Elevating The Lives Of Black Gay Men Through Buddhist Practice  
  by D.J. Murphy  

There is little disagreement among black gay men that there is a serious need for our lives to be elevated to a positive and affirming place. Many of us are suffering through the ills of the black community, the ills of the same gender attracted community, and especially the ills created when both those communities intertwine. Poverty, AIDS/STD infections, religious abuse, racism, homophobia, family estrangement, relationship disconnects, violence, alcohol/drug addiction, and loveless sexual practices are among the challenges we face. Sadly, this list is only partial.

However, in the depths of our lives many of us know that we are well worth the struggle for betterment, equality, and self- respect. We are not just individuals whose lives are to be taken as receptacles for emotionally and sometimes physically brutal forces in society or for the neglect of our most pressing issues by institutions, family, or by our own lack of self worth. Even the strongest of us need something to uplift our spirits. I knew very early that I could not find my answers in the bottle of Colt 45, marijuana or crack cocaine. My deepest sorrows could not be lifted by the elusive allure of sex, could not be comforted by money, and could not be muffled by a lover. I knew that if I wanted my life to come to a better place I needed to find it from within. I had to go inside myself and see who I was both the parts that frightened me and the parts that told me I was the most brilliant loving guy in the world. I had to learn to embrace the truth of who I am in every way that I am. When I had a gap of understanding I only needed to rely on my wisdom to find a way to bring forth the wisdom of understanding what perplexed me.

I wanted something to help support my efforts in overcoming my own fundamental negativity as well as that the world placed upon me. I wanted to be affirmed as an African American Same Gender Loving Male in addition to all the other personal qualities that makes me unique in the world. One day I came upon Buddhism. I was introduced to it by a woman who was transitioning herself off welfare-to-work in which I was her job developer at an agency in Maryland. She slowly told me of the many Buddhist concepts and as our relationship changed I opened up to her allowing her to talk to me about sexuality. She explained that in Buddhism there is not direct concept of sin, rather things are seen as cause and effect. Thus, what a person does, speak, or think are causes that are sent throughout the universe and simultaneously an effect registers in the depths of our lives. So it matters not that I am with a man as my partner, it does matter how I treat that human being. We are all interconnected and our lives are not lived in a vacuum. This simply means that if I treat a man disrespectfully then I have created a negative cause because I have transmitted negative energy among human beings. A collection of my deeds creates "karma," or energy. An accumulation of negative causes creates negative karma and vice versa for positive causes. As you can imagine, our lives are filled with all kinds causes, but we want to be fully mindful of what kind of energy we are actively creating to understand how our life condition is. I felt good about this because nothing comes across in Buddhism as "sin", which indicates that I have done something wrong or right. Instead it comes across as being mindful of the energy I transmit, and even when I do not know what to do with what I feel, Buddhism tells me that I have innate boundless wisdom and compassion for my life and for that of others. It is a state of life known as "Buddhahood". Buddhahood is inside our lives as black gay men, but so is the state of "hell". Hell in Buddhism is the manifestation of "suffering" in our lives, which is often manifested by the causes we create as individuals and that we collectively create as a society. Often I hear among black gay men a sense of suffering. It is not surprising given all the maladies I mentioned above affecting who we are. A young boy growing up gay, if not given proper guidance, may easily find himself in a state of suffering because he is not given the nourishment that may develop him into a healthy adult. If we do not, as a community of black men who are same gender loving/attracted do something to alleviate the negative conditions in our community, we are in fact helping it to persist. This would require brothers to come to terms with their lives in all facets…that will cross class, gender _expression, and religion. Moreover we have to come to a place of dealing better with other races and the opposite gender. How are we to do this? It seems like a daunting task.

We must elevate our life condition so that the problems in our lives are not problems rather they are challenges in which our vibe is going so strong that we are ready to meet them with courage. When the weight of racism and homophobia seems so heavy to us, it may be that they are in fact stronger than our life condition at the time. Meaning, there is no way you can win over the negatives in the world if you are vibrating in a lower life state. In order to do this, we practitioners of the Japanese Buddhism proposed by Buddhist monk, Nichiren Diashonin chant the phrase "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" each morning and night to infuse our lives with the dynamic boundless energy of truth in the universe. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo summed up is the title of the Lotus Sutra, the doctrine said to be closest to the original teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the historic person who meditated under the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. The sutra itself ultimately speaks to the power of each individual to become absolutely happy and to live in their most highest life condition. Each word, however, has a meaning as well. Nam means devotion to the law itself, Myoho represents the mystic law or the vast universe, which can not be explained in words, but is fully present in our lives, Renge represents the lotus flower which seeds and blooms at the same time showing cause and simultaneous effect, Kyo means teaching the sutra through the power of ones voice. Chanting helps us to take a look at the fundamental truth, the fundamental joy and the fundamental negativity in our lives and use every aspect of it to transform our world. Thus, even when we have transmitted negative energy we have the absolute ability to learn from it, grow with it, and use it toward enlightening ourselves more about our spiritual and emotional functioning. Each practitioner has an alter in their homes, by which to have a place to chant and get in touch with oneself. It is a special place that is dedicated to being where we polish our lives.

I have been a practitioner of Buddhism since September 2002 and since that time I have learned to become more clear about my goals, be more loving to all people, and to increase my faith, practice, and study of the law Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I believe that this practice can help black gay men rise above the challenges of this current day primarily because it speaks to tapping into that potential of greatness that we all share. The Buddhist organization known as SGI-Soka Gakkai International is supportive of goals of both the communities of African Descent and the Same gender loving community. There is a Buddhist retreat and conference held in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area each year at our Florida Nature and Culture Center (FNCC) for both of these communities among many others. Having gone myself this year I am even more affirmed that Buddhism can help us tap into and develop further into the powerful beings we are. Further, it is through raising the bar on reaching our own human potential and having compassion for others that makes each of us shine as the bright star we truly are.

***In Memory of Donna Bunch, the woman who introduced me to Buddhism, whose Spirit transformed itself after she passed away in May 2005 in an automobile accident. She forever will be credited for being the gateway to my expedient spiritual growth through Buddhism.


  D.J. Murphy is a Masters Trained Professional Counselor at a gay and lesbian mental health facility in Washington DC and is in current pursuit of a doctorate in clinical psychology. In 2002, Murphy published a book entitled "Sons Like Me,"a book of short stories on the lives of black gay men. Since that year he became a Buddhist and officially joined SGI in February 2003. Since that time, Murphy has used his energy to help heal the lives of others and also himself. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  



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