2021-03-14: Practicing with the Four Dharma Seals in our Response to Hate Crimes

Dharma talk by Sosan Flynn and Jake Nagasawa on Sunday, March 14, 2021.

How do we practice with the four dharma seals (impermanence, no separate self, suffering, and nirvana) in our response to hate crimes? Guiding Teacher Sosan presents the last of four talks on the four dharma seals and has invited Buddhist scholar and practitioner Jake Nagasawa to join her in exploring this topic. The catalyst for this dharma presentation is a possible hate crime that targeted a Japanese-American Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles. On Thursday night, February 26, an unknown person toppled a tōrō or stone lantern, broke a window, and tried to start a fire inside the historic Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, which was founded in 1904. Given the rise of anti-Asian violence across the U.S., this incident is being investigated as a hate crime. 

All incidences of racially-motivated violence are deeply disturbing and thoroughly outraging; this one strikes a particular chord with us since the target was a Japanese-American Buddhist community. It is well-documented that, in the years leading up to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, Japanese American Buddhists in particular were–wrongly, unjustly–considered potential traitors by the U.S. government. The targeting of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple is thus part of a much longer history of anti-Japanese/anti-Buddhist prejudice in the U.S. 

So, how do we practice with this? Sosan and Jake will bring the lens of Buddhist teachings and historical education in order to help us find our best response. 

Jake E. Nagasawa is a doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara with an emphasis on Buddhist Studies. He has published in the Journal of World Buddhist CulturesAsia Pacific: Perspectives, and Reading Religion. He was born and raised on O’ahu in Hawai’i. Jake is a member of Clouds in Water and one of the facilitators of the People of Color/Indigenous (POCI) sitting group at Clouds.

Sosan Flynn is a Soto Zen priest and the guiding teacher of Clouds in Water Zen Center. She is also currently the president of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America. Sosan has studied and practiced Soto Zen Buddhism for the past 29 years, receiving dharma transmission (full teaching authority) from Joen Snyder O’Neal in 2012. She has 20 years of experience teaching classes on Zen Buddhism, meditation, ethical guidelines, and mindful speaking & listening. Sosan has a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has also worked in both community mental health and staff training.