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Radical Dharma – Book Notes

Under duress, we don not rise to our expectations, but fall to our level of training

Bruce Lee

All other quotes below are from the authors (except where noted):

Our first response to something uncomfortable is to want to change it. We have not learned to give ourselves the space and time to simply observe it as it is, to make friends with it.

Thrust into the Western socioeconomic framework that puts profit above all and coupled with a desire to perpetuate institutional existence at the expense of illuminating reality and revealing deeper truths, the Dharma has become beholden to commodification as inescapable and de riguer. Authenticity and integrity are thus compromised.

The dharma is about accepting what is, it can undermine the need for control.

Silence became the medium in which I was reborn into a sense of happiness and contentment.

The tiptoeing around race and other forms of difference as if in fear of waking a sleeping lion is one of the most subtly toxic attributes of whiteness in our culture today.

Sangha has taught me to mind the gap between what we say and what we do. The practice pulls us together, but we are not all headed in the same direction at the same time. We long for community but do not know how to site with difference. We try to take connection and eviscerate what makes us distinct.

We live in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

Each world you inhabit is no more or less real than the others. It is all just a protocol, a made-up and agreed-upon set of codes. In fact, moving fluidly between worlds of difference means developing an awareness of what of “so-called you” remains still and apparently the same.

B.R. Ambedkar, was born Untouchable, was fixed in Hinduism, so he found another religion, Buddhism. It is accepting and allows you the freedom to be who you are.

Anger was the first material I had to work with. I think for many communities of color, you get rooted in that hopelessness. There are not possibilities. There’s no potential b/c we’ve been put in a certain place, and no one excels beyond that.

The cultural value in this society has been if you don’t know how to work with something, suppress it.

The freer you get, the less you feel the need to control.

Understand that part of our capacity to make change outside in a way that’s actually generative comes from having done the work inside so we can actually have empowerment that doesn’t have to do with external conditions.

We have to commit to our own liberation regardless of what happens outside.

We can have this rhetoric of overthrowing oppressive systems, but we have to balance that with the work of overthrowing the oppressive system operating internally that actually keeps us enslaved.

Through the cultivation of awareness practice, we can learn to identify our traumas, accept them, investigate them, and learn to let them go in concert with sustaining heart practices such as lovingkindness (metta), taking and sending (tonglen) , and compassion practices.

Anger is not about creating or building up. That is the work of loving.

It is hard for us to consider that if the oppressor is healed, then maybe he or she would nor reproduce so much violence.

Love is the wish for myself and others to be happy. I am allowed to express love. In loving, I have no expectations.

The most profound practice I have ever been taught by my teachers is simply letting my shit fall apart, developing the courage to sit with all of my rough edges, the ugliness, the destructive and suffocating story lines I have perpetuated about myself, and letting go of the same suffocating storylines others maintain about me.

My healing has been learning to see myself and to celebrate myself.

Without inner change, there can be no outer change, without collective change, no change matters.

We have to come to terms with the fact that the nature of life is to experience confusion and discomfort. That by the fact of our birth, old age, sickness, and death are in our future, and we are thus inclined to suffer.

Learning to be with suffering as an experience is part and parcel of what it means to live, and it radically alters our relationship to all of life and to the suffering of others.

You can’t even recognize the suffering of others without fully acknowledging the despair of your own suffering.

For generation upon generation, white America has traded its humanity for privilege.

Sanskrit has 96 words for love.

Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public (Cornel West)

I have a theory that racism is required in order to keep capitalism in place. It requires a division of peoples so that we can have the people that consume, the people that are producing what is consumed, and the people that are consumed.

You have to insist upon only living within the vibration of love. Love that changes, love that comforts, love that holds you, love that allows you to make mistakes, but only within love.

Even if you are a straight, white male, this society is oppressing you in some way by dictating how and what you should be.

I’m going to stand with you in whatever way you need me to stand with you and create communities in spaces that would honestly rather us be completely alienated and alone and isolated from each other (so you can fill the void with consumerism).

If you don’t truly know, know intimately that “life is suffering” then you cannot know what it means to seek liberation.

If I’m white, I’m supposed to feel bad for folks of color. But there’s zero space for white folks to really claim suffering around living in a racialized society. There’s no space, it seems to me, for white people to actually get down to the conversation. It can’t even be acknowledge that there is any suffering. Things aren’t going to change if we can’t allow people to fully claim their own suffering.

That’s what the dharma is actually about. It’s about allowing people the space and the opportunity for discomfort so that they can touch their own suffering.

Buddhism is best at picking up other traditions as it goes along.

Historically, teachers have been supported by the community, and so lacking that, we have unfortunately deferred to a capitalization of our teaching. We’ve commercialized and moved our dharma teaching into a capitalist model of competition, marketing, who sells the best, and then ego just runs rampant.

Happiness is dependent on being fundamentally OK with who you are.

Whatever’s created will be destroyed, so nothing will last. That’s why we ground ourselves in a sense of being at home in our own experience, in who and what we are. That is inner happiness.

We need a place for it to be safe to be uncomfortable, because discomfort is where liberation really emerges from you, just as a lotus emerges from the mud.

We waste sangha and community when we choose not to engage in discomfort associated with liberatory practice.

The misunderstanding is that refuge means somehow being protected from our discomfort. Refuge is actually about being protected from all of the things that are hindering our ability to see our discomfort and to be able to actually come in contact with it.

The refuge is: Here is a space. Here is an opportunity for you to meet your discomfort instead of continuing to bypass it, to drug it, to distract from it, to Hulu it or to Facebook it or — you know all the ways.

We create this separation between people who are drug users and alcoholics, so they’re the bad ones that aren’t taking care of themselves and are really distracted. In fact, we are all heavily anesthetized by the various ways we’re distracted from our own suffering.

If you’re going to dharma communities, if you’re going to walk in the path of the Buddha, if you’re going to any place of spiritual enrichment in which you are not meaningfully experiencing discomfort, not all the time, but meaningfully uncomfortable frequently, you are not doing your work, and you are not walking the path of liberation.

If it’s all warm and fuzzy all the time, then someone is really not dropping wisdom.

Give yourself permission to be uncomfortable and to make others uncomfortable in your truth.

I do the things that I do because I know that I can die at any second.

I experience great suffering when I forget my impermanence.

There is no greater work than the work of self-love because that lies at the heart of our liberation from ignorance.

In the end, may all beings be liberated through the celebration and love of the things we all once suffered from.

People who disrupt the American dream have been few in number.

Dharma is a Sanskrit word meaning “universal truth”

New dharma embraces the mash-up of those ancient teaching coming into contact with traditional Eastern/Western religions and earth-based spiritualities.

Awareness – reflective and contemplative practices that turn attention inward – converts self-inquiry into a welcome opportunity rather than a threat.

When you allow your practice to be one of bearing witness to suffering, opening yourself to not knowing, you directly cultivate compassion from wise action.

Challenge what is unjust. Invest in the basic goodness. Always moving toward integration. Without this commitment and practice, we merely mirror the destructive forces of polarization and power.

The ability to disrupt our programming and form new cognitive connections based on direct experience that then becomes embodied through repetition – practice – is one of human beings’ greatest attributes. In this lies the potential to overcome our basest reactions for survival and manifest our highest evolutionary potential to thrive. It is profound, and it is possible, and we can see it.