Cover image for The new Buddhism : the western transformation of an ancient tradition
The new Buddhism : the western transformation of an ancient tradition
Coleman, James William, 1947-
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
265 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BQ734 .C65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BQ734 .C65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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In our multicultural society, faiths formerly seen as exotic have become attractive alternatives for many people seeking more satisfying spiritual lives. This is especially true of Buddhism, which is the focus of constant media attention--thanks at least in part to celebrity converts, majormotion pictures, and the popularity of the Dalai Lama. Following this recent trend in the West, author James Coleman argues that a new and radically different form of this ancient faith is emerging. The New Buddhism sheds new light on this recent evolution of Buddhist practice in the West. After briefly recounting the beginnings and spread of Buddhism in the East, Coleman chronicles its reinterpretation by key Western teachers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from theBritish poet Sir Edwin Arnold to the Beat writer Alan Watts. Turning to the contemporary scene, he finds that Western teachers have borrowed liberally from different Buddhist traditions that never intersect in their original contexts. Men and women practice together as equals; ceremonies andrituals are simpler, more direct, and not believed to have magical effects. Moreover, the new Buddhism has made the path of meditation and spiritual awakening available to everyone, not just an elite cadre of monks. Drawing on interviews with noted teachers and lay practitioners, as well as a surveycompleted by members of seven North American Buddhist centers, Coleman depicts the colorful variety of new Buddhists today, from dilettantes to devoted students and the dedicated teachers who guide their spiritual progress. He also details the problems that have arisen because of some Westerninfluences--especially with regard to gender roles, sex, and power. Exploring the appeal of this exotic faith in postmodern society and questioning its future in a global consumer culture, The New Buddhism provides a thorough and fascinating guide to Western Buddhism today.

Author Notes

James William Coleman is Professor of Sociology at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a specialization in the sociology of religion, he has been a practicing Buddhist for the last 15 years.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Coleman (sociology, California Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo) presents an insightful, informative, and contemporary survey of Buddhism in the West (meaning the United States and England). A practicing Buddhist for 15 years, he prepared for this work by reading numerous books on Buddhism, conducting structured interviews with Buddhist teachers and students, and surveying seven Buddhist centers in North America, which together represent the three major traditions, namely, Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan. In each chapter, he deals with the similarities and differences of these three traditions as they find expression in the West. Chapters cover the Asian roots of the traditions, how Buddhism spread in the West, core beliefs and practices, gender issues, why Americans from other religious traditions are taking up Buddhist practice, and the future of Buddhism in the West. Coleman's deft handling of his material provides a feast of insightful information on how Buddhism is affecting many Americans and being adapted in the West. Two appendixes offer a list of Buddhist centers in the West and the survey used by Coleman to gather data. Highly recommended.DDavid Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.