American Buddhist Teacher Talks about Buddhism in America

February 3, 2001

Source: The Boston Globe

On February 3, 2001, The Boston Globe published an interview of Lama Surya Das. Born into a Jewish family on Long Island as Jeffrey Miller, "Surya Das, who lives in Concord, has studied Buddhism for three decades with teachers including the Dalai Lama, and he has become a Buddhist teacher himself." In the interview Surya Das answered how his message differs from that of an Asian Buddhist teacher: "I'm trying to make Buddhism more accessible to Westerners. So I'm less monastic, emphasizing seclusion less and integration in daily life more, and include other things that people need like exercise and good eating and healthy relationships and therapy...[My group has] Jewish Buddhists and Catholic Buddhists and agnostic Buddhists and feminist Buddhists and so on. We're less patriarchal - we have women leaders as well as men...We don't have to...go somewhere else to some holy land in order to find inner peace and wisdom. We can do it right here and now." Buddhism has no creed, so "Buddhist meditations and contemplations and practices can help you become a better whatever you are," although these practices "have more meaning when practiced by Buddhists than by people who just adopt the practices without the religion." He said that "American Buddhists are not that connected to the ethnic Buddhists. The Vietnamese and Cambodians have their own temples, and do things in their own language." When the American Buddhist communities get together "often it's more like a meditation center than a congregation."