Sangha & Diversity
NYI Diversity Statement: Open Hearts, Open Doors
New York Insight is dedicated to fostering a welcoming and open-hearted refuge for all people to explore the life-transforming practice of meditation and the teachings of the Buddha. We are committed to cultivating an awareness and appreciation of the value of diversity and to acknowledging the need to recognize and dissolve barriers that separate us from each other. We open our doors and hearts to all social identities including all races, classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, abilities, cultures, and ethnicities.
Practicing together. Learning from teachers. Sharing with other students. Connecting deeply with those that share the same values, intentions and commitment to opening their hearts & minds. These things are central to growing in wisdom and compassion. Sangha is one of the 3 Jewels the Buddha identifies as central to this practice. Traditionally, Sangha referred to the community of monks and nuns who followed the Buddha’s teachings, but we use it to describe our community of practitioners. At NYI, we also consider each other Kalyana Mitta or Spiritual Friends; the Buddha stated that Spiritual Friends are the whole of holy life.
At NYI, our Sangha reflects the diversity of this amazing city and we are committed to creating a welcoming space where all feel welcome. We are particularly committed to undoing racism and creating a truly inclusive Sangha. Our Diversity Committee, Board of Directors, Staff and Volunteers are actively engaged in activities and initiatives that make real our aspiration to dissolve barriers that separate us from each other so that all feel welcome, seen and heard at NYI.
We are dedicated to ensuring that our Dharma offerings are available to all, regardless of ability to pay. At NYI, no one is turned away form the teachings for lack of funds. For more information, please see our diversity programs below.
May our work together bring freedom and happiness to all beings everywhere without exception.
DIVERSITY PROGRAMS AT NEW YORK INSIGHT
People of Color Sangha
The NYI People of Color Sangha began in the Fall of 2005 and is the largest single sitting group at NYI. It meets the third Monday of every month and averages 50 people per sitting. Led by NYI Guiding Teacher Gina Sharpe, the monthly group provides instruction in insight meditation and fosters mutual support and understanding among the growing community of people of color who find nourishment and inspiration in the teachings and practice of Buddhism. The NYI POC Sangha has an active listserv connecting people for sharing of resources and support of practice. NYI monthly sitting groups in Harlem and Brooklyn for people of color & allies grew out of the POC Sangha.
Diversity Committee/Sangha Builders Initiative
In 2007, the Diversity Committee at NYI created an ad-hoc offshoot called Sangha Builders. It is made up of 16 members (teachers, Peer Leaders, board, and community members). The group intends to support diversity at NYI by building sangha/community. The Sangha Builders have designed an eight-week course entitled “Cultivating a Beloved Community: An 8—Week Course on Building Authentic Sangha.” The course explores diversity within the context of the Buddhist teachings with these objectives: 1. To explore and celebrate our differences and similarities 2. To practice mindful and compassionate inquiry in support of understanding our conditioned views and how these give rise to reactivity 3. To promote greater understanding of each other and ourselves as a result of authentic interaction 4. To become a part of a vibrant, honest, engaged sangha 5. To discover how the Dharma can assist us in creating a loving community that is a refuge for all.
Diversity Trainings at NYI
New York Insight has offered ongoing training for white sangha members on white privilege (particularly geared towards teachers, board members, and volunteers). Arinna Weisman has led two weekend workshops (in 2010 and 2012) exploring the “Dukkha [suffering] of White Privilege.” These explorations are ongoing and are mirrored by regular workshops led by Bill Woodson, Gina Sharpe, and DaRa Williams called “Free at Last” (FAL) for people of color exploring diversity and suffering. There is a FAL planned for October 2014 and a white privilege training being planned for spring 2015.
Leadership Training for People of Color
In September of 2012, 10 new NYI teachers graduated as part of the 4th Community Dharma Leaders (CDL4) program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. Six are people of color, five identify as African American or black. NYI teachers have nominated a total of 8 POC for CDL5, 4 of whom also identify as LGBTQand/orI.
In the Fall of 2012, NYI collaborated with our sister organizations, the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS) to sponsor a 2-day joint session of the People’s Institute’s signature program – the Undoing Racism Workshop – in Barre, MA. IMS and NYI continue our shared work with initiatives and shared goals.