American Buddhism began in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century with the transmission of ideology, artifacts, and people: Buddhism, Buddhist art, and Buddhists. These ideas and objects found their way to the Americas as part of transnational exchanges of translated texts or transported statuary made possible by the process of modernity and colonialism.
From Issei Buddhism in the Americas, edited by Duncan RyÃ»ken Williams and Tomoe Moriya. These two sentences are exactly how we should talk about “American Buddhism.” While there are many who continue to claim that “American Buddhism” is something new, something happening now, something happening since the 1960s at the earliest, these two sentences remind us that American Buddhism began more than a century and a half ago when Buddhism, Buddhist art, and Buddhists themselves first came to the Americas. It’s a fantastic book. Go read it. Now.