Why are most western Buddhists white?

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

Post by appicchato » Wed Mar 05, 2014 9:56 pm


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Ben
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by Ben » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:50 pm

convivium wrote:And why do white people co-opt irrelevant asian cultural elements- in Buddhist communities?
I am fascinated to hear more about these "irrelevant Asian cultural elements" from Convivium.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

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chownah
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by chownah » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:39 am

appicchato wrote:
...these people have in fact never even heard of the concept of mindful eating so they do not do it or even know about it..I'm sure that they do not view it as relevant.
How would they, if they are not aware of it?...they might if they (generally speaking) actually studied the (proposed) word of the Buddha...
You are absolutely correct.....if one has not experienced any mention of mindful eating then there will be no view that it is relevant.......this is one example illustrating why I said that relevance is a matter of experience.....without having any experience they don't even consider it at all. Someone might have heard of mindful eating but dismissed it without even trying it.....this is an example of relevance being a matter of views in that for some reason the person hearing about mindful eating has some view which has prejudiced them against even trying it. Someone might have heard of it and tried it but did not see any benefits it it......this is an example of relevance being a a matter of experience and views in that since all of our experiences are influenced by our pre-existing views it seems that the two have interacted in a way which did not give rise to the idea of relevance.

Some people view practice as having a self......that there is some thing which we call practice and that by way of its existence it can be described by qualities such as "relevant" or "not relevant". This is indulging in a doctrine of self......since we all indulge in the self doctrine this way I think it is better that we try our best to develop an idea of self which points the way down the path. I think the concept of relevance has a lot to do with intention so maybe it is better to see that just like intention (kamma) we are each the owners of our own idea of relevance. When we view "practice" as having a self we see it as a collection of physical and mental actions which relate to another self that we call "Buddhism"....maybe it would be better to consider our "practice" to be everything we do and think.....when we see our "practice " in that way it helps to diminish the false self we try to stuff our practice into......when practice is viewed this way it is clear that all actions and thoughts are relevant....or that the idea of relevance vanishes just like the Cheshire Cat with its last vestige being just a smile.........
chownah

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convivium
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:41 am

you might check out this as a entry point, unless you've read the tipitaka and can distinguish what's in it an what's not prima facie.
http://books.google.com/books/about/Wha ... oLAAAAYAAJ
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.
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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convivium
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:52 am

this is the typical racial demographic i see at buddhist monasteries that i've been to in america:
https://www.abhayagiri.org/community/residents
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.
The Thai Wats do have a Thai lay community supporting the typically all white monks.
Buddhism is like tofu. not necessary to have tofu curry or soy sauce/fish sauce just the Tofu; the tofu is what's essential and we can all learn to cook what tastes good to us an get the protein etc. There are some interesting points in this thread that I'll have to come back to read through in more detail. Hope this helps clarify the OP.
Last edited by convivium on Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:53 am, 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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Ben
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by Ben » Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:53 am

Seriously, what are the irrelevant Asian cultural elements.
What are they?
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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convivium
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by convivium » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:02 am

Ben -
I haven't read the Vinaya in full so I can't get into specifics of what's there and what isn't. Shaving eyebrows i'm pretty sure is not in there as a req. for all monks. not sure lay people having to bow to the monks or wear all white to stay at monasteries; again 'what the buddha never taught' is more or less about this in the thai forest context. the zen 'monasteries' i've been to, again, are pretty obviously filled with cultural affectation without people even belonging to the culture present. the Vipassana movement does seem more culturally amorphous. The lay teachers being bowed down to directly (which is not explicitly required if i remember correctly) isn't in there i'm fairly confident...
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

Dinsdale
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by Dinsdale » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:16 am

seeker242 wrote: What reason is there to reject certain elements if they are harmless and irrelevant?
I think tradition is fine providing that it remains useful and relevant, and is clearly explained. And of course western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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appicchato
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by appicchato » Thu Mar 06, 2014 10:35 am

...western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!
In spades... :popcorn:

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tiltbillings
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:15 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
seeker242 wrote: What reason is there to reject certain elements if they are harmless and irrelevant?
I think tradition is fine providing that it remains useful and relevant, and is clearly explained. And of course western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!
For example?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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waterchan
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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?
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 » 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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waterchan
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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...
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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.
Mettāya,
Kåre

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JeffR
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Re: Why are most western Buddhists white?

Post by 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.
Therein what are 'six (types of) disrespect'? One dwells without respect, without deference for the Teacher; one dwells without respect, without deference for the Teaching; one dwells without respect, without deference for the Order; one dwells without respect, without deference for the precepts; one dwells without respect, without deference for heedfulness; one dwells without respect, without deference for hospitality. These are six (types of) disrespect.
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