Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Punya » Sat Jul 19, 2014 6:03 am

Kung fu

:cheers:
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby smcj » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:05 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Question for Malcolm et al: define "early age" for the purpose of this conversation. what age of taking an interest might indicate such a thing?

Back in my Dharma Center days, one day we all looked at each other and realized we were all born in 1955. We had come from all parts of the country, and were now (then) brought together by this weird trip. So we jokingly started calling ourselves "the massacred monks of '54". We had one same-age roommate that was Hindu. His line was, "I was just visiting…"

But I don't put a lot of stock in it. It was just cute to say.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jul 19, 2014 10:20 am

Punya wrote:
Kung fu

:cheers:
Monkey Magic for me! Kung-fu didn't hold that much appeal for me as a kid.

"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Sönam » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:19 am

I was also very early in contact with dharma in this life ... I can remember very strange and vivid dreams when I was 12 and a little more. At a bit more of 20 I went in jail (debt), suffering a lot, and then came my first "impression". From there I dropped in spirituality, searching around (judaism, suffism, ...) but not being satisfied enough. Discovering the Baggavad Gita and karma it strikes me and gave me the feeling to be on the right way. I did stay a bit with Ramakrishna and others that did inspire me a lot. Then I read a digests about Buddha, open it in the middle, did read "Buddhists do not believe in God", and knew It was my path. Then, like a birth, I went swiftly through the different yanas, starting with sutras. Had some experiences, strong, hade some great kagyu masters, to finally let it go with (Malcolm), Namkhai Norbu and Dzogchen. But that's a short cut.

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By understanding everything you perceive from the perspective of the view, you are freed from the constraints of philosophical beliefs.
By understanding that any and all mental activity is meditation, you are freed from arbitrary divisions between formal sessions and postmeditation activity.
- Longchen Rabjam -
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Motova » Sun Jul 20, 2014 5:29 pm

zerwe wrote:Khedrup, I have found the opposite. Where I practice has ethnically one of the most
mixed groups of people I have encountered. While, the majority are Caucasian we have Tibetan, Afro-American,
Native American, South American, Indian, Chinese and South East Asian people represented. Age and socio-economic-status
are also representative of a surprisingly broad range. Overall, I would say it might be more diverse than a somewhat liberal Catholic congregation in
a small to moderate sized urban area.
Shaun :anjali:


At the temple I practice at the majority is about half Caucasian and the other half Tibetan. But I've seen almost every kind of ethnicity there. It's probably 5 old/middle aged people to 1 young person.

I was a new ager when I was 17, a hindu for half a summer while 18, started identifying as Buddhist at the end of 18, started going to a Tibetan Buddhist temple at 19, and then took refuge this year with HHST at 20!

I definitely think I was a Buddhist practitioner in a past life. For a few reasons.

I used to be babysat by an Indian woman (ages 2-5), I don't remember if she was Hindu or not, but I think she was. I don't remember any Hindu stuff around. But one day we were fighting for some reason, and I yelled, "I hate you!" And then she yelled, "You hate me?! Do you know how long I have been looking after you for?!" And then I said, "Millions and millions of years." And then she fell silent and any anger that was in her face instantly disappeared. I forget what she said after that but it was like she was in shock or something.

When I was in grade 3 I think, maybe earlier, I was really into pushing on my eyeballs to see colours and kaleidoscopes for a couple of weeks. Sometimes I would see faces and a bunch of weird shit. As I did that one night with the family I told my dad it was like looking at my mind. I don't know if pushing on one's eye balls is a dzogchen practice. But if you've read my Third Eye thread, you'll know I now see lights all the time (lucky me). Maybe I was a dzogchen practitioner in a past life?

I remember thinking about an aspect of tonglen a couple of times as a kid. If any of you people played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you'd remember the character Bastila who was adept in a special force power called battle meditation, where she could boost the morale of entire armies (the Republic) while hindering the morale for the enemy (the Sith). It made me think, "if she had all that power then why wouldn't she just take all the suffering of all the beings upon herself and make them happy? If I could do that, would I? I would!". And then a few days after, I thought about it again, "Would I still do that? I would!". And then I proceeded to live the rest of my childhood as a little punk shit. :rolling: :toilet:
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby tlee » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:22 am

Sometimes it is better to keep cultural groups separated because they misunderstand each other and conflict.

Dividing people by ethnicity though,.. could such a thing be useful?

Buddhists are not known for their racism and it would be a shame to make accommodations for something like that.
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby papaya » Fri Aug 15, 2014 6:54 am

I was a new ager when I was 17, a hindu for half a summer while 18, started identifying as Buddhist at the end of 18, started going to a Tibetan Buddhist temple at 19, and then took refuge this year with HHST at 20!....I remember thinking about an aspect of tonglen a couple of times as a kid. If any of you people played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you'd remember the character Bastila who was adept in a special force power called battle meditation, where she could boost the morale of entire armies (the Republic) while hindering the morale for the enemy (the Sith). It made me think, "if she had all that power then why wouldn't she just take all the suffering of all the beings upon herself and make them happy? If I could do that, would I? I would!". And then a few days after, I thought about it again, "Would I still do that? I would!". And then I proceeded to live the rest of my childhood as a little punk shit.

Thank you so much for sharing stories from your childhood, Motova. Your reflections dramatically show a Westerner becoming a Buddhist. That journey has been taken by many in the West, for Buddhism holds a special attraction for us, and exposure to a community practicing Buddhism can be spellbinding, especially to the young. What I believe happens is we see the joy and happiness in those practicing Buddhism, a joy and happiness that comes from somewhere deep within the heart, soul, and mind of the practitioner. And we want that too! So we begin practicing Buddhism. We take it all in: lock, stock, and barrel. We become that which we admire.

We all know that Buddhism traveled eastward from India, settling in China, then Korea, Japan, and most of Southeast Asia. And then it traveled to the United States, also a westward movement--from Asia. What happened everywhere Buddhism took root, was it became a local practice. What I mean is that there developed a Chinese Buddhism, a Korean Buddhism, a Japanese Buddhism, etc. This process was slow and organic. I believe the same thing will happen in the United States. One day we will have an American Buddhism, not Buddhism transplanted from parts of Asia, but American, a Buddhism that reflects the history, culture, and soul of America.

How will we one day have an American Buddhism? I believe it will happen by the actions of people like you, Motova, people who take an American artifact like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and see in it an analogy for some Buddhist truth. To questions such as "Would I do that?" they would say, like you, "Would I! Would I!" They would then rewrite the story as a Buddhist, and that story would become part of the teaching tools of American Buddhism, an American way of showing the practice of tonglen, for example. We must not only translate Buddhist teachings, we must also re-envision them for the American imagination. What makes Chinese Buddhism distinct from Indian Buddhism? For one, the Chinese developed and pay homage to the very fat Happy Buddha, whereas the Indians developed and pay homage to a large collection of very slim Buddhas. So what will the American Buddha look like? More importantly, what will distinguish American Buddhism from all the others?

Ultimately, we must answer the question, "What makes an American an American?" My short answer to that question is the United States Constitution. So then we would have to explore and determine the unique insights to Buddhism which the words and spirit of the Constitution provide. What, in short, will America's contribution to Buddhism be?
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:59 pm

Promoting any religion in the end mainly comes down to money. A lot of the successful Buddhist teachers in the west are white and came from at least middle-class, if not upper-class backgrounds; therefore, they have an easier time appealing to that demographic and getting donations from them.

Creating a sangha which has many members of other races requires appealing to the members of those races who have money which they are willing to donate to the sangha and who want to be role models in that sangha.

Unfortunately, most sanghas can't operate serving the poor alone--unless perhaps they regularly receive some regular funding from some large Buddhist organization of which they are a part, but this generally doesn't seem to happen in the west. So it seems unlikely that a Buddhist teacher would ever establish a sangha in a very poor black or hispanic neighborhood.
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:48 pm

It seems to me like the most successful Buddhist teachers in the west have been from Asia, rather than westerners, regardless of the fact that many are very realised masters and adept teachers.

I think drawing an analogy with the development of Chinese Buddhism is quite useful here. For most of it's history, Chinese Buddhists, despite having so many learned teachers and writers themselves, viewed China as a Buddhist backwater, the borderlands, and anything from the west (India and Central Asia) was taken as holy simply by virtue of its provenance, which is more or less what we do today. It took centuries to get beyond that mentality.

I'm not quite sure people from upper-class backgrounds do tend to give more money in donation. It has a lot more to do with culture (religion) and taxation than with income. This article shows that the primary correlate in the US with philanthropy is actually religion, in which case, Christians tend to give more, and more religious states have more philanthropy on average. As far as income goes, lower incomes correlate with higher levels of philanthropy.

Donation, dana, in Buddhism is a Buddhist-cultural phenomenon. If you go to a temple in Asia, people give donations every time they visit regardless of whether they're rich or poor, because that's part of Buddhist doctrine that has found its way into the culture. Westerners just aren't used to that, and plus, temples don't overtly ask for it like Christian churches do, and there are some difficulties depending on how conservative the tradition is, with running "fund raisers." It took a long time to take root in China, where Buddhists were initially scoffed at and passed off as just beggars. If an organisation has the right karma, they might get a major corporate donor, which really takes the pressure off.

I don't think it's truthful, or useful, to think of entire races as being races with money or races without money. I also don't think this is helpful in the Buddhist context of donation. We should not pressure people to give based upon the way they were born, since any donation should be from one's own free will. I also don't see it as foreign to the western Buddhist experience to take a person from a different race as one's role model, that actually seems to be the more common procedure. If one doesn't have the karma and affinity for that to happen, we can't push it. At our local Sangha however, we more or less have people from every racial group in the city, and there's really no question of role models, since the monastics here mostly don't speak English and are Asian. My experience is simply that the social justice approach to Buddhism tends to have a disconnect with how things actually work and have actually been going on the ground, despite its sanctimonious claim to the contrary.
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby uan » Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:15 am

Zhen Li wrote: My experience is simply that the social justice approach to Buddhism tends to have a disconnect with how things actually work and have actually been going on the ground, despite its sanctimonious claim to the contrary.


Zhen Li would you mind expanding a bit more on the social justice approach to Buddhism (is this a US thing? I don't belong to a sangha in the US so don't know), and then clarify the disconnect? Not sure I understand. Thanks.
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Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:17 am

I'm not in a Sangha in the US either. Haha, I'm just going to add location to my sidebar profile... This happens everyday it seems. The kind of social justice approach to Buddhism is framing things in terms of how the current state of affairs is doing injustice to people of certain races or genders -- except white "cisgender"-males, they need to "check their privilege." :quoteunquote:
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