June 19, 2012

OMG WESTERN BUDDHISTS!

“Western Buddhism” is in the mainstream news again. The Gray Lady shares some Buddhisty thoughts of one newcomer to meditation, while you can read more blather about “American Buddhism” at the Washington Post’s On Faith blog. How completely novel that yet another white American Buddhist would make bland speculations about the future of Buddhism in the West!

As someone who occasionally contributes a blog (or two) about Buddhism in the West, I just wish American newspapers wasted less ink yogifying Western Buddhism with boring reflections of meditation retreats (“Dude, I went on a meditation retreat… woah…”) or culturally appropriative fantasies on the future of the Western Buddhist community (“WESTERN BUDDHISM IS GOING TO BE SO GREAT! I CAN’T WAIT!”). Now the authors were not so inane as my parenthetical hyperbole would suggest, but there are much more interesting perspectives on Buddhism in the West than neophytic meditators or scholarly navel gazers.

Not that there’s much I’m prepared to do about it right now. Fortunately, there is a whole generation of young American Buddhists, raised in temples and Dharma centers, who are gradually coming of age and, I hope, preparing to share the story of a mainstream American Buddhism which you’re quite unlikely to find in the pages of mainstream East Coast periodicals.

3 comments :

  1. guess you didn't read this yet... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/buddhists-delight.html

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  2. Why do people have to see race in Buddhism at all? I think it is really awful, in Dharma we are essentially all the same. I prefer to practice Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, but because I am white I was pretty much pressured to give it up and go to where Westerners were. I just don't think it's fair, if I have an affinity with Pure Land Buddhism, why should I be forced out to practice Theravaden Buddhism because the Chinese temple doesn't want white women as nuns. They told me, oh you can go to Abayaghiri, there are white people there... over and over. Although Abayaghiri has nice people in it, I don't want to go there just because of race. It's not my practice, it is totally different from Mahayana Pure Land Buddhism. So I just give up. I just stay home and nian fwo all by myself. I really miss the chanting with a group, to me it doesn't matter if people are white or Chinese, I just want to go and pray. But they don't want me there. I used to just cry over it, because it was just so mean and unfair, but I don't care so much anymore. I wish people didn't see race, but I guess I will have to develop some Bodhisattva patience and just pray in my living room alone. I wish someday people could recite Namo Amitofo and not see skin color, but I don't see that happening in my lifetime.

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  3. Hi Arun,

    "Yogifying"... That is a great term. :) I think you articulated it well.

    Speaking as someone who falls under the "American Buddhist" demographic as they describe it (not me), I still don't understand the fascination of meditation retreats or meditation in general. It kind of creates a narrow understanding of Buddhism I am not comfortable with.

    @Terri Hellerich: I hate to tell you, but there just are some bad Buddhist communities out there. Some can be either really cultish or cliquish (or both), and it's not always divided along ethnic lines. If you were pushed out, it wasn't meant to be.

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