“Beyond Buddhism: What We Need to Lose To Save What We Love” with angel Kyodo williams

“Beyond Buddhism: What We Need to Lose To Save What We Love” with angel Kyodo williams

Thank you so much for having me here. Uh thank you for allowing me to hold this
seat in this beautiful s pace – really stunning. I snuck back upstairs and took pictures.
Uh because its really quite beautiful and I have uh a colleague and friend
that just stepped down from leading the New York Shambhala Center and
I wanted to send her a picture of the shrine. Scholar might be a stretch – though we will
see what we can do to say something. So I thought maybe it would be good – and
I might try to refer to notes, but I am really terrible – people keep telling me that
I should do them and so I’m sort of trying them and I always just completely forget
them. Maybe somewhere along the lines someone will
say check your notes. And will give me a hand. So to start out – because it will stop a lot
of the questions that people usually end up asking me which is a little bit about how
I came uh to practice and what my kind of early life uh was like. And uh – I
think it will be relevant – particularly relevant to this talk. Uh – so I – stone cold
New Yorker. Like really in the thick of New York City – not – forgive me anybody that
lives in the outer burrows – I wasn’t one of the outer burrow New Yorkers
– we call them bridge and tunnel. I was like thick in the city – so I grew up
in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan and – uh – and kind of uh – you know downtown
snob really to like above those of you that know New York – above 14th Street I would
say get a nose bleed – like I’m a New York. And then I was hip too. LAUGHING. And I was – uh – you know very much living
a life of a – hip mixed race – queer woman of color in – in New York you know uh
parties that ended at 4 and then you started to go out to the next party. The
first time I got in a whole lot of trouble I came home at 7AM and my father was waiting
for me. Uh – and doing all of that – and uh – as happens to many of us uh – I
ran into a wall – a wall of my – that was made up of my own uh – places of confusion.
Uh – where – the world stopped making sense to me. My grandfather passed
away and – I – he and I were very close and I just couldn’t make sense of anything
and you know grief – grief does that to you. It just up ends all of your sense
making and everything – that you knew about the world just comes completely
undone if you let – if you allow it to happen. And so simultaneously I uh – ran into a book
called “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” in Tower bookstore. And it just started to
help me to put some pieces together uh the ways in which I didn’t fit in my life
– this little Japanese man you know that was – that had been all the way across the
country – knew something about my life and knew something about how to help
me make sense of my life. And that was striking. Uh and so I began to read and – you know I
made a practice space in a closet because that is where you did things that
no one should know about. I was out as queer but I had to keep the meditation thing
in the closet. LAUGHING. You know – I would say closets are for clothes
and my friends would say what about that meditation thing you do? Uh – but I then ended up going to the West
coast on a trip and had the opportunity to visit San Francisco Zen Center
and I got my first meditation cushion and I got it out of the closet and
I eventually found my way after stalking Bernie for a while – going up to Yonkers.
I found my way to what was called the Village Zendo – still called the Village Zendo.
And there I was uh – now I was – I was you know not only hip and cool – I also
had a – actually the first black owned first woman on cyber cafe – that is what we
called them back then. And – uh you know it was really sort of living – in some
way someone’s idea of a dream – right? Uh I had my own business – or it had me. Uh
I was very cool and there was like all this spoken word going on – and all the
groovy people would come in our place and hang out and Erykah Badu would be
drinking coffee and muMs da Schemer would roll through and you know drop
some words and poetry and it was just so good. I mean you know jazz artists
that were well known would like sneak off their contract and come and perform
in our place. It was cool like that. And uh – I was doing this – this Zen thing.
And in our uh coffee bar we once – we had this party once and it was a uh – a New
Year’s Eve party and it was one of those party that was like the legendary party. It was so legendary that people talked about
it all year. And they kept saying are you going to have the party again. Are you
going to have the party? I said – of course, we’re going to have the party. The following year came…and we were all
ready to have this party – and I was at a cross roads – because my Zen community was
having a sesshin – a silent retreat. And I was suddenly faced – with being
hip and cool and all in the know and part of the black digerati. The cool kids. You know everything I knew about myself – everything
I knew about – who I was – it was who I constructed myself to be. And
I was either going to go to – and have that party and be that person that I had so
carefully constructed. Or I was going to go to a – cold ass house.
LAUGHING. Excuse my French. Uh in the snow. Had no heat.
And walk around you know basically in circles…where you hardly saw
anything, but a bunch of white folks feet. LAUGHING. That sounds – anybody know the sesshin – it
sounds like it right? Easy choice – right? And so – uh I remember someone was on the
phone and they were saying well you know well asking me something about when
I was there and they had already placed me at the party. And I thought – oh! This image of myself was
fading. And I couldn’t see myself – at the party. Because this – through my practice – uh – the
idea of myself was starting to come apart. So I went and walked around several white
folks. LAUGHS. And I missed the party. Uh – and I did that – because in that moment
– and this person’s voice kind of faded to the background and I barely remember
what they were talking about. Uh – what I knew is that on the one hand there
was this party and I could go to the party and I could like – get all the benefits
of the party right? And be the center of attention and have all
of this like attention. Uh – given to me and everybody looking at
me thinking how cool I was for throwing this great party. Or I could go and attend to my heart. And – and strange as they were – I could be
with who I loved. So, that’s uh – that was my moment of giving
– up something in order to save what I loved. And I think that uh – Buddhism is at a crossroads
in that kind of way. It has to – look uh really deeply at itself
without any uh – You know we can’t fix the past – right? And
so there’s no real point of looking back and going oh we should have done this
or we should have done that. But we’re in a moment – mindfulness is on the
rise. We barely have meditation anymore. We have
mindfulness. LAUGHING. I’m still trying to catch up to it. There is technology and mindfulness. And there
is mindfulness in schools. And there is mindfulness in end of life care and
there is – there is just mindfulness everywhere. And we all know that its code
word for – you know the part of the dharma that people can take – for now and
that’s ok – that’s how – that’s how it works right? We take what we can and – we
meet the situation – as we can in the way that we are in that moment. Uh so there is a kind of lens on – on Buddhism.
Its a little small right now and while people largely focus on mindfulness
– but it will get bigger. People will come. And they’ll investigate and they’ll – they’ll
wonder like what is this about? And – we’ll have to have an answer. We’ll have to have an answer. So we sit at
this crossroads and the opportunities that one road – right when they come and
they say what are you about? One road we can go down. If we can say – we are
about – the dharma is about Buddhism. The modern presentation of Buddhism. How we find it in this country, in this culture,
in this place at this time – right? We can’t judge other places and other times because
it has – things have to fit the conditions. But in these conditions – we can
either go down the road – of expressing the full and complete dharma. That has a place for everyone. It has a place for everyone. The radical dharma. As in thorough. Full and complete. We can live up to its full promise. It’s all right there. I’m not making something up. We don’t even have to go and find something
else to add on. Or we can go down the road of irrelevance. And we can be – uh just another preoccupation. A kind of entertainment and — a bit of amusement.
Some place for people that have too much to do and – too much to spend
to put their – attention and time. Embodying not the true heart and essence of
the dharma. But rather pedaling it. As yet another expression of the fundamental
illness – and illnesses of this country. Uh that illness being – we’re master – your
masters at forms of oppression. In the – in the midst of actually having diversity
to work with. Right? So we’re not like other countries in
which actually – they’re so dominated by – particular groups or genders, etc. World views. That they don’t have the opportunity
to come into contact with – true difference. We have the opportunity and we have the opportunity
to – uh – welcome that difference. Not even because we want to but because we
are committed to the dharma. You don’t have to want to. I don’t really care. LAUGHS. Whether you want
to or not. But if you want to say – that you’re committed
to the dharma. If you want to say that you’re committed to liberation…well
it means you have to let everyone in. Because at this time – we don’t have the luxury
of liberation for the sake of liberation. Maybe we did at some point – I don’t know. At this time, liberation for the sake of all
beings – is the only liberation that is worthy of who we are. Not liberation for those of us – the people
that are in our clubs. Not liberation for the people that look like us. Talk like us. Wear the same outfits. Hold their bodies like us. Express their emotions like us. Not liberation for the people that makes us
comfortable and feel at ease. Not liberation for the sake of people that
do not upset our view. Even of Buddhism itself. Liberation for all beings. En punto. All beings. Now I don’t want to complicate liberation
for all beings. Actually role that back and say liberation with all beings. And complicate it further and say liberation
as – all beings. Because we’re not separate. We are not separate. I – I mentioned part of a phrase earlier and
someone came up to me and she said oh I am so glad that you said that uh – and
she related it to the umbunto phrase. Uh that essentially means because you are
I am. And I said oh well this is the phrase that
is most repeated…in Buddhist text. Most often repeated if you believe these are the
words of the Buddha most often repeated by the Buddha. He tried to basically drum it in people’s heads. When this arises, that arises. Because this is – that is. Should one – the first one comes first. So
I will repeat it. This being – that becomes. I like that translation
better. When this arises, that arises. This not being that does not become – when
this ceases, that ceases. The this and that is you and I. We – arise and we fall together. And the delusion
of – a constructive privilege has hidden that from our view. And it has uh – you know – caused an illness
in – within our communities. That we should all feel. We should all feel angry about actually. We should feel fiercely upset that this extraordinary
dharma is being corrupted. Uh – to become a vehicle – for – uh a system
and a construct that has done so much harm. To so many people. Not the least of which is ourselves. Uh one of the uh – the real pivotal moment
many of you may remember this – there was an article that was in Tricycle
magazine many years ago about (?) Embedcar. And it talked about uh, Buddhism
had essentially died for all intensive purposes in India. And uh – Embedcar is the – he wrote the constitution
and he was contemporary with Gandhi, but he wasn’t – he was born untouchable. And through a series of events and – uh convergences
he happened to be positioned uh in which people recognized his
brilliance. And he was – he wasn’t easy for Gandhi. He was – you know he was Malcolm to Gandhi’s
Martin. He agitated – for including uh untouchables. You know in the constitution in a way that
they would have equal rights. But Gandhi was uh – really attached – let
us say. Uh – to having this uh – constitution accepted and so he – he felt
certain that the brommond cast – wouldn’t accept that. And he said you know – just wait you know
wait. And – you know many people – uh know that
uh – that – and never ended up actually happening. Uh and so actually uh – in the story – Dr.
Chris Queen wrote the story uh – and I got to meet him years later which is such
a pleasure. But in the story as he told it uh – Gandhi actually threatened and Embedcar
was pushing this so hard and saying you know that he was – he really – this
had to be in the constitution – that Gandhi actually threatened to go on a hunger
strike and he was already weak. We hear so that Gandhi threatened to go on
a hunger strike and everyone went to Embedcar and said you can’t keep pushing
for this because – Gandhi is going to – will be sick and he will die. And then
what will we have? And so Embedcar acquiesced and said ok. But – if I – if we can’t be Hindu –
and – and be human. We will be something else. Right, he realized that the problem was that
they had just accepted being Hindu and in accepting being Hindu they accepted
untouchability as a concept at all. And so he – studied – as I said he was brilliant
and so he – and he didn’t have Google. LAUGHING. So he studied actually all kinds of – religions.
The – both rooted in India and outside of India as well. And he came to the conclusion – he came to
the conclusion that Buddhism was perfect. With regard – to being able to accept – all
people equally in its text. In its teachings. He wasn’t foolish or naive. He
knew that there had been a history of expressions of Buddhism that were corrupted
by human failing. But the – text themselves – the teachings
themselves – he was a real scholar – not like me. I am a Google scholar. LAUGHING. The teachings themselves and he studied them
extensively. This is the answer. And so he went on to – lead a masked conversion
of people from untouchability. From being out in the cold. From being marginalized. From being born into a place in which one
accepts ones place as less than. And he essentially rebirthed them. Into full human beings. And he did it with this precious teaching
that we have. So how dare us – how dare us – manifest it
in any other way. Than that full – complete open hearted teaching. That insists upon liberation for all. What is it that we have fallen in love with
in the idea of Buddhism? That is keeping us from allowing it to be
fully expressed. What is it that we have to give up? In our identity. In our sense of privilege. In who owns what? Who gets to interpret what?
Who gets to voice? Who has a voice? In order to save – this stunningly beautiful
complete teaching. That we’re here because we love – we even
love permutations of it even if we’re not Buddhists. How could we not? The reason we are here is because it says
– it rings out – I have a place for you. There is a place for you here. And all of
us in our awkwardness and our confusion. And our sense of ill belonging. Come to find a home here. How could we cast anyone out into the cold
– of untouchability? Of course, we’re not doing it by law. Right, so that’s why we really have to do
the work of really looking into what is it that we’re doing – how is that we’re showing
up? What is that we feel like we own? That is hindering – this full expression. I imagine that if you look deep enough – you’ll
discover that it means that you are hindering something in your own being. So because we don’t hold onto stuff. When we feel free in ourselves. It’s just a natural law. If we’re not fixated on ourself – we don’t
have one to defend. In these times – in these conditions – a Buddhism
that is not engaged is a Buddhism that is failed. So not only do we have to do the work within
our communities, we actually have to reach out and extend ourselves beyond our
comfortable little seats of practice. And practice where it matters. Which is out in the world. Because that’s where all beings are. If we wait for them all to come into our little
centers – there’s a lot of seats in here, but we don’t have enough room. And I know people always say that Buddhists
don’t proselytize. But we advertise. LAUGHING. That’s a modern version. And we do it really well – actually. And we have to uh – unhook ourselves from
this kind of obsession with the coolness of Buddhism – you know in the same
way that I had to unhook myself from the coolness of me – in order to receive
the dharma. In order to actually step into it – I had to unhook myself from
my own coolness. Right? I had to unhook myself from my blackness, from my femaleness, from my queerness. Right? Because they were getting in the way of me
actually being able to drop into my practice. That’s not PC to say! [AGREEING] Yes, colored folks have to like drop that
too. But not until – right – we’re able to – uh
root in our being. So as I was able to find roots in my own being
– then I could – begin to let go of the identities. And anyone asking to put our identities aside
because it’s disrupting our comfortable little seats. Our comfortable
little communities. Should be turned away. Back to examine what it is – that they have
to – work with. We don’t defend from the seat of freedom. Because freedom sees possibilities. We see possibilities. We don’t see someone
that is going to come to disrupt. We see someone that is going to come and help
us to learn. We don’t see someone that is going to fit
in. We see someone that is going to help us to grow. To reach out. And when we get them – you know in – we don’t
try to make them fit in the center – the center reaches out to the margins. The center which is what its afraid of right?
Instead it’s going to be changed – by the presence of real difference by the acceptance
of real difference and it should be. It should be indeed. Its how we stay alive. So here is what I know. I know that uh – the
communities and the people that are upholding a static – view of the dharma – they
are suffering. They may not be entirely hip – hip to it yet. But they’re suffering. And often uh when we’re the – we are – when
we are experiencing the impact of – of other people suffering its difficult for
us to actually be in relationship to that person suffering. But I want to invite those of us that find
ourselves in that experience in whatever way you find yourself in that experience. Someone said to me today that there was a
talk that I gave and it was – a white man that felt himself uh made – parts of himself
made invisible because all people see is him being a white man and they
don’t see other aspects of himself. They don’t see his Native American heritage
and they don’t see his – other parts that I won’t say lest it become more identification
because he didn’t say it to me. But I didn’t – people couldn’t see him because
that’s all they could see. And so he’s rendered invisible. And its easy when you’re – in the place in
which uh the construct write the ideas that we have around how white male heterosexuality
has been such a difficult uh – positionality to work with in this country
especially what it you know tips off – the edge of uh rightness or whiteness or both.
LAUGHING. Uh it’s easy to not see that. That they are
suffering. Have you ever been in a situation like in
public and – and someone is – uh mentally ill and its clear that they’re mentally
ill because of the way in which they are relating. They are kind of – like you
don’t exist. They’re in a conversation with themselves. They seem to be – affirming
their own – worldview that is happening seemingly all by themselves. And they might actually be you know violent
kind of swinging around and hitting things. Causing a lot of calamity and destruction
as they go. Right, I mean we get that. And we see it and
we say oh – get out of the way and maybe – might even say – they might need some
help. Because they’re suffering. These – these constructs that keep us – divided
from one another – they keep us separate from one another. They keep us from
loving one another – from seeing one another. It’s an illness. It should be
seen as such. And the people that are carrying that illness
– we can get out of the way – of the flailing. But we have to remember that they
are trapped in an illness. And they do deserve our compassion. And they deserve to be seen. And in seeing them – if you’ve ever been in
that type of experience – if – uh whether its uh – person that is mentally ill
or someone that is homeless and maybe they smell really bad – maybe they’re
an immigrant. Looks really different from you. Maybe there is someone that makes you feel
a little scared inside. Big black dude. Taking up a lot of space. Big voice. Bellowing.
A kind of rich tones. That black voices have – that kind of weird
white folks out. LAUGHING. We know its true. LAUGHING. Thank goodness for James Earl Jones. LAUGHING.
Made it better for all of us. But if you manage to take a moment – uh to
observe the situation – what you would recognize is – in your effort to not
relate to them – you are actually the first one that disappears. You have to disappear
yourself. You’ve had that experience – right, where you get smaller
in the movies. And – well I just don’t like to get really small. Can make them not exist. And conversely in seeing them we are seen. Not by them. That is not the point. In the act of seeing them we see ourselves. In choosing to see people that are suffering
or that we deem other – we begin to see ourselves. So we don’t do it – for the sake – we do it
as – others. Because we want to be seen. And everything you’re holding on to – everything
that you’re defending is about the ways in which you don’t feel seen. That’s kind of difficult to figure out how
to get seen and so we kind of do this reverse process where what you do instead
is you give up the things that you’re trying to defend. Right, you go the other way. You go through the back door. Like oh right – I love this thing. I remember
uh I was so into my dharma practice and I had the opportunity – she became a friend
for a little while – to meet Meshell Ndegeocello and uh she was – she’s a musician
uh for those of you that may not know – really quite brilliant and she was
going through a hard time and I had this mala – that I loved. And all my little you
know Buddhist identity was like right there in that mala. And one day Meshell Bashir is actually her
preferred name – Bashir just admired the mala – it wasn’t at all grasping in any kind
of way. She just said oh that’s really lovely and she – you know I think her eyes
rested on it for a moment because that is what caught my attention. She was like
oh – that’s really lovely. And you know how people say lovely – it was
something like they release their breath. It’s a moment of – Oh – I took it off and I gave it to her. I gave it to her not because – I felt like
oh – you’re having a hard time. And so since you admired my mala I want to
give it to you. That would be great right? That would be a wonderful story. And I would come out smelling like a rose. I gave it to her because when she looked at
my mala. I felt contraction. And a flurry of crazy thoughts – went through
my head about how much money she had and she could get any – mala she wanted
– she could get 20 malas. And was that just kind of jenky that she was like
looking – and I am sure she expected me to give it to – some crazy person. Showed up in my head. And in my body. Damn that is not why I want to be – that is
not – what I want to be defending and so I’m going to give it up. I didn’t do it
for her. I did it for me. Because I want to save my heart. From that crazy person that got in my head. That – by that time I had a couple years of
practice under my belt so I was really like whoa! And similarly I had – I went to a Tibet society
had an event and I went to the event and I met this tall skinny guy – he
looked like Max Headroom. Those of you who know things back in the 80s. It’s
like a computer figure. And uh – he was so friendly and he came to me and he was like
oh – I teach in prisons – would you like to teach meditation in prison and I thought
hell no! LAUGHING. So I did. LAUGHING. That tall skinny guy, Soren Gaordhamer, who
founded Wisdom 2.0 – we taught in prison together. And he was you know – going on about how it
helped the youth and how great it was for them and – you know in his – his words
were just like (inaudible words) like Charlie Brown. And I was like oh this tall skinny white guy
yes that is why you are going in and you can go in like that. When you’re going
in you’re going in to help the youth. When I go in I am confronting my brother,
my cousin – someone that could have been me. Because I remember when I stole that
pair of sneakers from Odell’s and got caught, but there was some confusion
about who got called – that was supposed to be my mother and it was the wrong
person and so – and I was narcoleptic and fell asleep and they got worried
and let me go. LAUGHING This is now officially on camera. I think the statue of limitations is up though. Everything that I have done that is of value
has been because I have given something up. Everything that I have discovered that I truly
love is because I gave up – something that I was enamored with. That I
had attached my identity. That I had attached my sense of comfort to. I don’t like to be – exceptionalist about
Buddhism. I truly believe that and know that there are many different cultures particularly
cultural indigenous teachings that have a shared understanding…of our
interconnectedness. Not just – not I don’t mean interconnectedness
as people. I mean interconnectedness as things. As all dharma’s. As that, which exists. And we have a planet that is in crisis – from
our lack of – understanding and living into our connectedness. We have countries that are at war. And children that don’t eat. And black men and black girls being shot in
their beds. And we feel – helpless, but we’re not. We have this teaching to stand in and to root
in – but we must express it – we must manifest the full – complete…dharma. Without holding on – to other people needing
to buy Buddhism. That’s just another club. I am – people often ask me well what do we
call you? And – LAUGHS – anything respectful. And it
took me awhile but I have uh – I say you know reverent angel – especially you know
in communities that are outside. So Zen people will call me you know (?) or
something. But outside you know reverend travels well
because people – people get it. And it reminds me uh – when people say it
back to me – right of the place that I am standing. And that – even with the titles and the – yadda
yadda. That I don’t have to be Buddhist – in order
to manifest the dharma. And in fact, if I go some place without my
trusty bib on. And people like oh you’re a Buddhist than
I have not done my work. You know what I am saying – if you are peppering
the conversation with a little Buddhist phrases. You start sort of saying the word compassion
too many times. Get beyond Buddhism. You know Dr. King would talk about the love
that does justice. The love that does justice. There is a small collection of essays uh put
forth by Michael Edward and it’s called the Love to Justice and it’s an array
of different people speaking to the topic. And when he asked me to contribute to it – years
ago I got to thinking about it – and I thought oh – Buddhism kind of goes one
better than king. See because without – uh fixed idea of a self
– of a doer – there is no one to do – there is no one to do justice. There is just
– love is justice. Love is justice. Someone said to me earlier what do I say to
people that feel like the idea of social justice is you know something they
don’t want to deal with – they object to the idea of social justice. They object to love. Justice is love. Expressed in society. Between people. Right here. Justice is – is love beyond the privacy of
your own body. So the moment that you are – acting outside
– of just your own little thoughts – the love that you have – the love that you say
you believe in. The love that you invest in. The love that you work on – expresses
itself with justice and its how you know when you – when you see injustice – when you
see yourself participate in injustice – its how you know you are not loving yourself. When you don’t interrupt injustice – its how
you know you’re not loving yourself. See because you’re love can’t exist in a bubble. Or just in here. You actually don’t even know that its love
until you get it out there. And that’s hard work. I – I LAUGHS – I know. I am going to tell you a really funny story
– goes back to my Virgo. This is one of those moments where I’m like
can we turn off the cameras please? LAUGHING. Ok see you ready? We are close friends here right? So I was [LAUGHS] I was in my bathroom and
a few weeks ago – and I was – obsessively arranging tampons in a box. Don’t men know what tampons are? Ok, if you don’t you are going to have to
ask someone else – I am not going to say that. You just have to go with me. And what happened was I got some new ones
and there were some previous ones and – they were different – you know
strengths. Which had different colors – like on the little
labels and they were slightly different heights. So I was trying to arrange them.
LAUGHING. I had this thought – if you are not going
to be orderly you are going to have to get out. LAUGHS. Think about this with tampons. And I was so tickled. Because I was really – you know – looking
at them in this way. And here’s the thing – after 7 years of living
as a full time dharma teacher – here is the one thing that I have figured out.
People are not orderly. LAUGHING. And I just couldn’t be throwing out all the
time. So as – Virgo moon I am designed for Zen. Turn that around. Even still it’s bothering me over there (a CD
on the table). Of course, that’s a generalization, but you
know what I mean. There is nothing like a well settled room where all the zamphos
are carefully lined up. Makes my heart soften. LAUGHS. I can get cushions orderly, but I cannot get
people orderly. So even though this feels so like who I am. It feels like who I am – it’s not my fault.
It’s the stars. Just that moment – just that time popped out
the womb and there it was – Virgo moon. So we get this sense of like yes, but this
is who I am. I love order. I love it. But I had to love people more – than I loved
order. You see I had to go outside myself. And go even beyond what I – who I knew myself
to be. In order to – express the dharma. And I – lived in a constant state of irritation. For a good while. Until I figured out that – a Buddhism that
does not irritate does not liberate. That – without fail – I learned something
from every single person – and I don’t say that in the sort of like – uh I really learned
something from every single person. I learned something from every single person
that made me a better and more complete me. And I said to Debra – earlier that I – not
Debra – to Dell earlier that I lived as a full
time Dharma teacher for 7 years. And the way you work with that is that for
each person that you – live closely with – not if its a big spread, but if you live
closely with people that you get a year under your belt as a dharma teacher so 7 people
– 7 years. That means I have 49 years of teaching. It was a lot of work. And it was a lot of
giving up. And I’m better for it. And we will be better for it. We will be better for it. If we want to save what we love – we have
to look at what there is to be given up that is hindering that love. That is hindering our openness. That is hindering our reaching across the
table. Across the aisle. Across the – class line. There is hindering our ability to see people. As who they are expressing themselves as.
As who have fixed in our mind is about who they should be because we have – we
know what gender is and they’re not showing up in the – the way that
we – we want their gender to show up. And that if you’re a Buddhist you’ve got to
sit like this and walk this and talk like this and express like this. And if you’re not quiet than you don’t know
what you are doing. This is about being free. It’s about being free and is about letting
people be free and when you’re free you know that! And if you find yourself not wanting someone
to be free – go work on yourself. Don’t figure out how you can – fix them. Contain
them, control them. Figure out what it is that you’re holding on to. Let’s put our energy and effort – into expressing
the – the full and complete – dharma that is – at this moment in time such
an offering to the world. To – help us understand the desperately needed
truth of our interconnectedness – our inter being. Our oneness. And that – that oneness expresses itself – in
a myriad of ways – the ten thousand things. And we should love and liberate each and every
one of them. Thank you. CLAPPING I love pregnant pauses. LAUGHING. PREPARING FOR Q/A So if anyone has any questions – please since
we are recording it would be great of you to come up here – we would appreciate
that. We have a wireless microphone. You can raise
your hand. Q: Thank you for your talk. Is this on? I
am curious uh – given that you are – uh in the Zen lineage uh – and given everything
you said – uh – what you do about the form or teaching the form or not teaching
the form – how you hold that as a teacher? A: I do. I tried to go to uh you know just
out of curiosity sort of started with – I moved to California – we started with like
you know just sitting literally. On just cushions and actually more and more like pillows
from the couch, but good enough. Uh – and low and behold people felt
like it wasn’t enough and so we added a little walking and – it wasn’t enough. And so we add a little bowing. It wasn’t quite
enough. Uh people in my experience many people not
everyone – but many people hunger for actually form in a world that is
so chaotic. That uh – form – is containment. It gives a clear place and way to direct our
energy. But I wasn’t obsessed with like – you know saying Chinese names that
I couldn’t say and harkening back to some kind of history that people were never
going to feel touched by. So, yes form. Uh – and liberation from form too. And so when the form is not serving – off
it went. Uh – that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a regular
structure, but there were certainly circumstances in which you ever
do one of those counsel conversations where there is no cross talk. And its – they’re
beautiful. They’re like amazing things can happen. But sometimes they just don’t work. They need
to set it aside and get down to it and they are actually hindering conversations
and people will use this beautiful form – that allows for such magic to arise
and to show in the room and they will use it to choke the life out of people’s voice. And – so I go back to you know when you’re
– when you – are feeling into liberation that you don’t feel so fixed and
then the forms are not something that hinder – they are something that help. And you hold them that way. Thank you. I am sorry – please say your name. Jennifer. Q: I don’t think I need the mic. LAUGHING.
I don’t like microphones, but I will take it. My name is Kevin. Thank you Hi Kevin. Q: Your conversation has been really humbling
and helpful uh – so my question is as a uh identify as a gender queer person
of color and I’ve seen – I’ve seen many situations that have made me turn inward because
I identify with this uh identity and I’ve grown up in places that are marginalized,
but you know with turning inward hasn’t mean that I haven’t been key
to the systemic oppression that occurs in these marginalized neighborhoods.
So I am angry. Uh yet that I know that this identification uh – comes with a
spectrum that I have to break. Uh and so when I think of that I think of
this path that is trying to harmonize chaos and peace. So – how do we – consistently
navigate that space as people of color when we feel that practice sometimes
may not be enough? A: I don’t think that practice is not enough.
I think what happens is we limit our ideas of what practice is? Right, so we get
very fixed ideas and I don’t think I’m doing anything but practice. I don’t think
I have been doing anything but practice all my dharma life. Including when I – confronted
my teacher. Including when I stepped out of my community. Including when
I stepped back in again. Including when I refused titles and then what I accepted
them. And when I challenged whole you know – institutions. It was practice. It was practice! It wasn’t flying off the
handle. I was expressing my authentic being. And – I was rooting myself –
into the ground of my practice. I would not
be able – I wouldn’t be sitting here in front
of you if it wasn’t for my practice. And – its – it’s a little strange that I’m
here in front of you. Got to admit – a little strange. I didn’t exactly abide by the rules all the
time. But I was deeply committed to my practice. And I showed up – and I saw what was out of
alignment. And I still showed up. And I rooted myself in my – in my love so
that my speaking to it was rooted in the love – that I had not just for respect – respecting
myself in that situation, but also for the love that I had for the people that
I was practicing with. That I expected something greater of them out of love. Q: I love you. LAUGHING A: I love you too. Q: Thank you. My name is Akili and I just
– I am curious about what’s on the notes? LAUGHING. A: Well now. I
did pretty good. I think its what I said. Practice that doesn’t irritate doesn’t liberate.
This is actually a little null sign. As they were coming to get me. That was actually was pretty good. I don’t
think I missed a point, but if I had – I would you know hold you responsible for not
interrupting and saying check your notes. Thank you for asking. Q: Uh hi I just wanted to find out — Do you have a name? Q: My name is Zaba – I wanted to ask about
mindfulness – you mentioned it and I think it’s a wonderful like American manifestation
of Buddhism. You know I guess the traditions that you know can relate to
– I guess being present that kind of thing. So I don’t know I think its a great
compliment to Buddhism – I would just like you to kind of give your insight – well
you have, but I guess kind of relate it a little more and elaborate. A: Do whatever gets you in the door. I am not so much concerned about the people
that are attracted to mindfulness. I am concerned about the people that uh hang
out their shingle – selling mindfulness – when they themselves have not
– uh deepened in their own practice and then there will be confusion
uh particularly when you – when you strip a technique away from its ethical core. So if we are – uh smart and strategic then
we will quickly with haste – paste some ethical core in the caboose of mindfulness
– so that as the train leaves the station – that ethics don’t get left behind. And so
that’s the concern uh because this stability of mind – is neutral. It is not
inherently given over to express positive things without an ethical foundation. Without
an ethical framework. Do you know Hitler was a meditator? Yes. Yes.
Wow. Stability of mind can express itself in many
different directions. And so people will be – and can clearly – with exquisite
precision – rape and plumage countries – hiding behind corporations. They can execute
things – with detachment. In which they are not uh – caught up in the
– feeling of what it means to exhibit that kind of behavior as a human being. You again. Q: I am sorry. LAUGHING. I feel bad, but again…here
I am. So my name is Rayna – so yes during the talk you mentioned
about white male and – they are also suffering too and I totally understand,
but when I – hear that I get pissed off. Because – You should be pissed off that anyone is suffering. Q: So from my experience…LAUGHING. My experience
when I stand up for people of color and uh to – to white male
or any like I guess in general white people – they claim that they are also suffering
in the basic words of the Buddhist and they throw you know we are all suffering
like totally normal – normalizing the pain and definitely like there is a different
degree of suffering. And that’s institutional too. Like – especially
black people are like they’re life is threatened. Always in danger. But even they claim – even – so white people
claim to be Buddhist. They don’t want to acknowledge – I don’t know I feel
like they caught up their ego so much. And then they can’t even admit that they’re
– they’re privileged. And that – make me pissed off. LAUGHING. Even if I express like really they can take
it. And so yesterday you talked about like in allowing too – and also allowing them
to grow and then its ok to understand. But still I feel the sense of
urgency because people are dying. So how…I want to know the way to you know
– to use it urging and then allowing. But I think in the US urging part is very
huge right now. A: That’s right. A: Suffering is a experience that we are uh
– prone to. And confusion. But when it’s picked up and it’s used as a shield – uh
to actually keep uh – our solidity in place. Then you have to pull out the sword
and cut right through that shield. And so – people that are – uh – anything on
you know truly can be used to be manipulated right so we can use suffering
– the idea of suffering as people do. We are all suffering. You know that one. Uh – but your own discernment of understanding
when people are using to blow smoke up your tail – is really useful. Then I would close down the entrance. Don’t
let them do it. LAUGHS. Stop in its tracks. Right? That’s when you actually have a responsibility
to uh use your own – uh your own being to both receive and acknowledge
in your heart the truth of their deep suffering – not the thing that they’re
shielding with throwing at you and trying to actually cut you with. Right? Cut you down
with. You know like Captain America has got that
shield and just slices through things. That’s how a lot of dharma people use suffering.
It’s a shield and it cuts people down. So you can – acknowledge that behind that
shield there is a human being that is suffering and they’re caught up in that illness. Uh and – use everything available to you – to
urgently push back – against that to call it out to name it. And I know that that
burdens us. And so I – when I say that I ask of the people that are constantly under
strain and stress – not extend themselves beyond their capacity. You know
there are times to build your capacity. When you’re under the constant stress. That uh – races and induces – that classes
and induces that patriarchy – a constant stress. And I’m sure the people that
– are not in touch with that – it could sound like just complaining – like we are
all under stress. And it’s a different kind of – stress. That has a different degree of impact. Uh – most of the – stress and suffering that
many uh – privilege folks are experiencing is uh self maintained. And that’s
one of the significant differences. So if you just go off and you keep maintaining
your own stress and suffering and kind of leave me alone like stopped actually
advancing and maintaining my suffering. Then we can start having a conversation. But until – your suffering stops resulting…in
my unnecessary suffering – I’ve got a problem with you. I am going to challenge
you. Someone has to tell that I am not the most
uh rude person that’s ever sat in this seat. LAUGHING. Just you know the little check – no. Not even
close. Oh you just opened the door. Ryan, I think you should just come and stay
with me for the rest of the time I’m here. Q: You’re not rude. And thank you for your
talk. It was beautiful. My question is – I was wondering if you could – expand and
kind of define what it means to – be grounded in your being because you said that
in order to like let go of aspects of ourselves we have to be grounded in our being
so that just really stood out to me. I really wanted to clearly understand
what you meant by that? A: We have to begin right? So one of our challenges
is that we always want to be like perfect. We want to have it together
and we live in a society that is so much like about having it together. And so
– really its – you have to begin to ground in your being. Right? And that means
to like feel yourself in yourself. To feel yourself in yourself. Don’t most of
us feel like we are just sort of these weird projections – like we are out there
somewhere and things are going on and like this – you know LAUGHS – this avatar
angel is doing things that I just wish she would – stop. LAUGHING. And I can’t get
her to reel it in. And you know because like as the things are
happening you don’t feel yourself. You literally don’t feel yourself. Think about it. When – the worst moments when
you committed the most crazy act in your life – it was just like you were
hovering somewhere watching it happen and you were just – had no ability to control
it. Like you – you’re disembodied. And for me – embodiment practices – meditation
was a really good start. But I got to – like it was more. This lifetime. LAUGHS. And so I begin – practices that were embodied
practice meaning they enabled me to uh – feel myself. Right – literally like I could feel myself.
Not just sensation – feel myself. I don’t mean just sensation. It starts by feeling
sensation – like to know sensation – when you feel yourself. Like disembodied like
your little helium balloon likes starting to leave. Little head disappearing
away from the rest of your body, Uh – and so you begin to feel sensation of
the helium balloon kind of comes back down uh but most of don’t inhabit our full
bodies and our full beings. We’re kind of contained. In all of the compression of society and the
compression of speed and the compression of getting it right and the compression
of knowing everything. And the compression of the idea of who we
are. And if we kind of quit the idea of who we
are and just be who we are – we’d go much further much faster. Just quit it – like break up. LAUGHING. And send this like little break up notes. Dear, idea of angel – I’m done. I’m just going to risk it. And I’m going to be who I am. And it’s going to come out all wrong. And that’s perfect. That’s perfect. Q: Hi, thank you. My name is Yvette. I think
I understand the – why you had to unhook yourself from your coolness and your
hipness. Can you help me understand – that why you felt you had to
unhook yourself from your blackness? Your – female-ness and your queerness. A; I got them all back by the way. LAUGHING.
Including the hip and cool. LAUGHING. I hope. CLAPPING. You tell me. Q; I was wondering – so answer my question
– thank you. LAUGHING. A: Well let me say something that we – we
don’t know what is given to us. We don’t know how much of our identity is constructed
and given to us. Handed down from you know ideas and media and parents
and you know just the queer kids that we ran with on the peers and that
kind of thing and the fact of our Latino culture – right we have been given things
and so actually in order to find ourselves we have to lose ourselves. So we have to lose and unhook. From the fixation on the identity from the
story about our identity. I know that’s very difficult when – for people that whose
– culture is nothing but stealing our stories and selling our stories back to ourselves
and silencing our stories. We – we do not have to – those people that are
marginalized. We do not have to acquiesce the – the beauty and the power of
these practices because there’s – there’s a shadow hanging over them. That is
acquiescing our power – there was a point in time at which thought oh I might
have to leave this practice because – you know my ways of being challenged by the
uh expression of systemic – uh injustices. By people that meant well. They meant well. I was in a village. They
meant well. They were as liberal as you could get. As progressive as you could
get. I had all kind of queer flags and you know
I had female – you know check, check, check. But you know – it doesn’t mean a thing. If it has that swing. The impact – of the subtle aggression that
comes from unchecked privilege. The impact of people that are functioning
out of a place that has to do with not being seen because we’re so afraid to actually
deconstruct whiteness and the impact whiteness has had on the psyche of
America. And so – people actually can’t see it and
so at some point I felt I have to leave and I was like what – that’s bananas. That’s
mine. That’s mine – this practice is mine. And as a result when I eventually started
a community – the – the earth touching Buddha is our – symbolic Buddha. We always
have earth touching Buddha’s. And the earth touching Buddha represents the
– the moment when uh – maura when – all kinds of seductions came along
and said – after – through it all everything maura had – an army of stuff and
things – pleasures and fire and pain and all kinds of things. Basically said who the **** do you think you
are? Who do you think you are? To – try to – be liberated. Try to have freedom. To try to have access to your own heart. And maura – and Buddha said – the earth is
my witness. I don’t need to be witnessed by you. I don’t need your permission. And that’s complicated in the lineage oriented
– place. I survived it. I survived it because I stood in my ground. And eventually somehow – uh someone decided
to acknowledge that that probably is consistent with the teachings. LAUGHINGS. And they reluctantly gave up a title. Ok. Perhaps we will leave it there with the questions.
Uh thank you so much for being here with us this evening. I am sure
we have all enjoyed it tremendously and I hope you will come back soon. Well thank you, if I have an invitation then
I will come back. CLAPPING [CHIME]

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  1. I was taught labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of truth and they produce hateful prejudices in mens mind where truth is self cannot be

  2. "Liberation for all beings". Is this a fundamental principle to all Buddhists or a bodhisattva vow for an individual Buddhist ministry? Sanghas do not seem to reflect liberation for all. But are as cultural and racial and class oriented as any community.

  3. Finished my master's degree in African studies of nonwestern mind-body transformation via Buddhist qigong master U of MN 2000 – thanks https://www.pdf-archive.com/2017/04/10/idiot-s-guide-to-taoist-alchemy/ free pdf, 20 years of research, lots of images, secrets revealed

  4. Thank you for your commitment and courage clarity and generosity to share and spur us to love completely – and the critical practice of attending to our internal worlds in order to save ourselves/ecology

  5. Ha Ha, she called her rakusu "my trusty bib." I always call mine "my bodhisattva bib" and add that is because when one takes/makes the bodhisattva vows, it becomes immediately apparent to us how much slobber and drool we create in our life being unable to live up to them from moment to moment.

  6. "Just pull the sword from the shield and cut …" hmm. I think that might have been a good opportunity to introduce the idea of "skillful means". ? Sounds like a lot of aggression or at least, certainly could lead to a big fat mess. Not sure what angel is really talking about to be honest? sorry.

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