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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
34 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 6 rev. angeL KyODO WiLLiamS is the founder of the center for transformative change in Berkeley, california. She is the author of Being Black and coauthor of Radical Dharma. 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 resound- ing call is to be at the forefront of this overdue evo- lutionary 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. Much of what is being taught as Buddhism in America is the acceptance of a kinder, gentler suffer- ing that does not question the unwholesome roots of systemic suffering and the structures that hold it in place. The expansive potential of the dharma to liberate us from suffering is in danger of being ren- dered impotent because it is held in subjugation to the very systems that it must thoroughly examine. Thrust into the Western socioeconomic framework that puts profit above all, and coupled with a desire to perpetuate institutional existence at the expense of illuminating reality and revealing deeper truths, the dharma has become beholden to commodifi- cation, viewing it as inescapable and de rigueur. The dharma’s authenticity and integrity are thus compromised. What is required is a new dharma, a radical dharma that deconstructs rather than amplifies the systems of suffering, that starves rather than fertil- izes the soil that deep roots of societal suffering grows in. A new dharma is one that not only insists we investigate the unsatisfactoriness of our own minds but also prepares us for the discomfort of confronting the obscurations of the society we are individual expressions of. It recognizes that the delusions of systemic oppression are not solely the domain of the individual. By design, they are seated within and reinforced by society. Whose Liberation? The attention of our nation has rightfully turned to the policing of black and brown bodies. From above, it looks like just black and brown folks are being policed and while you may feel bad, you are free. But here is the truth: policing is expressing itself through the state. The police force is the institution carrying out a specific mandate—a mandate that expresses a survival need of the social construct that we inhabit. That mandate is to control black bodies. The need is to have the constant specter of the other. When the other exists, it strengthens your need to belong. Your belonging is necessary for compliance. Your compliance maintains the system. You are policed, too. You are policed by your need for belonging. Your need for belonging requires control of the other. Or at least the illusion of it. You are policed through the control of my body. You are policed, too. 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 mutu- ality 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. ©christinealicino