Dr. Stuart Chandler has been researching Western Pennsylvania’s evolving religious pluralism as a Pluralism Project Affiliate since 2001. He has established a Center for the Study of Religion in Pennsylvania (CSRP) which employs students to conduct field research, which, combined with the research of students from his World Religions courses, resulted in a public presentation entitled “Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh: the Surprising Religious Landscape of Western Pennsylvania” and subsequent publication as a fifty-page magazine that was distributed to the social studies departments of 250 high schools in Western Pennsylvania. His successful strategy was to offer the student authors of the best papers an alternative to taking a final exam in his course. Instead, they could read, incorporate, and edit the research of fellow students into a joint final essay for publication in the magazine.
Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania
Dr. Chandler has organized a highly successful museum exhibit entitled “Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania has welcomed religious diversity ever since its founding under William Penn. Such pluralism did not expand beyond the Christian and Jewish communities, however, until quite recently. After the change in national immigration laws in 1965, non-European peoples practicing a wide range of faiths have both gathered in homes and established ever larger and more ornate places of worship to serve their burgeoning memberships. These immigrants have been joined by Euro-American and African-American converts. “Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania” focuses on several of the latest additions to the American religious mosaic by considering the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Sikh traditions as they are practiced in the Pittsburgh region.
Few people realize that one need not even leave the town of Indiana to find Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhist meditation groups, or to admire more than a dozen Hindu home altars. A quick drive down to Pittsburgh allows one to visit a half dozen Buddhist centers, three Hindu temples, a Sikh gurdwara, and a Jain shrine. The exhibit “Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania” at The University Museum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) is designed to give a glimpse into the practices and teachings of these groups as they adjust to their American surroundings. The more than one hundred photographs on display permit visitors to witness the observance of Buddha’s Birthday in Tien Vien Chon Nhu Temple, the performance of a fire service in the Hindu-Jain Temple, the escorting of three deities on a golden chariot at Sri Venkateshwara Temple, and the celebration of a wedding in the Sikh gurdwara. These photographs surround examples of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist altars, and of a Sikh reading table. Also on display are art works by the Singh sisters and Arpana Caur (three of the most renowned contemporary Sikh painters), by Mahendra Shah (America’s premier Jain artist), and by the American Zen practitioners John Daido Loori Roshi, Kaz Tanahashi, and Tom Matsuda.
About Dr. Stuart Chandler
Stuart Chandler obtained his Ph.D. in comparative religion from Harvard University in the spring of 2000 and joined IUP’s faculty that fall. His area of concentration is the religions of China and Japan, especially Buddhism. Dr. Chandler’s book Establishing a Pureland on Earth: The Foguang Buddhist Perspectives on Modernization and Globalization was published by University of Hawaii Press in 2004. He has written numerous articles, chapters, and encyclopedia entries. Some of his more recent works include “The Dimensions of Contemporary Chinese Buddhism ” (Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Stephen C. Berkwitz, ABC-CLIO, 2005), “Foguangshan” (Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, edited by Lindsay Jones, Macmillan, 2005), and “Spreading Buddha’s Light: The Internationalization of Foguang Shan” (Buddhist Missionaries in the Era of Globalization, edited by Linda Learman, University of Hawaii Press, 2004).
In addition to studying Chinese Buddhism, Dr. Chandler conducts research on the evolving religious landscape of Pennsylvania. He has served as the director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Pennsylvania (CSRP) since its founding in 2002. The most important project undertaken by this center thus far was an exhibit entitled “Eastern Religions Come to Western Pennsylvania,” which was shown in IUP’s Sutton Hall Museum and Kipp Art Gallery from September 24 through December 9, 2005. This exhibit focused on the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Sikh traditions, especially their practice in the Pittsburgh region.
Dr. Chandler’s current projects include the creation of a website for CSRP and the translation of the memoirs of a woman by the name of Oishi Junkyo, who was a geisha, artist, and Buddhist nun in early twentieth-century Japan.
As the coordinator for the Asian Studies Committee and the faculty advisor for the Committee for the Study of Culture and Religion, the Oak Grove Dharma Circle, and the Chinese Students Association, Dr. Chandler has worked to bring numerous guest speakers and performers to IUP. Notable among these were the Zen artist Kazuaki Tanahashi; the Hindu musicians Dr. Nirmala Sundararjan, Shankar Krish, and T.S. Nandakumar; Rabbi Bulka (Orthodox rabbi and expert in Logotherapy); Dr. John Cort (America’s leading expert on the Jain tradition); and a troupe of ten Drepung Loseling Tibetan Buddhist monks who created a sand mandala over a four-day period.
Courses regularly taught by Dr. Chandler include “World Religions,” “Introduction to Religion,” “Buddhist Thought and Practice,” and “Religions of China and Japan.”
Selected Links and Publications
- Faculty webpage: Dr. Stuart Chandler
- Book: Establishing a Pureland on Earth: The Foguang Buddhist Perspectives on Modernization and Globalization (University of Hawaii Press, 2004)
- Chapter: “The Dimensions of Contemporary Chinese Buddhism ” (Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, ed. Stephen C. Berkwitz, ABC-CLIO, 2005)
- Chapter: “Foguangshan,” Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, ed. Lindsay Jones (Macmillan, 2005)
- Chapter: “Spreading Buddha’s Light: The Internationalization of Foguang Shan,” Buddhist Missionaries in the Era of Globalization, ed. Linda Learman (University of Hawaii Press, 2004)