Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Via Tricycle: An Interview with Zen Priest Greg Snyder on Brooklyn Zen Center’s Undoing Patriarchy Sangha


Brooklyn Zen Center’s Undoing Patriarchy and Unveiling the Sacred Masculine group is a response to the unacknowledged forms of patriarchy that exist within Buddhist communities as well as society at large. Co-facilitated by Greg Snyder, co-founder and president of BZC and senior director of Buddhist Studies at Union Theological Seminary, and Lama Rod Owens, guiding teacher for Radical Dharma Boston Collective, the group meets monthly and had its second annual weekend retreat in January.

Here, Snyder speaks about how Buddhists can use their practice to confront patriarchy rather than conform to it.
Zen priest Greg Snyder
Why did you start this group? 

Our first retreat, which Lama Rod Owens and I co-led in January 2017, was an attempt to address the fact that patriarchy is still thriving in the Buddhist tradition despite the tools for self-examination that Buddhism presents us with. During that retreat, we tried to examine internalized patriarchal masculinity the same way we’d examine greed, hate, and delusion. The participants came out with a desire to meet regularly, so we started the monthly group. 

The purpose is similar to that of BZC’s monthly Undoing Whiteness and Oppression group. Undoing Patriarchy is just a group of men who are trying to take responsibility for how they represent their gender identity.

Has the group changed over time?

It became evident right away that we should understand masculinity as an energy rather than something tied to a particular body. From there we’ve been trying to find a nonviolent, loving expression of that energy. 

As the group continued, it became more obvious that supporting one another is extremely important. These are cisgender and transgender men with many different racial identities, but there is a feeling of love in the room despite all the violence expressed historically between the various groups. This loving connection is one of the most critical pieces of undoing the typical male relationship, which usually involves hierarchy, competition, and apathy toward each other.