The rate of immigrant communities in the United States has been rising tremendously. Notably, these communities have brought to the United States their culture, traditions and religion. One of these communities is the Buddhist communities. In this respect, questions have arisen on the influence of these communities on the American societies. In addition to this, the question on liberalism and religion in the American society has also arisen in the sense that some communities have continued to strictly adhere to their religions irrespective of the fact that they are in the midst of a liberal society. Furthermore, the growth of these communities’ religion in the United States has been rising at a very high rate. Whereas the United States remains as the most liberal nation across the globe, with most of its citizens adopting the contemporary culture which has deviated away from traditional religious practices, there has been a growing saturation of the Buddhist religious practices in the United States.
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The United States is a nation which has been characterized by existence of numerous religions, most of which are not indigenous to the United States, but foreign. For example, Christianity and Islam are not indigenous religions to the United States. In line with this, Buddhism too has been trying to follow the same trend to gain acceptance in this nation, especially in regard to accepting other races from different religious backgrounds. Notably, in almost one hundred and fifty year history of Buddhism in the U.S., racial diversity has been an ever-present concern (The Pluralism Project at Harvard University 2006).
To begin with, looking at different websites which have examined Buddhist communities in the United States reveals that these communities have been working on establishing the Buddhist religion in the United States. This has been shown in these communities’ quest to bring their religious materials to the United States as well as building temples where they can worship. In this regard, these communities have been working hard to integrate not only the Asian communities into their religious practices but also the American societies, especially from the White background. According to Zenshuji Soto Mission (2010), Zenshuji is a S%u014Dt%u014D Zen temple dedicated to bringing the 2,500-year-old teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha to America as illuminated by D%u014Dgen Zenji and Keizan Zenji, the Two Founders of S%u014Dt%u014D Zen Buddhism. In reference to World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY) (2010), the Buddhist communities have been soliciting for people, especially students to join this fellowship and be part of a wider Buddhist Community. In addition to this, the Buddhist culture and religion is presented as a culture and religion which promote compassion, kindness, equanimity and joyfulness (International Buddhist Progress Society 2010).
One of the interesting things about the websites which were examined in this case was the determination which was seen among the Buddhist communities as they worked on getting the American communities, especially from the White background to subscribe to their religious practices irrespective of the fact that most of the American societies were liberal and did not adhere much to religious practices. For instance, the messages on these websites were more inclined towards addressing other communities apart from the Buddhist communities. In consistent with this, International Buddhist Progress Society (2010) begins by asserting that they were delighted for the visitor to have shown an interest in Chinese culture and in Buddhism and therefore choosing to visit their website. This message is clear that the website is meant for non-Asian communities and non-Buddhists. Importantly, these websites carry a message of hope and healing to the world. Notably, nearly every website which was explored in this work focused on healing the world and changing the world. Therefore, Buddhism in general is presented as a healing and transformational religion.
There are a few issues which can be observed that are particularly American or rather contemporary regarding the way Buddhist communities have been approaching issues to get the American communities to subscribe to their religion. Predominantly, there is an inclination towards embracing communities from different backgrounds or rather social integration. In reference to The Pluralism Project at Harvard University (2010), Buddhist centers across the country are starting to host people of color retreats and meditation groups. Notably, the people of color have been segregated by the Buddhist religions for a long period of time. However, taking into considerations the fact that the American society has been working on social integration from the beginning of the 1950s after the inception of civil rights movements and feminism, the Buddhist communities have borrowed a leaf from this and are currently integrating communities from different backgrounds into their religious circles.
It is important to note that if these trends continue, there would a total revolution among the Buddhist communities with these communities being inclined towards adopting a liberal perspective or rather approach in the way these communities assimilate people into their religious circles. For instance, there is a possibility of these communities accommodating the gay people into their religious circles.
Whereas the United States remains as the most liberal nation across the globe, with most of its citizens adopting the contemporary culture which has deviated away from traditional religious practices, there has been a growing saturation of the Buddhist religious practices in the United States. Inasmuch as there have been researches and studies which have been carried out on Buddhist Communities in the United States and their influence on the American societies, there is need for further studies to be carried out on the resistance that these communities have faced in promoting their religious practices. Furthermore, there is need to evaluate the challenges such as competition from other religions such as Islam and Christianity and from the contemporary liberal behaviors. In addition, more research would need to be carried out on the compromises that have been made and may need to be made in future for this religion to continue thriving in future.
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