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Retreat Dharma Talks

Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism

At this time when a deepened commitment to address and end racism in its many manifestations is arising for many, we explore how Buddhist practice can support this commitment. We’ll work, in this series of talks, discussions, and experiential practices, with the traditional training model of developing in wisdom, meditation, and ethics, focusing in three successive weeks on each of the three. We’ll ground ourselves in wisdom perspectives applied to racism, particularly related to seeing with some depth how racism is linked to greed, hatred, and delusion, with the aim of ending racism as social dukkha. We’ll work with the meditative practices of mindfulness, compassion, and empathy in investigating and transforming our conditioning, and helping us to be more skillful with the pain and grief that arise connected with racism. And we’ll emphasize ethical practice as the foundation of skillful action—in our communication, in our communities, and in our society. Each week will include guidance for reading and experiential practices between sessions, and we’ll suggest, at the end of the three weeks, ways to continue, for those who are interested.

2020-07-09 (15 days) Insight Meditation Tucson

2020-07-09 Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism 1: Training in Wisdom and Developing Wise Perspectives on Racism 1:14:35
Donald Rothberg
In this first talk in a three-part series, we work with the traditional model of a threefold training in wisdom, meditation, and ethics, beginning with identifying three perspectives that can guide our understanding and practice. The first is to remember the Buddha's rejection of the caste system and its core claims, and the welcoming of all, from any caste or from no caste, into his community. The second is to understand how greed, hatred, and delusion, the transformation of which is at the center of our practice, are not just individual but also institutional and systemic in nature. The third is to see how race, in terms of blackness and whiteness, is a social construction without biological reality, appearing in history at a certain point a little over three centuries ago (we look in some detail at how whiteness appeared in colonial Virginia at the end of the 17th century); it is a construction very clearly connected with divide-and-conquer strategies by the wealthy elite, which then has terrible consequences.
2020-07-16 Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism 2: -Meditation and Inner Work 1:19:17
Donald Rothberg
In this second talk in the series, we first review the main "wisdom" perspectives presented last week, that give us some orientation toward understanding and transforming racism. Then we explore the second area of training: meditation and inner work, identifying four main themes and practices, the first three of which are supported significantly by working in small groups: (1) understanding and working with "implicit bias"; (2) cultivating mindfulness of our racial conditioning and the experiences which arise in investigating race and racism; (3) heart practices like compassion and empathy; and (4) the importance of continuing to access, as best we can, deeper experiences of our being.
2020-07-23 Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism 3: Ethical Commitment and Action (Talk) 40:56
Donald Rothberg
We explore the nature of ethical commitment and how our commitment not to harm also implies, following some of the teachings and actions of the Buddha and of other teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh, a commitment not to let others harm (or kill). On this basis, we then outline a number of possible ways to act to address the harm of racism, clarifying an important aspect of such action--that our actions to address harm as much as possible not cause further harm themselves. We end by remembering that we need perspectives and capacities, inner and outer, that help us to be engaged for the "long haul."
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