Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

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Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Knotty Veneer » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:15 pm

This is a question for Buddhists in the West. Have you ever encountered prejudice? Whether from people of other religions or from official sources. Do people consider you flaky, unserious or possibly a member of a cult?

I’ be interested to know what people’s experiences have been. And also perhaps – do we deserve the bad rap?
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Seishin » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:43 pm

The prejudice I've received hasn't been too bad, to the point where I wouldn't call it prejudice, I'd call it misunderstanding/miscommunication or just plain ignorance. A few people have thought I belong to a cult, and that has come from atheists and theists alike. I've never been considered flaky or unserious. Some people have thought me a push over, until they realised I wasn't, which confused them. Again, this comes from ignorance as they don't understand Buddhism and what it teaches.

I think the worse thing I've had was when I picked up my christian wife from a bible group and one of the new ladies there noticed I was wearing buddhist prayer beads and asked if I believe in god. Innocently I said no, to which she grabbed my hands, came in really close and started lecturing me about how wrong I am, how I'm following the devil etc etc. She really started laying into me and I felt cornered and unsure how to respond (I didn't want to upset my wife's friends). Luckily, a couple of the ladies there stood up for me and helped calm the new lady down. At which point I thanked her for her concern and left with my wife.

But what I think is most important here is not other peoples reaction to Buddhists but our reaction to them.

Gassho,
Seishin.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Josef » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:50 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:This is a question for Buddhists in the West. Have you ever encountered prejudice? Whether from people of other religions or from official sources. Do people consider you flaky, unserious or possibly a member of a cult?

I’ be interested to know what people’s experiences have been. And also perhaps – do we deserve the bad rap?



Never. Not once.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Jikan » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:57 pm

I've had only marginally problematic moments (not counting awkward silences). One involved a supervisor who was convinced I must be a phony because her brother went through a phony Buddhist phase; it seemed to me this reflected her own situation and had nothing to do with me, so I let it slide.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Nemo » Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:59 pm

Had a Fundamentalist Christian fire me from a job in an auto headlight sweatshop years ago when I was in a small town in Canada. Ironically the plant was owned by a Korean presumed to be Buddhist. I think Magna may have bought it since then.

The most fundamental prejudice is people thinking they know something about Buddhism. The ignorance of these self appointed experts has been epic.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby mint » Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:04 pm

What do you mean by prejudice? Do you mean the same sort of prejudice that Muslims endured after 9/11?

Unlike Muslims, I don't know how anybody would know you were Buddhist unless you announced it publicly or had some huge placard hung around your neck 24/7. The people who do discuss their Buddhism will discuss it among friends, many of whom are like-minded or, at least, religiously tolerant.

Based on my experience, a great many people, especially in the Bible Belt of the Southeast US, regard Buddhism little differently than Hinduism: it's a pagan religion with practitioners who worship Buddha.

Most practitioners here in the Southeast US seem to take to Zen. I can't think of any reason why that might be, though, other than it has a certain cultural presence about it that is less exotic than Tibetan Buddhism. I'm probably wrong about that, though. Go into any used bookstore, though, and everybody's buying/trading manuals on Zen.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby justsit » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:37 pm

When I moved into my current community in 2007, the Tibetan prayer flags I hung across the front porch started a flurry of speculation among the neighbors. I was unaware of any discussion at the time, no one was standoffish. Later, when we were all friends, they told me the consensus had been that I was gay because of the colors of the flags. Apparently, Buddhism isn't even on the radar.
:rolleye:
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:45 pm

:lol:
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Caz » Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:51 pm

I tend to Ignore it people like that seem to be suffering from heavy delusions so they go on my dedication list. :ugeek:
Abandoning Dharma is, in the final analysis, disparaging the Hinayana because of the Mahayana; favoring the Hinayana on account of the Mahayana; playing off sutra against tantra; playing off the four classes of the tantras against each other; favoring one of the Tibetan schools—the Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, or Nyingma—and disparaging the rest; and so on. In other words, we abandon Dharma any time we favor our own tenets and disparage the rest.

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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Jikan » Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:10 pm

off-topic posts removed & split to new topic:

viewtopic.php?f=36&t=5364
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Zenda » Thu Apr 26, 2012 7:32 pm

I have a standing arrangement with my employer to take a week off every two years for retreat. I was recently told that should my work schedule conflict with my retreat that I might need to make a decision about what is more important to me, my job or that. (I always get outstanding marks on my reviews, so it isn't a performance issue.) This is the first time that something like this has occurred, and it shocked me greatly. Mostly people are just curious or want to talk about how they really want more mindfulness in their lives.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Josef » Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:51 pm

Zenda wrote:I have a standing arrangement with my employer to take a week off every two years for retreat. I was recently told that should my work schedule conflict with my retreat that I might need to make a decision about what is more important to me, my job or that. (I always get outstanding marks on my reviews, so it isn't a performance issue.) This is the first time that something like this has occurred, and it shocked me greatly. Mostly people are just curious or want to talk about how they really want more mindfulness in their lives.

If you live in the US your boss is an idiot who could easily lose his or her job for imposing this kind of ultimatum upon you.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Infinite » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:07 pm

Nangwa wrote:
Zenda wrote:I have a standing arrangement with my employer to take a week off every two years for retreat. I was recently told that should my work schedule conflict with my retreat that I might need to make a decision about what is more important to me, my job or that. (I always get outstanding marks on my reviews, so it isn't a performance issue.) This is the first time that something like this has occurred, and it shocked me greatly. Mostly people are just curious or want to talk about how they really want more mindfulness in their lives.

If you live in the US your boss is an idiot who could easily lose his or her job for imposing this kind of ultimatum upon you.

Indeed, law states you can not be terminated for attending religious services nor even threatened with it. If he keeps it up I suggest looking for someone familiar with labor laws in your area or any attorney would do.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Blue Garuda » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:29 pm

Prejudice means 'pre-judgement' so it is related to what people expect you to be like, not a dislike of how you are.

IMHO everyone has prejudices - or at least I've not met an honest person who doesn't own up to it. So if you refute that statement you are dishonest! LOL :)

I've met enormous prejudice which has assumed many things about me because of membership of a particular sect. Since I no longer eat babies I've not noticed any prejudice, just polite interest. Actually, that's untrue on reflection, as those still within the sect I 'left' have been taught to see people like me as samaya-breaking hell-bound etc.

I've no stats to back it up but my impression is that there is more prejudice internally, between Buddhists of different sects etc., than prejudice against Buddhism on the part of non-Buddhists.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby In the bone yard » Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:52 pm

Seishin wrote:I think the worse thing I've had was when I picked up my christian wife from a bible group and one of the new ladies there noticed I was wearing buddhist prayer beads and asked if I believe in god. Innocently I said no, to which she grabbed my hands, came in really close and started lecturing me about how wrong I am, how I'm following the devil etc etc. She really started laying into me and I felt cornered and unsure how to respond (I didn't want to upset my wife's friends). Luckily, a couple of the ladies there stood up for me and helped calm the new lady down. At which point I thanked her for her concern and left with my wife.

But what I think is most important here is not other peoples reaction to Buddhists but our reaction to them.

Gassho,
Seishin.


Seishin wrote:I think the worse thing I've had was when I picked up my christian wife from a bible group and one of the new ladies there noticed I was wearing buddhist prayer beads and asked if I believe in god. Innocently I said no, to which she grabbed my hands, came in really close and started lecturing me about how wrong I am, how I'm following the devil etc etc. She really started laying into me and I felt cornered and unsure how to respond (I didn't want to upset my wife's friends). Luckily, a couple of the ladies there stood up for me and helped calm the new lady down. At which point I thanked her for her concern and left with my wife.

But what I think is most important here is not other peoples reaction to Buddhists but our reaction to them.

Gassho,
Seishin.


I posted this comment earlier but it was moved to another forum.
I didn't quote it so I think it was misunderstood.


"If people ask me if I believe in God I tell them I do, but in a different way. I then tell them I believe in what the Bible teaches and end it there. If there's further interest, I'll explain further depending on their disposition. Most of the time I say that all religions point to the same thing, there are just different ways of getting there. In actuality, the bible was not meant to be interpreted as Catholic or Baptist or Buddhist when the word was written.

If you are too strong in your outward beliefs you may alienate potential followers. Then you won't be able to keep an open relationship for a potentially stronger spritual friendship which should be the goal.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby maybay » Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:15 am

Knotty Veneer wrote:This is a question for Buddhists in the West. Have you ever encountered prejudice? Whether from people of other religions or from official sources. Do people consider you flaky, unserious or possibly a member of a cult?

Quite the opposite. They're almost always relieved to find out where I stand.

I don't think your stated religion makes a difference to how people see. If you're a flaky person then it'll show. If you're a damn serious, hard worker - that'll show too. Knowing you're Buddhist is just a useful justification for prejudice if ever they needed one, just like any label. It could also be a justification for being a victim! Better to avoid the subject altogether.

I’ be interested to know what people’s experiences have been. And also perhaps – do we deserve the bad rap?

If we have one then yes.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Knotty Veneer » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:31 pm

While I have never been at the receiving end of prejudice personally. By prejudice I mean disparaging behavior based on ignorance of Buddhist beliefs.
I notice that Westerners who adopt Buddhism are often ridiculed. Where I have seen this most often has been on the comment sites of newspapers (The NYT or the Guardian for example) where the comments to articles on Buddhism invariably imply that Western Buddhists are phony. Buddhism is a shallow fad followed by airhead celebrities, spaced-out hippies and the like. Invariably, these attitudes tend to come from people who know nothing about Buddhism. The "New Atheists" in particular seem to dismiss Buddhism as touchy-feely crap.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Seishin » Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:56 pm

I've found, those who post on those articles tend to want to be heard. This is an ego thing that effects all of us to various degrees. Pay no attention to it. People like to put other people down to make themselves feel better, even celebraties. If I were to give a percentage of prejudice that I've recieved over the years it would be roughly 2% if that.

Gassho,
Seishin.
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Paul » Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:17 pm

Seishin wrote:I've found, those who post on those articles tend to want to be heard. This is an ego thing that effects all of us to various degrees. Pay no attention to it. People like to put other people down to make themselves feel better, even celebraties. If I were to give a percentage of prejudice that I've recieved over the years it would be roughly 2% if that.

Gassho,
Seishin.


The comments section of the Guardian is utterly worthless.
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All that you take pleasure in will strengthen the awakened state.
With such a confidence, empowered by the regal state of natural mind,
The training now is simply this: lets your six senses be at ease and free." - Princess Parani
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Re: Prejudice against Buddhists in the West

Postby Jinzang » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:31 am

I've never been criticized for Buddhism, but have often been called names for supporting and using homeopathy. Go figure.

Ah, yes, now I remember. Once I was returning from Karma Triyana by train. An older woman sitting next to me asked where I had been and I told her. She seemed a bit upset, but i didn't hold it against her, because otherwise she was nice.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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