I’m writing today’s post as a white male American Buddhist. I shouldn’t introduce myself as a privileged white Buddhist, though. Not because it’s unfair—but simply because it’s redundant.
To be clear, my privilege didn’t come as some sort of elite pedigree. My family lived in the urban projects, neither of my parents held a college degree, and I didn’t spend much of my childhood getting to know them because they both worked more than full-time jobs to cover the bills. My Jewish immigrant progenitors weren’t colonists, settlers, politicians or plantation owners. They were persecuted refugees who didn’t come here until long after the turn of the twentieth century—where, overworked, they continued to endure prejudice and discrimination—and they voted Democrat and Civil Rights all the way. But my white privilege runs even deeper. I am privileged by the very fact that I’m a white American dude.
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).
I usually get to bed well before midnight so I can wake up at 5am, meditate, and go to the gym before work. But tonight a friend called me around 10:30pm, and we talked for about half an hour, after which I wasn’t able to fall back asleep. Next to my bed was a copy of Don’t Look Down on the Defilements by Sayadaw U Tejaniya, a gift to me from one of his Dharma brothers.
I sat up in my bed and started reading through it. It’s a good book, and I especially appreciate it’s simple and friendly style of writing. Of course, I decided I wanted to post about it. Online, I found that Sayadaw U Tejaniya has his own website with many of his teachings and in multiple languages. You can also find Don’t Look Down on Defilements there too. He even posted his interview from the Tricycle Winter 2007 issue.
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!
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.
The Buddhists in North America referred to as “convert Buddhists” — those who did not inherit it as a part of their ethnic background — are largely baby boomers. Are enough younger people coming up through the ranks to sustain healthy Buddhist communities? Thus begins the article Next-Gen Buddhism: The future of Buddhism in a post-baby boomer world in the current issue of Buddhadharma.
Buddhism in America is headed for exciting times, agreed the four esteemed participants — Sumi Loundon Kim, Rod Meade Sperry, Iris Brilliant and Norman Fischer. They discussed the separate communities of formal convert Buddhists and casual Buddhists-by-affiliation. Also mentioned were emerging trends, such as a need for innovation, the hunger for engaged Buddhism and the mixture of Buddhism and modern technology. But what did they not mention?
Asians. In fact, the esteemed moderator Barry Boyce makes clear from the outset that he just doesn’t want to talk about Asian Buddhists. He wants to talk about the Buddhists “who did not inherit it as a part of their ethnic background.” In other words: not Asians.
For the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of difficulty keeping meditation at the top of my priorities. Even when I manage to sit every day, my mind has been more agitated than usual. Then the other day, I had a moment that brought me back to the stories of Lord Buddha that I learned when much younger — and this reminded me of an article I read in Buddhadharma.
(I also hope this shows that I really mean it when I say that I appreciate Buddhist magazines, no matter how much I criticize them!)
The Fall 2008 issue of Buddhadharma contained a forum with Glenn Wallis, Judy Lief and Ari Goldfield. The topic was: “Do You Believe in Miracles?” (with the subtitle, “Debating the Supernatural in Buddhism”). I picked up this article during a break at the office some weeks ago, and I remember feeling numb while reading. While deities and ghosts were all a part of my upbringing, I didn’t have any opinion about what these stories meant, or whether I should believe in the “supernatural.” For me the notions existed at one time and then went away, much in the way people let go of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy come a certain age. So it was strangely both deeply interesting and a little boring to follow this epistemic debate about devas, spirits and monks walking through mountains.