How Can Sanghas Respond to the Overturning of Roe v Wade? 

How Can Sanghas Respond to the Overturning of Roe v Wade? 
Photo by Ian Hutchinson

As we grapple with the spiritual and practical issues of bodily autonomy, safety, and belonging, it’s important to remember that we still have a choice: to be there for each other.

By Juliana Sloane

Anumber of years ago, I was the manager of a thriving Buddhist meditation center in a large urban center. The community was full of sincere, deeply committed practitioners, many of whom had turned to the dharma after experiencing trauma or addiction. I loved the sangha deeply and was committed to serving what had become a refuge for so many. However, it was also an extremely male-dominated sangha where many of us felt the weight of a subtle sexism that slowly eroded the fabric of a community we loved. 

When the meditation center first opened and we began to develop its programming, I remember advocating for a sitting group for practitioners who identify as women. It felt important to me given the dynamics of the sangha, but was dismissed—until Donald Trump was elected president. 

By that time, I had resigned as manager, but I joined a cohort of incredible people to co-create and lead this fledgling women’s sangha. Things changed quickly, and a year or two after the women’s sangha began, the meditation center it was born from collapsed following the sexual misconduct of its founding teacher. It was a heartbreaking time for countless people.

As the community dissolved, the women began to talk with each other in ways they hadn’t before. Deeper truths came out. I heard experience after experience of women feeling less valued, less seen, and less respected than their male counterparts in our sangha. The stories I heard weren’t about sex or harassment. They were the kind of small, subtle incidents that you feel afraid to name because people will tell you you’re overreacting, or you might get labeled as being “difficult” or “crazy.” The stories I heard reflected my own experiences—not one horrific event, but a slow accumulation of moments that illuminate the knowledge that you’re not as valued or respected as other people.

Years later, as a practitioner and counselor of Depth Hypnosis (a therapy that draws on Buddhism, hypnotherapy, and shamanic wisdom), I still occasionally work with members of that sangha as they grapple with that experience of shattered trust, as well as many others who have experienced harm in spiritual or religious communities. I’ve witnessed and known deeply the kind of spiritual harm that corrodes an entire community when women and other groups are not treated fully as peers. That is some of what’s on my mind now as Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

For all of us who are members of a sangha, we must acknowledge that more than half of the people in our community are currently faced with a deep and painful spiritual question:

How do we navigate our relationship to faith, to community, and to ourselves when we are living in a society that no longer deems us worthy of bodily autonomy?

This question will touch all of us, but particularly the most marginalized members of each sangha. For many, this will be far more than a spiritual and philosophical question. It will be a question about survival. How do we survive and practice the dharma in a world where crucial choices around health, our bodies, and our lives can no longer be exercised? How will we respond as the overturning of Roe v Wade disproportionately touches the lives of our sangha members who are women, but also women who are poor, disabled, queer, transgender, or from BIPOC communities? As practitioners, leaders, and as sanghas, these are questions we must answer.

Lama Rod Owens shared on Instagram earlier this week, “Just to be clear, as a spiritual teacher I will continue not abiding by any law, tradition, belief, or etiquette that jeopardizes access to basic resources supporting the safety, happiness, and health of myself and others. I will also continue helping others do the same.” 

As Buddhist practitioners committed to ethical conduct and to liberation from suffering, it is appropriate to question (and at times actively disobey) the rites and rituals that take us farther away from truth or that cause harm and suffering to others. Even if those rites and rituals are handed down to us from the Supreme Court.

So how do we address this in our sangha in the days and months that follow? Here are some possibilities for communities to explore:…


F. Kaskais Web Guru

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