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Buddhists Bring Karmic Healing to Antioch, California


Two hundred Buddhists traveled to Antioch, California, on 16 March in the hope of leveraging the power of Buddhist ritual to remove the negative energies that the town has accumulated over the years.

Antioch, a town of some 200,000 people, has a terrible and violent history that includes the abuse and mistreatment of Chinese immigrants in the 1800s.

Buddhists descended on the town, located near the delta that feeds San Francisco Bay, to offer a ritual purification: walking, burning incense, and reciting Buddhist and Daoist chants in the hope that they could restore the town’s legacy through positive actions, and heal the psychic wounds inflicted by the racial hatred that took place there.

Many Chinese immigrants came to Antioch to find employment in the 1800s, working in mines, building railroads, and maintaining levees. Because of racial discrimination, they were forced to endure sundown laws and to use tunnels to secretly move from one place to another. Over time, a Chinatown developed, which was composed of several city blocks and a Buddhist-Daoist temple, but it was summarily burned down.

The Buddhist pilgrimage on 16 March was called “May We Gather,” and the Buddhists who participated scheduled it to coincide with the anniversary of the Atlanta mass shooting that took place three years ago.

The white gunman who perpetrated the massacre, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, claimed that he did so because he viewed the female employees of Asian-American massage parlors as “sources of temptation.” (CNBC) Eight people were killed and a ninth was wounded in the attacks. Of those killed, six were women of Asian descent.

One of the organizers of the Buddhist pilgrimage to Antioch was Rev. Duncan Williams, a Soto Zen priest and professor of religion at the University of Southern California. Rev. Williams, who is of Japanese descent, stated that the massacre in Atlanta was not dissimilar to events that took place in Antioch in 1876, when locals burned down the homes of Chinese women who were accused of being sex workers.

Three years ago, Antioch took an important step in the healing and reconciliation process by becoming the first US city to publicly apologize for the way Chinese immigrants were treated during California’s gold rush.

However, Rev. Duncan Williams stated that the Buddhists who attended the pilgrimage wanted more than a political response: they wanted “a Buddhist response that draws on our teachings and practice,” to honor ancestors and heal historical and current racial trauma. (ABC News)

The Buddhists is attendance represented Buddhist groups from many countries and traditions. Buddhist chants were recited in many languages, with Pali as well as Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Tibetan, and Vietnamese represented.

The group gathered in Antioch’s El Campanil Theatre to take part in a “karmic healing,” placing four tables on an altar that held the names of victims of violence. They also made offerings and recited prayers to Guanyin, the bodhisattva of mercy and compassion.

Local residents expressed support for the event, seeing it as a way to become more inclusive and heal the trauma of the city’s past. Recently, several civil rights lawsuits were filed against the city, involving 20 plaintiffs who alleged that they had experienced police misconduct, racial profiling, and excessive use of force.

One resident, Karen J. Oliver, said of the day’s proceedings: “We all need peace and reconciliation and whatever road we can find it on, we need to take that road.” (ABC News) Another resident, Frank Sterling, stated that he saw the Buddhist rituals as a major step toward healing the entire community.

See more

Buddhists use karmic healing against one US city’s anti-Asian legacy and nationwide prejudice today (Yahoo! News)
Buddhists use karmic healing against one US city’s anti-Asian legacy and nationwide prejudice today (ABC News)
Atlanta spa shooter who targeted Asian women pleads guilty to four of eight murders (CNBC)

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