Western Buddhists often practice mindfulness and self-awareness. In this excerpt from Radical Dharma, Rev. angel Kyodo Williams urges us to align our practice with our actions in the world. as Gandhi offered, a piece of the truth—of Dharma. When we seek the embodiment of these truths, giving ourselves permission to be more honest, more healed, more whole, more complete—when we become radical—neither the path of solely inward-looking liberation nor the pursuit of an externalized social liberation prevails;
“I just want people to be liberated.” John DeMont on the radical Buddhism of Rev. angel Kyodo williams.
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.
A conversation featuring Sharon Salzberg, angel Kyodo williams, and Robert Wright.
How can we harness meditative practice and the principles of Buddhism to more effectively engage in political arenas ranging from social justice to foreign policy?
Rev. angel Kyodo Williams doesn’t like stereotypes. That’s not entirely surprising, since she also seems to enjoy shattering them. She’s a black queer woman in an American Buddhist tradition often steered by white men; a Buddhist operating in activist circles of mostly Christians and Jews; a leader of the Religious Left who doesn’t use the word “God.”
I’m a New Yorker. I lived in Fort Greene and had a little sitting group, an offshoot of my main practice home of Village Zendo. Not in the sense of tomorrow, but I’m hopeful that the seed has been planted, that the irrelevance of the systems that continue to privilege small groups of people is laid bare now. We’re in this wonderful moment of going, “Oh, this doesn’t work. There are no winners in this.”
Lama Rod Owens and angel Kyodo Williams discuss the challenges of being teachers of color in predominantly white communities. Read their conversation in the Winter 2014 issue of Buddhadharma.
Because these stories are fairly random, right? I got born this time to these people in this culture in this society. And I would have been someone different had I taken up the stories of another time, another set of parents, another region, another culture, another side of the country, speaking another language. So how much really of that is you? So why don’t we start choosing the stories that we’re going to take on? Why don’t we choose the stories that most enable and empower us to meet the fullness of our role and responsibilities as the energetic force that supports life and thriving and creativity?
I would like to believe that if I were directly touched in a material way by these injustices, that having a practice and an understanding that arises out of that practice, would enable me to root my anger in love. To anchor it and take that thread and loop it in love so that my activity would manifest as a loving expression. But I cannot imagine or speak to what it means for people that haven’t had that practice and have had that kind of injustice. I can speak from the seat of comfort and privilege, but I’m not prepared to denounce in any way what it does to the human psyche, the human heart when your humanity has been so denied.
Each community possesses, as Gandhi offered, a piece of the truth—of Dharma. When we seek the embodiment of these truths, giving ourselves permission to be more honest, more healed, more whole, more complete—when we become radical—neither the path of solely inward-looking liberation nor the pursuit of an externalized social liberation prevails; rather a third space, as-yet-unknown, emerges. It is radical dharma. And it is ours.