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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
ann gleig 25 books included Charles S. Prebish’s Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America (1999), Richard Hughes Seager’s Buddhism in America (1999), and James Coleman’s The New Bud- dhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Religion (2002). One common distinction made in this early research was between the so-called “two Buddhisms” in America: “ethnic” and “convert.” According to the researchers, the ethnic or “immigrant” Buddhism of Asian Americans (what scholars now commonly refer to as heritage Buddhism) focused on communal, devotional, and merit- making activities within a traditional cosmological context, whereas the convert Buddhism of overwhelmingly white, upper-middle class practitioners was individualistic, primarily focused on meditation practice, and psychological in its approach. An early challenge to the “two Buddhisms” typology came from scholar Jan Nattier, who observed that not all converts are white, and that some convert-populated communities, such as Soka Gakkai, do not privilege meditation. She proposed an alternative “three Bud- dhisms” typology—import, export, and baggage—that moved away from ethnicity and race and focused on the mode by which various forms of Buddhism were brought to the U.S. As Scott Mitchell and Natalie Quli note in their coedited collec- tion Buddhism Without Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States (2015), and as Mitchell unpacks in his Buddhism in America: Global Religions, Local Contexts (2016), there have been numerous dramatic changes in the social and cultural land- scape of America since those studies were published over a decade ago. These changes, as evidenced by the Maha Teacher Council, have brought new questions and concerns to meditation-based con- vert communities: Who has the authority to define and represent “American” Buddhism? What is the impact of mindfulness transition- ing from a countercultural religious practice to a mainstream secular one? How have technology and the digital age affected Buddhist practice? In what ways are generational and demographic shifts changing meditation-based convert communities? My research explores these questions through a series of case studies, highlighting four areas in which major changes are occur- ring, pushing these communities beyond their first-generation expressions.