More Mushim at BUDDHAFEST 2017!

Buddhafest LA talk by Mushim on June 4, 2017

Healing the Divide: Diversity, Compassion, Interconnection 

The deep political and spiritual divisions many people are experiencing in the U.S. during these uncertain times cause suffering and fear. And, is there an opportunity here for us to come closer to one another, to compassionately and skillfully bridge grievous divides in our communities and families? Can the 2,600-year-old teachings and practices of the Buddha help us to illuminate and understand our differences along with the compassionate acknowledgment and deep realization of our fundamental interconnectedness? Let's explore how not turning away from issues of inequity, social engagement, and the liberation movements of our times creates the potential for greater awakening, both individual and collective. 

For more Info on Buddhafest LA schedule and to purchase tickets:

Stand Against Suffering: An Unprecedented Call to Action

Stand Against Suffering: An Unprecedented Call to Action by Buddhist Teachers.

Thirteen leading Buddhist teachers, joined by more than 100 additional signatories, call on Buddhists and all people of faith to take a stand against policies of the new administration that will create suffering for the most vulnerable in society.


Read the article here.

Awakin Conference Call with Muslim 1/14/17

Please click on the link above to learn how to join Mushim on this call on January 14th, 2017!

Taking the Great Vow Not to Burn Out

[Mushim] is a committed social activist who has noted that "this gritty world is full of suffering and stress, and in order to meet this we need to be curious, resilient, grounded, insightful, compassionate, spiritually skillful, bold and courageous."  What tools help you to live joyfully, contribute passionately, and not burn out?

More info:
About Awakin Calls
Awakin Calls are a weekly conference call that anyone from around the world can dial into. It is completely free, without any ads or solicitation. Each call features a unique theme and an inspiring guest speaker, with the simple hope of spreading positive ideas and connecting kindred spirits. Our guests have ranged from the former head of Amnesty International, Wharton's youngest full professor, and a path-breaking neurosurgeon, to the soccer-playing celebrity champion of Survivor, a prize-winning journalist, and a socially conscious hip-hop rapper. 

What is the call format? 
Every Saturday at 9AM PST, we hold a global conference call with an inspiring individual, such as yourself. :) We open with a moderated interview with the speaker, and then open it up for an open-mic circle of sharing and Q&A. 

How can I join as a guest? 
To join as a guest, simply find an upcoming call and RSVP. You will be emailed details to dial-in and voila. We think of all call participants -- both speakers and listeners -- as active co-creators in the dialogue process, so we look forward to your participation. On average, about 60 people RSVP for each of calls, and we aim to keep the conversation intimate and also encourage post-call interactions.

I Vow Not To Burn Out (excerpt)

“Superman Buddha, Force Within” by Elisa Insua.

“Superman Buddha, Force Within” by Elisa Insua.

Mushim Ikeda says it’s not enough to help others. You have to take care of yourself too.
(As seen in the Fall 2016 issue of Buddha Dharma.)

At the end of January, one of my close spiritual friends died. A queer Black man, a Sufi imam “scholartivist” (scholar–artist–activist) and professor of ministry students, Baba Ibrahim Farajajé died of a massive heart attack. He was sixty-three, and I’m guessing he had been carrying too much. It was only six months earlier that Baba and I had sat together on a stage in downtown Oakland, California, under a large hand-painted banner that read #BlackLivesMatter. A brilliant, transgressive bodhisattva, Baba had been targeted for multiple forms of oppression throughout his life and had not been silent about it. When he died, I was sad and angry. I took to staying up all night, chanting and meditating; during my daytime work, I was exhausted.

How many of us who have taken the bodhisattva vow are on a similar path toward burnout? Is it possible for us, as disciples of the Buddha, to engage with systemic change, grow and deepen our spiritual practice, and, if we’re laypeople, also care for our families? How can we do all of this without collapsing? In my world, there always seems to be way too much to do, along with too much suffering and societal corruption and not enough spaces of deep rest and regeneration.

When I get desperate, which is pretty often, I ask myself how to not be overwhelmed by despair or cynicism. For my own sake, for my family, and for my sangha, I need to vow to not burn out. And I ask others to vow similarly so they’ll be around when I need them for support. In fact, I’ve formulated a “Great Vow for Mindful Activists."

Click here to read the vow along with the rest of the article.

Breathing Exercises With Mushim To Increase Mindfulness

Breathing exercises with Mushim Patricia Ikeda to increase mindfulness

A fun session on mindfulness as a tool for personal and career development that I led at the recent UC Berkeley NOW conference for staff career development.

Feeling stressed? Confused?

Turn palms of both hands upward, raise arms slowly overhead and stretch up up up as you breathe in deeply.

Turn palms of hands outward as though you're pushing against two walls that are on your left and right sides and lower arms slowly as you breathe out, out, out.

Repeat. Notice how you feel. (Important point: With mindfulness, you aren't being told to feel better or worse. If this little exercise makes you feel more relaxed and alert, notice it. If you feel even more stressed after you do it, notice that. If you don't give a hoot and you feel no different, notice that.)

The important thing is: you tried something that might help you feel less anxious and stressed. If it helped, make a mental note for the future. If it didn't help, notice that and then TRY SOMETHING ELSE that supports your sense of well-being.

Because you can do this, even in "little ways." You've got it!

The Maturation of a White Ally

As posted on
Itroduction by Eleanor Hancock, cofounder of the White Awake website, May 2016:

"White people on an anti-racist path need allies of color who can support our journey – people who will talk to us honestly, tell us like it is, while also encouraging us and believing in us. Mushim Ikeda is one of these people. As an American of Japanese descent growing up in rural Ohio, the threads of oppression, assimilation, and resistance are intertwined in Mushim’s life history. A Buddhist teacher, writer, and multicultural community activist, Mushim is widely known for her down-to-earth, humorous, and penetrating approach to Dharma and social transformation.

In this piece, created explicitly for White Awake, Mushim points out that while our anti-racist intentions might feel good, how we relate to our privileged status is where the rubber meets the road. It’s risky, yet rewarding, this commitment to true racial equity, and collective liberation."


Speaking as a person of color, I want to thank you for your intention to become a white ally to people of color.*

And, if you’re at the beginning of your ally journey, there’s something you need to know, right off the bat, if you haven’t already given it a lot of thought. Beyond feeling good about being anti-racist, you’re going to need to face your fear of losing your protected status as a white person.

In other words, it’s unlikely that you can have your cake and eat it too. Unexamined white privilege, institutionalized racism, and white supremacy are in the air that we breathe in the U.S., in the soil beneath us. Once you begin to side with the causes of people of color, it is possible that you may find yourself, at times, feeling alone. Other white people may regard you with suspicion because you side with people of color. People of color may regard you with suspicion because you are white.

And that’s one of many reasons why you’re going to need other white allies, so that you feel supported.

Many white people of good intentions feel personally attacked and deeply injured when terms such as “white supremacy” and “racism” are used by people of color and their white allies. They might prefer that softer words such as “discrimination” or “prejudice” are used, referring to the individual acts of individual persons. This is sometimes called the “Kumbaya” form of white allyship. In this approach to anti-racism work, it is thought that to combat personal ignorance and prejudice, people of different races and ethnicities can get to know one another better. We can share some meals, perhaps potlucks with foods from our varied ethnic backgrounds, gather in sharing circles, and sing spiritual songs of humanity’s unity. We might celebrate holidays from around the world together. These activities, if not accompanied by rigorous structural analysis and discussions of the inequitable distribution of power and wealth, are sometimes called the “Food & Festivals approach” to diversity work.

As a white ally, it’s also possible that you may feel unseen, at times, in the ways that you have suffered from oppression. It seems as though many white people don’t understand the term “white privilege” because they don’t yet understand that it refers to the unearned access and privilege that comes with their whiteness, and doesn’t mean that they haven’t struggled or experienced lack of unearned privilege in other dimensions of their lives and being. A white person may have struggled very hard in their life because of childhood abuse or because their parents were poor and couldn’t afford dental care for the kids. Everyone, without exception, has their own suffering. A mature white ally knows where to go for support, so that they don’t burden people of color with either their guilt that they benefit from white privilege, or their hurt feelings resulting from being rejected by people of color or from feeling not seen in their wholeness.

I treasure the mature white allies I have, because I know they have my back. And to do that, they have to be ready to speak up, to act, and to give up their protected status as white people. Allan G. Johnson, writing about “the great collective [white] silence” and how systems of privilege work in the book Privilege, Power, and Difference, says:

“Human beings are highly dependent on one another for standards of what – and who —is okay and who isn’t…. What counts isn’t just what they do, but even more what they don’t do.”

Johnson says he imagines “a scene in which a gang of white men are beating a person of color in broad daylight on a city street.” His book was published in 2006, and, ten years later, in 2016, we see how little has changed in the U.S. In the scenario, the white onlookers feel no ill will to the person of color being beaten, and they aren’t cheering on the attackers. They’re “minding their own business.” And then, he writes, “one of the men [attackers] stops, looks up, and says, his eyes panning across our faces, ‘We appreciate your support. We couldn’t do this without you.’”

“This is how racism and other forms of privilege really work day in and day out,” Johnson says, in conclusion. “It results from what is called ‘passive oppression,’ which can be defined as making it possible for oppression to happen simply by doing nothing to stop it.”

Anyone in a dominant culture risks a lot when they stop being part of passive oppression. Beyond their feelings being hurt by possible rejection, a white person who is part of an invited group of all-white presenters at a conference risks losing income and networking opportunities if they say, “There’s something really wrong here and I demand that we address it.” And that’s only one example, out of thousands and maybe millions of possible scenarios.

We need white allies who are well trained and mature, in my opinion. We need as many as possible. People of color and folks of mixed heritage in the U.S. have lots of our own work to do in the service of liberation. I’m writing this in May of 2016, subsequent to the Occupy movement, and during the current era of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the Movement for Black Lives. These are ongoing life-and-death struggles. And all of this raises the questions: What are you willing to do and say? What are you willing to give up?

These are meant to be open questions, and they deserve to be asked with deep compassion. They point toward a journey that requires courage, conviction, support, and an unwavering commitment to learning. And my hope is that it is also a joyful journey, a journey of spiritual deepening and opening and renewal. Because when we move from spiritual contemplation into the wisest action accessible to us in the moment, we can know for a fact that our lives are happier when we stop making it possible for oppression to happen, and if we mess up, which is inevitable at times, that this gives us the opportunity to learn and to grow. I have heard many white people who self-identify as liberal and progressive in their political views say they discover in anti-racism work that they need to give up their protective self-image as “the good, non-racist white person” who is down with the cause, and who considers themself to be completely separated from “racist white people.”

As Eleanor Hancock (co-founder and director of White Awake) says, “We can shift from feeling the fear of losing our protected and privileged status to the knowledge that this potential loss is inseparable from the potential for collective liberation – a much, much greater gain.”

*Note: I understand that the term “white ally to people of color” is a contested term. Some people like it and find it useful; others do not. In discussions of race and dismantling racism and white supremacy in the United States, there is a constant evolution of preferred terms. My understanding and use of the term “white ally” in this context is that a white ally is a person with white-skin or white-person-identified unearned privilege who engages in anti-racism work while practicing principles of cultural humility. (Regarding the term “cultural humility” as defined by Drs. Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia, search for “cultural humility Vivian Chávez” on YouTube.)

Crossing the Great Divides in U.S. Buddhism

"There are people who freely cross the divides in U.S. Buddhism, feeling welcomed and at home everywhere they go; these folks, however, aren’t usually the voices that are heard in convert U.S. Buddhist media. We can become these folks if we make the effort. Start small and identify a Buddhist group that’s quite unlike your own; ask if you can visit and go with a friend. Take a donation of food or flowers or money. Ask lots of questions and make it clear you’re interested in their culture and what they’ve achieved in building their temple, undoubtedly persevering through many difficulties. Then, although of course nothing is ever 100% guaranteed, be prepared to be the recipient of warm hospitality, and gain transformative insights into new worlds, and to make new spiritual friends. It probably won’t feel 100% comfortable to you to be there, but learning new things doesn’t mean you have to agree with them."

From Justin Whitaker at

Today I am again very honored to share a guest post in our ongoing series of expanding perspectives on race and diversity in American Buddhism. Recent posts include yesterday’s (forthcoming) book excerpt from Lama Choyin Rangdrol, “African American Buddhism…” an interview discussing an emerging and wonderful voice -several voices, in fact- in the Western Buddhist world, the Tibetan Feminist Collective, and two excellent academic pieces that started things off: “Race Matters…” and “The Dukkha of Racism…”.

Today’s article comes with a home-work assignment of sorts for me and for interested readers: to get a hold of Diana Eck’s book A New Religious America... mentioned below and read the chapter on Buddhism and come back here in about 10 or so days to discuss that chapter (I’ll provide a summarizing blog post to start things off). Along with that, check out Eck’s Harvard-based Pluralism Project: As Mushim mentions Rick Fields, I’ll also note another pioneer in the study of American Buddhism who has been a great influence on me:Charles Prebish, whose 30+ year career (1979, American Buddhism - 2011, Looking West…) studying American Buddhism includes texts co-edited by greats like Martin Baumann and Kenneth Tanaka. More on him and Fields and other figures perhaps in the upcoming post on Eck’s work; for now, please enjoy today’s excellent work by Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda.

The recent cover image of the first issue of Lion’s Roar magazine, showing 14 U.S. Buddhist teachers who are beautifully diverse in some ways, provocatively and boldly titled “The New Face of Buddhism,” has excited both praise as well as substantial deconstructive critique. Lion’s Roar is a rebranding of the former Shambhala Sun,and not a new publication.

The praise comes from people, myself included, who appreciate the inclusion of people of different races and ethnicities, ages, gender identities, and body shapes and sizes among the teachers chosen to be photographed, many of whom I know well and love, or know slightly and respect.

I also sympathize with the thoughtful critiques, such as those published recently byfive Buddhist Peace Fellowship authors, which once again shine light on the stunningly great divides among U.S. Buddhist communities and individuals. These persist despite information being readily available for Buddhists in the U.S. to educate ourselves on “The Old Face of Buddhism” in this country, to the extent that a newish sort of religion can have an old face. But you get my drift – Buddhism has been in the U.S. and in North America for awhile, certainly over a hundred years, and books like Rick Fields’s classic How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America have been out since 1981, joined by newer and excellent accounts such as the long and research-based chapter on U.S. Buddhism in Dr. Diana Eck’s A New Religious America: How a “Christian” Country Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation.

It has been said that there is no American Buddhism, only American Buddhisms, and this is a useful truth to keep in mind, I think.

It was only a few years ago that I was seated at dinner with a diversity and inclusion professional, who appeared to be a white person, a person who was new to me. They asked about the work I had done in the D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) field. I replied that I am Buddhist and most of my diversity work has been done in Buddhist communities in the U.S., particularly focusing on racism.

They seemed very interested, smiled, and said, “I practice meditation with a Buddhist group!” Then they furrowed their brow slightly and said, in a thoughtful voice, “But there aren’t many people of color who are Buddhists.”

This was one of those moments of truth where one can choose to be mindful or not. I took a deep breath, then said as warmly and kindly as I could, “I disagree. Buddhism comes from Asia, and most Buddhists, globally speaking, are people of color.”

The person thought about this, then said, “I guess I mean Black people.”

I replied, “Actually, there are large Buddhist groups such as SGI-USA who have significant membership of people of color who are not Asian-descended, including large numbers of African Americans.”

I could tell that all of this was new and confusing information to this person, who seemed like a well-educated white professional. And they are not alone. If you go into a sampling of U.S. Buddhist groups that are predominantly white converts and ask, “If I ask you to think of three to five images of ‘a typical American Buddhist,’ who do you see in your mind?” the answer is likely to be almost completely different than if you go into a sampling of U.S. Buddhist groups that were founded by Asian Buddhist immigrants, anywhere from over 100 years ago up to fairly recently, and ask the same question.

Both broad categories are likely to contain a large number of people who self-identify as “Americans,” meaning U.S. citizens, but between these groups is what seems to me like an almost impenetrable wall, often, or an abyss in which phone and Internet signals mysteriously disappear.

The reasons for this divide, it has been noted, include, although they are not solely reduced to, racism. And, because issues of socioeconomic class usually co-arise with issues of race and ethnicity, there is classism as well. Asian American Buddhists, like Asian Americans in general, commonly encounter racism in the forms of being regarded as perpetual foreigners, sometimes exoticized, sometimes feared, and most often completely ignored or what is called “invisibilized” in addition to what is sometimes called “Otherized” these days. Last year, for instance, I was talking to a white American woman in a Buddhist center in Berkeley and we had been chatting for quite awhile. English is my first and primary language, except for a little French, and I speak with a flat Midwestern accent, having grown up near Akron, Ohio; I am a sansei, or third generation Japanese American who has never been to Japan. After we’d been talking pleasantly for at least fifteen minutes, the woman said, “Are you from Hong Kong?” I replied that I am originally from Ohio and asked why she thought I was from Hong Kong. She said, “There were some other people from Hong Kong here earlier today.” I hope it is obvious that it is exactly this sort of conflation of identity and nationality, based on physical appearance, that was at the root of the reason that American citizens of Japanese descent were placed in concentration camps in World War II. That these implicit associations and biases exist so strongly today among people of undoubted good will is something to be strongly taken into account when white convert Buddhist groups consider or are challenged to consider diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Meanwhile, the so-called Asian American and the Asian immigrant U.S. Buddhist organizations and groups are doing what they’ve done, in some cases for over a century in this country: serving their communities. I always knew better than to try to reach my late friend, Ven. Thich An Duc, an African American senior Buddhist monk who resided in Chua Dieu Phap, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in San Gabriel, California anytime around Buddha’s birthday or other major Buddhist holidays. The venerable, who also went by the name Bhante Suhita Dharma, told me that Chua Dieu Phap would easily draw 2,000 people for Buddha’s birthday, and that the temple had a system in place so that services were held, everyone got fed, bathroom facilities were provided, and people of all ages, from babies in arms up to elderly folks in wheelchairs, were well cared for. Similar thriving, multigenerational scenes that fluidly include laypersons, monastics, married clergy, and visiting Buddhist dignitaries, albeit perhaps with smaller numbers, can be found – should one have the consciousness to look – at hundreds and probably thousands of Asian-descended American Buddhist centers and communities that have impressive infrastructure, including Dharma schools for young children and teenagers, in the U.S.

Although it’s a bit of a collector’s item, Taking Refuge in L.A.: Life in a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, a book of lyrical photos by Don Farber and text by Rick Fields, can still be found, and, were I calling the shots, would be viewed avidly by every person in a predominantly white, U.S. convert Buddhist community as a foundation of their Dharma study. In my experience, U.S. people of color who are converts to Buddhism usually have a fairly strong awareness that Dharma in the U.S. includes both Buddhists of Asian as well as non-Asian descent, and includes African Americans, Latin@s and Hispanics, U.S. indigenous peoples, and people of mixed heritage as well as people from other countries, including often invisibilized Canadians. “Minority awareness” seems to fairly easily translate to an openness to consider that “American Buddhists” might be diverse also, regarding sexual orientation, gender-identity, ability and disability, and other dimensions of diversity.

How to cross this great divide? It’s probably evident that some additional factors that keep it so firmly in place are cultural differences and needs, as well as negative perceptions and judgments on both sides. There are people who freely cross the divides in U.S. Buddhism, feeling welcomed and at home everywhere they go; these folks, however, aren’t usually the voices that are heard in convert U.S. Buddhist media. We can become these folks if we make the effort. Start small and identify a Buddhist group that’s quite unlike your own; ask if you can visit and go with a friend. Take a donation of food or flowers or money. Ask lots of questions and make it clear you’re interested in their culture and what they’ve achieved in building their temple, undoubtedly persevering through many difficulties. Then, although of course nothing is ever 100% guaranteed, be prepared to be the recipient of warm hospitality, and gain transformative insights into new worlds, and to make new spiritual friends. It probably won’t feel 100% comfortable to you to be there, but learning new things doesn’t mean you have to agree with them.

If the System Stinks, How Do We Change It? A Turning Wheel Media interview with Mushim Ikeda

As you may have heard, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s 2013 series of dialogues, “The System Stinks” is available! We’re going to be talking about true systemic issues, like greed enshrined in capitalism, colonialism in our mind and world, and what we can do about it. At this point, you might be wondering who exactly you’ll be talking to about all this stuff. To give a glimpse into the year ahead, BPF will be posting some interviews with prominent BPF members giving their take on social engagement, Buddhism, and the intersection of the two. Our first interview is with Dharma leader Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda.