Buddhist teacher Marlene Jones dies, will be remembered as “singular pioneer” for sangha diversity

After news broke yesterday that dharma teacher Dr. Marlene Jones had recently suffered a cardiac arrest and “was apparently close to death,” the word comes today that Jones has in fact now passed. Jones taught at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and also worked closely with the SFZC sangha. She had a doctorate in International Multicultural Education and started Spirit Rock’s retreats for people of color in 1991. Well-being ceremonies for Dr. Jones were held at SFZC and Tassajara Mountain Center on Tuesday.

Dharma friend and meditation teacher Larry Yang released the following statement:

With a sad heart and deepest sympathies, I share with you that our dharma family member, friend, teacher, and colleague — Marlene Jones — has passed away at 4:51 pm today. She passed with her close family surrounding her and her transition was described as “so peaceful.” The family is aware of all the vigils being offered by our communities and are deeply appreciative of the offering of our hearts to them.

Marlene was a singular pioneer for and force behind multiculturalism at a time when our collective mainstream community consciousness was completely not aware of how these issues affect so many people’s participation in the dharma.

For almost 20 years, Marlene has worked in bringing the dharma to diverse communities and revealing how much awareness and consciousness we yet need in order to do so. Among other things, she was instrumental in creating the first Diversity Council at Spirit Rock, the first daylongs for People of Color, the sitting group for Women of Color, the first residential retreats for People of Color, and the first diversity trainings at Spirit Rock. She has taught many events at Spirit Rock including Monday nights. She worked tirelessly as the chair of the Diversity Council to create change in programming, staffing, and organizational structures. She served on the Spirit Rock Board for many years. Her contributions to Spirit Rock are an indispensable part of our history and legacy as being one of the leaders in creating access for the dharma to Western culture. One example is that programming at Spirit Rock and EBMC would not be where it is today without standing on the shoulders of her dedication, commitment and love for the Buddha’s Teachings.

Please take a moment to offer blessings on Marlene’s shift to another existence, as well as to honor all the contributions she made to our lives in the dharma.

With deep respect and honoring,