Interesting article in the current issue of Tricycle Magazine. At question is the ability of American Buddhism to thrive in the future, given its lack of roots in the American family structure. The author, Clark Strand, laments that American Buddhists aren’t passing Buddhism on to their children in the same way that American Jews and Christians do with their respective faiths, and asserts that we’re going to have to change all that if we’re to have a reasonable expectation of its future survival.
The article is here:
I have to wonder, though: Is it really our intent to simply pass on the Dharma to our children, as they do in many traditionally Buddhist countries? Wouldn’t we rather they find the Dharma for themselves, when they’re old enough to go looking for it? Personally, I was thirty-three years old before I was mature enough to be able to assume the mantle of convert, with all that it entails.
One of the best attributes of American Buddhism, in my opinion, is that it’s marked with greater enthusiasm, in many cases, than say, Japanese Buddhism. What I mean is this: American Buddhists, right now in their first or second generation, tend to be more serious about the faith in general, than many of their Asian counterparts. I think that among American lay Buddhists, the percentage of vegetarians is higher than it is among Asian lay Buddhists, for example. And I believe I know why.
Someone who receives his faith from his parents and his society, as was the case with almost all the Christians I’ve ever known, will accept that faith and generally stick with it. Most folks around here are Christians because their parents were Christians, and their parents before them, and so on. No examining of the faith is necessary. No deep study. Most folks around here claim to have read the Bible from cover to cover, but have in fact received no religious education, nor performed any faith-oriented research on their own, beyond the Sunday-school classes they were forced to attend as children.
But someone who discovers a totally different faith, examines it, takes classes in it, seeks out a competent teacher and really learns it, and then accepts and declares it as his own, stands a better chance of actually living according to its teachings. This is the convert, and it’s through this method that most American Buddhists found the Dharma.
And this is how I want my children to find it. It will be entirely up to them, to come to the Dharma if and when they want to. But if they, when they’re ready to begin looking at such things, would rather keep the religious mores that have been placed upon them by virtually everyone around them, well that will be good too. I don’t preach the Dharma – I don’t understand it well enough for that, and I wouldn’t if I did. I’d rather folks find it for themselves, the way the first few generations of American Buddhists, including the Boomer Buddhists, did.