A Western Buddhism Buddhism is a new religion on the Western front that has seemingly exploded in the past forty years. In order for Buddhism to flourish in the West it will have to make many seemingly drastic changes. Sulak Sivaraksa states in
Seeds of Peace
, “ In teaching Buddhism in the West, for example, a Tibetan should not establish Buddhism exactly as it existed in Tibet, for the conditions are different. This does not mean culture needs to be rejected but it should carefully be distinguished from religion.” (Sivaraksa Ch. 6). For a successful Western Buddhism movement there will have to be equality for women, implanted western ideals, and a new found activeness in the community.
In Bron Sibree’s article “Tempted by Change” he discusses the relevance of Buddhism in the West over the years. “ Back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s it was just a very few people who were interested in Buddhism. A few of the intelligentsia a few professors and a few judges no one ever thought it would take off like it has done so quickly.” (Sibree). Buddhism exploded in the late nineties and has led us to where we are now. Vicki Mackenzie who was interviewed in the article said, “Buddhism has taken root in Western soil with such speed. It’s phenomenal. The question is why? Why now?” (Sibree). The reason why it has taken its hold is because it is a different viewpoint and different thought pattern. It is fresh food for thought to the Christian thinking western world.
History shows that a Buddhism adapted when moving into a new region of the world.
When Buddhism spread into Tibet it combined the great vehicle of Mahayana, focusing primarily on the teaching of schools Yog acara and Tathagatagarbha, with new found teachings of the
Buddha resulting in Vajrayana. The driver of thought in Vajrayana was the Lam Rim, or a lamp for the
path of enlightenment. In the Dalai Lama’s book,
The Path to Enlightenment, he discusses Lam
Lam Rim is called the essence if all of Buddha’s teaching because its principal source is the
Sutras on the Perfection of Wisdom and upon this foundation it presents a range of paths and practices incorporating all Hinayana, general Mahayana, and secret
Vajrayana teachings originating from the Buddha.” (Dalai Lama 45)
If religious thought and practice remained stagnant and rooted in it’s beliefs then it will lose followers. Buddhist Lama’s know this and accept that the religion will have to undergo a makeover in order to be presentable and attractive to westerners.
The women’s rights movement is one of the largest movements in the world. Women have hard fought for the chance to vote and succeeded in the matter, women are entangled in the daily grind to try and climb the corporate ladder and break the glass ceiling, and women are in a desperate plight for equality in religion. Islamic women are fighting for integration in muslim services, Christian women are questioning the church’s authority when it comes to only men can be ordained as priests, and Buddhism a religion that preaches all life is sacred and equal is still neglecting their nuns. Buddhism is sending male gurus to be the ambassadors for Buddhism.
They are bringing an old patriarchal tradition to a society that is trying to topple sexism. In Vicki
A Cave in the Snow
, a biography of Tenzin Palmo, she writes, “ The succession of gurus who had come to the West to inspire eager new seekers were male. Where were the women in all of this?” (Mackenzie 6). Tenzin Palmo is a shining example of a woman overcoming sexism to become a valid guru in Buddhism. She has been touring the world
teaching the masses about Buddhism in a new, refreshing, and engaging way. And she wholeheartedly agrees that the West will change Buddhism for the better and promote equality.
“ The push by the