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 fifteen stories from our archives that touch upon the trials and triumphs of American Buddhists of Asian descent.


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.  

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.

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.

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.

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-in-chief James Shaheen.

Never Again Interview with Duncan Ryuken Williams by Ashoka Mukpo

New York City-based staff reporter for the American Civil Liberties Union Ashoka Mukpo interviews scholar and Zen priest Duncan Ryuken Williams on his work with Tsuru for Solidarity, a group of Japanese American activists who work to support immigrants and refugee communities, and what a Buddhist ethic of confronting that brutality might look like.

From “Just Culture” to a Just Culture by Reverend Cristina Moon

Hawaii-based Rinzai Zen priest Cristina Moon describes why embodying the cultures from which Buddhism came helps the dharma work on us from all angles.

Young. Asian. American. Buddhist: What These Words Cannot Say Chenxing Han in conversation with Ann Gleig

Writer and Buddhist chaplain Chenxing Han speaks with scholar Ann Gleig about why the next generation of practitioners is thinking about intersectionality, the problem with “two Buddhisms,” and how her research into identity inspired her book, Be the Refuge.

Bodhicitta in the Time of Asian Hate by Anthony Tshering

In the wake of a spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans, therapist and Asian American Buddhist Anthony Tshering embraces his emotions and opens his heart to help himself and others.

Planting the Spirit by Nikiko Masumoto

In this cross-post from the Inquiring Mind archive, a fourth-generation farmer illustrates how tending the earth is a practice of resilience.

Partial Equanimity Interview with Jay Caspian Kang by Chenxing Han

On the heels of his novel The Loneliest Americans, writer Jay Caspian Kang discusses Buddhism and identity, including a formative phase in his own life, with writer and Buddhist chaplain Chenxing Han. 

Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard by Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

Reporter Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil spotlights an innovative new course called “Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard” at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, which immersed high school seniors in local Buddhist communities just miles from their own campus.  

My True Home by Kim Thai

Writer, social justice advocate, and mindfulness teacher Kim Thai describes how  Thich Nhat Hanh helped her find refuge as a child of Vietnamese refugees.

Grief Is an Ancestor by Mimi Zhu

In this excerpt from Be Not Afraid of Love, writer Mimi Zhu explores how rituals around loss can transform deep grief into love.

This article was originally published on May 23, 2019, and has since been updated.

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