Monday, August 24, 2009

Shambhala Sun Space - In Search of “Western Buddhism”

The Shambhala Sun's blog takes a look at a post from Wandering Dhamma on the state of Western Buddhism and its seemingly white, affluent membership, or better, lack of diversity. In reality, there is an enormous sangha on the internet that is extremely diverse.

In Search of “Western Buddhism”

nessieI’ve heard it said more times than I can even count that there is no such thing as “Western Buddhism.” It’s all Buddhism, goes the argument. And indeed, the slogan of our sister magazine Buddhadharma is Many Buddhists, One Buddhadharma. And that’s true.

But, over at the great blog Wandering Dhamma, a new post posits (correctly, paradoxically) that it’s also not quite true.

“There is a whole close-knit community,” writes the blog’s author, “thriving on debate and discussion of a diversity of issues almost daily. This community of course, is the buddhoblogosphere. Tackling similar issues as recent scholars such as race and racism, the dynamic between culture and religion, and the secularization of meditation teachings, among others. This community comments on online and print Buddhist media and is more and more moving toward incorporating ideas of recent scholarship. The buddhobogosphere is on the cutting edge of what is going on within Buddhism in the West, and they will have increasing importance for scholarship about contemporary Buddhism.”

The author then goes on to list eight “New Trends in Western Buddhism”:

1) New Age vs. Hard Core Dhamma
2) Mindfulness Meditation and the Secularization of Meditation
3) Is Buddhism a religion? (Buddhism and religious identity)
4) The dialogue of Buddhism and science/psychology
5) Buddhism and youth
6) Buddhism and pop-culture
7) Buddhism and happiness
8) Modern-day commentaries of traditional Buddhist teachings

…and each of these trends is given a brief but smart explanation. There’s some great writing here, but best of all, we see at once the kind of vitality and growth that Western Buddhism both has and engenders.

Check out the post here. And we hope you’ll leave a comment at Wandering Dhamma, and here too. Most especially we’d like to know if you agree that the buddhoblogosphere gives you cause to feel positive about Buddhism in the West, and to hear what you think is waiting to be added into the discussion. There’s always more we could each do, always more we could each say — but do Wandering Dhamma’s eight trends indicate that the web is enabling the Buddhist community at large to unify, and to go perhaps where we’ve never gone before?

For a different take, I highly recommend the blog Angry Asian Buddhist, which informedly takes on related issues in the Buddhist world. For example, one recent post called “Faces of the Cultural Elites” talks frankly about the lack of diversity in American Buddhism. Another post simply asks us all — bloggers, the media, practitioners — to “include us [Asian American Buddhists] in your vision of the Buddhist community.” These and other good points are found all over AAB. We’re listening, and we hope you are, too.

This entry was created by Sun web editor, posted on August 23, 2009.

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