August 21, 2009

Emerging Trends in "Western" Buddhism

Over on Wandering Dhamma, Brooke Schedneck writes about new trends in ‘Western’ Buddhism and provides some thoughts on the Buddhist blogging community.
There is a whole close-knit community thriving on debate and discussion of a diversity of issues almost daily. This community of course, is the buddhoblogosphere. Tackling similar issues as recent scholars such as race and racism, the dynamic between culture and religion, and the secularization of meditation teachings, among others. This community comments on online and print Buddhist media and is more and more moving toward incorporating ideas of recent scholarship. The buddhobogosphere is on the cutting edge of what is going on within Buddhism in the West, and they will have increasing importance for scholarship about contemporary Buddhism.
Brooke also provides a list of some general trends in this emerging scholarship.
  1. New Age vs. Hard Core Dhamma
  2. Mindfulness Meditation and the Secularization of Meditation
  3. Is Buddhism a religion? (Buddhism and religious identity)
  4. The dialogue of Buddhism and science/psychology
  5. Buddhism and youth
  6. Buddhism and pop-culture
  7. Buddhism and happiness
  8. Modern-day commentaries of traditional Buddhist teachings
  9. Prison Dharma
  10. Racially Diverse Buddhism
These trends are discussed in more detail across posts here and here.

3 comments :

  1. Hello Arun

    Since this post is about Buddhism in the West and you have made many posts about the Buddhist magazines I wonder what your take is on the editorial in the new Tricycle magazine.

    Specifically the apparent mention that the editorial policy previously had been directed towards the "thriving Buddhist convert communities in the West" and the further comments that editorial policy seems to be shifting "With the emergence of a global community of practitioners who share core values and goals, Tricycle is becoming more and more committed to the Rime vision" Rime meaning "impartial, unbiased" and "recognizing the importance of using a variety of approaches to benefit individual practitioners and communities with different needs."

    It concludes with, "As our board chair, Philip Glass, said to me not long ago, "There's room on our tent for everyone."

    I am not sure how to take it. An actual broader vision or politically correct nonsense?

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  2. I’ll have to post on this separately at more length. I believe the Trike editors are genuinely committed to a broader vision, and I even believe that they care about the concerns that I express. I just don’t think we see eye-to-eye on what counts as diversity and what constitutes marginalization. I have a hunch that they just intend to have the same writer demographic covering a broader range of topics. I have to give them some credit for this new rhetoric. Now it’s only a matter of time to see what it amounts to.

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  3. It will take me some time to review all the links you provided, but I am a bit concerned initially. If it turns out that this trend is watering down the Dhamma, making it "easier" and more "palatable" for the Western mind, then my concern would turn to alarm. If one believes the Dhamma is the truth, then why does its delivery need to be modified? The goal is Nibbana. If the Dhamma becomes diluted, then no matter how stridently someone follows the Dhamma, he or she will fail to achieve Nibbana because the path will be wrong from the start.

    Are my concerns misplaced?

    ReplyDelete

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