Why are most western Buddhists white?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby waterchan » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:01 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:And of course western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!


I don't think Western Buddhism has had enough time to develop its own cultural baggage yet. It's only, what, 80 years old?
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:23 pm

convivium wrote: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.


Yes, typically you'll see more of what you're talking about at Mahayana temples, not Theravada. At Japanese zen centers the chanting and culture is Japanese, at a Korean zen center it is in Korean. At a Chinese based temple it is mostly in Chinese with some Chinese culture. But in Theravada, regardless of the color of the participants, the chanting is Pali and the practice is Dhamma-Vinaya.

The Thai Wats do have a Thai lay community supporting the typically all white monks.


And what is wrong with that? There are also numerous temples where the monks are not all white. What difference does that make?

Abhyagiri is an Ajahn Chah based temple. The monks happen to be mostly white. They follow Dhamma-Vinaya as far as I can tell and don't have any irrelevant Asian customs other than perhaps some trivial things like their titles or a few other Thai terms.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby waterchan » Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:44 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:But in Theravada, regardless of the color of the participants, the chanting is Pali and the practice is Dhamma-Vinaya.


Hmm, not in all Theravada. In Burmese Theravada temples, about 40% of the chant is in mixed Burmese and Pali. And some of the Pali is very obscure; there are some core Pali chants which don't seem to come from the Pali canon. Maybe Bhikkhu Pesala can elaborate on those...
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Kare » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:28 pm

convivium wrote: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.


Well, different people are amused by different things. I don't find this blatant racism amusing. The Dhamma is not about the color of your or my skin.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby JeffR » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:30 pm

There are generalizations being made here. The Thai temples I've been to all the monks are Thai, except for one that has an American monk who's been there about a year and at special occasions they'll have visiting Lao monks. They will also chant in both Thai & Pali, depending on the chant (same as English speakers). Lao temples I've been to have Lao and Thai monks. The only Cambodian temple I've been to all the monks were Cambodian.

Ajahn Chah established Wat Pa Nanachat for Farang (whites), so those temples established under it tend to be full of white monks.

The only difference I've experienced is that temples with a lay support of people who've been raised in a "Buddhist culture", tend to participate more for the rewards of community and learning to add some wholesome living to their lives (much the same as most Christian communities I've been to); while temples with a lay support of people who were raised in some other culture and have sought out Buddhism, the lay community tends to be more involved in meditation and a deeper practice of following the teachings of the Buddha.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:01 pm

Kare wrote:Well, different people are amused by different things. I don't find this blatant racism amusing. The Dhamma is not about the color of your or my skin.


Any diversity or equal opportunity initiative starts with the questions like "why is this group not achieving?" or "why is that group taking most of the opportunities?".

If that's blatant racism then a lot of western governments are blatantly racist.

I don't think it's blatantly racist to ask why Buddhism doesn't appeal to sopme sectors of society and what we as Buddhists can do to make it more accessible. This is what I assume the OP is about.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:09 pm

JeffR wrote:Ajahn Chah established Wat Pa Nanachat for Farang (whites), so those temples established under it tend to be full of white monks.


Just a point of correction, he established Wat Pa Nanachat for foreigners. Nanachat means international, not caucasian.

There have been monks of all different nationalities there aand many are not white.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:20 pm

I don't think it's blatantly racist to ask why Buddhism doesn't appeal to sopme sectors of society and what we as Buddhists can do to make it more accessible. This is what I assume the OP is about.
this
Last edited by convivium on Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:25 pm, 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 waterchan » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:21 pm

Kare wrote:Well, different people are amused by different things. I don't find this blatant racism amusing. The Dhamma is not about the color of your or my skin.


Calling it blatant racism is a bit too much. Subtle racism, maybe. Blatant racism would be like "These curry faces should get the hell out of my monastery" or something.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:21 pm

there's a palpable divide between predominantly white monastic communities and predominantly asian monastic communities in america.
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 David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:37 pm

convivium wrote:there's a palpable divide between predominantly white monastic communities and predominantly asian monastic communities in america.


For example . . . ?
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:38 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.
this is one source of explanation for the OP but not only i'm sure. i think all explanations for this phenomenon are either economic or cultural (of course the cultural includes the religious, and nationalistic considerations etc). this raises another problematic to mind, namely of the use of the dhamma for instrumental purposes that perpetuate the system. mindfulness among CEOs... white collar zen -- this is zizek's criticism i posted on here a while ago.
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 9:40 pm

David -
Abhayagiri and Wat Metta vs the local thai temples or the burmese monastery in Austin sitagu. i'm not a buddhist scholar but i'm pretty sure this divide is pretty widely recognized.
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 Virgo » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:10 pm

It appears that because the practice of vinaya is slack in general, most asians are used to slack vinaya since monasteries in their culture are generally slack and more accepting of it, whereas Westerners are mostly looking for stricter vinaya.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Aloka » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:23 pm

Virgo wrote:It appears that because the practice of vinaya is slack in general, most asians are used to slack vinaya since monasteries in their culture are generally slack and more accepting of it.....
Kevin


What is your actual evidence for this ?

.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Virgo » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:36 pm

Evidence?

Only what I have seen. Most monasteries have slack vinaya, that is simply the way it is. And most monasteries are in Asian countries. Therefore, ethnically Asian people are more used to seeing slack vinaya. I have routinely seen Thais ordain in monasteries where the patimokha practice is not ideal, yet they feel they are making much merit. Westerners seem to be more critical about keeping the rules, and tend to only ordain if they can keep the rules strictly. Of course, there are exceptions on both sides...

That is what I have observed.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby culaavuso » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:40 pm

Virgo wrote:It appears that because the practice of vinaya is slack in general, most asians are used to slack vinaya since monasteries in their culture are generally slack and more accepting of it, whereas Westerners are mostly looking for stricter vinaya.


The description of slack vinaya seems to find some support in this thread. Also of relevance, the book that started that thread was written by an Australian monk who seems to prefer stricter vinaya.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Aloka » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:49 pm

Virgo wrote:Evidence?



I am curious because I have only visited monasteries in the west.


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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:19 pm

Aloka wrote:I am curious because I have only visited monasteries in the west.


If you ever visit some in asia you might be shocked then.

Ask any Thai and they'll tell you the vinaya of town monks is not good, at least compared with forest monks. They might also tell you the vinaya of Thai forest monks is not as good as farang forest monks.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Kare » Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:23 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Kare wrote:Well, different people are amused by different things. I don't find this blatant racism amusing. The Dhamma is not about the color of your or my skin.


Any diversity or equal opportunity initiative starts with the questions like "why is this group not achieving?" or "why is that group taking most of the opportunities?".

If that's blatant racism then a lot of western governments are blatantly racist.

I don't think it's blatantly racist to ask why Buddhism doesn't appeal to sopme sectors of society and what we as Buddhists can do to make it more accessible. This is what I assume the OP is about.


I may have misunderstood the meaning of 'blatant'. Sorry.

But I am very surprised to see that this forum obviously allows and condones a discussion based on skin color. I have been here for some years, but now I see that I will have to reconsider. If this really is a forum for racist talk, I seriously doubt it is a forum where I would want to be a member.
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