It is too early to say much about the shape of Western Buddhism, and even if we could, it would at that moment still be in the process of transformation. Nothing comes to rest, and certainly not Buddhist history as it arrives here in our modern world of high speed change.
In this issue of Inquiring Mind we explore the great East-West transmission now taking place in which we are all participants. While collecting articles for this issue, we noticed that some of our contributors emphasize the importance of continuity and of holding to tradition, while others lean toward creating new forms particularly adapted to contemporary culture.
We begin with the well-loved Western monk Ajahn Amaro who gives us a view of Western “retreat Buddhism,” as seen from the perspective of monastic life.
Of course, the future of Buddhism lies with the young, and there has been a lot of speculation lately—at least among middle-aged meditators—about the absence of the younger generations in the dharma halls of the West. Twenty-eight-year-old Diana Winston explores this puzzling question and how it feels to be somewhat alone among her peers as a devoted Buddhist and meditator. Twenty-five-year-old Josh Shrei tells his story of growing up Zen in America, spending his childhood at the Rochester Zen Center, where all his childhood fears, fantasies and games came wrapped in his own personal koan.
Scholar and teacher Roger Walsh lays out the fundamental issues we need to explore as Buddhism comes to the Western world, the possible benefits and dangers in the process. As a partial answer to Walsh’s questions, we present the views of three people who have done innovative work in interpreting and applying the Dharma in secular society: Daniel Goleman, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Jack Miller. We learn from these articles that without even mentioning the Buddha’s name, the application of “mindfulness” can be transformative in the fields of education, emotional healing and medicine.
Teacher and scholar Gil Fronsdal takes us on a hunt for “The Treasures of the Theravada,” exploring vital images and practices which many vipassana meditators in the West have overlooked.
Sandy Boucher, on her way to Beijing for the U.N. Women’s Conference, looks at how contemporary women practitioners are embodying Dharma and bringing a new international consciousness to Western Buddhism.
So, ready or not. . . Westward Dhammo!