The Bodhisattva Path of Liberation: Racial Suffering and Collective Transformation

Program Description

Bodhisattvas are beings devoted to collective liberation from suffering, who vow to hear the cries of the world with compassion and wisdom and to respond from a heart of healing and transformation. Bodhisattvas do this for lifetime after lifetime because they understand that their own freedom is not separable from the freedom of others, and that the practice of messy, imperfect, stumbling liberation is not different from the expression of total awakening. To carry out their vow to live and be lived for the benefit of all beings, bodhisattvas must cultivate a path of training to develop the skill, capacity, and strength of heart necessary to transform suffering into freedom.

As bodhisattvas living in the current world,
– We recognize the urgent suffering and violence of race and racism in our personal lives, relationships, and societies;
– We understand that race and racism are social, historical, and intergenerational constructs sustained by our continued grasping at the identities of race and ideologies of racism;
– We resolve to stop the innumerable ways that we reenact racial violence and harm through our conditioned and embodied habits of thought, speech, and action;
– And we walk together in liberation, faith, and beloved community born from the practice and realization of love for ourselves, each other, our ancestors, the earth, and all beings.

With this understanding and vow, Brooklyn Zen Center is offering a ten-month intensive program focused on exploring, witnessing, and transforming the individual and collective suffering and harm caused by race and racism, and in particular by the identity of whiteness and the ideology of white supremacy. Framed by a theory of karma that understands racial harm as an embodied habit and historical product of greed, hate, and delusion on the level of both individuals and societies; by the traditional Bodhisattva training practice of the six paramitas; and by an understanding of whiteness and racial harm as the result of historical and ancestral trauma, this program aims to help participants learn together how to take full responsibility for showing up as racialized beings in a world of violence and domination with hands and hearts of peace.

Please see the application link at the bottom of this page.

Guidelines for Participation

This program is currently limited to practitioners who identify or are identified as white. Mixed race participants with European ancestry who wish to explore their relationship to whiteness and white supremacy are also invited to participate, with the understanding that this will be a predominately white space. If you are mixed race and considering participation, please contact us to discuss whether this program is the right fit for you.

Our approach to liberation is explicitly Buddhist, grounded within the tradition, training, and forms of Soto Zen. We welcome the participation of people from all and no faith backgrounds; however we emphasize that the fundamental framing of this program is one of transforming racial harm and suffering through the Bodhisattva path, as the Bodhisattva path. Maintaining a regular meditation practice is a requirement for the duration of the program.

This program is based on an expectation of full participation from all members, including: timely attendance at all ten monthly meetings, completion of between-meeting individual inquiries (about 1-2 hours per month), maintaining a regular meditation practice, creating a home altar, and making a wholehearted effort with difficult material. It is also important that participants have access to a private space from which to join the monthly meetings, where you feel able to share and participate freely. This program is one of deep exploration, not introductory education; we expect that participants already have some basic familiarity with history and antiracism, and are taking personal responsibility for their own ongoing education.

Please contact us if you have questions about these guidelines.

Schedule and Format

The program format consists of ten monthly Zoom meetings, each of which will balance large group and small group discussion. At the beginning of the program, participants will be assigned to small groups of five or six members, which will remain the same over the duration of the program and which will meet together at each monthly meeting.

Meetings will include Dharma teachings; ritual; meditation; ancestral reconciliation; somatic practices, skills, and lenses for metabolizing trauma; body movement; and deep individual and collective inquiry into the construction and harm of whiteness and white supremacy in our lives, relationships, and communities. Participants will also be offered further questions and practices to explore between monthly meetings.

All monthly meetings will take place virtually on Sunday mornings, from 9:45 am to 1 pm Eastern time. The schedule is as follows:

October 17, 2021, The Bodhisattva Path
November 21, Karma
December 19, Ancestors
January 16, 2022, Dana Paramita – Generosity
February 20, Sila Paramita – Ethics
March 20, Ksanti Paramita – Patience, Tolerance, & Forbearance
April 10, Virya Paramita – Effort & Energy
May 15, Dhyana Paramita – Meditation
June 12, Prajna Paramita – Wisdom
July 17, Closing Circle

Depending on changing public health guidelines, we may offer a hybrid virtual format that includes the option for small groups, either full or in part, to meet in person and join the monthly Zoom call together. We recognize the value and necessity of being bodies together in physical space to do this collective work. At the same time, we acknowledge the practical requirements of social distancing and the realities of geographical separation at this moment. Regardless of any potential hybrid meeting option, it will be possible for all participants to join the full program entirely virtually.

Cost, Application, and Contact Info

Please note the following fee structure for this program. We invite participants to register at the highest level possible to help support and sustain our programs.

Flourishing Rate $700
Sustaining Rate $600
Supporting Rate $500
Non-member Rate $400
Base Member Rate $300 (for BZC members)

Apply to participate in the program here.

The application deadline is October 9, 2021.

We are requiring an application in order to better support and facilitate the group experience, including limiting the number of participants. We reserve the right to prioritize applications from members of BZC, as well as ordained priests and lay leaders in our tradition.

Contact us with any questions at