Why are most western Buddhists white?

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
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anjali
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by anjali » Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:30 am

At least in the US, the demographics of the US is going through a major multi-ethnic shift, with whites no longer being the majority race. California is an excellent example of the trend. In California, with a Hispanic majority, I would expect to see more Hispanic Buddhists appearing in various Sanghas, especially as their socio-economic status improves. It would be interesting to see what the demographics of Los Angeles Sanghas are.

culaavuso
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by culaavuso » Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:13 am

anjali wrote:At least in the US, the demographics of the US is going through a major multi-ethnic shift, with whites no longer being the majority race. California is an excellent example of the trend. In California, with a Hispanic majority, I would expect to see more Hispanic Buddhists appearing in various Sanghas, especially as their socio-economic status improves. It would be interesting to see what the demographics of Los Angeles Sanghas are.
This assumes that the Hispanic culture has the same proportion of people looking for a new religion as the rest of the population. Hispanics in California tend to be much more family oriented and often have a stronger loyalty to their existing church than others. If they're happy with their existing church, there's less reason for them to take an interest in Buddhism than there might be for someone who does not have an existing church. This might actually address part of the question from the OP in that adopting a new religion is more likely among populations which are not already satisfied with their existing religion, or among populations that do not have a strong religious affiliation at all.

Around the Los Angeles area, the parisā is often comprised of a majority of some Asian ethnicity. At Thai wats, mostly Thai attendees. At Korean temples, mostly Korean attendees. At Chinese temples, mostly Chinese attendees. Some variations on this theme are some Tibetan temples with mostly Vietnamese attendees, or Zen temples with mostly Caucasian attendees.

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Kusala
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by Kusala » Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:55 am

This might be a good time to reflect on the Vasettha Sutta... http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=329
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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convivium
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by convivium » Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:14 am

if you think what i said is racist then you never took an ethnic studies, sociology or anthropology class in college. internet conversations
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

hermitwin
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by hermitwin » Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:57 am

Why are all western leaders white ?

except obama, who is only half-white.

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Modus.Ponens
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by Modus.Ponens » Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:16 am

Kare wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:Racism is not condoned or tolerated. So far there are not any racist posts in this thread. If anyone sees one, please use the 'report' function.

Simply discussing the issues or cultural differences is not racist.
I agree. Simply discussing the issues or cultural differences is not racist. But the title of this thread is: "Why are most western Buddhists white?" Sorting people into groups based on skin color, is not simply discussing issues of cultural differences. Sorting people according to skin color is racism. You may try to stick any fancy label on it and call it any variant of "...ology", if you like. I even see that it amuses some to do it. But it still is that old-fashioned, ugly racism.

To me, Dhamma has always been about the mind, not about the skin. I am sorry to see that the administrators of this forum have a different view.
Simply because cultural aspects are correlated with skin color. Therefore, if we can explain the difference of attendence as coming from different cultural backgrounds, we can make a reasonable extrapolation to difference of attendence according to skin colour.
"He turns his mind away from those phenomena and, having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' " - Jhana Sutta

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binocular
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:21 am

waterchan wrote:Does the heterogeneity of today's society make any difference, though? Certainly it seems that religions of all kind attract people from all levels of society, especially free services like church. So why should socio-economic class be a factor in people gravitating to free Dhamma talks in Buddhism?
Speaking from personal experience, I think that socio-economic class is a factor.

From what I've come to know in continental Europe, Buddhism is the domain of the solid middle class and upper middle class, white of course.
The socio-economic factor is not something one can overlook.Someone who is below the middle class quickly realises that he or she just cannot get along or keep up with the middle-class and upwards people in the group. Such a person cannot realistically make friends with the other group members, simply because the poorer person doesn't have the means for it.

Of course, the poorer person can still participate in the free or affordable offerings. But it is just not the same as being a "real member" of those groups.
This can be very alienating. One sees that one doesn't really belong, and eventually distances oneself or leaves altogether.


On the other hand, given that Buddhism in Europe is a foreign phenomenon without a lengthy and powerful heritage and social standing comparable to that of the Catholic Church, it is probably indeed possible to maintain any kind of Buddhist establishment only if those who attempt to do so are relatively well off.

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binocular
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by binocular » Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:58 am

waterchan wrote:I don't think there are many, if any studies investigating why most Western Buddhists are white — it's not really a subject of much interest, but it would be interesting for this niche group in this thread.
Of course, for any statistical investigation we would first need to define who exactly can count for "Buddhist", and whether the people who relatively regularly attend Buddhist groups are a representative and sufficient sample of Buddhists in a particular geographic area.

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

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by lyndon taylor » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:06 am

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.......
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, sincerely former monk John

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/

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waterchan
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by waterchan » Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:39 am

binocular wrote: Of course, for any statistical investigation we would first need to define who exactly can count for "Buddhist", and whether the people who relatively regularly attend Buddhist groups are a representative and sufficient sample of Buddhists in a particular geographic area.
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. 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.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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binocular
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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?

Post by DNS » 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?

Post by 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:
Mike

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binocular
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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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Aloka
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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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