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.