One Buddhism? Or Multiple Buddhisms?

There are two distinct but related histories of American Buddhism: that of Asian immigrants and that of American converts. The presence of the two communities raises such questions as: What is the difference between the Buddhism of American converts and Buddhism of Asian immigrant communities? How do we characterize the Buddhism of a new generation Asian-American youth—as a movement of preservation or transformation?... Read more about One Buddhism? Or Multiple Buddhisms?


A koan (also: kong-an; kung-an) is a paradoxical question given to students by Zen masters to meditate upon as a means of cutting through reliance on analytical, discursive thinking and thereby aid in attaining realization. This technique is especially associated with the Linji school of Chan (Zen) in China, the Chogye school in Korea and the Rinzai Zen school in Japan.


The Patimokkha is the Theravada Buddhist code of monastic rules.

tea ceremony

Chado, meaning “the way of tea,” refers to the tea ceremony, a ritualized method of preparing and drinking tea so that the act assumes profound aesthetic and spiritual import. Although the practice originated in China, it attained its most refined form in the Zen monasteries of medieval Japan. According to tea masters, the ceremony should integrate four qualities. harmony, purity, respect, and tranquility.


Bhaishajya-guru or the Medicine Buddha is the Buddha of the Eastern Pure Land of Azure Radiance, best known for his determination to heal those whose faculties are imperfect. By removing diseases and giving perfect health of body and mind, he vows to enable everyone to achieve enlightenment.

Kalu Rinpoche

Kalu Rinpoche, a Kagyu teacher, spent his early years as a Buddhist yogi in Tibet. Because of the Tibetan sovereignty debate, he fled to India. In 1971, he made his first visit to France and America at the request of the Dalai Lama and the 16th Karmapa. Since then, Kalu Rinpoche has formed a number of centers for the practice of Chenrezig sadhana, a form of meditation said to be especially effective in developing wisdom and compassion. His main center in North America is in Vancouver, Canada.


Ordination means consecration to a priestly or monastic life. The term is used in the Buddhist tradition for the rites of becoming a monk (bhikkhu) or nun (bhikkhuni); in the Jewish tradition for the rites of becoming a rabbi; and in the Christian tradition for the rites of becoming a priest or minister.


(also: Amitahba Buddha Paradise Kingdom; Western Paradise Sukhavati) Sukhavati, the Western Pure Land presided over by Amitabha Buddha, is the main focus of devotion in the Pure Land school of Chinese Buddhism, and the Pure Land (Shinshu) and True Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) schools of Buddhism in Japan. In this paradise, there is no suffering or hardship, only happiness, purity, and safety. Anyone can be reborn to the land by reciting Amitabha’s name with complete sincerity and concentration. Despite the fact that people are reborn in Sukhavati carrying the full karmic weight of their actions... Read more about Sukhavati


Assayuja, a day of special importance in Theravada traditions, marks the Buddha’s descent from second heaven, where he had preached the Dharma to his mother. The day also marks the end of the three-month vassa, or rainy season retreat for monastics, in Southeast Asia.


Dana is a religious gift as well as the quality of liberality or generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, generosity is one of the six paramitas (“perfections”) that one cultivates on the bodhisattva path. The other perfections are: discipline, forbearance, energy, concentration, and wisdom.

immigrant Buddhism

The term “immigrant Buddhism” refers to the form of American Buddhism identified mainly with immigrant Buddhists from Asia, whether of the first wave of Chinese and Japanese or the second wave of Southeast Asians.


(also: Nibbana) In religions of Indian origin, nirvana means “blowing out,” i.e. the cessation of greed, hate, delusion, attachment, and desire —all the fuel of rebirth. In Buddhist philosophy, it refers both to Truth of the “far shore,” and to th. state of great spontaneity, tranquility, and purity that accompanies the realization of that Truth. In the Hindu tradition, moksha (liberation) is often spoken of as nirvana as well. In the Jain tradition, moksha occurs with the attainment of kevalajnana, the supreme, omniscient knowledge of the nature of the universe.

Sokatsu Shaku

Sokatsu Shaku was largely responsible for popularizing Ryomokyokai, the lay-Zen organization first formed by his master, Kosen, at the end of the 19th century. In 1906 Sokatsu led a group of six disciples, including Sokai-an Sasaki, to California, where the group established the first American branch of Ryomokyokai in San Francisco. Sokatsu returned to Japan for two years, came back to the United States briefly, then returned to Japan for good.