Joy Brennan

‘The Yogacara understanding of mind as subjective and objective both accounts for and counters the invisibility of whiteness. Yogacara, unlike earlier schools of Buddhist thought, uses the term “mind” to refer both to the subjective aspect of awareness (the part of the mind that does the thinking and feeling) and to its objects, whether they are internal (like a thought or feeling) or external (like a material thing or another person’s voice). For example, the mind that becomes aware of a feeling of anger, or the mind that perceives a loved one’s voice, is not distinct from that feeling or that voice. Here, the nondistinctness means that the subjective and objective aspects of awareness share a set of causal conditions, rather than arising due to entirely separate sets of causal conditions. Subjective awareness and its objects are therefore co-constructed, or brought into being together, in relationship to one another.

However, Yogacara teaches that the ordinary person does not know that these two aspects of awareness are co-constructed. Rather, we commonly take it that the subjective aspect of awareness and its objects are distinct and arise from different sets of conditions. Yogacara uses the term “constructed” to refer to both aspects of awareness when taken as distinct from one another. And this term is meant to be a corrective to how they appear—they appear as natural, fixed, distinct features of experience, when in fact they have been constructed to appear that way and are two aspects of a single experience. Our lack of understanding of this point, according to Yogacara thought, is also the nature of delusion…

Many nonwhite writers and thinkers have identified the delusive belief white people share that while nonwhite people have a race and see reality based on their experiences as racialized people, white people are free of such “distorting” influences. White people commonly take their own perceptions to reflect reality and nonwhite people’s perceptions to be filtered by their specific experiences. In this way, white experience is taken by white people as a human norm, while the experiences of nonwhite people are taken as distinctive, nonnormative, and even distorted. But if the Yogacara school is right that all ordinary people’s experiences include subjective and objective aspects that are mutually and fully shaped by conditions—which include the past experiences and actions of white people as a collective—then white experience, too, must be shaped in this way. The call for white people to understand how whiteness as an identity construct came about and how it shapes our own experiences is a call to overcome this false subject–object divide and to see the workings of the mind for what they are…

Finally, the Yogacara school emphasizes both the intersubjective aspects of experience and the collective aspects of karmic conditioning, two points that cut against white individualism. Intersubjectivity refers to the fact that through shared language and shared conceptual constructions—or ways of dividing up the world of experience—beings actually share structures of consciousness. In this way of thinking, my mind is not in fact mine alone and awareness is not a private affair. And because the subjective and objective aspects of experience are mutually conditioned, intersubjectivity entails interobjectivity. We share an object world—a world of shared institutions, social practices and ideals, norms, and references—not because they are natural and fixed features of reality, but because they are shaped by the same shared conditioning forces that shape our subjective experiences. Collective karma refers to karmic conditioning that is shared by a group of beings. The fact of collective karma follows from the intersubjective nature of experience and the inter-objective nature of our worlds. Shared karmic conditioning is nothing other than the fact that important features of both our subjective awareness and the objects it encounters arise from the same set of conditions.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Joy spent time at City Center while I was there; I knew she was in academia, and enjoyed this very dense unpacking of Yogacara and whiteness – I learned more about Yogacara from this article than I have previously.

angel Kyodo williams

‘Anyone who has insisted on liberation so that they may know joy and love represents for the rest of us the possibility, the promise that the dharma puts before us and says, yes, liberation is possible even for you. Liberation is possible even for you.’ (from her website)

To which I will add that if you are a person of colour, reading this early enough on Saturday, Rev angel is offering ‘the Black SIT‘ for Juneteenth.

Duncan Ryuken Williams

‘Our liberation is actually not about transcending or distancing ourselves from trauma or pain and suffering, but it is to acknowledge how we can transform ourselves, our communities, our nation, our world, from all that pain.’ (from the New York Times)

This is from a report about the ceremony held on May 4th as a memorial for the victims of racial violence. I suspect that many people I know were tuning in; it’s hard to tell with the masks, but I might have met some of those in attendance. I recommend clicking on the link at least to look at the gorgeous photos. The words and the sentiments are also beautiful; we can all ask ourselves how we can contribute to this transformation.

Ruth King

‘At the core of racial suffering is denial about our belonging—that is, our kinship and our membership in each other’s lives. The separation inherent in the entrenched patterns of racial suffering is not just a division of the races. The consciousness—or unconsciousness—that supports racial suffering cuts people out of our hearts, then has us try to live as if “cutting” does not hurt. We have come to accept this dismemberment as normal and move about our lives in search of spiritual freedom and contentment, as if we are not bleeding from the wounds of separation. It’s as if we were orphans in search of our family, not realizing that they are “the other”—the ones we despise, don’t see, or think we know. We have convinced ourselves that we can live with missing body parts—with some folks and without others—and still be whole, happy, and peaceful. But the reality is that we live in a state of pervasive unsatisfactoriness and confusion, not able to see or touch a deep sense of belonging, nor put language to it. We work harder at belonging because we only make use of a fraction of our wholeness and overcompensate with what remains: righteousness or avoidance that masks fear. We waste energy that our communities need to heal and transform. In these moments of dismemberment, we have forgotten that all of our parts matter.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

‘Multiplicity in oneness does not mean that preferences, opinions, likes, dislikes, or even hate cease to be present. Everything is here. Challenges arise when we cling to one extreme among multiplicities, unwilling to acknowledge the presence of difference. It isn’t always necessary to engage that difference, but giving it an “inner bow” allows us to experience the whole landscape of oneness. By not acknowledging difference, we unwittingly exaggerate the difference until it screams to be acknowledged.’ (The Way of Tenderness)

Unwilling to acknowledge the presence of difference seems to encapsulate many of the sufferings in the US right now.

Chenxing Han

Here are some shifts I’d like to see in the future of American Buddhism:

From hubris to humility: fixating less on expertise and celebrity and focusing more on an honest acknowledgement of our blind spots in order to examine the ways we (intentionally or otherwise) harm others through our actions, speech, and thoughts.

From assumptions to curiosity: suspending our stereotypes to make room for questions and deep listening.

From narrowness to diversity: getting outside our limited experiences and viewpoints to meet and learn from those who are, too often, after- thoughts in our Buddhist circles.

From enclaves to interconnections: moving past our tendency to stick with those who are similar to us (and to alienate those who aren’t) so as to build communities that honor differences and cultivate empathy.

From two Buddhisms to intersectional Buddhism: because why constrain ourselves to simplistic dualities when a vast kaleidoscope of possibilities remain unexplored before us? (from Lion’s Roar)

I appreciate these points very much. I sometimes feel that some sanghas have not tried to re-imagine themselves in decades, and I trust that this generation of Buddhist teachers, and the next, will be doing their best on this front.

 

Lama Rod Owens

‘I gave meditation another shot after I began to work with a healer who explained that meditation would be the foundation of self-care that would help me to address not just my anger, but also the debilitating experience of depression that I was also connecting to. So I took practice seriously and took risks in learning how to sit with all the discomfort that I previously ran away from.
And somehow I knew that I was taking a huge risk. This was the risk of beginning to work with my own mind, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to hide from the secrets my mind had to reveal. I began to pull the veil back. When you pull that veil back, you can’t just put it back if you don’t like what you see, because you’ve seen it and there’s no unseeing it (though we may try!). We can’t undo the things that we witness, unfortunately, even though we try to forget.’ (Love and Rage)

I received this book this week – it took a while to shop from being on pre-order – and I have been glad to dip into it. I chose  a section around this passage to talk about with my student group on Tuesday.

There is a combination going around in my head, and has been for several months (I may have even written about it here): enraged and powerless. One member of my student group mentioned it as his reaction to seeing white militiamen invading the Michigan Capitol; my response at the time was the the men with guns were also enraged and powerless, but rather than acknowledging their actual lack of power, were overcompensating for it, by the brandishing of automatic weapons. Lama Rod, in what I have read, and heard him speak about recently, points to how Black men do not get to be enraged, without a severe chance of punishment or death. I think the book is going to be an exposition of how to create a liberatory power through a skilful meeting and harnessing of one’s own anger.

 

Lama Rod Owens

‘Dharma helps us develop a relationship to the nature of the thing itself. So when people and communities are saying “We’re all ultimately the same; there’s not such thing as race,” ultimately of course, that’s truth, and you want to thank them for their dharma teaching. We all need to be reminded of that, but then we have to bring our focus back to the way in which we still relate to one another as if race and skin color has this inherent meaning.’ (Radical Dharma)

At time of writing, I still hadn’t received my pre-ordered copy of Lama Rod’s new book (perhaps because I went for the cheapest shipping option), but I have been dipping back into Radical Dharma for a refresher. It occurred to me that this passage might help illuminate Reb’s words from Monday.

Gina Sharpe

‘Activism is not separate from who I am as a practicing Buddhist; it is inextricably connected. If we have compassion and peace, it’s natural to want to help the world live in justice and peace. In some ways, we don’t even have to add the word “Buddhist.” We’re just good people wanting the world to reflect what we feel inside. We’re not limited to our own liberation. Liberation is impossible if we’re disconnected from others’  (from Lion’s Roar)

Lama Rod Owens

‘Healing is movement and work toward wholeness. Healing is never a definite location but something in process. It is the basic ordinary work of staying engaged with our own hurt and limitations. Healing does not mean forgiveness either, though it is a result of it. Healing is knowing our woundedness; it is developing an intimacy with the ways in which we suffer. Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort.
Healing means we are holding the space for our woundedness and allowing it to open our hearts to the reality that we are not the only people who are hurt, lonely, angry, or frustrated. We must also release the habitual aggression that characterizes our avoidance of trauma or any discomfort. My goal is to befriend my pain, to relate to it intimately as a means to end the suffering of desperately trying to avoid it. Opening hearts to woundedness helps us to understand that everyone else around us carries the same woundedness.’

As I have turned to teachers of colour for wisdom in these current times, Lama Rod and Rev angel come to the fore again and again. I have pre-ordered Lama Rod’s new book, and have been enjoying the passages from it and the teachings he has been offering on social media.