Reflecting on Anti-Asian Hate: Going to the Dharma for Guidance

The recent killing of eight people at Asian-owned spas in Atlanta, Georgia has left us shocked, horrified, and saddened by these continuing acts of hatred and violence in our country.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago, there has been an exponential rise in hate crimes directed toward Asian Americans. The conditions for violence have been created by the continued use of hateful speech against people of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent. Like other marginalized groups, there is a long and painful history of racism, scapegoating, and exclusion of AAPI communities in the United States.


The Buddha teaches “Seeing things happen according to causes and conditions is to see the truth.” The use of racist language has led to these acts of senseless violence.


In the Dhammapada, Shakyamuni Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows one, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon…If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow that never leaves.” Let us be mindful of using language which fosters compassion and love, rather than anger and hate.


Let us cease hatred through love as the Buddha taught. We can disagree without hate, vitriol, and violence. We must learn to live together for the sake of our collective future.


In the sutra Sanbutsuge (Hymn in Praise of the Buddha), Amida Buddha as a Bodhisattva vows, “And to all beings who live in fear, I will give great peace.” No one should live in fear of physical or verbal violence because of their race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, profession, or any other characteristic. There is beauty and strength in our diversity as a nation. We need to speak out against hate in all forms for our mutual welfare and benefit.


As Buddhists, we are devoted to the pursuit of harmony, peace, and gratitude and we strive to embody the Buddha’s teachings in our thoughts, through our words, and by our actions. These acts of hatred must stop. What happens to one affects us all. Compassion for self and others is the difficult yet necessary work we all must engage in to heal and transform our world.


In this effort of healing, May We Gather, a National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors is being held today on the 49th day since the killings in Atlanta. This livestreamed event will be a solemn and sacred time to remember, to reflect, and to begin mending our hurts so we can, like a bodhisattva, manifest wisdom and compassion for the sake of all who are suffering.


In April we celebrated the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the one who would become Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha who we revere as the great teacher who first turned the wheel of Dharma for the liberation of all beings. In the sacred story, the baby buddha took seven steps to signify his going beyond the six realms of suffering to the realm of awakening. We should wholeheartedly rely on the life-giving and life-transforming Dharma in these challenging times.


May we be guided by the light of all-inclusive wisdom and all-embracing compassion as we journey along the difficult path of peace and justice together.


Namo Amida Butsu