tenku Ruff

Soto Zen Buddhist Association, President

Beacon Zen Temple

Beacon, NY

Are We Awake Yet?

Do we really want to wake up?

Waking up is a lifetime endeavor—a lifetime of failure, of repair, and of returning. Woke is the engagement, not the end. Right now, our white expertise is in the way. It not only blocks our path, it causes harm.

As white people, what are we willing to give up so that ALL beings can survive, even SHINE? How are we going to shine the spotlight now focused on us onto others for a change?

Koshin Paley-Ellison

New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care

119 W 23rd St, New York, NY

Remembering George Floyd | Koshin Paley Ellison

Or on Apple Podcasts 

On the 7th day of the passing of George Floyd, the New York Zen Center held a memorial service in remembrance. Sensei Koshin delivers a dharma talk on the excruciating experience many are going through at this time, even in the center’s home city of New York. He then talks about the life of George Floyd, the man some called a “gentle giant”. He touches on the great disparities in the realities of people of different races and encourages the sangha to embrace all others as part of the “great body” and how we can participate. 

“What’s inspiring about this practice to me is: How do we make it a land of the free for everyone? This is a liberation practice.”

Sosan Flynn

SZBA board member

Clouds in Water Zen Center, guiding teacher

St. Paul, Minnesota

Putting our Bodies on the Line: Engaging in Radical Compassion

How do we understand the self in a racist world? The story of Lingzhou throwing herself to the ground is a model for how we can help others from a place of deep connection rather than holding ourselves above or separate. Understanding the self includes understanding racism and systems of oppression that support this self, as well as understanding and tuning in to the emotions and raw sensations in our bodies.

“When we deeply feel and understand our own suffering, and realize our complete and profound interconnection and interdependence with all beings, then, quite easily, we are willing to put our bodies on the line.”

Geoffrey Shugen Arnold

Zen Mountain Monastery

Mount Tremper, NY

In the Time of Burning

“All is burning” the Buddha taught. In the midst of a great spiritual impoverishment, how do we meet the unaddressed karma of four hundred years of White Supremacy and Male dominance from within, and as embodiments, of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha

Myozen Joan Amaral

Zen Center North Shore

Beverly, MA

Our Response as Bodhisattvas

Reirin Gumbell

Bardo / In-Between States

Domyo Burk

Bright Way Zen, Zen Studies Podcast

Portland, Oregon

Sustainable Bodhisattva Practice when the World is (Literally) on Fire

Many American cities are on fire – literally – as tensions over systemic racism erupt. Our vow is to “save all beings” but – at least in terms of an individual’s goal – that is impossible. How do we honor our bodhisattva vow in a vital and authentic way, as opposed to it being a largely irrelevant ideal?

Mako Voelkel

Austin Zen Center

Austin, TX

May All Beings Be Delivered From Oppression

Eugene Bush

Santa Cruz Zen Center and Arcata Zen Group, California

Like a Fish in a Puddle, Nenju — addressing the need to find refuge where we are; because of our conditioning we tend to forget what we know in our hearts to be true. Four practices are included in this exchange with the sangha: saying ‘thank you’, dropping self-absorption, recognizing the urgency of our times, expressing grief. 

Fish Puddle Nenju

Koun Franz

Zen Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia;

Don’t Stop There (Racism and the Bodhisattva Path)

In the face of injustice, don’t let compassion be an endpoint. Don’t let not-knowing be an endpoint. Move, somehow—that’s what a bodhisattva does.

Taigen Leighton

Ancient Dragon Zen Gate 
Chicago, IL
Sangha and the Karmic Legacy of Racism

Dogen says that Sangha is the harmonious assembly that lives in accord with reality and free from stagnation. So we must see the wider sangha of all people and all beings, not separate from us. How do we respond with flexibility and kindness. We face the 400 year brutal karmic legacy of Slavery, racism, and now privatized mass incarceration, another form of slavery. This impacts each one of us. Coretta Scott King said, “Denying healthcare is violence.” The U.S. has looted the Native American land, and the U.S. economy was built on the looting of centuries of African-American lives. 53% of our American budget goes to the military, with money taken from education and healthcare. The huge response in all of our cities in the last two weeks since the brutal murder of George Floyd, after so many others, shows that we can respond. Awareness and transformation is possible.

Jiko Nakade

Daifukuji Soto Mission

Kona, Hawaii

Song “Hatred Does Not Cease Through Hatred”

This simple song, composed by Jiko and sung by Jikai, expresses the wisdom of both the Buddha and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Daishin McCabe

Zen Fields

Ames, IA
Title:  “Luke, I am your father!”