July 8, 2009

A Western Buddhist superiority complex

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I skimmed through old posts and came across the Western Buddhist Feminist Oppressors post again. From Cheng Wei-yi’s conclusion...
While Buddhism has a long history and is practiced in a wide range of cultures, it is essential to avoid using one’s own values to evaluate Buddhist practices of others ... Generalizing non-Western Buddhists and universalizing Western values are two problems needed to avoid.

I have also shown that during the process of discoursing Asian Buddhism, a ‘Western Buddhism’ arises. It is done through the process of comparison between and reflection on the practices of Asian Buddhists and Western Buddhists that a ‘Western Buddhism’ is formulated. I am not saying that there can be no ‘Western Buddhism’ without the comparison between and reflection on Asian Buddhism, for there has to be a ‘Western Buddhism’ (or Western Buddhisms). Since the social, economic and political conditions vary in different societies, one cannot expect that the practices of Western Buddhists remain entirely the same as those who live in a different social, economic and political condition. The problem lies in the process of identifying or formulating Western Buddhism, in which Western superiority is habitually created or sustained. While I must admit that works of many Western feminist Buddhists such as Rita Gross’ inspiring, I must also draw attention to the oppression and racial hierarchy created in these works. There can be no liberation for all women if the notion of Western superiority is to continue.

The self-styled Western Buddhists need to move away from a self-definition that involves over-generalizing and marginalizing Asian Buddhists and our diverse heritage and traditions. After all, we’re not mutually exclusive.

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