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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
56 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2015 don’t like messy. There’s no neat way to package it so everybody feels okay with it. I didn’t grow up upper-middle class, but I grew up white in New england. I know how easy it is to fall into that mind-set of, oh, I’m for diversity, and now that I’ve said so, I don’t actually have to do anything about it. So how do we address this in a very real and effective way? A lot of times people look to teachers as if we’re supposed to have all the answers. I feel like I should know the answer to this, but I don’t. This is where cultural humility is so important. We need to be willing to constantly educate ourselves and to talk about race in our communities. It’s an ongoing edge for everybody to come up against, with patience and persistence. ROD OWENS: I experience a lot of fatigue talking about race, especially in dharma communities, because there’s such a tremendous resistance to go there. I’m usually the only person of color in the room, and I’m at the front of the room. Trying to push through the dynamics and have that conversa- tion is like trying to push through a mountain. I have a great need to see white-identified teachers start talking about racism. Not necessarily trying to do anything about it, but just to be very vulnerable around some of their feelings of helplessness. Per- haps some wisdom will arise out of that. BuDDHADHARMA: What do you feel it might mean for Buddhism in the West that young teachers from across traditions are in dialogue and are inten- tionally building frameworks for supporting one another? NINA LA ROSA: The more diverse perspectives you can get in a room, the fewer blind spots there are. We can support each other in being transparent and making sure that the next generation doesn’t make some of the same mistakes that were rooted in teachers being very isolated from one another. We have the opportunity both to use each other as resources and to be accountable to one another. DAVE SMITH: I’m really curious to see what happens. A lot of the good fortune that I’ve had in terms of teaching and practice opportunity has come through people I met at Gen X conferences. Stay- ing in communication benefits us as teachers and practitioners, but it also benefits our students and ultimately dharma in the West by creating a net that is more inclusive of dialogue across traditions and less restricted by lineage. TENKu RuFF: Dave’s earlier comment about the focus of the Gen X conference being less on your teacher or lineage and more on who you are sums up the most important aspect for me. There was such a strong heart connection, an acceptance and lack of competition, and a willingness to talk about diffi- cult subjects. That’s deeply inspiring to my practice. ROD OWENS: One of the things I struggle with in my tradition is the attitude that we need to remain separate—that if we collaborate, we’ll be contami- nated and the essence of the teachings will be com- promised. That’s something that I reject, because if we’re deeply internalizing and embodying the essence of our tradition, we shouldn’t have to worry about that. There’s so much wealth of insight that we can share across traditions. This model is so important for us moving forward as a generation of teachers—the future of dharma in this country, I think, will be about collaboration. BuDDHADHARMA: In what ways do you teach differ- ently from how your teachers taught you? ROD OWENS: My teacher is a realized Tibetan mas- ter in his late seventies who escaped from the (Above) angel Kyodo williams and Koshin Paley Ellison (Facing page) Fiona Nuttall speaks in a breakout discussion