So my name is Lennell actually named after my mother, who our first name is Lynell, but I have a middle name, Renee, so I’m called by both names. I grew up in Philadelphia and as a child, my mother changed religions actually a little bit before I was born. She was raised the Christian, but she converted to another Christian faith. So I think it was more like Baptists prior to going to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So by the time I was born, she was already going to the Kingdom Hall. So formally, that is the only tradition I knew as a child. My older siblings, they knew other traditions, and my father was also Baptist. So that was a big change in our household. I understand because I came into it, so I didn’t experience the change. I was just born into it. And I could tell even outside of our immediate family because the doctrines in terms of Christianity, as is practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, is quite different from many other Christians in some some ways that are quite significant that impact families. So I kind of grew up in what was nontraditional, if you will. And so I joke because I see that Buddhism as the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Buddhism, OK.
As I said, the one Buddhists who are like the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Buddhists for me, Buddhism and so and so it worked that Jehovah’s Witnesses spent a lot of time at the Kingdom Hall. They spent a lot of time studying the Bible. And so similarly, you know, there is a time spent studying the doctrine. But you have to practice, you cannot practice OK. And I’m using all of these double negatives on purpose. OK. You have to practice, you know, so I think when I first went to the temple and that’s all I knew it was, it was a wonderful environment. Now, right away, I noticed and I would constantly do this. I always count the number of black people and I count the number of people of color in general in the room versus the number of white people. We live in a very racialized society. And I have personally experienced it, of course, as most everybody has, whether you recognize it or not. Is the nature of this beast, right? And in nature of this country, if you will. So, yeah, so I always noticed, you know, how many other people were like me and often they were not many. OK. And so then I say, Well, how many people of color, you know, so not many beyond the common names that are there? OK. And so the majority would be whites didn’t necessarily present a problem for me as I’ve moved in those circles quite often, you know? And also many of the people at the temple, the pleasant people. However, I have had instances where it’s not pleasant. And what is beautiful, I think around Buddhism is, you know, they say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And so I use some of those opportunities to teach me to move in different ways. When you experience a life of racism in this country, as well as sexism as well as dealing with way too. Right. And you put all three of those things together, right? So as a black woman, that’s fat. Those are all seen as extremely negative in this western European society and the antithesis of what one should be. So you bump up against that. And sometimes you really bump up against it, and sometimes you’re not sure if it is that or not. OK. But the bottom line for me is we’re all here, how are we going to work this out? And so I have to figure out a way beyond what I would have done in terms of customarily have done where I would give you a tongue lashing. OK. You know, and and I could do that in a way in which you couldn’t even say I was the angry black woman. OK. You know, I could do it in other ways. You know, I’ve studied for a very long time. I know a lot of research. I’m a psychologist. OK. So I know how to strip you down. OK. You know, but then I go back to what’s the goal here? And I know what’s going on in my mind when I’m doing that. And so. What do I really want? How do I really and this is this is the thing that I really appreciate. It’s not necessarily about your action, per se and how it looks. It’s also for you. Your practice is why you’re doing like what you’re doing and truly understanding that because you can engage in the same action, as I mentioned before. But for all the wrong reasons. Right. And you can engage in actions that really look so nice. And it’s not nice at all. You know, so my study is so personal. That although psychology would say you can do it, it is the only way to do it. You can only study your mind. And so. So I would say within. Buddhist settings and specifically one Buddhist settings, the beauty of the doctrine is that it addresses issues all of the isms on some level. But it’s going to take practice and it’s going to take work. And so we can use the doctrines that we have as we come to those interactions to help us move in those interactions. So when those things happen, when whatever it is happens, those are just our opportunities. And so hopefully we grab on and we use them and we use them in a way that’s purposeful and that’s wholesome, and that will help us to actually resolve what we’ve gotten ourselves into and the problems that we’ve been living with for the last several hundred years that at least that we know of. I don’t know what was going on. You know, a long, long time ago, I mean there that there there are some things that are documented, but I’m talking about even before we can find documentation, OK, because life existed long before the documentation that we have. So, so yeah, you know, I’m I’m very much interested in moving in those environments in ways that are wholesome. So as so, so there are times when everything is fine and there are times when it’s not, you know? And so I enjoy again fellowship. That’s something that I grew up with. So I’m always looking for it. And then and then there are times when I can be so embraced. Within an environment where I’m talking about things from an African perspective, because that’s the body that I inhabit in this incarnation and it’s received so well that I’m shocked. Because that hadn’t been my experience. You know, and so my experience had always been, I have to fight to be more than an easy dropper on a conversation because the norm is the Western European. And so, so there are times where I am so encouraged to like the current prime dharma master. He was the president of the university that I initially I went to in Korea. OK, and that’s something that he encouraged, you know, because that’s part of the doctrine. You know, the the fundamental truths of all religions. And for me, religion extends into philosophies, extends into way of being OK. What makes the sort of sudden said is that fundamentally they are all the same the truth. Mm-Hmm. And so there’s an encouragement to look at those connectivity. And it is not to say that they are not differences and we don’t know those differences. Yes, there are differences and we know those differences. But we can also look at the commonalities and note those. And so that’s something that’s highly encouraged. So he’s encouraged to me. Reverend you, he’s the one who’s class. I went to the first time, you know, so I learned a lot from him. Ho ho, Jim Pak learned a lot from her. And these are all coming. So that’s why I’m naming them first and then great song. You know, I just just something she said to me once, and it may have been in a group, so it may not just mean to me personally. She talked about when she’s on a plane and she goes into the bathroom and, you know, plane bathrooms can be so untidy. Right? She said before he leaves, she cleans it for the next person. In and that’s in keeping with we are all connected. This is every space is our space. And so treat it that way. Look out for other people. Take care of everything. And that really stuff, I guess, because I get lots of planes and oh, you know, and so even the thought of cleaning, it was like, Oh. But so whenever I catch a plane with her, I go in the bathroom after her, OK? But I also, even when I’m not with her now, I will actually tidy up spaces because that so inspired me. And how nice. You know, it’s kind of like when you go through a toll and the person tells you the person before you paid. You know, it’s like, wow, that’s so nice. You know, so, yeah, so learning and then from as I said, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. So I have so many teachers, you know, all the people that I’ve had difficulties with. You know, I think though, you know, because this is an opportunity that if I wasn’t confronted with that situation, how would I practice? And what that begins to do for me, then, is to take some of the ear out of being angry with an individual, not personalize it, not turn it into something. I got to get them later. No, no, this is a wonderful opportunity. They’ve pointed out for me something that I need to learn to be more spacious on. They pointed out something to me that I didn’t even know I was attached to. And I need to let it go, you know, and we and we know these things because in that situation that I had a run in with that person . Now when I get home, I got a call up and I got to retell that story. So when you find yourself gossipy retelling stories over and over again of encounters because you’re looking for someone to legitimize your actions, your actions were already illegitimate. OK? You know, so, so many teachers, you know, everybody, everything becomes your teacher if you allow it to.
So this was a it’s inward, inward, outward, outward. Right? So you go inward to go outward, the more you go inward, the more you go outward because going inward, what you’re connecting with is your limitlessness, your infinite ness. OK? And that will lead you to service. But in order to truly serve, you have to go inward. So another thing that I said very early on is that I came to this from the perspective of my own cultural upbringing and my studies in terms of African philosophy and psychology. And so those things are very common being in service. I mean, you were taught from childhood, you’re going to be in service and you come to appreciate being in service like not being able to serve others. I don’t know what kind of life that is. Okay. So when I look at one Buddhism, everything that in many respects that my parents were teaching me, that is a part of who I am in terms of my culture. And then what I studied, that’s what was being practiced in also taught. What I didn’t have was how to get out of my own way in order to do those things right. As I said, I don’t feel that my life was as happy as it could have been. You know that this personality that I developed over the years would sometimes get in the way of my interacting with people. I loved people I worked with. When strangers, you know, something I’m taking care of over the phone with business, OK? And so with practice, what that allowed me to do was then learn to stop and think to examine my mind, How am I doing this? Why am I doing this? You know, do I really need to do this? You know, all of those kinds of things? And so then that allows me to navigate this world in a better way. You know, even to be in service. I mean, there are people who give lots of money, but it’s a tax write off, you know, so. So it’s not about the outward appearance, I think in in the Christian religion, you know, they have the parable about the old woman and giving money, and she gave less than anybody. But in comparison to what she had, she gave more than anyone. So it is not what you’re doing, how much you doing. It’s why you’re doing those things. It’s the spirit in which you’re doing those things that becomes most important. You know, so I at I was talking about the name, so so the name that I was ultimately given is one. Everybody has the first name, Juan. OK, but then Jin Sun, and it actually has to do with being the boat. By bringing people over. And the reason that I was given that name, I guess in part, is because when I requested to go to Korea, other people found out that I was going and that we had set up this program for me to take part in. Then they also wanted to go. And so it’s about that. But then it’s also about what more am I supposed to do? And being this bridge, being this boat, connecting things so I can do that as a professor. I can do that as a friend. I can do that is a family member. I can do that just in people you walk in. Just bump in to. So when you become that living scripture, it’s folks like to say, right, people see that because you’re modeling it and they’re curious. They want to know about it. You know, so change yourself and you change the world. Changed. Trying to change the world, you may never succeed. But when you change yourself, you succeed in changing the world. And to me, that’s in part what Buddhism is about, and it’s about changing yourself by changing your mind. Study your mind, understand how it functions and then command that functioning. And so that’s part of what I think is going on and what why Buddhism for me is really, really good at, you know, and that that shift, if you will, to the dharma of Buddha and concentrating on that from which everything came from that gave birth to even words itself that I’m using to try and express this, that that when you understand that connectivity. Then how I treat you, I’m actually treating myself. So just as I see this is my head and this is a part of me, you’re part of me too. And so are the trees and the birds and everything else that exists. And so then how I move about in this world should be consistent and ethical. It has to begin with you because a lot of the times the way you’re treating other things is the way you treat yourself inside. And we think that material possession and adornment means that you’re treating yourself well. But I’m talking about what’s the little voice in you saying to you all the time? Is it a voice of love or is it a voice of your own criticism of you? And many times you can look pristine in terms of the outside. But that little voice inside in your head is not so nice. And I’m talking about in relation to what it says to you about you. And so it shows. So I love when when we sit on the cushion and I tell my students all the time and I like, you know, we’re staying in the present moment, we can concentrate on our breath, we can breathe while a lower dungeon, OK? But when our mind drifts, bring yourself back a previous self back gently. Always be gentle with yourself. Because when you’re gentle with yourself, you’re gentle with other people. When you’re harsh with other people, you’re harsh on yourself. Yeah. So go inward. To go outward.
The ill one sign. In the Korean language that is Dharma Kai, a Buddha. And represented through the Circle Il1 one song, right, so it’s IL one and IL one song is the symbol and that star Makaya Buddha. So. The circle appealed to me when I saw it, because that’s one of the philosophical principles associated with African philosophy that, you know, life is circular. Sometimes people will even use like a spiral, but you’re going round and round, if you will. And so when I saw the symbol, that’s what I thought about. So, so it it appealed to me because it transcended the Korean culture and was a part of my culture as well, so I could identify with it. OK. And then I did come to because I would see pictures of sort of son. I would see pictures of him. So then I knew that there was this person, if you will, who, according to the teachings, came and reached enlightenment. Right. And is is is a Buddha. OK, so I could see that. And in my head, there were times when I would think about, especially because we live in such a racialized world in the US and it spreads its tentacles. OK, but I could see, I will not see, but I had experienced the subjugation of and not just subjugation, but oppression of of everything African. I could see that. OK. And so I mean that personally. But then I could see it with other people of color, and I could see this continue push in ascendance of everything that is white as being supreme, superior and what have you. So even within the context of why I’m Buddhism, I could see the cultural trappings. OK? And I can still see them, and it makes sense that they are there. OK. And and I can remember my reactions. I remember writing a paper about it in one of my classes. And because Maleficent, he is the scholar that’s associated with the term afro centricity. Right? And one of the things I remember him saying is religion is no more than the deification of culture. And so, so even as I did my little movement through various religions, I could I could see the trappings, the cultural trappings, you know, like even in Islam, you know, the everything in Arabic and you have to pray to God in Arabic. And I’m thinking, Well, if God is God, then God understands any language I speak in. OK. And so I don’t have to learn Arabic, OK, you know. And so, so. So likewise, you know, even in one Buddhism, you know, I just like I could see it. I don’t want to just stay with Islam. Since I didn’t. I didn’t mention that as a big area in my life. But even in terms of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you know, I could see, like all of the elders, are men. I could see that in all of their little magazines. Most of them were all white people, and they’d have a black person here. Every once in a while, I could see that their meetings were segregated. You know, I could see all of those kinds of things, you know? And so so those were the realities of it. And so then when I go into one Buddhism, yeah, I could see I can see the the clothing, you know, that they wear. I could see the food that served. I could see like even the naming. So that was a big issue for me. That part of becoming a war on Buddhists is to be given a name, and that’s in every religion, right, you’re given a name. But naming is so essential to culture. And I started out one of the first things I said on this interview is my name is my mother’s name. All right. So it not only comes from my family lineage, it’s within my cultural group as well. And it’s not limited to my cultural group, but it’s within it. So when I take on a name, particularly after understanding the history of African people. Do I want to take on the name from another culture? So I really struggled with that and and thus I did not become a member, I attended. OK, but I can’t I can’t take on the Korean name, because what does that mean to me? I don’t even know it. I have a hard time. You know my tongue. The phonetics of Korean is very it’s very difficult for me at this point. You know, some of the sounds took me years to even hear again, OK, because you could hear him as a child, a baby, but as an adult, you don’t even hear him anymore. So how do I take on that name? And it really fits me. It really works for me. OK. You know, so I struggled and struggled and struggled with that. And it wasn’t until more recently that I actually allowed for a name, you know, and so so it took a lot of self-reflection, OK? It took a lot of growth and development on my part. A lot of expanding. A lot of of letting go, being spacious to be able to say that and and thus. Understanding interconnectedness and interdependence. That yes, that’s a country call Korea, and that because the country is call Korea, the people call Koreans and they speak Korean, but that’s me too. Right. And so to that degree, I am not becoming Karrine per say, OK, I’m already encouraged. OK, I’m everything. And so wherever I go, I can get a new name and still maintain my name and they can have my name. And it’s all you know again, it’s your mind study. You know, so yes, I noticed those things. Yes, I still see those things. And I understand those things within the cultural context. And I understand that that’s a part of everything and everybody. Mm hmm. And and again, it’s about where you are, what you’re working with. And do you see things in a the notion of that because it’s that it’s better. As opposed to this over here. Right. That’s part of the discernment that you have to have and utilize in order to move in those spaces and be OK with that. And it’s OK, you know, so so like you said, you know, how do you wear it? You know, and so I would say that’s part of how I look at that.
Buddhism in America
When you’re talking about Buddhism in the American landscape, that most of what we know about Buddhism in the American landscape has come via Europe, OK? And that means that the sutras and all of the sacred texts, as we are reading them, have come through the filter of a Western European perspective. And then from that you have the selectivity even within this country and the reinterpretation. And again, it is not an indictment in terms of, I mean, people interpret through their own filters. OK, so what you run the risk of as you bring it in, continue to bring it into the American landscape. The U.S. is individualistic Buddhism. Which really goes against. The basic tenets of Buddhism, which is why I truly appreciate Dharma a.k.a Buddha and the concentration on Dharma Kaiya Buddha, OK, as opposed to concentrating on the image of Buddha. OK. And then we get into arguments as to what that image really look like. And then people will create images that mirror themselves. Right? And so then you’ll find that just as the promise of this experiment of the America of the states in terms of using Christianity instead of it being used as a tool to connect people . In total, it becomes also the sword to divide. You know, and so I’m very much in tuned with in trying to keep up with what’s happening with Buddhism as it becomes translated from the translators who now think this is something that’s OK. I have to be spacious who think that they can now tell people who they translate it from what Buddhism should be, you know? And so it’s very interesting to watch all of that. You know that even even the term Buddhism from where did that come, you know? And so there’s a woman, Selassie, who studied religion and and she talks about that notion that that’s just a name that Western Europeans as they went into other countries. They just kind of didn’t understand what was going on and they did their little cherry picking and created. Well, I don’t know that those British societies and and then the yet the Germans, and they’re interpreting this stuff in and they basically created what now many folks in the Americas use as Buddhism. And and so I think that we have to be aware of that. And Buddhism is not at all individualistic. That. There’s a misunderstanding, and maybe I need more meditation and more inquiry and understanding. But there’s a misunderstanding ongoing inward. And that many people misinterpret Buddhism, if you will, in terms of its movement toward meditation and thinking that it is individualistic and self-serving when the notion is you go inward to go outward. And that’s a different it’s not you go inward to go inward. The notion is you’re using your mind to go inward to actually transcend the mind. Hmm. You know, and so even the translation of the word mind sometimes is problematic because of the way in which we use the word mind here synonymous with brain synonymous with cognitive thinking, you know. And so we’re not talking about cognitive processes, you know, and so so I think we have to be very careful and not move in Buddhism in that way. And because otherwise, it’ll just get filed away with all of the other religions that have ultimately moved in that fashion and not been true to their creed because that’s not what those religions are about. OK, but just the manner in which they have been used. one thing that you may.
So let me address the two levels. one is I have been teaching for a while, OK, at Lincoln alone, I’ve been there. This is my 26 year. So you know, I can see retirement, OK? It’s coming very soon. So I will I will be doing other things, and so being a lay teacher is certainly something that I can do. But I also have a Ph.D., so in psychology and then I have the master’s degree in Buddhism, so it allows me to be able to when I’m asked or I can teach at the Wine Institute as well. I have also had an opportunity after going to Korea. Since that time, I’ve become part of the program in terms of of helping to do the retreats there. So know there’s been that opportunity for me as well. I’m very much interested in two populations. I’m interested in the prison population because my brother is incarcerated and I’ve shared many of the teachings with him, and he studies many religions and other forms of self-help and what have you which actually have their foundations many times in these kind of concepts. And so I believe that that population is like, I don’t know, a great population to work with because we think we’re free when we’re out here, but we’re so trapped in our minds and because they are physically incarcerated, they understand incarceration. So I think they actually have a greater opportunity sometimes to free themselves. OK. So I’m very much interested in that population. I’m also interested in hospice care and transitioning, particularly for family members dealing with it. Family members have a hard time letting go, which makes it harder for the person to transition. So but that has to do with themselves in their mind. And so I’m interested in that. I’m not certain what I’m going to do with all of that. I had an opportunity to speak at one prison, you know, at one time, so that that interests me. But I guess for me, because I’m not sold on this as a religion, as I said, I can see where people can put it in that category, but I don’t limit it to that. Religion is a relatively new word, OK? And I don’t I don’t think that it fully expresses what we talk about in one Buddhism that we call son, that it’s all the time everywhere. OK. In in other forms, they may call it a zen. OK, but we call it son. OK. And. I am not of the help that just sees it as being a philosophy, either, which then makes it that part that becomes the academic part. It is. It is religion here. It is philosophy, but most of all, it’s a way of life. So because of that, I don’t have a problem sharing any of it with anyone, anywhere, anytime, right? Because people are in fact suffering. People are not aware of their own mental functioning. And what they can do within situations, the solar times just free themselves. And for me, that’s what this does. It provides that practice that allows you to do that. And so yes, I see myself, I see this as like, although I study clinical psychology, although I taught psychology most all of my life, I don’t believe that a lot of what they do can really help people. Because in psychology, you and you don’t teach people how to study their mind. You study their mind. And so I think that. This way of life is for everybody and can actually allow everyone to live a wholesome and happy life. Yeah. So it’s about bringing it to them in in a manner in which they can accept it, and you’ll have to hit people over the head. People are always seeking advice, always seeking an ear. You know, and so how you respond to them is up to you. And what I bring to them when people come to me is what and I’m very clear about this and very clear with them, this is what has worked for me. So do I think this will work for every single body? I’m not certain about that. OK. But if somebody comes to me, if I see something that I may want to even approach, I’m going to share this with them.
I think around 2008 2009 is when I was first introduced to white voters, when I met my Buddhism. And I, I mean, I was gung ho, I went to every service. OK, so. But that was more the intellectual part. OK. I even gave Dharma talks. OK. And you know, in I did that for a while and I would practice when I was at the temple. OK, so going to the temple several days a week was really good because I would meditate, I would chant walking, meditation, different things, but I didn’t have a practice at home. And periodically I would try to start meditating at home. And I found it very hard to sit there, very hard to sit for any sustained period of time. And to do that consistently saw it fall off. I get back on the WAG and fall off, get back on the wagon did that for years. And I can’t tell you the exact year, but I remember some things that happened in my life. I was very, very stressed at work, very, very stressed and. A cousin or older cousin of mine died. And not that I hadn’t experienced death before, but for whatever reason, that death hit me harder than any other death that I’ve ever experienced prior to that. And this was even after my father died. OK. Which was difficult. OK. But I cried so much. And. I had a moment, a time period, a brief time period where I almost felt like I could lose my mind that I, I could understand how people. Lose their center. Because I could not stop my mind from thinking. And it was it was terrible. I couldn’t I try to go to sleep in my mind is just racing and racing. I mean the degree of stress that I was experiencing. And and so my mother, she was alive then. So this had to be more than six years ago. OK. My mother would talk to me. I talked to her on the phone, and then if she was tired, then I talked to one of my sisters. And and that was the way that I was able to be more soothed. All right. But I knew at that point I I knew in real life how fragile the mind is. OK. I mean, because I studied clinical psychology, I understood that theoretically, OK. I taught it OK, but I was experiencing that fragility, OK? And I was acutely aware of it. OK? And I did not want to lose my mind. OK, so I said, OK, I remember that some time there, after I begin listening to Naamua Me taboo, I had a recording of it. And so that became the way that I could still my mind. So at night, I would play that to go to sleep. I would also if I would awaken in the middle of the night, I play it to go back to sleep. So I set it kind of like, became my lullaby, OK? And it gave me peace. And so on. I would chant with it. And that way, you know, in chanting, you concentrate on the chant itself, the words itself, which then doesn’t give me time to think, OK. So it was almost like it was a distraction, a lullaby, the whole thing. So then shortly after that, I’m still interacting with people, and sometimes it’s like a bull in a China shop. I’m knocking over everything, OK? And I’m not saying I’m unique in this, OK, you know, but I’m aware of it for myself, and I don’t like it, OK? I don’t like when and just, you know, when the night is still that. All of a sudden, something crazy that I said during that day that wasn’t wholesome, that wasn’t facilitative, that didn’t lead to the end that I necessarily wanted for me and the other person. It would play back in my head, OK? And so I get tired of all of that, and I begin the reason, OK, I need to stop using this as an intervention. This chanting, I need to start using it for prevention. OK, so I started saying, OK, I have to set up trying to practice again because I can see what it can do for me. OK. It brings me peace of mind. OK, so I begin to do chanting with the seated meditation. So I chant first. And that would put me in a space where I actually could meditate. OK. So I began doing that on a regular basis, and I knew in my head I had to turn it into a habit just like I brush my teeth. OK. You know, it’s very rare. OK. I don’t even know when the last time I didn’t brush my teeth in the morning. OK. Not that I haven’t had that occasion, but I can’t remember right now. OK. And I said, OK, I have to make that like this, that I would not not brush my teeth. So I’m not not going to cheat and meditate. OK, so that’s when that’s the the chain of events as far as I can reconstruct that led me to be able to build that into my practice. And of course, you begin to see the differences. As I said, using the techniques for mindfulness, you know, I begin to see that I was able to let go of some of that anger and I would actually write it down on the sheet. And I have that sheet on my desk. And so my students would ask me, Well, what is it? And I tell them, you know, and I tell them about meditation and how it can be useful for them as students just in concentrating. You know what I told them how I can read in my mind, not drift. Into other things, so that also moved so at the beginning of every class, we sit for a moment. You know, and I tell them, you practice this not just when we’re in class. Practice it outside of class and see the difference that it will make even in you being a student and studying and being able to read and not having to start over and over and over again because your three pages in a you don’t know how you got there. OK, so so using that with them, understanding how that was working with me, seeing how I could actually stop using chanting as a lullaby. OK. I didn’t need it any more to put me to sleep, to distract me from the thoughts in my head. Mm hmm. And it became what it’s supposed to be my practice that works with me throughout the day. And so those kinds of things and then later, as as you begin to see those fruits right, then you want to do other things. OK. And so I want it now. I want to do other things. But it still took time. You know, I wasn’t as consistent. But then my other shoe dropped. My mother died. She made her transition. And that was that was very challenging for me. You know, that was another one that I was cognizant when she was in the process of transitioning because she actually called me up and told me. She said, Renee, I’ve been having dreams and I’ve been seeing people in my dreams, you know, relatives who have died. And so she said, I want to make a will. And I want to I want to put you in charge of things. That hit me like, I don’t know what. OK? And ultimately, she made her transition several months later, took a few some months and but within that. As she was transitioning, I recognize that this was an opportune time for me to also change myself. So her transition. Was a lesson for me around how do I want to live? And so I recognize in that that I wanted to study more of the dharma and practice more of the Dharma, and that actually propelled me to ask my professor, this is because now I’m a student at the Wine Institute and I go to my professor one day and I ask her her name is Hanjin. And I say, Hodgett, excuse me, Hogan. And I say, You know, Professor, you know, Park. I say, Is there somebody who can teach me in English, in Korea because I don’t speak Korean? So I got to have somebody would talk to me in English. And so she’s like, You want to go to Korea? And I like, Yes. I felt that I needed a different. Environment. That I needed to go someplace different for whatever reason I needed to. And so she said, Well, let me check. And so she contacted a president at one of the universities that she had attended. Young son, University of Soul, of course, it has a long name, but young son and son studies of young son studies and he said yes. He said he amazingly because because someone said, Oh, he doesn’t, he’s not going to answer an email. He they answered and said, Yes, I could come for a year. And I was like, Wow, OK. So and so ultimately, they said they had someone who could translate. They had a coming in great song. She could translate for me so I could go. And ultimately I I went to Korea and with that trip and some other things along the way, I begin to incorporate more practices that I could do on a daily basis. I didn’t continue all of the practices, but many of them, you know, I did continue and some I do periodically. But but the reading of sacred texts, the journaling, the chanting and the seated meditation, those four things I do every day. OK. Some of the other things I do periodically like scripture writing, OK, this writing, verbatim the scriptures. I’ll do that. Sometimes the mindfulness item selections, you know, I’ll do those sometimes. But the other things I do always end and looking at. My life and how I’m interacting with other people, I can see that I can go to sleep most nights now.
But but yeah, so that made a difference in terms of my very existence and interaction with other kids in school. You know, all of those kinds of things, but kind of fast forward. I always love school, right? And I guess that’s probably why I ended up as a professor on some level. It was also kind of a mix of I went to school forever and I was used to that schedule. And so I just could not work a nine to 55 days a week with a couple of weeks off in the year that just did not suit me. Okay. So it just all came together in that kind of a way. But my chosen discipline was psychology, and I went through a period where I attended a predominantly white university for my graduate studies. And it was a very difficult period because of the degree of mistreatment stemming from racism that I endured. And I was there for a few years, in fact. And so within that time period, I kind of begin searching again for that kind of fellowship that I had experienced within the context of the Kingdom Hall, although I never was baptized and never wanted to be baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. But I experience the fellowship that comes with being part of an organized religion. And so being away from home, being away from home for basically the entire year because we went to school in the summer as well. And it was like about anywhere from a six hour drive back home. And so I’m living in a predominantly white community and the school is predominantly white and being mistreated even sometimes by my neighbors. So, so it was very difficult time period. So that’s why I sought out then some fellowship and I actually went back to the Kingdom Hall. OK. That’s one of the things I did, but the teachings just did not resonate with me, and I was like, Oh, I can do this. And so I stopped. I left that school. I did earn a master’s degree there, and I studied at Howard University, where I worked on my Ph.D., and I again begin that search. And I went through a lot of religions, OK? I was with the Hebrew Israelites. I went to the mosque and I went, and that was for the nation of Islam. I went there. I was associated with the Harry Kushner’s, which I loved the chanting Harry Harikrishna, Krishna, Harry, Harry. That’s amazing to me how you could just say that name over and over and over and over again. It’s beautiful, OK? It is music, so I associate it with the Harry Christmas. I associate it with one of those traditional African religions, the fastest son. So I attended Temple. And for that, and then I also went to the I saw our city. I saw a set society. I saw said yes, society. And that’s associated with Kimmit. What people currently call Egypt, OK, their Republic of Egypt. So it was very old religion. And so I actually went that was my first time participating in meditation. I had learned about Buddhism as a college student, an intro to religion class. So I knew about Buddhism, but we didn’t practice anything. We just studied it. And so with the Esau Set Society, they actually practice yoga. They practice meditation. And so that was my entree. I left the D.C. area and for my first teaching position in Wisconsin and one of the things and one of the reasons as to why I was able to go all the way to was hold Wisconsin, where I knew no one was because they headed north. I see our set society and know why I’m getting tongue tied, but nonetheless. And so I said, OK, maybe I can be in this little town called Milwaukee, OK? And so I started meditating there with some people and attending various classes. And ultimately, I left that university and I came back to my alma mater to teach at Lincoln University. I started teaching there. And what I’ve been teaching throughout. My life throughout my teaching life is psychology, as I’ve mentioned in, but I taught and studied African psychology as well and study in the philosophy associated because the underpinnings of psychology is philosophy. And really, the division between the two is the research that psychologists do. All right. So we have theories that we test, which are really philosophies, if you will. So I studied African philosophy because philosophy informs psychology, and as I studied African philosophy, it it. I understood it. You know, I understood the philosophy which made me understand the psychology. OK. So when I came across things like interconnectedness, interdependence, balance, harmony, the multi dimensionality of things, you know, just understanding all of those kinds of philosophical or worldview concepts. And one of the things that really resonated with me about it is an article that I’ve read where the author talked about the mistake that many European researchers have made and theories have made. Looking at early Africa is that they would say that there was no religion because they could not find a word for it. And he said that’s because there was no word that religion was life. It was not separate, separated from life. So you didn’t need a separate word.
Dr Dade is a university professor.
If you had life, you had religion. All right. So I understood that and I understood all of that kind of philosophy because I lived it. That was my upbringing. And so that then became my understanding of psychology. So I began teaching this concept routinely called, well, not the concept is really a comedic dictum. It’s man know thyself. Right? And so I taught it, taught it, taught it, taught it for years and years. So I teach some basic African philosophical concepts. And then I would show how that informs psychology. And and then I’d had the students concentrate on know thyself. What does that mean? And we talk about it in class. And this particular article I had was called the comedic origins of Psychology, and in it, the author, Naeem Akhbar. He outlines what the comedian saw as the dimensions of the soul. So one day in class. I say, man know thyself is self-knowledge. That’s what I would normally say, but by accident, I said full knowledge. And I don’t know something, you know, how you hear yourself talk sometime. I hurt myself and all of a sudden that’s saying that I had been using in class for eons took on a different meaning for me, and it took on a meaning that said, I need to explore it more deeply. But as I said, you know, I’ve been teaching, teaching, teaching and my life in general. I don’t feel was the happiest life. You know, and. There was something that. Was it right for me? OK. And I’m going to tie these together as so it’s like one morning I woke up and consciously I was very clear. That I was tired of me. OK. And, you know, one area of psychology I studied is clinical psychology. And, you know, that could sound clinical as in you need therapy. But I knew I did not. OK. I knew that there was nothing insane, nothing crazy about being tired of myself. OK. And in fact, I would say, I need to avoid myself of myself. OK. You know, so that that became like, you know, a thing I had. And so I was kind of like just sick and tired of me, and I wanted to go someplace I had meditated in years. As I feel like meditating, I feel like praying. I feel like fasting, just a whole host of thing. But where can I go? OK. How can I just leave everything, OK? You know, I have a house, I have a mortgage. You know, I teach, I can’t just go and but it stay with me, that wanting and I moved. I was living in Baltimore at that time and I decided to move to Philadelphia and move back home. So I found a house. I moved this house and I moved back to Philadelphia and I was talking with the contractor that I had at that point that was working on my home, and I was telling, you know, I wanted to go meditate. And he said, Hey, if you find someplace, I’ll go with you. And that really helped me because it was I was just saying it to myself, but I wasn’t moving on it. But now, because I had someone who also was kind of dependent on me. OK, that actually made me sit down and, you know, look for some places. But I didn’t really find what I was looking for right away. I just started listing the names of places and the phone numbers, and around that same time, I had a conference I went to in California and I got to the airport that morning , and there’s this man dressed in clothing that I know was representative of a monk. And I’m thinking, Wow, OK, this is interesting. And you know what? I don’t say anything to them. You know, we fly to California and I come back home and I stop at the Home Depot to pick up some items and I see four monks. And it actually kind of frightened me. I’m like, why all of a sudden am I seeing monks? OK, so I scurried away from them. Actually, that’s how much it frightened me because I was like, What’s going on? OK? Who knew that I’m thinking this, OK? And but then I said, OK, why are you scurrying away? Go talk to them. Find out where they worshiped. I didn’t even know what to call the place. So let me find out. So I go up to them and I ask them and they tell me to Google it. Right now, I’m going to tell you that was hilarious to me because here they are dressed in clothing from, I don’t know what century, OK, but they’re telling me to use the computer to Google. Things like this is funny. OK, so so then the last I went back to my list that I had started just before I left and I started calling the numbers, and the only answer that I got was from the Wuhan temple. And I said, OK. And they told me about things, and they said, Hey, come on, you know, Saturday, that was the day of the meeting, and I told my contractor and we actually went together. So I get to the temple. And soon as I walk in, I don’t know. The energy is just wonderful. OK. And so I sit down and we’re meditating, and I feel like this burst in my chest, OK? And I said, OK, either I’m having a heart attack or that with my heart chakra. What are the two? I don’t know which, but I’m soon going to find out, OK? So I just sit there for the rest, and I figure in the end it must have been my heart chakra because I didn’t have a heart attack. But when I’m leaving, I say I’m coming back. And so I started attending the one Temple in Glenside. And as I’m listening to the teachings by the cool morning, so I’m listening to what they’re saying and this is sounding like what I’ve been reading for the last 20 years and teaching in terms of African philosophy, interconnectedness, interdependence , all of those kind of things, right? And in particular, I think one thing that makes one Buddhism very unique is that it concentrates on the Dharma Kiah Buddha, right? And that really speaks to that interconnectedness and everything coming from the same source, which then makes everything interconnected and interdependent. Right?
So I just sit there for the rest, and I figure in the end it must have been my heart chakra because I didn’t have a heart attack. But when I’m leaving, I say I’m coming back.
But it also speaks to the multi dimensionality of things because it’s this on one level, but that one another. So, so very, very interesting. I found all of this and I’m like, This is making sense to me. OK? It’s in different words. Sometimes similar words, sometimes even the same, but a lot of different words. But I’m understanding it. Reincarnation understood that OK didn’t understand karma as much in the karma can still be challenging. OK, but nonetheless, I’m getting this and and it’s truly resonating with me. And once more, and I want to tie it back to what I said about me and know thyself. Self-knowledge is the beginning and ending of all knowledge. Social knowledge. Now. What I had been talking about, theoretically. I now begin to understand on a more practical level and begin to learn, how is it that you come to know thyself? What kind of practices do you need to engage it? So this life that I had been living in this wanting to devoid myself of myself fit right there, and that was part of what I needed. I needed the practices. And that in fact, what I came to understand is even my understanding was limited because I had no practice. And so as I begin the practice and that was a struggle we can talk about. I began to understand some of the concepts more deeply. And so which increased my practice. And so they kind of fit into each other in a beautiful way. And then that also translated into what I would do with my students that now I begin to have a more practical aspect to the class, as opposed to just the philosophical theoretical component where we say, well, what is self-knowledge ? And then as I explored, more men know thyself, and sometimes I would even leave off, man, OK, because I thought it was gender. What I found out is that that’s an old Sanskrit word, and it means mind. So what the comedians were saying is, know your mind. And I’m like, This is absolutely amazing. OK. And so as I’m studying more in terms of why I’m Buddhism coming to understand the practices, but being resistant because I did not want to practice, OK, I just like studying it. OK, if I’m coming to understand that this is saying the same thing. Yeah. So that that’s kind of what I can say in opening. In a nutshell, I was amazing. OK. OK. I really appreciate the rich history that you shared, and I honestly, I think this is a common problem. You know, I came from that.