It is thought small Buddhist communities existed in Northern Australia from the 1400’s. If not, then it certainly would’ve arrived during the Goldrush with the influx of Chinese migrants seeking their fortunes.
Later on lay organisations were established but from what I can gather these were more like discussion or interest groups. Tibetan Buddhism, or Mahayanan Buddhism if you like, really took off in Australia in the late 1970s when thankfully Lama Yeshe established several institutes with resident monks to serve as teachers and really bring Buddhist teachings to Australia. He gave us clear guidelines for practice and venues in which to establish and seek help with a spiritual path.
To this observer, at least, it would seem that the development of the western Buddhist (or perhaps I should narrow my generalisation somewhat to Australia) has become stuck in the era in which Buddhism really flourished here, i.e. the 70’s. You see, I feel there is a stereotype which is associated with being Buddhist that is closely related with the hippie movement and involves arm pit hair, tie-dyed shirts, beads, feather earrings that might also function as dream catchers, bare feet and clothes made of cheese cloth.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics people declaring to be Buddhist have increased by 79% or 158,000 between 1996 and 2001. We have just completed a national census again and it will be interesting to see what the statistics are now, 10 years later. So if there is this great increase why is it not more present in my modern, western circles? I don’t feel like I live in a marginalised community but that’s because I don’t. The 158,000 do. The answer I suspect is that Buddhism is still largely the domain of migrants from our close Asian neighbours who tend to live in their own particular suburbs, as we all do really don’t we? I mean like seeks like right? Nothing wrong with that, or maybe that’s not the most politically correct thing to say, but it is probably where my answer lies. Having just said that, I look around Monday’s class and I don’t see a lot of people who look like immigrants but I am attending class in an area in which 77% are born in Australia compared to 69% in the whole of Melbourne so the suburb is not the place to find migrants.
Looking around at the rest of the class there is still a lot of flowing skirts, unkempt hair, a few dreadlocks, canvas bags and the like. The Dalai Lama has often expressed his excitement for how the West will interpret Buddha’s teachings but here I am feeling like we have not properly integrated the philosophy into the 21st Century.
Somehow if you live in the West and you become a Buddhist you get warped back in time to 1969 and I must confess I am not completely outside of this (as she listens to Jefferson Airplane on iTunes) but by and large my Manning Cartell knit and Sass & Bide jeans does not fit the stereotype of a hippie and I don’t wish to stop shaving my pits! However my mind seeks a category in which to place myself and herein lies my struggle. This is of course the work of my ego and the subject of another post currently in draft mode.
Meditation class tonight so I will blog again on what the topic of discussion was but privately I have pulled out some texts which give instructions on meditations to directly combat the ego and it’s demonic like posession of the mind. I will let you know what these meditations are and my success with them once I have grappled with them for a bit myself first.