Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

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Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Luke » Tue May 24, 2011 9:36 pm

It seems that there isn't much effort to spread the Dharma in Africa. I know that many African countries are Muslim countries where it's too dangerous to spread the Dharma (for ordinary Buddhist teachers at least), but there are still some other African countries where it might be possible to start Buddhist communities. As I read Ven. Huifeng's biography which he posted a while back, I was really moved by the efforts of the Foguang Shan Buddhist organization to spread Buddhism in Africa. They are way ahead and have shown a great deal of wisdom compassion with their activities there.

However, it seems that some other Buddhists sometimes use Buddhism to support racism with theories like "Oh, we white people have such good karma and those darker-skinned savages in Africa just have really bad karma so there's no point in helping them." Such things aren't always stated openly, but are often just implied.

Buddhists need to remember to care about all races of people. The desire to help liberate ALL beings from sufferings shouldn't just be mere words we recite.

Anyway, what are your thoughts about spreading the Dharma in Africa?

I have met many Africans who were very hard-working, so I feel that if they believed in Buddhism, their sanghas would flourish their as a result of their own hard work.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Astus » Tue May 24, 2011 10:00 pm

"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 24, 2011 10:04 pm

Luke wrote:
Buddhists need to remember to care about all races of people. The desire to help liberate ALL beings from sufferings shouldn't just be mere words we recite.
.


If Africa as a place has the merit to support Dharma, then it will flourish there. If not, then not.

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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue May 24, 2011 11:36 pm

Africa is a very big place.

I like the original post to this thread, but I hope some day we can get beyond thinking that the human realm is actually made up of different 'races'.

here are links to centers in south africa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_South_Africa
and in Uganda
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Uganda_Buddhist_Centre
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Pero » Tue May 24, 2011 11:48 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I like the original post to this thread, but I hope some day we can get beyond thinking that the human realm is actually made up of different 'races'.

That's just being blind.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed May 25, 2011 12:22 am

The idea of 'race' is not scientifically supported. All humans share a common ancestry. We all share common DNA. You and I are, in fact, distantly related.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby ronnewmexico » Wed May 25, 2011 12:39 am

Africa is a very big place, so some of it is probably suited to this.

Some parts of africa are quite backward. One place I have heard of has recently considered the death penalty for gay peoples. Another place I have heard of was apparently having problems with albino peoples killed and their skin ground up into powder for use as a charm in shamanistic rituals which may provide increased wealth. To the extent of albino peoples in that country apparently being very afraid to go out of their homes.

So some parts may be but it seems some may not. It is very large and diverse.
I don't think the idea of caste, which derives from theories of rebirth usually has skin color as a major componant. Mainly it appears to be heriditary lineal transmission. Such thinking as far as I know is still quite common in rural India and I have heard of rumor of such though not quite as restrictive in at least one buddhist country. Though the teacher buddha seems to be one of the first in asia to generally repudiate that system.
Caste derives it seems from such ideas like...this person born unfortunate has has a evil history which necessitates this particular rebirth as untouchable or other. And thusly it is right that they be there. This is part of the reason why the buddha in india(to my opinion) is taken by many hindus to be but a reformer who added his view to what is known as a hindu view. Thusly abscribed as Hindu.

Lepers in rural india it seems are also castigated as leperosy being considered the product of a evil past. The same idea again but again not based on skin color.
I'd guess the obsession with skin color as indicitive of societal advancement is a western invention to substantiate historically african slavery and colonialism.
I would suggest apart from countries that engaged in such things it is relatively rare to find that. The more they engaged and the longer they engaged the more prevelence in the society even today.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby kirtu » Wed May 25, 2011 1:05 am

There are a few African Buddhist monks now. In Kenya there is at least one Theravadin teacher (the one I happened to meet was from Sri Lanka though.

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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby mudra » Wed May 25, 2011 2:00 am

I knew a Kenyan nun from about 20 years ago in Dharamsala. Then of course Alex berzin used to travel to Africa back in the 80's.
Africa is pretty varied from what I understand.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby ground » Wed May 25, 2011 5:17 am

Luke wrote:Anyway, what are your thoughts about spreading the Dharma in Africa?


Another wave of missionaries.

Kind regards
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Luke » Wed May 25, 2011 5:32 am

TMingyur wrote:
Luke wrote:Anyway, what are your thoughts about spreading the Dharma in Africa?


Another wave of missionaries.

Kind regards

I understand your concerns. It's never good to force or manipulate people into converting, but are you saying that providing Africans who previously had no opportunity to learn about Buddhism with those opportunities is completely without value?

Ancient Buddhist masters (such as Shakyamuni himself) spread the Dharma and preached the Dharma in a peaceful and honest way. So there are ways to spread the Dharma without being too overbearing.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Luke » Wed May 25, 2011 5:34 am

Namdrol wrote:If Africa as a place has the merit to support Dharma, then it will flourish there. If not, then not.

How can a place have karma? Only sentient beings have karma. Mt. Kilimanjaro doesn't have its own karma.

Did you really just mean the collective karma of all the sentient beings who live in Africa?

And I don't see why you are talking about Africa as a whole unit. After all, it's quite possible that the Dharma could flourish in some parts of Africa, but not in others.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 25, 2011 5:50 am

Foguangshan has a presence in South Africa:

http://www.nanhua.co.za/


Their seminary is presently on hold it seems, but nevertheless they are there.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Quiet Heart » Wed May 25, 2011 6:24 am

:meditate:
Some interestng replies here, and good information to think about.
Can I just say that in any country or culture...irregardless where or what...spreading the Dharms must be like planting a seed in the ground for a farmer.
You place it in the ground...put in fertilizer and water it..then stand back and hopefully, watch it grow.
You can't see it or make it grow faster.
But maybe, there underground where you can't see, it's already starting to grow.
:tongue:
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in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby mindyourmind » Wed May 25, 2011 6:52 am

I live in South Africa, and I will restrict my comment to SA. I think to make sweeping statements about or on behalf of a whole continent can at times be a rather dangerous affair.

Here in SA the Dharma is coming along nicely, in that slow but sure way the Dharma seems to have. I have been a practicing Buddhist now for eight years, and I can see some big changes just in that time alone.

Karma Kagyu has two large centres here, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town, and a large, well-run specialized retreat centre in one of the more isolated, rural areas. They also have a strong grass-roots presence in several other cities. The Gelukpas are coming along nicely, and their centre in Johannesburg is starting to bring out some really big teachers.

Cape Town has a very strong Theravadin centre, and a Shambala centre that seems to be growing strongly. There are even a few Dzogchen practitioners around, even though they have not formed a real group yet. NKT seems to be doing well, there is a very strong Zen Centre (run by Heila and Rodney Downey) in Cape Town and Rondebosch, and the Buddhist community (mostly Chinese / Taiwanese) at Nan Hua is a large, strong community. There are several smaller retreat centres all over the country.

In my city (Port Elizabeth and neighboring Grahamstown) we have recently started a Kagyu group that is growing nicely.

Teachers of senior stature seems to still be a rather difficult matter, although both Kagyu and Gelug seems to be putting in more effort on this important aspect.

My guess is also that as we see classical theism coming under increasing pressure we will see a small rise in Buddhist practitioners, or at least those who are interested in that.

I am confident that here in SA the Dharma has set down its roots, and the precious plant is growing. Slowly. But surely.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby palchi » Wed May 25, 2011 7:56 am

Africa is a big place indeed and there is huge diversity between and within countries. And there are a great many misconceptions and prejudices and very little real knowledge and understanding......

I currently live in Namibia which is a big country with a tiny population (2 million in a country twice as big as Germany) and even this small population is very diverse.... A lot of poverty, great inequality, more than 50% unemployment, still one of the countries with the highest HIV rates in the world but democratic, politically stable, pretty safe and with a government that tries to make things work. And great natural beauty..... Also, Namibia still carries the legacy of German colonialism and South African apartheit, noticeable on so many levels.

There are no dharma centres here as far as I know and I don't even know any other Buddhists, though a number of people who are doing (or are interested in) meditation. Dharma could meet with a lot of openness but I wouldn't want to see it as just another religious group trying to get followers. Namibia is a very Christian country though and there is still quite a lot of missionary stuff going on.

Otherwise, to add to mindyourmind's post - Karma Kagyu also has centres in Zimbabwe and DRC.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby mindyourmind » Wed May 25, 2011 8:02 am

I wanted to add also that here in South Africa (I'm not sure how far the concept and name stretches through Africa, if at all) the indigenous African population (especially the Xhosas) have a concept called "ubuntu". The first time I read about it I thought they were describing bodhicitta and metta. It deals with community spirit, helping those in need (even when not a part of your clan / family), love of community, selflessness and sharing. This concept of ubuntu I believe gives Africa a wonderful platform from which the Dharma can be expanded.

And yes, that last word does sound a bit missionary, I still have a lot of "ambition" to see the Dharma grow in Africa. It is indeed a continent that can greatly benefit from Buddhist values.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Luke » Wed May 25, 2011 12:12 pm

mindyourmind wrote:Here in SA the Dharma is coming along nicely, in that slow but sure way the Dharma seems to have. I have been a practicing Buddhist now for eight years, and I can see some big changes just in that time alone.

Hmm... I'm happy to hear that, but in a way that doesn't surprise me because South Africa seems to be the part of Africa which has had the most Anglo influences. Buddhist teachers have over the years customized their message to Anglo-American audiences and westerners who share similar cultural values, so talking these types of people is often easier for them.

I looked at the statistics, and according to Wikipedia, almost 80% of the people in South Africa are black. But what percentage of the members of Buddhist sanghas in South Africa are black? Are the Buddhist groups there (as they are in many other places) a rather elite group of people? And are most of the elites in South Africa still white?<--I truly don't know, so I ask this because of my lack of knowledge. For example, 14% of the population in the USA are black, but black people are rarely seen at Buddhist sanghas there.

Or am I wrong in assuming that white South Africans have more in common culturally with the Brits or the Australians than they do with any black Africans?
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby mindyourmind » Wed May 25, 2011 12:51 pm

Luke wrote:
mindyourmind wrote:Here in SA the Dharma is coming along nicely, in that slow but sure way the Dharma seems to have. I have been a practicing Buddhist now for eight years, and I can see some big changes just in that time alone.

Hmm... I'm happy to hear that, but in a way that doesn't surprise me because South Africa seems to be the part of Africa which has had the most Anglo influences. Buddhist teachers have over the years customized their message to Anglo-American audiences and westerners who share similar cultural values, so talking these types of people is often easier for them.

I looked at the statistics, and according to Wikipedia, almost 80% of the people in South Africa are black. But what percentage of the members of Buddhist sanghas in South Africa are black? Are the Buddhist groups there (as they are in many other places) a rather elite group of people? And are most of the elites in South Africa still white?<--I truly don't know, so I ask this because of my lack of knowledge. For example, 14% of the population in the USA are black, but black people are rarely seen at Buddhist sanghas there.

Or am I wrong in assuming that white South Africans have more in common culturally with the Brits or the Australians than they do with any black Africans?


There is a lot there to deal with here :rolleye:

I suppose it is correct to say that SA has a lot of Anglo-Saxon influence. It's probably also true that white SAns have more in common with Brits and Aussies than with their own countrymen.

Buddhism is really not very well known here amongst the "black" part of the nation (I really hate speaking about people based on their colour, but I suppose in this context it is necessary). It is rather well-known amongst the white population, and as I said, it seems to be growing slowly. I will have to agree, rather reluctantly, that Buddhism here is indeed mostly found in the so-called elite groups, although that would be the case anywhere in the West, I would imagine. I wouldn't say that the "elite" in SA would still mostly be black though. Black SAns are either completely secular or adhere to a combination of ancestor worship and Christianity. Islam seems to be rather popular also.

In my experience the African is a very spiritual person. That seems to be taking a huge knock as a result of modernization and other factors, but if religion has a chance of surviving it has its best shot here in Africa. I understand however that evangelical Christianity is extremely popular in Africa.

It is a sad thing to say, and I hope I am not offending anyone, but in Africa, as seems to be the case in some parts of the East, Christianity is seen as the modern way, if you will the "white man's way", and in that sense it has attracted a sense of legitimacy, of coolness even. The irony is of course that these faiths have largely been abandoned by the West. If Buddhism can be seen to be a popular, "cool" religion then maybe ...

I am quite confident of the Dharma's growth in Africa, but I cannot really see it as ever being a huge force numerically though. Over the years I have also come to doubt whether numbers are all that good a thing with one's religion in any event.
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Re: Spreading the Dharma in Africa?

Postby Luke » Wed May 25, 2011 7:43 pm

palchi wrote:I currently live in Namibia which is a big country with a tiny population (2 million in a country twice as big as Germany) and even this small population is very diverse.

That's cool. If I may ask you a question, are you African or are you from some other part of the world?
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