Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Acknowledging Buddhism’s South Asian Roots

GROWING UP, I perceived a close affinity between Hinduism—the religion of my ancestors—and Buddhism. Not only were both traditions rooted deeply in the soil of South Asia, but I had always been taught that the Buddha was the ninth avatar of Vishnu, the traditional Hindu preserver and protector of the universe (as well as my namesake). Given this, engaging with Buddhism felt like a natural part of my spiritual journey. Once I began participating in Western Buddhist circles, though, I encountered a mix of fetishization and hostility toward Buddhism’s South Asian roots that led me to wonder whether I was misunderstanding Buddhism, or whether the Western Buddhists I was practicing with were misunderstanding me.

Among the first things I noticed during my early forays into Western Buddhism, particularly the Insight tradition, was that the sanghas were made up almost exclusively of white practitioners. I grew up in predominantly white, rural areas, so this alone didn’t bother me.

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4951 Bodhi Way, Ukiah, CA 95482. (707) 621-7000, info@drbu.edu, www.drbu.edu • Dharma Realm Buddhist University (DRBU) is an accredited university in northern California dedicated to liberal education in the broad Buddhist tradition. 1430 Olympic Blv