Buddhism's class "problem"

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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:17 pm

As I see it, this is like asking if the sport of deep-sea diving is inherently biased against people who live inland, hundreds of miles from oceans. Are people who live farther inland at a disadvantage with regards to deep sea diving? Yes. But everything has caused and results.

It can certainly be argued that someone who isn’t from a white, upper-middle class background may feel out of place or even ignored at a meditation center mainly populated and run by people with a white, upper-middle class background. This is a problem in the cultural clashes that have evolved in American society. American Buddhist organizations exist within that context. But that doesn’t mean that this reflects anything inherent in Buddhism itself.

It should also be noted that, social gathering aspects aside, compared with just a few decades ago, finding authentic teachers and teachings is really easy. You don’t have to go to India or Nepal, hoping to find some monastery in the mountains and hoping that someone there speaks your language, and will take you on as a student.

So, it used to be you had to be a hippie with money or a beat poet or someone from a university to study and practice Dharma. Not any more.
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Simon E.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Simon E. » Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:36 pm

When it comes down to brass tacks, when karma ripens and it leads to conditions propitious for Dharma nothing will stop it.
Until then then there will obstacles.
“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 Virgo » Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:44 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:36 pm
When it comes down to brass tacks, when karma ripens and it leads to conditions propitious for Dharma nothing will stop it.
Until then then there will obstacles.
:thumbsup:

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by pemachophel » Mon Feb 17, 2020 1:38 am

Someone up the thread mentioned the Western converts of the late 20th C. In the 70s, we were mostly rag-tag hippies. Some of us came from upperclass and well-educated backgrounds; others of us did not. Part of the counterculture at that time was giving up ideas of class and race. I think we were pretty egalitarian. Of course, we hippies grew up and many of us had successful careers in business and academe. So some of us became relatively well off financially. Maybe in the actually late 20th C., Buddhism did mostly attract the middle and upper class intelligensia in the West. However, we just had a three-day series of wangs and teachings at our center here in Colorado and half of the attendees were rag-tag neo-hippies. In fact, the Teacher had to emphasize twice in three days that they needed to get a job. Nothing about their talk or manners suggested that they came from an upper class background. The other half (except for a couple of us elderly) where millenials and Gen-Xers, and none of them were upper-middle or upper class as far as a I could tell. They were lower middle or even lower class (financially). No would I categorize them as part of the intelligensia. So from where I sit, I don't see a class problem at all.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by justsit » Mon Feb 17, 2020 2:39 am

pemachophel wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 1:38 am
...However, we just had a three-day series of wangs and teachings at our center here in Colorado and half of the attendees were rag-tag neo-hippies. In fact, the Teacher had to emphasize twice in three days that they needed to get a job. Nothing about their talk or manners suggested that they came from an upper class background. The other half (except for a couple of us elderly) where millenials and Gen-Xers, and none of them were upper-middle or upper class as far as a I could tell. They were lower middle or even lower class (financially). No would I categorize them as part of the intelligensia. So from where I sit, I don't see a class problem at all.
The difference might be that some of those people, regardless of how they present, are able to attend another teaching the next month, staying in a nice hotel instead of a tent, and then take two weeks to go to Monlam in India, and maybe make a three week private retreat, and purchase all the dharma texts Rinpoche mentions, and make big donations to support publication of more texts, etc, etc, etc. For other attendees, that may be the only dharma event they can attend for a few years.

Some sanghas have some very wealthy members who donate very big $; I'm sure they don't expect special treatment, but they get it anyway. Bills have to be paid, after all.

Karma, merit... :thinking:

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tobes » Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:13 am

If you or others have the wealth and time to practice Dharma and donate to Dharmic causes: this is something to rejoice in.

It's very hard to have the favourable conditions for practice: isn't that why there is danaparamita, mandala practices etc? Most of us need to accumulate more merit. Conversations about class need this context - we are talking about karma.

But in the same breath, if Dharma does not deeply undermine class consciousness - be it bourgeois or working class - then it is not being practiced right. And I suspect that often happens. In the west, and in everywhere it has been in the past. Privileged access by the aristocrats in Tibet??? Never!!

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by muni » Mon Feb 17, 2020 9:27 am

The idea of having great reputation or being a fortunated one to receive Dharma together with the idea of those who are not, could be locking our "very heart", destroying own freedom.

Merits, yes. Lets give them all.

Now, my body, possessions, and the source of my virtue, all together
I give without clinging to all beings who have been my parents.
May I accomplish great benefits, unobstructedly, for all beings.

“Three gifts are mentioned here: (1) my body, (2) my wealth, and (3) my virtues. These three cover everything that the “I” or ego holds dear. There’s nothing else. In this prayer it says, “da ni lu dang long cho ge tsa che.” That’s pointing out what we hold on to. We grasp on to our body, we grasp on to our belongings and wealth, and we grasp on to our merit or good deeds. The term getsa also means our reputation as someone good or renowned. These are the points in samsara where we’re grasping, attached, and stuck. So in this prayer, we’re giving it all away—everything that we could hold on to. His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche says that this is the essence of Chod practice.” Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Phenomena adorn emptiness, but never corrupt it.

Only if you have developed the love and compassion of relative bodhichitta can absolute bodhichitta – the very essence of the Great Perfection and the Great Seal – ever take birth in your being. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tkp67 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:46 pm

One of the biggest differentiators today in regards to class and Buddhism has to do suffering.

People who are above average in resource including education, wealth and lineage (a minority demographic) do not experience the same suffering as those without. This lack of suffering does not warm people up to being keen to the suffering of those without. I do know some people who tithe and pay forward percentages of their incomes but they are the exception and does not guarantee one will be led to meritorious behavior.

Those who suffer lack and come to terms with it are more inclined to understand self as a result of suffering. This suffering was the very cause of the world honored one's enlightenment.

This leads to the question (rhetorical) how often do you hear the wealthy, intellectual, educated, sensitive, cultured minds hear and process suffering compassionately in a way that shows they understand that suffering the way the buddha did?

Remember that state of sweet ambrosia? He didn't keep it to himself.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Simon E. » Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:30 pm

tobes wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:13 am
If you or others have the wealth and time to practice Dharma and donate to Dharmic causes: this is something to rejoice in.

It's very hard to have the favourable conditions for practice: isn't that why there is danaparamita, mandala practices etc? Most of us need to accumulate more merit. Conversations about class need this context - we are talking about karma.

But in the same breath, if Dharma does not deeply undermine class consciousness - be it bourgeois or working class - then it is not being practiced right. And I suspect that often happens. In the west, and in everywhere it has been in the past. Privileged access by the aristocrats in Tibet??? Never!!
Yes, good points. Buddhadharma is inextricably linked to punya.
But we can never assume a lack of punya in others simply based on their external circumstances.
“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 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:34 pm

Simon E. wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:30 pm
tobes wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:13 am
If you or others have the wealth and time to practice Dharma and donate to Dharmic causes: this is something to rejoice in.

It's very hard to have the favourable conditions for practice: isn't that why there is danaparamita, mandala practices etc? Most of us need to accumulate more merit. Conversations about class need this context - we are talking about karma.

But in the same breath, if Dharma does not deeply undermine class consciousness - be it bourgeois or working class - then it is not being practiced right. And I suspect that often happens. In the west, and in everywhere it has been in the past. Privileged access by the aristocrats in Tibet??? Never!!
Yes, good points. Buddhadharma is inextricably linked to punya.
But we can never assume a lack of punya in others simply based on their external circumstances.

Sure, by definition, the highest class of humans are the ones who have the precious human rebirth with 18 freedoms and endowments, and actually use it. Mundane issues like social class and so on, do not really apply here. The poorest Tibetan yogi is infinitely in a better position in samsara than some guy like Bills Gates, etc.

Simon E.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Simon E. » Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:57 pm

Aye.
“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 Nemo » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:20 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:34 pm
Simon E. wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:30 pm
tobes wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:13 am
If you or others have the wealth and time to practice Dharma and donate to Dharmic causes: this is something to rejoice in.

It's very hard to have the favourable conditions for practice: isn't that why there is danaparamita, mandala practices etc? Most of us need to accumulate more merit. Conversations about class need this context - we are talking about karma.

But in the same breath, if Dharma does not deeply undermine class consciousness - be it bourgeois or working class - then it is not being practiced right. And I suspect that often happens. In the west, and in everywhere it has been in the past. Privileged access by the aristocrats in Tibet??? Never!!
Yes, good points. Buddhadharma is inextricably linked to punya.
But we can never assume a lack of punya in others simply based on their external circumstances.

Sure, by definition, the highest class of humans are the ones who have the precious human rebirth with 18 freedoms and endowments, and actually use it. Mundane issues like social class and so on, do not really apply here. The poorest Tibetan yogi is infinitely in a better position in samsara than some guy like Bills Gates, etc.
This was a widely debated topic in Tibet as well IIRC. One could argue that it's excess elitism was one of many causes of the fall of Tibet. Often Dharma when you are young means a certain degree of poverty. There should be a balance. We live in countries where being a poor wanderer is literally a criminal act. How could a yogi live here without being beaten and harassed by police? Small allowances should be made for those with less social capital. Scholars don't do well without yogis for company and vice versa.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Malcolm » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:23 pm

Nemo wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:20 pm

This was a widely debated topic in Tibet as well IIRC. One could argue that it's excess elitism was one of many causes of the fall of Tibet.
Tibet fell because they let the PRC build a road right into Lhasa.
Often Dharma when you are young means a certain degree of poverty. There should be a balance. We live in countries where being a poor wanderer is literally a criminal act. How could a yogi live here without being beaten and harassed by police? Small allowances should be made for those with less social capital. Scholars don't do well without yogis for company and vice versa.
If you are a Dharma practitioner, a real Dharma practitioner, things will always work out. We need socialism for ordinary people. But for Dharma people, Dharma provides everything.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by seeker242 » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:38 pm

KathyLauren wrote:
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.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Which is to be expected really. If people were already perfectly wise, they would not even need Buddhism to begin with. So it's really just an ignorant person problem, rather than what the author is making it out to be. :smile:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 17, 2020 9:51 pm

I’m just gonna reply to a few statements. I think probably this topic, which is a good topic, needs to be defined a little better. Tricycle Magazine has run at least a few articles about how Buddhism fits into western class society, either confronting it, acclimating to it, or both. But anyway, regarding these statements by various lovely people:
But in the same breath, if Dharma does not deeply undermine class consciousness - be it bourgeois or working class - then it is not being practiced right.
Class Consciousness is mainly being aware that social, economic, and political power imbalances exist as part of the current structures of things. It isn’t particularly bourgeois or proletarian. Class perspective is.
To say “undermine” hopefully means in this case to undermine class contradictions by transcending them the way that we would imagine, for example, an emergency room doctor to do. The Buddha is often described as the Great Doctor, and the Dharma as the medicine.
Tibet fell because they let the PRC build a road right into Lhasa.
The term, “let” is very generously applied here. I don’t think there was a whole lot of choice.
One could argue that it's excess elitism was one of many causes of the fall of Tibet.
Wealth disparity was certainly an issue, and had always been in an issue in Tibet. One only need look at the story of Milarepa’s family to see that greed and corruption cast many people into destitution. China’s invasion of Tibet is the cause for its present reality. That also includes China’s meddling in Tibet’s politics.
How could a yogi live here without being beaten and harassed by police?
You’d be surprised. “Yogi” covers a lot of territory. No, you could not be a naked sadhu on the streets of most cities or towns. Panhandling laws prohibit begging alms. But many people practice solitary retreats via dharma organizations or live very simply. I know I fellow who lived alone in a very cheap apartment (no electricity) who devoted most of his free time to meditation. He worked small odd jobs here and there and made probably less than $5000 a year total. This was about 30 years ago. A very happy person.
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tobes » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:44 am

tkp67 wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:46 pm
One of the biggest differentiators today in regards to class and Buddhism has to do suffering.

People who are above average in resource including education, wealth and lineage (a minority demographic) do not experience the same suffering as those without. This lack of suffering does not warm people up to being keen to the suffering of those without. I do know some people who tithe and pay forward percentages of their incomes but they are the exception and does not guarantee one will be led to meritorious behavior.

Those who suffer lack and come to terms with it are more inclined to understand self as a result of suffering. This suffering was the very cause of the world honored one's enlightenment.

This leads to the question (rhetorical) how often do you hear the wealthy, intellectual, educated, sensitive, cultured minds hear and process suffering compassionately in a way that shows they understand that suffering the way the buddha did?

Remember that state of sweet ambrosia? He didn't keep it to himself.
I'm not sure this is true. Duhkah hits everyone. Good material conditions do not imply good mental conditions - if anything, anecdotally, it looks like psychological distress (anxiety etc) is in epidemic proportions in middle/upper middle classes.

As for the Buddha - well, surely we have to admit that he himself was wealthy, intellectual, educated, sensitive and cultured. The narrative goes that he saw suffering from the chariot window right? These days, that is at least a BMW or something!

I think that you're trying to say that compassion is richer in those who have less materially. But I don't think that these things co-emerge quite so neatly. Good hearts are everywhere: it is what you make of your circumstances that matters, not the circumstances themselves.

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tobes » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:48 am

PadmaVonSambhava: I take your point on class consciousness. I think what I meant was class identity.

i.e. only associating with those of your particular social class; not being able to cut through appearances; seeing others as higher or lower dependent on the car the drive, the clothes they wear etc. Buddhadharma has to deeply disturb all of that, or it is not working properly.

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tkp67 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:01 am

tobes wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:44 am
tkp67 wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 12:46 pm
One of the biggest differentiators today in regards to class and Buddhism has to do suffering.

People who are above average in resource including education, wealth and lineage (a minority demographic) do not experience the same suffering as those without. This lack of suffering does not warm people up to being keen to the suffering of those without. I do know some people who tithe and pay forward percentages of their incomes but they are the exception and does not guarantee one will be led to meritorious behavior.

Those who suffer lack and come to terms with it are more inclined to understand self as a result of suffering. This suffering was the very cause of the world honored one's enlightenment.

This leads to the question (rhetorical) how often do you hear the wealthy, intellectual, educated, sensitive, cultured minds hear and process suffering compassionately in a way that shows they understand that suffering the way the buddha did?

Remember that state of sweet ambrosia? He didn't keep it to himself.
I'm not sure this is true. Duhkah hits everyone. Good material conditions do not imply good mental conditions - if anything, anecdotally, it looks like psychological distress (anxiety etc) is in epidemic proportions in middle/upper middle classes.

As for the Buddha - well, surely we have to admit that he himself was wealthy, intellectual, educated, sensitive and cultured. The narrative goes that he saw suffering from the chariot window right? These days, that is at least a BMW or something!

I think that you're trying to say that compassion is richer in those who have less materially. But I don't think that these things co-emerge quite so neatly. Good hearts are everywhere: it is what you make of your circumstances that matters, not the circumstances themselves.

https://nymag.com/news/features/money-brain-2012-7/

The Money-Empathy Gap

https://www.scientificamerican.com/arti ... ompassion/

How Wealth Reduces Compassion

As riches grow, empathy for others seems to decline

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/articl ... _give_more

The Poor Give More

A new study finds that the rich are less altruistic

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tobes » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:56 am

Well tkp67 - evidence is evidence, and that is more than I have to offer!

I wonder if it has something to do with competition. Some family have returned from NYC after a year working there, and their impressions of American culture is that deep competition permeates at every level. So maybe those nearer the top have become more adept at regarding others as competitors?

In my unfounded opinion, nothing is as destructive to compassion as the asura mentality....

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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Queequeg » Tue Feb 18, 2020 5:20 am

The class problem will be solved when some poor kid picks up a little teaching, puts it into practice completely and wakes up. It'll be some poor kid with nothing to lose because if she has a taste of middle or upper middle class luxury, she won't be able to kick the habit. American Milarepa will grow up on food stamps. Until then, most of us are just dressing in drag and pining after some orientalist dream. Inadvertently, and less so intentionally, we lay the ground for the real things to come along in ways we don't understand at all. Wax on wax off.

Someone will eventually just do it. Until then, we'll wring our hands and worry that our communities are too white, too rich, too educated, blah-di-blah, but we won't do anything like commit to a life long solitary retreat, but we will come like flies to teachings that tell us we don't actually need to do anything but say a few Hail Kwanyins to get the brass ring! Or better yet - the Prosperity Dharma will get'em coming and going! Cha-ching!

I look at Lion's Roar at the check out line at Whole Foods and smirk and shake my head. Then throw it in the bag as an impulse buy.

I'm kind of just being an ass hole, but not really.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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