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An American Buddhist Tradition - Dhamma Wheel

An American Buddhist Tradition

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Dhammakid
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An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Dhammakid » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:44 am

Hello all,
This idea was originally introduced by P0int in his thread explaining how he and some others have started a network to establish an American Buddhist temple. After reading the thread again, I concluded that it wasn't clearly stated exactly what he's trying to do - that is, establish an American Buddhist tradition, not just a temple founded by and for Americans. I've been in discussion with him on his facebook page and thought I'd bring it up here to explore what an American tradition would look like.

What do you all think? How would an American tradition be different from the others? What would change?

It seems to me that many American Buddhists are attempting to separate what they consider cultural left-overs from their practice so they can, in one way or another, get back to basics, if you will. So practices like amulets, chanting in different languages, deities, etc might be done away with.

I guess it's hard for me to imagine a tradition totally free from the existing branches (Theravada, Zen, Tibetan, Nichiren, etc). And it seems that the tradition, even if unintentionally, would end up resembling one or the other. For instance, I could see a "stripped down" Buddhism looking a lot like the basic Zen schools, or even the basic Theravada schools.

I'm interested to hear what you all think.

:anjali:
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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:28 am

I, for one, am not a fan of the idea of people presuming to know what is useful and skilfull in a tradition especially if they have not had a long and intimate acquaintance therewith. I often hear talk of people wanting to create a "Western" Buddhism, an "American" Buddhism but to me it seems unnecessary and almost a display of hubris. There as many dhamma-vinayas as there are upasikas and upasakas just as there are as many Islams as there are muslims (and so on and so forth) so why muddy the waters by attempting to create a new tradition or a new sect? Finally, I think it's kind of disrespectful to the bhikkhu (and bhikkhuni) sangha to dismiss their role in the the preservation of the Dhamma by suggesting that what they practice is little better than an anachronism. I hope this doesn't come off as caustic because I don't mean it to be but I feel that many of us are putting the cart before the horse by assuming we know better. Metta. :anjali:
To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Dhammakid
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Dhammakid » Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:04 am

I share your sentiments, Khalil, pretty much completely. Though I'm interested to see what an American-style tradition of Buddhism would look like, I don't think I'm likely to follow it if it ever arises. I feel quite comfortable in the Theravada tradition.

One of the things I would like to see, however, is the resurgence of the Bhikkhuni order. I think an American tradition that fully ordains women would be fantastic.

:anjali:
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby P0int » Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:07 am

I feel my words and efforts have been misconstrued. My goal is to establish a place where an American Theravada Buddhist tradition can develop and flourish. I am not stating what a tradition will be, because I do not know how Buddhism will be practiced in America five generations from now.

I would like to see a place where Americans can practice Theravada Buddhism without having to do it like the Vietnamese do, or the Thai do, or the Sri Lankans do, etc. because they run the temple and that is the way they do it. Today there are American-Thai traditions, American-Japanese traditions, American-Burmese traditions. It is ok to chant in English, it is ok to have western Buddhist art, it is ok to use different architecture, it is ok to learn from a wise American monk. These things do not take away from the teachings at all and will make it more accessible and comfortable to American sensibilities.

The tradition will develop on its own. I would like to see the space opened for it to do so.
May you always find peace when remembering the good deeds you have done.

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David N. Snyder
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:37 am

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tiltbillings
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:26 am


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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Dec 31, 2010 8:36 am

• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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Kim OHara
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:22 am


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AyyaSobhana
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby AyyaSobhana » Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:10 pm

It seems to me that the truly "American" Theravada temples are the ones that make the effort to be multi-cultural, such as the Bhavana Society led by my teacher Bhante Gunaratana. It takes a clear intention good execution to make a center welcoming and comfortable for European- African- and Asian-Americans; and for Theravadan Buddhists from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, and the other nationalities. The fact is that Asian-Americans often have different needs here than merely a traditional center like their home country. They may have been affected to war, economic disaster, and the trauma of migration. They may be alienated from traditional Buddhism, and looking to re-establish their connections. Plus, Buddhism in every country is impacted by the juggernaut of modernity/capitalism/war/the digital revolution.

I believe Dr. Gunasekera's critique of "D. The Meditation Centre Model." is aimed at the Goenka centers. Places like IMS and Sprit Rock are co-evolving along with the monastic centers in America.

The bhikkhunis of Dhammadharini and the Aranya Bodhi Hermitage would qualify as "American Theravada" in the sense that we cultivate the friendship of the various Wats and Viharas, and the lay Vipassana community, while striving to practice in accord with the earliest Dhamma and Vinaya.

Peace to all ...

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David N. Snyder
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:48 pm

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Khalil Bodhi
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:53 am

To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
-Dhp. 183

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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Fede » Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:36 am

If a wheel ain't broke, why fix it? :quote:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

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tiltbillings
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:33 am


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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:44 am

If the wheel ain't turning, push harder.

Some of you might be surprised just how long it has taken for the to establish a western monastic tradition in the UK. It did not start with Ajahn Sumedho.
• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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d.sullivan
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby d.sullivan » Sat Jan 01, 2011 10:50 am

Every blade in the field,
Every leaf in the forest,
Lays down its life in its season,
As beautifully as it was taken up.

Thoreau.

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tiltbillings
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:32 am


farmer
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby farmer » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:16 pm

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ached.html

As the essay linked above points out, the economic model that supports dhamma teachers will inevitably have a subtle effect on the teachings they give. A teacher or a center with a mortgage to pay may teach a dhamma that "sells" rather than one that fully reflects the demanding, unpopular aspects of the Buddha's message: things like renunciation, discipline, and seclusion. Although the monastic model may seem anachronistic and out of place in the west, the vinaya plays a vital role in keeping the dhamma pure by insulating monastic teachers from the market.

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AyyaSobhana
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby AyyaSobhana » Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:45 pm

Here is another attempt to support diversity in Buddhist Centers.

http://www.shambhala.org/diversity/resources.php

I have not been so impressed by the Buddhist centers that start off proclaiming their separation from Asian precedents. The few examples I know of seem quite reactionary. A better model is the center that is well rooted in a particular form and tradition, but has the sensitivity, flexibility, and self awareness to make cultural adaptations.

Jack
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Jack » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:54 pm

I think an American Buddhism has been emerging naturally. From my experience most ethnic Buddhist and American Buddhist groups meet separately and have different interests. If a center has a meditation retreat, 100% of the participants will be Am. Buddhists. If the center has an event around a ceremony, 90% of the participants will be ethnic Buddhists. Again, that is my experience.

Another factor in play is the quality of the local sangha leader. Just being a lineage monk doesn't convey wisdom or teaching ability. There are many leaders from the laity who are quite qualified. From my experience, many monks neither meditate or know much about the suttas. And, some who do aren't good teachers. This isn't meant to desparage the many fine monks out there.

jack

PS. I feel awkward using the terms Ethnic and American Buddhists. By ethnic Buddhists, I mean someone who is usually foreign born into a Buddhist culture. I mean no disrespect.

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Viscid
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Re: An American Buddhist Tradition

Postby Viscid » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:13 pm

Recommended Reading:
Image

It's Joseph Goldstein's vision of how Buddhism [may/should] look in the West.

I'd rather see a completely secular monastic order that strives to develop the deep concentration required to journey contemplative depths, and encourage self-transformation towards an ideal spirital state.

Let people come to their own conclusions through practice and educated insight.

And English chanting would sound corny as hell.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James


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