Perhaps it’s all a bad gamble that there might be stories out there, somewhere, of Buddhism in the American mainstream unpreoccupied with neophytic meditators or scholarly navel gazers. While I often write as though the secret is hidden behind some language barrier or waiting for a generation of storytellers to come of age, the more likely case is that these “untold stories” are actually hiding in plain sight. One such story is Barbara Chai’s journey to interview the Dalai Lama.
Chai is a reporter and editor for The Wall Street Journal. She was brought up in the United States and raised Buddhist. In fourteen posts on the Journal’s Speakeasy blog (“Blogging to Nirvana”), she documents her travels with her husband to Dharamsala from New York, beginning her journey with a simple question: What is Buddhism?
There is much about this series that the casual reader of Western Buddhist fare would find unremarkable, but I choose to share this story because of the richness of the author’s personal background. She is an international career woman who resides in New York. She is a meditator who was raised in an Asian Buddhist family in America. She is a Chan Buddhist who immersed herself in Tibetan Buddhism. She is a Buddhist traveler who inquires about the rights of Tibetan nuns, while employed by a journal which bleeding-heart liberals consider anathema for its conservative editorials.
But when we think of American Buddhism, do we think of Barbara Chai?