American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship

American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship

American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship

American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship

Synopsis

This is the first scholarly treatment of the emergence of American Buddhist Studies as a significant research field. Until now, few investigators have turned their attention to the interpretive challenge posed by the presence of all the traditional lineages of Asian Buddhism in a consciously multicultural society. Nor have scholars considered the place of their own contributions as writers, teachers, and practising Buddhists in this unfolding saga. In thirteen chapters and a critical introduction to the field, the book treats issues such as Asian American Buddhist identity, the new Buddhism, Buddhism and American culture, and the scholar's place in American Buddhist Studies. The volume offers complete lists of dissertations and theses on American Buddhism and North American dissertations and theses on topics related to Buddhism since 1892.

Excerpt

Wat Buddhanusorn is a jewel, a beautiful new Thai Buddhist temple dedicated in 1997 in Fremont, California, near San Francisco. It is one of several Thai temples in the Bay area and one of dozens now scattered throughout the United States. Its story is not unlike that of hundreds of new Buddhist communities in America. For over ten years, the Thai community of the Fremont area had gathered in a large bungalow house on Niles Boulevard. It converted the house into quarters for resident monks and classrooms for an education program ranging from instruction in Buddhism and the Thai language to instruction in music and dance. A converted garage had become its Buddha hall. Over the course of a decade, the community had come to include Laotian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian Buddhists as well.

When I first visited Wat Buddhanusorn in 1995, the new temple was under construction in the lot immediately behind the bungalow on Niles Boulevard. The foundation had been laid and a skeleton of two-by-fours framed. By the time of my next visit in late 1997, the stunning new temple had already been dedicated. With its graceful roof line and elaborate ornamentation, this temple is a striking and highly visible new addition to the religious landscape of Fremont. The drive down Niles Boulevard will never be the same.

Inside the Buddha hall of the new temple, a fine golden image of the seated Buddha graces the raised altar, and just behind it is a colorful mural, painted by a local Thai artist, depicting scenes of the three worlds — the heavens, this world, and the netherworlds. The most remarkable part of this complex mural might well serve as a visual icon of the two-way traffic of influence and interaction constitutive of Buddhism in America. It is a painted depiction of Wat Buddhanusorn itself and, just above it, the city of San Francisco, represented by the unmistakable Golden Gate Bridge. The image gives vivid expression to the religious reality of this Thai Buddhist community. Just as Wat Buddhanusorn is now a visible part of the religious . . .

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