The Western Transformation
of an Ancient Tradition
Oxford University Press, 2001
James William Coleman
As it has spread to the industrialized nations of the Western world, Buddhism has been undergoing the biggest transformation in its 2,500-year history. Based on interviews, surveys, and careful analysis, this book tells the story of the New Buddhism. In Asia, the monks who pledged to be celibate and give up the worldly life were always at the heart of Buddhist theory and practice, and lay people sought to gain merit by supporting them so that they might be able to pursue the direct path to enlightenment sometime in the future. But in the West, monasticism is far less important, and lay people want to do the powerful meditation practices usually reserved for the monks in Asia. Another sweeping change came from the women who stepped forward to demand equal status and respect, and in the process reshaped the dynamics of power in the Buddhist community. Buddhist doctrine was also transformed as all the various Asian traditions poured into the melting pot of Western culture and mixed with each other as well as various kinds of psychological and scientific developments
Although the story of this momentous historical transformation is far from over, this account of Buddhism’s amazing metamorphosis provides fascinating reading for anyone interested in world religion.