Joseph Bobrow – BHNN Guest Podcast – Ep. 54 – Remembering Our Interconnection with Duncan Ryūken Williams

Author Duncan Ryūken Williams and Joseph Bobrow look at what the struggle of Japanese Americans during World War II can teach us about how community and faith can offer liberation during difficult times.

Duncan Ryūken Williams was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Japanese mother and British father. He has earned a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard University and was ordained as a Sōtō Zen Buddhist priest in 1993 by the Kotakuji Temple in Nagano, Japan. Williams is currently the Director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture. Duncan is also the author and translator of many books including his newest book, the LA Times bestseller American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War. Learn more about Duncan and the work he does in the world at

Remembering Our Interconnection

Joseph and Duncan reflect on the current global crisis presented by the Novel Coronavirus. They discuss how such a widespread crisis can remind us of the different ways in which we are all connected to each other. Looking beyond the difficulties presented by this newest crisis, Duncan speaks about how we can avoid becoming overwhelmed by the vast amount of suffering that exists in the world at any moment.

“This virus situation shows both sides of that deep Buddhist teaching about how we are interlinked together. How ourselves are composed of everyone else and all sentient beings on this planet. It says something about how we might behave with each other in a way that is respectful and reduces suffering – especially to the most vulnerable. There are so many situations of neighbors and co-workers and others trying to look out for each other in this time. This shows how we are in many ways invisibly connected to each other.” – Duncan Ryūken Williams  

Why Community Matters (18:30)

Duncan shares a story from the internment camps of World War II around how community and faith can help us cope and inspire us in the face of difficulty. He and Joseph talk about the importance of community in our spiritual practice and how our community can be a vehicle to inner freedom.

“Sangha ritual and ceremony has great mythical power – not so much to find transcendence, but to find a degree of freedom. To find a crease into which we can enter and find our liberation and the ability to be able to help others find their liberation.” – Joseph Bobrow

RamDev explores how closely our depth of faith is tied to our experience of fear on Ep. 37 of the Healing at the Edge Podcast
The Stone Sutras (37:45)

We look at a story about the Stone Sutras at the Heart Mountain internment camp told from Duncan’s newest book, American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War. Duncan shares the significance of the mysterious Sutra Stones, which serve as a reminder that the possibility of liberation never dies – no matter how bleak the current moment may seem.

Art via photogal