Beyond Fear of Differences Sangha Forum

Please Join Us for the BFoD Sangha Forum

In the summer of 2017, there was an urgent call to action made from sangha members of color to Mountains and Rivers Order leadership to address lingering diversity and equity gaps in the Order. These problem areas—as outlined by the sangha members of color—were identified as lack of teacher diversity, dharma talk content, challenges while participating in intensive retreats and residences, mentorship, and interactions with white sangha members at both Zen Mountain Monastery and Zen Center of New York City that left some sangha members of color with feelings of hurt and invisibility due to their social identities.

This call to action was promptly and open-heartedly acknowledged by Shugen Roshi and other monastics. And in October of 2017, a group of monastics and lay sangha members who identify as white and persons of color gathered at Zen Mountain Monastery for the first time together to begin the initial work (under the guidance of professional facilitators) to transform our sangha so that is more inclusive and welcoming of all—regardless of how we are positioned in the larger society based on our varied social identities.

This Beyond Fear of Differences (BFoD) group—which became a wider extension of the Beyond Fear of Differences work that had begun on a smaller scale a few years prior—has been meeting regularly since then. BFoD has been working tirelessly to critically assess the Order’s practices and build a framework in which the entire sangha can participate in fostering transformation and growth.

Please join us as we gather together to hear about the ongoing work of the Beyond Fear of Differences (BFoD) group. We want to hear from you about your vision for a more inclusive sangha. And we will also provide details on opportunities to take part in future BFoD work.

BFoD Sangha Forum at Zen Mountain Monastery
Sunday, March 3, 2019
1:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Sangha House Performance Hall

BFOD Sangha Forum at Zen Center of New York City
Sunday, March 10, 2019
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Zen Center of New York City


10 Values Guiding our Beyond Fear of Differences Work

  1. Trust—Cultivating and earning a confidence that we are working toward our mutual well-being and liberation.
  2. Equity—To create just outcomes, we recognize that different treatment—including reparations—is sometimes required because of historical oppression and our varying positions in contemporary society.
  3. Courage—The ability to step forward, be vulnerable, tolerate discomfort, and hold space for new ideas.
  4. Accountability—The Sangha—teachers, seniors, monastics, Board, students, Councils, practitioners—are mutually responsible for upholding these values and communicating with each other.
  5. Humility—Recognition of the depth of our own conditioning and the vastness of the path.
  6. Reverence—A deep respect for each other’s humanity and identities, and the transformative power of the Buddhadharma.
  7. Generosity—The willingness to embrace all our experiences of sangha with openness and appreciation; also the willingness to give and take in feedback on the impact of our actions as part of our dharma training.
  8. Whole Person Framework—In our study and liberation of the self, we recognize that because our social identities are not experienced in isolation, they cannot be examined in isolation.
  9. Cultural Fluency—Knowing that we live in a white supremacist culture and that our views are conditioned by power and privilege, we commit to our ongoing learning and understanding of each other’s cultural and ethnic identities.
  10. Authenticity—Truly being connected with our emotions, expressions, and experience.


Members of the Beyond Fear of Differences Planning Group met on January 12th, 2019 for mission/vision work. From left (seated): Jordan Burnett, Shugen Roshi, Shoan Ankele, Zuisei Sensei, Tanya Bonner, Chikei Levister, Joshin Del Valle; (standing): Gikon Vasan, Marie Ringo, Zuiko Settimi. Planning group members not pictured: Daisen Holeman, Gokan Bonebakker, Hogen Sensei, Karin Connelly, Meiju Linet and Gyokudo Roberts.


Valerie Brown and Marisela Gomez led a Healing the Wounds of Racism retreat at Zen Center of New York City on January 5th, 2019.