Edited by Wayne Arnason & Sam Trumbore
Forward by Lama Surya Das
Skinner House Books, Boston, 2013
I received a copy of this book in the mail last week. I stuffed it into my bags as I prepared to fly first to Houston for a Zen teachers conference, and from there, directly to Louisville for the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly.
I started reading it on the plane from Houston to Louisville. In Kentucky, I stayed up in my motel until I finished it…
I’m a contributor to the book, and I was deeply moved to see that together with Robert & Dorothy Senghas and Henry Finney, principal figures in the formation of the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship, I was named in the dedication.
So, I’m not in that objective, more or less, position, to actually review this book.
That acknowledged, I think this book is something really worthwhile for anyone interested in the shape of Buddhism in the West.
For one thing some ten to fifteen percent of UUs, something in the neighborhood of twenty to thirty thousand people, self-identify as Buddhist, or, at least, significantly influenced by Buddhism. One could argue with some truth that the Unitarian Universalist Association is among the largest of convert Buddhist organizations in the West. And yet this is barely noticed by those who write about Buddhism come west.
So, this book is a welcome and rather overdue addition to the literature of the Dharma come west.
There are deeply moving articles, confessional and reflective.
The range of the articles is reflective of the range of Buddhist thinking and practice among Unitarian Universalists. I felt particular connections to the articles by Catherine Senghas, Alex Holt, Kat Lieu, & Thandeka.
But, the most important contribution, I feel, is from Jeff Wilson. Jeff is a birthright UU, and continues to attend UU worship services. He is also an academic specializing in Buddhism. And, he is an ordained Shin Buddhist priest.
His “A Brief History of Unitarian Universalist Buddhism” examines the meeting, the challenge, and the mutual transformation of Japanese Buddhism and American liberal religion. I hope this article will be expanded into a book length study. It is very important.
I think this book deserves a readership beyond Unitarian Universalism.
I hope you will read it.