May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, an opportunity to reflect on the vital contributions Asian Americans have made throughout the history of the United States—including the role Asian communities played in laying down the path for American Buddhism. Here are six stories from our archives that touch upon the trials and triumphs of American Buddhists of Asian descent.

  • Who is the Angry Asian Buddhist? An interview by Emma Varvaloucas
    The writer behind the “Angry Asian Buddhist” blog explains his frustration over the “two Buddhisms” framework, which distinguishes between “immigrant” and “American” Buddhism.  He argues that the tapestry of practitioners in the US is far more complex. In 2017, the blogger, Aaron Lee, who went by the pseudonym arunlikhati, died from cancer at age 34.
  • Brown Body, White Sangha by Atia Sattar
    A mindfulness of the body meditation takes on a different meaning for a Pakistani practitioner in a mostly white sangha. “Nowhere does race blindness feel more hurtful,” writes Atia Sattar, “than in well-intentioned white sanghas presently striving for diversity and inclusion.”
  • Thus Have I Heard: An American Sutra by Duncan Ryuken Williams
    Scholar and Zen priest Duncan Ryuken Williams pieces together the story of how Japanese internment camps gave birth to a uniquely American Buddhism. You can also listen to “When Buddhists Were a ‘National Security Threat’” on the Tricycle Talks podcast to hear Williams in conversation with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen.
  • Young Adult Novelist Emily X. R. Pan Didn’t Mean to Write a Buddhist Book by Lakshmi Gandhi
    Author Emily X.R. Pan reflects on how writing a novel led her to discover a deeply ingrained personal Buddhism.
  • Whose Corruption and Whose Compassion? by Russell Leong
    A Buddhist temple in Los Angeles played a key role in a fundraising scheme for the 1996 presidential election. Chinese American author Russell Leong explores how xenophobia around both race and religion may have contributed to the media fallout.  
  • Real Refuge: Building Inclusive and Welcoming Sanghas by Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash
    Building inclusive, welcoming sanghas necessitates “looking around the room and seeing who’s here and who isn’t here.” In this Dharma Talk series, Buddhist teacher and community activist Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash instructs us in “seeing the unseen,” a practice in examining our unconscious assumptions that binds us to racism, classism, or ableism.

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