Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Tenzin1 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 5:03 am

KeithBC wrote:I seriously doubt that race per se has anything to do with it. However, I think that socio-economic status in general has a lot to do with it
I'd agree with this to some extent. I've been in sanghas that African-Americans attended, but they were university professors and their spouses. But the movement DharmaPunx and Against The Stream make an effort to be open and welcoming to a diverse population. So I think the face of Western Buddhism is changing, at least in the US.

Speaking for myself and a few friends, all of whom were fortunate to discover Buddhism in childhood, it's the logic that appeals. Christianity always seemed like a strange adult form of make-believe. No make-believe in Buddhism, just pure logic. A delight.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:43 pm

Huseng wrote:
Luke wrote:Yes, it's not a fashionable topic among the left. However, the elites of the American left often show a great deal of hypocrisy: They publicly say things about equality and racial harmony to make themselves look good among their peers, but then they go back home to their affluent white neighborhoods, affluent white schools, and affluent white social clubs.


What's your point?

I don't identify as left, nor am I an elite in the American left, or even American for that matter. I'm a canuck living as a non-Japanese minority in Tokyo.

My point is that you study at a university and most universities are run by leftist elites, so one has to kiss up to them and their viewpoints in order to succeed there.


Namdrol wrote:
2. What can be done to make Buddhism more popular with other races of people and with less-educated people?


Educate them.

Now that sounds like a good answer on the surface, but I think it may hide some rather racist assumptions. Your answer seems to imply that you think that other races are not educated. There are certainly well-educated, non-white, non-Asian people in America and elsewhere in the world who don't want to go to Buddhist events. We could learn a lot if we found out why that is.

However, there are certainly quite a few people of all races who could use a better education, so your response has some merit, but you don't give any practical suggestions how to actually achieve this, which makes me think that you gave your answer in a rather dismissive way out of a desire simply to end this line of discussion rather than to explore new ways to help people in need.

You have your own sangha, don't you? Do you feel any need to reach out to other races and ethnic groups? Would you ever give a dharma talk in a tough, but diverse area like Lawrence or Lowell, Massachusetts?

I think that part of the problem may simply be that white Buddhist teachers are simply unwilling to step out of their comfort zones to try to speak to new audiences; it's far easier for them to keep worshipping the Asians and to keep lecturing to their fellow, educated white people who give nice donations.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:52 pm

Luke wrote:

Namdrol wrote:
2. What can be done to make Buddhism more popular with other races of people and with less-educated people?


Educate them.


Now that sounds like a good answer on the surface, but I think it may hide some rather racist assumptions...


In general, in order for people to become interested in Buddhism, first they need to educated about Buddhism. Nothing racist about that.

You have your own sangha, don't you? Do you feel any need to reach out to other races and ethnic groups? Would you ever give a dharma talk in a tough, but diverse area like Lawrence or Lowell, Massachusetts?


I am not an evangelist. But I would teach Dharma wherever there was interest.

I think that part of the problem may simply be that white Buddhist teachers are simply unwilling to step out of their comfort zones to try to speak to new audiences; it's far easier for them to keep worshipping the Asians and to keep lecturing to the whites.


We're full of piss and vinegar today, aren't we?

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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:55 pm

KeithBC wrote:I once heard a Buddhist teacher observe that a rich person is more fortunate than a poor person because the rich person knows from personal experience that money is not the answer. The poor person is still stuck grasping for it and therefore is farther from putting an end to suffering.

Just out curiosity, was the Buddhist teacher who said that a westerner? That sounds like a disguised version of the elites' standard "blame the victim" speech.

When a person who was rich all his life all of a sudden becomes poor, we'll see how "unattached" to money he really is...

More likely, he will just feel intense dread and fear because he no longer has the power and status that he once did.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:00 pm

Namdrol wrote:I am not an evangelist. But I would teach Dharma wherever there was interest.

But how do you know if there's an interest or not if you don't check first? Many of the people who might be interested might not know it beforehand.

Have you ever actually taught Dharma in a non-white area?

Namdrol wrote:We're full of piss and vinegar today, aren't we?

No, I'm just trying to illustrate an important issue in modern Buddhism. I think not caring about teaching Buddhism to other races and ethnic groups shows a lack of compassion.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:19 pm

Namdrol wrote:
I think that part of the problem may simply be that white Buddhist teachers are simply unwilling to step out of their comfort zones to try to speak to new audiences; it's far easier for them to keep worshipping the Asians and to keep lecturing to the whites.


We're full of piss and vinegar today, aren't we?

N

Instead of simply dodging the issue with a statement of dismissiveness, why don't you give your opinion about whether my statement was correct or not and why.

By the way, I revised my statement to this:
Luke wrote:I think that part of the problem may simply be that white Buddhist teachers are simply unwilling to step out of their comfort zones to try to speak to new audiences; it's far easier for them to keep worshipping the Asians and to keep lecturing to their fellow, educated white people who give nice donations.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:27 pm

Luke wrote:
Have you ever actually taught Dharma in a non-white area?



I don't actually teach that much. However, if someone invited me, I would go.

No, I'm just trying to illustrate an important issue in modern Buddhism. I think not caring about teaching Buddhism to other races and ethnic groups shows a lack of compassion.


Well, as far as that goes, as I said before, it is a matter of karma. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot force them to drink.

In terms of traditional black and latino communities, what is it that Buddhism is going to bring them that Christianity does not already supply?

Now, Buddhism is going gangbusters in S America, so that is not an issue there. There is very little Buddhism in Africa, however.

But in the long run, it is based on interest. If people are interested, than Buddhism will spread. If there is no interest, than not. So education is the key.

N
Last edited by Malcolm on Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:34 pm

Racism exist, but the concept of "race" is a kind of cultural astrology. There is no basis in it. From a buddhist viewpoint, it is total nonsense. There is a human race and unlimited variations of that. But thinking in terms of "different races of people" is the root of the problem.

Just as when you look but find that nothing exists which can be found to be a 'self", nothing exists which can be called a "race".

What would you say defines a person's "race"? Is it skin color? The skin is a map of pigments. I have mostly a pinkish map, but there are some areas, moles and freckles, where brownish pigments live. So, I cannot say I am all pink or all brown. So, race cannot be skin color.

Is it language? Language is a function of brain activity. Since I can converse in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, then linguistically what "race" am I?

Is "race" determined by culture? I am from America but if I can play African music, eat food with chopsticks and wear a hat from India, culturally what race am I?

Is "race" determined by social customs? social customs are entirely made up constructs of the mind and change from one generation to the next.

Is it DNA? the fact is in terms of DNA, we are all related. And the differences in DNA between people within what we call one "race" are more than the differences between people that you may refer to as different races.

When you are meditating, what "race"are you? What "race" is your buddha nature? What "race" were you before your parents were born?
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Daniel Arraes » Sat Jun 18, 2011 2:57 pm

Namdrol wrote:Now, Buddhism is going gangbusters in S America, so that is not an issue there.

In most cases among South american upper middle class, who are mostly "white" (not pure caucasians, but fair-skinned mestizos).
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:30 pm

Daniel Arraes wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Now, Buddhism is going gangbusters in S America, so that is not an issue there.

In most cases among South american upper middle class, who are mostly "white" (not pure caucasians, but fair-skinned mestizos).



So you are saying Buddhism is just an elitist fad? I could have told you that.

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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Luke » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:37 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Racism exist, but the concept of "race" is a kind of cultural astrology. There is no basis in it.

By "race" I am referring to physical features. There is a scientific basis for different races. My understanding is that the first people were black people in Africa and then some of them migrated to other locations. These different racial features were physical adaptations to the different climates (i.e. white skin is an advantage in colder climates where the sun shines less because it requires less sunlight to produce the same amount of vitamin D, and I think I read that Asian's eyes and flatter faces were a different type of adaption to colder climates). So I guess race could be seen as an indication of the climate where our ancestors lived.

But in any case, race is a very attention-catching physical feature and most people are highly influenced by other people's physical features. That's true that race matters little from a higher Buddhist viewpoint, but not everyone is capable of thinking like that yet, and people are fooling themselves if they think that practicing Buddhism for a few years has removed all of their past habits and prejudices. We're each products of our environments and it's often hard to change. We might be making people of other races feel uncomfortable without realizing it.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:From a buddhist viewpoint, it is total nonsense. There is a human race and unlimited variations of that. But thinking in terms of "different races of people" is the root of the problem.

You could point to another continuum, such as the visible color spectrum and say, "Which wavelength of light is the dividing line between 'green' and 'blue'? Where does one begin and the other end? They are merely labels which are empty." But it's often convenient to name distantly spaced points on a continuum, so that we have convenient labels to work with in our daily lives.

Also, a Buddhist might say that one's physical attractiveness doesn't matter in the absolute sense, but in the relative world of daily life, the way most ordinary people will react to an attractive woman will be vastly different than the way they will react to an unattractive woman.

So yes, race, too, is an illusion from the absolute perspective, but most of us (and certainly most people who are new to Buddhism) live in the relative world in which labels matter a great deal, so we have to consider these issues and how they effect our sanghas.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:47 pm

Luke wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Luke wrote:Yes, it's not a fashionable topic among the left. However, the elites of the American left often show a great deal of hypocrisy: They publicly say things about equality and racial harmony to make themselves look good among their peers, but then they go back home to their affluent white neighborhoods, affluent white schools, and affluent white social clubs.


What's your point?

I don't identify as left, nor am I an elite in the American left, or even American for that matter. I'm a canuck living as a non-Japanese minority in Tokyo.


My point is that you study at a university and most universities are run by leftist elites, so one has to kiss up to them and their viewpoints in order to succeed there.


You are pretentious making such assumptions about who I am and where I study.

You clearly know very little about Japanese universities. They tend to be right-wing oriented if anything. My uni is quite traditional with little to no foreign influence.

I have the freedom to say anything I want generally. As a foreigner I can even step into territory like criticizing Dogen which is generally unacceptable for the Soto priests to do as I understand.

Again, you are pretentious. You don't know anything about Japanese universities and your point above is such a blanket statement that it can easily be dismissed.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby adinatha » Sat Jun 18, 2011 6:50 pm

Luke wrote:So yes, race, too, is an illusion from the absolute perspective, but most of us (and certainly most people who are new to Buddhism) live in the relative world in which labels matter a great deal, so we have to consider these issues and how they effect our sanghas.


Except when you don't know what you are talking about. In California, the Bay Area in particular, there are a huge number of "mixed race" people. How do you define the race of someone who literally has a mix of every race. My nephew's father is half black and half white. His mother is half Filipino and half Mexican. What race is he? He looks 100% Asian, but what race is he?

Furthermore, this phenomenon is mixing is not new. There are mummified remains of blonde folks in Mongolia. People from central Asia are all mixed race. The same goes for South Asians, and much of Africa. Hungarians for example are soiled by the Mongol race. As is much of Eastern Europe. My wife and I are both mixed race and both Buddhist. Also there are mindfulness programs being taught in East Oakland, and in prisons (predominately non-white). Race is bullshit. Move on.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:28 pm

Race is a very big issue in United States. Discussing race can be very uncomfortable for most people.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Enochian » Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:32 pm

I haven't read the thread, but buddhism is NOT appealing to Caucasians.

You are imposing your own biases of being buddhist caucasians onto others.

99.999999% of Caucasians don't give a shit about Buddhism.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:40 pm

Luke wrote:My point is that you study at a university and most universities are run by leftist elites, so one has to kiss up to them and their viewpoints in order to succeed there.



Boy, are you out of it. In general the academic establishment has not been "left" since the 80's, apart from a few parts of the US like Berkley. Harvard has shifted totally to the right [i.e. to the money $$$}, so has Colombia, Princeton, etc.
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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby mudra » Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:37 am

I think that part of the problem may simply be that white Buddhist teachers are simply unwilling to step out of their comfort zones to try to speak to new audiences; it's far easier for them to keep worshipping the Asians and to keep lecturing to the whites.


Well I don't know that many "white teachers" but the last time I saw Alex Berzin he still looked white to me. (Oh sorry does white apply to Jewish? D..n there goes that theory). Anyway Russian Jewish Alex has taught them all - Russians (let's call em Russky's shall we? which incidentally includes a fair range of Central Asian people), Asians of all colours, Africans (Kenya etc). And the last time I saw Bob Thurman he looked pretty white too, and Bob has always been happy to travel around the world to teach in that booming voice of his. Elizabeth Napper is also happy to teach in new places. In fact most "white Buddhist teachers" I know are only too happy to travel and reach new audiences provided they get sent a ticket and someone looks after meals and accomodations (most of them aren't millionaires, so I guess that's fair enough). What is important is that someone invites them and there is some interest.

Who are you referring to?

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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby KeithBC » Sun Jun 19, 2011 5:06 am

Luke wrote:
KeithBC wrote:I once heard a Buddhist teacher observe that a rich person is more fortunate than a poor person because the rich person knows from personal experience that money is not the answer. The poor person is still stuck grasping for it and therefore is farther from putting an end to suffering.

Just out curiosity, was the Buddhist teacher who said that a westerner? That sounds like a disguised version of the elites' standard "blame the victim" speech.

Who said anything about blaming? Or, for that matter, about victims? No, this was totally unrelated to "blame the victim". You appear to be filtering the world through some distorting ideology.

I confess to having been imprecise about how I phrased that "quote". I should not have said "the rich person knows", because that implied (and clearly you understood it to mean) that richness confers a particular wisdom, which obviously it does not. The intention, as it was clear to me at the time, was that the circumstances of the rich person allow the possibility of that knowledge that is harder to achieve for a poor person. Not that every rich person will know it, or that every poor person will not, but the knowledge is more accessible for someone who knows firsthand that money cannot buy happiness.

I believe that the teacher in question was a Tibetan. It was more than a quarter of a century ago, so I don't recall exactly who it was.

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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Jun 19, 2011 4:50 pm

I heard that story a long time ago too.
It means that the rich person got rich, but was still unsatisfied.
the poor person might think that being rich will solve all of his or her problems.
I know being rich would solve a lot of my problems
but money alone cannot bring peace of mind.

I have lived many a day, day-to-day, with barely a dollar to my name
and I have lived in a big house with 2 cars and a fridge full of food.
If you have food, clothing, health and a dry place to live, I think poor is better.

Donald Trump still owes people way more money than I'll ever see.

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Re: Why is Buddhism so appealing to educated Caucasians?

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Jun 19, 2011 7:46 pm

Looking at it from my perspective, which may or may not be a Buddist perspective..

Self will employ, whatever techniques means and methods to endeavor the perpetuation of self(concept).
When self is circumstantially produced, it produces always with a main imperitive of asserting its real existance.
This may present in various fashions depending upon habitual inclination, and resultant tendency to act.
The actual produced circumstance may be percieved richness or poorness, and any number of other presentations of perceived circumstance.

Considered in this context richness and poorness are but equal in things, all being expressions of self assertations.
What may be more perceived real to one may be great actual poverty. What may be more perceived real to another may be great attainment of things and consequent great potential suffering in loss of those things.

Fear joy all these things essentially serving to affirm selfs existance. It's greatest fear being nonexistance. Creating circumstance of perceived realness being concurrent with that necessity.
Suchly rich or poor(perceptions) state nothing as to ones spiritual progress in things.
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