Eastern influence in the West: America and Tibetan Buddhism

Topics: Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Dalai Lama Pages: 6 (1931 words) Published: April 18, 2014


Introduction and Overview
This paper will focus upon the fundamental roles of Hollywood and various celebrities such as Richard Gere in the popular spiritual “fad” based on Tibetan Buddhism. This paper will explore how this new “exotic” American adoption of Tibetan Buddhism via the Beastie Boys and other Hollywood A-lusters symbolizes a new point of convergence linking the Eastern and Western worlds. While, at the outset globalization and the increased exchange and incorporation of other cultures etc. is a step in the right direction (away from geographic border lines) towards the formation of a more peaceful and higher functioning world community; the depth of the American new age on-taking of Tibetan Buddhism is shallow in terms of authentic preservation. Outsiders around the world frequently marvel the unique and “exotic” cultures, traditions, and religions of the Eastern world. Various eastern religions or related ideals, spiritual concepts, cultural traditions etc. have recently become especially popularized within “new age” American “pop” culture. Namely, the eastern religion “fad” in America has recently begun to take flight thanks to Hollywood and celebrity backed endorsements within the public media sphere. The iconic eastern religion of Tibetan Buddhism is quite possibly one of the most quintessential examples of the aforementioned “exotic” mainstreaming of Eastern religions within the western (American) contemporary setting. Furthermore this paper will explore how it has become a modernly exoticized “fad” within mainstream American socio-culture. Ultimately, I will discuss, analyze and make connections while making use of various scholarly sources relevant to the significance of the Dalai Lama, as well as Hollywood celebrities and related topics in the context of American contemporary popularity of Tibetan Buddhism. Background: Eastern influence in the West (America)

The Eastern Buddhist religion was only recently acknowledged by the American public in the mid 19th century era. While eastern Buddhism is somewhat more historic within the European geographic area, it only began in Europe during the mid 1800s. The primary mode of distribution was by Christian missionary accounts, as well as exotic “luxury” travel accounts and publications, intellectual academia, or relevant scholarly journal publications which were well known within the academic sphere of the time period. Significantly, the contemporary immigrants who established themselves within the “New” western world were almost uniformly European (none of which were coming from Japan, India Tibet or any other Asian or eastern nation). Thus, the Europeans generally toted the Bible and the Western Classical Tradition along with the European Academic Traditions as well as their varied European, Christian and Greco-Roman beliefs and notions (Mullen). Thus, it is necessary to recognize these Western beliefs, acknowledging that Europeans brought with them the aforementioned religious constructs and that eastern religion such as Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism and Shintoism etc. were not yet brought into the western framework at this time. Nonetheless, these aforementioned eastern religious schools and traditions did eventually transcend from their Eastern birthplace over to the west and were fused within the cultural realm of America and more broadly the western world (Kernan). The fused cultural hearth of the west is generally recognized as constituent of a religious “pluralism” extending yet including the withstanding Biblical, Judaism vs. Christianity points of divergence as well as diversity within its reach (Kernan). Tibetan Buddhism in “New Age” America

Tibetan Buddhism is broadly understood to be centralized in a pursuit of shamanisms and is also commonly linked to the schools of Zen Buddhism (which only recently arrived in the west in the 20th century era). Additionally, a variety of subsequent strains of Eastern Buddhism have successfully...


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