October 2, 2011

The Future of American Buddhism

While searching for inspiration for our temple’s summer camp next year, I came across some videos of other temples’ summer programs. These compositions reminded me that our “traditional Asian enclaves” are doing lots of work to nurture the next generation of American Buddhism. Much of what you read about Buddhist Asian America online comes from members of the Buddhist commentariat who are not part of these communities, and so I thought it would be good for you to see our backward, retrograde, traditional and insulated communities speak for themselves.

My favorite clip comes from the Sacramento Obon festival, where Socho Ogui, Bishop of the Buddhist Churches of America, danced to Taio Cruz along with other Buddhist ministers and youth leaders.

The next generation of American Buddhism will come from many quarters, but it looks like some temples are already giving their kids a head start in community involvement.

7 comments :

  1. "backward, retrograde, traditional and insulated" my foot! Thanks for opening these windows.

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  2. But I guess my question is how much outreach are these organizations doing outside of their Asian communities? Before you put the angry hat on, I realize that many do plenty of cross generational and cross-racial events but from the looks of the videos you posted my perception (and mind you it is just a perception) is that these are largely "by Asians, for Asians." I see lots of work lots of work to nurture the next generation of Asian American Buddhists but little to bridge the gap.

    And grant you the same perception is true of white, convert sanghas. Believe me, I know. But my difficulty with connecting with Asian sanghas has never been that they were "backwards or traditional" as they are obviously vibrant communities.

    My issue is that I never feel welcomed. It is as simple as that. Whether it is my duty to get over that discomfort or the duty of the sangha to provide a door mat is open to debate. It seems that this community is not for me by nature of my birth.

    Other than that, they look wonderful and lots of fun.

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  3. Arun, these are fantastic, and you're right on target with this.

    Jack, I can speak fairly directly to at least the 1st video included from Guang Ming Temple - BLIA YAD. This is part of the Fo Guang Shan order, which you know I am very much associated with through Hsi Lai temple, and as being part of BLIA. (Also, same place 'GrumpyZen' posted about on your own blog: http://greatplainsbuddha.com/temple-hopping-a-guest-post-by-grumpy-zen)

    FGS is definitely a Chinese Buddhist order, but, one that is making every effort it knows of to be open and accessible to us 'Westerners'. They held summer camp at Hai Lai and I wanted my son to go, but since it's 50+ miles from our house it just wasn't possible at the time.

    In my search for a dharma home years ago I did visit some where I just didn't feel right. No one spoke with me as I walked around, no one approached me to see if I could be helped, but in hindsight, I'm unconvinced the fault lies with them. Maybe they didn't know I needed help, and maybe I just didn't know how to ask. Definitely a two way street.

    That said, I know how fortunate I am to have access to a place as open and welcoming as Hsi Lai - Fo Guang Shan. If 'American Buddhism' ever exists, I believe it will be the direct result of established orders slowly building their roots in America, and bringing up generations of American Buddhists within. We have many years before this happens.

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  4. As I said Kris, I do not doubt that many sangas do outreach and are welcoming - it is definitely a two-way street. Fo Guang Shan, after hearing about your experience and reading so much positive from Grumpy, is one of the orders I plan on visiting once I make my move back east and out of this god-forsaken purgatory.

    I should reiterate that I am not throwing a blanket over any culture just commenting that while the videos show vibrancy, they don't show inclusion. And we both know where inferring inclusion has gotten me.

    On a similar note I have also found some Shin communities and practitioners I spoke with to be very accommodating.

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  5. Just good discussion.

    What's funny is, I just noticed my friend John G. in the third video (2:09 - white dude in the back with the explosion of red hair. haha) He actually had a lot to do with that book I plan on sending you Jack.

    Wish you could come visit Hsi Lai with me :)

    Great about the Shin communities! Hope to hear more.

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  6. David Ashton: Thanks for the comment!

    @Kris Freedain: Thanks for visiting and sharing your experiences! Do you happen to know if your friend John G. is an organizer or a participant at the temple events in the video?

    @Jack Daw: Many thanks for your thoughts and questions. Before delving into a fully articulated reply, I owe you the service of ensuring I fully understand your questions and concerns.

    Do you expect me to speak on behalf of these temples whose videos I found on YouTube because I’m Asian?

    As there are non-Asians who (by appearances) both organize and participate in these temple youth events, what exactly is it that makes you feel that these events are “by Asians, for Asians” rather than reflections of the demographics of local Buddhist communities?

    Multiracial congregations comprise a very different issue from that of multiracial conferences and diversity in publication (my two favorite diversity topics) so what specifically is the nature of the “gap” that you suggest be bridged?

    How exactly do you expect to be welcomed by predominantly Asian Buddhist congregations—and how do you expect them to know this?

    As two-way streets go, do you feel it’s a level road when one of the parties enjoys excessive hegemonic privilege?

    Those are just some points I’d like to make clear first! Also—congrats on finally getting a guest post from an Asian American Buddhist. I’m very proud of you.

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  7. Arun, many apologies, I missed your reply so many months ago. My friend John G works at Buddha's Light Publishing (http://blpusa.com/) - I'm not positive if he was a participant or organizer. Potentially both! :)

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