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.
About 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.
Table of ContentsOne: Background
1. The American Buddhist Landscape
2. Very Basic Buddhism
3. The Three Vehicles
4. The American Setting
Two: Major Traditions
5. Jodo Shinshu: America's Old-Line Buddhists
6. Soka Gakkai and Its Nichiren Humanism
7. Zen and Its Flagship Institutions
8. The Tibetan Milieu
9. The Theravada Spectrum
10. Other Pacific Rim Migrations
Three: Selected Issues
11. Gender Equity
12. Socially Engaged Buddhism
13. Intra-Buddhist and Interreligious Dialogue
14. Making Some Sense of Americanization
What People are Saying About This
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.