"America's Fascination With Buddhism," read the October 13, 1997 issue of Time Magazine. I'm sure I was not the only Buddhist who eagerly bought the issue and immediately read the article, wanting to see if Time "got it right." Did they? Basically, yes, I think they presented a remarkably fair portrayal of contemporary Buddhism in America. Even keeping in mind that a magazine like Time cannot appear to be in any way "recommending" Buddhism, it still seems to me that the article overall presents a positive look at Buddhism today and suggests that it may indeed have much to offer Americans.
Of course, it was dissapointing to me that there was no mention of our Jodo Shinshu (or Shin) sect of Buddhism, presumably because the authors felt it represents one of those Buddhist sects comprised mainly of immigrants "who have yet to make an impact on mainstream culture." While I can understand Time's wanting to focus coverage on the activities of "Americans" because of their readership, I feel that Shin Buddhism has much to offer us, due to the timeless and highly relevant message of Shinran Shonin. You can read more about this topic in my "Future of Jodo Shinshu in America" Series, and particularly Part III, "Why Shinshu."
Still, overall, I think Time did a great service to Americans by publicizing some of the new spiritual choices that we all have today. I'm quite certain Buddhism will continue to grow in America as more and more of us awaken to its timeless truths.
Postscript: After reading the article (which unfortunately is no longer on Time's website), I felt compelled to e-mail the following letter to Time. What do you think? E-mail us if you have an opinion or comment.
Your recent article on Buddhism in America took on a very difficult task: To make sense out of the bewildering array of sects today that all call themselves "Buddhist." I appreciate your article because it demonstrates not only the increasing popularity of this ancient religion, but also the increasing diversity of Buddhist beliefs.
I would like to clarify one point though, about the true nature of Buddhism. It is not about "self-improvement," like the latest diet or exercise craze. Actually, your article said it best: "In the beginning the Buddha found enlightenment underneath the bodhi tree...and eventually formulated the Four Noble Truths that unite all Buddhists today..." When we think about those truths, what the Buddha was really saying was that life (and death) are not the problem; we are the problem. If we understand (awaken to) our selfish, ego-centered nature and our tendency to become attached to things that always change (like our youth), we can ease our suffering.
We can ease others suffering too, but not in the typical sense of doing "good deeds." It is because when we can truly say "I am the problem" instead of the more typical "you are the problem," it then becomes easier for others to be around us.
Thanks again for helping to better educate Americans about Buddhism.
Real World Menu | Home