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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
summer 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 83 “Buddhist,” and “young adult.” Not surprisingly, combining the three creates a complicated category. Yet the very ambi- guity of the identity label is also a source of creative power. The fact that there is no one face, no single voice, of Bud- dhist Asian America frees us to be “real Asian American Bud- dhists” in a multitude of ways. We can see our religious identi- ties not as fixed labels but as ever-shifting processes. As Holly, a Buddhist chaplain of mixed Japanese and Jewish heritage, eloquently stated: I think young Asian American Buddhists I know, including myself, face challenges in integrating and expressing multiple cultural identities—as young, American, Buddhist, and Asian. Yet I think we are all moving toward a more pluralistic world in which multiplicity of identity will be the norm. As a Bud- dhist, I know that the self is always inconstant and interdepen- dent, so in a way my Buddhist practices help me be at peace in the midst of the tensions in multiplicity and diversity. Ven. Guomin, a Mahayana Buddhist monk, shares Holly’s belief that Asian American Buddhists have a unique role to play in American Buddhism: As a group, we do a lot of “bridging.” We bridge our Asian roots with our Western values; respect for traditional culture and family with American independence; etc. What interests me most is how the dharma can help alleviate the feeling of being lost and directionless-ness that characterizes much of the young adult experience these days, especially for Asian Americans. Part of the reason, I believe, is because we are try- ing to “bridge” a lot—and so we find it hard to really identify who we really are. The act of bridging—“constantly straddling cultural and spiritual worlds,” as one interviewee put it—is possible for Buddhists of all races and ethnicities. As culturally engaged Buddhists, we must contemplate the histories and intersec- tions of the cultural and religious traditions we have inherited/ adopted. If we are to weave different narratives about Ameri- can Buddhism, we must also critically examine the racism and Orientalism that shape our perceptions of Asian American Buddhists. The young adults I interviewed recognize the harm in erasing Asian American Buddhists from representations of Buddhism in America. Whether Buddhism is the religion of their family of origin, a religion they have sought out for themselves, or both, they recognize that Asian American Bud- dhists are not solely responsible for their invisibility. Rem- edying misrepresentations of American Buddhism must be a collective effort, one that includes Asian Americans and others who have been largely absent from mainstream portrayals of American Buddhism, as well as white allies who are willing to cede control of the Buddhist mediascape in which their voices currently prevail. ➤ We’re Not Who You Think We Are continued from page 55 Photos: Mountains by Shundo David Haye, Creek by Margo Mor itz SUMMER 2016 GUEST SEASON April 28 – September 11 Deep in the coastal Califor nia mountains, you will find Tassajara. Please come and enjoy our Japanese- style hot-spring baths, gour met vegetar ian food, hiking trails, as well as yoga, qigong, calligraphy, cooking, poetry, meditation, and more. sfzc.org/zmcguest