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The “Lama” effect in the United States: How Buddhism has become the fourth largest religion in America


Dar Cho

By Prachi Mishra

The followers of Buddhism in the United States have gone up by a whopping 170 per cent, according to an American Religious Identity Survey conducted between 1999 and 2000.

Teaching centers and various communities or Sanghs are springing up at such a tremendous rate that Buddhism has now become the fourth largest religion in America.

Officially, Buddhism arrived in the West in the year 1893, during the World Parliament of Religions, along with the early Asian immigrants. There were a total of 12 speakers representing Buddhism at the Parliament, out of which Sri Lankan Buddhist teacher, Anagarika Dharmapala, and Japanese Buddhist leader, Soyen Shaku, were the two speakers who encouraged people to take-up the art of Buddhism.

Many of Shaku’s students have done their bit to spread Buddhism in the US by publishing a great deal of Buddhist literature and establishing various Buddhist societies and meditation centers.

The progression of the Buddhists continued in the States with the migration of Asians, who arrived in search of work and a better life. The American troops who returned from Japan after the Second World War also brought a speck of Buddhism to America. Then, the return of the soldiers after the Korean War in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, resulted in an increased awareness of Buddhism in the US. These soldiers were deeply fascinated by the skills of their opponents, especially their training in martial arts.

Soka Gakkai, which came to the United States in the 1960s, is a Japanese missionary movement that expanded the Buddhist religion in the American society. It emphasized on the inner transformation and development of the character of an individual. It focused primarily on chanting and did not teach any other meditative rituals, unlike other sects of Buddhism.

Buddhism did not enjoy the privileged status initially during its inception in the US. When the missionaries and the travelers returned to their country and related their accounts of the encounter with Buddhism in the East to the natives, the religion did not receive a hearty acceptance. It was seen as a negative religion since it rejected the idea of God and emphasized on the total annihilation of the self. It arrived in America at a time when the country was itself going through a religious crisis, which was caused by increasing scientific skepticism. The crisis was also a result of the growing materialism caused by the industrial revolution.

At that time, Buddhism was seen in a new light, as it was considered to bridge the chasm between the scientific and rational thinking, and religion. Today, Buddhism is perceived as “a way of life, a philosophy rather than a religion.” It offers an essence of spirituality, peace and harmony in today’s chaotic world. It is not bound by any culture, or ethnicity, but is universal, overarching all religious, cultural or ethnic divides. It prioritizes the development of mind, rather than focusing on  external way of living. Most importantly unlike what Christianity did to the Orient, Buddhism does not aim at converting the religion of the masses. It, in fact, adds to the existing belief systems and practices of people and does not force anyone to give up their religion.

Other than all of these aforementioned factors, Americans are also fascinated towards Buddhism due to its practice of meditation.

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Trump views 50 years out of date, may trigger disruptive trade war: Paul Krugman

According to him, immediate issue is going to be confrontation not with China, but with Europe as the "steel tariffs" will hit Europe

human rights
Trump is not taking his responsibilities seriously: Paul Krugman. Wikimedia Commons
  • Paul Krugman criticises U.S. President Donald Trump
  • Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize winner
  • Paul says Trump’ actions can cause a war

Criticising the US President Donald Trump for his protectionists policies, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman on Saturday accused President Trump of not taking his jobs seriously. Following the protectisists measures taken by the US President, there could be “risks of disruptive trade war”, he said.

President Donald Trump has pledged to avoid any new foreign business deals during his term in office.
President Donald Trump is heavily criticised. Wikimedia Commons

“He does not take the job seriously. He doesn’t say to himself that I am the most important official in the world; I have better do my homework for understanding the issue. ..He just goes that these are my gut feeling and hires people who make him feel good…that is a frightening prospect,” Krugman said responding to a query on his perception on Trump. On the economic issues President Trump’s gut feelings are “protectionist” and his views of America were “50 years out of date”.

“He wants America a heavy industrial country in the way it was when he was a young man. That is not just going to happen but he attempts to make it happen, which is extremely disruptive to America and to the global as a whole,” Nobel Laureate said. Krugman said he was until recently optimistic that Trump’s protectionist policies would not see the light of the day.

“Until about two weeks ago, I was quite optimistic that it would not happen. The reason was not because the President would get good economic advice but because the US businesses are invested in a globalised economy. All the investments the businesses have made is based upon the assumptions that the open trading system would continue. There is an enormous amount of fiscal capital and a large number of jobs are dependent on these value chains,” he said at the News18 Rising India Summit here.

Also Read: Trump Not Backing Down on Steel, Aluminum Tariffs

Krugman further said: “I had assumed the influence of these business communities would be sufficient… that it would not happen. I am less optimistic now…we have seen reasonably sensible Economic Council Head was fired, completely irrational tariff (was) imposed on steel and aluminium.”

The President also called for more mental institutions and hospitals in addition to the idea of arming teachers.
Krugman says these actions of President can cause a trade war. Wikimedia Commons

According to him, immediate issue is going to be confrontation not with China, but with Europe as the “steel tariffs” will hit Europe. He said there are possible risks of “disruptive global trade war”.

Speaking on Chinese economy he said, “China is a financial crisis waiting to happen. China is a widely unbalanced economy…the country is sustaining itself with a credit bubble that is waiting to burst…There is a significant risk of Chinese bubble burst.”