May 20, 2020
“The Emergence of Black Buddhism in the US” with Rima Vesely-Flad (recording here)
This talk illuminates the emergence of a distinct form of Buddhism in the U.S. as people of African descent gravitate towards dharma teachings. It explores the ways in which the field of Buddhism and Psychology is being challenged and expanded to recognize intergenerational trauma resulting from slavery; Black Buddhist practices that mirror indigenous and Asian ancestral practices; and the reclaiming of Black embodiedness in dharma discourses on liberation.
Dr. Rima Vesely-Flad (she/her) is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Social Justice, and the Director of Peace and Justice Studies, at Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Racial Purity and Dangerous Bodies: Moral Pollution, Black Lives, and the Struggle for Justice (Fortress Press, 2017). She has completed a second manuscript entitled Black Buddhists and the Black Radical Tradition: The Practice of Stillness in the Movement for Liberation (Forthcoming, NYU Press, 2021)
March 25, 2021
“Buddhist Justice Reporter:The George Floyd Trials” with Pamela Ayo Yetunde
Buddhist Justice Reporter: The George Floyd Trials, is an engaged Buddhist project bearing witness to the police, criminal in/justice, and incarceral systems’ relationship to Black and Brown-bodied people in the U.S. This project is founded by a small group of BIPOC Buddhist practitioners in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, is resourced by writers and lawyers, is supported by Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and is fiscally-sponsored by Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis, MN. [Registrants for this conversation can access the video here.]
Pamela Ayo Yetunde (she/her) is co-editor of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom. She is a Community Dharma Leader trained at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and a Zen student. Ayo is the co-founder of Center of the Heart (www.centeroftheheart.org) and Audre: Spiritual Care for Women with Cancer.
February 25, 2021
“The #BuddhistCultureWars: From Snowflake Sanghas to Alt-Right Buddhism” with Ann Gleig and Brenna Artinger (read their article here)
While often associated with a liberal demographic, the increasing online visibility of conservative rhetoric such as—”snowflakes,” “politically correct,” “postmodern identity politics,” and “cultural Marxism,” demonstrates the presence of right-wing sentiments and populations in American convert Buddhism. Our research situates these sentiments largely as a reaction to the development of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in these communities. We chart this backlash across a broad right-wing spectrum that spans from “reactionary centrism” –namely, “someone who says they’re politically neutral, but who usually punches left while sympathizing with the right,” (Huertas, 2018) to the alt-right. In conclusion, we locate these reactionary right-wing forms of American Buddhism in relationship to modern and postmodern forms of global Buddhism.
Ann Gleig (she/her) is an associate professor of religion and cultural studies at the University of Central Florida. She is the author of American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity (Yale University Press, 2019).
Brenna Artinger (they/them) is a researcher whose work focuses on exclusion and extremism. They hold an MPhil in Buddhist Studies from the University of Oxford and are the President of the Alliance for Bhikkhunis.
January 21, 2021
“Beyond Perfection: King Ashoka, Engaged Buddhism and Dharma in Ancient India” with Sonam Kachru
In the introduction to his book, The Buddha and his Dharma, the Indian scholar, politician and social reformer, B. R. Ambedkar entertained Buddhism’s future in modern India with the help of a question: “What was the object of the Buddha in creating the Bhikkhu? Was the object to create a perfect man? Or was his object to create a social servant devoting his life to service of the people and being their friend, guide and philosopher?”
In this conversation we shall explore this question by examining the remarkable legacy of the ancient Buddhist king, Ashoka Maurya, whose experiments in moral leadership, as represented in the archeological record and Buddhist narratives, reveal the pro-social implications of Buddhist ethical and contemplative practices, and remain a powerful lens to think through the contested place of Buddhism in a political world.
Sonam Kachru (he/him) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. His work centers on the history of philosophy in ancient South Asia, with a particular emphasis on Buddhist philosophy and literature. His first book, Other Lives: Mind and World in Indian Buddhism, is forthcoming with Columbia University Press.
October 23, 2020
“Resisting Settler Colonialism as Buddhist Allies to Indigenous Peoples” with Natalie Avalos (recording here)
Contemporary Indigenous movements for sovereignty, like Standing Rock in 2016, have highlighted the ongoing violence settler colonialism perpetuates against lands and peoples. In this talk, I’ll discuss how Buddhists can draw from Buddhist teachings and shared land-based ethics to stand in solidarity with Native and Indigenous peoples. By connecting the dots between settler ideologies, the dispossession of peoples/lands, and ecological harm, I’ll outline the ways Buddhist praxis can facilitate decolonial praxis. This will give us an opportunity to explore how Buddhist scholars and practitioners may use this period of quarantine and intersecting crises to mobilize in the service of ecological wellness and collective liberation.
Natalie Avalos is an Assistant Professor in the Ethnic Studies department at University of Colorado Boulder. She is an ethnographer of religion whose research and teaching focus on Native American and Indigenous religions in diaspora, healing historical trauma, and decolonization. She received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a special focus on Native American and Indigenous Religious Traditions and Tibetan Buddhism and is currently working on her manuscript titled The Metaphysics of Decoloniality: Transnational Indigeneities and Religious Refusal, which explores urban Indian and Tibetan refugee religious life as decolonial praxis. She is a Chicana of Apache descent, born and raised in the Bay Area.