Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists

Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists

by Sumi Loundon

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In an age when the Dalai Lama's image has been used to sell computers, rock stars have used tantra to enhance their image, and for many, Nirvana calls to mind a a favorite band, what does Buddhism mean to twenty-somethings?

Blue Jean Buddha offers real stories about young Buddhists in their own words that affirm and inform the young adult Buddhist


In an age when the Dalai Lama's image has been used to sell computers, rock stars have used tantra to enhance their image, and for many, Nirvana calls to mind a a favorite band, what does Buddhism mean to twenty-somethings?

Blue Jean Buddha offers real stories about young Buddhists in their own words that affirm and inform the young adult Buddhist experience. This one-of-a-kind book is about the experiences of young people in America-from their late teens to early thirties-who have embraced Buddhism. Thirty-three first-person narratives reflect on a broad range of life-stories, lessons, and livelihood issues, such as growing up in a Zen center, struggling with relationships, caring for the dying, and using marathon running as meditation. Throughout, up-and-coming author Sumi Loundon provides an illuminating context for the tremendous variety of experiences shared in the book.

Blue Jean Buddha was named a finalist in the 2002 Independent Publisher Book Awards (Multicultural Non-Fiction - Young Adult) as well in NAPRA's Nautilus Awards, in the Personal Journey/Memoir/Biography category.

Editorial Reviews

Inquiring Mind
"Those who might have been concerned about the 'graying' of the Western dharma community can relax. Here are the voices of younger people who are walking the path, bringing their own generational concerns and cultural spin to the Buddha's teaching. Blue Jean Buddha includes a story about growing up in a Zen center, another about marathon running as a meditation practice, and several tales of encounters with self-judgment and depression. This book is a testimony to the timelessness of the dharma, as well as to the vitality of a new generation that is taking it to heart."
The New York Review of Books
"A bellwether anthology."
"Buddhists in twenty-first-century America face many conundrums, and many books about the struggle to fit the dharma into daily life (or daily life into the dharma) are available, but most are by Buddhists in their forties or older. What about the challenges facing practitioners in their twenties? Editor Loundon, a young Buddhist born into a Zen community, wanted to know how her peers were coping, and her quest for men and women from diverse backgrounds willing to share their experiences yielded nearly 30 frank and thoughtful essays. Loundon's smart, committed, and articulate contributors include activists, health-care workers, students, teachers, monks, and a nun, and they cover the essentials in their tales of striving to reconcile Buddhist practice with the demands of school, work, family, and relationships. As contributors muse on the rewards and challenges of meditation, the great gap between theoretical and active Buddhism, and bending tradition to accommodate contemporary mores regarding sex, drugs, depression, recreation, and material security, they illuminate an evolving spirituality that is enriching American life."
Thich Nhat Hanh
"These young people offer all of something extremely precious. They embody a deep desire to love and are practicing-successfully! to bring the dharma to every aspect of life. We need their insight and experience for the tree of Buddhism to grow and take root in the West."
Daniel Goleman
"A bracingly fresh set of visions of how spiritual life emerges. Blue Jean Buddha shines both as a documentation of the forces that shape spirituality and as a testament to Buddhism as it exists today."
Lama Surya Das
"These young voices speak straight from their good hearts and have a mind to awaken us all."
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
"A fascinating, timely, book. Human and lively, its many voices raise a forest of questions, all the hope and perplexity that the honest search for truth always brings. The world is changing so very quickly, and the Dharma's form must also change, and no one knows exactly how. In the pages of Blue Jean Buddha you will meet the generation that is going to be in the thick of it."—
Sharon Salzberg
"The emerging face of Buddhism is revealed in this thoughtful presentation of the voices of young practitioners. Poignant and provocative, honest and heartfelt, the stories are diverse expressions of our shared longing for a wise and compassionate life."
Shambhala Sun
"A down to earth collection about Buddhism as practiced by young people in the West. These are stories that resonate, regardless of the spiritual path with which we struggle...At times the essays in Blue Jean Buddha read like impressive spiritual resumes: the paths taken, the teachers found, the journeys made, the time spent gleaning insights. The contributors' frankness is inviting, as is the sheer power of so many voices celebrating their practice during their teens and twenties, a time in life when many walk the spiritual path alone."—
Library Journal
A "twentysomething" American who grew up in the Zen Buddhist tradition, Loundon queried hundreds of her contemporaries in order to confirm that a generation of young Buddhists did in fact exist, to identify the challenges they face, and to define what it means to be a Buddhist in America today. She then asked 28 respondents mostly college-educated, self-identifying Buddhists in their twenties to write about how Buddhism has affected their self-transformations, life stories, and means of livelihood. This resulting collection of mostly brief, well-written, and interesting essays ranges from the poignant and inspiring (e.g., Jessica Morey's "Ordinary Awakening" and Seth Castleman's "If a Nice Jewish Boy Sits in a Cave, Does He Make a Difference?") to the sophomoric. Recommended as a secondary purchase for popular collections; more academic overviews of contemporary Buddhism in America can be found in The Faces of Buddhism in America (Univ. of California, 1998), edited by Charles Prebish and Kenneth Tanaka, and James Coleman's The New Buddhism (LJ 1/01). James R. Kuhlman, Univ. of North Carolina Lib., Asheville Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Wisdom Publications MA
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Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.07(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim is the Buddhist chaplain at Duke University and minister for the Buddhist Families of Durham. She has published two anthologies, Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists and The Buddha's Apprentices: More Voices of Young Buddhists. Following a master's degree in Buddhist studies and Sanskrit from the Harvard Divinity School, she was the associate director for the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and two children.

Jack Kornfield co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, in 1975 and later the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology. His books include After the Ecstasy, the Laundry and the national bestseller A Path with Heart.

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