Thanissara joins Raghu to discuss social action, unconscious racism, and the mystery of the collective bardo, before guiding a breathwork meditation.
Thanissara, formerly a Buddhist nun for 12 years, has been teaching meditation retreats alongside her partner Kittisaro since 1992. Together they founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat in South Africa and co-authored Listening to the Heart, A Contemplative Guide to Engaged Buddhism. She is also author of Time To Stand Up, A Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, and several poetry books. Thanissara and Kittisaro recently launched Sacred Mountain Sangha, a California based Non Profit that hosts the Dharmapala Training, a two year, seven module training. Keep up to date with her offerings at dharmagiri.org and sacredmountiansangha.org
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Spiritual Life & Social Action
How can merge our spiritual life with social action? Thanissara does not see these two things as separate. She unpacks the. topic by discussing the oppression, violence, and genocide throughout our history that has been covered over by idealism, specifically notions like the American Dream. For true healing to take place we can’t just wish for the light, we need to go to our deepest shadows, the depth of the wound.
“We’re in a place where things that were never healed need to be addressed, and all of the ancestors, its like they’ve all come for reckoning, to be acknowledged to be understood, for us for the veils to be taken even deeper apart. And I don’t see this as apart from deep spiritual work. I see that we are in a shamanic process where there has to be a dismembering of the world and the ego structure.” – Thanissara
For another true life example of merging spirituality and activism, remember John Lewis on Ep. 351 of Mindrolling
Unconscious Racial Conditioning (9:38)
Raghu brings up the notion of hidden racism, a conditioned and unconscious racism within our shadows. Thanissara shares that this is implicit within our current hierarchal systems and can be seen in constructs like race, gender, and economic class. These ideas become embodied within us, with their imprints shaping us, but there is a path of de-conditioning through realization of our true nature.
“I find the Buddhist reflection on Anatta (non-self), that this conditioning isn’t your true nature, that the emptiness, the shells of self, actually can give you some leverage to look into those conditioned spaces, to see our internalized racism, and to see it systemically.” – Thanissara
Mystery in the Collective Bardo (23:33)
Reflecting on the current state of the world, Thannisara describes what we are seeing as a death. She believes we are in a collective bardo. The world that we were in–the sure world, the empire we built–is collapsing, and it’s releasing all these toxins.
“Wounds of the deep collective soul have to be addressed and healed, and reparations have to be made, but within that, the fundamental nature of our human nature is a mystery.” – Thanissara