Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Anything goes (almost).

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Punya » Sat Jul 19, 2014 6:03 am

Kung fu

:cheers:
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
User avatar
Punya
 
Posts: 387
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:50 pm

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby smcj » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:05 am

Karma Dorje wrote:Question for Malcolm et al: define "early age" for the purpose of this conversation. what age of taking an interest might indicate such a thing?

Back in my Dharma Center days, one day we all looked at each other and realized we were all born in 1955. We had come from all parts of the country, and were now (then) brought together by this weird trip. So we jokingly started calling ourselves "the massacred monks of '54". We had one same-age roommate that was Hindu. His line was, "I was just visiting…"

But I don't put a lot of stock in it. It was just cute to say.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
smcj
 
Posts: 2082
Joined: Wed May 29, 2013 6:13 am

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jul 19, 2014 10:20 am

Punya wrote:
Kung fu

:cheers:
Monkey Magic for me! Kung-fu didn't hold that much appeal for me as a kid.

"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9953
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece


Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Sönam » Sun Jul 20, 2014 8:19 am

I was also very early in contact with dharma in this life ... I can remember very strange and vivid dreams when I was 12 and a little more. At a bit more of 20 I went in jail (debt), suffering a lot, and then came my first "impression". From there I dropped in spirituality, searching around (judaism, suffism, ...) but not being satisfied enough. Discovering the Baggavad Gita and karma it strikes me and gave me the feeling to be on the right way. I did stay a bit with Ramakrishna and others that did inspire me a lot. Then I read a digests about Buddha, open it in the middle, did read "Buddhists do not believe in God", and knew It was my path. Then, like a birth, I went swiftly through the different yanas, starting with sutras. Had some experiences, strong, hade some great kagyu masters, to finally let it go with (Malcolm), Namkhai Norbu and Dzogchen. But that's a short cut.

Serge
By understanding everything you perceive from the perspective of the view, you are freed from the constraints of philosophical beliefs.
By understanding that any and all mental activity is meditation, you are freed from arbitrary divisions between formal sessions and postmeditation activity.
- Longchen Rabjam -
User avatar
Sönam
 
Posts: 1992
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:11 pm
Location: France

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Motova » Sun Jul 20, 2014 5:29 pm

zerwe wrote:Khedrup, I have found the opposite. Where I practice has ethnically one of the most
mixed groups of people I have encountered. While, the majority are Caucasian we have Tibetan, Afro-American,
Native American, South American, Indian, Chinese and South East Asian people represented. Age and socio-economic-status
are also representative of a surprisingly broad range. Overall, I would say it might be more diverse than a somewhat liberal Catholic congregation in
a small to moderate sized urban area.
Shaun :anjali:


At the temple I practice at the majority is about half Caucasian and the other half Tibetan. But I've seen almost every kind of ethnicity there. It's probably 5 old/middle aged people to 1 young person.

I was a new ager when I was 17, a hindu for half a summer while 18, started identifying as Buddhist at the end of 18, started going to a Tibetan Buddhist temple at 19, and then took refuge this year with HHST at 20!

I definitely think I was a Buddhist practitioner in a past life. For a few reasons.

I used to be babysat by an Indian woman (ages 2-5), I don't remember if she was Hindu or not, but I think she was. I don't remember any Hindu stuff around. But one day we were fighting for some reason, and I yelled, "I hate you!" And then she yelled, "You hate me?! Do you know how long I have been looking after you for?!" And then I said, "Millions and millions of years." And then she fell silent and any anger that was in her face instantly disappeared. I forget what she said after that but it was like she was in shock or something.

When I was in grade 3 I think, maybe earlier, I was really into pushing on my eyeballs to see colours and kaleidoscopes for a couple of weeks. Sometimes I would see faces and a bunch of weird shit. As I did that one night with the family I told my dad it was like looking at my mind. I don't know if pushing on one's eye balls is a dzogchen practice. But if you've read my Third Eye thread, you'll know I now see lights all the time (lucky me). Maybe I was a dzogchen practitioner in a past life?

I remember thinking about an aspect of tonglen a couple of times as a kid. If any of you people played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you'd remember the character Bastila who was adept in a special force power called battle meditation, where she could boost the morale of entire armies (the Republic) while hindering the morale for the enemy (the Sith). It made me think, "if she had all that power then why wouldn't she just take all the suffering of all the beings upon herself and make them happy? If I could do that, would I? I would!". And then a few days after, I thought about it again, "Would I still do that? I would!". And then I proceeded to live the rest of my childhood as a little punk shit. :rolling: :toilet:
Motova
 
Posts: 285
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:05 pm

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby tlee » Wed Aug 13, 2014 11:22 am

Sometimes it is better to keep cultural groups separated because they misunderstand each other and conflict.

Dividing people by ethnicity though,.. could such a thing be useful?

Buddhists are not known for their racism and it would be a shame to make accommodations for something like that.
tlee
 
Posts: 69
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:54 am

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby papaya » Fri Aug 15, 2014 6:54 am

I was a new ager when I was 17, a hindu for half a summer while 18, started identifying as Buddhist at the end of 18, started going to a Tibetan Buddhist temple at 19, and then took refuge this year with HHST at 20!....I remember thinking about an aspect of tonglen a couple of times as a kid. If any of you people played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic you'd remember the character Bastila who was adept in a special force power called battle meditation, where she could boost the morale of entire armies (the Republic) while hindering the morale for the enemy (the Sith). It made me think, "if she had all that power then why wouldn't she just take all the suffering of all the beings upon herself and make them happy? If I could do that, would I? I would!". And then a few days after, I thought about it again, "Would I still do that? I would!". And then I proceeded to live the rest of my childhood as a little punk shit.

Thank you so much for sharing stories from your childhood, Motova. Your reflections dramatically show a Westerner becoming a Buddhist. That journey has been taken by many in the West, for Buddhism holds a special attraction for us, and exposure to a community practicing Buddhism can be spellbinding, especially to the young. What I believe happens is we see the joy and happiness in those practicing Buddhism, a joy and happiness that comes from somewhere deep within the heart, soul, and mind of the practitioner. And we want that too! So we begin practicing Buddhism. We take it all in: lock, stock, and barrel. We become that which we admire.

We all know that Buddhism traveled eastward from India, settling in China, then Korea, Japan, and most of Southeast Asia. And then it traveled to the United States, also a westward movement--from Asia. What happened everywhere Buddhism took root, was it became a local practice. What I mean is that there developed a Chinese Buddhism, a Korean Buddhism, a Japanese Buddhism, etc. This process was slow and organic. I believe the same thing will happen in the United States. One day we will have an American Buddhism, not Buddhism transplanted from parts of Asia, but American, a Buddhism that reflects the history, culture, and soul of America.

How will we one day have an American Buddhism? I believe it will happen by the actions of people like you, Motova, people who take an American artifact like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and see in it an analogy for some Buddhist truth. To questions such as "Would I do that?" they would say, like you, "Would I! Would I!" They would then rewrite the story as a Buddhist, and that story would become part of the teaching tools of American Buddhism, an American way of showing the practice of tonglen, for example. We must not only translate Buddhist teachings, we must also re-envision them for the American imagination. What makes Chinese Buddhism distinct from Indian Buddhism? For one, the Chinese developed and pay homage to the very fat Happy Buddha, whereas the Indians developed and pay homage to a large collection of very slim Buddhas. So what will the American Buddha look like? More importantly, what will distinguish American Buddhism from all the others?

Ultimately, we must answer the question, "What makes an American an American?" My short answer to that question is the United States Constitution. So then we would have to explore and determine the unique insights to Buddhism which the words and spirit of the Constitution provide. What, in short, will America's contribution to Buddhism be?
papaya
 
Posts: 20
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:10 am

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:59 pm

Promoting any religion in the end mainly comes down to money. A lot of the successful Buddhist teachers in the west are white and came from at least middle-class, if not upper-class backgrounds; therefore, they have an easier time appealing to that demographic and getting donations from them.

Creating a sangha which has many members of other races requires appealing to the members of those races who have money which they are willing to donate to the sangha and who want to be role models in that sangha.

Unfortunately, most sanghas can't operate serving the poor alone--unless perhaps they regularly receive some regular funding from some large Buddhist organization of which they are a part, but this generally doesn't seem to happen in the west. So it seems unlikely that a Buddhist teacher would ever establish a sangha in a very poor black or hispanic neighborhood.
User avatar
Luke
 
Posts: 1679
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:04 pm

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Sep 14, 2014 10:48 pm

It seems to me like the most successful Buddhist teachers in the west have been from Asia, rather than westerners, regardless of the fact that many are very realised masters and adept teachers.

I think drawing an analogy with the development of Chinese Buddhism is quite useful here. For most of it's history, Chinese Buddhists, despite having so many learned teachers and writers themselves, viewed China as a Buddhist backwater, the borderlands, and anything from the west (India and Central Asia) was taken as holy simply by virtue of its provenance, which is more or less what we do today. It took centuries to get beyond that mentality.

I'm not quite sure people from upper-class backgrounds do tend to give more money in donation. It has a lot more to do with culture (religion) and taxation than with income. This article shows that the primary correlate in the US with philanthropy is actually religion, in which case, Christians tend to give more, and more religious states have more philanthropy on average. As far as income goes, lower incomes correlate with higher levels of philanthropy.

Donation, dana, in Buddhism is a Buddhist-cultural phenomenon. If you go to a temple in Asia, people give donations every time they visit regardless of whether they're rich or poor, because that's part of Buddhist doctrine that has found its way into the culture. Westerners just aren't used to that, and plus, temples don't overtly ask for it like Christian churches do, and there are some difficulties depending on how conservative the tradition is, with running "fund raisers." It took a long time to take root in China, where Buddhists were initially scoffed at and passed off as just beggars. If an organisation has the right karma, they might get a major corporate donor, which really takes the pressure off.

I don't think it's truthful, or useful, to think of entire races as being races with money or races without money. I also don't think this is helpful in the Buddhist context of donation. We should not pressure people to give based upon the way they were born, since any donation should be from one's own free will. I also don't see it as foreign to the western Buddhist experience to take a person from a different race as one's role model, that actually seems to be the more common procedure. If one doesn't have the karma and affinity for that to happen, we can't push it. At our local Sangha however, we more or less have people from every racial group in the city, and there's really no question of role models, since the monastics here mostly don't speak English and are Asian. My experience is simply that the social justice approach to Buddhism tends to have a disconnect with how things actually work and have actually been going on the ground, despite its sanctimonious claim to the contrary.
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 1104
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am
Location: Canada

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby uan » Mon Sep 15, 2014 12:15 am

Zhen Li wrote: My experience is simply that the social justice approach to Buddhism tends to have a disconnect with how things actually work and have actually been going on the ground, despite its sanctimonious claim to the contrary.


Zhen Li would you mind expanding a bit more on the social justice approach to Buddhism (is this a US thing? I don't belong to a sangha in the US so don't know), and then clarify the disconnect? Not sure I understand. Thanks.
uan
 
Posts: 380
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:58 am

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:17 am

I'm not in a Sangha in the US either. Haha, I'm just going to add location to my sidebar profile... This happens everyday it seems. The kind of social justice approach to Buddhism is framing things in terms of how the current state of affairs is doing injustice to people of certain races or genders -- except white "cisgender"-males, they need to "check their privilege." :quoteunquote:
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 1104
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am
Location: Canada

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:21 am

Zhen Li wrote:For most of it's history, Chinese Buddhists, despite having so many learned teachers and writers themselves, viewed China as a Buddhist backwater, the borderlands, and anything from the west (India and Central Asia) was taken as holy simply by virtue of its provenance, which is more or less what we do today. It took centuries to get beyond that mentality.


That changed in the Tang dynasty.

    On one of his missions to Middle India, the Tang diplomat Wang Xuance is reported to have learned from the abbot of Mahābodhi Monastery about a belief among Indian clergy that when corrupt doctrines eventually eclipse the Indic lands, genuine Buddhist doctrines will continue to flourish in the peripheral east. In other words, after the disappearance of Buddhist doctrines from India, China would emerge as the new Buddhist realm. If this is indeed a true reflection of views of the seventh-century Indian clergy and not a fabrication of the Chinese Buddhists, it would not only explain the attempts by some of the South and Central Asian monks to authenticate the presence of bodhisattva Mañjuśrī at Mount Wutai, but also the increasing number of Indian and foreign monks making pilgrimage to China.


Tansen Sen, Buddhism Diplomacy and Trade The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (Honolulu: Universiy of Hawai'i Press, 2003), 84-85.

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2014/01/ ... china.html

Tansen Sen convincingly argues that by the mid-Tang the Chinese sangha had started seeing themselves as an authentic "Buddhist realm". This is why native schools like Chan and Tiantai really developed and took root while imported models from India increasingly became less popular, like Vajrayāna.

Curiously, I sometimes hear around Asia the belief that perhaps Buddhadharma will thrive in the west in the future while it declines and becomes increasingly irrelevant in Asian countries.

That remains to be seen. In any case, in the English language we have so much material cataloged and a good amount of it translated. In a century most of the materials in the canons will probably be fully translated into English. As to whether a long-term clergy will be established and maintained, I doubt it will happen in the foreseeable future, but there are nevertheless presently many practitioners and scholars of Buddhism.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5966
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby uan » Mon Sep 15, 2014 3:22 pm

Zhen Li wrote:I'm not in a Sangha in the US either. Haha, I'm just going to add location to my sidebar profile... This happens everyday it seems. The kind of social justice approach to Buddhism is framing things in terms of how the current state of affairs is doing injustice to people of certain races or genders -- except white "cisgender"-males, they need to "check their privilege." :quoteunquote:


I'm in the US, just haven't found any connections with either individual practitioners or sanghas here.

I can see where social justice can grow out of one's practice as an expression of Buddhadarma. But the key question is what is the real foundation? Dharma or Social Justice. If one makes the Dharma an expression, or extension, of their social justice goals and objectives, are they practicing Dharma? I was listening to a Buddhist Geeks podcast on this topic. It felt wrong on several levels, including defining a buddhist in terms of their activism, or lack of.
uan
 
Posts: 380
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:58 am

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Sep 16, 2014 12:38 am

Indrajala wrote:Tansen Sen convincingly argues that by the mid-Tang the Chinese sangha had started seeing themselves as an authentic "Buddhist realm". This is why native schools like Chan and Tiantai really developed and took root while imported models from India increasingly became less popular, like Vajrayāna.

Curiously, I sometimes hear around Asia the belief that perhaps Buddhadharma will thrive in the west in the future while it declines and becomes increasingly irrelevant in Asian countries.

Yes, I can certainly see how that perception might change. Whereas in India, most Buddhists either had to adjust to increasing persecution or become irrelevant, in China, you could maintain a rather straightforward Mahayana (or Vinaya and Ch'an) approach without much difficulty.

This view is something that I found present even in modern Taiwan, e.g. "Tibetan Buddhists don't do it properly, they just do mindless rituals," sort of opinion. Ironically something a westerner who doesn't speak Chinese or have any adaptation to Chinese Buddhist practices would likely think about many Chinese Mahayana practices also.
Indrajala wrote:That remains to be seen. In any case, in the English language we have so much material cataloged and a good amount of it translated. In a century most of the materials in the canons will probably be fully translated into English. As to whether a long-term clergy will be established and maintained, I doubt it will happen in the foreseeable future, but there are nevertheless presently many practitioners and scholars of Buddhism.

As far as translation and resources go, I think we more or less have what we'd need right now. Obviously it would be nice to get more Tibetan and Chinese texts into English, but the cornerstones of the canon are more or less covered. The question is indeed one of establishing clergy or not.

It may be entirely possible that western Buddhism may take on a form very apparent to all of us here, i.e. something like this. The kinds of discussions that occur on Dharma Wheel are often what English Dharma classes are all about, although generally on a more practical level. I also think that as regards lay Buddhist organisations, there can be more optimism and more possibilities in Mahayana, which is a lot more flexible and has that lay groundwork, than in Theravada--where it's often either Vipassana (practically secular) or a traditional "patriarchal" setting with the resident Bhante.

Also, as you're likely familiar with, Indrajala, many academic fora for Buddhist Studies often end up being just as fruitful in terms of genuinely useful information for practice and understanding. I personally find classroom discussions often deeper and more fundamentally helpful than top-down lectures at a temple. In addition, you're talking to a group of ten or so other people who will know Sanskrit, Pali and a number of any other languages, whereas in a temple, you're almost always working from secondary resources, and you'd be lucky if the monastic present can read the Buddhist texts in a meaningful way, e.g. know the language, or know the classical form of their own, such as Tibetan or Chinese. So, the academic discussions can often get further unto the substance of matters, which is very helpful.
uan wrote:I can see where social justice can grow out of one's practice as an expression of Buddhadarma. But the key question is what is the real foundation? Dharma or Social Justice. If one makes the Dharma an expression, or extension, of their social justice goals and objectives, are they practicing Dharma? I was listening to a Buddhist Geeks podcast on this topic. It felt wrong on several levels, including defining a buddhist in terms of their activism, or lack of.

Yeah, I don't mean to be so cynical about it. I definitely can see it being of use. I think the meaning of "social justice" that I was using was more of a usage that has become more common in the past years, where it is jumping on the bandwagon of a "cause" just because it makes you feel good, rather than because you can clearly do something. Think "Kony 2012." If one is sincere, and doing what one thinks is right, then I can't be cynical, and can only think highly of such a thing.
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 1104
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am
Location: Canada

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 16, 2014 1:26 am

Zhen Li wrote:Yes, I can certainly see how that perception might change. Whereas in India, most Buddhists either had to adjust to increasing persecution or become irrelevant, in China, you could maintain a rather straightforward Mahayana (or Vinaya and Ch'an) approach without much difficulty.


The state also endorsed Buddhism and paid for a good amount of it, too, at least until 845, but even then Buddhism in China recovered quickly laying the groundwork for Song Buddhist communities.


The question is indeed one of establishing clergy or not.


It isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future. As I've said before, nobody is going to pay for it on any significant scale. It isn't any different in Theravada. As a reliable source informed me, even eminent western bhikkhus rely on funding from Asian countries for their operations. Most Tibetan monks and nuns I know from the west struggle financially, even if they're well educated and present themselves with proper decorum. There's so few westerners in Chinese traditions, and also then the money comes from Asia. You could join a Taiwanese organization as a monastic, but that's not really a "western clergy" and you would take your orders from Taiwan, and probably be expected to culturally adapt yourself to their norms (you become Chinese).

However, I don't see a pressing need for a western sangha. What exactly can a sangha member do that you as a layperson cannot? We're all literate in the industrialized world. Monasticism is seldom about practice. It tends to be about running a monastery for the monastery's sake. Some communities seriously engage in meditation, but then they're effectively running a capital intensive operation in a society which may or may not be willing to pay for such things long-term. In addition, there's little if no interest in investing emotional sentiments in a sangha as a means toward one's own salvation. Almost nobody believes in the field of merit.

The modern Japanese model, however, is doable. Basically, people live their ordinary lives and put on the robes when it is called for on a part-time basis. Monasteries are for short-term training and the couple of men and women who run the places long-term.


Also, as you're likely familiar with, Indrajala, many academic fora for Buddhist Studies often end up being just as fruitful in terms of genuinely useful information for practice and understanding.


Yes, but the erudite scholars of Buddhism in the west tend to cover their own expenses and/or have a salary from a secular university. Again, western Buddhists are not particularly interested in paying for such a community. They might buy their books, but that's about it.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5966
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Hieros Gamos » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:21 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:Monkey Magic for me! Kung-fu didn't hold that much appeal for me as a kid.

Oh Monkey absolutely. That totally cool thing he did blowing on his lips to summon his cloud or whatever it was. (I used to have the hots for Tripitaka I'm sorry to say ...)
User avatar
Hieros Gamos
 
Posts: 147
Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2014 3:25 pm

Re: Is Western Buddhism an (ethnic) identity-based Buddhism?

Postby Zhen Li » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:58 am

Indrajala wrote:Yes, but the erudite scholars of Buddhism in the west tend to cover their own expenses and/or have a salary from a secular university. Again, western Buddhists are not particularly interested in paying for such a community. They might buy their books, but that's about it.

I suppose what I mean is that there's often no barrier between the sacred and profane here. One's religious requirements, i.e. understanding at least, are met by engagement in the academic practice. I don't think there is any question of having Buddhist on the whole paying for such a community, one engages in it as one sees fit.

What I was also getting at was how as far as lay Buddhists go, outside of meditation, there's often a greater value on discussion than on listening to a guru. This doesn't necessarily have to be academic, it can just be the way the local temple is ran. At least that's how things go at the local FGS, and also Nalandabodhi (though it's hierarchical, and the "dues" system is a bit Freemason-like).
User avatar
Zhen Li
 
Posts: 1104
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am
Location: Canada

Previous

Return to Lounge

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Arjan Dirkse, conebeckham, motlenraven, Son of Buddha, Tatiana, Vajrasvapna and 16 guests

>