This post at Womanist Musings requires a longer and more thoughtful response than I can give it right this minute, as I have a busy day ahead, However, much of what I'd like to say Ive said already in an earlier post, "Popular Culture vs. Dharma." So until I have time to write something longer and more thoughtful, go read that.
The Womanist Musings post is written by a woman from Sri Lanka who has moved to the United States and feels alienated by the Buddhism she finds here. And clearly she is angry about what she calls the "white appropriation of Buddhism."
I don't doubt that the smarmy condescension shown to Buddhism in western popular culture is deeply distressing to her. I also note that there is a large movement within western Buddhism, led by the likes of Stephen Batchelor, which posits that Buddhism has been mucked up by superstitious Asians and must be rescued by westerners bearing the light of scientific rationalism. Yeah, that's pretty blatant.
But what's the issue with Richard Gere? It seems nearly every time an ethnic Asian explains what's wrong with western Buddhism, Richard Gere must be trotted out as exhibit A. And I can't see what Richard Gere is doing that is so objectionable.
This week he was in Korea, promoting a photo exhibit that is raising money for charities associated with Tibet and human rights. He's a co-founder of Tibet House, which is dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture. Yeah, he's handsome and successful and wealthy, which means he can give alms in big, splashy ways.
But I have never noticed that he is puts himself forward as a teacher or expert or anything but a sincere lay student. And much of his alms-giving is in support of Asian Buddhist institutions. Maybe I'm missing something. Would he be less objectionable if he were less white?