Today is the day we celebrate Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinibbana. This holiday is often accompanied by plenty of temple visits and merit making. (Temple hopping?) You’ll find me over at Dharma Vijaya this evening and Metta Forest Monastery tomorrow. Great events and lots of great food!
The story of declining adherence to Buddhism in Japan is certainly old news. I was used to hearing about “funeral Buddhism” in Japan, where families only go to temple for funerals. But apparently even that’s on the decline, according to this article in the New York Times.
The lack of successors to chief priests is jeopardizing family-run temples nationwide.
While interest in Buddhism is declining in urban areas, the religion’s rural strongholds are being depopulated, with older adherents dying and birthrates remaining low.
Perhaps most significantly, Buddhism is losing its grip on the funeral industry, as more and more Japanese are turning to funeral homes or choosing not to hold funerals at all.
Many thanks to Oz, I finally found a Vietnamese Theravada temple in Southern California. On top of that, when searching for the temple address, I found a list of all Vietnamese Theravada temples on Binh Anson’s website.
The Vietnamese word for Theravada is Nguyên thủy, which means something along the lines of “original” or “primitive”, as in xã hội nguyên thủy (primitive society), so if you click on Binh Anson’s link, look for the term chùa Nguyên thủy ‘Theravada temple’.
Below I’ve copied the list of Vietnamese Theravada temples outside of Vietnam. Enjoy!
- Chùa Pháp Vân, Pomona, California
- Thích Ca Thiền Viện, Riverside, California
- Như Lai Thiền Viện, San Jose, California
- Chùa Phật Pháp, St Petersburg, Florida
- Pháp Đăng Thiền Viện, Spring Hill, Florida
- Chùa Pháp Luân, Houston, Texas
- Chùa Đạo Quang, Garland, Texas
- Chùa Hương Đạo, Fort Worth, Texas
- Chùa Liên Hoa, Irving, Texas
- Chùa Bửu Môn, Port Arthur, Texas
- Chùa Kỳ Viên, Washington DC
- Bát Nhã Thiền Viện, Montréal, Québec
- Chùa Kỳ Viên, Paris, France
- Chùa Phật Bảo, Paris, France
Again, follow the link above to get addresses and contact information, although there are some typos. For example, “3 rue de Broca, Savigny-sur-Orges” should be “3 rue Brocca, Savigny-sur-Orge”.
Happy Asian American Heritage Month!
Bekeley Ohtani boy’s team, 1941
In my Angry Asian post, I slipped in a small bit about basketball. I did it to make a point — but I really don’t know much about the game. For many of my friends, though, basketball was a major component of their Buddhist American experience, played out on the courts at their childhood temples.
I don’t want to sound like the Angry Asian Man, but I’ve had a hard time finding articles about Asian American Buddhists.
This is one of the classic issues for Asian Americans. The underrepresented minority caught between two worlds. Asian Americans born and raised in North America must continually confront a mainstream perception that they aren’t American enough. At the same time, Asian Americans face pressures from both within and outside the Asian American community of not being Asian enough.
The real issue for young Buddhists in the Asian American community is that there are very few Buddhist communities that they can go to without having to suppress part of their identity. Culturally Asian temples emphasize language and culture, which can be really intimidating for Asian American youth who feel excessively high cultural expectations placed on them. There is probably no coincidence that the virtually all Asian American Buddhists who are active in their communities are also fluent in their parents’ native language and culture.
But on the other hand, culturally American Buddhist centers often feel impersonal when stripped of culturally Asian (but maybe spiritually-lite) practices. And it’s hard for these American centers to understand the perspective of young Asian Americans, who may be intimately familiar with Buddhist symbolism and ritual, but don’t know what it all stands for. An iconoclastic emphasis on philosophy often smacks of inauthenticity.
Then again, there are organizations like the BCA that have really, in my opinion, managed to forge a unique Asian American identity. But cultural divisions in the Asian American Buddhist community continue. BCA Youth are more likely to play basketball with Japanese Methodists than with GĐPT youth (who also have basketball teams).
So is there a place for Asian American Buddhists in today’s Buddhist community? Maybe this is why the Pew study said that 50% of Buddhists choose not to keep the faith…