Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

Buddhist Boomers — a meditation on how to stave off decline

2 Comments

OpinionJournal – Taste

A colleague recently took me to task for consulting Jews and Christians on how to keep American Buddhism alive. He didn’t agree with either premise–that Jews and Christians could offer advice to Buddhists, or that Buddhism was in any danger of decline. But he was wrong on both counts. American Buddhism, which swelled its ranks to accommodate the spiritual enthusiasms of baby boomers in the late 20th century, is now aging. One estimate puts the average age of Buddhist converts (about a third of the American Buddhist population) at upwards of 50. This means that the religion is almost certain to see its numbers reduced over the next generation as boomer Buddhists begin to die off without having passed their faith along to their children. And Jewish and Christian models offer the most logical solution for reversing that decline.

The basic problem is that non-Asian converts tend not to regard what they practice as a religion. …

…Having left the religion of their birth, often with good reason, American converts tend to be wary of anything approaching religious indoctrination, even if that means failing to offer their children the basics of a religious education. This has the advantage of giving Buddhist children great freedom of religious expression, with the disadvantage of not giving them any actual religion to express. The result is a generation of children with a Buddhist parent or two but no Buddhist culture to grow up in. …   OpinionJournal – Taste

Author: Bill

Stumbling down the Middle Path, one day at a time.

2 thoughts on “Buddhist Boomers — a meditation on how to stave off decline

  1. Well I got from the original post that some Americans converted to Buddhism. I say take the ism out of it. Instead, practice awareness. That is what Buddhism essentially is, awareness practice. Maybe the term Mindfulness makes more sense. I guess I want to do the things Buddhists do without the label of being a Buddhist. For example, Cheri Huber, a Zen Monk teaches:

    Pay attention to everything
    Assume nothing
    Don’t take anything personally

    I also like Charlotte Joko Beck who in her books talks about returning to awareness.

    I don’t get the idea that you have to be a ‘Buddhist’ to practice the essentials of ‘Buddhism’.

    So I guess I just don’t want the Buddhist label.

    Maybe I am a closet Buddhist?


    I don’t get the idea that you have to be a ‘Buddhist’ to practice the essentials of ‘Buddhism’.

    That is certainly true, and in fact the Buddha’s teachings are far more accurately referred to as a philosophy of life than as religion. As is the case with so many other good ideas, the religion got grafted on later. Siddartha himself did not speak of religion.

    Nonetheless, many such as (for example) Joko Beck, who have practiced for many years, might say that they get the same things out of their practice that others get out of religion; some, indeed, might refer to it as such.

    Of course, labeling is antithetical to the philosophy of The Buddha, is it not? Nonetheless, as it is convenient to state that one drives a Honda — as opposed, perhaps, to a Kenworth — it is sometimes also convenient, for purposes of clarity, to give others at least some idea of the direction of our philosophical inclinations.

    Or not. Everyone’s mileage varies (very Buddhist, when you stop to think about it).

  2. I may be a boomer myself, not sure. I just turned 52. Well, I like Buddhism but also don’t ascribe to the label Buddhist. What does Buddhist mean? What if the religion was renamed ‘Awareness’. Then it wouldn’t seem like a Religion. What is so important that New American Buddhists want to be Buddhists. Do you want to wear their ethnic clothes? Do you want to be vegetarian? How would it feel to be ‘Awareists’ It takes the religion out of it. Can I be comfortable without a Religion?


    Actually, I am a vegetarian. I’ve also been known to wear robes. Nonetheless, I think I manage to be aware on occasion.

    What does it mean to “like” Buddhism? Does that mean that you think it’s a good idea, or that you try to live the Truths and the Path — don the Dharma like a robe, in other words?

    I’m not altogether sure what your position (or your point) might be, but it seems pretty dualistic to me. On the other hand, what do I know?

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