Making the Invisible Visible ~ Racism in Buddhism

Thanks to a stranger  (actually @ileducprof) on Twitter for referring me to this article.  One that I was not familiar with, maybe everyone else has already seen and read this one.


Below is a complete copy of “Making the Invisible Visible” which was a booklet collected and edited by a community group of practitioners, of which I was privileged to be a part. Our original purpose was to present stories and life experiences of practitioners of color to the Teachers of Buddhism in the West Conference held at Spirit Rock in June of 2002. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was in attendance and was presented a copy of this document.

An interesting booklet filled with personal experiences and critical essays of racism in Zen/Buddhist centers written by practitioners of color.  Along with Stuart Lachs article “Dressing the Donkey with Bells and Scarves” (link on my Zen page) this is good reading for anyone starting Buddhist practice that thinks it will be any different that other religions in this aspect.

I particularly liked Section Three: Practical Suggestions and Strategies

This section was written primarily by European American practitioners from varied Buddhist traditions with feedback from Buddhist practitioners of color. One intention was to acknowledge that work in Diversity and Racism is the joint responsibility of European Americans and Communities of Color.

This section outlines several practical and easy steps for any sangha (large or small) to follow to increase diversity and bring the topics of racism and exclusivity to the forefront (usually it hangs in the background).  These strategies are open for any Buddhist Periodicals to peruse as well, particularly

Facilitate People of Color to take on teaching, administrative, board and staff positions

 and my favorite…

Create a forum in your sangha where practitioners can express their views and feelings on what it is like to be a part of your sangha

I hope that most of these Buddhist blogs, online resources and social networking sites can be a way of doing this.



PS ~ another article I found was Widening the Circle: Black Communities and Western Buddhist Convert Sanghas by Sharon Smith in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics.


7 thoughts on “Making the Invisible Visible ~ Racism in Buddhism

  1. I found it interesting several years ago when a great deal of focus was placed on “diversity” within the Shambhala Buddhist mandala. Since one of the principal members of the team working on the issue was from our local sangha, I asked if this was really a problem. The context for my asking such a question was that we seemed to have a fairly diverse population already, with people of color in places of prominence within the governing structure and involved as teachers.

    What I hadn’t considered was that we’re in Baltimore, next to Johns Hopkins University, and so by its very nature the area is already diverse. That this is not a normal situation for many urban and suburban locations. That regardless of the “colorblindness” of the teachings, fundamental human nature comes very much into play to make it hard to diversify a sangha that is predominantly one demographic – because it take great courage to be the ground breaker. All of this before you even introduce the potential of ingrained attitudes and leanings that lay beneath the surface of many whites and people of color.

    I am thankful that my friend took the time to explain these things to me, because it has made me more aware within our local sangha and within the greater sangha of how few people of color progress along the path of more advanced teachings within our mandala. I’m still at a bit of a loss as to why this is, and my own thoughts on the matter stray into the land of uncomfortable stereotypes such as people of color not being as affluent or more tending (in the case of blacks and Latinos) towards Christianity. So I thank you for the posting, and thank you for the PDF, for even if I don’t find answers per se perhaps I will find some additional avenues for exploring this question.

    Greg (Daecabhir)

  2. Pingback: Oxymoron: racist Buddhist, or unprejudiced human? « Peace Ground Zero

  3. Hi there. Thank you for your post. Larry is a great teacher and I am glad you discovered him & the resources on his site. I invite you and your followers to explore this social networking site dedicated to diversity in Buddhism:
    The links page is a compilation of online resources about this topic. Also, please feel free to re-blog or cross-post anything that seems relevant.

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