In this in-depth interview, Reverend angel Kyodo Williams reflects on our widespread crisis of story, the failure of institutional religions to offer a new way forward, and her philosophy of Radical Dharma—a path to individual and collective liberation.
Radical Dharma is an invitation to interrogate not just one truth, but as many truths as one can encounter.
Emergence Magazine: One of the things we’ve been exploring here at Emergence Magazine is the notion that at the heart of our current interconnected ecological and social crisis lies a spiritual crisis. This seems to be something that over the last few years, folks from faith-based traditions and some spiritual teachers, including yourself, are recognizing and beginning to talk about. I’m curious to hear from your perspective—as a teacher within the Zen tradition—about what you think the role of faith-based and spiritual traditions is in responding to this underlying spiritual crisis.
Angel Kyodo Williams: I think the role is to partition. That’s the thing that comes to mind first and foremost. And when I say partition, I mean more of us have to learn how to speak to people within our faith, and then also to learn the language of speaking to people beyond our faith, so that we’re not re-creating the sense of division and separation and delineation—between “we are this” and “you are that”—by not being able to speak to people outside of our faith. Right? It’s really a calling-in moment. It’s like it’s a calling-in to our collective belonging, not just our individual belonging along the lines of our faith.
It’s not a moment to just call Jews in if you are a rabbi. It’s not a moment to just call Muslims in if you’re an imam. It’s a moment to really call everyone in and to actually figure out how it is that we use language in such a way that we, certainly, are speaking to the people who are of our faith—but are also speaking to the people of our own traditions and whispering through their ears into the ears of people who are beyond those faiths. We’re really calling ourselves in as human beings. That’s what the moment calls for: to go beyond obvious tribes and go, really, to the tribe of our collective humanity.
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