From, "The Buddhist Channel": Buddhism in America is at a crossroads. The best-known Buddhist leaders, mostly white converts who emerged from the counterculture and protest movements of the Vietnam era, are nearing retirement or dying. Charlotte Joko Beck, a pioneer of Zen practice in America, passed away in June.
The next generation of teachers is pushing in new directions, shaped by the do-it-yourself ethos of the Internet age and a desire to make Buddhism more accessible. Unsettled elders worry that the changes could go too far and lose touch with tradition.
James: I understand the concern of the elders, but I had to chuckle a bit at the irony of their concerns, considering one of the core teachings of Buddhism is that change is inevitable, even drastic change. Younger Buddhists might have tattoos and spend more time meeting up with other Buddhists online, but the core teachings remain fairly unchanged. It's not like the "Hippie Generation" that many elders of Buddhism in America today emerged from wasn't considered radical and perhaps even dangerous by some of their Asian teachers. Yet, the "Hippie Buddhists" didn't cause the downfall of Buddhism in America. So, if Buddhism in America could survive the "hippie generation's" experiments with the Dharma and sex, drugs and rock n' roll, then it can surely survive the Internet Age.
Monkhood is a timeless calling. So long as suffering endures, there will always be those who seek to relieve it by deepening their Dharma practice through monasticism, regardless of their generation's predilections. Karma has a pull that is stronger than the internet, and when a person is called to take up monasticism, no amount of change will stop them. When I look upon the monastics of my tradition, Zen as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, I am inspired to see so many faces from my generation. And, with Buddhism growing in America, there are likely to be plenty of teachers to come. It's an exciting time, so rather than fear change, let us embrace it and learn to adapt that change for another generation of Buddhists on this marvelous planet.
~I bow to the Buddha within all beings in the Universe~