Happy Pride Month! I hope you are enjoying this June as spring transitions to summer. After several much-needed days away from the phone/computer at the beginning of this month, I was delighted to return to a message in my inbox from Prumsodun Ok, whose quote on pages 246–247 of Be the Refuge has resonated with many. Prum is the founder of NATYARASA, Cambodia's first gay dance company. Among the projects they are currently working on is "A Deepest Blue," which features Khmer lyrics set to the Japanese classical music form gagaku. The beautiful confluences in this video remind me of the way Buddhism adapts to—and weaves together—many different cultures.
In other exciting news, today, June 8th, marks the launch of the audiobook for Be the Refuge, narrated by the amazing Jennifer Aquino. It's an honor to have the book be voiced by an Asian American woman conversant in Japanese, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Spanish. For those who prefer your books in audio form (hi mom!), you can check it out at your local library, or purchase it from Audible, Libro.fm, Google Play, and other audiobook retailers.
Hot off the (digital) press this month is my interview on "Authorship as Chaplaincy" conducted by artist, writer, and technologist Ana Mina of the Los Angeles Review of Books. I'm also celebrating the first review of Be the Refuge in an academic journal by the brilliant Hsiao-Lan Hu, author of This-Worldly Nibbana: A Buddhist-Feminist Social Ethic for Peacemaking in the Global Community. The clarity and fierceness of Dr. Hu's writing shines in this review, published in the open-access Journal of Global Buddhism (vol. 22, no. 1). I am especially grateful for Prof. Hu's courage in sharing a personal story that vividly illustrates the issues highlighted in my book. The freely available articles in this excellent issue of JGB include "Sitting in the Fire Together: People of Color Cultivating Radical Resilience in North American Insight Meditation" by Dr. Nalika Gajaweera, whom I was in conversation with at last month for Harvard's Buddhism and Race series (a recording is available here), and "#BuddhistCultureWars: BuddhaBros, Alt-Right Dharma, and Snowflake Sanghas" by Ann Gleig and Brenna Artinger.
Be the Refuge has been out in the world for a little more than four months now. I never could have foreseen that my first book would come out during a time that has been riven not only by a global pandemic but also by racial violence. I reflect on these themes in "Honoring Our Ancestors: A Buddhist Response to Anti-Asian Violence," an article in the latest issue of Insight Journal. To each and every one of you who has helped Be the Refuge find a home across North America and around the globe: thank you. Thank you for subscribing to this newsletter, for attending my online events, for asking thoughtful and challenging questions, for taking the time to share your reflections via email and social media, for your solidarity and spiritual friendship.
If you're interested in attending an online event around Be the Refuge this June, feel free to register for these upcoming events:
On the subject of systemic violence, some of you may wish to endorse this Interfaith Statement of Solidarity with the New Jersey BAPS Temple Workers (most of whom are from Dalit backgrounds). And finally, on the topic of May 4th, words are insufficient to express my gratitude for everyone who made this historic and healing gathering possible. Over 1,700 people joined the livestream last month, and the video has been watched over 8,000 times. Given the long history of erasure of Asian American Buddhists, it was powerful to see May We Gather featured in the LA Times and NY Times. If you'd like to stay up to date about future May We Gather events, feel free to sign up for the newsletter on the MWG website.
- Zen Peacemakers International on Wednesday, June 9, 12–1:30pm EDT. This will be a cozy circle with plenty of time for introductions and conversation. I’ll offer a brief presentation on Be the Refuge and May We Gather, followed by a dialogue with host Myokei Moto-Sanchez and audience Q&A.
- Green Apple Books on Thursday, June 10, 6–7pm PDT. The first bookstore I stepped foot in during pandemic times, in March 2021, was Green Apple Books in San Francisco, so it’s a treat to return for this online event. My original conversation partner for this event, Breeshia Wade, unfortunately is not able to make it, but I am excited to be in dialogue with Arisika Razak, one of the contributors to the forthcoming collection Afrikan Wisdom: New Voices Talk Black Liberation, Buddhism, and Beyond.
- Buddhist Peace Fellowship on Saturday, June 12, 11am–12:30pm PDT. For this panel, moderated by BPF Program Director Chika Okoye, I’ll be joined by two people I could listen to for hours: Kazi Adi Shakti and An Tran. Our conversation is part of The Dharma of Pose, a series of talks and workshops that will also feature Drian Juarez, Katie Loncke, Lama Rod Owens, La Sarmiento, Jasmine Syedullah, Adaku Utah, and Fresh Lev White.
- Insight Meditation Society on Thursday, June 24, 7–8:30pm EDT. The IMS Book Club brings together authors and readers for a facilitated discussion on the featured dharma-book-of-the-month. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be in conversation with meditation teacher Yong Oh. Many thanks to Albert Karcher for coordinating this event and conducting an author interview with me.
- San Francisco Zen Center on Saturday, June 26, 6–7:30pm PDT. In this panel discussion, Duncan Williams, Funie Hsu, and I will reflect on the significance of the "May We Gather" National Buddhist Memorial Ceremony for Asian American Ancestors that we co-organized on May 4th. We will discuss the historical roots of religious bigotry and racial animus toward Asian American Buddhists, the power of communal ritual for healing our national racial karma, and the importance of coming together as Buddhists to speak out against systemic violence.
With warmth and gratitude,