To wrap up our interview, I asked Dolma this question. In light of her anger at the appropriation and the uncomfortable white guilt she had experienced in so many of her encounters with American Buddhists, what would a respectful approach look like? What advice does she have for white people who want to study Buddhism and avoid being appropriative or disrespectful. She took the question home with her and sent me a reply the following day. This is what she wrote:
Dear White People,
It's okay if you don't understand everything about Buddhism or you can't relate to the cultural aspects and associations of Buddhism. Simply admit it. It may or may not resonate with you, but it is far better to admit when you don't understand something than to deny the cultural element and change or manipulate a religious practice so it fits your worldview. Recognize your racial privilege and power in relation to your practice, in the way Buddhism is represented in the media, and in the choosing of which Buddhists are assumed to be "authority figures." Listen when heritage Buddhists say that your actions or words have been offensive to them. Please do not commercialize the Dharma. Please do not deny the existence of Asian and Asian American Buddhists. But please, also share your experiences of being converts to this religion. I would like to know about the challenges you have experienced as well being non-Asian Buddhists. Let's communicate sincerely.