Reverend angel Kyodo williams on the Liberating Possibilities of Radical Dharma
This Week From the Emergence Magazine Podcast
Emergence Magazine is a quarterly online publication exploring the threads connecting ecology, culture, and spirituality. As we experience the desecration of our lands and waters, the extinguishing of species, and a loss of sacred connection to the Earth, we look to emerging stories. Each issue explores a theme through innovative digital media, as well as the written and spoken word. The Emergence Magazine podcast features exclusive interviews, narrated essays, stories, and more.
In this in-depth interview, Reverend angel Kyodo williams reflects on our widespread crisis of story, the failure of institutional religions to offer a new way forward, and her philosophy of Radical Dharma—a path to individual and collective liberation. Reverend williams is the author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation.
From the episode:
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: Radical dharma is an invitation to look at not just the realities and ideas and concepts and beliefs that serve the things that keep your ego intact, keep you feeling safe, that serve the views of reality that continue to keep oppressive systems in place—like patriarchy, like white supremacy, supremacy of any kind, religious supremacy—that serve narratives like the sense that there is a binary of gender and that people can only exist inside of these binaries, or ways of loving, or ways of knowing each other, or that economies have to unfold in a particular way. Radical dharma asks you to look at histories that maybe you haven’t acknowledged. To look at experiences in your own life that you haven’t acknowledged, ways that things have affected how you show up in the world, whether you are open or whether you are more closed, whether you are more receptive or whether you are more narrow, whether you operate out of a location of fear and resistance to difference, or whether you operate out of a location that is spacious, and curious, and open to difference—and want to understand how difference operates and why, in fact, difference feels like it’s something that troubles you or makes you come a little bit undone.
So, radical dharma asks people—particularly people who have taken on dharmic religions, the Eastern religions of yoga and Buddhism, but also beyond that, people of the Jewish faith, people of Muslim faith, people of the Sikh faith, people who are spiritual but not religious—to be willing to look at the complexities of things that make up our realities, not just the realities that make us comfortable and keep our story, our narrative, intact. Radical dharma says there’s no such thing as a singular narrative. So, will you look at the whole truth and not just the story that you want to tell yourself, not just the story that you’ve inherited, not just the story of your privilege and your entitlement to your privilege? But, what is your privilege based on? Who is it costing?
Not just the narrative of “capitalism is all we have,” but why has our imagination been stolen in such a way by capitalism that we can’t even imagine a different possibility for different economies and different ways of trading and being in relationship to each other? Radical dharma is an invitation to interrogate not just one truth, but as many truths as one can encounter—and to recognize that, actually, those truths are going to keep coming into solidity and then fall away over and over again. So that what we live with is a willingness to be curious, and contemplative, and courageous about the life and the lives that we have, the lives that we inherited, but also the lives that other people have inherited—and really try to allow for the multiplicity of truths, and ways of being and knowing that exist and make up our lives and the way we understand our lives.
Reverend angel Kyodo williams is a Sensei in the Japanese Zen tradition and founder of the Center for Transformative Change. She is the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace and coauthor of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation.