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20453146

20453146

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Published by emissaryofyhvh
Sociology of Religion article
Sociology of Religion article

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Published by: emissaryofyhvh on May 09, 2014
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Reflections on "Habits," Buddhism in America, and Religious IndividualismAuthor(s): Wendy CadgeSource:
Sociology of Religion,
Vol. 68, No. 2 (Summer, 2007), pp. 201-205Published by:
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Accessed: 15/04/2013 04:20
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This content downloaded from 146.7.113.210 on Mon, 15 Apr 2013 04:20:56 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
Sociology f Religion 007, 8:2 201-205
Reflections on Habits, Buddhism in America, and Religious Individualism*
Wendy Cadge
Brandeis niversity The twentieth nniversary f the publication of Habits of the eart, coinci dentally, oincides with the twentieth nniversary f the founding f the two Buddhist centers I write about in my book, Heartwood: The First Generation of Theravada Buddhism n merica (Cadge 2005). Shortly fter was invited o speak on the 20th anniversary f Habits, the director f Cambridge Insight editation Center (CIMC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts-one of the two Buddhist centers I studied-asked me to speak at their twentieth nniversary arty. said yes to both invitations, hough ith a bit of hesitation. My hesitation stemmed rimarily, s I said to the three hundred or so cele brants who gathered t CIMC on a steamy unday afternoon n July 005, from the fact that was not around for most of the history f CIMC. Nor was I aware of the discipline of sociology r the wide range f newspapers nd other media in which Habits was reviewed when it was released in 1985. Rather, I was in ele mentary school getting ready for that not so happy move to the middle school and, at least in July f 1985 when CIMC opened, probably ttending vacation bible school at the United Methodist church my family ttended in suburban
Philadelphia.
Much has changed since 1985-in my life, n the field f sociology, n the structure nd operation of CIMC (and the other Buddhist center I studied, a Thai Buddhist temple Wat Mongkoltepmunee near Philadelphia), and in the lives f the uthors f Habits and the founders f CIMC. Thinking about the cen tral rguments ade in Habits in relation to the history, tructure, nd evolution of CIMC, and Buddhism in America more broadly, has led me down some intriguing hought aths. Here I briefly hare three f those. First, nd most generally, was struck n re-reading arts of Habits by the descriptions nd characterizations f Eastern religions n its pages. Putting to the side the big fact that the voices and life xperiences f post-1965 immigrants were largely issing from ts pages, it was revealing to me to see Buddhism char acterized rimarily s counter-cultural. few f the people described were seri
*Direct correspondence o Wendy Cadge, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, S 071,
Waltham, A 02454 wcadge@brandeis.edu).
201
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202 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
ous Zen practitioners, ut my sense from he descriptions f others involved with Buddhism was that most were exploring the tradition s seekers. his presenta tion likely eflected he realities f those interviewed s well as some of the pub lic sentiment owards uddhism at the time. t least as practiced by non-Asians
and non-Asian-Americans, uddhism as fringy, ounger, nd significantly ess
central to mainstream American culture when the research for abits was con ducted than it is in some parts of the United States today. While some people have and continue to explore the Buddhist tradition or a short time nd then move on, we know from ooking round as well as from he growing ody of literature bout Buddhism in America that the tradition as put down deep roots in the United States (Prebish 1999; Seager 1999; Prebish and Tanaka 1998; Williams and Queen 1999; Gregory 2001; Numrich 1996). These
roots re evident ormally nd informally, hrough uddhist rganizations,
Buddhist teachers, Buddhist forms of meditation taught everywhere from Christian churches to gyms, nd increasingly hrough forms f complementary and alternative medicine. In addition to the two to three million Buddhists across the country, national survey n 2003 showed that that one American in seven claims to have had a fair mount of contact with Buddhists and that one person in eight believes Buddhist teachings r practices have had an important influence n his or her religion or spirituality Wuthnow and Cadge 2004). While some people only scratch the surface f the Buddhist tradition n the States, others have a much broader range of experiences with the tradition han profiled n Habits. This depth of experience raises series f important uestions about whether people learn bout Buddhism as individualistically oday s is evi dent in the people profiled n Habits. Much more so than at the time Habits was written, Buddhist practitioners today have the option of being connected to Buddhist communities. For example, the teachers nd a number of the people involved with the founding f CIMC were at the anniversary elebration nd are still involved now twenty ears later. If we think pecifically bout the ways Buddhism is practiced by non-Asian Americans in the U.S. today, specially in terms f the issues f individualism and community aised by the authors of Habits, we might says yes, it looks like Buddhism is understood as an individualistically riented tradition nd the peo ple learning bout it today fit within the broad individualistic rames sed to describe the people interviewed nd described in Habits. This was certainly my impression hen I began research nd attended my first lass at CIMC. I thought it was a Center filled with Shelias, each piecing together heir own private religion. hen I attended my first lass at CIMC, I found bout thirty eople sitting n green cushions on the third loor f a recently efurbished enter, fac ing a large ltar holding a Buddha image. veryone was silent, eyes closed, legs crossed, hands in their ap, breathing n and out in meditation by following heir breath. I imagined the members of this lass and others at the Center I watched over the next weeks and months as bubbles gathered together, n large part
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