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Call for Submissions: Stolen Lands, Stolen Culture, Stolen Time

We’re so excited to talk about the Lies that Build Empire during February — starting on Monday with a loving and politicized letter to a beloved jambolan tree. For you media makers out there who feel inspired to write something for our next theme, here’s the next call for submissions!

In the second theme for The System Stinks, we’re taking a look at systemic theft. How do we live within the precept “I will not steal” when the systems around us are built on stealing?

Note: BPF isn’t endorsing the view of this meme, but we think it’s a complex topic worth discussing! :)

Do I live on land that was stolen from indigenous people?

Do I borrow what I want from other people’s religious and cultural traditions without permission? Is cultural appropriation a problem in non-Asian Buddhism?

Does my boss pressure or guilt me to work more without paying me more? If our economic system creates profit from unpaid labor time, do we consider this stealing?

Did my ancestors pass down wealth they earned through access to jobs, land, and resources that were denied to others based on race, gender, immigration status, or class status?

We’d love to hear your take on these general questions: What is systematically stolen in our world? Where are we complicit in the theft? How do we resist this kind of stealing, not only individually but especially collectively?

We’re interested in your artwork, poetry, photography, and videos in addition to more traditional prose pieces. We’re especially excited for media reflecting on examples of direct action / organizing, theory, personal stories, and practices we can try at home. We are all wrestling with uncomfortable contradictions and strong counter-arguments to our views.  We find ourselves especially moved by media that demonstrates vulnerability, courage, and a willingness to surprise yourself in the media-making process.

If you are a spiritual and political seeker looking to contribute toward liberation, we would love to hear from you. Send your Buddhist, Buddhist-friendly, or spiritual-activist media to by March 15th, to be featured on Turning Wheel in April 2013. Selected works will also go into the PDF curriculum for The System Stinks, distributed to Buddhist Peace Fellowship members and study groups internationally.

Image Credits:

United States Department of the Interior 1911 advertisement offering ‘Indian Land for Sale‘. The man pictured is a Yankton Sioux named Not Afraid Of Pawnee.

Troll MEME Generator, “Strongly Against Cultural Appropriation / Buddhist

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Comments (5)

  • Denise Stewart-Sanabria

    “Is cultural appropriation a problem in non-Asian Buddhism?” Does anyone look at the reverse: Is cultural appropriation a problem in non-Western Christianity? I like to flip things to try to find objective revelations. I live down the street from a Thai Buddhist temple, and though I know there are lots of Caucasians in town who claim Buddhism, I’ve never seen a non-Asian there. We also have a Korean Christian church somewhere in town. It’s interesting.

  • Katie Loncke

    Hi Denise, I agree, the dynamics of people adopting or converting to Christianity are interesting. I’d love to hear a series of interviews from people who have left a Buddhist tradition they were raised with, in order to embrace Christianity (or who have embraced both simultaneously, in a deep way). I’d also be curious to hear more of your thoughts on the Thai Buddhist temple down the street from you. Why do you think non-Asians don’t go there, even though many claim or practice Buddhism?

    (Incidentally, there is a Thai Buddhist temple in my neighborhood, too, and every Sunday they transform their courtyard into a big outdoor restaurant, selling Thai food. It is always *packed* with mostly Thai people selling food, and mostly non-Thai, largely white people buying. I’ve never attended a service at the temple, but I wonder if non-Asian people ever start coming for the spiritual practice, in addition to the food.)

    To me (and this is how my mind tends to look at things), a ‘reversal’ can be very helpful in revealing complex and nuanced dynamics of power and profit. In the US, for instance, Christianity and white supremacy are so historically linked that when non-traditionally-Christian people (e.g. Korean people) convert to Christianity, I think it’s fair to ask what pressures of assimilation might be coming into play. (Not that these pressures invalidate people’s spiritual conversions or practices, but hey, assimilation is a real thing. I see it playing out in my own family of immigrants.) And the dominance of Western culture is so strong worldwide, that I think it’s also fair to ask about assimilationist pressures and tendencies outside of the U.S. Again, this is a really broad-sweeping observation, and there are probably important particulars playing out in the trends of conversion to Christianity by Buddhist-raised people (and I’d love to learn more about that, if anyone can speak on it!), but I think it’s important to note. If one wishes to be President of the US (just to give an example), being Christian is practically mandatory.

    With non-traditionally-Buddhist people converting to or embracing Buddhism, I think we see a different set of dynamics at play that aren’t really about assimilation, at least from where I sit in the US. If assimilation is about embracing aspects of a dominant culture in an attempt to gain more power or privileges within that culture (like my Oma and Opa insisting that my mom and uncle learn to speak English, not German, as much as possible, in order to be seen by others as intelligent and non-threatening), then appropriation tends to come from a position of dominance, that can (irresponsibly) pick up elements of non-dominant culture without sacrificing cultural status.

    I love this interview-essay between Francis Lam and Eddie Huang, which really dives into the assimilation and appropriation questions around food. The title we used (pulled from a quote in the article) really gets to the heart of it, I think: “Taking Our Traditions And Selling ’em Back To Us.” And the original title, “Is It Fair For Chefs To Cook Other Cultures’ Foods?” also points to the question of fairness that, I think, goes hand in hand with the power element.

    How do these distinctions between assimilation and appropriation strike you? Do you see them playing out in your community around Buddhist culture or practices?

  • Rev. Karen Harrison

    I am a Canadian Buddhist First Nations minister and one of the founders of the Buddhist Order of Smiling Flowers. I have lived in Canada all my life and experienced discrimination has an indigenous person living in a Canadian city. In the 90’s my government job was taken from me when it was learned that I was both a Buddhist and a native. I was told that I was “dirty, ignorant and not a real human. ” With Idle No More, myself and my First Nations family and sanghas are still trying to reclaim our history and protect the land and water. I am a Medicine woman and an indigenous water walker. My ancestors helped both the French and the English to survive and not perish in this beautiful place but both myself and my father have gone through alot because of our ancestory. In 2008 and 2011 the Canadian governent tried to prevent me from voting in the federal elections with many First Nations citizens. Since I am aboriginal and a woman , I have also experienced racism within the Buddhist communities, but we continue to try to educate. We now call this ” Idle Know More” Many people who come to Canada from other countries around the world somehow feel that racism against First Nations is allowed. It is not and the First Nations people around the World are trying to still help every human being by a spirituality that teaches us to respect all the land, water and air ancestors, protect all the element ancestors and honour our time on this beautiful Mother Body Earth. I love and live in my mothers body the Earth and it makes me smile. Rev. Karen

  • Katie Loncke

    Hi Reverend Karen! Thank you for sharing your story and insights with us. I would love to know more about how your sangha is participating in the Idle No More movement, and what learning is happening through that process… I haven’t heard too many stories of sanghas directly participating. (Maybe others here can shed some light, as well!)

    Thank you, and may you and your loved ones be well.


  • Susmita Barua

    From Buddhist perspective assimilation or adaptation may be seen as constantly trying to find the middle way. It may be following our natural urge to connect, relate and make rapport with prevailing culture in a non-threatening way. When appropriation of land, symbols, language, physical and sytemic structures are done from another pre-existing culture, it can be done violently through possession of land, people and their arts and artifacts as under colonialism and also through systematic education that promotes ‘monocultures of mind’ (there’s a book by Vandana Shiva, I am yet to read). My sense is just like individuals, cultures have certain strengths and certain shadows.

    Going against the stream often requires one to go against the stream of prevailing cultural practices and tradition. Dharma calls us to investigate and give up limiting beliefs that generate oppression, harm and suffering at home, work and within and beyond the Sangha. Can we attain secular humanism and peaceful conflict resolution through a culture of mindfulness?

    In the West I am noticing Buddhist Sanghas are somewhat insular, insulated within their own culture, tradition, country or lineage. I am waiting to see what forms and practices the culture of engaged buddhism takes, if any, to break through this tradition and culture barrier.

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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