Prof. Stephen Long stresses recognition of Buddhist in the US – Asian Tribune

Posted: September 4, 2020 at 7:58 pm


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By Daya Gamage Asian Tribune US National Correspondent

Washington, D.C. 04 September (Asiantribune.com):

An academic and a devout Buddhist closely associated with the head of the United States Buddhist Sangha Council and Chief Abbot of the Los Angeles premiere Buddhist Temple Dharma Vijaya, in a letter to the Chairman of Democratic National Committee Tom Perez, reminded that the just-concluded Democratic Party convention failed to recognize the large percentage of Buddhists residing in the U.S. not observing Buddhist rituals along with rituals of other religious beliefs.

He reminded in the letter that During the Convention, speakers acknowledged various religious groups as valuable contributing members of our American society: Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims. In emphasizing inclusivity, the Buddhist community, which represents a surprisingly large portion of the countrys population, and is extremely supportive of Democratic policies, ideals, and candidates, was overlooked.

Prof. Long reminded that In the early 1970s there were very few Buddhists and Buddhist places of worship in the U.S. With the arrival of immigrants from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, South Korea, China, and other Asian countries, the Buddhist population has grown dramatically. In 1996, ABC News reported there were six million Buddhists. With the spread of Buddhist philosophy, current estimates exceed fourteen million. As an example of the growth of Buddhism, when Ven. Walpola Piyananda, Abbot of Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara in Los Angeles and current President of the Sri Lankan Sangha Council of the United States and Canada, arrived in 1976, there were only two Sri Lankan Buddhist temples in North America; there are now over 100.

He reminded American Buddhists for Biden/Harris a newly-formed informal group of Buddhists, meditation groups, practitioners, leaders, and organizations. We represent a range of races and nationalities, and as liberal thinkers support peace, inclusion, tolerance, and compassion for all peoples both here and around the world. Being very distressed with the direction the US has taken since 2016, we wish to add our voices and our networks to yours to help turn the ship around. We feel that American Buddhists can be a very effective campaign component in providing volunteers, linkages to Buddhist temples and organizations, and messaging for this niche group of voters.

He reminded the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee that the largely Buddhist population in the U.S. is in favor of the Democratic Party.

Prof. Stephen Long attached a sheet of information about the status of the Buddhist Order in the United States.

According to the statistics given by him, 69% out of the total Buddhists have aligned with the Democratic Party, and 80% belong to the political persuasion of Liberal/Moderate. He says that Buddhists are not monolithic: they are comprised of two separate and distinct groups, each requiring a unique approach in targeting, messaging, and securing support.

The Immigration Act of 1965 brought immigrant waves from China, Vietnam, and the predominantly Theravada Buddhist countries of South and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka). Between 1965 and 2015 Asians increased from 1.5% to 6% of the US population.

More recent waves of these immigrants differ from previous waves of immigrants. Since 2011 Asia has been the largest source for recently arrived immigrants, many from China and Korea. Asian immigration will continue to increase, and, based on Pew Research assumptions about immigration, fertility, and mortality rates, by 2055 Asians will surpass Hispanics as the largest group among the foreign-born population group.14% of Asian American immigrants are Buddhist the highest percentage of any affiliated Non-Christian religious group. American Buddhists

Made up of new converts within the country, American Buddhists are largely white and represent about 75% of total Buddhists in the US. This should be a major Democratic Party target population.

This group grew from 3.6 million in 2010 to over 4.2 million in 2020 and is projected to continue increasing.

American Buddhists skew young, are highly educated, and are more prosperous than other populations.

They are viewed favorably by all Americans, especially by the 18-29 age group.

In recent years American society has become more accepting of Buddhist beliefs, incorporating them into mainstream thinking and everyday life. Think widespread acceptance of the concepts of mindfulness and compassion, and the spread of meditation and yoga for stress minimization and health.

Prof. Stephen Long in the paper submitted to the hierarchy of the Democratic Party writes:

While Buddhists seem to be an ideal yet untapped source of support for the Democratic slate, their unique characteristics and beliefs require a well-calibrated approach based on how Buddhists as a group view themselves and their place in influencing the world they live in.

In general, Buddhists have separated their spiritual and religious life from issues like politics and policy, even though their beliefs align closely with many liberal social agendas. Historically Buddhists have not been comfortable in the political arena, feeling theres a fine line between practicing Buddhist mindfulness and what they view as politicizing or proselytizing their beliefs. According to Buddhist leaders, although U.S. Buddhists have high rates of political attentiveness and voting, until recent years there hasnt been a concerted and unified effort to define how Buddhism translates into political clout at the voting booth, and in helping to define the message and gain support for newly developing policies under the future Biden administration.

We think this election - mired in the discord, distrust, and total lack of mindfulness and compassion by the Trump administration -- is an ideal time to reach out to Buddhist and Buddhist-oriented populations to optimize voting efforts and to strengthen future involvement and input in the newly elected administration. Understanding how Buddhists view themselves and the communities they live in and working closely with them at this time is key to formulating and implementing a successful strategy for not only increasing the awareness of the need to vote but more importantly to provide a pathway for greater involvement with the Buddhist community in the new Biden administration.

Politics in our country is generally based on identifying leaders or spokesmen for distinct groups. That will not happen with the Buddhist community. Buddhist practitioners believe in turning inward for guidance and their innate goodness, and most Buddhist leaders (both clerical and secular) are reluctant to identify themselves as spokes-persons to advocate for a specific political party/candidate/policy.

Recognized individuals at the forefront of the Buddhist communities adhere to a common philosophy, and while we cannot expect endorsements per se, we can reach out to them to help us sound the alarm and define the message to resonate with the Buddhist community: their way of life is existentially in danger and requires political action (e.g. voting).

We can do this by emphasizing the message not the messenger and by exhorting each individual to be messengers to their families, friends, co-workers, and religious communities.

As individuals deeply involved in the Buddhist community, we can provide assistance in identifying the core of Buddhist students, activists, and leaders to assist in developing a unified approach to:

Reaching out for Buddhist volunteers for the election process through communications, social media, and poll watching.

Identifying political officeholders and candidates who would be the most receptive to incorporating Buddhist ideals and messages into their discourse.

Identifying prominent individuals in the Buddhist community who can work with the Biden administration as liaisons to the various Buddhist communities they represent.

- Asian Tribune -

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Prof. Stephen Long stresses recognition of Buddhist in the US - Asian Tribune

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September 4th, 2020 at 7:58 pm

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