Diversification in the Buddhist Churches of America: Demographic Trends and Their Implications for the Future Study of U.S. Buddhist Groups

Anne C. Spencer


Scholars of U.S Buddhism often divide Buddhist groups into categories using a system called "Two Buddhisms." These groups are "Heritage," founded by immigrants, and "Convert," founded by Americans of European descent. As cultural pressures force U.S. Buddhist groups to adapt, the resulting changes challenge our existing categorization systems. This paper uses 2011 survey data to show that the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) is becoming demographically more diverse and its practices more Americanized. With these adaptations, the BCA no longer fits easily into either Heritage or Convert categories, suggesting that the Two Buddhisms system in its current form is inadequate for evaluating U.S. Buddhist groups. To aid the future study of U.S. Buddhism, I use the data from the BCA to provide an alternative, more nuanced, rubric for assessing the adaptation of Buddhist groups which will enhance the existing Two Buddhisms system.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Anne C. Spencer

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