Next-Generation Buddhism

| 2/16/2009 12:49:37 PM

New Buddhadharma CoverAs the baby boomers who embraced Buddhism in the wake of the Vietnam War age, many wonder what American Buddhism will look like in coming years.

Buddhism today is not as counter-cultural as it was in the 60s and 70s; words like karma and zen are part of our vernacular, and meditation and mindfulness practice are mainstream. But while younger generations may include more dabblers in Buddhist thought, there are fewer full-fledged converts and formally trained teachers, pushing American Buddhism further to the Oprah side of the religion to self-help continuum.

The Winter 2008 issue of Buddhadharma includes a forum on “the future of Buddhism in a post-baby boomer world” (excerpt only online). Four Buddhist practitioners of various ages discuss the current state of Buddhism, the future of the dharma when the baby boomers are gone, and ways of making it more relevant and inviting to young people.

A few highlights:

On the tension between popularized Buddhism and its traditional forms:

Norman Fischer: [In America today] there is mindfulness training of various kinds and lots of research on mindfulness and health…So, a perspective that you can define very broadly as Buddhist is now one of the key streams in our society. Somebody might say that…isn’t really Buddhism. I wouldn’t argue that it is, but I would say that it’s heavily Buddhist-inflected. Far from waning or atrophying, then, I’d say Buddhism is morphing and becoming more and more important all the time.

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