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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
24 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly within the predominantly white, straight, male American teacher body. While many teachers enthused that such conversations were long overdue, others decried what they characterized as the confla- tion of Buddhism and progressive politics. Further disagreements centered around the conference’s emphasis on mindfulness. One attendee asked why the organizers had chosen “The Mindful Society” as one of the main themes rather than, for example, “The Compas- sionate Society” or “The Enlightened Society,” titles the questioner said would have highlighted the ethical and less secular dimensions of Buddhism. Both the 2011 Maha Teachers Council and the subsequent cri- tiques of it reflect significant shifts in the landscape of Buddhism in America. In my forthcoming book, which will be published by Yale University Press in 2018, I examine new developments and debates in one corner of that landscape: meditation-based “convert” Ameri- can Buddhist communities. These lineages represent what some scholars call “Protestant Buddhism” or “Buddhist modernism,” new forms that have emerged from the encounter between tradi- tional Buddhism and modern Western discourses and practice. That encounter took seed in Asia in the context of nineteenth-century colonialism but flowered beginning in the 1960s, in an atmosphere of heightened cross-cultural exchange between Asia and the West. It was during this period that both Asian Buddhists and Americans who had trained with Buddhist monastic and lay teachers in Asia established some of the most prominent meditation-based centers and organizations in existence today. The first wave of academic scholarship on these communities was published around the turn of the millennium, as the study of Bud- dhism in America emerged as a distinct academic subfield. Influential while the modernization and secularization of Buddhism continues, there is now more discussion about the pitfalls of these processes, with some exposing the ethnocentrism that has operated behind the “essential” versus “cultural” distinctions.