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Being Buddhist in a Christian World: Gender and Community in a Korean American Temple

From the publisher’s website:

Challenging Western notions of Buddhism as a self-effacing path to rebirth and enlightenment, Sharon Suh shows how first-generation Korean Americans at Sa Chal Temple in Los Angeles have applied Buddhist doctrines to the project of finding and knowing the self in everyday life. Buddhism, for these Buddhists, serves as a source of empowerment and as a wellspring of practical and spiritual relief from myriad everyday troubles.

Painful life events and circumstances–psychological stresses, marital discord, adjustments to immigrant life, racial and religious minority status–prompt a turning toward religion in an effort to build self-esteem. The process of coming to find and know the self initiates a transformation that, far from taking future rebirths as its focus, enables the self to enact change in the present. Oral histories from twenty-five men and twenty-five women also offer unexpected insights into distinctly male and female forms of Buddhist worship.

As a commentary on ethnicity, Being Buddhist in a Christian World challenges much of the existing literature in Asian American studies by placing religion at the center and illustrating its importance for shaping ethnic identity. Not only does Suh ask how Korean American identity might be grounded in religion, she goes on to examine the implications of this grounding when the religious tradition is considered to be socially marginal.

Sharon A. Suh is assistant professor of theology and religious studies at Seattle University.


1. Introduction
2. Finding and Knowing One’s Mind
3. Sa Chal Context, Programs, and Demographics
4. Buddhist Practice and Self-Transformation
5. Buddhism — An Anchor in an Uncertain World and a Source of Independence
6. Finding Male Selves: Men’s Religious Practices
7. Being Buddhist in a Christian World
8. Epilogue

Entry on here.

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