Why are most western Buddhists white?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby binocular » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:52 am

waterchan wrote:Or we can just ignore that and just get people to tick boxes. That's how the government does it! Whoever ticks the Buddhist box is considered a Buddhist.

Yes, and this appears to be how Buddhism came to be an anything-goes phenomenon.

If we insist on truly valid criteria and only count as Buddhist those who understand the four noble truths, the eightfold path, keep five precepts, have read all the basic suttas, practice jhanas, practice vipassana, listen to Dhamma talks, and take refuge solely in the triple gem, then I doubt you will get a large enough sample space for statistically significant results.

Agreed.

Which is why in these things, I avoid trying to develop some kind of objective image of Buddhism, but instead focus on each personal problem as it comes.

For example, the majority of my experiences with people who claim to be Buddhists have been rather negative and uninspiring. Some people suggest that the solution is to have more contact with more Buddhists. Indeed, this might theoretically help. But it may also be financially impossible for a particular person to go through with that plan. Relying on some distant future when I will be fabulously rich and have a lot of time so I can move from country to country seems just utterly unrealistic. So I think a different approach is necessary.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:34 pm

Correlation should not be dismissed completely and it should not be used to mislead or allow misinterpretation. Not everyone at this forum has had formal training in stats and social sciences and we have to be careful with our words so that it is not misleading or interpreted as racist. See also the following quotes:

Princeton University wrote:"Correlation does not imply causation" is a phrase used in science and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other (though correlation is necessary for linear causation, and can indicate possible causes or areas for further investigation... in other words, correlation can be a hint).[1][2]


https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve ... ation.html

However, sometimes people commit the opposite fallacy – dismissing correlation entirely, as if it does not suggest causation at all. This would dismiss a large swath of important scientific evidence.[20] Since it may be difficult or ethically impossible to run controlled double-blind studies, correlational evidence from several different angles may be the strongest causal evidence available.[21] The combination of limited available methodologies with the dismissing correlation fallacy has on occasion been used to counter a scientific finding. For example, the tobacco industry has historically relied on a dismissal of correlational evidence to reject a link between tobacco and lung cancer.[22]

In conclusion, correlation is a valuable type of scientific evidence in fields such as medicine, psychology, and sociology. But first correlations must be confirmed as real, and then every possible causative relationship must be systematically explored. In the end correlation can be used as powerful evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship between a treatment and benefit, a risk factor and a disease, or a social or economic factor and various outcomes. But it is also one of the most abused types of evidence, because it is easy and even tempting to come to premature conclusions based upon the preliminary appearance of a correlation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlatio ... c_evidence


This is not a meeting of sociologists and anthropologists. And correlation does not automatically imply, but it can and is necessary for linear causation. We must be careful in using our terms, especially since this is not a meeting of social scientists and we do not want to be misunderstood. Any further discussion of correlation and causation should be done at a social science forum and not attempt to mislead anyone here. Any further posts relating to that or misleading posts such as that will be immediately removed. Please stay on topic.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:30 pm

binocular wrote:
waterchan wrote:Or we can just ignore that and just get people to tick boxes. That's how the government does it! Whoever ticks the Buddhist box is considered a Buddhist.

Yes, and this appears to be how Buddhism came to be an anything-goes phenomenon.

It's hardly unique in this sense. The same applies to census data about other religions (or any other aspect of their lives). People just tick the box on the form. There isn't a followup exam on the subject...

:anjali:
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby binocular » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:09 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:I can just imagine a lone black person showing up at an all white, middle class Buddhist group, and all the members going out of their way to make the new person feel "welcomed" and "comfortable" and having exactly the opposite effect.......

Yes ... Sometimes, in an effort not to promote a stereotype, people inadvertedly promote it.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Aloka » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:48 pm

binocular wrote:
lyndon taylor wrote:I can just imagine a lone black person showing up at an all white, middle class Buddhist group, and all the members going out of their way to make the new person feel "welcomed" and "comfortable" and having exactly the opposite effect.......

Yes ... Sometimes, in an effort not to promote a stereotype, people inadvertedly promote it.



I live in a multicultural city and have never experienced this kind of scenario in Tibetan Buddhist or in Theravada groups. People with all kinds of different backgrounds and skin colours just behave 'normally' towards each other.


.
Last edited by Aloka on Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:03 pm

I don't think most people realize how condescending they can be to others different from themselves, not saying everyone does it but I see a lot of it in interracial encounters.
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 cooran » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:07 pm

I live in a western country, Australia. The vast majority of Lay Upporters at Dhammagiri Forest Hermitage are Sri Lankan, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian.

All are generous, friendly and supportive to "western" lay people.

http://www.dhammagiri.org.au/photos.html

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby binocular » Sun Mar 09, 2014 12:23 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:I don't think most people realize how condescending they can be to others different from themselves, not saying everyone does it but I see a lot of it in interracial encounters.

Yes ...
Of course, on the surface, in formal situations, people are mostly polite, in some religious groups, everyone is super nice and everything and there seems to be no discrimination by race or socio-economic standard.
And sometimes, it's not until one finds oneself on the receiving end of a negative stereotype that one begins to notice at all what is going on.

On the other hand, stereotype threat and expecting to be negatively treated on the grounds of a negative stereotype that may be applied to one, can work as self-sabotaging, as self-fulfilling prophecy. However, if others would truly be free of stereotyping others, then one's own behavior, even if it is in line with the stereotype, wouldn't be the cause for being badly treated by others.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Mar 09, 2014 1:42 pm

binocular wrote:We can only speculate how many people there are who do not regularly attend Buddhist groups, but who may otherwise be qualified as Buddhists.


Yes, you're right, though my assumption from experience in the UK is that most people who self-identify as Buddhists will have been to at least one Buddhist group in their "career".
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Jetavan » Sat Mar 15, 2014 2:03 pm

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

I don't think that that is a church service.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Anagarika » Sat Mar 15, 2014 3:02 pm

Jetavan wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:In a word one of the biggest things preventing more African-Americans from joining Sanhas is: culture. Take a look at this African-American church service:
....

I don't think that that is a church service.


I live in Chicago, Illinois USA. Chicago is a racially diverse city, and has as well enormous problems within its lower socio-economic Black communities...daily shootings, gang violence. Some of the children that attend the schools in these communities will say that when they study, or are carrying a book, or speak with correct grammar, they are punished or abused for "acting white." If a bright young Black man or woman can't even find a competent education, how then can something as esoteric as Dhamma finds its way into the hearts and minds of these young people? In the same way, I was watching a video of the announcement of the Higgs Boson discovery, and saw that the audience of physicists was predominately White. How many Buddhist teachers, how many great physicists, doctors, writers, has the world lost in the US Black community due to inner city violence and poor schools?

Buddhism in the west has reached (aside from native born Asians) a largely white audience simply because, IMO, like quantum physics, it is esoteric and challenging. It requires a healthy interactive community charged with intellectual inquiry....something largely missing from communities where street shootings occupy most of the energy each day.

To my mind, there's nothing that is racially predisposing about the Dhamma, and the Dhamma really would be a great antidote to the greed, anger, and delusion existing in communities of any race or ethnicity. Just as people like Fleet Maull have gone into prisons to teach meditation to inmates of all stripes, it will be good to see Buddhism one day identified as a practice without racial or ethnic attachments.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:01 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:How many Buddhist teachers, how many great physicists, doctors, writers, has the world lost in the US Black community due to inner city violence and poor schools?


Neil de Grasse is great! But it does seem that there should have been more African-American physicists and scientists and certainly economics and violence may have played a role in preventing intelligent students from getting ahead in those conditions. My wife and I have started watching his Cosmos series on tv. It is very good.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Anagarika » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:59 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:How many Buddhist teachers, how many great physicists, doctors, writers, has the world lost in the US Black community due to inner city violence and poor schools?


Neil de Grasse is great! But it does seem that there should have been more African-American physicists and scientists and certainly economics and violence may have played a role in preventing intelligent students from getting ahead in those conditions. My wife and I have started watching his Cosmos series on tv. It is very good.


He is exceptional. I note from the wiki that "His mother, Sunchita Marie (Feliciano) Tyson, was a gerontologist, and his father, Cyril deGrasse Tyson, was a sociologist, human resource commissioner for the New York City mayor John Lindsay, and the first Director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited" Together with his formidable intellect, he must have had access to education and experiences that other children of color in inner cities routinely miss out on. The hope is that he will inspire other people of color to study astrophysics, and make it as "cool" as Carl Sagan did for my generation. :) He also refuses to be put into a box as to whether he is an agnostic, or atheist, or not, while rejecting a beneficent god and 'intelligent design." I sense a Buddhist to be....:)
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:53 pm

White children in the same poor inner city neighborhoods don't particularly fair any better. And any advantage they do have is because of the colour of their skin and not their upbringing.
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 Shaswata_Panja » Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:17 am

IMO Most of Western Buddhists SHOULD BE WHITE...Whites have managed to convert many of my fellow Indians to their religion(Christianity)...Its only fair that we should be able to convert and exact number of whites into an Indian Reiligon
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Aloka » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:23 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:IMO Most of Western Buddhists SHOULD BE WHITE...Whites have managed to convert many of my fellow Indians to their religion(Christianity)...Its only fair that we should be able to convert and exact number of whites into an Indian Reiligon


Except the notion of "convert" may not be appropriate for westerners like myself who haven't practiced Christianity, or any other religion to be converted from.

.
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby waterchan » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:33 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:IMO Most of Western Buddhists SHOULD BE WHITE...Whites have managed to convert many of my fellow Indians to their religion(Christianity)...Its only fair that we should be able to convert and exact number of whites into an Indian Reiligon


Ah, retributive proselytism, that's a new one to me.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Mar 16, 2014 3:11 pm

waterchan wrote:
Shaswata_Panja wrote:IMO Most of Western Buddhists SHOULD BE WHITE...Whites have managed to convert many of my fellow Indians to their religion(Christianity)...Its only fair that we should be able to convert and exact number of whites into an Indian Reiligon


Ah, retributive proselytism, that's a new one to me.


:lol:

However, white convert Buddhists came to Buddhism on their own volition. They were not converted by missionaries -- sure they may have met some wise monks from Asia, but only after going to the temple on their own choice. They were not converted by receiving schools, hospitals, basic needs as is sometimes done by missionaries from the former colonial powers who used humanitarianism as a tool to convert.

Shaswata,
Can you at least give us some free tuition to Naropa University or some Buddhist studies programs at a prestigious university? :tongue:
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:25 pm

as much as I can I would fund such study programs when I am well off
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