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

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

Postby RikudouSennin » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:51 pm

:good: Sara,

things will cost money, but when i first started to get interested in buddhism i was like daaamn, this is expensive.
it seems people value things more the more they cost.

anyway, i have been traveling through alot of states and meeting peopletwo people in particular my bhajan Guru, and a sincere compassionate women.
both are working to build sanctuarys where people can come and do intensive practice without the worries.

my bhajan guru has land in colorado, missouri, hawaii, india,

hes working to develop these into centers for those who want to lead a sincere life of practice.

the goal is for americans to become siddhas.
“You have some good connection with the Dzogchen Teaching - you have arrived to the Dzogchen Teaching, you have met a Dzogchen Master; you must understand that it means you are very fortunate.” ChNNR
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Feb 25, 2013 11:01 pm

RikudouSennin wrote:to be honest i think if there was a black person who reached levels of advancement, and could testify to the turth of the buddhas teachings, then there will probbably be more intrest.

Well, get on it :smile:
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
- Conze
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:58 am

I figure the largest issues are probably time and money, to be blunt.

In addition though, seriously..white people from protestant background especially have a whole set of social mores that are kind of well...incredibly stuffy to nearly anyone else. I am as white as the driven snow but grew up on the much lower end of middle class, around loud people of Irish descent, and am married to a Jew. One thing i've come across since coming to the Pacific Northwest from the Southwest United States is that there is a kind of "White culture" I never really knew existed before.

It tends to be very liberal in many ways, but exceptionally conservative in terms of conversational style, display and attitude towards emotion or contention, as well as a kind of unspoken expectation of a ridiculous level of politeness in interaction - to a point that is stifling sometimes. I can see how black folks or whoever else would be uncomfortable with it, it makes me uncomfortable and i'm technically from the same racial background and culture - at least somewhat.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:06 am

I think it may have more to do with the atmosphere that was mentioned, than with money.

I dated an Afro-Caribbean (Jamaican) girl in high school and her family were regular churchgoers. They were not poor but not wealthy by any means either. They gave very generously to the Church, and I attended services once or twice. The Church was in one of the more financially depressed areas of the city but it was very well funded and well attended. The Pastor told me that even the poorer people gave generously. From what I understand, this seems to be the case in many similar communities of people with African heritage whether in the USA, Canada or the Carribean.

Ironically, that ex of mine became very disillusioned with a Church that preached "Black Empowerment" but still held to an image of a "blond haired, blue-eyed Jesus". Last time I was home I heard she joined Farrakhan's NOI and was in a relationship with another member, so though previously I had contacted her for a quick chat over coffee I thought it might not go over so well... Anyways, off-topic :tongue:

So if the funds are there for Church, what is the problem with Buddhism? The uptight atmosphere that was mentioned above, I think. My father's side is poor Irish Catholic, my mother's, upper middle class English and Danish. With a few exceptions, usually when I get together with my mother's family (esp. my late grandmother, bless her), I am afraid to fart. There are so many unseen rules, so many ways to offend, so many ways to meet with disapproval. In many dharma centres, they simply take aspects of Asian culture mores and match them with the silent White Protestant disapporoval which makes for a stifling atmosphere. (I think in S. Dhammika's critique on Theravada he mentioned sitting on an ice-block wearing a corset). If even a White guy like me feels he is walking on egg shells, I can only imagine what it must be like for people from other cultural backgrounds.

In terms of the money issue- if people want this to change, they have to start donating. Eventually, someone is going to have to pay for it, even if it isn't you or me (most governments in the West won't subsidize Buddhism). So, people can start doing something besides just saying it should be free. Such as collecting money to subsidize two or three free places on retreats, waiving fees for ordained monks and nuns and young students, etc.

I will never forget the day I got a call from the president of the temple I attended in Canada stating that "They would no longer be able to give me the special rate, so I should think about whether or not I would be able to attend." No, I had not broken any rules or pissed anyone off at the temple. Yes, I was a 15 year-old high school student. The discount was 25%.

At the centre I work at in Holland we charge for courses because they just bought a big building and are carrying significant debt. However, the director is having more and more outside groups rent the premises as a "Conference Centre". He hopes that in one or two years, if we get enough such groups, all the Buddhist courses will be offered on a "Pay What You Can" basis.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:19 pm

There is elite Buddhism and there is popular Buddhism, just as in other religions. You don't expect a Sunday churchgoer to be able to understand a theological work, and you don't expect a priest to do regular retreats like a monk. Buddhism could spread among the people by simple rituals, recitations and basic moral rules. But currently in the West even the Buddhists themselves have doubts about rebirth and karma, so how could merit making and ethical discipline establish a larger community? Zazen and deity visualisation, aren't those monastic practices? Recitation of Amita Buddha's name, prayer wheels, lighting incense, and most importantly community activities. As I see it, those who want some usual religious environment go to Christian groups. Buddhism could be popular among liberal minded and spiritual (New Age) people if its image were transformed into something colourful, lively and more open than conservative religions where contraception is a sin.
"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."

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

Postby RikudouSennin » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:42 pm

:good:
“You have some good connection with the Dzogchen Teaching - you have arrived to the Dzogchen Teaching, you have met a Dzogchen Master; you must understand that it means you are very fortunate.” ChNNR
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby dsaly1969 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:04 am

I'm of mixed heritage (European-American and Cherokee) who has practiced Buddhism primarily within the "ethnic" temples (primarily Japanese and Chinese) rather than the "elite" white Buddhist centers. When I have looked at the activities at the "elite" centers, I've noticed they are much higher in cost, the atmosphere is more spartan, and the context is pared down (very little understanding of the connection of Ch'an-Pure Land practice for example and much less focus on sutra study, IMHO). It is also presented in a more "college lecture" format. Ethnic temples are also generally far more child and family friendly than the "elite" centers.

If I am visiting a temple for the first time I always call ahead so they will expect me. I've never had a problem feeling "left out". Generally they are thrilled to have a new person visit (and especially if I bring my kids as they rarely see non-Asian kids - and mine are teenagers - knowing proper etiquette on bowing, gassho, and offering joss sticks). Part of my experience may be because I live in California. (I live so far away from temples in general that I only get to go a few times per year.)

What I am saying is that cost and social atmosphere can definitely be a deterrent for some folks to feel comfortable. (There's a similar problem in some of the Japanese American temples in BCA and RKK where they adopted more of a Sunday "church" type format after WWII out of a desire to be more accepted by the mainstream society after the internments - the remnants of this format has also deterred possible seekers who are not looking for a "church-type" structure and you are only know seeing reversion back to more traditional Japanese practice structures).
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Sara H » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:00 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I figure the largest issues are probably time and money, to be blunt.

In addition though, seriously..white people from protestant background especially have a whole set of social mores that are kind of well...incredibly stuffy to nearly anyone else. I am as white as the driven snow but grew up on the much lower end of middle class, around loud people of Irish descent, and am married to a Jew. One thing i've come across since coming to the Pacific Northwest from the Southwest United States is that there is a kind of "White culture" I never really knew existed before.

It tends to be very liberal in many ways, but exceptionally conservative in terms of conversational style, display and attitude towards emotion or contention, as well as a kind of unspoken expectation of a ridiculous level of politeness in interaction - to a point that is stifling sometimes. I can see how black folks or whoever else would be uncomfortable with it, it makes me uncomfortable and i'm technically from the same racial background and culture - at least somewhat.


Haha! :D

RE: The Pacific Northwest..

I know exactly how you feel...

Hehehe, Grins.

-Sara
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Sara H » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:07 am

dsaly1969 wrote:Ethnic temples are also generally far more child and family friendly than the "elite" centers.


That's an important observation.

I've also noticed that many of the (for lack of a better word) "white people" Center's also tend to be very child unfriendly, as if they are adult spaces only.

There seems to be an aversion to children practicing, as though , to quote the movie Patch Adams "This is SERIOUS!!!! BUSINESSS!!!!" lol.

And children arn't allowed.

I've actually seen some people speak as though they don't have a right to bring their children, or that it would be wrong of them to encourage their children to practice, or make it available to them.

It's really really weird.

I love seeing children at Dharma Centers.

In Gassho,

Sara H.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Thrasymachus » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:43 am

Spending time and effort in African-American communities won't bring the most money in to build monasteries in Asia or fund local activities and infrastructure, so I am not even sure it is a goal or big concern.

Even as someone who is considered white, I don't or won't associate with white professional so called liberal types. Ultimately if you are barely making any money:
1) You don't want to see people everyday who make a lot more spending money frivolously to eat out several times a day and other such discretionary spending when you cannot even support yourself.
2) People who make a good salary spend alot of time spending money, so you cannot gain access to the places they go. Or you could if they pay your way, but when people have money over you they expect something in return.

On the African American side:
1) The religious types are deep into Christianity and they are not jaded with it on a level sufficiently comparable to many Whites, which is ironic given the support of slavery and discrimination of alot of Church groups.
2) Those who are disillusioned with Black Baptist and other Churches are lost deep into vapid hip-hop culture which seems to me a government program to channel the energy of the poorest and most apt to revolt away from Martin Luther King type social activism or Black Panther like social militancy. Now it is all about petty criminality, hoes and drugs, so their energy is safely dissipated into hopeless directions that cannot change social conditions and will assure blacks remain the poorest community in the foreseeable future. Martin Luther King could have gained the respect of whites and blacks alike, rich, hypocrite rappers despite their relative popularity in popular media, genuinely cannot however be an example even in their old neighborhoods, where they often get jacked if they dare to show up.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Knotty Veneer » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:46 pm

Sara H wrote:
dsaly1969 wrote:Ethnic temples are also generally far more child and family friendly than the "elite" centers.


That's an important observation.

I've also noticed that many of the (for lack of a better word) "white people" Center's also tend to be very child unfriendly, as if they are adult spaces only.

There seems to be an aversion to children practicing, as though , to quote the movie Patch Adams "This is SERIOUS!!!! BUSINESSS!!!!" lol.

And children arn't allowed.

I've actually seen some people speak as though they don't have a right to bring their children, or that it would be wrong of them to encourage their children to practice, or make it available to them.

It's really really weird.

I love seeing children at Dharma Centers.

In Gassho,

Sara H.


I am of the opposite opinion. I don't know how you can really do silent sitting or long pujas or retreats etc. with kids running around the place.

I do not have or want children and am grateful that the monastery I visit most often does not allows under sixteens to stay over night. It's the only space I know which actually caters for single people and is reserved as an adult space. Why does everything need to be "child-friendly"?

Does this mean that you can't have a serious practice if you have a family? I think in the completative traditions it pretty much does - or at least it's a whole lot harder.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby LastLegend » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:39 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:2) Those who are disillusioned with Black Baptist and other Churches are lost deep into vapid hip-hop culture which seems to me a government program to channel the energy of the poorest and most apt to revolt away from Martin Luther King type social activism or Black Panther like social militancy. Now it is all about petty criminality, hoes and drugs, so their energy is safely dissipated into hopeless directions that cannot change social conditions and will assure blacks remain the poorest community in the foreseeable future. Martin Luther King could have gained the respect of whites and blacks alike, rich, hypocrite rappers despite their relative popularity in popular media, genuinely cannot however be an example even in their old neighborhoods, where they often get jacked if they dare to show up.


Dehumanization from slavery has caused Blacks to lose their cultural identity and a great deal of psychological damage. So what we see now are the effects of the past deed.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby dsaly1969 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:36 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:I am of the opposite opinion. I don't know how you can really do silent sitting or long pujas or retreats etc. with kids running around the place.

I do not have or want children and am grateful that the monastery I visit most often does not allows under sixteens to stay over night. It's the only space I know which actually caters for single people and is reserved as an adult space. Why does everything need to be "child-friendly"?

Does this mean that you can't have a serious practice if you have a family? I think in the completative traditions it pretty much does - or at least it's a whole lot harder.


This is why I dislike the elitism of "contemplative" traditions which seem to cater to this type of selfish attitude which is typical for white people with some disposable income and who want to be "isolated" from the rest of the world. If you cannot maintain your mindfulness with the real world around you then perhaps your practice is not all that beneficial.

Pure Land and similar schools seem to be a better match for those of us who live in the real world. They are Buddhism for "real life".
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Knotty Veneer » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:43 pm

dsaly1969 wrote:This is why I dislike the elitism of "contemplative" traditions which seem to cater to this type of selfish attitude which is typical for white people with some disposable income and who want to be "isolated" from the rest of the world. If you cannot maintain your mindfulness with the real world around you then perhaps your practice is not all that beneficial.

Pure Land and similar schools seem to be a better match for those of us who live in the real world. They are Buddhism for "real life".


I don't think it's selfish (and isn't the line "selfish attitude which is typical for white people with some disposable income" just plain racist?). And I live as much in the real world as you do. I did not chose to have a family though. Where is it written that we all have to do the nuclear family thing? My lifestyle choice limits some of my options in life. So does yours. But that is not the fault of "comptemplative traditions". If you chose to have kids - you limited your options in some regards.

Comtemplative traditions are more difficult for people who have chosen to have families. If there is a system whether Pure Land or Western Mindfulness that can get you to the same level as someone who has time to devote to retreat and daily practice, go for it. How though do you manage to maintain mindfulness in your real world without being able to do retreat or regular formal sitting practice?
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby dsaly1969 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:54 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:
dsaly1969 wrote:I don't think it's selfish (and isn't the line "selfish attitude which is typical for white people with some disposable income" just plain racist?). And I live as much in the real world as you do. I did not chose to have a family though. Where is it written that we all have to do the nuclear family thing? My lifestyle choice limits some of my options in life. So does yours. But that is not the fault of "comptemplative traditions". If you chose to have kids - you limited your options in some regards.

Comtemplative traditions are more difficult for people who have chosen to have families. If there is a system whether Pure Land or Western Mindfulness that can get you to the same level as someone who has time to devote to retreat and daily practice, go for it. How though do you manage to maintain mindfulness in your real world without being able to do retreat or even formal sitting practice?


One, I'm white so it is not racist just an observation of the kind of folks who join "white elite" Buddhism (generally white-focused Tibetan, "Insight Meditation", and Zen Sanghas).

I'm not saying that everyone has to do the "nuclear family" thing - but dharma centers should NOT be restricted to adults only. The dharma is supposed to be for everyone in everyday life including those with families. BTW, ethnic temples DO have retreats and such which are for adults and not kids - but they offer a wider array of dharma services which can include all rather than promote a discriminatory policy and overexcessive charging of fees for dharma programs which is often the case for "elite" Buddhism.

Ethnic temples provide a nice balance of both contemplative and devotional practice. This is often the case in Chinese/Taiwanese temples where they practice a blend of Ch'an-Pure Land practice. "Elite" Buddhism is a rarefied, meditation "contemplative" focused practice which does not generally even exist in Asia (which combines both contemplative and devotional traditions in observance) and was developed to meet the WANTS of white Westerners. BTW, there is a strong Pure Land component within Tibetan Buddhism but you would not know it from what most white converts practice.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Knotty Veneer » Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:35 pm

dsaly1969 wrote:One, I'm white so it is not racist just an observation of the kind of folks who join "white elite" Buddhism (generally white-focused Tibetan, "Insight Meditation", and Zen Sanghas).


Well not all people in those groups are white nor are they all that "kind of folks" - that's unfair. Sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder.

dsaly1969 wrote:I'm not saying that everyone has to do the "nuclear family" thing - but dharma centers should NOT be restricted to adults only. The dharma is supposed to be for everyone in everyday life including those with families.


I agree but for the type of activities that go on in monasteries etc. - they just can't be done if there are kids that need looking after. How do you do a 10-day Sesshin with your kids in tow? Does every tradition have to shape its activities for every type of person who might conceivably want to visit?

dsaly1969 wrote:BTW, ethnic temples DO have retreats and such which are for adults and not kids - but they offer a wider array of dharma services which can include all rather than promote a discriminatory policy and overexcessive charging of fees for dharma programs which is often the case for "elite" Buddhism.


I am with you about the prices - 100%. However, running retreats and paying the expenses of teachers visiting form Asia costs money. Should it cost as much as it does - I don' think so. But that is a different argument. They could make retreats free but they still couldn't run them for people with kids. Can really imagine trying to sit hours every day with pre-teens in the room? If you want to follow a path that involves regular formal practice and retreat, you need to have the space, time and resources to do it. If you don't have them, choose something else.

dsaly1969 wrote:Ethnic temples provide a nice balance of both contemplative and devotional practice. This is often the case in Chinese/Taiwanese temples where they practice a blend of Ch'an-Pure Land practice. "Elite" Buddhism is a rarefied, meditation "contemplative" focused practice which does not generally even exist in Asia (which combines both contemplative and devotional traditions in observance) and was developed to meet the WANTS of white Westerners. BTW, there is a strong Pure Land component within Tibetan Buddhism but you would not know it from what most white converts practice.


As someone else pointed out there is a difference in many if not all religions between "popular" and "elite" forms. I know the folk Christianity I grew up in was based around simple piety and religous observance. It has little to do with the sutble distinctions and dialectics of the clergy. For people who have grown tired of/never really understood that form of popular religious expression - contemplative traditions are attractive. That some people do not have the time or have to spend their money on raising a family and cannot therefore follow this path does not negate it. Similarly just because a path does not involve complex philosophy or whatever does not mean it is not profound.

I think the contemplative traditions are elitist but not in the "white rich people only" sense I think you mean. I think they are elitist in the sense they can only be practised but a relatively small group who have chosen to put their time, energy and resources into following a fairly intensive path. Unfortunately in our unequal society it is generally only white people with disposable income who tend to form that group. In the East where serious meditators are given more support by society at large - wealth is less of a factor. But even there it is generally people without children or people whose kids are grown up or otherwise not dependent on them.
Last edited by Knotty Veneer on Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Mar 02, 2013 8:44 pm

In a word one of the biggest things preventing more African-Americans from joining Sanhas is: culture. As Thrasymachus and others have noted the cultural differences are significant from the contemplative forms of Buddhism. Take a look at this African-American church service:



And compare that to the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!

However, socio-economic class also has a lot to do with it and as more African-Americans come out of poverty, there will be greater participation. I have met several African-American Buddhists, but admittedly most have been middle to upper-middle class.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:52 pm

Dsaly, I think you do not see the elitism at the CHinese temples, but it is certainly there. From the names engraved in the entrance, to the choice of whose grandma`s plaque is closest to the centre during the Yogachara flaming mouth ceremony, to the people that get access to the senior monastics. I witnessed this many times at several Pure Land/Chan temples. And i accept it-even if you are not paying for the heating and food during your nianfo retreat, someone else is. The fact that you are white is probably part of the reason you have not been approached.

The exception to this in CHinese Buddhism is CTTB. Master Hua, bless him, once remarked in Taiwan "I look down on all you rich people." his sanghawere willing to eat produce gleaned from dumpsters, but how many people that attend a retreat nowadays would be willing to put up with similar conditions?
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Namgyal » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:53 am

I joined the Buddhist society at my university and discovered that it consisted of ten elite white postgraduates whose only desire was to sit in a circle discussing Buddhist philosophy, at great length. Later, when I had to try to defend the society from the university administration I hit on the idea of asking my department's lecturers to translate the society's advertising into eight different Buddhist languages. The next week a hundred and fifty Asians appeared, and the ten elite white philosophers left in disgust. Thereafter, as an (ethnic) Buddhist society we did exactly what the Asians wanted, which was to have communal meals together, invite monks and teachers to visit, and above all to go on minibus trips to visit different temples around the country, which was a lot of fun.
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Re: African Americans & people of Color, & Buddhism in the W

Postby Yudron » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:57 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:In a word one of the biggest things preventing more African-Americans from joining Sanhas is: culture. As Thrasymachus and others have noted the cultural differences are significant from the contemplative forms of Buddhism. Take a look at this African-American church service:



And compare that to the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!

However, socio-economic class also has a lot to do with it and as more African-Americans come out of poverty, there will be greater participation. I have met several African-American Buddhists, but admittedly most have been middle to upper-middle class.



You speaketh the truth. To be honest, many Tibetan lamas are not drawn to African American culture, either. At least the Tibetans have music at our "services", though... so it might be the first to appeal.
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