Why are most western Buddhists white?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:48 am

One might as well ask, “Why are most people racially prejudiced and ignorant?”

Some results from a survey on world literacy rates

Swedish professor Hans Rosling is poking fun at the British, but the results of such surveys among other populations would likely be just as wrong. It seems that if you don't have the facts, just ask some chimpanzees to get the best estimate! :stirthepot:
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby plwk » Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:11 am


It's almost universal, no? :tongue:
And why do white people co-opt irrelevant asian cultural elements in Buddhist communities?
I hope you have better luck in getting this answered as I have failed when I was a Christian wondering why are East Asian/S.E Asian/South Asian churches in the earlier days of evangelism co-opting 'white' cultural stuff in liturgy and everything else...
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If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby waterchan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:18 am



That was an amazing presentation! And the graphics and sound effects were very well done.

"My name is Hans Rosling, I'm a statistician and... NONONONO DON'T SWITCH OFF!"

Haha!
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:01 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Ben wrote:Do you think that is because it is just the Buddhism that you have been exposed to is mainly a white, middle-class interest? My comment above is that the vast majority of western Buddhists are in fact Asian - and living in Asia.
Kind regards,
Ben


I assumed we were talking about Buddhists in western countries like Europe and North America. I can only really speak about the UK from first-hand experience.


Hi Spiny,
The history of Buddhism since the colonisation of South and southeast Asian countries in the 18th Century is fascinating. Buddhism was, and continues to be transformed by contact with the west.
If you are interested, a couple of books that I can recommend:
Eric Braun's Birth of Insight: Burmese Buddhism, Modernism and the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw, and
David McMahan's The Making of Buddhist Modernism.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
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but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby barcsimalsi » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:16 pm

plwk wrote:
It's almost universal, no? :tongue:

Well, at most we only got 3 Yakkas dancing in front of Buddha’s statue.


Once upon a time,
…while exchanging friendly greetings, arranging beddings, putting away bowls and robes, they made much noise. The Blessed One addressed venerable ânanda: 'ânanda, who are those making such a noise, like fishermen hauling a catch of fish'…

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:29 pm

convivium wrote:And why do white people co-opt irrelevant asian cultural elements in Buddhist communities?


Seems to me because if they practice in an asian tradition, the cultural elements come with the tradition. And no good reason to reject them since they are mostly harmless anyway. What reason is there to reject certain elements if they are harmless and irrelevant?

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby chownah » Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:42 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
pilgrim wrote:My guess would be "The Buddha's instructions". Now, pls :focus:


Yes, the Buddha's instruction (and this is on-topic, see the OP).

See: http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=379

Great, thanks for the reply. I guess it seems that you recognize mindful eating (for example) as something that the Buddha taught and so you recognize its importance to your Buddhist practice and I suppose you at least sometimes practice it and so you see its benefit and this reinforces your view that it is relevant. On the other hand many Buddhists in my neighborhood do not recognize mindful eating as something taught by the Buddha and these people have in fact never even heard of the concept of mindful eating so they do not do it or even know about it. Would you say that mindful eating is relevant to their Buddhist practice?......I'm sure that they do not view it as relevant.
This is why I suggested asking why something is considered relevant to Buddhist practice........seems the answer is that it is a matter of experience and views......I guess.......don't know for sure.........
chownah

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby lyndon taylor » Wed Mar 05, 2014 7:56 pm

Maybe because most of what we think of as westerners are white????
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby appicchato » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:34 pm

...these people have in fact never even heard of the concept of mindful eating so they do not do it or even know about it..I'm sure that they do not view it as relevant.


How would they, if they are not aware of it?...they might if they (generally speaking) actually studied the (proposed) word of the Buddha...
Last edited by appicchato on Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby gavesako » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:36 pm

Gentrifying the dharma: How the 1 percent is hijacking mindfulness
As big corporations embrace meditation, some Buddhists fear their religion's being co-opted by elites

Buddhism first came to the U.S. with Japanese and Chinese immigrants. It enjoyed a brief period of popularity among urban elites around the turn of the century, but the current wave of convert popularity began in the 1960s. Today there are about 3 million to 5 million Buddhists in the United States, about 70 percent of whom are Asian-Americans. The remaining 30 percent tend to be white, middle-aged, highly educated and solidly middle to upper class.

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/05/gentrif ... ndfulness/
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby appicchato » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:56 pm


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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:50 pm

convivium wrote:And why do white people co-opt irrelevant asian cultural elements- in Buddhist communities?


I am fascinated to hear more about these "irrelevant Asian cultural elements" from Convivium.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby chownah » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:39 am

appicchato wrote:
...these people have in fact never even heard of the concept of mindful eating so they do not do it or even know about it..I'm sure that they do not view it as relevant.


How would they, if they are not aware of it?...they might if they (generally speaking) actually studied the (proposed) word of the Buddha...

You are absolutely correct.....if one has not experienced any mention of mindful eating then there will be no view that it is relevant.......this is one example illustrating why I said that relevance is a matter of experience.....without having any experience they don't even consider it at all. Someone might have heard of mindful eating but dismissed it without even trying it.....this is an example of relevance being a matter of views in that for some reason the person hearing about mindful eating has some view which has prejudiced them against even trying it. Someone might have heard of it and tried it but did not see any benefits it it......this is an example of relevance being a a matter of experience and views in that since all of our experiences are influenced by our pre-existing views it seems that the two have interacted in a way which did not give rise to the idea of relevance.

Some people view practice as having a self......that there is some thing which we call practice and that by way of its existence it can be described by qualities such as "relevant" or "not relevant". This is indulging in a doctrine of self......since we all indulge in the self doctrine this way I think it is better that we try our best to develop an idea of self which points the way down the path. I think the concept of relevance has a lot to do with intention so maybe it is better to see that just like intention (kamma) we are each the owners of our own idea of relevance. When we view "practice" as having a self we see it as a collection of physical and mental actions which relate to another self that we call "Buddhism"....maybe it would be better to consider our "practice" to be everything we do and think.....when we see our "practice " in that way it helps to diminish the false self we try to stuff our practice into......when practice is viewed this way it is clear that all actions and thoughts are relevant....or that the idea of relevance vanishes just like the Cheshire Cat with its last vestige being just a smile.........
chownah

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:41 am

you might check out this as a entry point, unless you've read the tipitaka and can distinguish what's in it an what's not prima facie.
http://books.google.com/books/about/Wha ... oLAAAAYAAJ
i agree i should have qualified this post with 'why are most meditators (e.g. vipassana, shikantaza, etc) white.. or why are most communities that in a sense center around meditation white. it's a sociological question. i'm amused that you'd see it as a racist question.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:52 am

this is the typical racial demographic i see at buddhist monasteries that i've been to in america:
https://www.abhayagiri.org/community/residents
Tassajara, and Wat Metta also only had white monks when I was there. At Tassajara (I realize this is a Thera. thread) there are many layers of Japanese affectation, from the architecture and alters to the chanting in Japanese. I've never seen more than one Japanese at a time there.
The Thai Wats do have a Thai lay community supporting the typically all white monks.
Buddhism is like tofu. not necessary to have tofu curry or soy sauce/fish sauce just the Tofu; the tofu is what's essential and we can all learn to cook what tastes good to us an get the protein etc. There are some interesting points in this thread that I'll have to come back to read through in more detail. Hope this helps clarify the OP.
Last edited by convivium on Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Ben » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:53 am

Seriously, what are the irrelevant Asian cultural elements.
What are they?
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:02 am

Ben -
I haven't read the Vinaya in full so I can't get into specifics of what's there and what isn't. Shaving eyebrows i'm pretty sure is not in there as a req. for all monks. not sure lay people having to bow to the monks or wear all white to stay at monasteries; again 'what the buddha never taught' is more or less about this in the thai forest context. the zen 'monasteries' i've been to, again, are pretty obviously filled with cultural affectation without people even belonging to the culture present. the Vipassana movement does seem more culturally amorphous. The lay teachers being bowed down to directly (which is not explicitly required if i remember correctly) isn't in there i'm fairly confident...
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:16 am

seeker242 wrote: What reason is there to reject certain elements if they are harmless and irrelevant?


I think tradition is fine providing that it remains useful and relevant, and is clearly explained. And of course western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby appicchato » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:35 am

...western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!


In spades... :popcorn:

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:15 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
seeker242 wrote: What reason is there to reject certain elements if they are harmless and irrelevant?


I think tradition is fine providing that it remains useful and relevant, and is clearly explained. And of course western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!
For example?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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