Why Are There So Many Black Buddhists?

I perfectly agree. Global statistics do not apply to the individual level and if someone is best qualified for a job, he should be the one to get it. What I meant by “being more reluctant” is one will be a lot more careful than usual when hiring a gypsy, at least for some specific jobs. This is because, statistically, he has a big chance of making a costly mistake that he will regret. A person that has a family, employees, etc. depending on his business has to be careful not to make costly mistakes. And I see nothing wrong or racist about that. Only those that specify “no gipsy” in job or renting listings qualify as racist.

People are also reluctant to hire those that went to prison. Many explicitly ban in. Why ? Because of the very same reason about global statistics and probability of something bad happening. Similarly, many specify “no students” in rent listings because of the same issue of probabilities.

Also note that “gypsy” is not a race. It’s a group of people that originated from india that has an outlaw culture. It is their culture to do illegal activities and shun working and “normal people”. Because of self-segregation, they have pretty much remained unchanged for over 1000 years and are considered to be probably the biggest failure of multiculturalism in history. Also note that some of them, those that live in normal neighbourghoods not gypsy ones, have integrated and are not really considered “gypsy” by other people or even other gypsies. They are considered “normal people”.

What I meant to say is that it’s perfectly normal for humans to take into consideration all information they have available when making a decision. Same as a computer would do. And some of that information are global statistics and past personal experience. There is nothing racist about doing that and there are no evil intentions. Kamma is intention.

So, rather than asking weather both of you and the policeman were racist, as some had suggested previously, I am pointing out that there is no racism and no evil intention at play.

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I’ve been thinking about this since the topic started.

My 10 cents worth of views…

  1. Causes and conditions determine beliefs and behaviours.

  2. Certain beliefs and behaviours can be classified into groups; eg things to do with social morals, religious beliefs, economic system beliefs, social class, race, gender etc.

  3. People who have not seen the direct link between causal dependent arising, and their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, are acting unconsciously. Anger is not really helpful, as there is no-one there to blame… not self, not other, no-one - just the natural process of samsara

  4. It is only when people get awareness over sense / consciousness contact > and the resultant ‘sankharas’ and subsequent behaviours, that things can be seen as they are.

  5. The behaviours described above are racist AND conditioned. If we were to use examples that were not as inflammatory as racism, it would be easier to discuss in a detached manner. And, in order to be fruitful, these discussions need to be detached from emotion.

  6. It would be more beneficial to focus on recognising the conditioning, in the moments that it sparks contact, and to think of ways to make the ‘invisible’ ‘visible’…

Really this is the only way to get real change… To understand the genesis of beliefs and values, and to untangle them and to modify it in line with the N8fP > pursuit of virtue

with Peace and Metta



Statements like this, that make broad sweeping statements based on assumptions about groups and classes of people, generally seem to justify, rather than question, the validity of stereotypical views about groups. It is no doubt accurate, that some geographical regions will subscribe to specific stereotypical views about race. Often it is more a case of inheriting a cultural view rather than having personal experiences to inform views.

We know it is a fact that all kinds of prejudice exists. As practising buddhists, striving for conscious awareness, we know that the wiser course is to untangle the views and their genesis, and to aim for a clearer view and more ethical behaviour. Because we also know for a fact that racial and other discrimination increases suffering for all beings, we should aim to put in extra effort to deconstruct the wrong views, and work from a position of metta.

Another 5 cents worth :wink::pray:


Every Buddhist school could learn from this example. Recruitment isn’t inherently bad if it’s not done with evil or manipulative intent. There are likely countless people who could benefit from the dhamma, or are looking for something like it, and yet it’s completely unknown to them. If a Buddhist community doesn’t reflect the demographics (genders, races, ages, etc) of the country it resides in, maybe it should do more to reach out to more types of people.


100%. This is a big topic, not surprisingly, among churches. Some churches are very welcoming and some are more aloof. Many Buddhist groups are not welcoming in general, sad to say. I think it may be the curse of “individuality” and a genera attitude that people are going there to get something for themselves, not really build spiritual community. When you add on a societal layer of racial prejudice it is no wonder that many Buddhist groups don’t feel like a welcoming place for people of color.

The social anxiety @tonysharp mentioned adds another layer to the whole thing. My sense is that there is a higher than average occurance of SA among people drawn to Buddhism/meditation. (So much so that this group has a page dedicated to it. mahamevnawawinnipeg.org/anxious.html)

One metaphor that can help people understand the situation is that of a bird in a cage. Someone who doesn’t understand how cages work could look at it and say, “Look at all the space between the bars. The cage in fact is mostly space. What’s the problem?” But yet when there are enough bars, the cage works to keep the bird in. For people who are constantly experiencing barriers put up by the society they live in, the cage is very real.

If a Buddhist group wants to attract new people, they have to work to remove the bars one by one.

BTW, I really appreciate the voices in this thread of people who don’t often post.


Tony perhaps this would be of interest to you and others…Black & Buddhist in America | Union Theological Seminary

With Metta.


The behaviours described above are racist AND conditioned. If we were to use examples that were not as inflammatory as racism, it would be easier to discuss in a detached manner. And, in order to be fruitful, these discussions need to be detached from emotion.

I don’t know weather they can be classified as racist or not and for me as a buddhist that is irrelevant. All that matters for me as a buddhist is weather they are wholesome or unwholesome. Is it wholesome to be more careful when hiring people that went to prison than when hiring people that did not go to prison ? If one cares about his business, his family that depends on his business, his employees, if one cares even the slightest about these people, then he should be careful not to make costly mistakes, especially in situations where, STATISTICALLY, he has a very big probability of making a costly mistake for him and for a lot of other people.

I see no evil intention and no lack of logic in this. If one has good intentions and his reasoning is rational and based on logic, not against it, that there is no evil kamma that he makes even if he contradicts certain ideologies. It’s the ideologies that need to adapt to logic and reasoning, not logic and reasoning adapting to the ideology.

I know people that went to prison, some are perfectly normal it was just a mistake. I could not care less about their going to prison, all that matters is their traits and virtues as a person. Yet, same as 100% of the people, I would be more careful than usual when hiring a person that went to prison. And I don’t think there is a single person in this world doing this the reverse way, like being more careful when hiring people that DID NOT go to prison.

Statements like this, that make broad sweeping statements based on assumptions about groups and classes of people, generally seem to justify, rather than question, the validity of stereotypical views about groups. It is no doubt accurate, that some geographical regions will subscribe to specific stereotypical views about race. Often it is more a case of inheriting a cultural view rather than having personal experiences to inform views.

I suppose you’re not from europe and have little understanding about the gypsy problem. You’re probably thinking it’s in some way similar to black people issues in USA. No, it’s not, not in any way shape or form.

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@dxm_dxm discussion about this can be moved to another thread if you’d like to continue it in a specific way, but it is detracting from the Opening Post, and the direction it has set.

Also a reminder to all participants, that this isn’t a platform to “win” arguments, or to try and convince others of points of view. It is an opportunity to raise issues and let members think about them, irrespective of agreement, disagreement or neither.


You know what they say about assumptions.


I’ve sensed that from some corners, too. We can’t forget that the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha were also proposed as a refuge, a source of support and protection.

This makes me happy. Thank you for bringing this event to our attention.

The video for those who might want to see it:

With Metta



Hey Tony,

I just wanted to say, thanks for bringing this up and creating some awareness. :pray:


I have been thinking a lot about this topic since @tonysharp initiated it. I can’t help but think that there are two separate but related ways of approaching what is under discussion. Depending on which way someone approaches the issue there are different Buddhist teaching that would apply.

The first way of thinking about the matter is from the perspective of group identity which can be expressed in terms of exclusionary attitudes towards those presumed to be “outsiders.” Or, to put it another way, prejudice, bigotry, and racism. Approached in this manner, Buddhist teachings would counsel in favor of ridding oneself of an attachment to a self that craves acceptance in a community which confers in-group status at the expense of individuals relegated to out-groups, or what social scientists would refer to as a process of “othering.”

The second way of thinking about the matter is from the perspective of one’s individual comfort level when that individual perceives that s/he has been identified as an “outsider.” Or, to put it another way, feelings of not belonging. Approached in this manner, Buddhist teachings would counsel in favor of ridding oneself of an attachment to a self that craves relief from the suffering brought on by doubt.

Fortunately, Buddhist practice provides guidance for both situations. Concerning the temptation to reaffirm the self by creating exclusionary in-groups, we can practice loving kindness towards others. Concerning doubt, we can practice loving kindness towards ourselves.

Nota bene: I am far from perfect in carrying out the Buddha’s teachings. But that is the point of my practice. I try to put into effect what I practice every day. It takes time.


Thank you, bhante. I’m glad to oblige.



@tonysharp if you are ever in NYC, visit Buddhist Insights! It is a very young and diverse dana-only community of Buddhists. White, Black, Asian, young, old, Buddhists by birth and later in life adopters… all practicing together.
Silent retreats almost every weekend at the Queens center, evening sessions in 3/5 boroughs.


I have found it almost impossible to find a Buddhist community where I feel comfortable with the community per se. … although I’ve met many lovely individuals in each group I’ve joined.

I lived in Asia for 7 years and experienced horrific discrimination and misogyny in all the Buddhist communities I visited/got involved with there. Upon my return to the West, I’ve found that most groups in the West have lingering (or in the case of the Asian immigrant groups, generally extreme) problems with misogyny/sexism/androcentrism and discrimination against the laity --and slight issues with discrimination vs. people of other religions and sects… and even those that don’t have much of a problem with sexism take little interest in the issue.

Most Western groups regularly invite male Asian “masters” to their centers, whom they glorify and revere…and they don’t ask questions about how those “masters” view or treat women or lay people or people of other nationalities/races–either here or in their home countries.

Even when people know very well that, for instance, nuns and lay women in their “masters’” countries are denied equal opportunities, discriminated against, viewed and treated as inferior, and even denied ordination, those Western students do nothing , ask nothing, and say nothing about it. (FYI Women are seriously looked down upon and oppressed in the vast majority of Asian Buddhist orders.) Same with discrimination vs. the laity, people of other religions/sects/nationalities/the poor/unfortunate etc.

I think one of the big reasons for the Asian-White divide between Buddhist communities in the West is that the recent immigrants want to go to their own centers, and speak their own languages there…

and other Buddhists who visit their centers often eventually come to realize that the Asian immigrant Buddhists are nearly always fundamentalists when it comes to the misogynist teachings in the sutras (such as the story of the foundation of the nuns’ order (8 Garudhammas), the buddha’s alleged statements that women are evil, inferior, smelly, easily angered, ignorant, incapable of reaching Buddhahood, and will destroy any religion they enter, etc)… so they eventually get turned off and leave…

In some other cases it may be due to language barriers or other cultural divides.

With regard to the low participation of blacks in Buddhist groups in the US and Europe, I think part of it is due to the peculiarities of the way that Buddhism came to the West and the groups it appealed to during that time (white hippies and very liberal intellectuals)… It started out attracting more liberal well-educated white practitioners, and groups that don’t make real efforts to attract other groups (as they should do) don’t usually attract many… I have been to a few groups that were racially diverse in cities by the way…

I think it’s also partly due to various black communities’ high level of participation in various Christian churches and communities. It seems that blacks who want to be involved in religion tend to be happier with Christianity than other groups (as they tend to participate more–at least in the US)… Perhaps their whole experience of “church” is much more joyful and positive. Here are some statistics on church attendance in the US that show African Americans attend much more regularly than other groups:

Anyway, we should all do our best to help change the racial divide , the gender divide, the religious divides, and laity-monastic divide. We all need to help Buddhism become more diverse and nondiscriminatory-- and help it to achieve real gender equality and get rid of all the harmful teachings that allege that the Buddha viewed women, the laity, people of other religions and sects, the poor/sick etc. etc. as inferior or treated them as such.


As @Sila observes, there are both cultural and religious issues at play in the gender dynamics of Buddhism, particularly in Asia and in Asian immigrant communities in the West. As I have noted recently, I am one of the few Westerners who attends a Wat that is attended primarily by members of the Southeast Asian immigrant community. One of the members of the board, with whom I have become friends, admitted to me awhile back that when I first started attending the Wat she wasn’t sure I “belonged.”

I think part of this individual’s initial apprehension arose from the fact that there are numerous Asian women at the Wat who are married to white Americans. It is not at all lost on me that there is a long history of Western men who take Asian brides. I think my friend suspected that perhaps I was coming to the Wat just to meet women.

The fact is, I was and am attracted to the Buddha’s teachings. I have had many people approach me at the Wat and ask if I am looking for a Thai wife. Uh, no. I am not married, and I do get lonely, and I do think about finding a partner. The offers to set me up are flattering. I am not enlightened, so I still am vulnerable to an attachment to flattery. But I am trying to rid myself of that attachment.

When Westerners such as myself attend Buddhist temples primarily made up of members Asian communities, one needs to separate out religious motivations versus cultural sensibilities. I suspect that one of the main reasons my friend no longer doubts whether I “belong” is because she recognizes my motivation, which is a desire to learn and practice the Dhamma, and that I am not fitting into a cultural stereotype. It’s win-win for both of us!


Thank you for this thread, @tonysharp. I can describe a recent conversation among a group of very experienced Western Buddhist practitioners. The theme was White privilege. Several people said that it is their “rational” policy to consider meeting a group of Black boys or men on the street as a possibly dangerous situation. Then someone brought out the statistics for our own city, how much more likely it is to experience street violence or rape from a White man. So the stereotype is not rational after all.
People can be naive and uninformed in so many ways. It is important to keep having these conversations. What makes our practice spaces safe and beneficial for diverse people? My starting list from a USA perspective: 1. leaders should be educated about race & gender concerns; about Orientalism and the specific history of “export Buddhism” coming to the West. 2. Welcome and appreciation should be very clearly and repeatedly expressed. 3. listen, without denigrating other people’s perspective. 4. It’s not personal, so don’t get defensive. What do you think?


Statistics are slippery things to rely on. They are tools; some are good tools, some are bad tools, some are mixed tools. But even a good tool, a solid statistic, is only a summary of the past, not a solid prediction of the future. Any trend can end. As Buddhists, we know that anything with a beginning also has an ending.

To contribute to the ending of a “bad” trend, for the benefit of a human life, seems to me to be a very good thing.

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”
― Mark Twain


I really appreciate the invitation. Thank you.

Knowing some of the social views of a teacher could ease some of the weariness, I think. Gil Fronsdal gave a memorable talk on classism and racism set in the context of the Vasettha Sutta (MN 98). For me, this made it pretty clear that he at least cared.

You’re welcome, bhante. :pray:

I’ve been thinking about ways to broaden the reach of the dhamma, particularly with the youth, and Black, Hispanic, and other marginalized communities. Meditation seems to be the most effective and nonsecretarian way to introduce a form of practice.

If it’s not already being done, maybe Theravada teachers could create groups, or collaborate with an existing group like Minds Incorporated, to bring meditation to more schools. Vox produced a short video on the progress such groups have made.

It sounds great.

I try to avoid phrases like “White privilege” though because they’re triggering for a lot of White people who feel they haven’t benefited from privilege, or that they’re receiving too much blame for society’s ills. I don’t know if this is a good approach or not, but I frame the discussion more broadly, like—most people discriminate in some way, and here’s why this is wrong and counterproductive.


As a proud practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism as practiced by Soka Gakkai, I would like to share these links on Rosa Parks

And here’s an article by Sensei on her:

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