Transient and Permanent is a blog about liberal religion, from a somewhat academic standpoint. Much of the time the topic is Unitarian-Universalism, or the parent faiths of this denomination. However, liberal religion of all varieties is fair game for this blog. To that end, a new category has been added: Buddhism.
Buddhism has already been discussed here a number of times, so this category was probably overdue. But it is worth making the category formal and saying a few brief words on Buddhism’s relation to liberal religion.
Buddhism is an ancient and incredibly diverse religion, and contains within it many streams that could potentially be labeled liberal or conservative. In the North American context specifically, Buddhism tends to operate as a liberal religious force, especially among converts to Buddhism. More on this will be forthcoming, but for now suffice it to note that converts to Buddhism often come to it from a liberal religious background, and reformulate Buddhism in ways that make it palatable to their basic religious sensibilities. Furthermore, it is religious liberals themselves, chief among them Unitarians, who were instrumental in bringing knowledge of Buddhism to the English-speaking West in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Buddhism being a non-theistic faith, it acts at times as a shelter for liberals who can no longer accept the theistic motifs of their natal traditions, yet wish to maintain a degree of religious practice and identification. And because it is so culturally different from the mainstream West, Buddhism is inherently forced to examine and re-evaluate itself, a trend which often provokes liberal reform.
Much more can (and eventually will) be said about Buddhism as a liberal religious force in the West. Unitarian-Universalism will remain the primary concern of this blog, but expect to see somewhat more Buddhist content in the year ahead.