In the comments of my last post about Tricycle, I mentioned that the illustrious Buddhist magazine didn’t publish other critical letters. In particular, they didn’t publish the following letter of BCA minister Ryo Imamura. Thankfully, Charles Prebish published it in an article in the academic journal Buddhist Studies Review, doing us all a great favor.1 The letter, written in 1992, is in response to then-editor Helen Tworkov’s statement that “… Asian-American Buddhists… have not figured prominently in the development of something called American Buddhism.”
I would like to point out that it was my grandparents and other immigrants from Asia who brought and implanted Buddhism in American soil over 100 years ago despite white American intolerance and bigotry. It was my American-born parents and their generation who courageously and diligently fostered the growth of American Buddhism despite having to practice discretely in hidden ethnic temples and in concentration camps because of the same white intolerance and bigotry. It was us Asian Buddhists who welcomed countless white Americans into our temples, introduced them to the Dharma, and often assisted them to initiate their own Sanghas when they felt uncomfortable practicing with us…
We asian Buddhists have hundreds of temples in the United States with active practitioners of all ages, ongoing education programs that are both Buddhist and interfaith in nature, social welfare projects… everything that white Buddhist centers have and perhaps more. It is apparent that Tworkov has restricted “American Buddhism” to mean “white American Buddhism,” and that her statement is even more misleading than one claiming that Americans of color did not figure prominently in the development of American history.
- Charles Prebish, “Two Buddhisms Reconsidered,” Buddhist Studies Review. Vol. 10, 2 (1993), 187-206. [ back ]