Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Is today’s American Buddhism tribal and myopic?

My answer to the question that titles this article is a resounding YES, but I raise the issue, not to bury Caesar or castigate Brutus -- though I WILL get a castigating swat or two in before this blogpost is through, judgmental pundit that I am -- but to raise the discussion.

Buddhism isn’t about only those of us that claim the designation of Buddhist, but about the circumstance of everyone. It’s not as if we were all Hawai’ians and our discussions were about the archipelago where we live, and things narrowly pertaining to we’uns, the surfing, hotel management and telling tourists about what it's like living close to a volcano.

I submit that Buddhism is about suffering. And, I submit that suffering is universal, endured by all humans except a scant few with a vaulting pole in their head or in a far-advanced stage of dementia. And that suffering is a circumstance that waylays cows and dogs and squirrels from time-to-time and a thousand other species of our fellow traveller animals on this big blue whirling planet. Doesn’t our concern reach out to all of them?

Just as massive air pollution that emanates from here in the US affects the world, suffering all over the world HAS TO affect us, involve us and concern us. And yet, American Buddhists’ interests in the world [at least, when we see ourselves in the narrow category of “American Buddhist” is focused on Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other nations that have significant Buddhist populations. Why is this?

Is the circumstance of a Buddhist suffering of a different order of misery that we should favor it at getting our keen attention, as opposed to the misery of non-Buddhists? Basically, are we all here just to look after the tribe? Is our spiritual maturity that ill-advanced? In other words: Are we all just yahoos (in the Swiftian, not online, sense) on this freakin wayward bus we call earth?

“Our” magazines and some of the buddhoblogs that discuss issues of worldwide significance talk about Buddhism, as well they should and must, but not in the context of suffering soldiers In Afghanistan near Pakistan. Why is that? JUST because there are no Buddhists to frame the story?

Sebastian Junger wrote this tremendous book, WAR, that ventures far afield to a place where intensity and fear and courage are most extreme. Isn’t Buddhism there, no matter that self-proclaimed Buddhists aren’t? Shouldn’t the farthest places be within our reach -- from the heights of heaven to the pits of hell?

Must we go to India or Nepal to find Buddhism? Don’t you think the fount of Buddhism is already close by, and if we don’t know that it is close by and everywhere [and not especially so in those "special" places], haven’t we lost it?


  1. Does it have to be either/or? Either I am taking care of the tribe or I am concerned about the whole world? If I am expressing a concern for Buddhists in Tibet, does that necessarily mean I have no concern for [affiliation unspecified] individuals in Afghanistan?

    1. 敬爱的佛教信土:

      最近, 在网络上看了PHRA PIYATHAMMO和尚和马华公会鸱唛区主席叶金福(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak)律师的双方信件, 使我的内心久久不能平伏, 良心受到很大的譴責, 不吐訢不痛快, 所以我要誠恳的説:他叶金福(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak)侓师叫外来的流流氓到三宝寺(暹廟)挑衅和尚打架及电招警方人员扣捕沙彌, 其嘲笑手法, 不外是要显示其权力, 而鞏固其职位, 以达到权力就是一切, 好让住持难堪, 自动離开, 方便行事……这种举动, 已间接的表逹其含意, 住持和尚兼顾问, 都无能为力,你们这些信徒能做什么?即使告马耒西亜佛教总会又能为难什么?这种心态, 的硧令人反感, 不是一个正信佛教者应有的行为。

      至今, 三宝寺的理事成员多数是其親戚, 这是实事, 加入会员需交RM100元费用,同时,必须经过叶金福(Yip Kum Fook)律师的同意,否则免談, 所以会员也不多。

      马华公会鹅唛区主席叶金福(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak)律师,自控制三宝寺之後,把三宝寺(暹廟)当着私人產業,聘用和尚賺钱,利用佛教的道地为政治活动埸所,而处理三宝寺的钱财也不透明?这点,值得信众追问。马来西亚地擴人多,和尚也不缺乏,为什么不用本地和尚当任住持化缘,却偏偏劳心劳神,浪费签证费,交通费? 还要烦劳梹城佛总的推荐信, 向文化不同, 而語言又不通之千哩外囯缅旬和尚求助? 为什么….为什么? 只要我们用头脑想一想,便一日了然, 不必晝虎添足。

      叶金福(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak )律师说:欢迎任何人如有意见,可以电话03:62762369/0122039700 Email: YIPKUMFOOK@HOTMAIL.COM 戓到其马华公会鹅唛区会甲洞三宝寺及以下地圵:NO.2,B JALAN 53 TAMAN DESA JAYA KEPONG 52100 SELANGOR, MALAYSIA.討論, 我要老实的提醒大家, 最好不要一个去見他, 因为这个人狡滑, 笑裡藏刀, 很阴险, 出家人都不放在眼裡, 連TAMAN DAYA 52100 KEPONG, KUALA LUMPUR. 众人的印度廟也敢放火燒, 利用权势把场地佔为己有, 由此可见, 他是何等的心毒? 还有现在三宝寺内, 各处都按裝计孔监视来人一举一动。

      目前, 三宝寺很多信徒及当地居民, 已经对叶金福(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak )律师不满, 但也不能做什么。他计划把三宝寺主席的职位轉给其子YIP JIUN HANN律师, 续承皇朝. 想近一部了觧詳情, 可上网得知。

      再说, 根据前理事在网络上给叶金福(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak)律师的批評, 説他懂得包裝自己的道德守则, 以宗教为幌子手, 到处募款, 啇業经营, 政治活动为重, 并没依循佛教守則行事, 也没对人道作出貢献, 只不过借三宝寺宗教之名捞取权和私利而己, 其言也不为过, 是实事。

      在此, 我恳切希望, 廣大的佛教信仰者, 给予关注, 并共創義举, 弘扬佛教. 谢谢。

      Mr Lim Sok Chia敬啟
      Ms Yap

  2. All the Dharma is right here in front (around, in, beside) you. It's all you'll ever need. That's your teaching.

    Your job, as you learn, is to give back to the world wherever you find it --- under your feet or the other side of the planet.

    So these two don't conflict. One is how we learn the other is how we act.

  3. I am very new to Buddhism, & am only beginning to learn about it's teachings & history. I do not call myself a Buddhist, only say that I practice Buddhism - because I'm not sure that I qualify as a Buddhist! As I learn the teachings, I try to 'practice' them in my daily life, & showing concern & compassion for all beings is certainly a part of that practice. It may be because I'm so new, but I have never limited my concern for the suffering of others to only Buddhists - or even to humans, so the question you pose is a little surprising to me.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Re Barbara's comment: Yes, we can best learn in a kind of seclusion before we mature in our practice and venture into the marketplace. I would say -- and you may not disagree -- that the marketplace is the macro-space, the LARGE sphere of interactions. And yet, I would maintain, and it is the intended message of this post, that we tend to remain within the tribe. And what this inculcates within us a backwards, immature, unventuresome tribal attitude.

    star: I would maintain that tribalism brings with it a sort of conceit that divides US and OTHER, losing the fullest sense of "shared suffering." Certainly, we can focus on something less than the whole of the world, and we must to 'know what's small,' but giving a priveledged status to Tibet or Thailand, et al, makes us advocates for "a side" in suffering, when suffering has no sides.

    Anon: Perhaps I should say that American Buddhists tend to limit their focus to Tibet, et al, and we start to fail to see Buddhist principles as universal. American Buddhist blogs, magazines etc, when looking at worldwide issues certainly seem to look only where Buddhism is being practiced. I think that is a many-layered mistake.

  5. Buddhism is alive and abstaining from kicking in Amman, Lagos, Baghdad, Pretoria, Beijing, Wichita and yes, even here in Jerusalem. Why would anyone think otherwise? We all believe that Buddhism has universal principles to offer. And we all belong (in varying degrees of commitment) to other tribes as well as the Buddhist one. From where I sit, Buddhists look a lot less myopic than the tribes surrounding them.

    Like my college friend Bruce used to tell me, "If you can't find nirvana in Indiana, you better forget about Tibet."

  6. Dan: Wow, I like the sentiment of your friend Bruce! "If you can't find nirvana in Indiana, you better forget about Tibet."

    And that IS the point. If we are "selective" about where we see suffering, the universality of it gets lost.

    We only 'save' Tibet if we save the world. If we are stinting, then the whole project goes out the door.


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