We have all been concerned about recent events in the news about the rise of hate crimes and violence against Asians.
It feels like as human beings, we are going backwards in time to the era of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, many of whom lived through prejudice and discrimination against Asians. Some of you today lived through that era firsthand, being incarcerated in the internment camps. My mother, who is 92, was one such person. She also faced discrimination growing up in Hood River, Oregon. But you wouldn’t know it now. She has friends of all ethnicities.
The other day, she received a phone call from a Hispanic woman whose family worked on our farm. This woman called to thank my mom for taking her and her sister to elementary school when she was a young girl to get an education. Because she got an education, she had a wonderful life. Fifty years later, she called to express her gratitude.
Buddhism teaches us to see our true essence that is beyond race, gender, social economic background, sexual orientation, gender expression, religious faith, physical disability, and so on. Why can’t the rest of the world see the world of oneness that we are taught in Buddhism?
Thich Nhat Hanh, the wonderful Vietnamese Buddhist master, uses a wonderful metaphor of chocolate chip cookies to illustrate what happens when we fail to see our true essence.
He says, when you make cookies, you put all the ingredients in the bowl and mix them together. You know they all have the same ingredients, but what if after you put them on the cookie sheet, some cookies think, “I am the perfect cookie. I am the perfect color. That cookie is too dark. That cookie is too light.”
Isn’t that absurd? The cookies are of the same essence, and so are we. How can we single out ourselves as superior or inferior by the color of our skin or by any kind of distinction? But yet, isn’t that what is occurring in the world today, and has been occurring for eons?
I think our greatest response to a world that is tending towards hatred and violence is to share our view of the world as Buddhists, to see our true essence and essential oneness of all beings, of all of life. As Shinran Shonin so eloquently expresses in his words, “May the Buddha-Dharma spread and may the world be at peace.”