Okay, I know the title feels like a continuation of everything before (and it is), but it’s not because I woke up this morning itching to write another Angry Asian Buddhist post. Yesterday a student asked me about what it means to be Buddhist, so I decided to forward her a link to a post from a year ago, “What does it mean to not be Buddhist?” When I did a Google search for this title (too lazy to search my own blog!) the top article happened to be “American Buddhism: What does it mean for people of color?” written by Lama Choyin Rangdrol back in 1998. So you can imagine I was curious.
Below are some thoughts from another writer, from the last century (so to speak), that spoke to me today.
It’s obvious anyone who’s been reading this blog for some time that I’ve got a thing or two to say about Asian American issues in the Buddhist community — and also that this thing or two has changed over time. I spent some time today skimming back over the Angry Asian Buddhist posts, and it was humbling (as in embarrassing) to read my own words. There are some things that I would never write again. And there are some things that I wrote again and again and again…
In reviewing the trail of the Angry Asian Buddhist, I ran across a new comment on an old Tricycle blog post with a link to an even older essay “On Race and Buddhism” by the Zen teacher Rev. Alan Senauke. It may be 12 years old, but it still rings true. I didn’t feel it said anything special up until one line that resonated with me:
Several years ago at a meeting of international Buddhist activists in Thailand I realized that in the first day I had figured out who (among the westerners) was Jewish. And even stranger I realized that all the Jews were doing the same thing and had “signified” to each other. We knew who each other was, and we were more comfortable for it. This, I am sure, is a pattern that goes back through centuries of being ghetto-ized, of being the other. It’s not a genetic thing. I can remember my mother telling me how to watch out for myself. That some people would exclude and threaten me just for being Jewish. It’s so deep that sometimes I find myself looking around the zendo and counting those I think are Jewish. Some of you may find yourself making a similar census. From talking with them, I know that people of color do this.
Sometimes I find myself looking around the zendo and counting those I think are Jewish. Well, he definitely did what I do when I open the pages of Tricycle and start counting the Asians.
Up late due to a car alarm that won’t go off in the neighborhood (and practicing loving kindness with every ounce of my sleep deprived consciousness).
I’m going to try to avoid just ranting about the Buddhist community for once. Last weekend I noticed a lot of talk about Right Speech at the full-moon uposatha. Those teachings plus all this ranting have got me thinking about where the act of complaining fits into the practice of Right Speech. So here’s some rambling about Right Speech…