- Publisher: North Atlantic Books
- Available in: Paperback, Kindle, eBook
- Published: 19 June 2016
Radical Dharma first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Buddhadharma Magazine, on newsstands May 19.
The special issue titled “Free the Dharma: Race, Power and White Privilege in American Buddhism” couldn’t have come at a more critical moment as the summer before the national elections sets the tone and content the final contenders will focus on. Racial justice, compassion and bridging the false divisions stirred by rhetoric of anger and hatred should be high the agenda of what people, especially buddhist, yoga and spirit-centered communities are talking about.
If not, Radical Dharma hopes to contribute.
Radical Dharma is a powerful and vulnerable circle held by three Dharma practitioners who are people of color. It is a beautiful and rare invitation to listen to how each transformed their pain. Some of this is familiar…and some of this, for white people, will be new: What does it look like to truly sit with the pain caused by racism in your body? Radical Dharma demands that we step into the circle and ask: How do we restore our humanity? How do we transform ourselves and the world?
– Marianne Manilov, cofounder, Engage Network http://mariannemanilov.com
Radical Dharma is about Igniting a long-overdue dialogue about how the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy plays out in society at large and Buddhist communities in particular, this urgent call to action outlines a new dharma that takes into account the ways that racism and privilege prevent our collective awakening. Radical Dharma was born for the awareness of people of color and everyone for putting light on the injustice because of racism.
Radical Dharma is a clear, honest testimony of the heart from three leaders of our time. You may not always see things just as they do (I didn’t) or even feel like you fully understand it all (again, I didn’t) but that makes it even more important to read.
-Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness http://sharonsalzberg.com
If we are to uphold the dharma, says Rev. angel Kyodo williams, we must stand up to racism and expose its institutionalized forms—even in our Buddhist communities.
We are at a critical moment in the history of the nation as well as within the Buddhist teaching and tradition in America. This is the “back of the bus” moment of our time. Fifty years after civil rights laws were laid down, it is clear that these laws were enshrined within a structure that continues to profit from anti-Black racism. The necessary bias that the system requires in order to perpetuate itself has permeated our sanghas, and in this very moment, Buddhists are called upon to put aside business as usual. If you have ever wondered how you would have shown up in the face of the challenge put before white America when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, upending the accepted social order, now is when you will find out. Will we actually embody our practice and teachings—or not? It is a clarifying moment about who we are as individuals and who we have been thus far as a collective of people laying claim to the teachings of the Buddha, waving the flag of wisdom and compassion all the while.
Radical Dharma is both radical … and courageous. The authors build upon the growing understanding of the connection between personal and societal liberation. Radical Dharma unflinchingly turns this lens to this most challenging and critical nexus of racism and white supremacy…Take the invitation!
-Robert Gass, EdD, cofounder, Rockwood Leadership Institute and Social Transformation Project http://sacredunion.com/robert-gass
White folks’ particular reluctance to acknowledge their impact as a collective, while continuing to benefit from the construct of the collective, leaves a wound intact without a dressing. The air needed to breathe through forgiveness is smothered. Healing is suspended for all. Truth is necessary for reconciliation.
Will we as Buddhists express the promise of, and commitment to, liberation for all beings, or will we instead continue a hyper-individualized salvation model—the myth of meritocracy—that is also the foundation of this country’s untruth?
The work of dharma communities is the same work of the America that wants to live up to its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is to kick the habit of racism, cultural dominance, and upholding oppressive systems. More poignantly, our challenge, our responsibility, our deep resounding call is to be at the forefront of this overdue evolutionary thrust forward. Why? Because we chose to position ourselves as the standard-bearers of an ethical high ground. And we have the tools and teachings to do so.
This is a book to grow on, to deepen over, to partner with. We are on a magnificent journey of liberation, every moment we are alive in this odd place that has yet to awaken to itself. And we are always, generation to generation, ready to travel. How cool is this?
-Alice Walker, American Novelist & Poet http://alicewalkersgarden.com
Once you are aware of how you are being policed, you can begin the process of self-liberating—this time from a place that recognizes the mutuality of our liberation rather than suffering under the delusion that you are doing something for me. There’s an intimacy in that realization. And because dharma is ultimately about accepting what is, it can undermine the need for control that keeps you invested in the policing of my body—thus freeing yours.
The Social Ego
Just as the ego-mind cannot be used to work its way out of its own construct, the Mind of Whiteness cannot be used to see through the veil of its own construct. As Buddhists, we are gifted with precisely the tools and methodologies needed for the project of deconstructing, but that lens of awareness must be placed outside of the construct of whiteness. As a direct result of privilege, white practitioners and teachers have mistakenly entitled themselves to place the lens of awareness inside of whiteness, hence they are unable to see its machinations. Only when we choose to live the dharma in a radical way—with a motivation toward complete liberation—can our work begin.
So we sit. And we feel. And we let what arises do so until the resistance is worn down or moved through or even until it overwhelms us. On the other side, we see a glimmer of something that we couldn’t get a handle on because we were trying so desperately to avoid it. We begin to see truth. When we catch hold of it, we can finally see the patterns of our participation in not-truth emerge. With the clarity of a steady mind and courage of a true heart, what has always been there begins to reveal itself, emerging from behind the fog of the ego-mind of whiteness.
White dharma practitioners who are unable to acknowledge the pain caused by decades of resistance to addressing this misalignment will be exposed—they will no longer be able to use a veneer of dharma as window dressing while milking the benefits of the system. Their veil of mindfulness will be seen through as thin, and their once-wise words, henceforth, will land with a thud.
No one group, community, or institution has the answer, but each of us can call forth the willingness to offer our best, claim responsibility for our worst, and fold it all into the continuous moment-to-moment practice of simply being present to what is. If your practice is not attenuating greed, hatred, and ignorance—the social expressions of which are the delusions of supremacy, racism, and oppression—then you need to change your practice.
This is a moving and crucial book for anyone interested in the flourishing of the dharma in the West. Read it, sit with it and then get off the cushion and do something radical to make a difference.
-Cheryl A. Giles, Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling at Harvard Divinity School http://hds.harvard.edu/people/cheryl-a-giles