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Do You Know Your True Face?

From Lion’s Roar


The great bodhisattva James Baldwin once wrote: “I am what time, circumstances, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that. So are we all.” Teaching from intersectionality is really about the courage to be vulnerable and real on the spot, to embrace what time and history and various causes and conditions have shaped us to be. Only when we acknowledge both the forces that have shaped us as well as our unique identities molded through that shaping can we move through into the realization that we are much more than our intersectional identity. The most powerful dharma teachings I have heard have been from teachers who allow themselves to be glimpsed by others, who go to the emotional edge that we are all too often trying to avoid. I suspect people want to see me in a certain way, as a well-put together product of years of intense practice; however, my role as a teacher is to show the sangha how I struggle to make the teachings relevant and applicable to my life. Much like Dorothy confronting the illusion of the Wiz of Oz (or Wizard, if that’s what your intersectionality calls for), we too must muster our courage to show our true faces; we must reveal our social faces before we hope to reveal our ultimate faces. Teaching from a place of intersectionality is first being radically present—to ourselves, to others, and to the world.

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