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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
78 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2017 Where Will You Stand? by Rev. angel Kyodo williams 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. 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. Much of what is being taught as Buddhism in America is the acceptance of a kinder, gentler suffering 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 rendered 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 commodification, 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 fertilizes 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. Summer 2016