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The Shifting Landscape of Buddhism in America - Lion's Roar
"The first wave of academic scholarship on these communities was published around the turn of the millennium, as the study of Buddhism in America emerged as a distinct academic subfield. Influential books included Charles S. Prebish’s Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America (1999), Richard Hughes Seager’s Buddhism in America (1999), and James Coleman’s The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Religion (2002). One common distinction made in this early research was between the so-called “two Buddhisms” in America: “ethnic” and “convert.” According to the researchers, the ethnic or “immigrant” Buddhism of Asian Americans (what scholars now commonly refer to as heritage Buddhism) focused on communal, devotional, and merit-making activities within a traditional cosmological context, whereas the convert Buddhism of overwhelmingly white, upper-middle class practitioners was individualistic, primarily focused on meditation practice and psychological in its approach.

An early challenge to the “two Buddhisms” typology came from scholar Jan Nattier, who observed that not all converts are white, and that some convert-populated communities, such as Soka Gakkai, do not privilege meditation. She proposed an alternative “three Buddhisms” typology—import, export, and baggage—that moved away from ethnicity and race and focused on the mode by which various forms of Buddhism were brought to the U.S.

As Scott Mitchell and Natalie Quli note in their coedited collection Buddhism Beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States (2015), and as Mitchell unpacks in his Buddhism in America: Global Religions, Local Contexts (2016), there have been numerous dramatic changes in the social and cultural landscape of America since those studies were published over a decade ago. These changes, as evidenced by the Maha Teacher Council, have brought new questions and concerns to meditation-based convert communities: Who has the authority to define and represent “American” Buddhism? What is the impact of mindfulness transitioning from a countercultural religious practice to a mainstream secular one? How have technology and the digital age affected Buddhist practice? In what ways are generational and demographic shifts changing meditation-based convert communities?

My research explores these questions through a series of case studies, highlighting four areas in which major changes are occurring, pushing these communities beyond their first-generation expressions.

Addressing the Exclusion of Asian Americans

Central to the shifting landscape of contemporary American Buddhism is a rethinking of the distinction between “convert” and “heritage” Buddhisms as practitioners and scholars have become increasingly aware of the problematic nature of both the “two Buddhisms” and “three Buddhisms” typologies. An early challenge came from Rev. Ryo Imamura, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest, in a letter to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review in 1992. That winter, magazine founder and editor Helen Tworkov had written that “The spokespeople for Buddhism in America have been, almost exclusively, educated members of the white middle class. Asian American Buddhist so far have not figured prominently in the development of something called American Buddhism.” Rev. Imamuru correctly pointed out that this statement disregarded the contributions of Asian American immigrants who had nurtured Buddhism in the U.S. since the eighteenth century and implied that Buddhism only became truly American when white Americans practiced it. Although written twenty-five years ago, Rev. Imamura’s letter was only recently published in its entirety with a commentary by Funie Hsu on the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s website. Hsu and Arunlikhati, who has curated the blog Angry Asian Buddhist since 2011, have emerged as powerful voices in bringing long-overdue attention to the erasure of Asian Americans from Buddhism in the U.S and challenging white privilege in American meditation-based convert communities.

Another shortcoming of the heritage/convert distinction is that it does not account for practitioners who bridge or disrupt this boundary. Where, for example, do we place second- and third-generation Asian Americans who have grown up in Asian American Buddhist communities but now practice in meditation-based lineages? What about Asian Americans who have converted to Buddhism from other religions, or from non-religious backgrounds? Chenxing Han’s promising research, featured in Buddhadharma’s Summer 2016 edition, brings the many different voices of these marginalized practitioners to the forefront. Similarly, how do we categorize “cradle Buddhists,” sometimes jokingly referred to as “dharma brats,” who were born into Buddhist “convert” communities? Millennials Lodro Rinzler and Ethan Nichtern—two of the most popular young American Buddhist teachers—fall into this category, having grown up in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. How do such new voices affect meditation-based convert lineages?

Rev. Imamura’s letter echoes the early characterization of primarily white, meditation-based convert communities, observing that “White practitioners practice intensive psychotherapy on their cushions in a life-or-death struggle with the individual ego, whereas Asian Buddhists seem to just smile and eat together.” It is of little surprise then that the theme of community appears strongly in the work of Arunlikhati, Hsu, and Han. Arunlikhati has most recently written about the need to create refuges for Buddhists of color—”spaces where people can find true comfort and well-being”—and shares that his dream “is for Western Buddhism to be like a family that accepts all of its members openly.” In challenging white privilege, Asian Americans and other practitioners of color have been instrumental in recovering and building the neglected third refuge—sangha—in meditation-based convert Buddhism."



"Three Emerging Turns
In my forthcoming book, I posit three emerging turns, or sensibilities, within meditation-based convert Buddhism: critical, contextual, and collective. The critical turn refers to a growing acknowledgement of limitations within Buddhist communities. First-generation practitioners tended to be very celebratory of “American Buddhism,” enthusing that they were creating new, more modern, and “essential” forms of Buddhism that were nonhierarchical, gender-egalitarian, and free of the cultural and religious “baggage” of their Asian predecessors. While the modernization and secularization of Buddhism certainly continues, there is now much more discussion about the problems and pitfalls of these processes, with some exposing the Western ethnocentrism that has operated behind the “essential” versus “cultural” distinction. This understanding acknowledges that meditation-based convert Buddhism is as culturally shaped as any other form of Buddhism. Some, drawing attention to what is lost when the wider religious context of Buddhism is discarded, have called for a reengagement with neglected aspects of the tradition such as ritual and community.

The contextual turn refers to the increasing awareness of how Buddhist practice is shaped and limited by the specific social and cultural contexts in which it unfolds. In the case of the mindfulness debates, critics have argued that mindfulness has become commodified and assimilated into the context of global capitalism and neoliberalism. Another heated debate is around power and privilege in American Buddhist communities. Take, for instance, Pablo Das’s response to Buddhist teachers’ reflections on the U.S. presidential election, in which he critiques their perspectives as reflective of a privileged social location that negates the trauma of marginalized communities. Das suggests that calls to meditate and to “sit with what is” are not sufficient to create safety for vulnerable populations, and he warns against misusing Buddhist teachings on impermanence, equanimity, and anger to dismiss the realities of such groups. Insight teachers Sebene Selassie and Brian Lesage have fostered a dialogue between sociocultural awareness and Buddhism, developing a course for the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies titled “Buddha’s Teaching and Issues of Cultural Spiritual Bypassing,” which explores how unconscious social conditioning manifests both individually and collectively.

The collective turn refers to the multiple challenges to individualism as a cornerstone of meditation-based convert lineages. One shift has come in the form of efforts toward building inclusive sanghas. Another is the development of relational forms of meditation practice such as external mindfulness. And a third expression is the concept of “collective awakening,” hinted at in Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggestion that “the next Buddha might take the form of a community,” as well as the application of Buddhist principles and practices to the collective dukkha caused by racism and capitalism.

The first generation of meditation-based convert practitioners brought the discourses of psychology, science, and liberal feminism to their encounter with already modernized forms of Asian Buddhism. With the “three turns,” previously excluded, neglected, or entirely new conversations—around critical race theory, postcolonial thought, and cultural studies—are shaping the dialogue of Buddhist modernism. These are not necessarily replacing earlier influences but sitting alongside them and engaging in often-heated debates. Moreover, due to social media and the lively Buddhist blogosphere, these dialogues are also finding a much larger audience. While it is difficult to predict the extent to which these new perspectives will shape the future of Buddhism in America, the fact that they are particularly evident in Gen X and millennial practitioners suggests that their impact will be significant… [more]
us  buddhism  religion  2018  conversion  race  identity  mindfulness  annagleig  whiteprivilege  inclusion  racialjustice  history  diversity  meditation  babyboomers  generations  genx  millennials  pluralism  individualism  accountability  psychology  converts 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Ignoble Lie by Patrick J. Deneen | Articles | First Things
So long as liberalism was not fully itself—so long as liberalism was corrected and even governed by Christianity—a working social contract was possible. For Christianity, difference is ordered toward unity. For liberalism, unity is valued insofar as it promotes difference. The American experiment blended and confused these two understandings, but just enough to make it a going concern. The balance was always imperfect, leaving out too many, always ­unstably oscillating between quasi-theological evocation of unity and deracinated individualism. But it seemed viable for nearly 250 years. The recent steep decline of religious faith and Christian moral norms is regarded by many as marking the triumph of liberalism, and so, in a sense, it is. Today our unity is understood almost entirely in the light of our differences. We come together—to celebrate diversity. And today, the celebration of diversity ends up serving as a mask for power and inequality.
Christianity  America  unity  pluralism  patrick-deneen  divercity  Christendom  liberalism  post-liberalism 
july 2018 by chriskrycho
Impossible Pluralism by Paul J. Griffiths | Articles | First Things
The cosmos—everything there is, save the Lord God, who is not a thing, or, if the term must be used, is una summa quaedam res—comes into being cum tempore et cum spatiis, i.e., with space-time as a central feature. This occurs by the free creative act of the Lord. It is not an event that can be dated or placed. The before-and-after of dating, and the here-and-there of placing, belong only to the cosmos, and to all of it without remainder; the cosmos therefore has no before and no outside. Every particular being in the cosmos is created ex nihilo by the Lord (all particular beings, therefore, are creatures) and has whatever being it has by way of participation in him.

Among these creatures are angels; (almost) simultaneously with creation (in ictu), some among these rebel against their creator and introduce thereby deep damage into the otherwise harmoniously beautiful space-time fabric of the cosmos. All creatures, material and immaterial, living and nonliving, are damaged by this fall. The Lord’s response, indexed to time but not itself temporal, is to bring human beings, among many other kinds of creatures, into existence. (The evolutionary story that Bellah tells belongs here; its particulars occupy this place in the frame; and those particulars, as the framing narrative suggests, involve, without exception, death on a massive scale.)

Some among these creatures replicate the angelic fall, introducing new and worse damage into the fabric of the cosmos. The Lord’s response (again, time-indexed but not itself temporal), a response whose finis is the transfiguring of the cosmos’ chaotic deadly violence into an order more beautiful than the original, is to elect a person (Abraham) to special intimacy with himself, and to guarantee that same intimacy with his descendants. That response is intensified, eventually, by the Lord himself taking flesh, joining his substance with that of the man Jesus to become a single person, and in that flesh, as that person, dying and rising and ascending.

Human history then has the nexus of election and incarnation as its central thread; the fabric woven around this thread is of two colors, inextricably intertwined, one representing the love of the Lord, and the other the love of self, one peaceful and the other violent, one heavenly and the other hellish. (The particulars of Bellah’s stories about specific human cultures belong here: They all have the people of Israel and the Church as their vibrant center, whether proleptically or actually.)

Consequent upon the election and the Incarnation is the gradual healing of the cosmos, which progresses principally through the work of the body of Jesus Christ—the Church—here below, and culminates in an eschaton, an end whose particulars lie beyond the scope of this paragraph, and in which the two threads in the fabric are finally disentangled.

There’s a metanarrative for you. Its grammar is that of Christian theology. It enframes Bellah’s, fully accounting for it without rejecting any of its particulars that turn out to be true. This Christian metanarrative is of course not universally shared, understood, or offered, and in this it is just like Bellah’s account. If his metanarrative is true, this Christian one must be false—because his account, he thinks, requires Christians exactly not to offer this narrative as a metanarrative. And if this Christian metanarrative is true, his must be false—not in its particulars, necessarily, but certainly in its self-understanding as a metanarrative. Metanarratives don’t brook rivals.

I’ve learned a great deal from Robert Bellah’s magnificent book. But what I’ve learned is about particulars: the ideas of facilitated variation and conserved core processes, for instance, and their possible purchase on the evolutionary process; and the sociological analyses given of particular human cultural forms. These can stand. But the metanarrative Bellah uses to frame them cannot. And since it’s the metanarrative that gives the book its point, I’m left wondering what point remains when the metanarrative is seen for what it is.
theology  evolution  pluralism  from instapaper
march 2018 by ayjay
The Baker and the Empire
Ross Douthat/The New York Times, Dec. 9, 2017.
douthat  gaymarriage  democracy  pluralism 
december 2017 by markcoddington
How the Muslim World Lost the Freedom to Choose
A review article on the decline of pluralism within Islamic societies, with particular attention paid to Pakistan.
pluralism  Islam  Pakistan 
october 2017 by micahrobbins
The Trouble with Tolerance | On Being
"This is why we need to move beyond tolerance, toleration. I do not need anyone to tolerate me. I am not your poison, and you are not my poison. We need a different metaphor for the body politic. How about a garden, in which lilies, roses, and jasmines all bloom? No one has to be the weed. May a thousand flowers bloom.

No, being a “tolerant” nation still assumes that some of us are the host, the body. Rather than merely reflecting existing social hierarchies, the language of “tolerance” actually reinforces those hierarchies. Tolerance is surely preferable to fighting, violence, bigotry, hatred, and discrimination. But it is nowhere as sublime as starting with a fact — diversity — and moving to the moral high ground of pluralism.

Diversity is not an ideological claim, it is a simple fact: we as members of a human community are remarkably diverse. We are diverse in our races, cultures, languages, religions, etc. Pluralism is striving for a notion of a greater We that acknowledges and builds on our particularity, and does not seek to wash it away. It does not privilege some of us at the expense of others, and does not treat any of us as a pathogen or contaminant.

That, that is the start of building a beloved community here and now.

So in this light, friends, let us not settle for merely tolerating one another.

Let us embrace one another in a beloved community, one that we have to build together. That would be a lovely and beloved America, a humble and responsible citizen of the lovely and beloved world community."
tolerance  diversity  pluralism  2017  omisafi  immigration  humanism  embace  humility 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Trump and Putin could be on the same side in this troubling new world order | Matthew d’Ancona | World news | The Guardian
"Imagine a world in which the old left-right divide and the east-west conflict of the cold war era were practically irrelevant. The conflict of consequence would be between traditionalists and pluralists, between internationalists and nativists, between autocracy and liberalism. This is Dugin’s world. In it, Trump and Putin, for all their differences, would be on the same side. The core lesson of 2016 is that there is nothing inevitable in the march of progress."
Matthew_d'Ancona  Guardian  2016  politics  pluralism  liberalism  openness  closed  Russia  Putin  Trump  Steve_Bannon  Dugin 
december 2016 by Preoccupations
The End of Identity Liberalism
“But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life.”
Pluralism  Politics  Identity 
november 2016 by crbassett

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