American Buddhism as a Way of Life

Edited by Gary Storhoff & John Whalen-Bridge

Subjects: Buddhism, American Religion, American Culture, Religion, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series in Buddhism and American Culture
Paperback : 9781438430942, 229 pages, April 2010
Hardcover : 9781438430935, 229 pages, April 2010

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Thomas A. Tweed

Introduction: American Buddhism as a Way of Life
Gary Storhoff and John Whalen-Bridge

Part I. Buddha: The Teacher as Immigrant

1. The Authenticity of Alan Watts
David L. Smith

2. D. T. Suzuki, “Suzuki Zen,” and the American Reception of Zen Buddhism
Carl T. Jackson

3. My Lunch with Mihoko
Ellen Pearlman

Part II. Dharma: Doctrine, Belief, and Practice in America

4. What Can Buddhist No-Self Contribute to North American Bioethics?
Michael C. Brannigan

5. A Contemporary North American Buddhist Discussion of Abortion
Rita M. Gross

6. Touched by Suffering: American Pragmatism and Engaged Buddhism
Judy D. Whipps

7. Identity Theft: Simulating Nirvana in Postmodern America
John Kitterman

Part III. Sangha: Who Is an American Buddhist?

8. Family Life and Spiritual Kinship in American Buddhist Communities
Charles S. Prebish

9. Buddha Loves Me This I Know: Nisei Buddhists in Christian America, 1889–1942
Lori Pierce

10. Analogue Consciousness Isn’t Just for Faeries: Healing the Disjunction between Theory and Practice
Roger Corless

11. “A Dharma of Place”: Evolving Aesthetics and Cultivating Community in an American Zen Garden
Jeff Wilson

List of Contributors

Explores a range of Buddhist perspectives in a distinctly American context.


The US seems to be becoming a Buddhist country. Celebrity converts, the popularity of the Dalai Lama, motifs in popular movies, and mala beads at the mall indicate an increasing inculcation of Buddhism into the American consciousness, even if a relatively small percentage of the population actually describe themselves as Buddhists. This book looks beyond the trendier manifestations of Buddhism in America to look at distinctly American Buddhist ways of life—ways of perceiving and understanding. John Whalen-Bridge and Gary Storhoff have organized this unique collection in accordance with the Buddhist concept of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha section discusses the two key teachers who popularized Buddhism in America: Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki and the particular kinds of spirituality they proclaimed. The Dharma section deals with how Buddhism can enlighten current public debates and a consideration of our national past with explorations of bioethics, abortion, end-of-life decisions, and consciousness in late capitalism. The final section on the Sangha, or community of believers, discusses how Buddhist communities both formal and informal have affected American society with chapters on family life, Nisei Buddhists, gay liberation, and Zen gardens.

Gary Storhoff is Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut at Stamford. John Whalen-Bridge is Associate Professor of English at the National University of Singapore. They are the coeditors of The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature, also published by SUNY Press.