For 2022, the FDSTL awarded two Nitta Scholarships to outstanding Buddhist youth. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Nitta of Watsonville established this scholarship in 1966 to recognize and support our valued young Buddhists.
This year, we are fortunate to honor two very deserving BCA youths: Ms. Shanti Takata of the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, and Ms. Zora Uyeda-Hale of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. This past month, we featured Ms. Shanti Takata.
This month, we feature Zora Uyeda-Hale of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. Zora not only excelled within the various levels of YBA and temple but also in academics, sports, music and community diversity efforts.
Zora Uyeda-Hale is the daughter of Stacy Uyeda, Dharma School Superintendent at Berkeley Buddhist Temple and member of FDSTL’s Education Committee, and Tony Hale, board member of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple. She is the sister of Romare Uyeda-Hale, Jr. YBA Vice President of Berkeley Buddhist Temple.
Poised and assured, Zora was integral in the establishment of the Albany Unified School District “Diversify Our Narrative.” As a direct result of the police killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Zora designed a website, wrote resolutions for English-reading inclusion requirements and addressed 200 educators on diversity.
She was also invaluable to the young adults of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, supporting services, activities and presentations. And she served as the Berkeley Jr. YBA President and Recording Secretary, as well as Bay District Jr. YBA Historian and Co-President.
The challenges faced by our youth during the pandemic served as a vehicle for Zora’s self-reflection and growth as a Buddhist.
“At the beginning of my senior year, I lost my two childhood best friends,” Zora wrote. “Neither moved, but in what seemed like an instant, they were gone from my life. The worst part was that it was largely my fault, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
“For months, I blamed the entire situation on anything and everything, but myself,” she continued. “It wasn’t until recently that I realized my own anger and ego were causing this redirection of blame, and inhibiting me from reflecting inwards. Buddhism made me realize that I can become a better friend to those in my life now.
“When they first shared their hurt, I was immediately defensive. I thought, ‘How could I have done all these awful things that they’re telling me? That doesn’t seem like me.’ But it was me, albeit a version taken over by ego and self-centered tunnel vision. I promised them I would be better, but for the most part, nothing changed, because I was still failing to reflect on myself and take accountability.
“It's been months since we stopped talking, it still hurts every time (I see them). Sometimes, this sadness starts to bubble into anger, but I have to remind myself that holding on to resentment will get me nowhere. One of my Dharma School teachers, Irene Sensei, has a quote, ‘Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the one who gets burned.’ So instead of holding onto that hot coal until I can’t bear it anymore, I’m trying to let go.
“If I let my ego disillusion my perception of the world, relationships become centered around me, instead of inherently interdependent. This doesn’t just apply to friendships, but also larger connections with the outside world.
“I think of myself as an activist, but there have certainly been times when I’ve lost sight of my goals. Buddhism has helped steer me back to my original motivations. It has helped me remember that my activism should be driven by my desire for a better world for all, not my own pursuit of validation. In that sense, I should seek to help others — give Dana — because I am able to, not because I am expecting anything in return.
“Buddhism has guided me when I’ve felt the most lost, angry or selfish. The teachings reassure me that my feelings are valid, but also can be managed through awareness, gratitude, and compassion. Especially during the pandemic, a time of uncertainty and isolation, Buddhism has grounded me in the present moment. I take life one day at a time, attempting to be more grateful and aware of myself each day.”
On behalf of the FDSTL, we congratulate Zora Uyeda-Hale and express our gratitude for all her contributions to the temple and community as a voice for diversity. We wish her continued success as she furthers her education at UC Berkeley, majoring in Society & Environment with a minor in Ethnic Studies.