New Book Traces Buddhism's History in America

February 4, 2001

Source: Rocky Mountain News

On February 4, 2001, the Denver Rocky Mountain News published an article about a new book by James William Coleman, entitled The New Buddhism, The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition, an in-depth look at Buddhism and the path it took to becoming part of mainstream American life. "Coleman traces Buddhism from its ancient roots to American poets Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, through the 1950s beat poets, into the LSD experiences of the 1960s, the boom years of the 1970s, the sexual, financial and alcohol scandals of the 1980s and, finally, the social activism, known as 'engaged Buddhism,' currently exploding on the scene...As with any import, Buddhism has taken on a uniquely American texture, and much of the book focuses on how it differs from its countries of origin. For instance, Coleman says, in America the difference between monk and layman is almost indistinguishable - partly because Westerners aren't very amenable to becoming monks...Leaders, while respected, often are not treated in the same reverential manner they find at home...Also, a greater equality between genders is the norm in Western temples, compared with the subservience expected of women in many patriarchal Asian cultures."

See also: Buddhism, Women