WHEN I WROTE THE ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION

to Buddhist America a decade ago, I began with this story:

One day an old woman who lived in New York went to her travel agent and asked him to get her a ticket to Tibet. %

“Tibet?!”

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Buddhism in Asia has been divided for centuries, kept within separate traditions and lineages. American Bud­dhists have already begun to actively learn from each oth­er’s traditions. Many Zen masters and their students have been avidly studying the mindfulness and lovingkindness practices central to Vipassana retreats.

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Buddhism is becoming more democratic in our Ameri­can democracy. Traditionally, most Buddhist communi­
ties in Asia were hierarchical and authoritarian. Wisdom, knowledge, and practice were handed down from elders to juniors, and the running of monasteries and the san - gha (community of monastic practitioners) rested in the hands of the master or a small core of senior monks. What they decided was the way things were, and there was no questioning

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A third and perhaps the most important force affecting Buddhism in America has been the force of feminization. In Asia, through the monasteries and older monks, Bud­dhism has been primarily a masculine and patriarchal af­fair: masculine by virtue of the fact that it has been men who have preserved and transmitted it, and more

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The fourth major theme as Buddhism develops in the West is integration. In Asia, Buddhism was primarily characterized by ordained priests, monks, hermits, and forest dwellers who withdrew from worldly life into monasteries, ashrams, caves, and temples, where they created circumstances of simplicity and renunciation for their practice. The rest of the Buddhists, the great major­ity of laypeople, did not actually practice meditation but remained

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Our understanding of different practices is also helped by seeing the structure of the entire spiritual path, by understanding its essence and how it brings about human happiness and freedom. The essential path taught by the Buddha has three parts to it. The first is kindness of heart, a ground of fundamental compassion expressed through virtue and generosity.

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Historically, all major religions, including Buddhism, have contained a basic tension—one that persists as Bud­dhism comes to America. This is the tension between tra­dition or orthodoxy and adaptation or modernization. Many people involved in Buddhism see it as their pur­pose and their duty to preserve and sustain the Sutras, the tradition, and the practices just as they were handed down in their lineage from the original teachings and the great masters of old, from

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All of the different Buddhist traditions— Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana—converge in the understanding of what liberates the mind. The Buddha expressed it many times in the Suttas. He said, “The su­preme state of sublime peace has been discovered by the Tathagata, namely liberation through nonclinging.” Elsewhere he said, “Nothing whatsoever is to be clung to as I or mine.

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How can we accomplish “liberation through noncling­ing?” One way is through cultivating an awareness of im­permanence. Impermanence can be seen on every level, from macro to micro. Looking at the largest phenomena in the universe—stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies—we see that they are in continual change. Or we can study

the tiniest subatomic particles

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Awareness of impermanence leads naturally to a deepen­ing insight into selflessness or nonidentification. As we watch the different thoughts, feelings, and sensations coming and going, we notice that they seem to have a life of their own, that the whole process is occurring accord­ing to its own laws. Recognizing

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In case there is any confusion about clinging, the Buddha elaborated very specifically on those areas where we tend to hang on most tenaciously. The first of these is attach­ment to sense pleasures, to pleasant experiences and feel­ings. When we see for ourselves how strongly the mind holds on to pleasant experience, we learn something about the nature of addiction. Imagine

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