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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
52 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 6 I was astounded by the diversity of the twenty-six young adults I interviewed. They traced their heri- tages to East, Southeast, South, and even Central and West Asia. They were connected to a wide range of Buddhist traditions and groups: Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese Chan, Jodo Shinshu, Korean Zen, Laotian, nondenominational Mahayana, Shambhala, Soka Gakkai, Soto Zen, Thich Nhat Hanh, Tibetan, Tzu Chi, Vietnamese, Vipassana, and more. Though “two Buddhisms” would suggest other- wise, I could not simply assume that my interview- ees went to temples with people who shared their same ethnic background. Knowing only Daniel’s ethnic identity (Chinese/Ashkenazi), we would be hard-pressed to describe his Buddhist commu- nity—more precisely, communities in the plural (Theravada and Mahayana groups in California, France, and Southeast Asia). Several of the young adults I spoke to were exploring forms of Buddhism different from those they had been raised in. Brian, for example, grew up as a Laotian Buddhist but now attends a Korean Buddhist temple. Others were raised nonreligious, Hindu, Christian, or with mixed traditions (Yima identified both Zoroastrian and new-age spiritual influences from his parents). Even those who saw their cultural heritage and Buddhist identity as closely con- nected—the Japanese American Jodo Shinshu Buddhists I spoke to, for example—had typically visited other Buddhist communities. Through an interactive card- sorting activity, the young adult Asian Americans I interviewed revealed their familiarity with a wide range of Bud- dhist practices: attending ceremonies, bowing, chanting, meditation, offering donations, volunteering at a temple, and many more. The “two Buddhisms” model’s description of Asian Americans “going to the temple, making Dedunu | Site director for community schools initiative | Staten Island, New York | Staten Island Buddhist Vihara While I wholeheartedly believe that Buddhism, as with all other forms of religion and philosophy, is something that everyone can be engaged in, on another level, I feel that acknowledging cultural roots is a critical part of that experience. I am mostly interested in simply hearing the stories of other Asian American Buddhists. Because I grew up in a community of predominantly Sri Lankan, Sinhalese Buddhists, I have rarely encountered Buddhists of other Asian American backgrounds.