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Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South

Overview


Buddhism in the United States is often viewed in connection with practitioners in the Northeast and on the West Coast, but in fact, it has been spreading and evolving throughout the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. In Dixie Dharma, Jeff Wilson argues that region is crucial to understanding American Buddhism. Through the lens of a multidenominational Buddhist temple in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson explores how Buddhists are adapting to life in the conservative evangelical Christian culture of the ...
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Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South

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Overview


Buddhism in the United States is often viewed in connection with practitioners in the Northeast and on the West Coast, but in fact, it has been spreading and evolving throughout the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. In Dixie Dharma, Jeff Wilson argues that region is crucial to understanding American Buddhism. Through the lens of a multidenominational Buddhist temple in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson explores how Buddhists are adapting to life in the conservative evangelical Christian culture of the South, and how traditional Southerners are adjusting to these newer members on the religious landscape.
Introducing a host of overlooked characters, including Buddhist circuit riders, modernist Pure Land priests, and pluralistic Buddhists, Wilson shows how regional specificity manifests itself through such practices as meditation vigils to heal the wounds of the slave trade. He argues that southern Buddhists at once use bodily practices, iconography, and meditation tools to enact distinct sectarian identities even as they enjoy a creative hybridity.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
When one thinks of the American South (the Bible Belt) one may not imagine many Buddhists living there, but the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Thai populations have been growing, and the Chinese have always had an urban presence. The region now includes Buddhists by birth as well as American converts, including Wilson (religious studies, Univ. of Waterloo) himself. Here he mainly considers the Ekoji Buddhist Temple in Richmond, VA, founded in 1985, which is pluralistic; unlike most Buddhist temples in America it shares its space with several groups with distinct traditions. There is a Pure Land group, a Zen group, a Vipassana group, a Tibetan group, and a Meditative Inquiry group. Each group has its own beliefs, meeting format, ritual style, and spiritual goals. While elsewhere they have their own temples, monasteries, and retreat facilities, in Richmond, because their numbers are small, they share space and governance. Wilson shows how this makes for a kind of tolerance and syncretism rarely found in contemporary religious practice. VERDICT This will be enlightening and well worth reading by those specializing in religious studies or interested in American regional cultures, but its academic tone will be less appealing to general readers.—James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
From the Publisher
Wilson presents an impressive view of a plural Buddhism finding a place in the midst of the evangelical South.--Religion in American History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807835456
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/16/2012
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Jeff Wilson is assistant professor of religious studies and East Asian studies at Renison University College, University of Waterloo.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction Encounters at a Multidenominational Temple in the South 1

1 Bringing a Regional Perspective to American Buddhism 17

2 The Gift of Light: Buddhist Circuit Riders and New Religious Developments in Richmond, Virginia 47

3 The Buddhist Confederacy: Differentiation and Identity in Buddhist Spaces 89

4 There's No Such Thing as "Not My Buddhism": Hybridity, Boundary-Crossing, and the Practice of Pluralistic Buddhism 120

5 Buddhism with a Southern Accent: American Buddhists in a Southern Culture 153

6 The Reality of Our Collective Karma: Slave Trade Meditation Vigil as Southern Buddhist Ritual 185

Conclusion Buddhas on the Backstretch 218

Appendix Statistical Data and Questionnaire 233

Notes 237

Bibliography 261

Index 277

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2012

    Sheds light

    What starts as a study of a single temple ends up shedding light on how Buddhism is practiced in a whole region, the American South. Recommended for anyone interested in regional diversity, American Buddhism, or the South.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    This study mostly of a single temple somehow manages to shed lig

    This study mostly of a single temple somehow manages to shed light on how Buddhism in its diversity is practiced in a whole region, the American South. You'll find it thoroughly interesting if you're interested in the South, regional identity, or American Buddhism. One key insight, and I'm paraphrasing here: If you think television and modernity have erased the differences between the different parts of the USA, try being a member of a minority religion in the South.

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