Beyond the Ivory Tower
This blog begins as a discussion space for a graduate-level course about Buddhism in the U.S. However, we hope it will become a public space for discussing the past, present, and possible future of Buddhist history and practice in the United States. This course is being taught by Dr. Jane Iwamura at University of the West in Rosemead, California. Dr. Iwamura and her students will be posting here regularly about topics being raised in the class. Comments are welcome and encouraged both from enrolled students and the general public. Please, tell us what you think! What does Buddhism in the U.S. look like to you?
Ground Rules for Happy Blogging
We hope this blog can remain a safe space and while we encourage lively discussion, debate, and even disagreement, please respect your fellow commentors. Although anonymous comments are allowed to protect the safety and privacy of commentors, inflammatory, defaming, threatening, or discriminatory comments will be deleted by the editor. We encourage commentors to log in and use their real names or personal internet handles whenever they feel comfortable.
If you would like to have some background about the topics being discussed here on the blog, feel free to follow the reading outline for the class, which is found below. This is only a draft and other reading materials will be mentioned as appropriate to the topics raised in the class. In some cases, we may only read specific sections, chapters, or excerpts from the books mentioned below. These will be noted as they are announced. However, please don’t feel like you have to follow along exactly before voicing your opinion or sharing your experience.
Books (in the order of reading)
- Race and Religion in American Buddhism by Joseph Cheah(pages 1-35)
- How the Swans Came to the Lake by Rick Fields
- Buddhism in America by Richard Hughes Seager
- Heartwood: The First Generation of Theravada Buddhism in America by Wendy Cadge
- Getting Saved in America: Taiwanese Immigration and Religious Experience by Carolyn Chen
- Dharma, Color, and Culture: New Voices in Western Buddhism by Hilda Gutierrez Baldoquin
- Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism by Rita Gross
- Engaged Buddhism in the West by Christopher S. Queen
- Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion by Jeremy Carrette and Richard King
- The Buddha’s Apprentices: More Voices of Young Buddhists by Sumi Loundon
Some authors have chosen to maintain their anonymity and will only be known by their internet handles. Other authors will be listed by their full names. To see all posts by that author, please click on their name. You can also mouse over their gravatar images at the bottom of the page to access their profiles.
Dr. Jane N. Iwamura – Dr. Iwamura is the Chair of Religious Studies at University of the West and teaches the course REL 659 Buddhism in the U.S. She is also author of the book Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture.
Monica Sanford – Monica is a third-year graduate student in the Masters of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy program at University of the West and also an inveterate blogger. Monica keeps the blog Dharma Cowgirl and also helps maintain Dharma Dialogue as webmaster and editor. Monica also has a BS in Design (Architecture) from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and is five credits shy of double Masters degrees in Architecture and Community and Regional Planning. A fifth generation Nebraskan, she moved to L.A. in 2010. Monica also works for UWest as the Accreditation Assistant and serves on the student government. Monica describes herself as “a freelance Mahayana Buddhist with strong Theravada leanings.”
Drew Baker – Drew is a second-generation Buddhist and a PhD student in Religion, Ethics, and Society at Claremont Lincoln University. His research is focused around Buddhism in North America, specifically in how past scholarly (and popular) typologies of Buddhism in North America have reinforced problematic norms and marginalized different groups and individuals. Secondarily, Drew is interested in Buddhist Ethics, Religious Pluralism and “Popular” Religion. Despite even being terrified of horror-comedy movies like Clue when he was a kid, today he also likes to reflect upon the strange and unexpected ways that religion and the genre of horror intersect.
Ākāśa Skye – Ākāśa wears a turban as a student of Yogi Bhajan in the Sikh Dharma sangat, is a long-time student of Tibetan Buddhism now studying under the tutelage of Lama Tsultrim Allione, and practices various forms of Wiccan Shamanic healing and visionary arts. Seeking ordination as an Interfaith Chaplain to provide spiritual counseling during the experiencing of trauma, Ākāśa is also a shamatha meditation instructor, certified in Reiki, has massage therapy training, is a black and white photographer and oil painter, and a yoga instructor. Akasa is in the Masters of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy program at University of the West.
Buddhakaruna – Buddhakaruna is a Masters of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy student at University of the West. Buddhakaruna also blogs about meditation experience (as taught by Ayya Khema and Leigh Brasington) at Jhana Practice, the Buddha’s Path of Pleasure.
Anthuan Voung – Anthuan is a first year Masters of Divinity student in the Buddhist Chaplaincy program at University of the West. He’s traveled and lived in monasteries and spiritual centers on and off for a total of two years. Anthuan lived throughout the US in four different cities in four different states in a span of four years. He grew up in four different countries: Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, and the U.S. In a span of three years, he crossed three borders of three different countries with my father when I was five years old. He’ll stay put for now.