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Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South
     

Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South

by Jeff Wilson
 

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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

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.

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
Effectively employ[s] regionalism to identify and understand interesting new trends.—Journal of Contemporary Religion

An important reminder that while broad studies of religious identity are important, they must be seasoned with ethnographic views from below. . . . Graduate students looking for dissertation project should consult Wilson's forward facing conclusion.—Sociology of Religion

Deftly combines theoretical discussion, well-grounded history, and ethnographic observation and analysis in a readable whole with broad appeal and utility across scholarly disciplines.—Journal of American Culture

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807835456
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
04/16/2012
Edition description:
1
Pages:
296
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
With accessible and clear prose, Jeff Wilson traces the pluralistic Buddhism practiced in the American South and explores the many and varied ways in which regional dynamics influence Buddhist organizations and practitioners to create this vibrant community. This is a book of real importance.—Wendy Cadge, Brandeis University

This truly excellent work brings to the fore the undeniable importance of regionalism in the study of Buddhism in America. It should not only reconfigure the field, but it should also cross over and influence the broader fields of American religion and religion in the South.—Peter N. Gregory, Smith College

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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