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BUDDHISM

BUDDHISM. Buddhist organizations arose in Texas in the second half of the twentieth century as a result of missionary activity and immigration. Nichiren Shoshu of America, with national headquarters in Santa Monica, California, is the largest and oldest of the organizations represented in Texas that owes its expansion primarily to missionary activity. Though not denying an afterlife, Nichiren Shoshu emphasizes the promotion of world peace, prosperity, and happiness in this life, a pursuit closely related to the Lotus Sutra, a Buddhist scripture widely revered in the Far East. Nichiren Shoshu originated in Japan and gained a number of converts among American servicemen stationed there following World War II. The national headquarters for this branch of Buddhism in America was established in 1963 by Masayasa Sadanaga, who later changed his name to George M. Williams in order to emphasize the American nature of the organization in this country. Largely due to seminars conducted by Williams, Nichiren groups started to appear in Texas during the early 1960s. As of 1985 Nichiren Shoshu claimed approximately 15,000 members in Texas, the majority of whom are native to the United States.

A number of publications are produced by the organization, two of the most important throughout the United States being World Tribune and Seikyo Times. The organization's major center in Texas is in Dallas; chapters also operate in Houston and El Paso. On the local level, activities for members and inquirers center around daily home meetings under the direction of experienced lay leaders. Members are also encouraged to attend national conventions and, when possible, to make a pilgrimage to the organization's major temple at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan.

The introduction of Tibetan forms of Buddhism to Texas during the 1970s was partly an outgrowth of the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950. A center for meditation and study in Boulder, Colorado, founded by a Tibetan refugee, is the home of the Vajradhatu (Realm of the Indestructible), the parent organization of many subgroups throughout the United States. Larger and more established local Vajradhatu centers are called Dharmadhatus, while newer groups are referred to as Dharma Study Groups. Dharmadhatu, founded in 1974, is located in Austin, and Dharma Study Groups meet in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. As of 1985 the number of members claimed by Vajradhatu in Texas was about seventy, the majority United States natives. In addition to meditation sessions for members and inquirers, the Dharmadhatu provides cultural programs (art, dance, poetry), weekend seminars, and special lectures presented by visiting scholars who represent Tibetan and non-Tibetan Buddhist traditions. In the smaller Dharma Study Groups, advanced students provide guidance in meditation and study in weekly home meetings.

In an attempt to promote the serious study and practice of Zen Buddhism, two informal meditation groups were formed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the summer of 1983; the groups later merged to form the Dallas-Fort Worth Zen Center. In April of 1985, the first sesshin (period of intensive meditation) was held at the center, the practice of Zen by this time being enhanced by the presence of Roshi (Zen Master) Sasaki. By the summer of 1985 the center was holding meditation sessions three times a week and claimed about thirty-six active members, all of whom were native to the United States.

Immigrants to the United States have laid the foundation in Texas for Buddhist organizations that minister primarily to specific ethnic groups under the leadership of monks. In the late 1980s the Khuon-Viet Buddhist Monastery of America at Grand Prairie and the Vietnamese Buddhist Pagoda Phat-Quang at Houston together had more than 800 members, mostly Vietnamese immigrants. Zen meditation as well as devotion to Quan The Am (a Bodhisattva or Savior figure) play an important part in these two communities, which have arisen primarily to meet the needs of refugees who made their way from Vietnam to the United States in the 1970s. Korean immigrants established the Won Buddhist Church of Houston in 1978, and by 1985 the congregation claimed fifty members. The Won Church has its national headquarters in Los Angeles, California. The Texas Buddhist Association, established in 1979 with headquarters in Houston and a branch in Dallas, consists of members from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, and the United States.

All of these groups represent various aspects of Mahayana, the dominant form of Buddhism among the Chinese, Japanese, Tibetans, Mongolians, Koreans, and Vietnamese. Theravada (or Hinayana), the dominant form of Buddhism in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Kampuchea, has also established a foothold in the Lone Star State with the founding of the Texas Cambodian Buddhist Society at Houston in 1982. The Houston congregation, which claimed 206 members in 1985, is a branch of the Cambodian Buddhist Society, with national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Emma McCloy Layman, Buddhism in America (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1976). Charles S. Prebish, American Buddhism (North Scituate, Massachusetts: Duxbury, 1979).

James Breckenridge

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

James Breckenridge, "BUDDHISM," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/irb01), accessed September 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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