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Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,036 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Igniting a long-overdue dialogue about how the legacy of racial injustice and white supremacy plays out in society at large and Buddhist communities in particular, this urgent call to action outlines a new dharma that takes into account the ways that racism and privilege prevent our collective awakening.

The authors traveled around the country to spark an open conversation
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by North Atlantic Books
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Average rating 4.42  · 
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Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Writers of color challenge #8

Hey White People! pay attention.

The three Black Queer Buddhist authors of this book present the idea that the steps toward eliminating racism in our culture involve a deeper understanding of ourselves. When we understand our own suffering, we can connect with that of others.

I'm not Buddhist, I'm no scholar, I went to a few Dharma classes in Seattle about 10 years ago and I read on and off and I meditate on and off (but mainly off). This book was still approachable to
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow, wow, wow.

I took so many notes over the course of this read, found myself in deep internal conversation, and wanted to scream about it from the rooftops to everyone I know. In this book, co-authors Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Jasmine Syedullah Ph.D., and Lama Rod Owens offer touching, powerful words on the path to liberation. The words come from open, compassionate, honest dialogue among themselves and the people who came to engage with them in these public spheres so it reads very easily an
Rachel Lewis
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddhism
On the one hand: profound and important. On the other hand: certain sections have so many neologisms/errors, mixed metaphors, and rapid changes of register that they're almost unreadable. Don't read this for the prose style but do read it. ...more
Jer Clarke
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a very valuable book to read, and I’m glad I got through it, but it wasn’t easy. There’s a lot of very deep wisdom embedded in the discussions and essays that make up this book, things I’ve been trying to think about but which are elusive when you’re on your own. The authors share a deep wisdom and experience of the issues of race and identity and their intersection with Buddhism that is impressive and intimidating.

It was disturbing in many ways to read the descriptions of racism and i
Janet Nash
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was breathtaking and challenging. I struggle as someone who identifies as Buddhist because I also feel I need to be active and stand up for social justice issues. I've loved and respected Elie Wiesel and his books, especially "Night." In his life, post-Holocaust, he said that we have to take sides, and that it was those who turned a blind eye to the horrors of World War II that contributed to sustaining it for so long. In today's world, I feel that same need to stand up when politician ...more
Patrick Taylor
I thought this book gave some really valuable insights into how queer and female people of color experience buddhism. I really enjoyed the emphasis on being ok with discomfort and the messiness of tackling issues of racism.

Two things bothered me about this book. One was how jargony so much of it was. It was full of activist jargon, to the extent that it was hard to understand what they were actually talking about. That's my personal issue, and one you may not care about.

The other issue I had is
Veena Gokhale
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have been a practising Buddhist for about 2 decades now and my belief in social justice is as strong as my "relief" in Buddhism!
This is a great book that marries the two, a much needed, timely, courageous collaboration between three, black, queer, American Buddhists and trailblazers.
I agree with some of the critiques that it has parts that are too academic, jargony and unclear. It could have been better put together and better edited. That said, I see it as the first effort by these authors,
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rated 5 stars for content, not quality of writing.

Three black, queer Buddhist teachers specifically target US Buddhists in creating a society that seeks liberation for oppressed people in the US. The authors are not afraid of a messy conversation.

Some of my favorite passages from the book:

"The politics of respectability and the hidden rules of politeness that silently govern white belonging to "polite Society" demand that love remain personal. The further the love is from some norm, the more beh
Rob Smith
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: buddhism
I didn't finish this book. It's pretty disjointed. Seems all over the place.

My main problem is the book never seems to... start? A lot of the chapters come off as an introduction to someone else. And then by the time we get to the conversations about race, love, and liberation you don't care anymore.

The parts of the authors dealing with racism, their upbringing, poverty and broken homes, finding Buddhism is great. But it then gets repetitive. It seems the same similar things are said in every ch
Sian Lile-Pastore
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of voices - essays, interviews, etc etc - rather than a linear book, and I think that creates a richness and a life to it, even though it may have been an easier read if it had been constructed differently.

particularly loved Lama Rod Owens contributions
Ryan Hartman
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm an anarchist and I am into Buddhist philosophy and practice. Often these two do not mix. This book gives me hope that I'm not too much of a weirdo ...more
Kazemi Adachi
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Each of the authors translate the dharma into radical black, feminist, and queer lineages. They use the academic verbiage of critical social theory that piques my elite academic interests while basing their dharma in lived experience through wit, wisdom, and humility.
Monica L Edwards
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
I struggled at times with the writing—three authors and three different voices, plus formal writing shifts to conversation transcripts. But, I love how this book made me think, and feel challenged.
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best spiritual books I have ever read. I wish I read it sooner. The connections between race, liberation, and dharma are powerful, compelling, and thoughtful. I highlighted so much in the book and will be going back to review and connect my own personal dots.
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is phenomenal. So many concepts and thoughts to sit with. Definitely a book I will be reading again. It Is Not Love After All is a great reflection for BIPOC activists feeling burnout or frustration.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very, very good. I especially appreciated the portions on the prison system. I found the conversations portion to be the weakest.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. I had read another book of Rev. angel Kyodo williams and jumped at the chance to read this one. While not Buddhist I was intrigued by the topics of the book supposedly addressing racial injustice, white supremacy, etc. in Buddhist communities and wondered what I could take away from that.
And initially it was fascinating. The purpose of the book, the need to address these issues both within and without Buddhisim, what some of the terminology meant, etc. It sounded like it would be
Scott F
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was excited to read this book, but ultimately I found it disappointing unfortunately. As a person of colour that practices Zen I was intrigued by it, I think I had been expecting this to be a book about engaged buddhist practice, on how the Bodhisattva path could be used to view the issues of race and intolerance in society but this is not that kind of book. Instead it seemed to be a book in which the authors appeared to be unhappy with their (presumably white) sanghas not understanding their ...more
An enthralling read from start to finish. A long overdue book on so many levels. The three authors bring the black prophetic fire into conversation with their practices as black Buddhists and Buddhist communities. They demonstrate how black religiosity is inherently interspiritual, organically multi-religious, rarely does it exist in the vacuum that western conceptions of monotheism/polytheism/deism attempt to stratify non-western religions. They bring their church upbringings, their mosque upbr ...more
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism
This book is three voices of black Buddhists, one male, all gay. The two women are from the Zen tradition and the guy is from a Tibetan tradition, where he did the 3 year retreat. There are essays and panel discussions. The question seems to be how to make someone like them feel comfortable to join a sangha, and what their experiences are of discomfort. Rev. angel doesn't like to be called articulate because why would that be a surprise? Are you saying that black people are not usually articulat ...more
Lily Jamaludin
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a needed book! The authors do such thought-provoking, beautiful, and yes, radical work in envisioning a new America. I think it equips activists with a new spiritual language to energise your anti-oppression and liberation work. I particularly enjoyed the chapters where the authors provided their own testimonies of transforming their own racial/sexual/gender wounds. There was a wonderful moment in one of the chapters where a white man who is a self-proclaimed former racist describes how his ...more
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I listened to Rev. angel's interview on Buddhist Geeks I knew I needed to read this book. I was not disappointed. I was surprised though - I had this preconceived notion that this book was going to have "kumbaya" vibes. I was stripped of those notions almost immediately. This book is about Love - not Hallmark(tm) love, but fierce, genuine love. I am definitely going to be getting a copy for myself. ...more
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
-what you don't deal w urself you project onto others/shut down in others bc to see it triggers u
-to be a healing teacher, commune with the inner > dep on external validation
-heal yourself -> heal others
-christianity cuts off the carnal, desire, makes it bad, shameful (rotten closets reek), baldwin whiteness- cut off from sensuality
-radical queer openness- embrace accept face difference with LOVE
-get used to being uncomfortable as growth as liberation
Sister Ocean
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So needed, so loving, so true.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. Inspiring and informative. Read it.
William  Lawrence
Feb 12, 2021 rated it liked it
“One abiding theory that emerges from the practice of a radical dharma that presents itself is that you should know this, attend to that, be aware of these things, but you must do them for your liberation, not mine.”

“To inhabit radical as an ideal is to commit to going beyond one’s familiar or even chosen terrain. It avails you to what you weren’t willing to see, which is the place Truth resides.”

“Our inability as a nation to honor the theft of these lands and the building of wealth, power, and
Hannah Spadafora
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful and moving collection of stories and reflections on individual experiences with racism and with attempting to form anti-racist spaces within Buddhist sanghas and community spaces. It was not exactly what I expected (not exactly a comprehensive narrative of how to enact Buddhist to personal and communal practice in ways connected to social justice/how Buddhist scripture supports and connects to anti racist ideas/ie a guidebook on Buddhism that connects to contemporary issues go ...more
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wgs
I am not very well-read in Buddhism or Black prophetic tradition. However, I enjoyed the book and learned from it. I specifically liked the fact that the three authors had added a glossary at the end. It’s so heartwarming to see how the authors care about their readers’ comprehension and do not want them to get lost throughout the journey.

I want to lift two points among all the wisdom shared in this book. One is that like Claudia Rankine, the authors in this book have attempted to share the mess
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've found myself drawn to Buddhist principles for a long time, though have hesitated to call myself a subscriber or practitioner of Buddhism for a variety of reasons, not the least of which has to do with the issue of American Buddhism and how I have perceived it to be subsumed by problems of race and inclusion of other minority opinions. Stated differently, there is a perception I have of Buddhism in America being largely white and largely self-centered on healing as a White person using a dis ...more
Brad McKenna
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddhism, poc
This was a just the book I was looking for: a Buddhist prospective on racism. I'm just going to give you a list of highlights because if you're wavering, they should convince you to read it but if you've not desire to read it (but have come to this review) it'll at least get you thinking.

“I think we get distracted with trying to end white supremacy and oppression and racism, but there’s still this work of healing that needs to be done for everyone and we need to bring more attention to that piec
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an American writer, ordained Zen priest and the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace, published by Viking Press in 2000. Called "the most vocal and most intriguing African-American Buddhist in America" by Library Journal, Williams is the Spiritual Director of the meditation-based newDharma Community and founder of the Center for Transformative Change in Berk ...more

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“We simply cannot engage with either the ills or promises of society if we continue to turn a blind eye to the egregious and willful ignorance that enables us to still not “get it” in so many ways. It is by no means our making, but given the culture we are emerging from and immersed in, we are responsible. White folks’ particular reluctance to acknowledge impact as a collective while continuing to benefit from the construct of the collective leaves a wound intact without a dressing. The air needed to breathe through forgiveness is smothered. Healing is suspended for all. Truth is necessary for reconciliation. Will we express the promise of and commitment to liberation for all beings, or will we instead continue a hyper-individualized salvation model—the myth of meritocracy—that is the foundation of this country’s untruth?” 9 likes
“I’m thinking about my own liberation. I mean, I’m not liberated. Liberation is a process, and I think one of the first important things I had to do is stop believing in my inferiority. I” 3 likes
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