Buddhism in the U.S. today represents a global religion more than an American one, particularly as it is entering a stage of “hybridity,” according to Buddhist scholar Charles Prebish.
In an interview with the Buddhist magazine Tricycle (Spring), Prebish says that talk of developing an “American Buddhism” is “almost passé … Buddhist communities everywhere in North America are now so networked that I started using the phrase ‘global Buddhist dialogue’ to talk about a worldwide Buddhism rather than just an Asian, European, or American one …. In the seventies and even into the eighties and early nineties, groups were distinctly one tradition or another.
Today lots of communities combine bits and pieces of various Buddhist traditions into something that works for them. For example, you might have a group that picks up bits and pieces of doctrine and practice from Zen and also from Theravada.”Prebish cites such ecumenical groups as the American Buddhist Council and the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California as getting the ball rolling for various Buddhist groups to talk together, even if they were not altogether successful in creating unity.
An example of the new hybridity can be seem in Zen Buddhists, who had little to do with ethnic Buddhists, and the Japanese-based Buddhist Churches of America sharing a temple called the Cleveland Buddhist Temple. Prebish adds that the older divisions made between ethnic and “white” (or convert) Buddhism are also no longer so strong, since regional differences are increasingly important.
(Tricycle, 1115 Broadway, Suite 1113, New York, NY 10019)