These developments are part of a process of integration. In early China, it was several centuries before Indian Buddhism was integrated and translated into vernacular Chinese, drawing on language, thought, and other religious and ethical traditions. Western culture naturally carries Judeo-Christian values that influence most of us deeply. Setting aside their God-centered belief system, so different from Buddhism, ethical teachings, along with principles of justice and compassion common to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, fit with an evolving practice of Buddhism in the West. 

Western practitioners must remember the gifts and sacrifices of Asian teachers who brought us the dharma in the last century. They gave themselves to us completely, but in our own self-centered and a-historic fashion, we can sometimes forget this.

And coming back to a point touched on earlier, it is fascinating to see how western practice, with the three marks outlined above, is making an impression on Buddhism in Asia and other parts of the world. I see this clearly in the ongoing dialogue between America and Japan, and in trends emerging in Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, and elsewhere. Many of these countries have a "Buddhist" culture, so the evolution of Buddhism there means the evolution of society as well.

I am curious and optimistic. At the same time I will close with a painful question. The true faith of globalization is materialism. Its true religion is consumerism. The 21st-century question is: will we see the victory of human and planetary interdependence, or the hollow triumph of one world in which humans turn each other and everything else in to objects. Which way will we choose? 

 

Hozan Alan Senauke is a Soto Zen Buddhist priest, vice-abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, where he lives with his family. Alan is founder of the Clear View Project, developing Buddhist-based resources for relief and social change. In the last several years, Clear View has supported India's ex-untouchable Buddhists, and Burma's monks, nuns, and activists in their yearning for democracy. He has been a leader of Buddhist Peace Fellowship since 1991. In another realm, Alan has been a close student and active performer of American traditional music for nearly fifty years. Alan can be reached at alan@clearviewproject.org.