Buddhism's class "problem"

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PeterC
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Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by PeterC » Tue Feb 18, 2020 5:47 am

I went back to the original article after reading this thread and I think I disagree with it more now than when I first skimmed it. The silliness starts from the first sentence and continues to the last.
Convert Buddhism has a class problem: it appeals mostly to a narrow demographic of well-off college graduates.
"Convert" Buddhism?
"Problem"? In a non-proselytizing practice, whose teachings traditionally must be requested and which holds that karma determines who encounters it?
So, how does class show up in American Buddhism? What role has it historically played in Buddhism? How can more class consciousness benefit the future of Buddhism?
"American" Buddhism?
"Benefit the future of Buddhism"?
During interviews with Gen X Buddhist teachers, I asked them a series of demographic questions. Each teacher moved through the categories of race, gender, and sexuality with ease. But nearly all hesitated with class.
If you interview people intent on finding a problem, guess what, you will. But if you're going to talk to Americans about class, you will almost always find it a difficult topic on which to have a conversation, because unlike the UK, it was never really the dominant axis of social analysis: things like race and gender were. To misquote John Lennon, you think you're so clever and classless and free.

The article then goes into a long paean on the merits of adapting/simplifying practices so that they "appeal" to "everyday blue-collar Buddhists". It also comments that "...teachers need to embrace the pragmatic benefits of Buddhism. I have heard many Buddhists snigger about people doing mindfulness practice for stress reduction or chanting for job promotions. This patronizing dismissal of real-world needs is a major barrier to working-class participation." I'm going to assume all readers here understand how absurd these comments are. It goes on in the same vein: "Closely related is teaching the dharma in ways that translate into modern life. As one practitioner put it, “Speak directly to people’s everyday experiences and needs in the plain, everyday language that they speak.” ".
Recognizing that class has always mattered in Buddhism and bringing more consciousness to how class preferences and prejudices operate in American Buddhist sanghas can push meditation-based lineages beyond the Upper-Middle Way. It can also increase appreciation for the forms of Buddhism flourishing in the United States that have already made Buddhism relevant to economically and socially marginalized communities.
The author is so close here, but yet so far away. Nothing needs to be adapted or changed in the Dharma to make it more relevant. Sanghas need to be welcoming of new people and help them to establish their practice. That's it. They don't need to have the Dharma wrapped up in 21st-century American pop sociology.

Malcolm
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Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by Malcolm » Tue Feb 18, 2020 6:52 am

tobes wrote:
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....
Well, they saw NYC. NYC is not America.

muni
Posts: 4872
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by muni » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:22 am

tobes wrote:
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....
Competition is of course linked on individuality, (not particular American). It is very much increasing suffering to have to show always " I can, I know, I am this or that importance" because this is asked from small on in schools. Always having to prove, prove, prove. This is very much suffering. So the approach of Buddhism is in same way because of the education.
And this results in jealousy, which is difficult to turn into rejoicing. The experience of individualism is the problem.

In countries where individualism is weak, and fellows need to focus on enough good food, education for their children, is that kind of suffering less or not. And when you have to walk 3 hours towards school and 3 hours back, there is no energy for any proving. There is not that competion even among young ones who have better circumstances, the individual mentality grows, taken as example of the richer countries with 'the eye to develop'...
The fortress of the spacious and timeless expanse has no division into
higher or lower or in between.

tkp67
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Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 5:42 am

Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tkp67 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 12:34 pm

tobes wrote:
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....
It is a bit deeper and even more nuanced. These biases exist because they are so hard to see. They are often the crux of my commentary (cognitive biases in general).

If we where to unpack it a bit I think there needs to be a preface based on a comment you made about good heart. Biases don't negate a good heart, biases simply lend to "conceptual compartmentalization" that limit the expression of good based on the boundaries of that conceptualization. It is ultimately a reflection of self and lack of compassion. It becomes even more difficult when the very traits lend to success.

This is one of the deepest teachings of the LS as well which is why it resonates so powerfully with me although I understand many don't perceive the connection.

For reference I have lived within 45 mins of NYC for 50 + years and know the dynamics here very well.

tkp67
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Joined: Sun May 12, 2019 5:42 am

Re: Buddhism's class "problem"

Post by tkp67 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 1:19 pm

It might be easier for the minds here to appreciate the subtly of biases if we equate it to the senses, perception and art.

Some artists have greater than normal senses allowing them to work with a medium through those senses with greater efficiency.

Some painters see a greater variation of color and this access a larger internal palette. Some musicians have perfect pitch. Even if we lack these capacities we can appreciate the difference.

How well do people with these extra ordinary traits feel about them? I would reckon they see them as simply natural aspects of their existence. How difficult is it for them to see their own talents from the perspective of lack? How about from the perspective of lack for all of this existence?

I don't think many have the opportunity to ask that question let alone contemplate the perspective.

Biases aren't necessarily intentional or due to negative consequences. This IMHO is one of the "marks" of the degenerate age. Even good can be seen as even and even good can further disharmony.

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