There is a growth of devotion to bodhisattvas, or Buddhist gods and goddesses, among American converts to Buddhism, particularly the Chinese figure Kuan-yin.
In the Journal of Contemporary Religion (October), Jeff Wilson writes that supernaturalism has not held a significant place among the large segment of converts in the US. But partly because of a rise of female leaders and a new interest in ritual, such figures as Kuan-yin are viewed as being more accessible and compassionate than the more dispassionate Buddha.
Kuan-yin has been marketed and merchandised in New Age circles and Buddhist workshops, and has become increasingly present in publishing, merchandising and even temples. The use of Kuan-yin statues, along with the use of votive candles, has increased the possibility of ritual in temples alongside seated meditation among converts.
Wilson concludes that other bodhisattvas are gaining a place for American converts, such as Jizo (especially in his role as a savior of aborted and miscarried fetuses), and that this more ritual-based worship gives converts and ethnic Buddhists something more in common, though each group venerates these figures for its own purposes and needs.
(Journal of Contemporary Religion, 4 Park Sq., Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN, UK)