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Archive for April, 2009

The title says it all. With more bylines and more of these going to Asians, Shambhala Sun retakes its mantle from Buddhadharma. (Yes, I realize that both are publications of the Shambhala Sun Foundation, with many of the same writers and editors.)

Asian Meter

But keep in mind that this measure of inclusiveness is still far below the actual proportion of those in the American Buddhist community who claim Asian heritage. Published every other month, Shambhala Sun appears more frequently than either Buddhadharma or Tricycle, so the figures for the latter two magazines haven’t changed since my last chart. I’ll use a line plot for the next Asian Meter graph…

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There are about 1.5 million Asian American Buddhists in the United States. Or at least, that’s my estimate. My confidence interval is pretty big, but I feel certain enough to start tossing this number around from now on. This figure keeps the data and assumptions of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, but adjusts them to address discrepancies related to the U.S. Census, linguistic preferences of Asian Americans and geography (i.e. counting Hawai‘i and Alaska).

Recounting Asian American Buddhists

In past posts, I observed that the Pew Forum severely underestimated the size of the Asian American community (by about 56%!), and I also investigated what it meant to exclude Buddhists in Hawai‘i. I even tried out my own deliberately-flawed estimate. But there was one issue that I left off until now: language.

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It’s 7:15am in Cambridge, Massachusetts and I’m sitting in the Peet’s Coffee off Brattle Square waiting for some friends to roll out of bed and come grab some breakfast with me. In the meantime, I thought I’d throw up a post about a semi-recent collection of poetry by Wisdom Publications: The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry (2005).

As you might guess, I decided to view this book through the lens of the Asian Meter. How many Asian American Buddhists met the bar for inclusion in this work? I wasn’t surprised to find out that the Wisdom Anthology, at 17% Asian American, fell right in the middle of the other publications that I’d reviewed (The Best Buddhist Writing, 19%; Buddhadharma, 17%; Shambhala Sun, 11%; Tricycle, 8%). But rather than harangue the Wisdom Anthology, as I’ve done for the other publications, I think this is something to be celebrated. Specifically because a quotient of 17% is infinitely more than a certain Buddhist anthology published by Shambhala many years back: Beneath a Single Moon.

Wisdom Anthology Demographic Breakdown

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Pohela Boishakh(Inspired by a previous post by kudos.)

This is probably a question that few care to ask, but I thought I’d slop together some information for anyone who was interested in knowing more about this holiday. I usually refer to it as Songkran/Thingyan, but this term (as I understand) is most often used to just denote the first day of New Year celebrations. Temple visits and blessings are typical, but I’ve never really thought of this holiday as Buddhist.

I have been greeting all my Thai, Lao, Burmese, Mon, Khmer and Sri Lankan friends with Happy New Year. But it so happens that one of my best friends is Bengali (and Muslim), and he was quick to point out that this is also the Bengali New Year, known as Pohela Boishakh, celebrated by both Indian and Bangladeshi Bengalis. Not only that, he continued, it’s also the South Indian, East Indian (Assamese, Manipuri, Oriya, Bengali), Nepalese and Punjabi New Year. While the Southeast Asian areas that celebrate this holiday are predominantly Buddhist, the other areas in South Asia are predominantly non-Buddhist. They are mostly Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. So from that more regional perspective, this day isn’t a Buddhist holiday at all.

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Happy New Year!

Thingyan

I can barely believe that I wrote our first Dharma Folk post one year ago today. We had no idea what we were going to do with this blog. We had a lot of thoughts and things to say about Buddhism and the Buddhist community. We figured we might as well start a blog and start writing.

Today is the start of the “other” Asian New Year. In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, it’s celebrated as Songkran. In Burma, it’s called Thingyan. Both are modern derivatives of the Sanskrit sankranti, which refers to an “astrological passage.” If you get the chance to go to temple for a New Year festivity, beware that this holiday is also known as the Water Festival. You might want to bring clothes that you don’t mind getting wet! (I know that this New Year is also celebrated in Sri Lanka, by both Sinhalese and Tamils. I just don’t know how they celebrate it.)

Of course, I have a snarky twist in store for every celebration…

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Hearing you

Many suttas begin with the usual, “I have heard that on one ocassion, the Buddha was at…” They also recount a definitive answer and teaching posed by a situation. The Buddha tells Ananda that noble friendship is the whole of the holy life; he tells Vakkali that “he who sees me sees the dhamma.” ….all of which is rather iconic, shaped, and intentioned towards a lesson.

What the suttas do not seem into bring direct consideration is the entire context of the situation and the attention being paid. (more…)

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Tricycle printed a letter to the editor from Scott Mitchell that criticized their “Buddhism by the Numbers” piece in the Fall 2008 issue. If you can’t read his whole complaint, it’s also available on his blog. There are four specific issues, but in this post, I’m addressing one in particular:

The exclusion of the Hawaiian population is troublesome for a number of reasons: chief among them the continual marginalization of Hawaii as part of the United States, and the marginalization of Japanese-American Buddhists generally. In other words, these Asian-American Buddhists were literally not counted in this report.

That’s one side of the coin. Here’s an alternative perspective: I imagine that the Pew Study did some internal analysis and concluded on excluding Hawai‘i, since the Aloha State’s unique contribution to the national profile would not have justified the extra contract cost in contacting them. Now I’m not saying that excluding Hawaiians is fair, but it’s worth crunching the numbers to see to what extent the Buddhists of Hawai‘i really do change the national profile.

The Hawai‘i Non-Effect

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