African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the West

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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby odysseus » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:55 am

You still can enjoy your culture of birth with Buddhadharma or any culture. It´s about not identifying too rigidly and have unhealthy attachments and views about culture.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby AlexanderS » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:02 am

zsc wrote:This is getting amusing.

Johnny Dangerous - Consider the fact that I have already answered your query for concrete steps in the passage you posted. I don't "hope to achieve" anything beyond sharing my experiences. AFAIK, a black person didn't even start this thread so I have no idea why you are implying that "I", as in black people, started this discussion for nothing. We didn't even start it. If you want to be a white ally, then don't expect me or any other poc to hold your hand and do the hard work for you. We're busy enough. As a cis-woman who is a native English-speaking American, I also do not expect trans* people or poc outside of the Anglophone world to hold my hand when it comes to me learning about their issues, nor do I expect them to coddle me as I examine my complicity in systems that oppress them. This is perfectly fine for me.

AlexanderS - The achievements of white people you mentioned have often been accomplished by the exploitation of people of color, either through their bodies, ideas, or their intentional exclusion from privileged spaces. Even despite that, poc basically set down the foundation of math that has made it possible for a lot of those achievements, and we continue to be inventors and innovators. If any white person feels shame, that's not the point. That's not even the purpose. The purpose is for poc to educate themselves so that we can address the issues we face. To make it, yet again, about the voices of white people is just another assertion of white privilege. Edit: It is due to the "naive" idea of fairness that is responsible for, for example, the (recent) admission of women of color like myself into college, even for the recent development. of permitting women to learn to read and write (something that is still being fought for in some areas). I'll take my "naivete" any day.


It's true that many famous contributers to philopsophy and science from the anicent world had the privilege of having slaves. As for as I know Socrates, Plato and Aristotles could devote most of their time to the pursuit of knowledge because they had slaves to do their basic labour. I think most slaves in ancient greece though were people from other Greek states and tribes that had been subjugated.

Our precious Gautama Buddha also had the privilege of growing up as a prince in complete luxury and the privilege to devote his time to his interests. Until he left the princely life at 29 years of course.

Most contributers to advanced thought, arts and science from Europe post-roman empire were(and are) not slave holders as far as I understand, however I'm open to being corrected.

With regards to people such as yourself going to college - Of course we should work for human rights and work against racism. I completely support anyones struggle for a good life.

Im not vouching for apathy. What I meant when I was speaking about naievity was that as buddhists, we see samsara as a pit of snakes. Samsara will always ultimately be imperfect and unsatisfactory which is why we seek to leave it. We understand that everyone including ourselves are governed by mental afflictions until we are liberated. We acknowledge that most worldly pursuits are futile in the face of impermanence. We are understand that our normal sources of refuge such as our family, friends, lovers, spouses, doctors, our ego's, policitians and so forth are completely fallible. They are cannot bring us a lasting relief from dukkha. We also acknowlege that everything painful that we experience is the ripening of our own negative karma. Which is why when we become more experienced practioners it get's less and less natural to outraged, when we are treated unfairly. Personally I admire individuals like Garchen Rinpoche who spent around 20 years in a prison camp and was routinely tortured yet never saw himself as a victim and never lost his compassion for the people torturing. Of course I am incapable of being like him as are most people, but I feel that as buddhists that is what we should aspire to.

Going back to the subject of colour. I acknowledge that I and other white people will never be able to understand what it is like to be a black person in countries like the US, since we are not black. However we are completely entitled to express whatever opinion or unstanding do we do have. I am not fond of derogatory statements of white people. Black people are capable for being just as vicious, violent and greedy as white people which should be evident to anyone. Just look at the Rwandan genocide.

I think in the context of the sangha that the sangha should be a place of unity, which is why I don't think too much retoric of us vs them is very beneficial if we want to see more multicolored sanghas.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby zsc » Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:41 pm

"Entitled" to your opinion? Yes. Entitled to being told it is accurate? No. We have our experiences defined through ourselves and not white people, for a change.

The most "derogatory" thing I've said about white people is that they are not black.

Once again, the convo is being derailed by the same people, so if anyone has anything specific to discuss beyond trying to convince me that they are able to define the experience of black people, or that the lived experiences of black people mean nothing (specifically, this is what Malcolm is saying, over and over), then I will do my best to address it. Beyond that, I am not interested.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Malcolm » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:43 pm

zsc wrote:the lived experiences of black people mean nothing (specifically, this is what Malcolm is saying, over and over), then I will do my best to address it.


I didn't say that.

What I do maintain is that for a Buddhist things like race, class, gender, etc., really should not be very important as identity markers for oneself as well as for others. To some extent is unavoidable, because we are human beings. But they are not a desiderata, they are barriers. Sanghas that consciously define themselves on the basis of race, class or ethnicity go against the Buddha's message that dismantled caste. Then it winds up being:

The White Power Sangha
The Black Power Sangha

etc.

This is wrong. If there is a Buddhist teacher you want to study with, then go and study. Do not pay attention his or her race, do not pay attention to the race of the people attending that teacher.

Actually, there is no such thing as race. Race is a stupid word. There are different cultures, languages and histories, but is only one human race. There are no black people, no white people, only human people.

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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby AlexanderS » Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:49 pm

zsc wrote:"Entitled" to your opinion? Yes. Entitled to being told it is accurate? No. We have our experiences defined through ourselves and not white people, for a change.

The most "derogatory" thing I've said about white people is that they are not black.

Once again, the convo is being derailed by the same people, so if anyone has anything specific to discuss beyond trying to convince me that they are able to define the experience of black people, or that the lived experiences of black people mean nothing (specifically, this is what Malcolm is saying, over and over), then I will do my best to address it. Beyond that, I am not interested.


The thing is that all of my friends who are have a foreign ethnic heritage and a foreign appearance and the vast majority poc that I meet, tell me largely to ignore their ethnicity. They don't want to be reminded that they look different than native danes. My very best friend since I was 5 years old is from Greenland. Which is a country that denmark colonized and ruined the same way European immigrants ruined the native Americans. However he always gets upset and angry when I bring up his ethnicity. I am curious person, so often when I meet people who look and sound foreign in my native country, I want to know about their cultural heritage, yet most of the time, they just find it annoying.

What I find derogatory about some of you and rory's statements is the insinuation that the most of the white man's achievements are due to slave labour of black people rather than actual ingeniuity which paints the image that "white identity" is being racist, oppressive, privileged, greedy and violent.

I was going to say more, but then it would just end up being my white privilege speaking, trying to make it all about us, again!
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby odysseus » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:04 pm

Hm, for reasons not so easily understood - anyone non-white feel inferior, but whites have a constant bad conscience and a bit of masochism to them. Both stances are due to holding wrong view.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Nemo » Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:02 am

Having traveled a bit I find the bashing of white culture being particularly racist rather amusing. Most places I've been still revel in their racism with a complete lack of self awareness. There is nothing unique about it. There are pockets everywhere where the conquerors enjoy the fruits of victory and tread on the rights of the vanquished. This is a problem for humanity everywhere and this is one of the few places it is even acknowledged.

You can bash North American Buddhism as being almost entirely white upper middle class intellectuals. That does get on my nerves being working class. Always some renovation or something a center needs and good luck finding a Buddhist here who can use tools.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:29 am

I feel like this thread is going to go from bad to worse if it doesn't go somewhere..so i'm going to try to get some clarity on a few things, hopefully my language doesn't come off as too harsh, and no one feels a lack of empathy, etc. etc...i really am just talking here, there is no agenda.

I feel there is definitely a need for more inclusiveness in American Buddhism, and a need for acknowledgement of the fact that some groups people are shut out of it to some extent. That said, i'm really at a loss as to how to differentiate between when something simply isn't for someone, and when they are being kept away due to a kind of soft discrimination (sorry, I can't bring myself to employ the language used in anti-bias education and similar, so i'm using my own)..which most definitely happens some of the time, though what amount..again I have no idea.

The problem is (at least in terms of making Sangha more inclusive/less discriminatory, uni-racial sangha are a different story and i'll leave speculation on that project to anyone who thinks it isn't ridiculous, because I think it is at this point in time) that you have now taken on a BIG political project, and it will eclipse the Dharma practice part, for a number of reasons. It is hard to do this with a group or organization of limited scope and practice, much less a bigger tent thing such as Buddhism, or even a specific type of Buddhism.

For instance, white people are attracted (IMO of course) to Vajrayana and the forms they are because they are white people, and generally are in a certain place in terms of education, means, preferences..etc. There a subgroups here too..I find a lot more white hippies in Vajrayana than I do the professorial types, who seem to gravitate towards "secular" Buddhism more. Since Vajrayana cannot just be modified on a whim, it seems that at least part of the equation is not discrimination, but simply which of the 84,000 doors resonates with someone - and karmically, it makes sense that this is so..doesn't it?

It seems like the unintended consequences here are that you will be left with a project that has ceased to be Dharma, and is simply political. Ironically enough, there is all kinds of what some posters would call "white Buddhism" that is basically this, Dharma that has morphed into liberal activism with some Buddha images. Personally I think the things Malcolm and others have said are much too dismissive of the legitimate experiences of those who might be shut out..however, it IS worth considering that part of what is he is getting at is that this is Dharma practice, eventually, somehow, you have to do something that is removed from the values and goals of conventional political activism, and that includes the all-important issue of identity. It is not fair, and it seems to make Buddhism a tough row to hoe
for particularly oppressed peoples - but donctrinally, it is true. It is not fair, it IS much easier to do that as white person, but it is still true...Buddhism does not leave much room for identity of the type typically cultivated in this sort of activism..IMO Malcolm has a legitimate point there, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

The only way that makes any sense to get around this is more minority teachers, but that cannot happen in the present circumstances without more minorities (whatever minority you want) being interested, I have no idea how one would accomplish that. So far, the one person (zsc) who seemed even interested in conversation on the subject (I thought) has both simultaneously explained to me that 1) the conversation mus be a one-sided one with her confirming or denying, not listening to me ..anything else is letting the "voices of white people" dominate, and yet 2) that I should get off my own lazy butt if I want to help. What a contradiction - what is anyone supposed to do with such suggestions?

This approach actually puts me in an ideal position to just forget about the whole thing and not really worry about it, swallow down some more white guilt, throws some dollars at a homeless guy or something, and go back to my white practice. After all, that's admittedly easy for me, I am not shut out in any way. I am prime demographic material for Buddhism in The West. Since the aggrieved parties here 1) don't want to give suggestions what people like me should do, and 2) say they have it handled without my help..I guess I get a free pass?

So basically, I feel for those in this position, and I think they have a legitimate grievance for sure, I don't know how one could say otherwise. However if the detailed responses from the aggrieved parties here are any indication..we are a long way from any kind of solution, since we apparently we can't even discuss it without devolving into bickering about what can even be legitimately discussed and by whom, or with periodic obnoxious comments about what all men are like, etc.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Adi » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:06 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:... That said, i'm really at a loss as to how to differentiate between when something simply isn't for someone, and when they are being kept away due to a kind of soft discrimination….


Perhaps part of the issue is, at least to American perceptions (and it seems to me most of this thread is about things in the US), is that, generally speaking, Buddhism doesn't proselytize. It makes itself available and open, but (with few exceptions) doesn't go about seeking recruits, doesn't offer signing-up incentives, and is by definition a kind of small, odd, and non-mainstream religion/philosophy/practice.

This may leave Americans of every kind, who are used to having their Eight Worldly Dharmas praised, gilded and massaged by salespeople and marketers, feeling rather un-special or left out. "What, these people don't care if I'm there or not? Well! The Church Down the Street sends people to my door and even will send a car to pick me up for service. And they have vending machines in the lobby and an espresso bar! Why should I go sit on the floor and have to take my shoes off? What do they have to offer me?"

To most Americans, Buddhism is a strange thing. Does this mean it needs to be made to seem less strange or made in the image of our own desires and expectations? That might fill up the cushions but I wonder if that would help Dharma at all. At all.

And yet, of course, we have Americans who have radically different backgrounds, experiences, life stories and the like. It seems to me that the "selling point" here is that Buddhism is open to anyone interested in it regardless of ______________ (insert anything that makes a person seem different from anyone else.) So if you feel so inclined, pick one of the 84,000 doors and walk right in. Chances are you will be welcome. It makes no difference who you were or are as it will be just as effective for you or anyone, even to the point of achieving enlightenment in one lifetime if you maintain diligence in practice.

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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:27 pm

Zhen Li wrote:I personally wouldn't suggest Ven. Indrajala as an authority on Fo Guang Shan, though he is very learned and a good writer on other matters, one bad experience is enough to paint anyone's glasses rose coloured, Ven. Huifeng I would suggest an authority on FGS.


Sure, but if you're in a position of authority in an organization, you probably won't feel compelled towards self-flagellation on an internet forum.

For the record, I had more than one bad experience with FGS. I've also met plenty of monks and nuns (and a layperson or two) who ran away from FGS. However, we already discussed all this at length elsewhere.

Essentially, FGS is quite conservative of Chinese culture in a country where it has been by and large replaced by American or Japanese culture.


That's actually not true on many levels.

Just one example: Humanistic Buddhism has effectively abandoned the elder gods which were and still are part and parcel of “Chinese Buddhism”. In traditional temples you still see the Buddhist deities alongside various Dharmapalas, the Four Mahārāja and indigenous Chinese gods. Longshan-si in downtown Taipei is actually more representative of conservative Chinese religious culture. The Buddhist shrine stands in the same space as the shrines for the indigenous Chinese gods.

FGS might sell itself as being a custodian of “Chinese culture”, but they've abandoned so much of their ancestral heritage so as to be a form of Neo-Buddhism. Everything from the organizational structure to the theology down to the very robes the FGS clergy wear are all very modified and different from what used to exist on the mainland.

If you want to see the true heirs to classical Chinese civilization you need to go to Japan.

But by and large I think you'll find it very traditional and conservative if you try to live there, contrasted with living in the cities in Taiwan, which might strike one as a bit more materialistic than those in the west.


The old forms of Buddhism on the mainland were very different. Being a wandering monk was perfectly normal. There was no sense it seems of signing up into a single organization for life and owing your absolute obedience and allegiance to a single "Grand Master".

Actually truth be told traditional Chinese Buddhism as a living tradition is pretty much dead. Buddhism in China was already on its death bed in China prior to the communist insurrection. The Reds basically decapitated a dying institution. Some intellectuals survived, but most of it was simply killed off. The artistic traditions fell into oblivion. This is why modern Chinese Buddhist art looks so different from what existed in the Qing.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Sherlock » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:51 pm

It's not all dead yet I think.

There are still Chinese Chan hermits in the mountains:



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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:56 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Actually truth be told traditional Chinese Buddhism as a living tradition is pretty much dead. Buddhism in China was already on its death bed in China prior to the communist insurrection. The Reds basically decapitated a dying institution. Some intellectuals survived, but most of it was simply killed off. The artistic traditions fell into oblivion. This is why modern Chinese Buddhist art looks so different from what existed in the Qing.


Numbers are still pretty strong. There are about 300 million Buddhists in China last time I checked the stats.

Why was it dying before the communist takeover?
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:39 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:It seems like the unintended consequences here are that you will be left with a project that has ceased to be Dharma, and is simply political. Ironically enough, there is all kinds of what some posters would call "white Buddhism" that is basically this, Dharma that has morphed into liberal activism with some Buddha images. Personally I think the things Malcolm and others have said are much too dismissive of the legitimate experiences of those who might be shut out..however, it IS worth considering that part of what is he is getting at is that this is Dharma practice, eventually, somehow, you have to do something that is removed from the values and goals of conventional political activism, and that includes the all-important issue of identity. It is not fair, and it seems to make Buddhism a tough row to hoe
for particularly oppressed peoples - but donctrinally, it is true. It is not fair, it IS much easier to do that as white person, but it is still true...Buddhism does not leave much room for identity of the type typically cultivated in this sort of activism..IMO Malcolm has a legitimate point there, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.


I am not dismissive of their experience. One cannot contextualize one's experience (be social, political or economic) in Buddhism in absence of the teaching of karma, which states quite plainly that all sensations, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral, the social status into which one is born, one's opportunities in life, and so on result from one's own past actions in previous lives. Buddhists, of whatever "race" are well advised to use this precious human birth (that they may use to attain liberation) to good use. Meanwhile, as part of their practice, they can devote themselves to whatever social causes strike their fancy depending on their social, political and economic concerns. Thus, if you are a person of color and you wish to devote yourself to causes involving people of color, fine. But don't buy into the non-Buddhist narratives of oppressors and victims, the non-Buddhist narrative of privileging one form of sentient life (human) over the lives of billions of other kinds of sentient life. The teaching of karma is not fuzzy, warm, and it does not feel good. The teaching of karma indicates that what we experience in this life is a result of how we have acted in past lives. If we are oppressed in this life, we can be sure that in a past life we were oppressive, and so on.

This is not a recommendation for inaction or indifference to the plight of people are not so fortunate as to have a precious human birth where they can meet the Perfect Dharma and practice it. We have to be aware of the plight of others and help where we can, and when we are asked to, it's "the bodhisattva" thing to do, and not because we wish to turn others into coreligionists. But in the end, don't ask me to respect you because you are a person of color. I respect you already because you are a human being.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:03 pm

Nighthawk wrote:Numbers are still pretty strong. There are about 300 million Buddhists in China last time I checked the stats.


Numbers are different from earlier living traditions.

Of course Buddhism still exists in China, but what existed before the communist insurrection and cultural revolution and what arose from the ashes are going to be quite different, especially when the earlier generation of clergy, artists and so on were effectively wiped out. What exists now has to pick up the pieces. I hear stories from monks who went to China and report there isn't always much substance to Buddhism there.

With respect to Taiwanese Buddhism, the major sects which emerged in the post-War period are all quite heavily reformed. I wrote about this here:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2013/07/ ... dhism.html




Why was it dying before the communist takeover?


There were a lot of factors. Primarily it had difficulty coping with modernization and industrialization, plus remaining relevant in the face of secularization and increasing rationalist approaches amongst intellectual elites. There were plenty of advocates of science who had contempt for Buddhism.

I'll recommend a good article worth reading:

"Chinese Buddhism and the Anti-Japan War" by Sueki Fumihiko.

https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/3001
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby zsc » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:04 pm

The board ate my longer reply that I wrote at home, so until I can salvage it, I think there is something that needs to be addressed:

Malcolm wrote:The teaching of karma indicates that what we experience in this life is a result of how we have acted in past lives. If we are oppressed in this life, we can be sure that in a past life we were oppressive, and so on.


This isn't Buddhist. The Buddha's teaching is that our current circumstances are not only due to the karma from past lives. To say so is actually espousing the foundation of social darwinism and eugenics: the "have-nots" are in the position they are in because there is something inherently flawed about them, so it's only "natural" that they experience all this misery.

I don't even think you have to want the "warm and fuzzies" to recognize all the things wrong with this statement.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 14, 2014 3:37 pm

zsc wrote:T

The Buddha's teaching is that our current circumstances are not only due to the karma from past lives.


Yes, the Buddha's teaching is that our current circumstances are due only to our actions from past lives. You really don't want me to trot out the numerous citations illustrate this.

There are some revisionists who would like to deny this, but they are wrong.

This does not mean we cannot improve our current circumstances. Of course we can. But that too depends on our past karma.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 14, 2014 5:46 pm

Simon E. wrote:Call me Mr Psycho, but I have not an ounce, not a jot, not the merest scintilla of white guilt or gender guilt.


Having any kind of emotional reaction to one's genetic makeup or chromosome arrangement is simply self-defeating.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Simon E. » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:12 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Simon E. wrote:Call me Mr Psycho, but I have not an ounce, not a jot, not the merest scintilla of white guilt or gender guilt.


Having any kind of emotional reaction to one's genetic makeup or chromosome arrangement is simply self-defeating.

Agree. Or of course to that of another.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby zsc » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:21 pm

I decided to not bother trying to retrieve my original reply since it's been a very slow day at work, so I have a lot of free time since I'm done with everything, so:

@Johnny Dangerous - You pose a false dichotomy between "dharma" and "politics". Nothing can eclipse dharma. Our practice isn't a "Sunday-only" exercise, but permeates our whole life experience. Awakening that denies the conditions of real life is not awakening. "Politics" is not about who you vote for, but is really just how humans interact with and relate to each other, so we are all "political" because we are all human. Your insistence also denies interdependence and karma, which I elaborate on in my responses to Malcolm and AlexanderS below.

Further, your insistence that dharma is separate from politics ignores Gotoma's opposition to the caste system, a form of social inequality that he addressed. Even now, people who belong to the "untouchable" classes in India often say that they converted to Buddhism in order to not be seen as "untouchable". Just like where I live in the U.S., discrimination may be technically illegal in India, but the social practice of racism and discrimination is woven deep into the fabric of the culture.

You say you have no agenda, yet your language betrays you. For example, it was only when rory brought up the fact that I and she are both women that you described her responses as "shrill", which is actually an insult expressing annoyance at the high pitch typical of female voices. If we erase the boogeyman behind the phrase "have an agenda", as agenda is an intention. I'm honest in saying I do have an intention in participating in this discussion. It's not as if I am somehow required to be involved, so yes, I am participating with voluntary, conscious intent. Just like your antagonistic stance against my "non-bias education" terms and false dichotomy of "politics" and "dharma", your language sounds an alarm when there is no fire.

You are free to respond to your frustration however you choose, but I would ask why you demand that my answers (about the challenges that people in my group face) satisfy your feelings. Why must the struggles of other people come back to how you feel? Why must the solutions that marginalized people come up within their own communities (for example, intentional poc sanghas) be palatable to you? Check out the current conversation: what was started as a query into Buddhism as practiced by black people and other people of color has turned into a discussion about the feelings of white people.

@Malcolm - To continue on what I touched on, your position of the suffering of people being only the result of their past lives ignores that documented fact that Gotoma opposed the caste system, which is the logical conclusion of your stance. Gotoma even opposed the caste system *even while he directly benefited from it*. There is a metaphor in there about how we should respond to all other forms of social inequality.

But I will say, it is ironic that you chose to affirm the reality of karma from our past lives while denying other karmic circumstances in which we are born into, such as where we are born, at what time in history, to what kind of parents, to what family, in what socioeconomic strata, what race and ethnicity, and many other factors. Due to the interdependence of all life, whichever dharma door we find ourselves in ultimately is shaped by all of our karma, so there is no such thing as non-Buddhas like ourselves being somehow separate from this dharma. We still exist as conditioned beings, conditioned by our karma. We are not separate from the unconditioned, but we still currently exist conditionally.

And yet, my basic recommendation to examine personal complicity (which is woven into your own karmic situation) to see your role in today's social conditions is met with resistance. Meanwhile, my insistence that how we relate to the dharma (which includes to how we relate to each other) is conditioned by our karmic situations (which includes our experiences due to our race) is met with denial. Neither statement is a concept that is alien to Buddhist thought.

In light of that, race is a fake social construct, to you "there are no black people" but to people who do everything from deny us opportunities to gun us down there certainly are black people. The same "Sunday-only" dharma referenced above that ignores the lived reality of racism that black Buddhists face, and other poc, is unsurprisingly not one that many poc will adopt. Above I have outlined why I believe this isn't Buddhist at all.

Just like with Johnny Dangerous, I would also ask why the solutions of people of color--in your words, a "black power sangha"--must be palatable to you? Also, it should be clear from history why "white power", an assertion of power by the powerful, is a hate movement, while "black power", a reclamation of agency by systematically oppressed people, is a civil rights movement. Therefore, the two concepts are apples and oranges.

And, I think your word choice of social commentary as my "fancy" is telling. You make it sound like a completely voluntary hobby, like stamp collecting. In reality, black people in America have to face racism and frame it in one way or another as a necessity, to make sense of the world, whether publicly or privately. A lot of black parents dread the eventual "racism talk" they have to have with their young children for their protection. At the same time, I have read white people resenting having to have the same discussion when they were younger if they happened to have committed some social faux paus that could have been misconstrued as racism. Some white people resent having the racism talk as adults. Both ignore the fact that this talk is thought of as "optional" for them because of white privilege, while it is "required" in one way or another, for black people.

@AlexanderS - It is not only through black slave labor that white people have benefited. Other people of color have been exploited as well. For example, the reason India as we know it exists today is because white colonizers and imperialists exploited that land's resources, disenfranchised the ability of the native people to benefit from their own land's resources, and the "spoils" were divided up between the conquerors, resulting in different "countries" of the Indian subcontinent. The boundaries of these countries is not based on the perogative of the many different ethnicities and cultures who exist in India, but the arbitrary whim of who wanted to control what territory. Many other countries have similar origins.

Today, I would posit that it is not too difficult *as a race* (individually is another question, but not completely unrelated) to have "ingenuity" when your race has not been systematically excluded from the means of wealth, education, and opportunity that makes it possible to have this trait. There is nothing inherently white about ingenuity, innovation, and progress, and it is not a coincidence that white accomplishments are, on average, more visible and thought of as "more important", again on average, as the accomplishments of people of color.

I grew up in a black neighborhood, went to a black school, and therefore pretty much was immersed in black history alongside the usual white history that everyone learns. Being young and inexperienced, I took for granted that everyone more or less had learned the same thing. This meant that I thought that everyone pretty much "got over" the racist idea that white people are the only people that have accomplished anything of substance and are the "superior" race, and that people who still believed this were laughed off as bigots because they were obviously wrong. I got a rude awakening when I went off to a mostly white liberal arts college. Not only did most people not know about the accomplishments of black people, but they didn't know the accomplishments of any people who were not white. Further, people who believed in the inherent superiority of white people (or the inherent inferiority of people of color) were not laughed off as bigots, but actually affirmed in their bigotry, usually abusing freedom of speech by having their opinions affirmed as "valid", that they were "entitled" to them, etc. You have to take "special" classes to learn about the accomplishments of people of color, while white accomplishments are taught by default. Again, this is not a coincidence.

Finally, for reasons I outlined further in my response to Malcolm about karma, to try to separate the accomplishments of white people from the historical, systematic oppression done by white people is the denial of karma and the interdependence of all beings (this harkens back to Jikan's most recent statement, actually). We don't live our lives "on our own", nor do we accomplish things "on our own", completely without being provided the opportunity to do so. This is not an affirmation of blind fatalism (again, I do not believe in a caste system), just a denial of the ego, which loves to convince us that we are inherently independent in our thoughts or actions. This may seem like minimalizing the accomplishments of others only if you are operating on the premise that a real meritocracy is even possible, and that any one of us conditioned beings is actually capable of operating independently. Both assertions contradict the truth of interdependence.

About your anecdote about Denmark, I have met black people who don't want to be reminded that they are black, and it is usually based on some seed of self-hate and/or ignorance about their history. They have the accurate intuition that to identify differently than the colonizers in any way results in rejection (which this thread demonstrates). However, they respond incorrectly by "special snowflaking" to gain acceptance: they insist on an identity that is "not like those *other* [non-white ethnicity here]". I see this played out in multiracial friendships often--you are the "cool" black friend if you "have a sense of humor" and make racist jokes, as well as allow your white friends to (similar to how guys consider their friends who are women as "cool girls" if the women agree with their misogyny). One of my white boyfriends, now an ex for un-related reasons, once said that he was "glad" that I didn't have a "black name" like those *other* black women. I laughed with him at the time (who says love can't make you stupid?), but it gives me pause to think about it now.

On the other hand, having complete strangers who don't care about you ask "What are you?" is annoying, as plenty of Asian-Americans say. Black women get this in the form of invasive questions about our hair ("Can I touch it?" "Do you wash it?" "Is that your real hair?" etc.). This ascribes an "alien" quality to someone that is dehumanizing. It's creepy, like we are regarded as zoo animals who need to be carefully studied.

There is a way to acknowledge someone's ethnicity without treating people like they are "strange", but in my experience, it's harder for white people to do this. Some people of color who grow up in the west do this as well, but once the absurdity is explained to them they are usually better at "getting it" than white westerners.

@rory - Thanks for the link! And, here I am, encouraging the discussion as well, though. Maybe we're masochists? :P

@dzogchungpa and Simon E. - As I said earlier, "white guilt" is besides the point. It's not even the point. Again, did the Buddha have "guilt" (a useless emotion by the way) about being born a prince, in the upper crust of the caste system? No, but he did oppose it. I have already touched on how presumptuous it is that white people, or men, or cis people, or straight people, or us westerners etc., to assume that people who write or talk about the systematic oppression inflicted by these groups are just so people belonging to these groups can *feel bad*, like we couldn't possibly be doing it to help ourselves. It's not all about you guys (or us, in the case of critics of western colonialism and imperialism or cis people, since I'm both).
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:50 pm

[quote="zsc"

@Malcolm - To continue on what I touched on, your position of the suffering of people being only the result of their past lives ignores that documented fact that Gotoma opposed the caste system, which is the logical conclusion of your stance. Gotoma even opposed the caste system *even while he directly benefited from it*. There is a metaphor in there about how we should respond to all other forms of social inequality.[/quote]

The in the Karmavibhanga, the Buddha states:

Brahmaputra, therefore, listen well and bear this in mind: from knowing the various actions [karma], the various afflictions, the various views and the various behaviors of sentient beings one can describe the ripened results of positive and negative actions. Brahmaputra, there is birth among hell beings, animals and pretas because of negative actions, birth among humans, asuras and devas because of positive actions.

Brahmaputra, a short life is a vicissitude of karma, a long life is a vicissitude of karma. Frequent illness is a vicissitude of karma, infrequent illness is a vicissitude of karma. A poor complexion is a vicissitude of karma. Beauty is a vicissitude of karma. Inferior social standing is a vicissitude of karma. Superior social standing is a vicissitude of karma. Noble birth is a vicissitude of karma. Ignoble birth is a vicissitude of karma. Great wealth is a vicissitude of karma. Little wealth is a vicissitude of karma. Low intelligence is a vicissitude of karma. High intelligence is a vicissitude of karma. Birth as a hell being is a vicissitude of karma. Birth as animal is a vicissitude of karma. Birth as a preta is a vicissitude of karma. Birth in the human realm is a vicissitude of karma. Birth as a deva enjoying bliss is a vicissitude of karma. Birth as a form realm deva is a vicissitude of karma. Birth as a formless realm deva is a vicissitude of karma. Certainty of birth is a vicissitude of karma. Uncertainty of birth is a vicissitude of karma. Ripening in another land is a is a vicissitude of karma.


You ignored my observation that the fact that social inequality is in fact a result of karma from the Buddha's point of view does not mean we deal with it passively.


But I will say, it is ironic that you chose to affirm the reality of karma from our past lives while denying other karmic circumstances in which we are born into, such as where we are born...


All of this comes from our past karma, I have not ignored any of it.

And yet, my basic recommendation to examine personal complicity (which is woven into your own karmic situation) to see your role in today's social conditions is met with resistance.


All of us together mutually created the karmic ripening we observe today, and the ways in which we treat other sentient beings determines what kind of karmic reality we will experience in the future. You very well may have been a privileged white slave owner in a past life. I may have been a slave whose children were ripped away from me and sold at auction. Jews killed in the holocaust may have been reborn as Israelis, while Nazis may have been reborn as Palestinians. We have all been mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, enemies, friends, murders, rapists, thieves, kings, wealthy merchants, libertines, etc., not to mention pretas, gods, hell beings, fish, whales, bugs so many times, that to insist that others must adopt our social view based in the very temporary karmic circumstances we find in this life is just absurd.

The law of karma is unerring. If someone, like Tibetans for example, are experiencing torture, murder and so on at the hands of the PLA, for example, there is a karmic reason for it. That does not mean that Tibetans, for example, need to be passive and not insist on their rights to dignity as human beings, the same thing with Palestinians, Mayans, Rohingyas, etc. But as Buddhists we also must understand that famine, diseases, wars, etc., as well as the beauty and good fortune we have to live in the US (as imperfect as it may be) all comes from karma. How we manage this is what will determine where we take rebirth in the next life and what kind of circumstances we will meet there.

Meanwhile, my insistence that how we relate to the dharma (which includes to how we relate to each other) is conditioned by our karmic situations (which includes our experiences due to our race) is met with denial. Neither statement is a concept that is alien to Buddhist thought.


You really must not be paying attention to what I said.

In light of that, race is a fake social construct, to you "there are no black people" but to people who do everything from deny us opportunities to gun us down there certainly are black people. The same "Sunday-only" dharma referenced above that ignores the lived reality of racism that black Buddhists face, and other poc, is unsurprisingly not one that many poc will adopt. Above I have outlined why I believe this isn't Buddhist at all.


Race is a social construct that is quite real to many people, but it is still just an illusion. "Black people" and "White people" are just dividing labels. The extent we wish to reinforce them is the extent to which they will continue to bind us.

Just like with Johnny Dangerous, I would also ask why the solutions of people of color--in your words, a "black power sangha"--must be palatable to you?


I can see you really do not read what I said carefully. I said the very idea of such racially divided sanghas violated the intent of the Buddha, who did not differentiate people by caste when they became followers of Buddhadharma.

Also, it should be clear from history why "white power", an assertion of power by the powerful, is a hate movement, while "black power", a reclamation of agency by systematically oppressed people, is a civil rights movement. Therefore, the two concepts are apples and oranges.


From a Buddhist point of view, it is just worldly bullshit caught up in the eight worldly Dharmas.

In reality, black people in America have to face racism and frame it in one way or another as a necessity, to make sense of the world, whether publicly or privately.


Yes, of course they do. There are a lot of racists out there. Many of them have "black" skin too. They are all to be pitied for their narrowness and lack of compassion.

A lot of black parents dread the eventual "racism talk" they have to have with their young children for their protection. At the same time, I have read white people resenting having to have the same discussion when they were younger if they happened to have committed some social faux paus that could have been misconstrued as racism. Some white people resent having the racism talk as adults. Both ignore the fact that this talk is thought of as "optional" for them because of white privilege, while it is "required" in one way or another, for black people.


My mother, a caucasian women, and founder of the feminist movement in New England, marched in many Civil Rights rallies in the sixties. I was with her at these as I was a small child. I was raised in a household where it was normal to discuss racism and its negative impacts on African Americans.

I am a Buddhist, and while I sympathize with the suffering of any sentient being, I also recognize that the suffering of any sentient being comes strictly from their own karma and no one else makes it for them. You are making a common error in assuming that karmic causes and conditions are "interdependent" in a broader sense. They are not.

The discussion of general cause and condition comes first. Then the subject of dependent origination. Finally, the discussion of karmic cause and condition, i.e. how afflicted minds act, and what kinds of results they can expect to ripen as a result of those acts, both positive and negative. My karma does not ripen on you, and you have no hand in making it. Your karma does not ripen on me, and I had no hand in making it.
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