Buddhism's class "problem"

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Könchok Thrinley
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Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Könchok Thrinley » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:02 pm

https://www.lionsroar.com/beyond-the-up ... vQ-NV2cAjo

Do you think there is a class problem in convert buddhism?

I mean ... I don't think that is the case. I have met several buddhists who are barely middle class. Not to mention that buddhism in the west is a very recent thing. In Japan it took centuries until buddhism was wide spread and not just "for the merchants and lords".
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Simon E. » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:49 pm

It’s undoubtedly the case that convert Buddhists in the UK are almost exclusively middle or upper class. Most are graduates. And most are white.
I am not sure what if anything can be done about this. I don’t think it’s a matter of deliberate exclusion.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Sherab Rigdrol » Sat Feb 15, 2020 9:05 pm

As a lower class western buddhist there is a big class difference, however as much as I want to bitch and moan (which I do) about this issue it comes down to one's merit, or lack thereof.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:07 pm

think about the demographic that was attracted to Buddhism in the latter part of the 20th c. They were often educated Westerners seeking to fill a gap that had been left by the abandonment of their traditional faith. Plus the sense that Buddhism was philosophical, a kind of 'DIY' approach to enlightenment. In hindsight, this was a big part of what motivated me. And it was mainly encountered through books, supplemented perhaps by attending talks by visiting teachers. Spiritual books were a huge part of it, for me, in tandem with encountering teaching about meditation and higher consciousness. And it wasn't something that existed within the milieu of day-to-day life, like it certainly would be in Asian cultures from whence it originated.

But I don't know how much of that is a problem. It's simply the outcome of those circumstances. As Buddhism has become more entrenched in Western culture, partially through the activities of converts, and partly through Asian cultural activities, it's become more - what's the word - endogenous to modern global-western culture. All part of life's rich tapestry, I would say.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by kusulu » Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:19 pm

The first thing to consider is whether convert Buddhism isn't in fact the act of appropriation. Part and parcel of that, is convert Buddhism the same, or similar, or even patterned after native Buddhism? Can Buddhism truly be deconstructed into a logical system? It would be an entitled, leisure class that would adopt Buddhism because people working 2-3 jobs just to maintain middle-middle class aren't. Aside from these issues I don't see a problem. Personally, I came to Eastern perspectives through college education, specifically Eastern Civilizations 102, 103, contrasting it to other philosophical and religious systems of Asia. Then later through poetry, art, and finally practice. Neither Education nor Buddhism are intrinsically classist, in fact they might lift one out of class confines. But just as many in the lower classes despise education (even though it is clearly to their advantage), accusations leveled against Buddhism will probably always linger.

:yinyang:

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:20 am

There’s no ‘native Buddhism’. The Buddha lived outside the norms of his society both geographically and philosophically. He showed definite concern for how the sangha is perceived in the societies under which we practice, but the Dharma is not dependent on specific temporal cultural forms.

Lack of time is a barrier to practice that is harder to remedy than lack of money. In that sense, Buddhism is...usually classist. We should do our best to work against this making money as little a barrier as possible.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by PeterC » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:08 am

kusulu wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:19 pm
The first thing to consider is whether convert Buddhism isn't in fact the act of appropriation. Part and parcel of that, is convert Buddhism the same, or similar, or even patterned after native Buddhism? Can Buddhism truly be deconstructed into a logical system? It would be an entitled, leisure class that would adopt Buddhism because people working 2-3 jobs just to maintain middle-middle class aren't. Aside from these issues I don't see a problem. Personally, I came to Eastern perspectives through college education, specifically Eastern Civilizations 102, 103, contrasting it to other philosophical and religious systems of Asia. Then later through poetry, art, and finally practice. Neither Education nor Buddhism are intrinsically classist, in fact they might lift one out of class confines. But just as many in the lower classes despise education (even though it is clearly to their advantage), accusations leveled against Buddhism will probably always linger.

:yinyang:
Go tell the Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Thais that they’re appropriating from the Indians. :roll:

It’s obvious on even cursory observation that the majority of North American and European Buddhists are white and middle-/upper-class. The question is whether anyone should care. Access to the dharma is, like many other things in those countries, facilitated by spare time and money, hence we should not be particularly surprised that there is a class/race bias, and this is not a proselytizing religion. There is a valid concern about how welcoming sanghas are to people who look socially different from the core membership. However the class/race manifestation of that is a subset of the larger issue with many sanghas, that they tend to become slightly dysfunctional and exclusive over time.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:05 am

Vajrayana Buddhism in the Tibetan traditions expound what are called the four preliminary practices, also known as the four thoughts that turn the mind to the Dharma. Their function is to encourage one to practice by recalling the rare opportunity one has to practice and study Buddha Dharma.

One of those thoughts (ideas to contemplate, actually) is called, “obtaining a precious human birth”. It means that of all of the different types of beings in the six realms of Samsaric existence, obtaining a human birth is extremely rare and fortunate, as it gives one the best opportunity to learn, study, and practice the path of perfect liberation.

But, it goes further. To have good health, to live in a land where the Dharma is taught, to have the resources, to have sound mental faculties, to have some leisure time to be able to practice, as you keep narrowing it down to all the conditions needed, and on top of that, to even be interested at all, these things all coming together is very, very rare. The moral of the story is, of course, to study hard and practice, because such conditions for awakening may not come your way again for countless lifetimes.

From this angle, it can be argued that Buddhism is not any more elitist or class biased then anything religion or spiritual path. This doesn’t deny that different economic groups are unevenly represented in Buddhist organizations or sanghas. However, it suggests that the blame is not on Buddhism itself, which is usually made available to anyone interested. Even when a donation is suggested for special teaching events, nobody is barred from attending (if they are, then stay away from that group!) usually some kind of arrangement can be made so that even a participant with no money can offer some way to help out and then take part in the events. Many Buddhist book publishers specifically state that their books are forcfree distribution only. Not for sale.

So, yes, it is true that people who have to hold 3 jobs and are sick because they can’t eat well or afford medical help, and maybe they don’t have a good education, all these are factors which make it nearly if not outright impossible to just casually meditate every day for an hour, and go buy the latest book by some teacher, and go to a Buddhist center every week to sit for an hour.

But I would say that all these factors make it difficult to delve into Buddhism, rather than to argue that Buddhism is inherently class-biased.

Historically, Buddhist sanghas have always depended on donations from very wealthy patrons and this is true going all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by seeker242 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:46 pm

Buddhism doesn't have a class problem as there are no buddhist teachings that discriminate on the basis of class.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by KathyLauren » Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:08 pm

seeker242 wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:46 pm
Buddhism doesn't have a class problem as there are no buddhist teachings that discriminate on the basis of class.
True. But Buddhists do. Individuals bring all their issues with them to the meditation cushion. Since classism exists in society at large, it exists in the meditation hall.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tkp67 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:17 pm

The class problem has several layers including overt and sublime.

Every aspect of experiential life can stand to bias the mind negatively and in this way all classes suffer from bias of their own design and the bias of others classes.

The most ironic part for me is that there are as many causes to bridge the class divide as there are delusions to cause it. Yet no matter how difficult it is to deny that dynamic it rarely is spoken of.

Not everyone who fits the demographic of a specific class conforms accordingly, some have transcended the notion of class if not selectively/intermittently.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Nemo » Sun Feb 16, 2020 2:54 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:49 pm
It’s undoubtedly the case that convert Buddhists in the UK are almost exclusively middle or upper class. Most are graduates. And most are white.
I am not sure what if anything can be done about this. I don’t think it’s a matter of deliberate exclusion.
The irony is so many of the old masters from Tibet were born farmers. I connected well with them and they taught me how to fake being of a higher social class. Something I now only do on rare occasions. Sadly many of their Dharma centres became little more than fancy private clubs after they died. I think Western Buddhism needs a bigger ratio of farmers and carpenters to scholars and translators if it wants to thrive.

The big problem is the luxury of time. Working class people can't get that first few hundred hours of meditation to clearly see the path. They are too busy just surviving.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Simon E. » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:28 pm

You may be correct, but it’s hard to see what can be done about it short of press ganging people.
Many centres here in the U.K. offer free teachings or at least greatly reduced rates. But as you say there are other issues as well as financial ones.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Malcolm » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:37 pm

To practice the Dharma one needs the 18 freedom and endowments. There is little more to be said on the issue.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Malcolm » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:38 pm

Könchok Thrinley wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:02 pm

Do you think there is a class problem in convert buddhism?
No, not at all.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by kusulu » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:28 pm

PeterC wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 1:08 am
kusulu wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:19 pm
The first thing to consider is whether convert Buddhism isn't in fact the act of appropriation. Part and parcel of that, is convert Buddhism the same, or similar, or even patterned after native Buddhism? Can Buddhism truly be deconstructed into a logical system? It would be an entitled, leisure class that would adopt Buddhism because people working 2-3 jobs just to maintain middle-middle class aren't. Aside from these issues I don't see a problem. Personally, I came to Eastern perspectives through college education, specifically Eastern Civilizations 102, 103, contrasting it to other philosophical and religious systems of Asia. Then later through poetry, art, and finally practice. Neither Education nor Buddhism are intrinsically classist, in fact they might lift one out of class confines. But just as many in the lower classes despise education (even though it is clearly to their advantage), accusations leveled against Buddhism will probably always linger.

:yinyang:
Go tell the Tibetans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and Thais that they’re appropriating from the Indians. :roll:

It’s obvious on even cursory observation that the majority of North American and European Buddhists are white and middle-/upper-class. The question is whether anyone should care. Access to the dharma is, like many other things in those countries, facilitated by spare time and money, hence we should not be particularly surprised that there is a class/race bias, and this is not a proselytizing religion. There is a valid concern about how welcoming sanghas are to people who look socially different from the core membership. However the class/race manifestation of that is a subset of the larger issue with many sanghas, that they tend to become slightly dysfunctional and exclusive over time.
I'm not saying appropriation is right or wrong, it's not a moral or ethical judgement. But if a white man sings blues, for example, he needs to make it HIS blues. The Dharma, such as it is, is not anyone's property. To cast it in the cultural baggage of the white upper middle class is a limiting action, an act of exclusion. So it does matter. "There is a valid concern about how welcoming sanghas are to people who look socially different from the core membership." - we agree. I concur.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Mantrik » Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:44 pm

kusulu wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:19 pm
The first thing to consider is whether convert Buddhism isn't in fact the act of appropriation.
:yinyang:
Appropriation is not the same as MISappropriation,except in recent modern usage.

The division by and of mankind into 'other' creates an attachment to culture which to me is entirely artificial. Where does learning from 'our' people end and appropriation from 'others' begin, except through our own prejudice?

It is a modern take on the term, used currently by those who think they have a distinctive culture to protect, yet that culture itself probably contains elements from many different ancient cultures - also 'appropriated'. I'm in the UK. We have no inherent spiritual traditions left, so apparently everything we have is 'appropriated' or the result of 'colonialism' (the other woke word of the year).

Class categorisations and characteristics are different in every culture, and I think the reason why it has been a largely middle class phenomenon in the West is simply that the presentations we have been exposed to have partly been characterised by a focus on meditation and intellectualism, and can conflate the two.

Yes, that intellectual 'ism' has always existed, but it is a long way from a culture where 'Buddhist' folk decide they like Tara or Kwan Yin so turn up at a temple and make offerings to her for a better life - without a thought of Madhyamaka Prasangika.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Malcolm » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:23 pm

kusulu wrote:
Sat Feb 15, 2020 11:19 pm
The first thing to consider is whether convert Buddhism isn't in fact the act of appropriation.
No, this is not the first thing to consider. Anyway, Dharma is for all sentient beings.
Part and parcel of that, is convert Buddhism the same, or similar, or even patterned after native Buddhism?
There is not such thing as "convert Buddhism." There is Dharma, people are free to practice or not, as they choose.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Malcolm » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:25 pm

Mantrik wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:44 pm
We have no inherent spiritual traditions left...
Well, you still have pubs...

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Mantrik » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:57 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:25 pm
Mantrik wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 8:44 pm
We have no inherent spiritual traditions left...
Well, you still have pubs...
:rolling:
http://www.khyung.com ཁྲོཾ

Om Thathpurushaya Vidhmahe
Suvarna Pakshaya Dheemahe
Thanno Garuda Prachodayath

Micchāmi Dukkaḍaṃ (मिच्छामि दुक्कडम्)

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