ORIGIN OF BUDDHISM IN AMERICA
In America, followers of Buddhism are found primarily in the states of
Utah, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. American
Buddhists are predominately Americans of Japanese ancestry and Southeast
Asians who have immigrated to the United States.
The first Buddhist church or temple in the United States was consecrated
in San Francisco in 1905. The Buddhist Mission of North America was
started in San Francisco in 1898 and incorporated in 1942 as the Buddhist
Church of America.
BRANCHES OF BUDDHISM
After the death of Gautama, his followers divided into two groups, the
Hinayana (small vehicle) and the Mahayana (great or larger vehicle).
Hinayana Buddhism has maintained the original simple and austere rules
of discipline left by Gautama. This form of Buddhism is the religion of most
of the people of Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, and
Mahayana Buddhism expanded the original teachings of Gautama. This
group believes that there are many Buddhas and saints. Mahayana also
includes a doctrine of heaven and hell, and salvation by faith and grace. This
form of Buddhism has been a major faith in China, Japan, Korea, and
Mongolia for hundreds of years.
Tibetan Buddhism, a form of Mahayana, is called Lamais and is com-
prised of a number of different sects. They range from the Shin sect (notable
for its love of pageantry) to the austere Zen. Zens emphasis on meditation
gives it much in common with Hinayana Buddhism.
The organizational structure of Buddhism varies with the branches.
There is usually a national headquarters, which is the Office of the Bishop.
Buddhist churches are divided geographically into districts. Organizations
are maintained by each congregation to meet the spiritual, social, and educa-
tional needs of the members. Any qualified member of the congregation may
conduct worship services. Weddings, funerals, and other religious functions
are conducted by senior members of the congregation.
The titular head of the American Buddhist Church bears the title of
Bishop. In parts of Asia, Buddhist clergymen are addressed as Bhikku
and belong to the Buddhist monastic order called the Sangha.
The place of worship is the Temple, Pagoda, or Dagobas. The statue of
Buddha is the key symbol of Buddhism and is the central figure in most
temples and pagodas. Reverence should be shown in and around this area as
a sign of respect for the Buddhists and their religious beliefs.