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Friday, October 02, 2009

Buddhism in America by State.

I have often wondered which American states have the most Buddhists and one of the ways of doing that is counting the number of Buddhist centers in each state. Well, I found a map from 2004 by "The Pluralism Project." Not surprisingly much of the south, the center plains states and the northern Rocky Mountain states stretching from Wyoming up to Montana and Idaho have the least. Those are regions that are either: Sparsely populated, dominated by Christianity and/or traditionally conservative politics, which are all factors that make establishing a Buddhist center difficult. That said I envision Buddhism continuing to grow throughout America in the coming decades.

The states that appear to have the highest concentration of centers are as usual on the east, west coasts and Texas of all places. Texas is part of the Bible belt region of states and has many who are anti-anything that isn't white, anglo-saxon, protestant. That said Texas is a big state with many immigrants I'm told. So that would boost the numbers, which I'm sure is especially large in the big cities like Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Especially Houston with it's growing Chinatown. I'm sure the liberal, young, university town of Austin has a decent amount of Buddhists as well. New York is pretty self-explanatory. It has THE city (New York City) for diversity in all areas of life and not far behind is California where there is a very big Asian-American population as well. There are also many white-Americans who are very liberal and open-minded toward other beliefs. So no surprise that Buddhism is popular there either. So, California, New York and Texas are the big three.

The next level is where my state of Colorado is listed. It's that dark orange/brown, square state surrounded by all those white and tan states. Colorado has had a sizable Buddhist community since the 1970s when in 1970 Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche founded the Tibetan Buddhist Shambhala tradition in Boulder and established the Shambhala Mountain Center and Stupa near Fort Collins. In 1974 Rinpoche established Naropa University in Boulder, which private, Buddhist-inspired, ecumenical and nonsectarian. In addition, the many ethnic Tibetans, Nepalese and Bhutanese who moved to the northern Colorado area in part due to the Tibetan Buddhist centers established by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche feel right at home with our high mountains, alpine environment and high altitude. I have spoken to several myself who have said it is like a home away from home due to the similar climate and concentration of Tibetan Buddhist centers. So combine all of that with a very liberal, open-minded, college town like Boulder and it's no wonder there are so many Buddhists and Buddhist centers here. You can find several Zen centers as well if that's your style.

Colorado has kind of become a Mountain West refuge for minority religions and beliefs. I'm not going to go into too many other states as this post would get way too long but the last one I'll mention is Hawaii. My wife grew up on the islands and I have seen many Buddhist centers, shrines and temples there. They are gorgeous, especially when put in front of the backdrop of the stunning Hawaiian scenery. One of my favorite places on Oahu is the Byodo-in temple at Temple Valley, which is a replica of the famous Byodo-in temple in Kyoto, Japan. There is also a very vibrant and wonderful Chinatown in Honolulu. Hawaii is not only a great place to live if you can afford it but the Buddhist community is quite vibrant and very much alive.

~Peace to all beings~

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11 comments:

Kyle said...

Wow, I am surprised Virginia, my state has such a high number. I think there is a large and growing population of Latino Buddhists here in the States, and I would love to see more of them blog.

Thanks James

They call him James Ure said...

Kyle, yeah that's cool. I'd love to hear from some Latino Buddhists as well. I wonder if part of Virginia's numbers includes D.C.

They call him James Ure said...

I should say that I'm even more surprised about N. Carolina than Virginia.

Jordan said...

There is an American monk from the Thai forest tradition who established a Monastary down in the great state of Texas. They have some podcasts on iTunes. It is really refreshing when they get to the q&a portion of the talk to hear the deap Texan accent asking about the dharma.
Totaly blows away those steriotypes. I like that.

Emma C said...

I'm australian but spent a few years living in Kansas in the mid-90's ...I was happy, and surprised to see Kansas wasn't completely white on your map! (Maybe there are a few Buddhist organisations at KU now.)

I don't think we'd have 500 Buddhist centres in all Australia - let alone in one state...

ai said...

What would be much more useful is a map showing the concentration of religious centers per capita - i.e. the actual concentration, as opposed to a mere number. It's not surprising that California has a high number of Buddhist centers, but this map doesn't tell us how it compares with, say, Vermont, which has 10-24 centers but for a population of 600,000.

Michael said...

This is a little misleading. Take my word for it, the only reason Illinois is orange is Chicago. My neighbors still think I'm a member of a cult.

elbibis said...

There are several buddhist centers in the capital of Mexico and its surroundings. However, in the conservative northern city of Monterrey there is only the Casa Tibet Mexico (cultural representation of Tibet) and a new center with the New Kadampa Tradition, opened a few months ago. Most people are unfamiliar with buddhism and regard it as some exotic cult that has nothing to do with the West. As for me, I've been learning about buddhism since a couple of years ago and I have read a few books. I feel identified with the buddhist philosopy and I wish there were a zen center in my city.

They call him James Ure said...

Yeah I'd like to see a per capita map as well because Hawaii and Colorado are the same on this map. However, I know that there are way more Buddhists in Hawaii than Colorado from having a native Hawaiian wife.

@Elbibis:

It's too bad that there is such a negative, misinformed view of Buddhism in Mexico. We're still trying to fully explain Buddhism to the majority Christians here in America too. There are many who still think we worship Buddha!!

I'd really like to see Buddhism penetrate Mexico and the rest of the Americas as well. And in more diversity than just one tradition.

Marco said...

I am very much surprised with Virginia, a state with a high number of Buddhists.teacher

Miss Hanna said...

hello everyone.. I'm very pleased to see the growing number of Buddhist in all over the world. I hope by this continuous growth, the world will be more peaceful and harmony.. Compassion is the way.. Namo Budaya everyonee.. May u all be happy.. :)

Regards from Indonesia

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