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!
One of the perks of my new place is that I live across the street from Border’s. My 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.
I recently received a late Christmas present from a friend and of all things he could have given me, he gave me a Pocket Buddha, the exact item I wrote about on my ” Buddhism for Sale” post. It comes with a set of stickers and a quote from the Buddha – “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace”. Though a direct product and example of the commercialization of the image of the Buddha, I have to admit that I really like it. It’s cute and a rather dashing ornament to put on my bookshelf. Read more
As a new contributor to Dharma Folk, I am honored to particpate in the discussion of Buddhism through this blog.
As my first post, I have gathered several pictures of Buddhist related products taken while Christmas shopping. It’s always surprising to see Buddhism appearing randomly on t-shirts, in restaurants, as toys, and whatever else people can think of. This “Buddhamania” phenomenon, as the Los Angeles Times calls it, appears everywhere – the Buddha figure seems to be getting more and more popular, though not always in a spiritual context.
I haven’t been giving Phil Ryan enough credit for standing up for Buddhist diversity, both in this recent post and also in comments elsewhere where he points out Tricycle’s recent interview with Daisaku Ikeda. The interview highlights Soka Gakkai, a group that is both very diverse and very underrepresented in mainstream Buddhist media. Good job!
That said, Tricycle is still a bad model of Buddhist diversity. I recently read last issue’s sangha spotlight, “Buddhism By Numbers”, and I was amazed at how seriously (and inaccurately) they quoted the Pew Study. It’s tempting to rehash Scott Mitchell’s arguments, and I went even further and wrote up a list of ways that the Pew’s sampling assumptions and weighted corrections probably skewed the final numbers. But when I tried explaining this to a (Buddhist Asian American) financial analyst, she promptly fell asleep. I needed a sexier idea.
So this is plan two: Tricycle By Numbers.
I spent the last week sick in bed at my Mother’s house, and among the panicked bathroom trips and bubbly fever dreams I clawed at a paperback of some of the dialogs of Plato.
It was a book from a critical writing class I took in community college, from one of my very favorite professors who taught me so much of what I know. It was then, reading Phaedo, that I remembered the story of his own encounter with Buddhism.
My memory betrays whether he was a layperson or a monastic, but his teacher had come to Buddhism directly via the first noble truth. He was a trucker, crisscrossing the country with the lived in experience of his own separation and sorrows and the stories of the hardships of others.
He knew this is suffering. Then, probably through some bookstore somewhere, he found the Dharma.
(Warning: disorganized rant.) Over on the Buddha is my DJ, Yuinen brought up the situtation that many Asian American Buddhists are unaware that there are other types of Buddhists in the United States. Many assume that it’s only people from their ethnic group, whether it be Chinese/Thai/Japanese/etc., who are the only Buddhists in the United States. This is a very real problem that is helped along by the lack of interaction among Asian American Buddhist institutions.
I’ve ranted about the plight of young Asian American Buddhists before. If you want to bring the Buddhist youth community together, the place to start is close to home. For me, that’s with youth groups — whether in high school, college or recently graduated. We may come from many different cultural backgrounds, but current AA Buddhist youth have more in common with Buddhist peers across ethnic/cultural lines than they do with their parents’ institutions. We’re neither here-nor-there, and as we grow up in the context of the American Buddhist community, that means that there are few Buddhist groups that appeal directly to our social background.
Our cultural isolation is set in place by the older established authority. In the temples I frequent, young AAs have little say, and they’re not often steered towards networking with other temples, especially temples from other ethnic groups.
Why is this the case?
Time for a bit of an apology. I'm sorry if you feel that the Angry Asian Buddhist unfairly criticized the Next-Gen Buddhism piece for being white-centric. There was lots of interesting stuff in that article, and I didn't talk about any of it. Over on Shambhala Sun Space, Barry Boyce very kindly links to my post and explains: If I had phrased the whole thing in a subtler–yet somewhat blunter–way, I might have asked, “Is White America’s love affair with Buddhism a fad that will die with the Baby Boomer generation?”
Until I read that line, I hadn't properly understood where the piece was coming from. I thought the article was about young Buddhist Americans, questioning if present institutions are enough to engage them and if these institutions are sustainable. These are the day-to-day questions that I deal with in the Asian American Buddhist community, and I felt that we had something worthwhile to say. So let me tell you where I was coming from.
Back in the 1930’s Christian missionaries sponsored my grandmother for immigration to the United States. My father and his siblings were born here, grew up here, were baptized Roman Catholics and attended the local Catholic school. My father and his brother also won scholarships to Saint Ignatius College Prep. Though they were Asian Buddhists, they were helped along by white English-speaking Christians who had the goodness of heart to reach out to them across racial and cultural lines. It made a difference (and some even stayed Christian).
It’s this kind of spirit that the Buddhist community needs to bridge its cultural and demographic boundaries. I’m not talking about evangelism or buying souls. A significant portion of the Buddhist community here in North America is made up of immigrant Buddhists, virtually all Asian, and many of whom are still in the process of fully adjusting to life in North America. They are the ones who could use a helping hand.
But how to help? I came up with a page full of ways that white Buddhist Americans can reach out to their Buddhist immigrant brothers and sisters. Here are just three.
Many thanks to Dan who posted a link to Making the Invisible Visible in the comments from the Angry Asian Buddhist post. (Another worthwhile article is Stories We Have Yet to Hear: The Path to Healing Racism in American Sanghas by Mushim Ikeda-Nash.) I still have a little bundled up stress from the last post, but reading this booklet was a real weight off my shoulders. You hear this all the time, but I have to say it again: It’s good knowing that I’m not alone.
My Angry Asian post was about how I felt a core demographic of the Buddhist community was being ignored. This core demographic is the next generation of Asian American Buddhists.