Why are most western Buddhists white?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby convivium » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:02 pm

And why do white people co-opt irrelevant asian cultural elements in Buddhist communities?
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:42 pm

In a word one of the biggest things preventing more African-Americans from joining Sanghas is: culture. Take a look at this African-American church service:



And compare that to the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!

However, socio-economic class also has a lot to do with it and as more African-Americans come out of poverty, there will be greater participation. I have met several African-American Buddhists, but admittedly most have been middle to upper-middle class.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:54 pm

convivium wrote:irrelevant asian cultural elements


What are the irrelevant asian cultural elements?
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby waterchan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:22 am

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


Be careful with this. Some practices we see as being nothing more than Asian cultural customs can turn out to be valid outward forms of practice.

By the way, thanks for the video, David. I nearly spilled my drink laughing!
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby chownah » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:29 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
convivium wrote:irrelevant asian cultural elements


What are the irrelevant asian cultural elements?

David N. Snyder,
Indeed you have already innumerated many of them, "the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!"
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby culaavuso » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:48 am

According to the article Is Western Buddhism White? most Western Buddhists are of Asian heritage.

Is Western Buddhism White? wrote:As I have made the point before, most Western Buddhists are of Asian heritage. We comprise the majority of Western Buddhism. If you’re talking about white Buddhists (and Lander writes about Americans in particular), then you certainly aren’t talking about most Western Buddhists.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:07 am

chownah wrote:Indeed you have already innumerated many of them, "the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!"


How is noble silence and mindfully eating "irrelevant" [to Buddhist practice] ?
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:09 am

culaavuso wrote:According to the article Is Western Buddhism White? most Western Buddhists are of Asian heritage.


Yes, exactly, which is one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the Western Buddhism term.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:10 am

culaavuso wrote:According to the article Is Western Buddhism White? most Western Buddhists are of Asian heritage.

Is Western Buddhism White? wrote:As I have made the point before, most Western Buddhists are of Asian heritage. We comprise the majority of Western Buddhism. If you’re talking about white Buddhists (and Lander writes about Americans in particular), then you certainly aren’t talking about most Western Buddhists.


I agree. The vast majority of western Buddhists, are, in fact, Asian.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby chownah » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:44 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
chownah wrote:Indeed you have already innumerated many of them, "the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!"


How is noble silence and mindfully eating "irrelevant" [to Buddhist practice] ?

A better question is what makes them relevant.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby pilgrim » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:48 am

chownah wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:
chownah wrote:Indeed you have already innumerated many of them, "the noble silence of sitting meditation, the very quiet and solemn practice we do in sitting meditation, walking meditation, retreats, even the way we eat our food!"


How is noble silence and mindfully eating "irrelevant" [to Buddhist practice] ?

A better question is what makes them relevant.
chownah

My guess would be "The Buddha's instructions". Now, pls :focus:
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:49 am

Ben wrote:I agree. The vast majority of western Buddhists, are, in fact, Asian.


This is true.

Perhaps a better question would be "Why are most western Buddhist meditators white?"
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:53 am

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
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby pilgrim » Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:55 am

OK, why do western sangha call their white teachers by the Thai word Ajahn? Why not use the original Pali Acariya?
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Mar 05, 2014 4:01 am

pilgrim wrote:OK, why do western sangha call their white teachers by the Thai word Ajahn? Why not use the original Pali Acariya?


Okay, that's probably fair enough. That could be considered an irrelevant Asian custom carried over if the participants are all non-Asian in the U.S. for example. They could be called 'teacher' or 'bhante' or 'acariya' but I imagine those monks were ordained in a Thai tradition and it is simply used out of respect for the tradition they hail from.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby waterchan » Wed Mar 05, 2014 8:11 am

pilgrim wrote:OK, why do western sangha call their white teachers by the Thai word Ajahn? Why not use the original Pali Acariya?


Maybe because those white teachers were ordained in the Thai tradition? White monks ordained in the Burmese tradition may be called "Ashin", for example Ashin Ottama. Although that isn't always so, for example in the case of Bhikkhu Pesala.

Then there are monks like Venerable Amarantho who is technically a samanera and has been for over ten years. But he prefers being called by his monastic name, Amarantho, without any prefixes or suffixes.

Ajahn Sujato once said that sometimes his fellow Australians call him "mate". :D

If you're not sure how to address a monk, "Venerable" seems a pretty safe choice.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:12 am

Ben wrote:I agree. The vast majority of western Buddhists, are, in fact, Asian.


That hasn't been my experience in the UK, Ben. Buddhism here seems to be predominantly a white, middle-class interest.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:37 am

Hi Spiny,

Spiny Norman wrote:
Ben wrote:I agree. The vast majority of western Buddhists, are, in fact, Asian.


That hasn't been my experience in the UK, Ben. Buddhism here seems to be predominantly a white, middle-class interest.


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
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:58 am

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.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Kare » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:36 am

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


Why do you find the color of the skin so interesting? Are you a racist?
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