Buddhism in Africa ~ Akong Tulku Rinpoche, Venerable Buddharakkhita and others

A few links on Buddhism in Africa from Tibetan traditions, Nichiren, and Zen.

This one is on the journey of Buddhism to South Africa by the “African Tulku” Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Regarding Samye Ling’s satellite centres in Harare, Joburg and Cape Town, which benefit from the guidance of the movement’s local representative, Rob Nairn, he says: “The development has been very good. The SA centres have been going for 38 years.

“Sometimes I lose patience, feeling we could do better, but then we realise that Tibetan Buddhism always has to start with zero – no capital, no foundations. Some of our achievements have exceeded my expectations. The Dharma is growing faster in Africa than it originally did in Tibet.”

Read the whole article for a better feel of the challenges.  I respect the work done and attempts made but I am always concerned with the feeling of “doing better”.  How is that measured?  By converts?  Size of monastic presence?  Money? Charity and compassionate works?  My humble opinion is that “starting with zero” or ending with that much is of small concern in comparison to extent of practice and effort made.

On a different note, Buddhism and Africa by Michel Clasquin and Kobus Kruger has mentioned that majority of Buddhist practitioners in South Africa are largely middle-class and white with one commentor in the book stating that

Buddhism does not fit all that naturally into the present black social or religious mentality

As well as it being… 

too foreign to their accustomed ways of thinking: too intellectual, philosophical and introspective.

I quick word on the book “Buddhism in Africa” – It seems to me and to others that the statistics utilized can be vastly skewed when certain sects are discounted.  It may be more accurate to state that most Tibetan and Zen groups are largely white-middle class while Nichiren sanghas have a greater number of black participants.  Or something of that sort.  I really have no knowledge of the statistics except to say that knowingly skewing the results to a prefered outcome is poor and immoral statistics work.

I would love some comments from those that may be practitioners (of any race) in Africa



Buddhism in Uganda

The centre is a major initiative in the heart of Africa and intends to provide the first stable source of the original teachings of the Buddha in Uganda. It aims to create an enduring home for the preservation and transmission of the Buddha’s teachings by venerable and respectful masters established in Dhamma, and to continue to develop a landmark of Buddhist culture and teaching in Uganda and Africa as a whole.


6 thoughts on “Buddhism in Africa ~ Akong Tulku Rinpoche, Venerable Buddharakkhita and others

  1. “Buddhism does not fit all that naturally into the present black social or religious mentality…”
    This is the kind of coded racist talk that has plagued South Africa for a very long time. Given that the Buddhist centers were most likely developed by middle class whites, with the guidance of Asian leaders (sound familiar), the entry of a lot of black South Africans is probably unlikely.

    If you take a look at this website, just as one example, there’s a different picture.


    In fact, if you just look at the South African Nichiren group featured, it’s racially diverse in a way that throws the quotes above completely off.

    Thanks for bringing up African Buddhism. I continue to be interested in these lesser known groups around the world.

    • Thanks Nathan,

      Yes, it does sound shockingly familiar to me. Not only in the slightly “under the radar” racism (although the fact that those two quotes were directly from a book of essays about Buddhism in Africa is disturbing). The most disturbing part is that, in a review of the book, the statistics of Nichiren practitioners were discarded, thus skewing the results. Buddhism does fit into “black social or religious mentality” when all Buddhist schools are analyzed (I’m making a huge assumption here) rather than just Tibetan and Korean Zen.

      Thanks much for the link, I will throw in up in the post.



  2. The whole “it doesn’t fit into the natural social mentality” is soo very wrong. What if America did that with *insertwordhere*!?
    I’m all for staying with your heritage but open mindedness is always a plus.

  3. I agree with the racist undertones to this article. Especially this quote, “too intellectual, philosophical and introspective.” As someone who lived with Africans for two years in Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa I can attest that they are a very intellectual, philosophical and introspective people. To say that Africans aren’t intellectually curious is a huge insult.

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