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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 115 DAVID MCMAHAN CONCLUDED his influential 2008 book, The Making of Buddhist Modernism, with a question: “Is there something like a postmodern Buddhism emerging from the strains of the Buddhist modernism I have been discussing?” While the categories of modernism and postmodernism remain disputed, Ann Gleig takes up the baton in her pivotal new work, American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity, guid- ing readers beyond Buddhist modernism into hitherto uncharted territory. Drawing from her ethnographic work on sanghas across the continent and the work of scholars including McMahan, Donald Lopez Jr., and Joseph Cheah, Gleig shows us an American Buddhism filled with contradictions and a growing awareness of its own internal problems, as well as a willingness to grapple with those complexities as traditions move into an unknown future. Our journey begins at a familiar landmark: the booming modern mindfulness movement. While mindfulness has blos- somed into what scholar Jeff Wilson calls “the single most impactful aspect of Buddhism in America,” that growth has brought with it a tide of concerns about the separation of mind- fulness from other aspects of Buddhism, most notably ethics and wisdom (following the threefold path of sila, samadhi, and pañña). Other concerns arise as well, as Gleig notes: Critics draw on distinctions between right and wrong mindful- ness as decreed by the Pali canon and differentiate between sincere individual intentions and the institutionalization of self-disciplines as informed by Michel Foucault. These unusual bedfellows of religious conservatives and critical theorists, premodern and poststructuralist perspectives, are united by a suspicion of the distinctively modern discourses that have over- taken Buddhism. American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity by Ann Gleig Yale University Press, 2019 376 pages; $35 The Opportunities and Perils of Postmodern Dharma REVIEWS JUSTIN WHITAKER HANDIPIX/ALAMYSTOCKPHOTO