Work to Be Done

More travel means I probably won’t get to write all that I planned to write until this coming weekend. There are some wonderful posts and comments that I would love to respond to, but work and sleep are monopolizing this week’s schedule. Still, one old half-written post at the bottom of my draft box seemed more timely than ever—it included only a few words another blogger wrote two years ago, worth reposting:

If you’re going to claim an interest in social justice issues and then blindly look the other way when your own, fellow American Buddhists of different colors, genders, or sexual orientations are crying out, are suffering, then you need to question your own motives, your own beliefs, before yelling at me for doing nothing more than pointing out the obvious suffering of others.

There has been a lot of work in the Buddhist community to address racial inequities in American Buddhism, but this progress feels limited. At least, that’s how it feels when today’s discussions don’t feel much different than those of yesteryear. Even so, I fully believe that there’s been real progress in the last ten years that simply may not be glaringly evident to the casual observer. Much work remains to be done, but what progress have you seen in reducing racial inequities in American Buddhism over the last decade?


Over on Dharma Folk, I committed to increasing my writing to one post a month. I’m thinking of decreasing to the same rate over here—even though there is so much to write about!

My recent post “On White Women and Buddhism” generated a huge amount of traffic (thank you, Facebook), so considering that response, I plan to take up Barry Boyce’s invitation to write a letter to Buddhadharmaregarding their exclusionary practices. In case it doesn’t get published, you can be sure to find it here.

Mistaken assumptions about race and culture—and the assumptions underpinning those—comprise a series of topics I hope to take up. I’d love to address the misguided notion that racism is only the product of racists, the legless argument that poor white people don’t enjoy white privilege, or the cultural narrowmindedness of framing the development of Buddhism through an East-West divide. And that’s not to mention the regular fare.

I hope to somehow find the time to keep up the Asian Meter and to document the (regrettably ineluctable) instances when white Buddhists continue to ignore and exclude their Asian American brothers and sisters. There’s a history of Buddhists who’ve spoken out about the kind of discrimination and marginalization that I write about here, and this blog would be incomplete without a nod to their voices.

Beyond that, it’s worth reiterating some of the solutions that can be taken to addressing the issues I bring up on this blog. I’ve posted about these before, but it doesn’t hurt to pull them together again (and again). Examples of diversity and multiculturalism deserve posts as well—they certainly do exist in the community.

It’s quite a lot. This is no resolution by any means—I have little doubt that most of these pieces will be neglected. If anything, this post is a reminder to some future Angry Asian Buddhist of what was sitting around in my draft box on a cold Sunday in January 2011.

Roundtable on Race

With regards to online posts on diversity, Firehorse has proposed a discussion on race, diversity and Buddhism. The proposal has been making its rounds on the net.

How about a Buddhist bloggers’ roundtable or panel discussion on different topics related to race, diversity and Buddhism? But the goal would not be to show how someone is wrong or convert others to your viewpoint, it would be to practice what Katie calls “mindful blogging” and do it in the challenging context of a dialogue about race, diversity and Buddhism.

My feelings are mixed. It’s a noble aspiration—a forum for the expression of these sensitive issues, mindfulness of the visceral emotions this discussion nearly invariably evokes, a safe and supportive space where one can be heard without screaming above the din.

But to be perfectly honest, I am afraid that such a discussion would legitimize as progress certain types of discourse that fundamentally are not. What I’m talking about includes the things we’ve heard before and Wite-Magik Attax, among other derailing tactics

On a personal level, involvement is surely worthwhile—if that entails bending oneself towards listening more mindfully, engaging more mindfully. If it were me, I probably wouldn’t “enjoy” it, but I would surely appreciate it. Such are true benefits—but they seem shallow if purchased at the expense of buttressing the arguments and rhetoric of apologists for the status quo.

All in all, I suppose it’s worth the risk, in spite of my fears. If there’s an open seat, I’d love to reserve a spot. I’m curious to see what comes of it.

This I Believe

Sorting through my drafts box, I found a stranded link to Trang Tran’s This I Believe essay, recounting a stay at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB).

Before CTTB, I had never prayed, meditated, or read a Buddhist text in my life. I distinctly remember the discomfort of being in a new and vastly different environment and the inevitable challenges it brought. Yet, upon reflection, I realize that I have absolutely no regrets about the time between entering and exiting the sacred gates of the monastery. The sentient moments of serenity and sincere connection to mind, body, and spirit that I received resonate far beyond my time spent at CTTB and always will.

It sort of makes me want to visit the next time I find myself in Northern California. Maybe after I check out Rev. Harry and Dr. Scott’s live podcast recording!