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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
96 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY one of the darker chapters of our collective history, but we cannot move past it through willful igno- rance. To truly understand American Buddhism in the fullness of its past and present, we must con- front those parts that make us uncomfortable. Similarly, we shouldn’t deny the Japanese (or Chinese, or Thai, or Tibetan) roots of other American Buddhist traditions. Shin Buddhism was established by Japanese immigrants and, as a result, many of the community’s practices and cus- toms are indebted to a particularly Japanese way of approaching Buddhism. But the same could be said of Zen Buddhism, which was established in Hawaii and on the mainland at the same time as Shin Buddhism. It’s important to recall that Shunryu Suzuki did not come to the United States in 1959 to build the San Francisco Zen Center; he came to be the resident priest of a Japanese Ameri- can Zen temple that had been established in San Francisco’s Japantown in the 1930s. If we claim that Shin Buddhism is merely Japanese Buddhism by virtue of the fact that its founders were Japa- nese, why do we not say the same about American Zen, which has a parallel history and a similar pedigree? Is it because of the assumptions implicit in dichotomies of “ethnic” and “convert” Bud- dhism? Is Shin Buddhism not American enough or not Buddhist enough? An overreliance on ethnicity as the frame for understanding North American Shin Buddhism is limiting. While raising questions about ethni- city and adaptation is important to understand- ing North American Shin Buddhism, we must do so with the awareness that our questions always shape our answers. When we start our inquiry into American Buddhism with the assumption that there are two traditions—“Asian” and “convert”— we risk seeing only the evidence that backs up that assumption. As the saying goes, “When all you top | A hanging scroll depicting the seven masters across India, China, and Japan who are said to have helped expound Pure Land teachings as we know them today bottom | A special training session on Jodo Shinshu ritual for ministers and minister’s assistants at Mountain View Buddhist Temple in Mountain View, California (PHOTOSTOP-BOTTOM)GERALDFORD,YUMIHATTA