An actual Buddhist.

Author:Marshall, Joseph
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the Editor

Peter J. Leithart does not know what he is talking about in his article "When East Is West" (April). Your printing of his work is a disservice to readers who might actually wish to know something about American Buddhism. Leithart has clearly not visited an American zendo to attend a sesshin. If he had, he would have seen that what goes on there is in no way "fused in the native goodwill, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism" of America. American Buddhists, in fact, practice exactly the same determined and unyielding set of meditation techniques that have been passed down for hundreds of years in China and Japan.

Leithart has not gone to a Tibetan-based dharma center like mine in Columbus, Ohio, which offers instruction in Buddhist practices. If he had, he would have encountered many religious traditions and teachings that stretch back through the full Buddhist history. He would have found plenty of rituals, icons, and devotional practices, too. He might have been uneasy with them when he found them, but he would not have been able to assert airily that American Buddhists have abandoned these things--not if he had any dedication to telling the truth about a religion that he does not practice.

I suspect that Leithart has not talked to an actual American Buddhist doing actual Buddhist practice under an actual Buddhist teacher. If he had, he would have discovered that there are tens of thousands of us who take our commitments in Buddhism seriously, make every effort to keep them in the traditional way, and have...

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