Times: Reform Buddhism on the UWS of Manhattan

Not to worry. We are not converting to Reform Buddhism or any other Reform type of relgion.

In 2006 we read about Buddhism With a New Mind-Set - in the New York Times:

"Western spiritual seekers who have focused on meditation have fueled a remarkable growth in Buddhist practice in the United States. So what to do if you are part of an ancient Buddhist tradition that is huge in Asia but has failed to catch on in the United States, in part because it has no real place for meditation?"

The Times reported that Rev. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki (they call a monk a reverend) has added meditation to his Pure Land Buddhist service in his Upper West Side NY Buddhist Church (they call a Temple a Church). If this sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Reform Judaism, or at least of assimilationist Judaism, reporter Luo makes the comparison more explicit.

"In some ways, the story line is familiar. Religious traditions have long adapted to fit changing cultural circumstances. Consider how Hanukkah, a relatively minor holiday on the Jewish religious calendar, has leaped in importance among many Jews in the face of the crush of attention surrounding Christmas in this country. But while Zen and Tibetan Buddhism — the Buddhist forms that have largely driven the religion's surge among Western practitioners — focus on meditative practices as a way to achieve enlightenment, Shin Buddhism, the Pure Land school that the Buddhist Churches of America embraces, teaches that meditation is ultimately useless because of the inherent human limitations."

Finding this Pure American "give-the-people-what-they-want" philosophy in Buddhism is jarring but not surprising. After all this is the Upper West Side - where women study Talmud and Pure Land Buddhists practice meditation. Wow. Anything goes. //repost from 6/13/06//


Matt said...

I know Rev. TK. He's really quite something. And Shin Buddhism, though not my style, is easy to misunderstand. (Tricycle had a recent interview, if you can find it.) But the Shin style, focusing on chanting meditation rather than "meditation," arose from an attitude of "give the people what they want" in the first place. Buddhism has been pragmatic like that for a long time. (Just don't get me started on SGI.) So, there's been no real change. Clouds come and go; the mountain remains unchanged.

Anonymous said...

what mountain?