The Mobility of Buddhism and Social Norms

By Chapla Verma.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 28, 2014 $US5.00

This paper is based on my field research done in Japan and the mainland US in 2009 and Hawaii in 2010. This research examines how religion promotes social interactions with society and how contextualization of religious practices helps in understanding different perspectives. These play a role in ensuring continuity of the group following unique religious traditions and practices. The study evaluates the spiritual transition of Buddhism from Japan to Hawaii and mainland US, its survival as a continuous process in an environment of restricted mobility. During World War II, in Hawaii, only Buddhist priests were sent to internment camps while priest families took care of the temples; therefore the continuity of Buddhism prevailed. In the mainland US all people of Japanese origin were sent to internment camp; this caused a serious setback to Buddhism. These political decisions resulted in different Buddhist practices in the regions. Social and religious expectations of society and complex relationships resulted in two streams. The desire for assimilation motivated Asian Buddhists to adopt aspects of the majority religion, while American sensibility exposed to Buddhism reflected on silent contemplation, search for insight, self-effort and desire to practice Buddhism as in Japan. Social outreach and diminished importance of ordination became prominent too. This paper contends that history and political decisions influence growth of religion and shape its trajectory in the future.

Keywords: Buddhism, Soto Zen, Hawaii, Religious Traditions, Religious Practices

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 3, Issue 4, May 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 28, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 286.634KB)).

Dr. Chapla Verma

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religion, American Public University, Bloomington, IN, USA

Dr Chapla Verma, was born and raised in India, and spent several years in Canada. She now lives in the US. In her free time she likes to play golf, read books, do yoga and meditation. Her professional background is in philosophy and Religion. Her Master’s degree is in philosophy and doctoral work in Zen Buddhism. She has published a book, ‘Zen Buddhism’ and has contributed a book chapter in ‘Faces of the Feminine in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern India,’ Oxford University Press, New York. In 2009 she went to Japan to do field research about Soto Zen Buddhism, the findings of this study were presented at UC Berkeley in a conference ‘Buddhism without Borders’ in March 2010. The paper presented was ‘Comparative Study of Zen Buddhism in Japan and North America'. In 2010 summer she did field research in Vancouver , Canada and Hawaii, the focus of this study was to look into how Buddhism established itself and developed at these locations. Both field research projects are supported by APUS research grants. Another Paper ‘Religious Rights of prison Inmates’, has been published in the proceedings of The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion and Philosophy 2011. Two articles, ‘Zen’ and ‘Asvaghosa’ are forthcoming in 'Encyclopedia of Indian Religion' in 2011.