Reflecting on AAPI Heritage Month and Corpus Christi with Boratha Tan

“Oh nobly born, oh you who are the sons and daughters of the awakened ones, the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Do not forget who you really are, do not forget your true nature”. The first thing you read, the first truth to meditate over, to internalize, to breath into, in several Buddhist texts is the reminder that we are all part of the human family and on the same journey to enlightenment and compassion. We are reminded, fundamentally and principally, of our history and our connection to one another. The children born in hospitals, in bathrooms, in the streets, among the rubble, are all noble and sacred. Families, no matter where they live, deserve to thrive in loving and active communities.

Some of you know, through passing conversations with me, that my parents immigrated from Cambodia to the United States during the 1980s. Both of my parents survived the Khmer Rouge genocide and found each other in Philadelphia (which led to an arranged and happy marriage since 1991, but that’s another story). You can only imagine what it was like living in the sheer desolation and hopelessness under the Khmer Rouge regime. The horrors of war and oppressive authoritarianism not only destroys the fabric of the individual but rips apart the family and the community from one another. However, in the same way that flowers rise out of frozen lava, so too does humanity out of atrocity. My parents exemplify this trait. Countless Southeast Asian survivors moved to the United States to begin life anew and create close-knit communities. Centered around the Buddhist pagodas (temples), we first recognize the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Every time the name of Buddha is uttered, I cannot help but recall that we are all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, nobly born into this beautiful world that God gave us to take care of.

Whenever I clasp my hands together in greeting and in offering of peace during mass, I recognize each and everyone around me as builders of peace and heralds of compassion. This upcoming Sunday is Corpus Christi, where we take an additional, intentional approach to the Eucharist. If anyone has participated in a Southeast Asian Buddhist service, one would note how extravagant the post-service meal is: each person from the community brings forth dishes to share with one another. Like Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish, the Cambodian community multiplies the available food for all to enjoy. The same goes for each time we take communion: as a community, we come together at the table of the altar and share the same body and blood.

Jesus continues to invite us to this one table of the world, eating the same meal. However, it does not end there (or the closing prayer, or the parking lot, or our homes). St. Augustine of Hippo puts it best when giving communion: “See what you believe and become what you receive.” When we receive Jesus in our mouths, we become His hands and feet in the world. Indeed, we are sent out to be the builders of peace and heralds of compassion. In our own ways, we are called to recognize one another as sons and daughters, helping each person remember that they are deserving of love and dignity.

As we take in the Body of Christ, may we all remember that we each are the Body of Christ, and that we each have a duty to serve and love one another.