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alex yewa

Well pointed out. I will try to write on this issue too. I am very pleased to have met your blog. I will try to creat a blog too. I am from Angola, Africa. All the best!

chalip

Hello Alex. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! If you do write on this issue and/or start a blog, please let me know.

Tom Armstrong

I haven't read Choyin Rangdröl's books, but based on his website, there is clearly a lot of chaff there -- and perhaps little or nothing that is meaningful.

The racial identities of the founders of Buddhism are absolutely of no consequence. I do wonder if Rangdrol's ideas are tongue-in-cheek. While it is true that the Indian peninsula separated off from the continent of Africa in the extreme distant past, it is also true that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE, except as it relates to current-day prejudice and the carried-over burden of injustice. As antropologist Charles Keyes says, "Race does not exist; racism does exist." [See http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/kman/the_idea_of_race.htm ]

I am a little intolerant of the idea that American Buddhist centers are hotbeds of racism -- a charge that pops up now and again, overtly or on the sly, as I think we all know. While I certainly don't have data to prove things either way, I have become either arrogant enough, or old enough, to suppose that I understand how people think.

Rednecks do not gravitate toward Buddhism. Buddhism in America attracts a variety of folks, many of whom are shy and sensitive and aren't easily comfortable with people from a perceived quite different background. Buddhism is also chichi cool such that many youngish folks with upscale suburban backgrounds join the fold. There are also JooBoos, Jewish Buddhists, who don't mix much with black Americans.

I think that Buddhism in America has a problem with being shy and ignorant, not racist.

Angel

"We don't need to extrapolate anthropological connections to make our connection to the Dharma more real or substantial than it already is. Let's not make Buddhism an African thing, an Asian thing, a thing for middle-class White Americans, a Black thing, or any other thing that does not embrace or celebrate everything."

Thank you so much for making this point! Unfortunately, as W.E.B. DuBois pointed out many years ago, here we are still at the fault line of color and race. I am always curious about (and troubled by) the need for people (specifically African Americans) to make such anthropological connections. I have to wonder if it is rooted in oppression -- if people who have been oppressed or feel oppressed have a need to claim something as their own in order to create (or at least feel) some sort of self-legitimacy. It's troubling to me because it is so completely antithetical to dharma teachings. I've been studying for about four years now and though I haven't given myself the label "Buddhist" I certainly feel more at home in the dharma teachings than I ever did in the Christian church. I am hesitant, however, to share my buddhist perspectives with my family and friends. To them, it is "a white thing" and a "false religion." Knowing many of them, they'd be ready to call an intervention.

Anyhow, thank you for stopping by my site.
I'm enjoying yours immensely and am thankful to you for sharing such valuable resources.

In Peace,
ANGEL

chalip

Tom and Angel... Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

Tom, it would be more appropriate for me to say that I'm skeptical of the claim that American Buddhist centers are hotbeds of racism. As I mention in the "About" page on this site, I can only speak to my own experience.

When I read what people have to say about why African Americans visit dharma centers but don't end up staying, I have my own opinions about why that is so. In my opinion, racism is not a prevailing or significant issue.

Angel, I think you may be on to something. There seems to be some need driving these anthropological arguments. Insecurity? Perceived oppression? Perhaps. At the root of it, I see a need to prove the contribution, worth, legitimacy, and staying power of Africans and their descendants. I just wish those that feel a need to do that would point more to our present than they do to our past.

I understand the value of studying and appreciating Black History. I think one of the biggest problems I have with our community is our tendency to look to the past for empowerment when what's happening right now is what's building our future.

friendly dragon

There is a West African proverb 'No one has to show a child the sky.' I learn a lot from children. Once visiting in Vermont met a 4 year-old called Roshi. He was stark naked, a red head with many freckles, delighted to share his knowledge of gardening. His parents had just put seeds in the ground, which he cautioned should NOT be disturbed. Patience. Not dig them up every minute to ascertain whether they were germinating. [Cautionary tales for those cultivating bodhicitta]. En passant he observed I must have spent a lot of time in the sun because my freckles had all merged while his were spotted. As if it was a most normal query he wanted to know 'what' I had been 'before' - confessing he had been a 'ferocious lion'. He fetched paper and charcoal and invited me to draw his portrait in that form. We related as if we were old friends. I had not met him before. His parents told me he talked about me for months afterwards. On a subsequent encounter he demanded with considerable chagrin, to know why I had not visited him again, and to make sure, drew for me directions to his house. It seemed his body had inscribed a physical memory map of the path complete with speed bumps, pot holes, forks in the road etc. We had played together and I taught him the limerick 'There was a young one of Peel, who said that Pain is not Real, for when you sit on a pin and it punctures your skin, you Imagine the discomfort you feel." as we nipped and pinched each other like lion cubs.
It appears it is not uncommon for children to have memories of past lives. Not my own memory, but my mother recounts 'fantastic' tales I told as a young child about 'when I was big'. I do recollect much preferring the company of adults who treated me as an equal, as Roshi did with me.
I do vividly recollect the first time I consciously told a lie; I was about 3 and had run away from home. It foreshadowed my life path - still a nomad and with no allegiance to 'good'. Its awesome to think that Dharma is accessible to the very young. Remember finding meaning - was read to before I could read myself and knowing by heart stuff like 'There was a young one who said though, I know that I know, I would like to see, the 'I' that knows me, when I know that I know that I know.'
Thanks to Belloc, Milne and Lewis Carol was exposed to notions of open mind, how not to be deceived by appearances, or fixate on form or fixed identities or reference points, delighting in the 'play' of the mind. A maturing appreciation for the co-emergent sense in nonsense.
Reading the Science and Life Series of Conversations of the Dalai Lama with scientists - on the nature of Mind and Consciousnes - delved into Ian Stevenson's,[psychiatrist/neurobiologist] tomes on 'Reincarnation: Birth Marks and Birth defects', which the Dalai Lama referred to. It provides photographs, clinical evidence and testimonies of children with memories of past lives.
Tulkus and all that - Correlating this with Buddhist tales of the 'physical marks of a nirmanakaya buddha i.e bodhisattva and reflecting on bell hooks theme on the power of 'Black Looks' and the experience of transforming the dynamic quality of compassion which is represented in buddhist aesthetics/iconography as black and 'wrathful' = eg the Dharma Protector Palden Lhamo, even the liturgical language is vivid metaphor = 'blood drinkers, cut the aorta of the perverters of the teaching' - they have the antidote to famine, war, disease, weaponry. The lion faced Simhamuka,- whose compassionate energy arises without pretense,is swift as the speed of light, precise as a lazer. Their implements are mantric sounds, laughter:-)
Please indulge this gloss on what's black got to do with it. I recommend Ruth King's 'Healing Rage: Women Making Inner Peace Possible.' for those who are inspired to invoke the power of compassion = cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes. Maybe in search of your mother's garden you discover wilderness and wild awakenings:-)Black Holes. Dark Matter. AH HA HOH HE HUM PHAT.

Such a delight to discover Blogs and blogging. Thank you for introducing me to this new manner of communicating.

Ashe
Peace

chalip

Hello Friendly Dragon...

Your comments on "Blogging while Black and Buddhist" also raise questions about this post, so I'm going to respond to your questions/comments here.

First, no need to introduce yourself. I've been reading your comments on the Black Buddhists Yahoo! group for a few years now.

You said:

"I have not read Choyin's book, though it seemed plausible... I have no reticence about claiming such a lineage. Would you?"

I'm not making a judgement about whether his theory is plausible or not. I'm saying it doesn't mean anything. What value would you see in claiming such a lineage? Would it make you a more dedicated practitioner? Would it change anything that is happening right now?

Black History is just that... history. As Ayya Khema says:


...in order to experience life, we have to live each moment. Life has not been happening in the past. That's memory. Life is not going to happen in the future. That's planning. The only time we can live is now, this moment, and as absurd as it may seem, we've got to learn that.


I don't enjoy peanut butter because I know George Washington Carver invented it. I enjoy peanut butter because when I put it in my mouth, it has a taste and consistency that is pleasing to me.

You mention that you "Would love to be able to create a Blog to share these noises in the blood and echos in the bones, On what authority you may well ask."

I say, if you want to blog, blog. Authority is irrelevant. I'm not an ordained teacher or a Buddhist scholar. I'm a simple lay practitioner sharing my thoughts and having conversations with the people who stop by to read them.

You also said:

"it was only bell hooks 'up there'. One cannot help noticing the JU BU's who dominate the scene; provide patronage, social capital - PR networks - publishing etc. So this is the 'gruntled' 76 year old ngakma proclaiming new dharma, turning of the 4th Wheel."

I'm inferring from your comments that you want to see more African American teachers on the scene? It is happening. I think they will take a national/international stage based on what they do now in this lifetime... Faith Adiele is a good example. People are listening to her because she did something revolutionary with her own life. Rangdrol can discuss anthropology all he wants. People who find it interesting or relevant will listen. Personally, I'm more interested in more practical matters.

angel

At the root of it, I see a need to prove the contribution, worth, legitimacy, and staying power of Africans and their descendants. I just wish those that feel a need to do that would point more to our present than they do to our past.

Chalip: There are those who will present the argument that one cannot "know where one is going, lest one know their past," but I must say that I am with you. Pointing to the past need not be done to the extent that we forget about what is happening in the here and now. This is what is most frustrating with people in general and "religious and/or scholarly types" in particular. At the root of my practice is the reminder, everyday, to be in the present moment.

And I am so with your analogy to the peanut butter. Do I run to the store to pick it up because of Carver or because I like it? And as you say --- at the end of the day, what difference will it make to you? Will it strengthen your commitment? Because if it does, then I have to wonder how committed you were in the first place.

I do wonder though (without having read the book) if he's presenting this anthropological connection in order to perhaps "invite" more African Americans to investigate Buddhism as a path. There are those African Americans who, once they see it as "Afrocentric," will then offer it some consideration. I know I've heard of yoga groups popping up around the country in black churches -- yoga being done to gospel music and presented as "Yoga for the Black Woman." Interesting to say the least. I wonder if Kwanzaa would be as commercially successful if it was without any connection to African traditions. Just a thought.

I think at the end of the day we have to remember where we are, that is, here in America. Race has been a fragile situation from the word go. African Americans, unlike any group of people who've navigated here or been brought here, do have a tragic history -- one that still influences our lives despite being history. Myths about our sexuality and our intelligence pervade despite all outward evidence of our shared human experience. We have had to fight for every little bit -- from getting our greatest thinkers onto a stamp to just having a crack at positions of leadership. There are those of us who feel the need to prove ourselves over and over and over and there are those of us who see a better way to use the passing time. The tricky thing is finding the balance. I personally don't feel the need to point as far back. I think celebrities such as Oprah, writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, scientists and engineers and physicians such as Ben Carson are doing a fine job right here, right now.

Queston: How do I navigate to the black buddhists yahoo group? Is it open or do you have to be invited?

Thanks,
ANGEL

friendly dragon

Points well taken. A clarification - it is not a black Buddha that I champion, rather referenced the plausibility that Bodhidharma and Virupa = historical evidence of an African presence in Asia associated with warriorship - Kung Fu and the martial arts. My apologies if I seemed intrusive - simply sharing stories, holding to the View that it is a sacred world, with lots of awake beings manifesting authentic presence. Peace.

chalip

Hello again, Angel.

We seem to be pretty much on the same page as far as this issue goes. Thanks again for adding your comments to this discussion.

You said:

I do wonder though (without having read the book) if he's presenting this anthropological connection in order to perhaps "invite" more African Americans to investigate Buddhism as a path.

It's possible. When I first started to explore Buddhism, I did so mostly by reading books. The next step for me was a curiousity about other African Americans who were exploring and/or practicing Buddhism. Membership at a Buddhist temple came much later for me.

You asked: How do I navigate to the black buddhists yahoo group? Is it open or do you have to be invited?

You don't have to be invited to participate in the Black Buddhists group, but you do have to join, and you do need a Yahoo! ID. If you use Yahoo! messenger or have a Yahoo! e-mail account or use any other Yahoo! services that require registration, you probably already have one. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com. You will be presented with the option to sign in or sign up. Once there, a search for Black Buddhists will show you the way. It usually takes around 24-48 hours to join the group.

And Friendly Dragon, you don't seem intrusive at all. Blogs exist to promote conversation... the sharing of ideas. If I reacted strongly to your comments, I suppose it is because I feel strongly about this issue. Let me know if you end up starting a blog of your own.

Choyin

Continuing . . .

a heartsong and an answer:

My teacher, the late Khenpo Gyurmed Thinley was the abbot of H. H. The Dalai Lama's personal Monastery in Dharamsala. This was a great responsibility for a Nyingma Khenpo. He was also the only one of thousands of Nyingmapas worldwide to be asked to represent His Holiness in prayers for peace at the United Nations. A great abbot, leader, monk, Dzogchen master, and ngakpa! Our relationship, held in private for a decade, was an unbelievable experience. His way was not one of bloviated arcane writings, celebrity antics, or fastidious empire building schemes. He taught by allowing those close to him to just plain witness the Dzogchen lineage in action time and time again.

Someday, when the time is right, I will tell you the profound truth of what he said. For now, just know he loved Black Buddha, the concept and the book. It's audacity of message and the courage it took for me to stand behind it was in the end what moved him to allow me the title of Dzogchenpa and finally Lama in the Nyingma tradition. He understood the dark underbelly of racism in America, including internalized racism that dwells in the mind of oppressed people who would hide from their own truth. He advocated that African American culture and Buddhism could not be harmed by seeing Buddha as black regardless of the facts.

His death a couple of months ago was the final revelation of certainty. We have so little time to traverse this Buddhaverse. His liberation to another Buddhafield sealed the responsibility of the few trained African American Dzogchenpa's to carry the lineage in our communities and the world. One does not simply don the white skirt and muse about esoteric texts available on the Internet. That being said, I'm glad to see Dzogchen writing being represented on the blackbuddhist list even if the profound meanings are not easily understood.

My students here in California had the opportunity to meet my teacher before his death. For some, seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, my teacher, and me in the same space resolved a certain kind of doubt about the authentic lineage having been transmitted to an African American. The proof was in the pudding. Disputation, refutation, and doubt ceased in one celebrious karmic moment. Now, as a Dzogchenpa sangha of white, black, and Asian Ngakpas and Ngakmas, we continue to develop the high practice of Dzogchen amid the San Francisco Bay Area stronghold of our monastic brothers and sisters. The training of my students is both the heart song of encouragement I wish to send to our friends as well as the answer to our critics who skip stones across the surface of their vast imaginary projections.

Easy to understand, difficult to behold.

Best wishes to all,
Choyin Rangdrol, The Friendlier Dragon
Oakland, California
6/05

Choyin

Dharma Friends,

Any view that excludes another is inherently partial. I am in agreement with the irrelevant nature of "Blackness" in the context of emptiness and impermanence. I also understand that there are many human beings, millions, whose needs and views are dismissed when we say that "they" must think like "us" to comprehend the essence of Buddhism. The Dharma view of compassion (bodhichitta) is one that includes those who do not hold our core views. Black Buddha speaks to "them," if you will. We are fortunate to have a tradition that allows us to suspend core views on behalf of compassion for others who do not believe as we do. By including all human perspectives in our view of compassion we create a seamless portal that does not contradict the openness of Dharma. To be open to all views without deference is also our protection against the rise of dogma in our minds and communities. The "black thing" and all other things neither are nor are they not relevant in the field of openness and compassion for all sentient beings. Rainbowdharma is this understanding.

It is more important for us to visit our thoughts, than a website.
The Friendlier Dragon,
Choyin

ALyssa

who are the founders of buhha?? thats what i want to know

chalip

Hello ALyssa...
What we call Buddhism was founded by Shakyamuni Buddha (the historical Buddha) who sat under the bodhi tree until he became enlightened. After his enlightenment experience, he travelled and taught a large community of monks and nuns who carried forth his teachings by word of mouth until they decided to write them down.

There are plenty of great books out there that provide a history of Buddhism. If I get a chance this weekend, I'll put a few on the HOWTOs page on this site.

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