Dislodging discrimination

Written by an African American Kadampa Buddhist.

8 mins read.

How do you feel about people who appear to be different to you? Someone with a different color skin. A different looking nose. Different looking hair. Someone from a different culture. Someone who likes different foods or music than you. Different sports. Someone who speaks a different language. Someone who wears different clothes. Someone in poverty. Someone with mental health issues. Someone who is angry. Someone who is visibly in pain. How do you feel?


It’s complicated. It depends. Feelings are not solid but depend on so many things. Our upbringing and education, our friends and way of life, our karma from previous intentions and actions, our beliefs and values, and many more things besides. Our thoughts and feelings aren’t straightforward or easily categorized. Our mind changes like the wind, and we often feel differently on different days.

Why you all in your feelings?

How we feel is entirely subjective, but because we grasp at our feelings as solid and objective, they are deceiving us much of the time. Yet we are in our feelings so much. We allow ourselves to be in them, to dwell in them, to stew in them. We allow our feelings to control us and dictate our actions, which can and does cause so much suffering. Buddha himself highlights this fact, calling out our contaminated feelings as a main component of how we build our false sense of self or identity.

There’s a popular phrase these days “In your feelings.” Courtesy of Urban Dictionary:

  1. Kianna is over there pouting because Shaundra is trippin & snapped at Kianna for being in her way.

Kianna, why are you all in your feelings? You know how Shaundra be trippin.

  1. David is in a bad mood because his girl didn’t call him last night.

Bro, why you all in your feelings, you know you just met that girl last weekend.

I think Buddha would agree. Why you all in your feelings? It’s a great question to ask.Mirror

Our feelings often arise from ignorant causes and give rise to suffering results. Yet we feel so right to be in our feelings. Why? Because they are real! And because they are mine! (Turn on sad music. Or happy music.)

We often base our whole sense of self off of these fleeting insubstantial unfindable feelings. Happy feelings arise, we think “I am happy.” Disappointed feelings, “I am disappointed.” This goes for most of our ever-changing senses of self, totally identifying “Me” with whatever feelings happen to be arising in our mind. A happy self. A sad self. A conflicted me. An overwhelmed me. A romantic self. An angry self. The results of overly identifying with our feelings can be quite tragic – tragi-comic, melodramatic, or even full on Greek tragedy.

Don’t believe everything your mind is saying

As it says in the Buddhist scriptures:

Appearances are deceptive and our own opinions are unreliable.

“What?!? Excuse me?” The BIG I does not like to hear that our opinions are not to be trusted and that what our mind perceives or appears is fooling us.

The real fool is our own ignorance. It is never to be trusted. When we are under the influence of ignorance, what is appearing to our mind is an hallucination created by ignorance. Our opinions and how we feel based on those appearances are unreliable. What we then do, how we act, is also contaminated by ignorance.

Our mind under the influence of ignorance is out of control, which means we are out of control; and when we are out of control our actions are not helping.

This is what we Buddhists call samsara  — the cycle of contaminated, impure life, a life controlled by ignorance and other delusions. It’s not a pretty picture; and nowadays it seems that it’s getting clearer and clearer how ignorance is polluting our minds and society.

stop in the name of loveHowever, it is nothing new – we have been under the influence of ignorance since beginningless time. It would be good if we could enter a rehab facility of wisdom to detox our ignorance. Otherwise it’s just going to get worse for us and everyone else around us.

A personal mental survey

We need to do the work. Each one of us. We need to do the hard work of looking in the mirror of Dharma and asking, “How do I feel about…” Someone who is challenging me. Someone who appears different from me. A fundamentalist Christian. A far-right or far-left or straight-in-the-middle politician. A racist.

It’s not enough to say, “Oh I’m a Buddhist so (by definition) I love everyone. I have equanimity,” while at the same time feeling viscerally afraid of someone with darker skin. Or assuming that someone of a different background than ours isn’t interested in Buddha’s teachings. Or holding a great variety of assumptions and biases towards people of color for example. That can be any color by the way, including white. What are our stereotypes of any “type” of person?

Seeing discrimination in the Dharma mirror

Geshe Kelsang says:

We tend to project the faults or qualities of the few onto the many, and then develop hatred or attachment on the basis of, for example, race, religion, or country.

magnifying glassHow do we think about someone who appears differently than us? What are the faults we are seeing in them? How are we discriminating against them? Buddha also called out discrimination as another main building block of how we identify ourself. Discrimination is a functionality of our mind and we can’t think without it. Simply, it serves to identify something as this versus that.

We have to do the hard but rewarding work of examining our minds, our biases, our feelings — being so honest with ourself that we feel a little pain our heart when we see the truth of our own faulty discrimination. It’s not a pain that lasts, more like a needle holding a medicine that will cure our illness. Or like removing a splinter from our toe – it hurts a little, but it’s humbling and quite quickly feels good to be on the way to being free from the pain.

Protestor 1The fourth type of pride, pride in identity, is an inflated sense of self-importance based simply on our identity, such as being proud of being an English person, proud of being white, proud of being a man, or proud of being a Tantric meditator. ~ How to Understand the Mind

So, how are we identifying ourself versus others? Of course our ignorance is always influencing the situation and so, if we’re honest, on some level or another we’re not identifying ourself and others correctly. For instance, we can discriminate cats as the most cute loveable animals, and on that basis create ourselves an identity as a cat-person. Raccoons? Hmmm. Not so much. Ooops. Just did it again. Mistakenly identifying ourself and others. It’s quite funny in some ways and then not so much in other ways.

This mistaken way of identifying ourself, and by extension others who seem inherently different to us, is the root of all suffering. So if we want to be free from suffering we have no choice but to do the real work. The honest work. The challenging work. The work of looking in the Dharma mirror at how we discriminate ourself and others, how we identify our self and others, how we feel about our self and others, and how ignorance is messing up this whole process of cognition. It’s messing with our reality. Right now it is not hard to see that it’s really, really messing things up.

The imprints of ignorance cause mistaken discriminations that apprehend an inherently existent self, even though such a self does not exist. Moreover, because of our familiarity with delusions we discriminate some people as our friends, some as enemies and some as strangers; but all these discriminations are mistaken. ~ How to Understand the Mind

mirror 1

For many of you reading this, I’m sure you could think of a number of ways in which Geshe Kelsang has explained how to correctly identify ourself and others. So it’s up to you (and me too) to do the work. To take the teachings deeper and try harder to get out of our hallucinatory discriminations and biased feelings by dislodging our deeply held grasping at both.

The way forward

If it weren’t for Buddha’s radical wisdom, we wouldn’t be able to understand much of this. We probably wouldn’t be able to even think or speak these things. Without Buddha we would be trapped in this mixed-up reality, literally forever.

In their compassion Buddhas feel no difference between their most bitter opponents and their own sons; they feel compassionate concern for everyone without any discrimination. ~ Joyful Path of Good Fortune.


Buddha has shown us the great example of deep compassion without discrimination. He’s shown us the freeing reality of ultimate truth. Due to his guidance we have the incomprehensibly good fortune to see the way out. Especially due to our kind visionaryteachers such as Je Tsongkhapa and Venerable Geshe Kelsang, we have crystal clear and practical teachings that anyone can follow. These wise beings are giving us the opportunity to clean up the mess of ignorance and walk out the door of samsara, only to return again and again for everyone else.


When a runner trains, they train in intervals. There are periods of slower runs and faster runs, shorter and longer distances. Sometimes they push a little, sometimes they rest. It’s the same when training our mind. Sometimes we’ve got to push a bit harder to achieve a goal. Sometimes we’ve got to dig a bit deeper to find extra power.

I think now’s the time to dig deeper, to push a little harder, to challenge ourselves to go to the next level of our spiritual training. With the world going in the way it appears to be going, we must do this. We must and we can find a better way forward.

Over to you. Please leave your comments for the guest writer below.



Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

28 thoughts on “Dislodging discrimination”

  1. Thank you for taking the time to write this and to post. I agree that in order to improve we need to truthfully evaluate our biases and use Dharma to overcome and eradicate them. I’m encouraged that we are not hiding from the appearances in the world and opening discussion so that we can help one another be better people and progress in our practice. Your post is truly appreciated.

  2. Many thanks for this posting and for all of the thoughtful comments. This is a *vital* issue for Kadampas to address squarely and honestly — and to use energetic determination to defeat the delusion of racism. We cannot “sail above” this matter and pretend that everything is o.k. — we need to dig DEEP and do the work. Much gratitude to our Guest Author.

    1. Thank you for your comment Julia. I couldn’t agree more that this is a *vital* issues. When we exchange ourself with anyone who experiences discrimination (based on gender, race, sexual orientation, age, disability, or others) “their” issue becomes our issue. We as Kadampa know how to do this. We have been given all the tools. But the danger is thinking, “I know how to do this” but the not doing it. Knowing is not enough.

  3. Not really my place to speak, but I have two nephews who identify as Black, more than African American, and a young cousin. My heart hurts with the racism they have been exposed to in this country. The one sloughs it off, the other is angry. I support the feelings of both, pray both stay safe. This is so complicated, one is light, one is dark, a woman today ignorantly said, “Well Kelizha has nothing to worry about..”

    I can not begin to tell you what he has gone through, so I won’t try. Last Spring, for instance, one of his friends went to watch the sunset with some boys, and was thrown off a cliff. Or when initiations were happening in our neighborhood, and Rhonda had to have the boys back by dark every night out of fear of someone just shooting them.. or the true institutional racism both have endured, which is to much to explain here… so much ignorance and disrespect.

    I make prayers for their safety, and their civil rights, their rights as young men to be able to voice their opinions and ideas without fear…may all mothers of Black young men and women know peace.

    I pray all my students past, present, and future are safe from violence, and that no one harms them simply for waiting for their mom to get off work as a nurse with their hoodie up..

    1. Randi, thank you for sharing these stories, it keeps the suffering in focus. What we see in the news are some of the most egregious actions of discrimination, but there are so so many more that we don’t see publicly. They are all damaging, especially to children who are traumatized and shaped by these events. Although hard to keep looking at, we must. We must see this part of samsara and develop the wish to destroy it. It will lead to powerful bodhichitta.

  4. I received this letter today from the boss at my part-time job. For me it is a good example of how me and other white people can all be stepping up; and it includes some practical ways for doing that. So as a white person who has always wanted very much to be an ally in my thoughts and in my actions, I am sharing it here:

    Hello all,

    I wanted to begin our internal conversation about an issue that we should all be aware of, we should all be engaged in, and we should all be actively fighting together against for a solution. Each company, as a collective of humans, has a responsibility to do everything we can to protect our fellow humans and ensure that we all have access to the things we hold dear. We cannot stand by knowing that our fellow Americans are being targeted unjustly from all angles.

    On the heels of the global and national devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, we are witness to the glaring evidence of an epidemic that has existed for hundreds of years in the USA, and that is the systematic racism and injustice against black Americans. The devastation that results from this affects lives in literally every facet: education, careers, health, families, finances, safety, etc.

    The pandemic unveiled in clear numbers the disparity between black and white communities in this country, where only 13% of the population are African American, yet represent 23% of the deaths. In some states, like Georgia, African Americans make up little more than 30% of the population, yet almost 50% of deaths are from within this group.

    On May 25th this year George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis who is also a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a friend, a boyfriend, a son, and a fellow human, was murdered in a horrific incident that has reinvigorated people to stand up and say that this is not acceptable, spurring the nationwide protests that are not only just, but also necessary to demand change for a reality that has been accepted through complacency and inaction.

    What can we do?

    For any of our employees who are impacted by this, and need to take time off, please let us know. We support you – and as a team and your friends we are here to back you up.

    If you don’t already know how you can personally help, I hope you will take the time to learn what we can all be doing at this time to be a part of the solution. You might feel helpless or overwhelmed by this matter, and feel like there is nothing you can do, but this is part of the problem. Doing nothing is a choice and an action. The support we show for one another matters. One of my friends sent me this article on the weekend, for which I was extremely grateful, as it outlines many things we can all be doing for racial justice.


    On June 1, President Obama published an article on how he believes we can use what is happening now as a turning point for real change that is definitely worth the read. In this article there is a link to a very detailed report and toolkit developed while he was in office by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with a dedicated site of resources and organizations to learn about and get involved with.


    Below is a list of grassroots organizations supporting this cause that Caroline shared with me. I have personally donated, and I encourage you all to consider doing the same. There are many more that I have read about and perhaps that speak to you more personally. I encourage you to look up some of these groups and read about what they are doing.





    On Wednesday June 3rd, we will take a moment of silence at 1:30pm ET to reflect on these injustices, and how we personally might help. I would like us all to pause together and show solidarity. A meeting link will be sent for those that want to join. For those who choose to sit on their own, know we are with you.

    I am committed to ensuring that this is not the end of the conversation for SanovaWorks. Stay tuned for more information and please get in touch with me directly if you have thoughts on this. I welcome all ideas and feedback.

    And finally. To ALL of our friends of color: know that we see you, we appreciate you, and we will do everything we can to support you.


    Shelley N. Tanner

    1. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. It’s is strengthening to read this.

  5. We are all looking to make some sense of the current madness – desperately wanting to be part of the solution. This article makes it so clear what we need to do. With a mind of refuge and bodhichitta – our actions will be right actions. This might manifest differently for each of us – we just need to return again and again and again to these beautiful minds that are based in reality, and act from that vantage point. And we need to LISTEN!! Thank you for this article. May everyone only cherish one another 🙏 🧡

  6. This is a clear and cogent appeal for greater compassion, and responsibility for our feelings and discriminations.
    We are so blessed to have Geshe La’s teachings but as you say we need to dig deep and challenge ourselves to keep looking in, and learning from the mirror of dharma. As well as apply the teachings in our every day lives. Thank you

  7. Such an intelligent and insightful blog here – I believe within this are the Four Noble Truths. Some would wonder at such wisdom yet not realise – Buddha seeds are planted and ripen sooner or later. I recalled an occasion whilst my parents were on holiday – I invited a whole family of a good friend from a different culture and colour of skin – the mother phoned her family / most probably in Africa – this seemed natural to me as I have never been prejudiced. The outcome was my father was furious when he saw the phone bill and I explained as to how this occurred – he was a very prejudiced man. It’s a wonder I didn’t get a beating but my mother intervened and calmed the situation. The teachings of Buddha when digested and understood completely reverse all previous attitudes.
    Many thanks to the Writer if this blog. Love, Peace and harmony to all living beings. Just had an afterthought I have always loved cats (I have two and I have almost become ‘one’ with them) – never really liked dogs – my daughter has three rdifferent breeds – I have slowly come to love all three, particularly the youngest who keeps jumping on me an staring at me – recently he has been diagnosed with a sight problem in that he can only see shadows. I have come to realise he only wanted me to love him and yes, today I love him equally with lurched and collie cross. ☮️🐶🦊🦁🐱

  8. Thank you for your kindness in writing this article.
    Beautifully written. Empowering everyone who feels powerless to be part change.

  9. This is so necessary in the world which seems to thrive on discrimination and conflict at the moment.

  10. I’m not going to find the right words to express my experience of your words. The Kusali Tsog offering came to mind. Will read again and again. Thank you

  11. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful article Guest Writer,I wish the whole world could read and learn from it.All the very best wishes to you and all 🙏🏻❤️😊

  12. A really clear and practical explanation of where discrimination against others comes from. So important at this time that we understand the cause of all the current conflict and apply Buddha’s scientific solutions.

    I love your closing comment, ‘ I think now’s the time to dig deeper, to push a little harder, to challenge ourselves to go to the next level of our spiritual training. With the world going in the way it appears to be going, we must do this. We must and we can find a better way forward.’
    Thank you

    1. Buddha wisdom is so clear and extraordinary. Let’ dig deeper all together.

  13. Many thanks for this. All day long and for the past few days, I have watched Americans from all walks of life deepen their divide. It is heartbreaking. Yet you walk straight down the middle and speak to all of us, regardless of labels. You speak from experience; it shows. Love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys enemies. It’s what we need to hear. Every single last one of us human beings. Thanks again my friend and best wishes to you and all your countrymen from a concerned citizen just to the North of you.

    1. Thank you so much for bringing this out. These levels of “visceral” reactions to people are deep. It’s my job
      to do the work of identifying them and bringing them to a conscious level with acceptance. Then I can take responsibility for them so that eventually I will no longer project them onto others- both groups and individuals.

    2. Thank you friend. “Love is the real nuclear bomb.” Such a beautiful statement from our kind teacher.

      1. Thank you, too. We are so lucky to have Kadam Dharma in this world at such a time as this! Such timeless wisdom! Keep writing – you have a gift! Inspiring others is half the battle in these degenerate times so please don’t stop. love from Canada

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