In her new book, American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity (Yale University Press, 2019), Ann Gleig makes a major contribution to scholarship on American Buddhism. Gleig focuses on meditation-based convert Buddhist lineages in North America, and in particular she is interested in the generational changes underway in these groups. The first generations of convert Buddhist teachers often modernized the tradition in distinctly American ways, and now Gen X and millennial Buddhists are re-engaging with the tradition but bringing to their Buddhist practice and teaching new questions. The issues that they—and Gleig, in her study—tackle include mindfulness as a secular and commercialized practice, sex scandals, and new technologies. These Buddhists ask how their communities should address racism and social injustice, and what the goal of practice should be. Gleig sets her fine-grained ethnographic research within a larger discussion of Buddhist modernism, arguing that the convert Buddhism is better understood through the lens of post-modernity.
Natasha Heller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. You can find her on Twitter @nheller or email her at email@example.com.