Beyond Fear of Differences


The Beyond Fear of Difference initiative of the Mountains and Rivers Order arises directly from the Great Bodhisattva Vows: to alleviate the suffering of every human being; to put an end to all self-serving desires; to profoundly study and realize the Dharma; and to perfectly manifest this real truth in every aspect of our lives. The particular focus of this group is to examine how the dharma can illuminate the persistent forms of bias that shape our experience of the world. The dharma teaches that all beings are equal, and yet each day we encounter injustice, hatred and violence that stem from a sense of self and other as divided and unequal.

Whether this bias is functioning on a global scale or in our own personal lives, it is our responsibility as spiritual practitioners to deeply understand how such bias arises, its roots in the mind, and to use this understanding for the purpose of moving toward truth. By exploring the realities of racism, sexism, homophobia and other ways that we define ourselves in opposition to others, the BFOD group is dedicated to the work of transforming our relationships with one another. The BFOD initiative also recognizes that some of the greatest human suffering in the history of the United States has been brought upon women and people of color. It is our individual and collective responsibility to understand, address and heal that karma.

Grounded in the Buddhist teaching that the path of true transformation emerges from awareness, the BFOD group is dedicated to helping participants become aware of bias in all its subtle permutations.  When we clearly see how our preconceived notions and deep conditioning are functioning in our relationships with others, we can begin to dissolve the boundaries that we create between ourselves and others. Then we can relate to each other from the recognition that all beings, regardless of our apparent differences, share the same essential nature.

This is deeply challenging spiritual work. At present, the BFOD group consists of a diverse group of sangha members who practice at the Zen Center of New York City. They are actively exploring these issues through the lens of Zen practice and working to develop a program of study that integrates Buddhist teaching and practices. This curriculum will then be shared with the larger community.