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Buddhadharma : Winter 2011
7 WINTER 2 01 1 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY In his article “The Face of Western Bud- dhism” in the Fall 2011 issue, James Cole- man notes that Buddhism gets high negative reactions from many Americans. This should not be surprising, given the pervasive influence of the Abrahamic religions in the U.S. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all worship a creator god, and despite the cen- turies of bloody conflicts over differences in theology and practices, they all worship the same god. The absence of a creator god in Buddhism presents a major obstacle to accep- tance among the majority of Americans who were raised in these theistic belief systems, even if they are not currently affiliated with an organized religion. Packaging certain Buddhist practices with- out Buddhist language, culture, and rituals is more likely to find acceptance among a broad range of Americans. Broadening the use of meditation and practices to reduce reactivity to strong emotions would be of tremendous benefit to human beings. And much like pre- paring a garden bed prior to planting seeds, this approach, in the long run, would draw more people to the dharma. John Russell Seattle, Washington Iread with interest James Coleman’s article “The Face of Western Buddhism” and the forum (“The Challenges Ahead”) on the Bud- dhist conference at the Garrison Institute that followed it in the Fall issue. One point that particularly impressed me was the simple numerical presence Buddhists have attained in our culture. Nevertheless, a few complaints. The article lists three “major stream[s]” of Buddhism represented in America: Zen, Vipas- sana, and Tibetan. Nothing, however, was said of one of the fastest-growing traditions in the West: the Nichiren tradition with its various sects. Mention might also have been made of Pure Land Buddhism, which is now attract- ing more non-Japanese adherents, a significant development in a strain of the dharma associ- ated primarily with Japanese immigrants. This LETTERS WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS AT: LETTERS@THEBUDDHADHARMA.COM oversight is critical: in an article that purports to discuss the place of Buddhism in American life, one might have expected some mention that the first Buddhists to serve as members of Congress are Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, who was raised in the Pure Land tradition’s Jodo Shinshu sect, and Hank Johnson of Georgia, who is a member of the Nichiren tradition’s Soka Gakkai International. All of the forum participants represented “mindful” Buddhist groups. Ironically, in one of the pictures [above] accompanying the forum discussion, Myokei Caine-Barrett, the resident priest and teacher of a Nichiren-shu temple in Houston, Texas, sits across from the photographer, staring out at the reader. The picture and the gaze that pierces it represent a deafening silence. Peter Parisi Columbus, Georgia In her introduction to “The Challenges Ahead: Two Hundred Teachers Gather to Discuss the Future of Buddhism in the West,” Tynette Deveaux states that the Garrison Insti- tute gathering of Western Buddhist teachers was by invitation only, overrepresented in the Vipassana tradition, underrepresented in the Vajrayana, and barely represented in the Pure Land and Nichiren traditions. Such a meeting cannot accurately and fairly represent Bud- dhist interests in the West. I find it difficult to understand why there was such a heavy PHOTOMAXMAKSIMIK/GARRISONINSTITUTE