Pure Land or Pure Mind?: Locus of Awakening and American Popular Religious Culture


  • Richard K. Payne Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, CA




Pure Land, Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Shin Buddhism, Soka Gakkai, popular religion, Buddhism in the West


This essay has two sections, each with its own distinct goal, forming an interrelated whole. The first introduces “locus of awakening,” and applies it to the relative success in America of Zen and Tibetan Buddhisms, compared to Pure Land Buddhism. The explanatory power of the concept is demonstrated by also considering Soka Gakkai. The difference between popular culture treatments of Zen and Tibetan Buddhisms, and Pure Land Buddhism was the problematic leading to identifying locus of awakening as an aspect of Buddhist thought. The second section locates it in the history of Buddhist thought, demonstrating that it is not a modern conceptualization of the path, not one created in response to Euro–American religio-therapeutic culture. Locus of awakening is, instead, part of the continuity of the Buddhist tradition, and does not fall on one side or the other of the sometimes overdrawn dichotomy between Asian and American Buddhisms.


How to Cite

Payne, Richard K. 2015. “Pure Land or Pure Mind?: Locus of Awakening and American Popular Religious Culture”. Journal of Global Buddhism 16 (March):16-32. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1306136.



Research Articles