Asian American Buddhism: Intro (1 Buddhism, 2 Buddhism….)

B-Stars Mid

1 Buddhism, 2 Buddhism, 3 Buddhism…. Four** ?

We went a bit longer than usual because it was an exciting beginning! Some info to augment the video of the class:

Joseph Cheah on a definition of white supremacy used in his book Race and Religion: White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation,  (p. 3) — Also key to this series:

“This term is used in a more all-encompassing and all-inclusive way compared with the specific definitions posited by the likes of George Frederickson and Tomas Almaguer, which describe white supremacy in terms of virulent forms of dominance of whites over nonwhites. A more useful definition of white supremacy, or one that does not negate the less visible, subversive, yet equally damaging forms of white supremacy, is that of Lori Pierce, who defines it as

‘the conscious or unconscious promotion and advancement of the beliefs, practices, values and ideals of Euroamerican White culture, especially when those cultural values are resented as normal.'”

Cheah goes on to say in the same section, “In situations involving the appropriation of Asian Buddhist practices (such as meditation), in particular by Euro-Americans, the ideology of white supremacy becomes a fitting description in which to unfold and unmask power and privilege rooted at the level of white normativity. In other words, as it relates to American Buddhism or a Western arrangement of modern Buddhism, in most instances, white supremacy operates in the United States as an invisible standard of normality for many white Buddhists and sympathizers. The values and attitude of white supremacy are often embodied by many white Buddhists and sympathizers, even if they do not embrace racism as prejudice or discrimination per se…..

Pierce’s definition of white supremacy purposely problematizes the ordinary understanding of racism as a conscious or deliberate form of discrimination by taking into account the larger issues of institutional and systemic racism. To understand Pierce’s definition of white supremacy at a structural level, it is important to evaluate the implications of whiteness in the social, economic, political, and religious arenas….bell hooks provocative essay “Waking Up to Racism” asserts that racism exists eve in avant-garde Buddhist communities:

‘Often white people share the assumption that simply following a spiritual path means that they [white Buddhists] have let go of racism: coming out of radical movements —civil rights, war resistance—in the sixties and seventies and going on to form Buddhist communities, they often see themselves as liberal and marginalized, proudly identifying with the oppressed. They are so attached to the image of themselves as nonracists that they refuse to see their own racism or the ways tin which Buddhist communities may reflect racial hierarchies.'”

And, as referenced in the talk,  later in the same chapter, Cheah’s take on Jan Nattier’s “3 Buddhism,” (p. 16):   “Import Buddhism refers to those from a white, middle- to upper-class background who have both time and money to actively seek Buddhist teachers for the purpose of appropriating certain techniques of Buddhism (such as meditation). Because this form is based on class rather than ethnicity or sectarian affiliation, Natter also describes it as ‘elite’ Buddhism. Export Buddhism refers to groups (such as Soka Gakka) that actively proselytize for new membership in their organizations. Since missionary activity is part and parcel of this groups, Nattier called it ‘evangelical’ Buddhism. Baggage Buddhism denotes immigrant Buddhists whose primary purpose of immigration is not necessarily related to the propagation of Buddhism but to seek better socioeconomic opportunities for their families. Because immigrant Buddhist communities are monoethnic at their inception and are defined primarily by their ethnicity, Nattier called this group ‘ethnic’ Buddhists.

Though Nattier attempted to address the issue of racial hierarchy in American Buddhism when offering her tripartite typology, the word ‘baggage’ is loaded iwth racialized connotations. It gives the impression taht Buddhism as a practice is somehow less integral in the life of immigrant Buddhists because it is transmitted via ‘baggage’ — as opposed to those who sought out Buddhism or propagated it. (As is referenced by Cheah, full descriptions in her own words can be found in The Faces of Buddhism in America, in chapter entitled: “Who Is a Buddhist? Charting the Landscape of Buddhist America,” pp. 189-190).

Here are links to other sites and sources referenced in the talk:

Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF’s) interview with Angry Asian Buddhist blogger Arun

Actual Angry Asian Buddhist link

Be sure to check out “Angry’s”Reading List

Here’s the BuddhaDharma’s (no Asians) article, Making Our Way

Btw, besides Arun’s list, a list of a few Asian American Women Buddhists teachers I came up with off the top of my head :

Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao at LA Zen Center
Mushim Patricia Ikeda at EBMC and elsewhere
Mayumi Oda
Sister Chan Khong at Plum Village
Kamala Masters at Vipassana Metta Foundation

The NYTimes’ The Meaning of Life article in which Dan Harris “hopes to divorce mindfulness from what he calls its ‘cultural baggage.'”

My Got White Rice piece from The Mindfulness Bell, Fall 2000

Also referenced in the talk:
“Sweet and Sour Buddhism” by Victor Soen Hori is from Tricycle, Fall 1994

BPF’s  articles handed out are from their Turning Wheel, Fall 2000 (two of which are very similar to the versions in Making the Invisible Visible, available in “Teachings” on this site)

Not in the talk but related links:
A general timeline of Asian American history in the US

Pertinent to this series and the Intro topic, Our Way

** PS: There’s no “Four” Buddhism, I was just mimicking the phrase, “1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, 4.” Though, we MAY come up with a new term during this course….

And now, the actual talk from class: 

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where the path is available to all