Old Wisdom in the New World

Americanization in Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples

  • Author(s): Numrich, Paul David
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 1999-08-31
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $26.95 | Buy Now

Focusing on two well-established institutions—one in Chicago, the other in Los Angeles—Old Wisdom in the New World is the first systematic examination of the growing presence of Theravada Buddhist temples in the United States.

Paul David Numrich’s socio-historical analysis highlights a number of classic Americanization themes of establishment, growth, and adaptation. These have surfaced, the author shows, in debates over the retention of Old World culture and language, the “problem” of the second generation, and the role of the laity in religious institutions. Going beyond such familiar themes, Numrich also uncovers the intriguing phenomenon of ethnically defined “parallel congregations” in these temples, as he reveals the ways in which Asian-immigrant Buddhists and American converts pursue substantively different expressions of the Theravada tradition under the direction of a shared clerical leadership, the resident monks.

In the author’s view, these Theravada case studies underline the complexity of the present Americanization process. By examining the intersection of two important trends—the steady growth of Asian immigration and an increasing indigenous interest in new religious movements, especially those of Asian origin—this book points to some fascinating new directions for the study of religious and cultural diversity in the United States.

The Author: Paul David Numrich is a research associate in the Religion in Urban America Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.