As mindfulness meditation becomes ever more popular and established in the West, its Asian Buddhist roots are sometimes obscured or overlooked. Most everyone knows that Buddhism began in India, but too many are unaware of the varied and storied lineages that spread throughout Asia thousands of years before making their way to the West. In Buddhism’s early decades in America, practitioners studied primarily with Asian masters. But this isn’t as common as it once was and many students may not encounter any Asian teachers at all or simply lose sight of where the dharma came from.

When I first began Buddhist meditation in 1989, I practiced in the Kwan Um Zen tradition of Zen Master Seung Sahn. He was a charismatic and brilliant teacher from North Korea and had many dedicated western students. One of them was Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the modern mindfulness movement. My own studies also led me to practice with a few Japanese Zen Masters along with my Western teachers.I am deeply grateful for the Asian teachers who brought Buddhism to the West and the all of the Asian communities that have held and transmitted the teachings for millennia.

The mass shooting in Atlanta last week highlights the significant increase in hate crimes in the U.S. against Asian Americans over the past year. I’m heartbroken by these developments. Buddhism upholds non-harming and nonviolence as the foundation of wisdom and compassionate action. I hope you’ll join me in standing in solidarity with Asian Americans, which include one of our instructors, Jennifer Wang, who is on the board of the Middle Tennessee API (Asian Pacific Islander).

How can you help? This list of concrete steps published by NPR is a great place to start. You can also learn more about the Middle Tennessee API here. You can also find additional resources on their website here. This is a good time for us all to educate ourselves about the history of Asian-Americans and the fact that discrimination against Asian-Americans is not new and has its roots in law. One Dharma offers a “Mindful of Whiteness” group twice a month and for those who identify as white, this is a good place to explore and uncover how inner and outer bias contribute to the racism that is still so evident and persistent in our culture.


May all beings be safe and protected,

May all beings be seen and heard,

May all begins be cared for with love and compassion.