Saturday, January 9, 2016

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, "Through the Fire to Liberated Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender"

[friends, i found this interview so deeply moving, i decided to sit down and take notes. i apologize for any misquotes or misunderstandings that may have slipped in. please refer to the audio and transcript for details. "i" in the notes refers to direct statements from zenju. thank you, zenju, for sharing these powerful insights. they are helping tremendously as i process my experience in the past 2 months in korea and india.]

race sexuality gender are gateways to enlightenment, peace, harmony

dry wisdom alone is not enough to heal wounds of those who’ve been marginalized
an effective practice must include tenderness where conventional reality and emptiness intersect

oneness is not sameness
recognize both differences and unity

diff degrees of tenderness—complete/liberated tenderness

must understand one’s own embodiment
our embodiment is the fire we need

we come to the gateway looking for water but instead find fire
they are gifts but not always embraced as such
eg race brings up injury, anger, fear, worry
internalized avoidance/treason—turning away from self and the feelings

dream of being burnt, but not dying—became a fire that sustains, not destroys
race is troubling, and that is exactly where the work is in easing suffering in world and in self
some say “these things aren’t spiritual, I don’t want to go there” but opp is true

“we are all one”—that is true ultimately, and that is not where we suffer
we don’t have to make oneness happen or work on it, it already exists
the fire of race etc is part of oneness—what we must go through
the fire is the hurting, troubling, blinding place

eg sangha of white male hetero place
discomfort, exclusion
“now that you’re here, let’s talk about race”
rage is something always carried, from trauma, can be reactivated
anger is over an incident

fire is to stay put in that hot place
why stay? called to the teachings
who is holding the teachings is not as important as the lessons needed
what can I learn about myself within the container of dharma?

interpret dharma through one’s own lived experience—not the teacher’s
eg how do the 4 noble truths relate to my life and the recent murder in my neighborhood? what does that mean to me?

path of dharma is most fiery
how do I respond to the chaos and racism? how do I apply the teachings to my life?
stripping down of values and beliefs
expand in ways that I’m initially unwilling
become exposed to myself
-       meanwhile maybe exposed to others, but that’s not where the learning is going to come—only through exposure to myself

racial stratification within poc places created by our society
there’s still a fire there
afric amer came through slavery—a potent path that continues to permeate society
if we ignore it, not use it as fire to transform our lives, it will continue to be that thing we fear—the fire at the door that keeps us trapped
I get burned but I can still live through it
must truly desire to be liberated and whole

I didn’t expect to be welcomed—I knew what I was looking for—not sangha but dharma
assume from silence that I’m just fine
many racist incidents—most times I sit w the teachings and ask how they relate to what I’m feeling now
not ready to address the collective bc I need to do my own healing and own liberation work
a distraction from what I need to learn
someone else’s perspective/institutional perspective
where do I want to be? vs where someone else/sangha wants me to be—a dance
instead of answering from a place of hurt and confusion, now I have some answers

taking on work you are not ready for is like being in bed with someone you hate—I would rather leave and do something else
it’s not my work to turn the titanic of institional racism around by myself
I knew I had something to offer but did not know what yet—for all who are yearning for spiritual path while embodied in ways that are marginalized
there’s something going on that makes us suffer and afraid of each other

being connected to the earth, so that when hurt happens, I have earth beneath my feet, or when groundless, can fall on my knees onto earth

zenju = complete tenderness
an essence to work on
at first, raw and wounded space that could be paralyzing, depression
long sitting is cooking process, wearing down process—softness and gentleness emerge, vulnerable, not able to do anything about anything, no action
-       a soft place, wordless, silent, just there, but no longer paralyzed
3rd phase—liberated tenderness, can hold the hurts, also soft, but able to act and speak—a freedom in how you live and speak
know how to use them as gateways to next step
not to go from tenderness to armor—toughness, stiff spine
as we get pushed to the mat (judo)—we still get up—that is liberated judo
these cycles repeat, not linear, spiritual is circular

water and fire come together in liberated tenderness to create earth
walking w ancestors
fire is where we start, then 2nd phase of tenderness is water
at water we are motionless, looking at waves—water opens us to feelings
come together to create earth, where we plant our feet

free of projections of superiority and inferiority—causes fear of each other
need to change csns—eg affirmatv action did not change csns
how do we change csns betw us so we can achieve oneness without keeping someone silent about race/sexuality/gender

not to write the “same thing” re r/s/g, bc it’s already done
is the dharma applicable to this life I am experiencing?
otherwise, must go outside the path to find teachings on r/s/g
teachings within the path are all about oneness and emptiness

we have the magnificent gift of being born with a body as part of nature
we will miss the whole existence in this moment if we don’t address issues of this embodiment

there’s no diploma on this path
we are all apprenticing in this life
we can stop being holy
there is perfection in all the imperfection

take it in—our own projections of infer and superiority—notice
buddha nature/true nature/magnificence of life/being as expansive as the ocean and as high as the tree—still present in someone I cannot have a direct experience with
pure emotion is at the ctr of the encounter—can feel it but not make it center stage, but not off stage either
we need to ignite each other in fire to get to the water together—like turning a car on
we keep running away from the fire
buddha nature—you are the apple tree, but the tree doesn’t have emotions and doesn’t withold
-       this doesn’t mean you don’t have any apples to give
but I don’t get rid of my feelings—I hold it as I explore buddha nature
each encounter is a chance to ignite
sometimes the car ignition gets turned on, then turned off bc I don’t need to go on that journey
eventually that fire doesn’t get ignited—go into remission, then maybe come back later
mark nepo—the rejuvenating fire, destructive fire, and a hand that reaches out to help us through the fire
-       we don’t always take the hand or we burn it, bc we don’t trust it
-       the hand is our buddha nature, our Self

perfect and imperfect—“nothing to do about it” is inaccurate
-       we are afraid of this teaching
difficult to say I’m going to be activist and follow path of dharma—we speak about fixing things and working in opposition, then go meditate about it
-       but not integral, bc haven’t brought the teaching in the opposition
-       can we trust that what we are doing impacts how we exist

must sew personal robe—can focus on bad stitches, or accept imperfections
collective representation of liberation

what are we going to do in the crucial moments that we cannot fix? eventually death is ultimate crucial moment
-       it’s perfect and imperfect in one moment
I trust my spiritual response to the human condition bc I have seen it work in my life and others—I trust this energy
-       many others do not trust this—instead they trust their agendas and methods
-       activist work needs to be done—but if we are getting dogmatic and enraged, we are going too far into god-like position—exhausting ourselves
-       go out and do, then come back and rejuvenate, then go out again

we have power as living beings—as much as the caterpillar than transforms into butterfly
inside of us is 98.6 °--lots of heat—use it to awaken us
we also have a lot of water and earth—acknowledge all of that even in our protesting
-       then we will have a whole protest and a whole spiritual path—it comes together
-       we don’t necessarily not do nor do
I did not take action as expected but I spoke as I needed to, not as expected to
when people don’t feel well they want others to join—I didn’t feel well but this was not what it would take to get well

by not acknowledging unacceptable differences we unwittingly exaggerate difference until it screams out
-       eg rap emerging out of spoken word, murder emerging out of injustice
-       in our sanghas there is screaming but we’re not supposed to acknowledge—it’s all repressed, then comes out another way
as a society we are in a raw, tender palce
can we call it out in a way that it goes directly into the heart, soul, not a mind/word/syntax game

living w chronic pain—body is screaming
I am teaching through my body instead of through just mind and experiences
when struggling in one facet, struggling all around—interconnection
fear of fully taking on gifts I’ve come into the world with—bringing medicine
there is something in my body I am rejecting
journey of aging, spiritual path of embodiment is next challenge
this leg of journey purely embodied self without the titles and names
there is no name for what I’m becoming
what I’m becoming is not really anything—it is a dying away
it’s frightening—the horizon is short
grieving and joy

want to say less and model more