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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS 77 The Buddha left us a 2,500-year-old institution that brings people in regardless of color, caste, and now even gender. That was his teaching—not solely the words someone captured hundreds of years later. He left us an institution based on giving people back the opportunity to be liberated no matter who they were. He stripped away the things that were most telling of where they came from— what class, what rank—and he said, every single person has the right to be free. Only those who sit in a position of perceived supremacy would imagine that they somehow understand better what this brown man, whose teachings they have appropriated, was up to. It is the people who are most marginalized, the people who have most been bound by societies, who most deeply understand what it is to be free. But we turn that upside down—we get some idea in our heads that the people who have the most access, who build the institutions, who create the buildings, who have the money, might somehow know better. So when dharma teachers try to tell me that this work is not the dharma, I say they’re confusing the true dharma with the dharma they’ve made small. Even the notion that the dharma is somehow limited to the historical Buddha’s teachings says a lot about the work they’ve been doing and their understanding of what this is. The dharma—understanding, peering into the nature of reality—is not specific to Buddhism. The dharma is truth. And the only choice we really have is whether to try to be in relationship with the truth or to live in ignorance. There are no other choices. You have to actively engage. How did I come to be? How do I think of myself? How did I get what I have? (I don’t mean your degrees.) Where did I come from? What land are we on? If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. All of us, in some way, have profited from our wrong knowing.