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Commitment to Diversity
This statement articulates IMS’s vision for a more diverse sangha of retreatants, teachers, staff and friends.
"In offering a spiritual refuge for awakening, IMS is committed to cultivating a community that reflects the diversity of our society and our world. We believe that all members of our community benefit from diversity, recognizing that a wide range of human experiences and viewpoints broadens and enriches the understanding of all. We seek to promote the inclusion and participation of people of diverse social identities including those of all races, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities, classes, religions, abilities, and ages, so that all may feel welcome, safe and respected within this community."
When the Buddha awakened, he decided to teach out of compassion for the suffering of all beings. IMS is rooted in this same aspiration – our mission states that we are “a spiritual refuge for all who seek freedom of mind and heart.”
But it became increasingly clear over the decades that, in terms of racial diversity, people of color were largely absent from our sangha of retreatants, teachers, staff, Board members and volunteers. Were people of color not interested in the Buddha’s teachings? Based on the strong attendance at our annual People of Color Retreats for the last 10 years, enthusiasm for the dharma is clearly evident.
So why this absence? IMS began a quest a few years ago to better understand contributing factors and to fully address them. We are clear that, if people of color feel IMS is just like many other predominantly white institutions in the country, then it cannot be a true spiritual refuge. In that case, we would be failing in our mission.
This possibility is simply unacceptable. Our aspiration is to ensure more places at the table for people of color – in our halls, on our teaching faculty or Board, and among our staff and volunteers. It is vital that these voices be included in shaping IMS’s culture and future, so that this refuge continues to be vibrant for generations to come in this increasingly multicultural nation and world.
Larry Yang, an IMS teacher of color and pioneer in deepening our sensitivity to issues of race and their effect on our sangha, told us that this is a long journey. It will take a lot of time and at least an equal amount of effort. IMS is committed to staying the course.
IMS is actively engaged in an organization-wide process, led by its Board of Directors, to deepen sensitivity to issues of diversity so that we can provide an ever more welcoming and respectful retreat environment.
A three-year action plan for 2013 – 2015 is already in place. It focuses primarily on racial diversity. Over time, we will widen our exploration to address other forms of oppression.
The plan has five goals:
- To deepen the understanding and undoing of internalized and institutional racism in order that leaders and members throughout IMS's community can act with wisdom and compassion, informed by sensitivity to racial and cultural realities.
- To reduce barriers for people of color to participate in IMS retreats.
- To enhance the sense of welcoming, community and inspiration that people of color feel about practicing and serving at IMS.
- To offer the teachings in a way that resonates with a racially diverse sangha by enhancing cultural sensitivity on the part of our faculty and by increasing the number of teachers of color.
- To define organizational strategies for sustaining focus on our diversity vision and carrying it forward.
We invite any comments and questions you may have about this vital and ongoing work – please email Executive Director Bob Agoglia at email@example.com and we will respond.