VOA TV – A New Generation of Buddhism in America

Boys have their hair removed at the start of a five-day retreat. This gathering gives them a chance to learn about Buddhism’s teachings and the life of a Buddhist monk. Many Chinese Americans go to the Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles. Miao Hsi, director of outreach, says American Buddhism is divided largely along ethnic lines.

MIAO HSI: “This is why there is Chinese Buddhism, there is Tibetan Buddhism, there is Japanese Buddhism, and so on. So I think that right now, we have some form of American Buddhism as well.”

Kusala Bhikshu is an American-born clergyman. He says Buddhism has a long history in the United States.

KUSALA BHIKSHU: “And it now has dug its roots into the soil of America, so there are people, myself being born in Iowa, people who were born in America who are coming as a convert to Buddhism, some becoming ordained as Buddhist monks or nuns, and … and bringing those teachings to everyday Americans.”

The Dalai Lama may be the world’s best-known Buddhist. He enjoys wide respect among Americans. He has some well-known followers, including actor Richard Gere.

There are Tibetan Buddhist centers around the United States. This one near Redding, California, is a teaching and spiritual center. Kusala Bhikshu says his center in Los Angeles brings together several Buddhist schools. He studied under a teacher from Sri Lanka. His center is in a Korean-American neighborhood, and was opened by a monk from Vietnam.

He says Buddhist teachings differ a little from one tradition to the next. At the Hsi Lai Temple, the central teaching is the same: a respect for the tradition, a desire to change because of the American experience, and a search for unity among people of all beliefs.

MIAO HSI: “Every being is connected. It’s like we are connected to this world. So I think we should be working towards harmonizing with one another. Harmony and peace would be something that we should all work towards.”

Buddhists say there is a bridge that links the many forms of American Buddhism. It is the American-born children who share a Buddhist faith and American culture. I’m Mario Ritter.