Discover the Emerging Faces of Buddhism (Are Mostly White)

I lost track of time and only just realized that the Buddhist Geeks conference is already under way. You can live stream the conference, and if you do, let me know if you find more Asian Buddhists than I did…

As I said last year, a picture is worth a thousand words. For a conference that brandishes the tagline “discover the emerging faces of Buddhism,” I’m a bit amused at how white-centric the line up remains.

One thought on “Discover the Emerging Faces of Buddhism (Are Mostly White)

  1. Archivist’s Note: Comments have been preserved from the original website for archival purposes; however, comments are now closed.

    AlAugust 12, 2012 at 1:48 PM
    While I just made similar comments on my blog, I also wonder how many Asian Buddhist chose to buy tickets and attend (or even work with the organizers). The road does go both ways, even if it is a valid criticism to say that the organizers need to seek more non-white faces.

    Jack DawAugust 12, 2012 at 2:10 PM
    To take a page from proactive community outreach I am told that it is not appropriate to expect minority groups to make themselves known and interested in being included. The initiation of engagement is solely upon the organizing organization. In my case I am applying it to library outreach to minority communities but I think the expectation is the same for BG or any other Buddhist organization that gets criticized and pleads lack of interest as a reason for non-inclusion.

    I am not integral, important or even informed in any Buddhist community, but even from my peripheral stance I can at least list a number of Asian American Buddhist speakers that would have something substantial to say about the emerging face of Buddhism. But the burden is solely upon Buddhist Geeks to contact and follow through.

    And who knows? Perhaps they did make a good faith effort to invite more Asian Americans and none were interested. Seems improbable but not unlikely.

    My personal opinion is that Buddhist Geeks simply do not want that specifically Asian American voice present because it harshes the image they have built up around themselves of progressive, non-sectarian, cool Buddhist practice. Allowing dissenting voices may not be part of that image. Frankly, ignoring those voices is equally contrary to that image but I am sure they can sell it if needed.

    I read your post Al. It was well done and even-handed. It sounds to me that they have a white-bread hit on their hands. The live streaming speaks to more socio-economic inclusion but I would not expect a diversity of view from them in the near future.


    I crawl back into my hole now.

    John Pappas

    AnonymousAugust 15, 2012 at 5:24 AM
    The problem is not the leaders, it is the followers. Think about that for a minute. Also see “Yoga Is For Everyone” (Yet Mine Eyes Roll Back in Head Seizure)

    Farmer monkAugust 18, 2012 at 12:39 AM
    More beautiful TWH (Teachers with Hair).

    Not only are they white, they’re all pretty good looking.

    Eisel MazardOctober 6, 2012 at 11:23 PM
    This game is played out. Check the crowd over at Spirit Rock, as that goes into its third generation:

    Everybody sitting on the steps is white, everybody claims they’ve got 30 years of experience meditating… and during all those years, seemingly nobody put in the work to learn any Asian language (modern or ancient)… nobody lived in and learned from a living Buddhist culture in Asia…

    …and nobody even made friends with any Asian monks or laypeople who joined in the movement as legitimate… hm… do you ever wonder why that is?

    Regardless of a person’s ethnicity, really knowing anything about Buddhism is hard work. Asians who are born in a Buddhist culture, still have to put in years of very hard work to know anything worth teaching. However, the white guru game has spun out one excuse after another as to how these people are supposedly on a path that requires only “practice” and not “book-learning”. Homeboy, book-learning is part of the practice: knowing the dharma *IS* the practice, whether you get it from a book, or recite it aloud.

    P.S. Anyone who looks to the Buddhist Geeks website for religious guidance should probably convert to any other major religion except this one. We now have a whole generation of people who converted to Buddhism on the basis of wikipedia articles and podcasts, and who are then shocked and horrified when they see mural-paintings of hell on the walls of Buddhist temples in Thailand.

    Anthuan VuongOctober 7, 2012 at 4:57 AM
    Great blog & you are right. I was there with the only 4 other Asian faces (myself included) in the audience as participants. One came from Japan. Furthermore, there was only 1 monk, and he was white.

    AnonymousOctober 8, 2012 at 9:39 PM
    Wow, looking at the conference page:

    I have no idea who any of these people are. Do they really represent the Buddhist community?

    Speaking as a Buddhist-geek who has no interest in Buddhist Geeks, I guess I’ve missed the boat somewhere.

    Uilium PowellJanuary 23, 2016 at 12:25 AM
    They all look like asians.

    Uilium PowellJanuary 23, 2016 at 12:45 AM
    If there is some kind of racism it’s only because we beings are all defiled(mostly). I hope no one is angry. I hope we are compassionate towards us who might be racist.

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