Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice

Our Commitment to Moving Beyond the Fear of Differences

In these times of challenge and heightened uncertainty, we invite and welcome every person seeking refuge in the ancient teachings of wisdom and compassion to practice with our Sangha. The Mountains & Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism stands firmly against hatred and violence in all its forms.

Click here to read our Inclusion Statement.

About BFoD
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 Fire Lotus Temple 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 Beyond Fear of Differences work that had begun on a smaller scale a few years prior—continues working to critically assess the Order’s practices and to build a framework in which the entire sangha can participate in fostering transformation and growth.

Quick Link to Online Resources

Sangha Practice Groups

BIPOC Sangha Practice Group (for those who identify as black, indigenous, or a person of color), Wednesdays, Bimonthly, 6:30-8pm.  An on-going meeting of sangha members who identify as BIPOC. Visit the Sangha Practice Group page for upcoming Speaker Series, Book Groups, and to register. You can also email the group coordinators via bipoc@dharma.net

LGBTQ+ Affinity Group Meeting A support and discussion group for anyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community. We meet on Sunday’s after Sesshin from 1:30-3:00pm. Click Here to register and receive a Zoom link for the meeting. You can also email the group coordinators via lgbtq@dharma.net

TGNC Sangha Practice Group (for those who identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming): A safe space for Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming people to practice together and to get to know each other.  Open to all levels.  Feel free to bring a friend! Please join us on Monday evenings at either 6:30 or 7:00pm.  The schedule is as follows: optional period of zazen (6:30- 7pm), short break (7 – 7:05pm), zazen (7:05- 7:35pm), liturgy (7:35-7:40pm), social check-in (7:40- 8pm). Click Here to register via Zoom. Questions? Contact us at LGBTQ@dharma.net
People of African Descent (PAD) Sangha Group & Book Study
The PAD Sangha Practice Group meets monthly on Sunday afternoons at 1pm to provide a supportive environment for African-American and other African-descended dharma practitioners.  The PAD Book Group will meets bi-monthly from 2-3:30pm (right after the Sangha Group) and will begin with the study of My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem. Visit the Sangha Practice Group page for upcoming dates. Register here for either meeting. For more information contact  bipoc@dharma.net.

LGBTQ+ Sitting Group (for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or other)
 Please join us on Tuesday evenings from 7-8:30pm for two periods of zazen, followed by a half-hour community check-in.  Click Here to register via Zoom.

If you identify as white or hold white privilege, consider joining the ZCNYC “What is Whiteness” online group meeting every 3rd Sunday, 1-2:30pm. Newcomers are welcome. An ongoing monthly inquiry – based in Dharma practice – into Whiteness and its many biases and blindspots, these meetings are for those who identify as white specifically because of the need for each other’s help to address their conditioning and to be of benefit in the world. Currently discussing My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem. Please contact Dojaku or Yunen to get connected. 

BFoD’s Vision and Mission is an evolving process. Check this page periodically for updates.

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 (Listen to a talk by Shugen Roshi on this Value)
  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. (Listen to a talk by Shugen Roshi on this Value)
  3. Courage—The ability to step forward, be vulnerable, tolerate discomfort, and hold space for new ideas. (Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of Shugen Roshi’s talks on this Value)
  4. Accountability—The Sangha—teachers, seniors, monastics, Board, students, Councils, practitioners—are mutually responsible for upholding these values and communicating with each other. (Listen to a talk by Shugen Roshi on this Value)
  5. Humility—Recognition of the depth of our own conditioning and the vastness of the path. (Listen to a talk by Shugen Roshi on this Value)
  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.If you have questions, or resources you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you:

If you have questions, or resources you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you: bfod@mro.org

Here are some other related resources:

Read The History of BFoD: An Annotated Timeline of the Beyond Fear of Differences (BFoD) Initiative. The BFoD Planning Group created this document in preparation for the Sangha Forum that happened at Zen Mountain Monastery on Sunday, March 3, 2019.

Beyond Fear of Differences Planning Group (2018)

BFoD Planning Group—Standing, left to right: Tanya Bonner, Joshin Del Valle, Jinfu Connelly, Shugen Roshi, Marie Ringo, Gikon Vasan, Gokan Bonebakker, Zuiko Settimi, Jordan Burnett, Hogen Sensei. Seated, left to right: Daisen Holeman, Hojin Sensei, Chikei Levister, Zuisei Sensei. Not pictured: Shoan Ankele, Meiju Linet, Gyokudo Roberts