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Buddhism is an old eastern religion and philosophy with the basis and roots which go back to 566 and 483 BCE. Researchers considered that the origins of this religion went from the ancient times from the territories of contemporary Northern India and Nepal. Historically Buddhism has been the main religion in Central, Southeast and East Asia with millions of followers (approximately 708 million). Nowadays Buddhism has become a major world religion and gained a great popularity in contemporary America, including people of various converts. Many Americans have shown a great concern in Buddhism due to integration of religious concepts and ideas about god, life after death, meditation, etc. the main purpose of this paper is to explore how Buddhism is significant to American individuals` thoughts, well-being and the understanding of life, the environment and the notion of being happy. The world seems to be preoccupied with the different religious ideas, but the Buddhist concepts have captured the minds of many Americans as well as millions of people throughout the globe (Fields 221).
America has shown a great concern in Buddhism since the American Transcendentalist movement in the middle of the 19th century. It has become really popular in America in the last decades as a transplanted philosophy
To many, The Buddha became a doctor, who could treat the spiritual ills, suffering of minds and hearts. Buddhist meditation practice has become very current in contemporary America as a healing from everyday problems, both mental and physical. They found in the Buddhism theory the answers to the questions, which they couldn`t find in the western religion, concerning their place in the universe, whether religion is true and can make any difference in our everyday life. These questions and many others made them to be uncertain of their own religion and they came to the conclusion that the Buddha is their teacher, who can help.
Speaking about the Buddhist religious ideas, it`s worth mentioning Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, and his famous work “Ten Precepts for an Engaged Buddhism”, that could help many people to get satisfaction in life. Thich Nhat Hanh is the most popular Buddhist teacher, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam and captured many American minds with the idea of Buddhism. His book and personality had many followers in the United States, who organized Buddhist movement to change thoughts in the American society in political and economic spheres (Fields 220). Something absolutely different happened, when Buddhism came in to the USA. His teaching and practice helped people of various backgrounds and faiths resist the violence and speed of modern American life. Some people tried to find peace to their minds visiting psychotherapists or priests, those who believe in the Buddha, helped themselves due to its psychological and therapeutic aspects. Thich Nhat Hanh appealed to people to change the world by changing themselves. His main slogan was: “Peace begins with me”, meaning that, individuals had to change their own spiritual development, if they wanted to improve the world.
American society is rather controversial due to the variety of nations and people flooded the United States from immigration that helped to embrace the Buddhist ideas and practices into everyday life. Interacting with people, who supported the Buddhist religion, they found out that their own catholic religion can`t help to be mindfulness, meaning to be in a state of active, open attention on the present, live in the moment and be able to observe their thoughts from a distance without judging them. In their effort to create the most effective way of life, find the nature of truth, fellow Americans, who tend to be more educated and have much more awareness in life, appeal to the ancient eastern religion that seems to know the answers to the questions, that they couldn`t find in their own religion (Fields 226).
Another approach to American Buddhism is so-called import Buddhism. This concept appeared due to Henry Steele Olcott`s travel to Sri Lanka in 1880. Since then, a lot of Americans visited various Asian countries meeting with the Buddhist teachers, which later established their own schools in the United States. The most well-known trends of this kind of Buddhism are Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan, which members are mostly educated native English speakers, occupying high level class in the society. Americans, who are adhering to those teaching, have more assurance about their place and role in the universe.
Many scholars consider that it`s not easy to estimate the number of Buddhists in the United States because of different reasons. As a cultural phenomenon it requires deep knowledge in its theory and history. Some people don`t have any knowledge about the Buddhism, though considering themselves as Buddhists, others refuse the label Buddhists knowing essential concepts of this religion. To some estimates the number of Buddhists in the United States is between one and four million, others state that there are more, but most of them (about 75-80 percent) are of Asian origin.
To conclusion, it`s worth to summarize that implementing the Buddhism theory into life, many Americans find peace to their minds. Mostly educated Americans have shown the great concern in this old Asian concept of evaluating the universe and themselves as a part of it. Many Americans substitute their traditional Catholic religion by the Buddhism, considering it more helpful to their well-beings. For all these reasons, more and more adherents join the Buddhist community in the U.S. with the aim to enrich and develop the nonviolence tradition.