Special Issue "Buddhism in the United States and Canada"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2018).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Scott A. Mitchell
Website
Guest Editor
Rev. Yoshitaka Tamai Professor of Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Studies; Dean of Students and Faculty Affairs, Institute of Buddhist Studies; Core Doctoral Faculty, Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Rd, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA
Interests: Buddhism in Western contexts; Pure Land Buddhism; Ritual studies; Media studies

Special Issue Information

Over the last century, Buddhism has grown and diversified in both the United States and Canada. Now well-established, Buddhist communities of practice have variously adapted or resisted adaptation to North American cultural norms. This volume, building on a wealth of recent scholarship, seeks to explore Buddhism as a lived tradition of practice with diverse local manifestations.

Dear Colleagues,

Over the last two decades, a growing body of scholarship has emerged on Buddhism in both the United States and Canada including several edited volumes and monographs such as Harding, Hori, and Soucy’s Flowers on the Rock (2014), Mitchell and Quli’s Buddhism Beyond Borders (2015), and Wilson’s Dixie Dharma (2012). Whereas an earlier generation of scholarship on North American Buddhism was dominated by historical studies, and Numrich’s North American Buddhists in Social Context (2008) brought a much needed sociological lens to the subject, more work is needed to chart the landscape of North American Buddhism.

Wilson has argued that Buddhism in the United States (2015) and Canada (2011) is a local phenomenon. To truly test that hypothesis, sustained ethnographic fieldwork would be needed to critically explore and describe Buddhism’s various expressions in the Midwest, New England, Hawai’i, or the Pacific Northwest. Within these regional locales, Buddhism manifests in a variety of ways, and Buddhists adapt (or resist adapting) their practices to suit local ecological, economic, and cultural conditions. A deeper understanding how North American Buddhists have attuned traditional forms of dress, behavior, economies, or practices to local conditions is needed.

For this volume, we hope to solicit work that focuses on select regions, field sites, or case studies to explore North American Buddhism's various engagements with broader cultural trends. Such trends may include the rise of secular mindfulness programs; social, political, and ecological engagements; local economies, globalization, and the commodification of Buddhist images and icons; or Buddhist higher education and Buddhist practitioners within the academic field of Buddhist Studies. We are also interested in new theoretical approaches to the study of Buddhism in the United States and Canada, as well as critical evaluations of previously understudied Buddhist teachers, leaders, and public figures.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

References:

Harding, John S, Victor Sogen Hori, and Alexander Soucy. 2014. Flowers on the Rock: Global and Local Buddhisms in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univeristy Press.

Mitchell, Scott A, and Natalie E.F. Quli, eds. 2015. Buddhism Beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Numrich, Paul David, ed. 2008. North American Buddhists in social context. Boston: Brill.

Wilson, Jeff. 2011. “What is Canadian about Canadian Buddhism?” Religion Compass 5 (9): 536-548.

Wilson, Jeff. 2012. Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Prof. Dr. Scott A. Mitchell
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • North America
  • United States
  • Canada
  • ethnography
  • society
  • culture

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Sad Paradise: Jack Kerouac’s Nostalgic Buddhism
Religions 2019, 10(4), 266; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040266 - 13 Apr 2019
Abstract
Jack Kerouac’s study of Buddhism started in earnest in 1953 and is traditionally believed to have ended in 1958. This paper considers the relationship between Kerouac’s Buddhist practice and his multi-layered nostalgia. Based on a close reading of his unpublished diaries from the [...] Read more.
Jack Kerouac’s study of Buddhism started in earnest in 1953 and is traditionally believed to have ended in 1958. This paper considers the relationship between Kerouac’s Buddhist practice and his multi-layered nostalgia. Based on a close reading of his unpublished diaries from the mid-1950s through mid-1960s, I argue that Buddhism was a means of coping with his suffering and spiritual uncertainty. Kerouac’s nostalgic Buddhism was a product of orientalist interpretations of the religion that allowed him to replace his idealized version of his past with an idealized form of Buddhism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the United States and Canada)
Open AccessArticle
Contesting “Conversion” and “Reversion” among Young Adult Asian American Buddhists
Religions 2019, 10(4), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040261 - 11 Apr 2019
Abstract
This paper engages the perspectives of thirty young adult Asian American Buddhists (YAAABs) raised in non-Buddhist households. Grounded in semi-structured, one-on-one in-person and email interviews, my research reveals the family tensions and challenges of belonging faced by a group straddling multiple religious and [...] Read more.
This paper engages the perspectives of thirty young adult Asian American Buddhists (YAAABs) raised in non-Buddhist households. Grounded in semi-structured, one-on-one in-person and email interviews, my research reveals the family tensions and challenges of belonging faced by a group straddling multiple religious and cultural worlds. These young adults articulate their alienation from both predominantly white and predominantly Asian Buddhist communities in America. On the one hand, they express ambivalence over adopting the label of “convert” because of its Christian connotations as well as its associations with whiteness in the American Buddhist context. On the other hand, they lack the familiarity with Asian Buddhist cultures experienced by second- or multi-generation YAAABs who grew up in Buddhist families. In their nuanced responses to arguments that (1) American convert Buddhism is a non-Asian phenomenon, and (2) Asians in the West can only “revert” to Buddhism, these young adults assert the plurality and hybridity of their lived experiences as representative of all American Buddhists, rather than incidental characteristics of a fringe group within a white-dominated category. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the United States and Canada)
Open AccessArticle
Living Vinaya in the United States: Emerging Female Monastic Sanghas in the West
Religions 2019, 10(4), 248; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040248 - 04 Apr 2019
Abstract
From late January to early February 2018, the first Vinaya course in the Tibetan tradition offered in the United States to train Western nuns was held in Sravasti Abbey. Vinaya masters and senior nuns from Taiwan were invited to teach the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, [...] Read more.
From late January to early February 2018, the first Vinaya course in the Tibetan tradition offered in the United States to train Western nuns was held in Sravasti Abbey. Vinaya masters and senior nuns from Taiwan were invited to teach the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, which has the longest lasting bhikṣuṇī (fully ordained nun) sangha lineage in the world. During this course, almost 60 nuns from five continents, representing three different traditional backgrounds lived and studied together. Using my ethnographic work to explore this Vinaya training event, I analyze the perceived needs that have spurred Western Buddhist practitioners to form a bhikṣuṇī sangha. I show how the event demonstrates the solid transmission of an Asian Vinaya lineage to the West. I also parallel this Vinaya training event in the West to the formation of the bhikṣuṇī sangha in China in the 4th and 5th centuries, suggesting that for Buddhism in a new land, there will be much more cooperation and sharing among Buddhist nuns from different Buddhist traditions than there are among monastics in Asia where different Buddhist traditions and schools have been well-established for centuries. This Vinaya training event points to the development of the bhikṣuṇī sangha in the West being neither traditionalist nor modernist, since nuns both respect lineages from Asia, and reforms the gender hierarchy practiced in Asian Buddhism. Nuns from different traditions cooperate with each other in order to allow Buddhism to flourish in the West. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the United States and Canada)
Open AccessArticle
Good Deaths: Perspectives on Dying Well and on Medical Assistance in Dying at Thrangu Monastery Canada
Religions 2019, 10(2), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020070 - 22 Jan 2019
Abstract
Anthropological, sociological, and bioethical research suggest that various agencies affect one’s relationship with the dying process and end-of-life decisions. Agencies include the media, medical professionals, culture, and religion. Observing the prevalence of meditations and rituals relating to death at Thrangu Monastery Canada, I [...] Read more.
Anthropological, sociological, and bioethical research suggest that various agencies affect one’s relationship with the dying process and end-of-life decisions. Agencies include the media, medical professionals, culture, and religion. Observing the prevalence of meditations and rituals relating to death at Thrangu Monastery Canada, I wanted to investigate how the latter two agencies in particular, namely culture and religion, impacted the monastery members’ views on the dying process. During 2018 interviews, I asked their opinions on the meaning of dying well, and on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID), which was legalized in Canada in 2016. Although some scriptural examinations have suggested that voluntary euthanasia is contrary to Buddhist teachings, the majority of the monastery’s respondents support MAID to some degree and in some circumstances. Moral absolutes were not valued as much as autonomy, noninterference, wisdom, and compassion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the United States and Canada)
Open AccessArticle
Varieties of Buddhist Healing in Multiethnic Philadelphia
Religions 2019, 10(1), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010048 - 13 Jan 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
While an increasing amount of attention has been paid in the last decade to mindfulness meditation, the broader impact of Buddhism on healthcare in the United States, or any industrialized Western countries, is still much in need of scholarly investigation. The current article [...] Read more.
While an increasing amount of attention has been paid in the last decade to mindfulness meditation, the broader impact of Buddhism on healthcare in the United States, or any industrialized Western countries, is still much in need of scholarly investigation. The current article presents preliminary results from an ethnographic study exploring the impact of a wide range of Buddhist institutions, practices, and cultural orientations on the healthcare landscape of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. By particularly focusing on segments of the population that are non-white and that have limited English language skills, one of the main goals of this project is to bring more diverse voices into the contemporary conversation about Buddhism and wellbeing in America. Moreover, as it extends far beyond the topic of meditation, this study also is intended to highlight a wider range of practices and orientations toward health and healing that are current in contemporary American Buddhism. Finally, this paper also forwards the argument that the study of these activities should be grounded in an appreciation of how individual Buddhist institutions are situated within specific local contexts, and reflect unique configurations of local factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the United States and Canada)
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Open AccessArticle
Intertwined Sources of Buddhist Modernist Opposition to Ritual: History, Philosophy, Culture
Religions 2018, 9(11), 366; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9110366 - 17 Nov 2018
Abstract
This essay is an inquiry into the religio-cultural background of the opposition to ritual evidenced by many adherents of Buddhist modernism. This background can be structured by three different kinds of questions—historical, philosophical, and cultural. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism in the United States and Canada)
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