Not Your Normal Buddhist Conference

Today begins the Buddhist Geeks Conference with the fewest ever number of Asian American speakers in its lineup. I have already pointed out that the conference tends to be overwhelmingly white and that Buddhist Asians don’t appear to play much of a role in what the Geeks deem to be the emerging faces of Buddhism. The speakers’ photo roster naturally tells the story better than I possibly could…

You can catch a livestream of the Buddhist Geeks Conference at Tricycle, which coincidentally has the same number of Asian Americans among its editors as Buddhist Geeks has among its conference speakers. Fancy that!

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.

Diversity at the Buddhist Teachers Council

A recent Tricycle blog post on diversity caught my attention. The magazine asked some participants of the recent 2011 Buddhist Teachers Council the following question about unity amid diversity:

Buddhism is very diverse—some would even say that the different traditions represent different religions. What was the common Buddhist thread that brought you all together?”

And here are the responses of two Asian American participants.

I came seeking unity in the Three Treasures. I was disappointed to find that the “mindful” community remains unable to bridge the gap of diversity; and further, that this vital necessity is not a primary concern.
—Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin, Myoken Temple

What brought us together probably has something to do with the Buddha’s saying “I teach one thing and one only: that is, suffering and the end of suffering.” It has such a universal calling. However, while “Buddhism” may be diverse, “Buddhist” communities in the West do not yet reflect the diversity of our multicultural experiences. 
—Larry Yang, East Bay Meditation Center

I am very glad that Tricycle included us in their list, and that these thoughts were shared. For all my grumblings over diversity at the Buddhist Teachers Council, I’m inclined to think of the conference as a positive success. Diversity was certainly not prominent, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say the conference was an abject failure on this front. More on that thought in another post.

You can read other responses to this question in the current issue of Tricycle. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s is one of my favorites.

The Emerging Face of Buddhism

recent post by Barbara O’Brien pointed me to a great article by Jane Iwamura, “On Asian Religions without Asians.” A commenter asked O’Brien for her related thoughts on the upcoming Buddhist Geeks conference. In her response, O’Brien mused, “And are there any Asians at all in the line-up? It’s almost Exhibit A of what Jane Iwamura is talking about.” I had to check it out for myself.

You may not have heard of this conference, but it’s a pretty well-publicized event in the Buddhist blogosphere. As the organizers describe it:

Taking place July 29th – 31st, 2011 in Los Angeles, Buddhist Geeks | The Conference brings together some of the most exciting teachers, leaders and thinkers from the US and beyond as Buddhist Geeks continues its ongoing mission to discover the emerging face of Buddhism. With a vibrant program of presentations, workshops, performance and participant-led elements and its inclusive non-denominational attitude, #bgeeks11 will be the most innovative, energetic and relevant event in the Buddhist world. We would love you to join us.

Following up on O’Brien’s comments, I went to the Buddhist Geeks conference page and pasted the photos together into a composite graphic, not unlike the one in this post from over two years agoVoilà.

A picture is worth a thousand words, I’m told, and hopefully at least this one is. I’ll be in transit for the next twelve hours, and I’m going to be too jet-lagged and sleep-deprived for a more eloquent post.

There you have it: the emerging face of Buddhism (conditions and restrictions apply)!

Alternative Spring Break: Buddhist Retreat

This just in from an old friend about the Spring Break Guan Yin Practice Retreat at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas—a practice retreat perfect for college students in a beautiful monastic setting tucked away in the hills of Northern California.

Spring Break Guan Yin Practice Retreat
March 19–27, 2011

In the Surangama Sutra, Guan Yin Bodhisattva teaches: “Return the hearing to hear within.” This was hailed as the foremost contemplative practice for people of our time. Who is Guan Yin Bodhisattva? How does one cultivate the Guan Yin practice? What does it mean to be mindful of Guan Yin Bodhisattva? This March, take a break from the bustle of student life to live out these questions with the Dharma Realm Buddhist University Alternative Spring Break Program. For one week, immerse yourself in the Guan Yin practice and life at a Buddhist monastery. This spring break, tap into a living embodiment of an ancient Mahayana Buddhist tradition at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

  • Explore the methods of Guan Yin recitation, contemplation, and meditation.
  • Study from Buddhist sacred texts the methods of practices related to Guan Yin Bodhisattva.
  • Train according to the Buddhist moral code of conduct.
  • Engage in discussions with practicing monks, nuns, and teachers.
  • Meet other students interested in exploring Buddhism.
  • Try out a vegetarian diet.

$275 [registration, course fee and room+board]

For more information, contact

Participants of all backgrounds [religious and non-religious] are encouraged to apply. Financial aid available.

Another youth workshop for young Buddhists (21–39ish) is happening the week before—check out TechnoBuddha at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley!

TechnoBuddha 2011

Everyone seems to be talking about the $300 $400 Buddhist Geeks Conference, but the conference that I’d really like to attend is the Techno Buddha Conference 2011 (“The Journey”). The conference is being held March 4–6 at the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley, California. Here’s the description from their Facebook page:

TechnoBuddha was the theme of the first year’s conference for people who are “grown but not necessarily grown-up” and are interested in Buddhism. We targeted the age range of 21–39 with flexibility on the upper limit (but unfortunately not on the lower limit, since the weekend involved a happy hour).

The theme was TechnoBuddha because we wanted to focus in on how our generation’s experience with technology may affect our experience with Jodo Shinshu Buddhism.

Expect to get involved in workshops on tai-chi/hip hop, personal finance and buying a home, communication and interpersonal relationships, local involvement and—of course—what in the world it means to practice Jodo Shinshu in 2011! The keynote speaker is Rev. Bob Oshita, rinban for North America’s largest Jodo Shinshu congregation. If you’re curious about how to raise kids in a temple community, he’s a great person to talk to.

I know these topics have nothing to do with Buddhism in the West, but I figured some readers might be interested. I unfortunately have a drop-dead project deadline the following week, so I’m still on the fence over whether or not to make the trip up north.

Thanks to an anonymous follower for the tip!