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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
26 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly addressIng The exclusIon oF asIan amerIcans Central to the shifting landscape of contemporary American Bud- dhism is a rethinking of the distinction between “convert” and “heritage” Buddhisms, as practitioners and scholars have become increasingly aware of the problematic nature of both the “two Bud- dhisms” and “three Buddhisms” typologies. An early challenge came from Rev. Ryo Imamura, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest, in a letter to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review in 1992. That winter, magazine founder and editor Helen Tworkov had written that “The spokes- people for Buddhism in America have been, almost exclusively, edu- cated members of the white middle class. Asian American Buddhists so far have not figured prominently in the development of something called American Buddhism.” Rev. Imamuru correctly pointed out that this statement disregarded the contributions of Asian American immigrants who had nurtured Buddhism in the U.S. since the eigh- teenth century and implied that Buddhism only became truly Ameri- can when white Americans practiced it. Although written twenty-five years ago, Rev. Imamura’s letter was only recently published in its entirety with a commentary by Funie Hsu on the Buddhist Peace Fel- lowship’s website. Hsu and Arunlikhati, who has curated the blog Angry Asian Buddhist since 2011, have emerged as powerful voices in bringing long-overdue attention to the erasure of Asian Americans from Buddhism in the U.S and challenging white privilege in Ameri- can meditation-based convert communities. Another shortcoming of the heritage/convert distinction is that it does not account for practitioners who bridge or disrupt this bound- ary. Where, for example, do we place second- and third-generation Asian Americans who have grown up in Asian American Buddhist communities but now practice in meditation-based lineages? What about Asian Americans who have converted to Buddhism from other religions, or from non-religious backgrounds? Chenxing Han’s promising research, featured in Buddhadharma’s Summer 2016 edition, brings the many different voices of these marginalized prac- titioners to the forefront. Similarly, how do we categorize “cradle Buddhists,” sometimes jokingly referred to as “dharma brats,” who were born into Buddhist “convert” communities? Millennials Lodro Rinzler and Ethan Nichtern—two of the most popular young Ameri- can Buddhist teachers—fall into this category, having grown up in