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Buddhism in America

Columbia University Press

By Richard Seager
Posted January 1, 2001
Tags Faculty Books
The book begins with a brief survey of Buddhist beliefs -the story of the Buddha´s life, the meaning of enlightenment, realization, the cultivation of nonattachment, and other core concepts -and Buddhist history in both Asia and the United States. In part 2, Richard Seager assciate professor of religious studies presents six well-crafted profiles of Buddhist traditions that have been brought to the United States from Japan, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. This section highlights challenges and problems that have come with transporting and adapting an Asian religion to late twentieth-century America: Who can teach and who can lead? What are the proper roles of laypeople and monks in a society lacking a strong monastic tradition?

The last section takes up the general theme of Americanization, looking at recent developments in three important areas -gender equity, progressive social change, and intra-Buddhist and interreligious dialogue. Arguing that the gulf between recent converts and new immigrant communities is the most prominent feature of the contemporary scene, Seager assesses American Buddhism as a whole and looks into its future: Will the dharma, traditional Buddhist teachings, be watered down to suit the lifestyles of middle-class, consumerist Americans? Will this highly decentralized religion develop strong national associations, as Catholicism and Judaism have? What institutions -universities, monasteries, or dharma centers run by and for laypeople -will be most effective in preserving and developing an American Buddhist tradition? This lucid survey lays the foundations for understanding one of the United States´ most vital new religions.

Reviews

"Richard Seager marks out a magnificent road map, directing us to important people, places, and issues in multifaceted Buddhist America at the turn of the millennium. Under Seager´s guidance we discover a great deal about the Buddhists of America, but also a great deal about the Americanization of Buddhism."
–Paul David Numrich,
director of the Buddhist Chicago Project; author of Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization in Two Immigrant Thervada Buddhist Temples


"The first comprehensive treatment of Buddhism in America to take seriously the experiences of immigrants, Buddhism in America is a fascinating road map to the contemporary Buddhist landscape, with Seager as the expert guide."
–Stephen Prothero, Boston University

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