March 25, 2009

This “Dharma Brat” just found out he’s “racist.”


An anonymous blogger out there in the blogosphere just decided I’m racist, though he/she doesn’t know me…but because I define the term “Dharma Brat” as “children of American Buddhists.”

Now, let’s get something straight: Dharma Brat as a moniker evolved in the 80s, as a sort of humorous Bud-Lite Commercial synergy of two other terms: “Army Brats,” children who are dragged from base to base by their Army families…and Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums.” It might’ve originated in Boulder, around Trungpa Rinpoche’s community. It might not have.

In any case, starting more than a decade ago, I started pushing the term (in a cover article for the Shambhala Sun, most notably, when I was still in college. Jesse Thompson and other “Dharma Brats” also used the term in their work. I thought it was fun, hip, accessible—and the ‘brat’ word ably referenced our responsibility to do something with our great inheritance, the precious holy Dharma—and not merely lead self-satisfied navel-gazing lives of veiled selfishness.

That said, dear anonymous blogger friend “arunlikhati“, with respect, a few points:

1) If you want to call someone racist, consider having the courtesy to email or call them first and clarify if I really was, in some veiled way, referring to “White Buddhists,” as you assumed. I’m one google search away, my email is on elephantjournal.com (the site where you read the reference to “Dharma Brat”), I’m not hard to find on FB, twitter, linkedin, etc. Otherwise it might appear that you’re after controversy—ie, web traffic or scoring points out of anger—rather than dialogue and understanding, which is good for all of us.

2) “Dharma Brats,” as a term, applies to any second-generation American Buddhist: Black, white, Jewish, Asian, rich, poor, female, male…it’s all good. I’ve never said (or believed or thought) anything to the contrary. So go ahead, American Buddhists of any color*…call yourself a Dharma Brat if you like!

3) Children of Buddhists in other countries, not just America, can call themselves Dharma Brats if they want to, too. Go nuts! Of course, our Asian sisters and brothers were the original Dharma Brats!

Who needs coffee in the morning when you’ve been called a racist on the blogosphere?


Note: In my Shambhala Buddhist sangha, we often refer to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as our community’s first Dharma Brat—despite his lack of white-ness.

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