Since the 1960s, the Theravada tradition has slowly but surely found a home in North America. The two major turning points for its establishment here were the found­ing—in 1966 by the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in Washington, D. C.—of the first American Buddhist vi - hara (temple) and, ten years later, the establishment of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.

Together they represent the two divergent and distinct forms that Theravada Buddhism has taken on this conti­nent, namely, the monastic tradition of Southeast Asian immigrant groups on the one hand, and on the other, the lay-centered vipassana movement made up mostly of Americans of European descent. The former tend to be fairly conservative, replicating in America the various forms of Buddhism found in their native countries. The latter take a more liberal and experimental approach in adapting the tradition to its lay-based American setting.

The newest form of American Theravada Buddhism fits into neither of these categories. It is represented by monastic centers run and supported predominantly by Euro-Americans. An example is Abhayagiri Monastery, founded by the English monk Ajahn Amaro in 1996 in Redwood Valley, California. In addition, two other mo­nastic centers—Metta Forest Monastery in San Diego County, California, and the Bhavana Society in High View, West Virgina—are making monastic practice avail­able to Westerners while remaining firmly connected to their traditional Asian communities. It could well be that within these centers we are seeing the beginnings of an authentic American Buddhist monasticism.

Considered an ideal lifestyle for study, practice, ser­vice, and the purification of the heart, monasticism has long been a cornerstone of the Theravada tradition. However, in the twentieth century and especially in the modem West, the full range of Theravada practices has

been made available to the laity in an unprecedented manner. This being the case, monasticism is no longer seen as the sole carrier of the tradition, although it re­mains an anchor and a force of preservation.

While it is too early to tell what American Theravada Buddhism will come to look like, it will probably exhibit at least as much diversity as it has in its Southeast Asian homelands and will no doubt stretch the boundaries of what has traditionally defined it.

about Buddhism:
The most popular Theravada practice in North America today is Mindfulness. It was introduced by young Ameri­cans who had studied in Southeast Asia and is one of the few Buddhist p
Theravada Buddhism teaches that friendship is an in­valuable support for the spiritual life, and spiritual friendships among practitioners, and between students and teachers, are
Through the centuries, Theravada Buddhism has had much to say about politics. Many Southeast Asian kings have tried to live up to the ten virtues and duties for political leaders e
In a number of suttas popular in Southeast Asia, the Bud­dha speaks about how to live well in the world. The Siga- laka Sutta addresses the responsibilities of our social and fami
Theravada Buddhism distinguishes between the Path of Liberation and the Path of Worldly Well-Being. This cor­responds loosely to the Western distinction between spir­itual and se
A key element at every stage of the journey is faith. In Theravada Buddhism, faith does not mean blind belief. Rather, it describes trust or confidence in oneself, in the teachings

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