Buddhism: Buddhism in the West

views updated


During the twentieth century Buddhism became globally distributed and established. Buddhists have set foot in Australia and New Zealand, in the southern region of Africa, and in most countries of Europe, as well as in South and North America. Buddhism outside of Asia is marked by a heterogeneity and diversity that is observable in all thus-denoted "Western" countries. The entire range of Buddhism's main traditions and subtraditions can be found outside of Asia, often in one country and sometimes even in one major city, with some forty, fifty, or more different Buddhist groups in a single place. Buddhists of divergent traditions and schools have become neighborsa rarity in Asia itself. Additionally, new Western Buddhist orders and organizations have been founded, signaling ambitious moves to create indigenized variations of Buddhist forms, practices, and interpretations. As the Western institutionalization of Buddhism rapidly accelerated in the closing three decades of the twentieth century, its research matured and became a recognized subject with numerous studies.

Early Encounters

Very early information about Buddhist concepts can be traced to the records of the Greek philosopher Plutarch (first century ce). Plutarch writes about the Indo-Greek king Menander (Menandros, c. 155130 bce) and his conversation with the Buddhist monk Nāgasena, documented in the Pali text Milindapañha (Questions of King Milinda). The rise of Christianity and later of Islam blocked further exchange until Franciscan friars traveled to Mongolia in the thirteenth century. From the sixteenth century onwards, travelers and Jesuit missionaries to Tibet, China, and Japan left fragmentary accounts of Buddhist rituals and concepts. In the course of European colonial expansion, information was gathered about the customs and history of the peoples and regions that were subjected to British, Portuguese, and Dutch domination. Texts and descriptions began to be collected and translated in the late eighteenth century, although a distinction had not yet been clearly made between Hindu and Buddhist treatises. Simultaneously, in Europe the Romantic movement gave rise to a glorifying enthusiasm for the East and for India in particular. The Asian world and its religious and philosophical traditions were discovered along with efforts aimed at tracing a genuine and pure spirituality that was supposedly lost in Europe through the victory of rationalism.

Discovery of Buddhism through texts

The credit for first systematizing the increasing amount of information on Buddhist texts and concepts goes to the Paris philologist Eugène Burnouf (18011852). His L'introduction à l'histoire du buddhisme indien (1844) presented a scientific survey of Buddhist history and doctrines. Burnouf imposed a rational order on ideas hitherto perceived as unrelated, in this way creating the prototype of the European concept of Buddhism. In the 1850s, Europe witnessed a boom of studies and translations, paving the way for an enhanced knowledge of and interest in the teachings. At this time Asian religion was essentially treated as a textual object located in books, Oriental libraries, and institutes of the West.

The writings of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (17881860) inspired wide interest in Buddhist philosophy and ethics among intellectuals, academics, and artists. In the United States, the nineteenth-century transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman praised Indian philosophy and introduced translations, produced in Europe, to members of the American middle- and upper classes. Circles of aesthetic conversation and textual sources were the mediators that initiated the spread of and provided for the public presence of Buddhist ideas in Europe and the United States. The appeal of Indian spirituality was strengthened by the intervention of the Theosophical Society, founded by Helena P. Blavatsky (18311891) and Henry Steel Olcott (18321907) in 1875 in New York. In addition, Sir Edwin Arnold (18321904) published his famous poem The Light of Asia in 1879, followed by Olcott's Buddhist Catechism in 1881. Both works praised the Buddha and his teaching. Echoing this overt glorification of the Asian religion, a few Europeans became the first self-converted followers of the teaching in the early 1880s.

Though more Westerners took up Buddhist teachings as their new orientation in life, another twenty years passed before the first Buddhist organizations outside of Asia were formed. The Indologist Karl Seidenstücker (18761936) established the Society for the Buddhist Mission in Germany in 1903 in Leipzig. Likewise, the first British monk, Ananda Metteyya (Allen Bennett McGregor, 18721923), formed the Buddhist Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1907 in London. By means of lectures, pamphlets, and books, the first professed Western Buddhists tried to win recruits from the educated middle- and upper social strata of society. These and related activities were polemically commented on by Christian clergy, who criticized the "nihilism" of Buddhism and the "foreignness" of the Asian religion to European society. This debate was strengthened when a few committed men, including Anton Güth (18781957), ordained as Nyānatiloka, became monks in the Theravāda tradition in the early twentieth century and temporarily remained in Europe.

Internationalization: Toward a global Buddhism

To a certain extent the incipient Buddhist activities in Western countries relied on reformist approaches and modernist reinterpretations of Asian Buddhist concepts. In Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the center of South Asian Buddhist revival, educated urban Buddhists who had been influence by Orientalist concepts emphasized the rational and scientific aspects of Buddhist teachings. These modernist Buddhists portrayed Buddhism as text-based, pragmatic, rational, universal, and socially active. Both European scholarship and the Western glorification of Buddhist ideas strengthened national and religious self-confidence in South Asia, further generating ideas of a missionary outreach. In addition, in 1880 Olcott and Blavatsky visited Colombo, Ceylon, and publicly took refuge in the Buddha, dharma, and sagha, becoming the first Westerners to do so in an Asian country.

In the two decades that followed, Olcott and the Ceylonese Anagārika Dharmapāla (18641933) worked together to renew the importance of Buddhism. In 1891, Dharmapāla set up the Mahā Bodhi Society, its aim being to restore the neglected site of Bodh Gayā in North India and to resuscitate Buddhism in India. These activities led to Dharmapāla's invitation to the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. His well-received speech at this paramount event for the formal debut of Asian religions in the United States established Dharmapāla as the main spokesman of Buddhist revival in South Asia. It was in Chicago in 1893 as well that Carl Theodor Strauss (18521937) became the first American to formally convert to Buddhism on American soil. In the years to come Strauss and Dharmapāla worked jointly and traveled extensively around the world to spread Buddhist teachings. Overseas branches of the Mahā Bodhi Society were formed in the United States (1897), Germany (1911), and Great Britain (1926), in this way establishing the society as the first international Buddhist organization and its founder as the first global Buddhist missionary or propa-gandist.

Buddhism brought by immigrants

A different, nonmodernist, and religiously more tradition-oriented line of Buddhism reached Western countries with the arrival of Chinese and Japanese migrants to the U.S. West Coast and later to South America. Gold had been discovered in California in 1848, and miners from China came in hopes of unearthing a fortune. By the 1880s the number of Chinese in California, Montana, and Idaho had grown to over 100,000 people. Upon their arrival, the immigrants built Chinese temples, the first two in San Francisco in 1853. During the next fifty years hundreds of so-called joss-houses, where Buddhist, Daoist, and Chinese folk traditions mingled, appeared throughout the western United States.

In striking contrast to the high esteem that Buddhist texts and ideas had gained among East Coast intellectuals, Americans on the West Coast devalued East Asian culture as exotic, strange, and incomprehensible. The Chinese laundrymen, cooks, and miners were regarded as unwelcome immigrants. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act restricted further immigration of Chinese nationals. In a similar way, Japanese who had come to the United States in search of work beginning in the 1870s faced racism and social exclusion. Buddhism was regarded as a foreign religion, causing a threat to the relationship between Japanese and American people. Nevertheless, two Jōdo Shinshū priests were sent in 1899 to support the spiritual needs of Japanese laborers, and the Buddhist Mission to North America became formally established in 1914.

More migrants from Japan arrived in Central and South America around the turn of the century. Japanese workers traveled to Mexico and Peru in 1897 and to São Paulo in Brazil in 1908. The laborers intended to work for only a few years on the plantations and then return to Japan. Most often, however, their stay turned into long-term residence. During the first forty years of residence in Brazil, only one Japanese Buddhist temple was established, in Cafelândia in São Paulo in 1932. Japanese workers were expected to assimilate as quickly as possible to Brazilian culture, an expectation that included, among other things, abandoning their "heathen practices" and converting to Roman Catholicism. A fair number did, as the Japanese saw conversion as necessary to the process of Brazilianization. On the other hand, the decision to change their status from sojourner to immigrant resulted in efforts to ensure the preservation of Japanese culture and identity. It was from the 1950s onward, after Japan's defeat in World War II brought an end to the migrants' hopes for return, that Buddhist and Shintō temples became established in Brazil. The Mission of Sōtō Zenshū in Brazil founded Busshinji temple in 1956, followed by the influx of other Buddhist traditions since the 1970s.

As in Brazil, World War II was a watershed for Japanese people in the United States. Acculturative processes had begun during the 1920s and 1930s to meet the needs of the American-born generation; these processes included education programs and such adaptations as referring to Buddhist temples as churches and to priestly personnel as minister or reverend. Paradoxically, adaptation accelerated tremendously during the time of the internment camps. From 1942 to 1945, some 111,000 people of Japanese ancestry were interned, almost 62,000 of them being Buddhists, the majority Jōdo Shinshū. Religious services in the camps were conducted in English, a demand that was later established as the norm. Of similar importance, formerly tight bonds with the mother temples in Japan dissolved. This emancipation from the normative Japanese model was expressed in the organization's new name: No longer a "Mission [from Japan] to North America," it became reincorporated as the Buddhist Churches of America in 1944.

Chinese in the United States remained mostly concentrated in Chinatowns along the West Coast. As the numbers of Chinese dropped due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, so did the number of temples. The other strand of Buddhism in the United Statesmade up of those who had converted to Buddhismwas no more successful at initiating Buddhist activities during the first half of the twentieth century. The appearance of the Japanese Rinzai Zen monk Sōen Shaku (18591919) at the World's Parliament of Religions gave momentum to the practice of Zen meditation, which was strengthened by two disciples sent by Sōen Shaku to the United States: Zen masters Nyōgen Senzaki (18761958) and Sokei-an Sasaki (18821945). Although they stayed in the United States for years, the meditation groups they set up were met with little interest. It was not until D. T. Suzuki (18701966) returned to North America for a long stay in the 1950s that a psychologically reshaped Zen became popular.

Buddhism in Europe during the First Half of the Twentieth Century

World War I brought an end to the incipient Buddhist movements in Europe. But Buddhism was taken up again immediately after the war, especially in Britain and Germany. In contrast to the early period, Buddhism was now beginning to be practiced, at least by its leading proponents. The teachings were not only to be conceived by the mind, but also applied to the whole person. Religious practices such as spiritual exercises and devotional acts became part of German and British Buddhist life during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1921 Georg Grimm (18681945) and Seidenstücker initiated the Buddhist Parish in Germany. The committed group saw itself expressly as a religious community of Buddhist lay followers. Lectures by Grimm were attended by five hundred to one thousand listeners. In Berlin, Paul Dahlke (18651928) built the famous Buddhist House in 1924. In this house, which served as both residence and monastery, Dahlke led the same kind of ascetic and religious life as South Asian Buddhist monks. The divergent interpretations of the teachings of the Pali canon by Grimm and Dahlke led to the formation of two independent schools, which polemically disputed the central teaching of anattā (Pali, "no-self"). Both schools continued their work during the Nazi period (19331945), albeit restricted to small, private circles that were at times under Nazi political control. Buddhists were regarded by the Nazis as pacifists and eccentrics. With the exception of those who had abandoned their Jewish faith and become Buddhistsabout a third of all Buddhists in German-speaking areas during the 1920sno official or public persecution of Buddhism took place.

In London, Christmas Humphreys (19011983) formed the Buddhist Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1924. A Buddhist shrine room was opened in 1925, and Buddhist festivals were celebrated. As a result of Anagārika Dharmapāla's missionary efforts in Britain during the mid-1920s, British Buddhists founded a branch of the Mahā Bodhi Society (1926) and established a Buddhist monastery with three resident Theravāda bhikkhu s (monks) in London (19281940, reopened in 1954). It was the first time that several monks resided for an extended period outside of Asia.

In Europe, it was undoubtedly those who had adopted Buddhism as their new orientation in life who dominated the small Buddhist scene. Except for a few Buddhist activists, such as Anagārika Dharmapāla and some Japanese Zen Buddhists, no Buddhist migrants from Asia came to Europe during this time. However, there is an important exception to this pattern: In the early twentieth century, Mongolian Tibetan Buddhists from Kalmykia and Buryatia in Russia established sizeable communities in Saint Petersburg, the czarist Russian capital until 1917. They built a Dge lugs (Geluk) style temple and monastery in Saint Petersburg in 1909 to 1915. The first Buddhist monastery on European soil thus became established not by European convert Buddhists but by so-called ethnic or migrant Buddhists led by the Buryat-Mongol lama Agvan Dorzhev. During the Communist Revolution in 1917, however, the temple was desecrated. Following the comparative calm of the 1920s, Buddhists and scholars were persecuted and murdered under Joseph Stalin's dictatorship (1930s1953). It was not until the 1980s that conditions improved for Buddhists in Russia, and they were able to establish small communities and centers for different Buddhist traditions.

The 1950s and 1960s: Spread and Pluralization

In contrast to the first half of the twentieth century, the second half witnessed a boom of Buddhism outside of Asia. Western countries experienced a heavy influx of Asian immigrants and a tremendously expanded interest in Buddhist meditation, liturgy, and teachings among Westerners. World War II had brought an end to most public Buddhist activities in Europe. However, after 1945 Buddhists reestablished former Theravāda groups or founded new ones. Buddhist lectures were well attended and Buddhist books and journals well received. From the 1950s onwards, new Buddhist traditions were brought to Europe. Japanese Jōdo Shinshū was established in Britain (1952) and Germany (1956). The writings of Suzuki and Eugen Herrigel (18841955) popularized Zen meditation and art. Tibetan Buddhism won its first Western converts in Berlin in 1952 through the establishment of the Western branch of the order Arya Maitreya Mandala, founded by the German-born Lama Govinda in 1933 in India. In addition, the activities of Buddhist missionary organizations from South Asia gained momentum, an example being the Lanka Dharmaduta Society, founded in 1952, which sent Theravāda bhikkhus to the Berlin Buddhist House with the aim of spreading the dharma.

Buddhism spread more and more widely in various European countries as attractive books and translations became more readily available. Simultaneously, Asian teachers began visiting new Buddhist groups to lecture and conduct courses on a regular basis. During the 1960s a considerable change occurred in the way that members and interested people wanted to experience Buddhism both spiritually and physically. Meditation became popular, and Buddhists and sympathizers filled courses in Theravāda vipassanā meditation and Japanese Zen meditation. Zen seminars (Jpn., sesshin ) took place in increasing numbers, with teachers coming from Japan to guide newly formed groups.

In the United States, lecture tours by Suzuki instigated an upsurge of interest in Zen concepts and meditation. At the same time, "Beat Zen" and "Square Zen" created by Allan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, popularized Zen and attracted members of the emerging counterculture. Japanese teachers such as Sōtō Zen master Shunryu Suzuki settled in the United States as immigration regulations were relaxed during the mid-1950s and 1960s. In addition, various meditation centers were founded as young Americans returned from Japan having received a traditional religious education. Notable among these was Philip Kapleau (19122004), author of the instrumental The Three Pillars of Zen (1965) and founder of the Rochester Zen Center in New York (1966), and Robert Aitken (b. 1917), founder of the Diamond Sangha in the 1960s. Both were disciples of Zen master Hakuun Yasutani (18851974), founder of the Zen school Sanbo Kyodan in 1954. In addition to the explosive interest in Zen meditational practice, further Buddhist traditions arrived from Asia with Sri Lankan, Thai, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese teachers. Among these traditions and schools, one of the most vigorous turned out to be the Sōka Gakkai from Japan, which claimed a membership of 500,000 people in the mid-1970s.

The first Australian Buddhist organization was founded in 1952, with a membership of mainly well-educated citizens. Leading Australian Buddhists, such as Charles F. Knight (18901975) and Natasha Jackson (19021990), regarded Buddhism as a triumph of rationalism and used it as a foil in their attacks on Christianity. Their specific approach was strongly intellectualized, and they went to great lengths to prove that Buddhism was fully consonant with scientific thinking. As in Europe and the United States, Zen, Pure Land, and Sōka Gakkai were also imported into Australia during the 1960s.

In general, during this time two characteristics stand out in contrast to the previous phases: Buddhism was no longer dominated by a single main tradition, as had been the case in Europe with Theravāda and in the United States with Mahāyāna Buddhism. Rather, since the 1950s, Buddhist teachers of various traditions arrived from Asia to win converts and to found centers. A plurality of Buddhist traditions emerged, substantially supplemented by the various Buddhist strands formed by immigrant Buddhists. Secondly, the shift from intellectual interest to practical application deepened and spread through increased interest in meditation.

From the 1970s Onward: Rapid Increase and Ongoing Pluralization

The Zen boom of the 1960s was followed by an upsurge of interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan teachers such as Tarthang Tulku (b. 1935) and Chögyam Trungpa (19391987) arrived in the United States in 1969 and 1970 and formed organizations that established European branches during the 1980s. Beginning in the mid-1970s, high-ranking lamas conducted preaching tours in Europe, North America, and Australia, as well in South Africa and South America in later years. Many Westerners who were involved in the protest movements and counterculture of the late 1960s became fascinated by Tibetan Buddhist rituals and symbols and the lives of the lamas. Within two decades, converts to Tibetan Buddhism were able to found a multitude of centers and groups, which at times outnumbered those of all other Buddhist traditions in a given country.

This rapid increase, accompanied by an expansion of existing institutions, led to a considerable rise in the number of Buddhist groups and centers associated with convert Buddhists. In Great Britain, for example, the number of Buddhist organizations nearly quintupled from seventy-four to four hundred between 1979 and 2000. In Germany, interest in Buddhism resulted in an increase from approximately forty to more than six hundred groups, meditation circles, centers, and societies between 1975 and 2004. In North America, Don Morreale's Complete Guide to Buddhist America (1998) listed 1,062 meditation centers in 1997, the majority having been founded since the mid-1980s. Similar patterns are observable in Australia, where the number of Buddhist groups rose from 167 to 308 between 1991 and 1998. As a result of large-scale immigration, especially of Vietnamese people, the number of Buddhists in Australia multiplied more than six times from 35,000 to 200,000 from 1981 to 1996. As in Europe and North America, numerous schools, branches, and traditions of Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Tibetan, and nonsectarian Buddhism have gained a firm standing in Australia, and in New Zealand as well.

In a parallel development, considerable numbers of Buddhists from Asian countries have come to Western Europe, North America, and Australia since the 1960s. In Europe, and France in particular, large communities of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have emerged. Paris has become the center for Southeast Asian Buddhist migrants, although the largest Vietnamese pagoda in Europe was inaugurated in Hanover, Germany, in 1991. Furthermore, many refugees, migrants, and business people from Asian countries have found asylum or a place to work in Western Europe. Similarly, in Canada and the United States hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived after immigration regulations were relaxed in the mid-1960s.

Whether in North America, Western Europe, or Australia, in the process of settling down, migrants established their own religious and cultural institutions to preserve their identity and heritage. By visiting pagodas and temples, performing customary acts of devotional worship, and jointly celebrating Buddhist festivals, immigrant Asian Buddhists gained a home away from home. Most Asian migrant communities have turned out to be markedly conservative, presenting a primarily stable and familiar environment for their members in the socioculturally foreign and often discriminatory environment. With the rise of second and third generations of immigrants from Asia, established role models and hierarchies are changing, and Asians in the West are pointing to language issues and calling for acculturated rituals, forms, and contents. Estimates of the total numbers of Buddhists in Europe at the beginning of the twenty-first century amount to around one million, two thirds of them Asian immigrants. In North America the number may be four to five times higher than in Europe, with Buddhists of Asian ancestry making up the vast majority.

Buddhism grew as well in both South America and South Africa beginning in the 1970s. Zen has captured the interest of non-Japanese Brazilians since the late 1970s, resulting in the establishment of numerous local meditation groups and centers. Likewise, Japanese traditions of Nichiren, Shingon, and Pure Land have gained followings. Tibetan Buddhism, arriving in Brazil the late 1980s, also experienced a boom during the 1990s. As in other non-Asian countries to which Buddhism spread, a plurality of schools and traditions has become established.

In South Africa, after an attempt to convert Indian migrant Hindus to Buddhism beginning in 1917, small Buddhist groups were formed during the 1970s in metropolitan centers. The emphasis was a nondenominational one, although followers of Tibetan, Zen, or Theravāda came together for joint meetings. One of South Africa's main Buddhist reference points became the Buddhist Retreat Center near Ixopo, formally inaugurated in 1980. In contrast to a prevalent ecumenical spirit, since the mid-1980s the various groups have begun sharpening their doctrinal identity and lineage adherence, and in many cases hitherto loose bonds with the Asian parent tradition or headquarters were strengthened. During the 1990s, Tibetan Buddhism gained a strong following as teachers started to stay permanently in South Africa. Likewise, Zen teachers and Theravāda bhikkhu s settled in the country and firmly established their traditions.

Plurality and Global Interconnectedness

Buddhism outside of Asia is deeply marked by its plurality and heterogeneity. A multitude of schools and traditions have successfully settled in urbanized, industrialized settings. The general traditions of Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and Tibetan Buddhism are internally heavily subdivided according to country of origin (e.g., Theravāda from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, or Laos); lineage (e.g., Tibetan Buddhism following Dge lugs [Geluk], Karma Bka' brgyud [Kagyu], Sa skya [Sakya], or Rnying ma [Nyingma]; teacher (Asian and Western, manifold); and emphasis on specific Buddhist concepts and practices. Flourishing in the West, these various Asian-derived schools and traditions did not remain unchanged, and various subschools have evolved. In addition, a second generation of Western teachers who are disciples to Western, not Asian masters, is maturing. These multifold developments have given birth to both traditionally oriented centers and to independent centers favoring innovation and the creation of a "Western Buddhism." Noteworthy examples of the latter include the Insight Meditation Society in the United States and the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, founded by the British Sangharakshita in 1967.

The marked plurality of Buddhism outside of Asia has been intensified by the globalization of once local organizations. The British-based Friends of the Western Buddhist Order has spread worldwide. Organizations formerly restricted to the United States, such as the Insight Meditation Society or Aitken's Diamond Sangha, have established branch centers in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. This global reach also came to apply to American Zen teachers, including Richard Baker Rōshi, Bernard Glassman Rōshi, and Prabhasadharma Rōshi, as well as to prominent Vietnamese and Korean meditation masters, including Thich Nhat Hanh and Seung Sahn. Tibetan Buddhist organizations have created similar global networks. Lamas and teachers tour the globe untiringly, and they visit the multitude of local groups and centers, including Chögyam Trungpa's Vajradhātu organization (renamed Shambhala International), the Karma Kagyu centers affiliated with Ole Nydahl from Denmark, Sogyal Rinpoche's Rigpa organization, or the New Kadampa Tradition of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

Global interconnectedness has become greatly intensified as a result of the World Wide Web. Buddhist centers maintain their own websites, linked to sister centers and parent organizations, and facilitating the exchange and spread of information. Numerous so-called cyber-saghas are available online, thus establishing a new form of Buddhist community. In these ways Buddhism adapts, as it has done continuously during its 2,600 years of history, to new cultural, political, and technological environments.


On ancient and premodern encounters between Buddhism and the West, see the following instructive studies: Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Discovery of India and the East, 16801880 (New York, 1984); Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (Albany, N.Y., 1988), and the introductory chapters in Stephen Batchelor, The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture (Berkeley, Calif., 1994).

Due to the wide-ranging institutionalization and explosive growth of Buddhism in the closing decades of the twentieth century, the 1990s saw an increase of descriptive and analytical studies focusing on specific countries outside of Asia. Developments in the United States have been covered by numerous studies. The first encompassing overviews by Charles S. Prebish, American Buddhism (North Scituate, Mass., 1979), and Rick Field, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America (Boulder, Colo., 1981; 3d rev. ed., 1992), were enriched by Thomas A. Tweed's historical and analytical account in The American Encounter with Buddhism 18441912: Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent (Bloomington, Ind., 1992; reprint, 2000). Insightful overviews and analyses of Buddhism's plurality and processes of Americanization include Charles S. Prebish and Kenneth K. Tanaka, eds., The Faces of Buddhism in America (Berkeley, Calif., 1998); Charles S. Prebish, Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America (Berkeley, Calif., 1999); Richard Hugh Seager, Buddhism in America (New York, 1999); and Duncan Ryūken Williams and Christopher S. Queen, eds., American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholarship (Richmond, Va., 1999). Further research focusing on specific traditions includes a portrait of prominent American Zen teachers by Helen Tworkow, Zen in America: Five Teachers and the Search for an American Buddhism (New York, 1989; reprint, 1994); an instructive study by Jane D. Hurst, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism and the Soka Gakkai in America: The Ethos of a New Religious Movement (New York, 1992); and an analytical description of immigrant temples built by South Asian Buddhists by Paul David Numrich, Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization in Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples (Knoxville, Tenn., 1996).

Compared to this wealth of studies, Buddhism in Canada has been covered only in a chapter by Bruce Matthew in Charles S. Prebish and Martin Baumann, eds., Westward Dharma: Buddhism beyond Asia (Berkeley, Calif., 2002), and in Janet McLellan's study on immigrant communities and temples, Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto (Toronto, 1999).

Most studies of Buddhism in Europe have focused on specific countries. The early history of Buddhism in Great Britain was covered by one of its key figures, Christmas Humphreys, in Sixty Years of Buddhism in England (19071967): A History and a Survey (London, 1968). This was followed by the more scholarly study by Ian Oliver, Buddhism in Britain (London, 1979). Helen Waterhouse's Authority and Adaptation: A Case Study in British Buddhism (Leeds, U.K., 1997) provides in-depth studies of the various Buddhist groups in Bath, whereas Bryan Wilson and Karel Dobbelaere offer a profound sociological investigation of the Sōka Gakkai in A Time to Chant: The Soka Gakkai Buddhists in Britain (Oxford, 1994).

The history of Buddhism in Germany is covered in Martin Baumann's detailed study Deutsche Buddhisten: Geschichte und Gemeinschaften (Marburg, Germany, 1993; 2d ed., 1995). Various articles by Baumann provide information in English of Buddhism's past and present in Germany. A mine of information can be found in two volumes on the lives of about 130 early German Buddhists by Hellmuth Hecker, Lebensbilder deutscher Buddhisten: Ein bio-bibliographisches Handbuch (Konstanz, Germany, 1996/1997). A valuable addition to these are interviews with ten contemporary leading German Buddhists by Detlef Kantowsky, Wegzeichen-Gespräche über buddhistische Praxis (Konstanz, Germany, 1991; rev. ed., Ulm, Germany, 1994).

Buddhism in France with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism was treated by Lionel Obadia, Bouddhisme et Occident: La diffusion du bouddhisme tibétan en France (Paris, 1999). A sociological study of convert Buddhists is Frédéric Lenoir, Le bouddhisme en France (Paris, 1999); the same author describes the encounter of Buddhism and the West in La rencontre du bouddhisme et de l'Occident (Paris, 1999). Catherine Choron-Baix provides one of the rare studies on immigrant Laotian Buddhists in France in Bouddhisme et migration: La reconstitution d'une paroisse bouddhiste Lao en banlieue parisienne (Paris, 1986).

Further country-specific documentation exists, for example, for Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, and Russia. The online annotated bibliography by Martin Baumann, "Buddhism in Europe," listed about 380 titles in 2001. It is available from http://www.globalbuddhism.org/bib-bud.html.

The history of Buddhism in Australia is well documented in Paul Croucher's Buddhism in Australia, 18481988 (Kensington, U.K., 1989). Enid Adam and Philip J. Hughes give a picture of Buddhism's growth and composition by an analysis of census data in Religious Community Profiles: The Buddhists in Australia (Canberra, Australia, 1996). Michelle Spuler's Facets of the Diamond: Developments in Australian Buddhism (Richmond, U.K., 2002) describes the history and modes of adaptation of Robert Aitken's Diamond Sangha in Australia.

Buddhism in South Africa is covered by a small informative book edited by Michel Clasquin and Kobus Krüger, Buddhism and Africa (Pretoria, South Africa, 1999). Cristina Moreira da Rocha has set up an online bibliography on "Buddhism in Brazil," which is linked to the Journal of Global Buddhism, available from http://www.globalbuddhism.org. This journal also provides bibliographies on Buddhism in Australia, South Africa, Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Two prominent themes in studies on Western Buddhism are engaged Buddhism and the role and importance of women in establishing Buddhism in the West. Kenneth Kraft's The Wheel of Engaged Buddhism: A New Map of the Path (New York, 1999) focuses on Buddhism and sociopolitical engagement, as does Christopher S. Queen, ed., Engaged Buddhism in the West (Boston, 2000). Edited by one of the leading Buddhist women in the West, Karma Lekshe Tsomo's Buddhism through American Women's Eyes (Ithaca, N.Y., 1995) provides thirteen first-person accounts of Buddhist lives in the United States. Valuable additions are Marianne Dresser, ed., Buddhist Women on the Edge: Contemporary Perspectives from the Dharma Frontier (Berkeley, Calif., 1996), which includes twenty-five essays by American convert Buddhist women; and Sandy Boucher's Opening the Lotus: A Women's Guide to Buddhism (Boston, 1997).

Finally, comprehensive analyses of Buddhism in the West can be found in Stephen Batchelor's masterfully written narrative, The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture (Berkeley, Calif., 1994), as well as in the broad-based scholarly volume edited by Charles S. Prebish and Martin Baumann, Westward Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Asia (Berkeley, 2002). Online sources on Buddhism in the West multiplied during the 1990s and early 2000s; notable online resources include the Australia-based BuddhaNet, available from http://www.buddhanet.net; the online Journal of Buddhist Ethics, available from http://jbe.gold.ac.uk; and the Journal of Global Buddhism, available from http://www.globalbuddhism.org. All provide links to the multitude of homepages on specific Buddhist traditions, schools, and centers.

Martin Baumann (2005)

About this article

Buddhism: Buddhism in the West

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article


Buddhism: Buddhism in the West