Rebecca Walker


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Many Who Are Free


I'm a Buddhist.

Not just a part-time Buddhist, but a twenty-year Buddhist.

I'm a Buddhist because I grew up amongst Baptists, Jews, and Goddess-worshipers, and none of them spoke the language of my particular heart. I am a Buddhist because my parents, generously, gave me the freedom to find my own spiritual path.

I'm a Buddhist because for many years I was a seeker. And because I was a seeker, for some time, books were my religion, my life.

I read so many books! About the lives of women all over the world. About people fighting for freedom. About people making beauty under unspeakable conditions. I read Franz Fanon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, T.S. Eliot, Bessie Head, William Faulkner, Ayi Kwei Armah. I read Liberation Theology, French feminist theory...

I read about the artists I loved--Mark Rothko and Roy Decarava, Frida Kahlo and Seydou Keita, who took the photo above.

I read poetry, like June Jordan's The Things I Do In The Dark, and The Captain's Verses by Pablo Neruda, both of which changed my life forever.

And I also read a lot of books about Buddhism. The first was Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk nominated for the Nobel prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dozens of others followed, from every Buddhist tradition, but that book was the beginning.

Buddhism's teachings on interdependence, compassion, and the cultivation of happiness rather than regret, were just what a mixed race, multi-everything girl needed to hear to feel whole. Buddhism said the fragmentation I felt was an illusion. My essential nature as a human being had never been broken, never been stained. My thoughts about myself were problematic.

But my thoughts could be changed.

There is more to say about this, but watching "Buddha's Warriors" on CNN last night, I couldn't help but think about CNN's "Black in America." There were no African-Americans in "Buddha's Warriors," and no Buddhists in "Black in America."

And yet there are many who have feet in both worlds, many who feel the idea of "two worlds" is, itself, an illusion.

Many who are free.

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