Some recent blog posts relating to race and meditation.
A recent post by Scott Mitchell lists “several concerns with the meditation-centric rhetoric of contemporary Buddhism in America.” One of them was written with a sharpness that perhaps only the Angry Asian Buddhist could love: the rhetoric of “meditation is practice” but chanting and other Buddhist practices are “just ritual” perpetuates the notion that white folks are doing something unprecedented in American Buddhism while Asian folks are simply carrying around their cultural baggage.
Several years ago I decided to sit in on Buddhism classes by Dr. Gregory Schopen. I heard legendary stories about his research and personality, so I had to check it out for myself. Those few weeks had a major effect on not just how I see Buddhism, but also on how I viewed academic research in general. One lecture in particular has stuck with me, and this was about “what the Buddha said.”
We Buddhists love to talk about what the Buddha said. Of course, none of us has ever heard the actual words he said. We usually don’t even quote the Pali or Sanskrit words that he’s claimed to have said. For those of us who don’t speak Sanskrit our Pali, we beg our readers to put their trust in our trust of the fellows who translate from the Pali or Sanskrit texts (and their editors). Sometimes we need to elaborate on the meaning of these translated texts, apparently the Buddha’s words don’t always speak for themselves.
Schopen applied this reasoning to Buddhist texts, and did so much more simply. And of course he uses the provocative abbreviation BS for what the Buddha Said.*