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Buddhadharma : Winter 2011
47 WINTER 2 01 1 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY BUDDHADHARMA: How diverse is the overall Buddhist community in America? LARRY YANG: The Shambhala Sun did a thirty-year retrospective of Buddhism in America a few years ago, and I scoured the magazine. While there may have been a few Asian teachers who had written articles or were quoted, it was about thirty years of Buddhism in the mainstream culture of America. It had no reference to any of the ways in which the dharma is beginning to touch differ- ent communities, whether it’s communities of color or LGBT communities or really any communities that exist outside the frame of the mainstream culture. To me that spoke to a lack of diversity within the mainstream Buddhist community. There are certainly pockets of communities that are emerging, in the East Bay and Oakland area or in Seattle or Albuquer- que—where there are groups for communities of color and their allies. There’s a meditation center now in Magnolia, Mississippi, led by an African American practitioner. New York Insight and Insight Meditation Center in Washington, D.C., have been doing a lot of multicultural work. In general, though, I don’t think the North American Buddhist commu- nity is very diverse, at least in the traditions I’ve practiced. BOB AGOGLIA: Who can say precisely how diverse the overall Buddhist community in America is? But it is flourishing in some areas, and we need to understand what fosters that. Then places like Insight Meditation Society can really be, as our mission statement says, a spiritual refuge for all who seek freedom of mind and heart. At IMS we have just started a voluntary survey about demographics and we’ll see how people respond to that. You can’t spot all racial diversity visually, of course, but it is clear by looking around that the vast majority of our population is white. I have been very impressed that one of the fastest grow- ing segments of New York Insight’s sangha is people of color sitting groups. It is clear that there is a thirst for teachings on the part of people and communities of color. That has forced us to begin to confront the question of why more people of color are not finding their way to IMS retreats. That’s been an active and ongoing exploration for us for the past four years and will continue to be so. AMANDA RIVERA: I can’t speak for the broader Buddhist commu- nity, but I think that one of the things that makes Soka Gakkai International unique is its diversity. I often pinch myself when I find myself at a meeting or a conference, and I look around Meditating at the New York Insight Meditation Center PHOTO A. JESSE JIRYU DAVIS MARYRANDLETT