audio, buddhism, series, social justice, trauma

The Great Demons: Systemic trauma & social action

Based in our recent exploration of the Diamond Sūtra and the ideal of the Bodhisattva, we begin a series of discussions of what I’ll call the Great Demons, the systemic ills we struggle with and which so clearly are conditions for global suffering right now.

We’ll work with three core models for understanding systemic ill, all of which I’ll explain in detail in the talks:

  1. The Trauma-Privilege Spectrum
  2. The 5 Circles model of identity and interdependence
  3. The 3 Poisons (attachment/lust, aversion/hatred, delusion/dissociation)

As we go on, we’ll assemble an approach to embodied inquiry around the Demons that we can bring into individual contemplative practice as well as use as part of analyses focused on the systemic level.


Talk: Opening the exploration by explaining the 5 Circles model using examples relating to race and racism. (5.1.18)

Meditation: a Loving-Kindness (mettā) practice orienting toward racial difference, oscillating between “like me” categories and “unlike me” categories.


Talk: Bodhisattva practice in relation to social justice, through the lens of the 5 Circles model. How we understand ourselves in relation to collective experience, or collective karma. Compassion as the practice of understanding personal identity in relation to systemic trauma, and how to disentangle personal truth from collective identity.

We look at the implications of the profound teaching of Selflessness (anattā) for growing in compassionate action, and I tell one of the origin stories of the bodhisattva named Avalokiteśvara/Quan Yin, The One Who Hears the Cries of the World while Resting at Ease. (5.8.18)

Meditation: Breathing, interconnection, and compassion.


Talk: The Trauma-Privilege Spectrum as a contemporary teasing out of the implications of the traditional teaching on kamma/karma as inherently ethical. (5.15.18)

Meditation: breathing in, presence, breathing out, letting go. Then, for everybody.


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