Chinese Buddhists in America
Eight out of ten individuals in the world are linked to religion. Buddhism is considered one of the biggest religions in the world, with membership comprising of up to 7 percent of the people in the world. The religion has four branches. The three most important are Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana. The religion reached the western world through various ways such as through Asian immigrants into the US. Various aspects of Buddhism exist in America making the practice different in several ways across the differing origins. For instance, there is Indian, Japanese and Chinese Buddhism in America.
Theravada is the second largest sect of Buddhism that is based on meditation. This sect is considered the most secular and more Western. Mahayana is of Japan and Chinese origin. It is the largest sect founded upon principles of pluralism while Vajrayana is the smallest sect found in Tibet and Thailand.
Few studies have focused on Chinese religions in America. None of the studies have realized the confirmation of cult/ sect or religious structures and topology in the western culture. Recognition of religious attainments in the world is often based on the determination of the power, blessings, healing and forestalling of bad luck associated with the members of a particular religion. However, the Chinese culture does not associate religion with uniform exclusivity.
On the contrary, Chinese individuals can join any religion they consider favorable to them (Lin 383). Since the 1880s, the population of the Chinese in America has been fluctuating under the influence of various acts of parliament such as the Chinese Immigration Exclusion Act of 1882. This has led to the establishment of many Chinese Buddhist associations across the United States. Currently, the Buddhist religious groups among the Chinese Americans can be approximated at about 150 across all states. All the groups are categorized as part of any of the four major sects of the Buddhist religion.
One group of the Chinese Buddhists in America is the Dharma Buddhist group which aims at advancing the real teachings of Buddha. The group focuses on methods such as propagating ethical teaching, the Orthodox Dharma and enhancing happiness for all people (Prebish 28). The Institute of Chung-Hwa Buddhist culture was created by Master Sheng-yen to offer various programs. The Institute offers Meditation workshops and various other Buddhist related events. Apart from this, the institute also distributes the master’s books and other teachings.
The Buddhist Association of America, created in 1964 by Shen, aims at advancing Buddhist teachings to all the Buddhists. The younger members are encouraged through the association to built strong roots in America. In addition to this, the group aims at bringing together all the Buddhist groups in America without regard for their sects and to propagate the real teachings of Buddhism.
The His Lai Temple in California acts as the world center of Buddhist operations with regards to the Buddha’s Light International Organization. The temple was initially a cultural center for the Chinese Buddhist community but has since progressed to incorporate other Buddhist cultures. The Buddhist religions incorporate and advocates for acts such as meditation, mindfulness and uncomplicated living as the origins of human peacefulness.
The young American- Born Buddhist children are encouraged to advance their faith beginning with a five day retreat during which the boys are encouraged to shave their hair. The children are taught about the Buddhist life in general and the life of Buddhist monks as well. However, there have been changes in some of the Buddhist teachings due to the western influence, as well as through new teachings on the search of unity among humans (Ritter para. 7).
Lin Irene. Journey to the far west: Chinese Buddhism in America. In Starchy, Tanya “Religions and Missionaries around the Pacific: 1500-1900”. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. Print. pp. 383-386.
Prebish, Charles S. Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1999. Print.
Ritter, Mario. “A New Generation of Buddhism in America”. Aug 29, 2011. Online video clip. YouTube. Web. March 28 2013 < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek9W3rw6_Ng>
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