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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
56 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 6 Waking Up to Whiteness LIKE IT OR NOT, we have all been racialized— that conditioning affects each and every one of us. Unfortunately, many Buddhists are not working diligently to realize this, despite Buddha’s instruc- tion that we clarify how dukkha has come to be. We resist terms like “racism” and “white supremacy.” Yet in our current age, we are obliged to see race as a frame for realizing our vows of liberation and no harm if we are to have anything meaningful to say about either. Using broad spiri- tual terms like greed, hate, and delusion is too often like using a telescope to find a microbe. In our prac- tice of self-illumination, in order to see unconscious thoughts and behaviors, we need more precise frames. The Soto Zen ancestor Eihei Dogen offers a succinct explication of the path in a way that is rel- evant to the study of race: To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be illuminated by the myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind, as well as the bodies and minds of others, drop away. Whiteness is an identity defined against other identities and experienced as separate; therefore, it squarely qualifies as a conditioned, separate self. If we substitute “whiteness” for “the self” above, it begins to point the way for how we might engage the problem of race in our dharma practice and in no way compromises the integrity of the teaching. To study the Buddha way is to study whiteness. When we honestly introduce the frame of white- ness, the mind turns in this direction. Just as the For our practice to have meaning in today’s world, says greg snyder, it must include a thorough understanding of our racial identities and their impact. This is particularly urgent for white practitioners. (Opposite) Berlin Buddha, 2007 — Aluminum phase Ash, iron, and aluminum 146 x 114 x 102 inches SCULPTURES By Zhang huan courtesyoFtheartist