Social Justice: What can we do as a group?
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
On 20th March, SFYAD hosted a "Dear Venerable..." Series where YADs can ask questions about various topics to Venerables; and also allow Venerables to share their wisdom with us on applying the Dharma in daily life. The first topic for this series is Social Justice. COVID‐19 has disproportionately impacted certain individuals and groups—identified particularly by factors, such as race, class, gender, disability, age, displacement and homelessness, and migration status, among others—reflecting longstanding disparities and inequalities not only in health and health care but in society more generally. Recent news has also reported many hate crimes around the country. In Buddhism, the practice of compassion and equality of all beings is often emphasized. Hence, what could a Buddhist do during this uncertain period that has shaken the society? In response, SFYAD invited Venerable Jue Qian, Director of Fo Guang Buddhist Temple Boston to share her wisdom and experience with us. A total of 25 attendees came for the event.
At the beginning of the event, Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Northern California, Venerable Ru Yang, encouraged everyone to learn from this event and gain strength and wisdom to overcome this apprehensive, unjust, perplexing period, and resolve any uneasiness within our hearts and minds.
In the first 40 minutes, Venerable Jue Qian answered questions attendees posted over the past week on Slido. Examples of questions asked by our attendees were, "I feel I might be assaulted by a group of people on the street because they stared at me", "What can we do within our own YAD group to help address discrimination against people of color?", "How do I know if my actions are in the right direction?", "How do we balance our anger/frustrations of discrimination with understanding/forgiveness?", and "How can we as Buddhists actively help alleviate anti-Asian discrimination?"
Venerable Jue Qian first mentioned that in order to take action, one must be clear of their purpose and direction. Without them, our actions may not last. Furthermore, she expressed that if one must take action, one should do it as a group because a group has more strength and persuasion than an individual. She gave examples of having an open dialogue with government officials to understand the concerns of inhabitants living in the city. Moreover, Venerable Jue Qian said that one should use wisdom to observe the conditions to make a decision and strike while the iron is hot. If the conditions are not ripe, one should patiently wait and create opportunities. Once an action is made, we should patiently wait as the results may not come right away; sometimes we may have to wait for years before seeing the fruits. However, as long as we have the vows, patience, perseverance, and persistence, we would be able to continue making changes for society.
Regarding balancing our anger/frustrations with understanding/forgiveness, Venerable Jue Qian replied that as Buddhists, we observe the precepts and should do no harm to anyone. We should be aware of the results of being angry and the results of being compassionate. If one pursues justice with hatred and anger, it will bring chaos; however, as Venerable continually mentioned, to bring justice, we need to be compassionate and voice out for the sake of everyone. She also mentioned that the core of Buddhism is compassion, and when somebody told her that she would go to hell, Venerable Jue Qian replied, "For you, I am willing to go to hell." This story she shared with everyone demonstrated the compassionate hearts of Buddhists and the bodhisattva path they take.
In the last 20 minutes, the session was opened for a Q&A session with Venerable. Selene Chew, president of SFYAD, asked about Venerable's thoughts on attending peaceful protests. Venerable replied that one should know if there is a hidden agenda behind the protest; one should have the wisdom to discern and observe if peaceful protests are for the sake of justice or other agenda. Venerable Jue Qian closed off the session, reminding everyone that no matter what differences everyone has, as long as we mutually understand and respect one another, we could reduce these conflicts and distress.
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The entire session can now be watched on YouTube!