Buddhism in America

Buddhism in America

by Richard Hughes Seager
     
 

With a history stretching back to ancient India, Buddhism has influenced American culture since the Transcendentalist movement in the 1830s and '40s. Only in the past few decades, however, has this transplanted philosophy blossomed into a full-fledged American religion, made up of two broad groups: a growing Asian immigrant population and native-born converts. In…  See more details below

Overview

With a history stretching back to ancient India, Buddhism has influenced American culture since the Transcendentalist movement in the 1830s and '40s. Only in the past few decades, however, has this transplanted philosophy blossomed into a full-fledged American religion, made up of two broad groups: a growing Asian immigrant population and native-born converts. In Buddhism in America, religious historian Richard Seager offers a perceptive and engaging portrait of the communities, institutions, practices, and individuals that are integral to the contemporary Buddhist landscape.

The book begins with a brief survey of Buddhist beliefs - 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, Seager presents six well-crafted profiles of Buddhist traditions that have been brought to the United States from Japan, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.

The author 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? How much effort and energy should be spent on social reform - a perennial American issue - as opposed to personal enlightenment?

The last section takes up the general theme of Americanization, looking at the ways three important areas - gender equity, progressive social change, and intra-Buddhist and interreligious dialogue - have developed in recent decades. Arguing that the gulf between convert and 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Paul David Numrich
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.
Stephen Prothero
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.
Jana Reiss
[Columbia University] Press continues to bring excellent scholarship to the general reader with this outstanding study of American Buddhism.
Don Morreale
Unbiased and insightful, [Buddhism in America] offers a view of how far the Buddhist movement has come in little more than a century and a peek at where it is going at the dawn of a new millennium.
Martin Baumann
This well-informed book provides a comprehensive survey of a variety of Buddhist traditions in the contemporary U.S. . . . [its] strength, apart from being a mine of information, is Seager's insistence on taking a historically informed and comparative perspective.
Franz Aubrey Metcalf
This book cries out for use as a textbook for classes on Buddhism in America.
Booknews
Seager (religious studies, Hamilton College) explores the rapid rise of the religion in the US among Asian immigrants, native-born converts, and old-line Asian Americans. After reviewing the history and beliefs, he profiles six traditions that have been transplanted from Japan, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. He concludes with a treatment of Americanization, especially in gender equity, progressive social change, and dialogue between Buddhists and with other religions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The Journal of Religion
This book cries out for use as a textbook for classes on Buddhism in America.

— Franz Aubrey Metcalf

Religious Studies Review
This well-informed book provides a comprehensive survey of a variety of Buddhist traditions in the contemporary U.S.... [its] strength, apart from being a mine of information, is Seager's insistence on taking a historically informed and comparative perspective.

— Martin Baumann

Tricycle
Unbiased and insightful, Buddhism in America offers a view of how far the Buddhist movement has come in little more than a century and a peek at where it is going at the dawn of a new millennium.

— Don Morreale

AASL PLA
Seager's account convincingly places developments within the broader context of the North American historyof religion and immigration. Apart from the perceptive observations and the straightforward structure, it is this contextualising perspective which gives the book its particular strength. Although clearly intended for a general readership, a specialist will nevertheless benefit from being directed to take the experience of 'immigrant Buddhism' as seriously as that of 'convert Buddhism'.
PLA AASL

Seager's account convincingly places developments within the broader context of the North American historyof religion and immigration. Apart from the perceptive observations and the straightforward structure, it is this contextualising perspective which gives the book its particular strength. Although clearly intended for a general readership, a specialist will nevertheless benefit from being directed to take the experience of 'immigrant Buddhism' as seriously as that of 'convert Buddhism'.

From the Publisher
Praise for the previous edition:

"This well-informed book provides a comprehensive survey of a variety of Buddhist traditions in the contemporary U.S.... [Its] strength, apart from being a mine of information, is Seager's insistence on taking a historically informed and comparative perspective."—Religious Studies Review

"This book cries out for use as a textbook for classes on Buddhism in America."—The Journal of Religion

"Unbiased and insightful, Buddhism in America offers a view of how far the Buddhist movement has come in little more than a century and a peek at where it is going at the dawn of a new millennium."—Tricycle

Columbia University Press

The Journal of Religion - Franz Aubrey Metcalf

This book cries out for use as a textbook for classes on Buddhism in America.

Religious Studies Review - Martin Baumann

This well-informed book provides a comprehensive survey of a variety of Buddhist traditions in the contemporary U.S.... [its] strength, apart from being a mine of information, is Seager's insistence on taking a historically informed and comparative perspective.

Tricycle - Don Morreale

Unbiased and insightful, Buddhism in America offers a view of how far the Buddhist movement has come in little more than a century and a peek at where it is going at the dawn of a new millennium.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231159722
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
07/03/2012
Series:
Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series
Edition description:
revised and expanded edition
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Stephen Prothero

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.

Meet the Author

Richard Hughes Seager is professor of religious studies at Hamilton College and the author of Encountering the Dharma; The World's Parliament of Religions: The East-West Encounter, Chicago, 1893; and Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World's Parliament of Religions.

Columbia University Press

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