LastLegend wrote:Yeah, I have yet to see an enlightened Western patriarch. Don't be offended, but that's what we need to work on.
But to answer the OP, keep moving forwards and don't give what others are saying.
Peace. Yes, I am Asian.
There's plenty of eminent westerners in history who attained to influential positions in Buddhism.
As for patriarchs, that's just not the shape which western Buddhism is taking. The western equivalents of patriarchs are the writers, scholars, and translators. Just as many western people in the past century, if not more, have become Buddhists because of the work of people like the Rhys Davids, I.B. Horner, Edward Conze, Gil Fronsdal, Alan Watts, Anagarika Govinda, Pema Chodron, Surya Das, Robert Thurman, Matthieu Ricard, Stephen Batchelor, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Goenka, Sangharakshita, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu, than because of the work of patriarchs (though HHDL may be an exception).
We are Buddhists after all, not convert-Asians.
I think this sentiment may be really important to developing "western Buddhism."
This may sound silly, but I have noticed that when people take on foreign characteristics and customs too zealously in Buddhism, you can see a glassy look in their eyes derived from the pleasure of attaching to a new and exciting identity. It is like a drug to some people, and they just want more - the clothing, the food, the language. I do not mean to denigrate or insult anyone by saying this, but I just look at it as another form of attachment. In the west, it has occurred in some places, but in most instances Buddhism has not taken on its western form, but remains an east in the west. In China though, new Buddhist converts did not start to wear Indian dhotis and drink tea from Darjeeling - instead they chanted texts in Chinese (bastardising the Sanskrit mantras), and inserted pre-existing Confucian and Taoist imagery and vocabulary into everything. We should not shy away or be afraid from doing the same in the west. I also have yet to see a decent liturgy in English which is in verse with good metre.
One of the advantages of developing western Buddhism today also, is that we may have the greatest wealth and accumulation of scholarship and knowledge on the various stages and forms of Buddhism throughout history and geography. We can actually pronounce Sanskrit mantras correctly if we want to. We can also go straight to newly discovered primary resources and analyse texts for accuracy in a way which previously was not possible in Asia centuries ago.
We have the potential to contradict the theory of the decline of the Dharma completely if we put our minds to it together (if it hasn't already been done).