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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
VISHNU SRIDHARAN 75 with respect to yoga—the cultural appropriation of meditation may be “a continuation of white supremacy and colonialism, maintain ing the pattern of white people consuming the stuff of culture that is convenient and portable, while ignoring the wellbeing and libera tion of [South Asian] people.” Though teachers and practitioners in Western Buddhist circles undoubtedly have the best of intentions, the historical (and continuing) impact of this colonial consumption on people of the global majority—that is, socalled “people of color”— has been nothing short of horrific. To give credit where credit is due, many Western Buddhist circles have taken significant strides to be more inclusive of marginalized communities and to create opportunities for individuals from dif ferent backgrounds to become leaders and teachers. Less evident, however, are intentional efforts to ensure that the South Asian roots of Buddhism are recognized, appreciated, and honored. To be clear, I am in no way arguing that Buddhism is simply a sect of Hindu ism, nor that Buddhist teachings are in some way a “corruption” of a “purer” historical tradition. As such, there are relatively simple steps that Western sanghas might take to better honor and build on Buddhism’s South Asian roots. For example, ensuring that dharma teachers have a basic familiarity with Buddhism’s roots in Indian spiritual traditions would go a long way toward preventing cultural erasure. In addition, targeted outreach and exchanges with Hindu and Jain communities and a greater attention to the ways in which both Western Buddhist teachers and practitioners too often exoticize (as opposed to understand) South Asian culture, iconography, and chanting practices are baseline shifts that could make a real impact. Regardless of how Western Buddhist circles develop and grow, I will continue to practice Buddhism. The human struggle for libera tion is strewn with suffering, and mine is no exception. But my ear nest hope is that, with more awareness and sensitivity, my Western dharma family can join me on this historically rooted, culturally conditioned path toward moksha/nirvana/unity with the divine.