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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
summer 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 49 American. Despite comprising more than two-thirds of American Buddhists, Asian American Buddhists are underrepresented—and often misrepresented— in scholarly sources and mainstream media. In an April 2014 blog post, the Angry Asian Buddhist lamented: Buddhist Asian Americans are often surprised to encounter so many stereotypes about us. Worse yet is that these stereotypes are routinely cited as solid facts. The stereotypes are generally about how dif- ferent we are from “American Buddhists.” These might sound familiar: We Buddhist Asian Ameri- cans are basically immigrants. We cannot speak English and carry a more supernatural bent. We focus our energies into holidays and spiritual beliefs instead of meditative practices... Some of us are Oriental monks who bring our exotic teachings to the West. The temples we attend aren’t about spreading the Dharma—they’re just ethnic social clubs. I could go on. These stereotypes are bolstered by the oft-cited “two Buddhisms” typology that distinguishes between convert, white, middle-class Western Bud- dhists and their non-convert, Asian, immigrant “ethnic” Buddhist counterparts. There is no room for white “cradle” Buddhists born into the religion or for Asian American converts in a schema that insists on strict separation between two seemingly distinct and mutually isolated brands of Buddhism. Though presented as a value-neutral sociological description, the “two Buddhisms” model is too often used to valorize white Buddhists while denigrating Asian American Buddhists. In 1991, the editor of Tricycle magazine wrote that Asian American Bud- dhists “have not figured prominently in the devel- opment of something called American Buddhism,” implying that they are merely Buddhists in America rather than true American Buddhists. A decade later, a scholar of American Buddhism similarly disregarded Asian American Buddhists by insisting Gabrielle Nomura Gainor | PR & social media | Professional dancer | Seattle, Washington | Jodo Shinshu As a millennial, mixed-race Asian American Buddhist, I often feel like a party of one. When I am feeling lonely or unique, I imagine that I can see myself as if I am looking from a telephoto lens on the moon—I can see the insignificance of my challenges, that being a follower of Buddha’s wisdom doesn’t mean I am separated into a neat little category. Like the blades of grass in my yard, the mountains in the distance, I am a part of this! Our differences deserve to be acknowledged and respected, but we must not forget what binds us together. We are links in the chain. We are part of nature. You can call it dharma (I do), or you can simply call it the truth of being alive. tsukinomura-henley