RADICAL DHARMA workshop in Seattle: On race, love and liberation
Written by Farheen HaQ with Gagan Leekha and Khalilah Alwani
Four sangha members (Tahia Ahmed, Khalilah Alwani, Farheen HaQ and Gagan Leekha) from Victoria recently travelled to Seattle to spend a weekend listening to dharma teacher Reverent angel Kyodo’s williams’ teachings centred around racial justice and community liberation. It was inspiring and powerful to be amongst a large sangha of people of colour (POC) and white allies ready to sit with the discomfort and pain of the racism that affects us all.
Rev. angel is a powerful, loving and wise dharma teacher. She reminded us that our dharma work is to notice the many locations we rest in and that racialization is always having an effect on us – for folks white and coloured. The weekend included a POC caucus followed by two days of mixed group discussion. During the POC caucus, many sangha members shared experiences of having to leave parts of themselves behind to fit into white spaces and/or doing “double duty” to make spaces more accessible for themselves and others. Rev. angel noted that playing this dual role can hinder our liberation and its everyone’s role to do the deep work of recognizing racial injustice present in our communities.
When one sangha member described the feeling of being a part of the POC caucus where experiences were shared, witnessed and validated, they spoke of not realizing how parched they were and felt nourished and hydrated by the shared experience.
There was deep conversation about structural and systemic racism in the context of U.S. history. To make it personal, we (especially white folks) were asked to consider “How do I carry myself so there is room at this watering hole for everyone?”
Finally Rev.angel Kyodo Williams reminded us of the truth that liberation practices are about community, that we cannot be liberated unto ourselves. We do not practice the dharma to feel better or solely for ourselves, we do it for all beings everywhere.
It is time to look at the dharma structures we practice within as they operate within white dominant culture — how do we free our dharma from systemic racism or the culture of white supremacy? Why are our sanghas mostly white? Who is not present and what voices are not being heard in our sanghas? In Canada, given that we are in a period of reconciliation with our indigenous communities, Rev. angels’ words offer much needed inspiration and her translation of the dharma gives us the tools to sit with the not-knowing and discomfort of the truth of our current context. It is time for this work and this work is generational. What can we be doing now to create more welcoming and inclusive sanghas for future generations?
To read more about Rev.angel Kyodo williams’ work, visit: http://angelkyodowilliams.com/
For more information or dates for our Indigenous, Black & People of Colour Sitting Group please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This group is open to IBPOC people from across lineages, practices and faiths. We hope to sit once a month here in Victoria.