Buddhism in America

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Inhale… exhale… concentrating on your breathing. This is often an exercise many do in yoga or meditation. Many Americans have incorporated yoga and meditation into their lives, not knowing its origins.

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Buddhism is one origin of these exercises. The goal of this exercise is to reach enlightenment, a term you will learn more about later in this paper. Buddhism is an ancient religion, that originated in India. In the article Comments on Tensions in American Buddhism published by pbs.org, it was estimated that there are roughly 3 to 4 million Buddhist in the United States. Out of those 3 to 4 million, only 800,000 are American converts, the majority are mostly Asian Americans. Out of the 800,000 Buddhist Americans, majority of the age range was those who were from the baby boomer generation and the younger millennials. Throughout this paper, I will be briefing you on the origins of Buddhism, how Buddhism came to America, and how Americans have interpreted this ancient religion. There is a difference in Buddhism as a religion and Buddhism as a philosophy. Many Americans have been using Buddhism practices in more modern ways. America has westernized Buddhism, the religion, into more of a philosophy.

What is Buddhism as a religion?

The origins of Buddhism date back to the man Siddhartha Gautama, who became the first Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama was from a family of wealth and luxury. As Siddhartha got older he realized those items don’t bring true happiness to one. In A Five Minute Introduction of Buddhism from the Buddhanet, the article states after six years of study and meditation he finally found the middle path and was enlightened (White). The article also says Buddhism explains a purpose to life while also providing a code of practice or way of life that leads to happiness (White). The Dharma, the principles of Buddhism, was taught by Buddha up until his death.

Buddhism teaches the Four Nobles and the Noble 8-Fold Path. In summary, the Four Noble Truths exclaim, life is suffering and saying that is not a pessimistic way of life but rather a realistic view. The Second Noble Truth exclaims that suffering is caused by a craving or a want. The Third Noble Truth states that we can overcome our suffering by becoming truly happy. And the Fourth Noble Truth states that by following the Noble 8-Fold Path, we can truly end our suffering. (White).

The textbook, Invitation to World Religions, second edition, explains the Noble 8-Fold Path. In summary, a person should see things as they are.

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