Inner and Outer Freedom
Love and Justice Are Not Two
Friday, June 19, 2020
Love and Justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters. —Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sensei
I enjoyed getting to know Rev. angel Kyodo williams when she presented at the CONSPIRE conference in 2017. She is one of very few black women Zen Senseis (teachers). Through her Buddhist practice, she seeks to liberate both the oppressed and the oppressors, which is appropriate as we celebrate Juneteenth in the United States today, to recognize the final day of emancipation from slavery in our nation. In this passage she shares her path to becoming an agent of transformative, peaceful social change.
Not long after finding my place as an activist for social justice, I came up against the need for not just reacting to what was happening in the world, which gave me a sense of purpose, but developing a way to look at what was happening, which provided a sense of meaning. I found a second home in cultivating a spiritual life. . . . My formal Zen practice and training were teaching me to find a more restful place that I could abide in within myself despite the chaos and calamity [of] living in an unjust society. . . . It also gave me a way to be in response to sometimes overwhelming situations that could just lead me to a downward spiral of anger and negativity. . . .
The Zen community I eventually became engaged with [the Zen Peacemaker Order] . . . [was] explicitly committed to social action.
I was captivated by the bodhisattva ideal. . . . In their infinite wisdom and boundless compassion, they responded to the cries [of the world]. Even though liberation is available to them, they hold it off until every person can be awakened, too. . . .
I advocated for [a] more balanced approach to fiercely address injustice from a place of empowerment as a warrior—but one that was ultimately committed to peace rather than aggression. This path recognized the clarity and resilience brought about by cultivating one’s inner life. . . . I saw this as a more sustainable path, especially for Black people, whose road to victory in the external landscape would likely be a long one given the deep entrenchment of the forces of oppression set against us.
In response to the events of September 11th, I wrote what became known as the Warrior-Spirit Prayer of Awakening. . . .
May all beings be granted with the strength, determination and wisdom to extinguish anger and reject violence as a way.
May all suffering cease and may I seek, find, and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within me and allow them to inspire and permeate my every action.
May I exercise the precious gift of choice and the power to change [as] that which makes me uniquely human and is the only true path to liberation.
May I swiftly reach complete, effortless freedom so that my fearless, unhindered action be of benefit to all.
May I lead the life of a warrior.
 Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah, PhD, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books: 2016), 90–94.
Epigraph: Radical Dharma, 209.