Buddhism and the West

Interesting article sent to me by an old friend- <http://info-buddhism.com/Buddhism_in_the_West_Jay_Garfield.html&gt;

A sociological study of the transmission of Buddhism to the other areas of the world, comparing the nature and effects of this in different areas.

We know as Buddhists that nothing gets preserved unchanged and pure even from moment to moment, so that rhetoric of Authenticity has to be subjected to a certain amount of critique. Sometimes, that is, you really have to be a heretic in order to be authentic and orthodox……the transmission of Buddhism to the West is in one sense completely continuous with what has happened throughout the history of Buddhism: that Buddhism has entered cultures, transformed those cultures and been transformed by them, and that when we look at the multiple lineages of Buddhism in Asia, we do not want to be asking the narrow, parochial question: »Which one is authentic?« Rather we want to ask ourselves in which ways has Buddhism developed productively in all of these different directions. That’s a sign of the vitality of the Buddhist tradition, not of its weakness.

….we should expect as we see Buddhism develop in the West that it will penetrate slowly, that it will penetrate in many diverse forms with many different translational ideas, inflected in very important ways by different ideas from the West. And just as Buddhism is alive and well and thriving in China, Korea and Japan, because it draws nourishment not only from its Indian roots but from its East Asian rain and fertilizers, it’s going to be alive and well in the West for years to come because it draws nourishment not only from its Indian roots but from the rain and fertility of Western ideas, and that needs to be a cause for celebration, not for anxiety, as we go forward.

… see the effect of this multiple simultaneous transmission on the shape of Western Buddhism… — And so Western Buddhism and Western-inflected Asian Buddhism are born at the same time and they are born in the same interaction, and that birth gives rise to a history of Asian Buddhism adopting Western ideas in the course of its confrontation with modernity, and the West adopting Buddhist ideas at the same time—and this is the deep tension that runs through modern Buddhism—it must at the same time be ancient wisdom tried and true and passed down through an infallible lineage, and completely modern!

And this is just the introduction. This is an amazing article, full of insights into this whole process. One more quote: (!)

Buddhists in different traditions are learning from each other because the insights that are available in the Tibetan tradition are often needed by people in the Zen tradition but the insights of the people in the Zen tradition are often equally needed by people in the Tibetan tradition and all across the Buddhist traditions. People have been doing good work in Buddhism in every one of these lineages. But they have been hermetically sealed from one another for a long time. And it has been this reflection through the West that has broken down those walls.


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