Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just say no to "American Buddhism"?

9th century fresco from the Bezeklik grottoes ...
9th century fresco from the Bezeklik grottoes near Turfan, Tarim Basin, China. The person to the left is an European/Western Asian trader or monk (distinguishable by his red hair and full beard and face), to the right an East Asian buddhist monk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've been coming across criticisms of the mostly white/upper middle class Buddhism of American bookstore shelves, magazines, and Dharma centers for years. This is often coupled with a criticism of an over-emphasis on Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and Vippasna and their meditative elements. It is also sometimes accompanied by complaints such as unnecessary secularization, over-simplification, a neglect of Asian-American Buddhist communities, and commodification.

If you are curious about these criticisms, whether or not you find them valid, Angry Asian Buddhist is a good resource for the neglect of Asian Americans, and The Zennist argues forcefully against the secularization trend. Discussion of the other issues are spread throughout the Buddhist Blogisphere.

But I have yet to come across a criticism as blunt and unapologetic as found at buddhafolk:

Recently in media by Buddhist orientated sites online and in print through Tricycle, Buddhadharma, and Shambala Sun much has been made about the national form that Buddhist followers should or as they assume will eventually take in the USA.

Their Protestantism of Buddhism or rather a sanitizing or erasing/rewriting of Buddha’s history and rejection of what they identify as irrelevant to modern Americans today.  This means all the ethnic Buddhists from Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Korea, India, Tibet, Nepal, Indonesia, Phillipines, Malaysia or other American countries or Europe are to be cleansed and shunned from Americans or American Buddhists as it starts with white men who are protestants who already rejected the catholics because they have monks and nuns… or maybe they are jewish who didn’t like christians at all and or even those who prefer to embrace every oddball newly created religion and market it.


This sanitizing of Buddhism is wrong.  It is a symptom of lack of effort and study of Buddha dharma.  It’s rote repetition of wrong teachings based on fear of loss of their own leadership due to aging and somehow they must keep their flame alive and make a historical memory so their efforts don’t seem wasted to others.  The fact of the matter is the hippies are old and their start into Buddhism was filled with false intentions, most are failed monks and they are damn mad that people did not support them when they were innocents in robes, so they formed their careers by damning the robes and those that wear them.  All of them… look up the writers for yourself in the rags, tricycle, shambala sun, buddha dharma, the big 3 have featured all white… and all secular people claiming to be experts and leaders of Americans ‘cuz they failed to be monks.
There are other issues woven into the full post, but this is fairly representative of the content and tone. Are these issues boiling under the tranquil surface of American Buddhism, or is this an outlier view? And in either case, what do you make of the complaints? What do you find valid in the critique?

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