Why are most western Buddhists white?

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

Post by waterchan » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:15 pm

David N. Snyder wrote: That is fine, but you can't make the cause sound as if it is skin color when it clearly is not. It is obviously culture, socioeconomic status and other factors, nothing to do with color.
Of course, David, the cause is not skin color, we all know that. I don't recall ever using the word "cause" in this thread, and I wish people would stop equating correlation to cause. But as it has been pointed out,

strong correlation between skin color and ethnicity
plus
strong correlation between ethnicity and X

automatically implies a strong correlation between skin color and X.

I'll repeat again so that everyone understands: correlation does not imply causation, and correlation has nothing to do with cause. Drop the mental association between the words "correlation" and "cause".
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:17 pm

Hi David,

It's not clear to me exactly what your objection is. It's a fact that in may countries, including my own, people of some races/skin colours/ethnic groups/however-you-want-to-do-the-classification/ do worse at certain tests. It's not racist, it's a measurable correlation. That's a matter of concern that I, for one, am keen to address because it's not good for my country.

The causes of these correlations are, of course, complex, and fixing the problems is not a trivial matter. It will take generations...

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

Post by DNS » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:26 pm

Yes, that is fine; as long as it is understood that the color is not a causation. I just want to make that clear. There have been some objections that just having this discussion is racist and want to make sure that this discussion remains on track and not misunderstood, that is all. It is clearly culture and other factors.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:34 pm

Yes, it's clear that colour/race is not causation. However, in some cases (such as in apartheid-era South Africa) there were some rather strong causal factors: being black automatically meant completely different treatment.

The same applied/applies, to a lesser extent, in many other countries, including my own.

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

Post by waterchan » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:35 pm

It seems we are mostly in agreement that this discussion is not racist by nature.

Soooooooo... going back to the topic,
David N. Snyder wrote: 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.
Are you sure socio-economic class has a lot to do with whether one is attracted to the Dhamma or not? Did most of the Buddha's disciples come from a particular caste?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by DNS » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:38 pm

waterchan wrote: I'll repeat again so that everyone understands: correlation does not imply causation, and correlation has nothing to do with cause.
It can if a statement is made without qualifications. That is why it is important to discuss the factors and to show what is true and what is spurious. The correlation can be made by other factors which can and should be mentioned.

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by DNS » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:40 pm

waterchan wrote: Are you sure socio-economic class has a lot to do with whether one is attracted to the Dhamma or not? Did most of the Buddha's disciples come from a particular caste?
We are not discussing practitioners from the time of Buddha. We are talking about a much more heterogeneous society that we have in modern times.

During the time of the Buddha, participants didn't need to pay thousands of dollars to attend a one week retreat, for example (plane fares, time off work, cost of the retreat, dana for the teachers, etc.).

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waterchan
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by waterchan » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:49 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
waterchan wrote: Are you sure socio-economic class has a lot to do with whether one is attracted to the Dhamma or not? Did most of the Buddha's disciples come from a particular caste?
We are not discussing practitioners from the time of Buddha. We are talking about a much more heterogeneous society that we have in modern times.
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?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by DNS » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:52 pm

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 Buddhism?
I think you responded while I was editing my post, when I was adding this to my post above:

During the time of the Buddha, participants didn't need to pay thousands of dollars to attend a one week retreat, for example (plane fares, time off work, cost of the retreat, dana for the teachers, etc.).

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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by DNS » Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:55 pm

Speaking generally of course; when people are consumed with most of their time on economic issues and how they are going to pay rent, mortgage, put food on the table; generally don't go out examining other religions and tend to stick with their birth-religions if they have any at all. (of course there are exceptions, but in general this is the case)

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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.

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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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