Posted in Vajrayana
WHEN TROOPS FROM THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC
of China entered Tibet in 1956, they caused a massive exodus of Tibetan Buddhist religious practitioners, who traveled across the Himalayas to India and little by little further west. Refugees of the Tibetan diaspora, Tibetan lamas (gurus) and scholars of Buddhist philosophy reached the United States in less than ten years and, with their emphasis on meditation in action and the transmutation of daily life into
enlightenment, rapidly spread the teachings of Buddhist Tantra throughout North America. The spiritual and philosophical experimentation fashionable in the early ’70s gave particular impetus to this movement and a generation of American Tantric Buddhists was created—thousands of Westerners living or studying closely with their Tibetan masters, who lived much of the year in North America in order to be close to their new disciples.
Since the first edition of Buddhist America in 1988, much has changed in this community of allied Western students and Eastern teachers. Some of the Westerners, having studied Tibetan Tantra for twenty-five years, have begun to teach. The death of their gurus has been a consistent theme as well, for many of the founding fathers of American-Tibetan Buddhism have died in the last ten years and have been replaced by their chosen regents and by a new wave of Tibetan teachers brought to us courtesy of the continuing Tibetan diaspora.
In the last ten years our knowledge of this complex and multifaceted religion has improved as well. The practice of American Tantric Buddhists has in general matured, becoming less naive and more nuanced. It has become clear that Tibetan Buddhism is vastly more complex than its Western devotees had originally suspected; this is not a path whose practices can be learned in a mere ten years. In fact, only a fraction of the main teachings of Tibetan Buddhism have so far been communicated in English. The long and arduous process of transferring the lore and wisdom of Tibetan religion from a conquered land to a busy, burgeoning commercial and industrial society will easily take several more generations before it is completed.
Tibetan teachers have established hundreds of meditation centers in Canada and the United States. Most of them are small urban groups meeting weeknights for a few hours and meditating intensively on weekends. A few large-scale meditation centers and monasteries have been built in rural spots. These are the loci of more intensive practice programs and places of individual retreat. These groups and centers are serviced by a handful of lamas who travel on circuits around the country.