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The Buddhism Bomb September 25, 2007

Posted by Philip Ryan in Random Notes.

There’s so much on these Burma protests and I can’t add much new information or insight, so here are some links:

Buddhists fear ‘white head’ monks will give junta excuse for violence – ‘White head’ is slang for new monks whose newly shaven heads are still white, or more specifically, undercover policemen posing as monks.

Bush Announces Tighter Sanctions on Myanmar – Cheney had to point it out on the map and tell W it’s “not far from China.”

British PM Calls for Harder EU Stance on Burma

and the best headline of all, from the LA Times: The Buddhism Bomb (which could blow up in the junta’s face.)

In non-Burma news, record numbers of tourists arrive in Tibet’s Ngari region. This is the “ridge” on the roof of the world that attracts climbers. Expect more promotion of this area (at the expense of Nepal’s tourist industry, which is already struggling in the wake of the Maoist insurgency) in the buildup to Berlin 1936 Beijing 2008.

What would you ask the Dalai Lama if you could ask one and only one question? An Emory student prepares for just that situation. The DL is now an honorary prof at the Atlanta, Georgia university. Will the DL hang out with Jimmy Carter? Will he drink Coca-Cola? Time will tell.

Tricycle‘s Jeff Wilson and Bodhipaksa of Wildmind.org have both commented on the Buddhist Books Being Banned from Libraries Behind Bars deal. Wildmind includes a list of the 60 sanctioned Buddhist books.

And Tom of Thoughts Chase Thoughts has good post reviewing a recent Zen is Stupid podcast (#28, “Privilege.”) Gwen Bell of Zen is Stupid and several other online outlets including Buddhist Geeks has an undefined gripe about (American) Buddhism being dominated by middle-class middle-age white men. It seems to boil down to something like, “White men have everything already, now they want Buddhism too.” (That handsome head with the whorl of hair would look nice mounted between the Sumatran rhino and Siberian tiger on the wall of my library, which incidentally has several valuable first editions by Nate Hawthorne, Sam Clemens, and Chuck Dickens, not to mention a signed copy of Bill Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Won.) What I think she may be saying is that many white male Buddhists are selfish navel-gazers, as opposed to Gwen and her partner Patrick, who both give back to the world. But her gripe is directed at authors Brad Warner and Noah Levine, both of whom give to the community in the form of teaching the dharma, and aren’t exactly poster children for the patriarchy. It is hard to argue with what might be described as her larger point, that Buddhism in America is by and large wealthy and white. Many dharma books are available for free, and many dharma events can be attended for free, but there are also many that cost money, and people who can afford to pay for retreats and big fat dharma books will be on balance white and middle class. But that says nothing about the gender of those writing the books (and she didn’t like Sumi Loundon’s Blue Jean Buddha, edited rather than written by Sumi, I think.) Maybe Gwen herself can write a book on the new Buddhist patriarchy so no one will have to ask, “Where are the women?” among today’s young/ish (white) Buddhists and / or Buddhist authors.

– Philip Ryan, Webmaster



1. rod - September 25, 2007

just wanted to say, that last paragraph is especially spot on.

well said.

as usual.

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