With the Dalai Lama visiting Portland, Oregon later this week for the 3 day Environmental Summit, this interesting article was written about the host city, Portland. According to the article, Portland ranks 6th in the U.S., in terms of the number of Buddhist congregations per capita.
East Meets West and Growth
An interesting thing to note, is that the article points out that the growth of Buddhism in Portland is largely attributed to many western converts. In addition, the age range varies, from young adults in their 20s, to adults in their 60s, indicating a diverse group. Many congregations of other religions tend to have distinct age groups attending their services.
According to the article, from the surface, the type of practice that attracts westerners to Buddhism is slightly different, from the surface, from what Asian Buddhists engage in.
A growing interest in meditation is behind much of Buddhism’s popularity in the United States, says Sharon Suh who teaches about Buddhism and society as the Seattle University theology and religious studies department chairwoman. But Suh cites a national study that says only one in four Asian Buddhists meditate. Which means, according to Suh, that the Buddhism many converts are practicing differs significantly from the traditional Asian Buddhism, which focuses more on religious ritual.
The article also mentions that traditional, Asian Buddhist congregations are having trouble in attracting 2nd and 3rd generation Buddhists, while congregations made up of converts are constantly growing in size. According to the article:
The idea of a simple, contemplative life is attractive to converts immersed in a 21st century full of technology and distraction, Suh says. In addition, Buddhism isn’t demanding of its believers, she adds, and has no central authority with a chiseled-in-stone dogma. For many converts — but fewer Asian Buddhists — it is seen more as a practice than a religion, she says.