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Lions Roar : September 2018
while incarcerated at Manzanar. “People from the same church groups were sent to the same camps, so they were able to main- tain some of their communities,” Rogers says her grandfather told her. “A lot of Buddhist schools combined their services into one, so it would be Shin and Zen and others in one service. It helped maintain a sense of strength and sangha.” Upon their release from the internment camps, Mitchell writes, the resettlement of Japanese Americans was almost as disruptive as their internment. “Homes had been illegally sold or taken over. Buddhist temples became makeshift hostels. Thus, the Buddhist institutions that had served the larger Japanese com- munity were called into service once more as a stabilizing force at the uncertain times immediately following the war.” The BCA became a force to be reckoned with after the war, becoming the largest Japanese-American organization in the country. However, it was now experiencing a crisis of identity. “Having suffered the effects of overt discrimination and racism, having had their status as Americans challenged and called into question,” writes Mitchell, “many Japanese Americans in post- war years retreated into their communities and had a limited engagement with the broader culture.” The leadership at BCA had changed hands by this time, with native-born Japanese Americans at the helm. But internment had interrupted any straightforward evolution of identity. “Just when they’re coming into positions of leadership, they have their Amer- icanness openly, hostilely challenged,” says Mitchell. “That creates this gaping wound and this weird double bind of not being Ameri- can enough and not being Buddhist enough because they’ve made all these adaptations ironically to be more American.” But others in the BCA, especially the younger generations, wanted more engagement. The combining of different schools of Buddhism in the internment camps had changed opinions of how the BCA should conduct its services. “After internment, younger people argued that the BCA should not be a Jodo Shin- shu organization, but should just be a Buddhist organization, nonsectarian, and have no connection to Japan,” says Mitchell. “But after the war, when things went back to the way they were, this caused tension between generations.” That continued in the decades to come. Her Mother’s Generation: How Japanese? How American? “Is it safe yet?” Well into the 1970s, that was the question the postwar generation asked themselves. Akiko Rogers’ mother married a Caucasian American man, Akiko’s father, and their family reflected the BCA’s trajectory of rebuilding itself while struggling with its identity: How Japanese? How American? In the 1950s, Buddhism started to gain popularity in the U.S. The Beat poets were exploring Zen; thousands were reading D. T. Suzuki and Alan Watts. But while Zen did not have a large institutional presence in the U.S., Shin Buddhism did. The Berkeley Buddhist temple was used as a dormitory for Japanese Americans studying at the University of California. Study groups started up there attracted the interest of Beat poet Gary Snyder. Enthralled, he invited his friends Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Alan Watts, and Philip Whalen to attend. All of them contributed poetry and other writing to the temple news- letter, years before they were nationally known literary celebrities. At the same time, many newly converted American Bud- dhists were not drawn to the institutionalized religion of the BCA. After all, that was what they were rebelling against. “Alan Watts drew a distinction between what he called ‘tem- ple Buddhism’ and ‘ashram Buddhism,’” says Mitchell. “The former represented the Protestant church-like model of the BCA, and the latter were less organized groups of disciples and philosophers exemplified by the followers of the historical Bud- dha. According to Watts, temple Buddhism was acceptable so long as it does not supplant or overshadow ashram Buddhism. “So here was this deep interest mostly on the part of young, white men from a largely philosophical point of view that was LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 47