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Letter 64 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 64

DAY 64

Eric Haruki Swanson

Assistant Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University
March 24, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

On Inauguration Day, President Biden recognized our current historical moment as one of “crisis and challenge,” calling upon the nation to see that “unity is the path forward.” While the message brought about a feeling of optimism for the future of this nation, it saddens me to see the persistence of the divisive rhetoric that continues to plague our public and private discourse, drowning out all calls for unity.

As a multiracial Asian American, the physical violence and vile words directed at our fellow citizens to “Go back to your country” reverberate within me, conjuring up the moments in my life that challenged my understanding of what it means to be an American. As a nation, we uphold justice and equality as our core values, and yet we continue to witness moments in which we must question whether these ideals ring true for all of us.

“…the profound truth of our shared humanity is always present…”

How can we open our hearts and respond to the calls for unity when they continue to be muffled by the voices of hatred, greed, and ignorance? The Buddhist tradition has long recognized the necessity to combat these poisons. The first fascicle of the Mahāvairocana-sūtra begins with an exposition on the nature of our mind, suggesting that the profound truth of our shared humanity is always present, not only in the mind of the Buddhist practitioner, but also in the minds of all sentient beings regardless of who they are or where they stand. The task given to the practitioner is not only for one to realize this truth within themselves, but also to have the courage, perseverance, and compassion to help others. This arduous path must begin with the recognition of the fundamental humanity we all share.

As we all work to heal our nation, I humbly ask that we each carefully examine our own actions and words as we help one another recognize our interdependent and shared humanity, not only as a goal to achieve in the future, but as the foundation on which we stand as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Eric Haruki Swanson

Dr. Eric Haruki Swanson
Assistant Professor of Theological Studies
Loyola Marymount University

the author

Eric Haruki Swanson, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, earned his MA in Esoteric Buddhism from Koyasan University in Japan and his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Harvard University. As a cultural historian, he studies the Buddhist traditions of Japan through the examination of literature, visual material, ritual practices, and performance arts. His current book project is a study of scholar-monk and poet Jien (1155-1225) and his establishment of Buddhist ritual programs that aimed to restore order in the capital of medieval Japan.