In the Arms of Mahakala


By Catherine Anraku Hondorp

I’m mad.

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker all unarmed, all black men, now dead, just one typical month this summer 2014, USA.

I’m mad,

That none of the white officers who killed them have been charged.

I’m mad,

That even if they had not died, these black men would have been relegated to a second-class life in this land of so called liberty for all.

I’m mad because in the suburbs of Saint Louis where I got my professional degree, there were no black faces in my graduation class picture and I had no black professors in my whole 4 years of schooling.  And where radiating to the west of The Arch there are white suburbs and black ones and big houses with white families living behind gates and walls and on the other side of the tracks, well you can guess who lives there… and all these are ruled by white police, white judges, white corporations and white college presidents.

I’m mad ‘cause when I went to the blogs it seems that black people have no doubt that there is racism and white people who look like me still say, “don’t play the race card” as if it were some kind-a game.

I’m mad,

That we as white people can be so out of touch with reality that the majority of us believe each person really rises on their individual merits and that those in jail get what they deserve and that there is an actual base of equality, “it’s the law you know”, and that because we are all look alike under the skin that we should just get over it and that yeah BTW, white people get killed too by cops and oh yeah there’s that white guy that got killed by a black cop somewhere in Oregon I believe and this makes it just the same… when there is actually no way, no how, no possibility that there is anything vaguely like equality and equal opportunity and we are not beyond it and that  ‘post race’ is bogus,  so can you just stop saying , “can we talk about something else, please!”

Yeah I’m mad,

Because I’m Buddhist and I’m noticing that only black and brown people are cited in the Buddhist magazines when it comes to writing about racism and white people seem to only want to write about Diversity.

As a matter of fact I am not only mad I’m outraged,

Because when I ask, “How are you responding to Ferguson” to my white (mostly) Dharma teachers list-serve, only one white teacher writes anything back, yet there seems to be a lot of back and forth conversations about forms and rituals, and who transmitted to who and congratulations and grandchildren and bells for sale, and voting on ethics statements and I just wanna scream out, “ISN’T THIS ETHICS?”

Wow I’m mad and getting madder,

Because we are late and instead of sitting in the passenger seat, I am worried that my brown-skinned spouse might get pulled over for speeding, so I drive to minimize my anxiety and confident that I can get away with 10 miles over the posted speed.

Yeah, I’m mad because there are white friends of mine who tell me they love me and though they used to come to my home when I lived with a white woman, now they don’t, they say they are no longer ‘comfortable’ in OUR home and act strangely vague when I ask why.

But I know why.

And this makes me mad because I know it is all insanity and fear and the wanting to remain comfortable when the whole damn house is burning down around us and if I do not get mad, I might sink back into the wonderful vague space in the attic that is above it all and I might feel just fine and I will float above the pain and won’t even feel it as the flames suck out all the air and the whole structure implodes.

And this makes me real scared.

So I’d rather be mad.

And I don’t believe anyone anymore who says that it is not ‘Buddhist’ to be mad   and who says that the precepts negate it, being angry that is.  These people who say this must not realize that getting mad is the only appropriate response to this difficult koan we are stuck in.  That doing something with this anger is actually shaking up, waking up the Buddha Way of one hand, one body, one-being, human being, all beings, humble and real and all this, is the actual ordinary animal of reality, yeah this one.

My mad says, NO, it is NOT ok to deny my white position, my Dharma position in all of this, what feels like, this mess, this tangled net of dirty diamonds.

And I don’t want to pretend anymore that this is the Pure Land, because right now it ain’t, it just ain’t so.

And so I feed my mad-ness,

Why?  Because I made a promise to save all sentient beings, to end delusion and to open up the Dharma gates and enter into the world which means the conflict and in this way I honor my ancestral roots of the church I grew up in to lord, lord God on high, lordy lordy PLEASE make me an instrument of your peace, PLEASE take these seeds of anger and let them grow into strong love, which may not be your idea of pretty lord, but is the best I can do now in doing what the best teaching of my Zen teacher has been to date, which is, to trust myself.

So I hurl myself in to this fire and let the bright whiteness in me scorch through the curtain of false promises, promises of a spiritual life beyond suffering, and cold-turkey it through the seduction of silence that whispers warnings of the dangers that lurk in speaking out, and my potent madness says NO to the sweet addictive rank that comes with my whiteness.

And I feel my muscles tighten.  NO!

NO, in my madness I shout like a child who tastes for the first time the rising vomit of injustice in my throat and wants to push it down, back down, down further and skip backwards in time to a place when before this was the truth, and the cost was not yet seen clearly and there was only joy and laughter and friendship and rolling together like pups in springtime’s un-mown green grasses.


Catherine Anraku Hondorp Sensei is guiding teacher of Body-Mind Zen Temple in Northampton, Massachusetts, U.S.A. She is co-founder of Two Streams Zen, a nonprofit Multicultural Dharma Movement dedicated to transforming people and communities through fearless intimacy and living compassion.