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Lions Roar : July 2017
stereotype identifies Western Buddhism with the 1960s-era and later converts who popularized it, and ignores the actual people who brought Buddhism to the West—Asian immigrants. It rein- forces the idea that Buddhism is not to be taken seriously. At best, Buddhism is seen as something esoteric and disconnected from the world, and at worst, as some- thing flighty and faddish. On the other side of the coin, IN THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION, Buddhism has long been associated with counterculture drop-outs—Beat genera- tion iconoclasts, Age of Aquarius hippies, woo-woo New Agers. This unfortunate FROM WHERE I SIT Yes, Buddhism Is a Religion Buddhism shouldn’t be stereotyped as a New Age fad or reduced to a mere technique, says SCOTT MITCHELL. We miss so much by not acknowledging what it really is. proponents of mindfulness meditation and other Buddhist-inspired practices have positioned themselves as level-headed advocates of practices whose benefits, they claim, are proven by science. It’s not hard to imagine that this secular–scientific turn is in part an attempt not to be tarred by the popular stereotype of Buddhism as cultish and downright weird. Both perspectives are incomplete. In reality, Buddhism is a religion, complete CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE KEITHKOJIMOTO SCOTT MITCHELL is the dean of students at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berke- ley, co-host of the Dharmarealm podcast, and author of Buddhism in America: Global Reli- gion, Local Context (Bloomsbury). Members commemorate the Buddha’s birthday at the Buddhist Church of San Francisco. LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 13