Jack Kornfield – Heart Wisdom – Ep. 112 – Racism and Independence


In this talk, Jack illuminates how the history of racism and prejudice in this nation directly contradicts our instilled ideals of freedom and independence.

In this self-proclaimed political-leaning Independence Day-themed dharma talk from July 5th, 1993, Jack poses the questions of what is true independence and what is real freedom. Playing deeply with these inquiries, he highlights the differences between our contemporary, worldly ideas of freedom versus the spiritual, Buddhist notion of freedom. Diving deeply into the sordid history of racism and prejudice in the United States, Jack highlights the ignorance, separation, and isolation we must live in to protect ourselves from having to deal with these problems, both externally and internally. Only through opening our hearts and bringing awareness to these issues can true healing begin, and only through that can we begin to repair a sense of justice and love in the world. For help during these trying times, Jack has compiled an ongoing catalog of anti-racism resourcesas well as a list of pandemic resources on his website JackKornfield.com


‘Independence’ & ‘Freedom’

In a nation that is built on the ideals of independence and freedom, Jack asks us to look deeply into the question: What is independence? What is freedom? Is freedom the freedom from some other nation telling you what to do? Is it freedom to be free of your parents while growing up? Is freedom to be free from the influence of other people, or from difficulty and pain, or from loss or sorrow? Is it the freedom to drive? Is it the freedom to buy what you want? Is it the freedom to import and export weapons of war? Are these things really independent? Are these things really freedom?

“Independence in spiritual practice, in the teachings of the Buddha, is independence of the heart. When we come to sit together in meditation, or to walk in meditation, we are invited as the Buddha did, and as generations of people have done, to see the world and see our own life with mindfulness, awareness, and with compassion, and to see the changing conditions, much of which we can do nothing about; gain & loss, praise & blame, pleasure & sorrow; and to discover within that an independence of heart, a freedom that is the freedom from entanglement within ourselves.” – Jack Kornfield

For an elucidating dharma talk from Jack on the three gateways to freedom Ep. 76 of the Heart Wisdom Podcast
Separation, Isolation, & The Body of Fear (12:50)

Looking into ways we slice up society in order to protect ourselves from facing dissonance, Jack brings up the realities of ghettos, racism, classism, and anti-environmentalism. Are we separate from the ocean, from the ozone layer? Are the rich separate from the poor? Are we separate from other races? In order to protect ourselves from the realities of these situations, we create a ‘body of fear,’ isolating ourselves, putting up blinders, and creating an ‘us vs them.’ Our current society is structured in this mentality of separation and isolation, but spiritual practice is a doorway to ending the illusion of separation.

“Spirituality involves the opening of our mind and heart to end the illusion of separation. It asks us to discover some truth deeper than that small sense of self that lives in what is called the ‘body of fear,’ that lives in isolation.” – Jack Kornfield

For tools surrounding racism, compassionate action, and sacred resistance, check out Ep. 59 of the BHNN Guest Podcast
Racism: Society’s Greatest Wound (18:45)

Speaking out about the atrocities that white people have done to Native Americans throughout history, Jack brings up that what Americans for a long time have considered freedom and manifest destiny, have come to fruition through a string of deceit, greed, lies, theft, broken treaties, and genocide. It wasn’t until 1987 that Native Americans obtained the freedom of religion, and would have secret police spying on and breaking up their religious ceremonies. Extending this to the history of Black slavery, lynchings, and segregation, Jack questions if we can really call this the land of the free. Jack shares that we open ourselves to these things not to create guilt, but to bring awareness in order to restore our sense of justice in the world.

“I believe that the greatest wound in American society is racism, that it’s actually the worst. A society that was built with a history of slavery, lynchings, segregation, and economic slavery; which hasn’t really addressed it, where it still exists; I think is somehow sick in the core. I want to talk about it not to create guilt, but to bring awareness to it because our heart needs it to redeem our sense of justice and love.”  – Jack Kornfield

To uncover techniques to transmute both overt and implicit racism, tune into Ep. 29 of ReRooted
Racial Prejudice and Economic Slavery (20:45)

In inner cities, 50% of Black and Latino children are born below the poverty line. In 40% of Black and Latino children, the lead levels in their blood are at distressing levels because of the old buildings their families must inhabit to survive. The inner cities offer very low-income jobs, poor healthcare, terrible schools, and racial shame for not reaching the economic heights of the white people that are shown on advertisements and television. If you get close enough to really feel it and sense it, it’s an unbelievable amount of pain, knowing these are our children that are facing the shame of not being honored as human being.

“We need to address it [racism], we need to learn about justice and love for everybody if we are to survive as a culture. We need to find the beauty in every being or we won’t make it as a culture in this world. One of the key forms of lack-of-independence, of greed, hatred, and delusion, of lack-of-freedom, is prejudice by race or skin color.” – Jack Kornfield

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