Asian Meter with R

I recently bought a new computer, and on this new computer I decided to install OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office. The unintended consequence is that my Asian Meter graphs were no longer rendered the same way. Instead of tinkering around with OpenOffice graphics, I decided to go back to my grad school toolbox and write a script to generate Asian Meter graphs using R. But part of this meant that I had to re-enter my data (long story) and I will probably have to continue fine-tuning my R script. That said, here’s the most recent Asian Meter graph comparing just Tricycle and Buddhadharma (I still have to re-enter the Shambhala Sun data).

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Shambhala Sun Again Tops the Asian Meter

The title says it all. With more bylines and more of these going to Asians, Shambhala Sun retakes its mantle from Buddhadharma. (Yes, I realize that both are publications of the Shambhala Sun Foundation, with many of the same writers and editors.)

Asian Meter

But keep in mind that this measure of inclusiveness is still far below the actual proportion of those in the American Buddhist community who claim Asian heritage. Published every other month, Shambhala Sun appears more frequently than either Buddhadharma or Tricycle, so the figures for the latter two magazines haven’t changed since my last chart. I’ll use a line plot for the next Asian Meter graph…

Wisdom Anthology Meets the Asian Meter

It’s 7:15am in Cambridge, Massachusetts and I’m sitting in the Peet’s Coffee off Brattle Square waiting for some friends to roll out of bed and come grab some breakfast with me. In the meantime, I thought I’d throw up a post about a semi-recent collection of poetry by Wisdom Publications: The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry (2005).

As you might guess, I decided to view this book through the lens of the Asian Meter. How many Asian American Buddhists met the bar for inclusion in this work? I wasn’t surprised to find out that the Wisdom Anthology, at 17% Asian American, fell right in the middle of the other publications that I’d reviewed (The Best Buddhist Writing, 19%; Buddhadharma, 17%; Shambhala Sun, 11%; Tricycle, 8%). But rather than harangue the Wisdom Anthology, as I’ve done for the other publications, I think this is something to be celebrated. Specifically because a quotient of 17% is infinitely more than a certain Buddhist anthology published by Shambhala many years back: Beneath a Single Moon.

Wisdom Anthology Demographic Breakdown

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Finding Those Missing Hawaiian Buddhists

Tricycle printed a letter to the editor from Scott Mitchell that criticized their “Buddhism by the Numbers” piece in the Fall 2008 issue. If you can’t read his whole complaint, it’s also available on his blog. There are four specific issues, but in this post, I’m addressing one in particular:

The exclusion of the Hawaiian population is troublesome for a number of reasons: chief among them the continual marginalization of Hawaii as part of the United States, and the marginalization of Japanese-American Buddhists generally. In other words, these Asian-American Buddhists were literally not counted in this report.

That’s one side of the coin. Here’s an alternative perspective: I imagine that the Pew Study did some internal analysis and concluded on excluding Hawai‘i, since the Aloha State’s unique contribution to the national profile would not have justified the extra contract cost in contacting them. Now I’m not saying that excluding Hawaiians is fair, but it’s worth crunching the numbers to see to what extent the Buddhists of Hawai‘i really do change the national profile.

The Hawai‘i Non-Effect

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Pew Study Doesn’t Add Up

Pew ForumEver since I started making my Asian Meter graphs (here, here and here), I’ve been trying to find a good measure of the proportion of Asians in the Buddhist American community to use as a sort of benchmark. I’ve used two percentages: 32% from the Pew Forum and 80% from David N. Snyder. Both are flawed estimates, but here I’ll just focus on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s Religious Landscape Survey (the “Pew survey” for short).

For the past week I’ve been mulling over two percentages that the Pew survey provided. There is the widely circulated number that 32% of Buddhist Americans are of Asian descent (and not hapa). You can find this in Tricycle‘s Fall 2008 issue. Then there is the less commonly known number, which is ostensibly the flip-side of the first, that 9% of Asian Americans are Buddhist. The problem is that these two numbers don’t add up.

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Asian Meter: Best Buddhist Writing

I realize this must be getting tedious. There is so much more to life than counting the Asians in Buddhist publications. I continue to do this count for two reasons. First, I’m learning how to use Microsoft Excel, and these numbers are fun, simple and original data to work with. Second, there is so much that I learn when I plug these numbers into the charts! For example, it never would have hit me that Tricycle had fewer Asian writers (proportionally speaking) than either Shambhala Sun or Buddhadharma. That bar graph really speaks to me. (Update: I also do this because I think someone should find out what the numbers say.)

Asian MeterThe Best Buddhist Writing data was still lying around on my antique laptop, so I dug it up and dropped it into an Asian Meter graph. Three points jumped out at me. First, there is the obvious fact that even when it comes to The Best Buddhist Writing, the Asian quotient is still under-representative. Second, there are more Tibetan writers than all the other Asians combined. The third point is something that I only discovered after looking at the graph and comparing what I was seeing with the number I had written down in my previous post on these books.

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Buddhadharma on the Asian Meter

This is a boring post, beware. It took a while for the local Borders to stock the most recent issue of Buddhadharma, but they finally did. I am going to just bite the bullet and subscribe to these magazines online. Somewhere, a tree spirit is heaving a spontaneous sigh of relief and doesn’t know why.

Anyway, I now have the third piece to plop into my Asian Meter. I also moved things around a little and added some detail to the graphic. Voilà!

Asian Meter

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Asian Meter

It took me a while to get my hands on the latest issue of Tricycle because they hadn’t restocked it at the Borders across the street. I ended up grabbing a copy at Barnes & Noble downtown. I have plenty of things to say about the issue, such as the Big Sit (I have much good to say) or “Why Buddhism Needs the West” (or: David Loy summons the Angry Asian Buddhist). But I thought of something that would be a little bit more fun. I bring you the Asian Meter.

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Asian Watch

One of the perks of my new place is that I live across the street from Border’s. Shambhala SunMy cold still has not gone away, so after zipping through Trader Joe’s (also across the street), I made a quick swing by Borders, where I noticed that the new issue of Shambhala Sun is out. The Tenth Annual All Buddhist Teachings Issue. (Wow!)

With my newly-bought Shambhala Sun in hand, I zoomed straight to my kitchen, turned on the stove, cooked up some rice porridge (I was inspired by a friend who assured me that shoveling in onions and pepper would smack that cold over to the next life), and then sat down and started counting the Asians.

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Level 8 Buddhist

So there’s this great blog called the Level 8 Buddhist. It was online as recently as yesterday, but it was gone when I logged in to check it out today: “The authors have deleted this blog. The content is no longer available.” It was quite without warning, and I was shocked and am still pretty sad about this. Whether intentional or otherwise, all things are of course ever-changing.

I really thought this was one of the best Buddhist blogs out there, a great resource to many and the heart of some great discussions. The owner had on various occasions mentioned that the effort he put into blogging took away time from his practice. Blogging was also sometimes a little bit stressful. I hope he has much more time on his hands now to practice and spend time with his family.

Now if this deletion happened to be accidental, I hope we get the Level 8 Buddhist back soon!