undoing whiteness

Brooklyn Zen Center (BZC) is committed to supporting the ongoing bodhisattva work of transforming the suffering born out of complex social and historical causes, including conditioning and traumas associated with race and racism. As practitioners vowing to live for the liberation of all beings, we are moved by the myriad forms of racial violence and pain that are too often manifest in our society, our communities, our relationships, and our own bodies. Resolving, for the sake of ourselves and our loved ones, not to reproduce further racial harm, we commit ourselves to the tender and intimate path of transformation taught by Shakyamuni Buddha: acknowledging racial suffering in all of its myriad forms; exploring the causes within our own embodied conditioning; cultivating more skillful relationships to self and other that support healing and wholeness; and supporting each other as Sangha and beloved community in the collective journey to manifest liberation throughout our lives together.

Recognizing the central causation played by a constellation of ancestral traumas, behaviors, and beliefs inherited by many European-descended people—often referred to as “whiteness”—Brooklyn Zen Center has developed an ongoing curriculum to support practitioners of European ancestry in healing and transforming these particular forms of racial suffering for the sake of the great earth and all beings.

BZC’s current offerings, listed below, are organized under the umbrella title Undoing Whiteness through the Bodhisattva Path of Liberation. These programs are in a state of living responsiveness to the changing needs of the community and our deepening collective understanding. They are intended to support a communal practice of exploring and transforming racial conditioning within the field of Dharma practice and the relationality of Sangha. All offerings under this umbrella are structured around a mix of zazen, formal ritual, Dharma teaching, somatic trauma-oriented skills and training, body movement, and group work.

As the forms and impacts of racial conditioning and racial trauma are historical, ancestral, and infinite in number, BZC recognizes that it is often skillful to support people with different racial experiences in exploring particular forms of racial pain with other practitioners who share similar racial or ethnic identifications. For this reason, we use an affinity group model as the basis of our community response. Participation in the following offerings is limited to practitioners conditioned or socially identified as white.

  • BZC’s flagship program is a recurring, ten-month course titled “The Bodhisattva Path of Liberation: Racial Suffering and Collective Transformation” (BPOL). Using the six paramitas—the traditional Mahayana Buddhist training guides for cultivating bodhisattva activity—as the primary frame, the course provides an intentional container for participants to explore and transform their own racial conditioning within the context of Dharma practice. The course is balanced between experiential learning and relational practice in small facilitated groups. It is co-facilitated by a group of experienced practitioners in the Sangha. The pilot course of BPOL was offered via Zoom in 2021-2022. The next offering of this course is tentatively planned to begin in 2023. Please check the BZC website for updates or email undoingwhiteness [at] brooklynzen [dot] org to be notified of the next offering.
  • SEED Groups are a follow-up offering to support practitioners who have completed the ten-month BPOL course. These small, peer-led community groups (both virtual and in person) build on the small group experience of the BPOL program by allowing members to Support, Engage, Explore, and Deepen their practice with racial suffering while receiving continuing support from the BPOL co-facilitators. The first cohort of SEED Groups began in fall 2022.
  • Undoing Whiteness Weekend Retreats will be offered on an intermittent basis as an opportunity to dive deeper into a specific topic or theme while supporting each other’s practice in person. Weekend retreats will be announced on the BZC website as they become available.

For all questions and inquiries please contact undoingwhiteness [at] brooklynzen [dot] org.