National Association Of Buddhist Advocates

National Association Of Buddhist Advocates

Cultural Buddhist communities in America face unique challenges and require our assistance and advocacy.

Cultural Buddhist Communities in America and the need for Advocacy:   Here is an example from one of our Shami that illustrates the need in America for Buddhist Advocacy, "Over the last three years I have developed a working relationship and friendship with a Buddhist Nun who shepherds our local Vietnamese community. Her title is, Shuko Hang. Shuko means literally, "nun." She came to Rochester, NY ten years ago from Canada after immigration from Vietnam sometime after the war. She was a nurse in Vietnam prior to her arrival in Canada and worked as such until she neared her forty's when she became a Mahayana Monk. Her lineage includes Monks from all over the world shepherding Sangha in many locations in North America and abroad. Shuko Hang and her working class Vietnamese immigrant Sangha fund a yearly medical treatment week for various isolated and poor villages in Vietnam. This is an expression of their faith to give back generously among other charitable activities. These types of selfless deeds, in immigrant Buddhist communities all over America, go unknown and unrecognized by local communities due to traditional Buddhist ideas of humility in performing charity. Unfortunately, this modesty and anonymous generosity along with cultural and language barriers help foster stereotypes of separateness rather than connection in the local community because there is no opportunity to see them as valuable additions to society. Because of status as working class immigrants many of the Vietnamese work 60-70 hours a week in nail salons and other enterprises. This does not leave a lot of extra time or money for their families yet they are the most generous Sangha I have ever seen. They give their time and their hard earned money to the Temple, the Clergy and to their community projects in Vietnam. This comes from the depth of their Faith and Practice in Buddhism. Cultural Buddhists from around the world in our various communities are similar and should be models and real inspiration for our American Sangha as we mature. These same inspirational ethnic Buddhists are also often times misunderstood in their American communities due to cultural and language barriers. These factors can cause impediments that make it difficult to assimilate easily into local culture for generations. This is true for Shuko Hang's community as well there is a lack of understanding from the local community coupled with a bit of xenophobia and resentment from both communities. Vanh Hanh Meditation Center _Chua van hanh the Vietnamese Temple here in Rochester is located in a former nail salon/house with two attached empty lots in the inner-city. Over the last ten years the Temple has been broken into or robed on five to six separate occasions and local youth have climbed the fence and broken statues as well as other vandalism. This has caused a lot of trauma in the Vietnamese Sangha and most especially in Shuko Hang. She now has wooden bars to reinforce the doors and a security system of cameras watching the entire property but she still has no heat in her bedroom except for a space heater. Having said this, the Temple has become flourishing and vibrant regardless of causes and conditions or perhaps because of them! Shuko and her Sangha have taken the empty lots and created a paradise of gardens, walkways and small buildings. Shuko uses the land to grow a cornucopia of medicinal herbs and spices to take care of her Sangha's health needs through traditional remedies and provide housing for visiting Monks. Unfortunately, the Sangha's enthusiasm for accomplishing Shuko's grand visions for their space sometimes causes friction with over enthusiastic City Inspectors due to a variety of zoning laws and restrictions. None of which Shuko Hang knows a thing about. Couple this with her penchant for wanting to acquire more and more property around the Temple for her community to grow into along with her English as a second language and direct communication style... You can see how there might be the potential for misunderstanding in the neighborhood. This is where we began to work together. We shared Buddhism and she needed a native speaker of both English and Buddhism to help her with her zoning problems with the City, feeling safe in her space and with her relationship building in her neighborhood. We have since, with the help friends and several local community organizations, helped to create a much more compassionate and equitable relationship between Shuko Hang, the Temple and the neighborhood. This has been accomplished by creating connections between communities and avenues for communication. Currently, we have set up a cooperative relationship between a local community green house/not for profit connected to a school that is next door to the Temple with Shuko Hang to share and grow medicinal herbs, food and cooking methods/recipes. Shuko has even been invited to come speak to the elementary and Middle School children during their sections on both Buddhism and the Vietnam War which Shuko grew up during. We have also with the help of the greenhouse organization started inner faith communication between the local Baptist Church and the Vietnamese Sangha through shared love of plants and herbs. All of this was accomplished without the help of any organization and without local governmental or community support prior to our efforts on the behalf of the Vietnamese community. They were being slapped with hundreds of dollars in fines by City inspectors and saying nothing. They just paying and paying. It took a local, myself, to say enough is enough and try to help. It was very luck that I knew what to do and had the moxy to do it but what about other communities and other individuals? This wasn't easy and I had to seek out lawyers, advocates, para legals ect. to remedy the situation. Not everyone can do this without support. Think about how many situations just like this might be happening around the country without the qualified or motivated individuals necessary to help. THIS is WHY we need the National Association Of Buddhist Advocates!!!"   Gassho 合掌、 Shami Kanyu 観涌 Kroll  

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