Before Americans turned to Buddhism for life hacks, they treated it like a dangerous cult

Buddha Daibutsu, Kamakura

Buddha Daibutsu, Kamakura

From Quartz at Work by Ryan Anningson:

In January 1902, Reverend Clarence Edgar Rice warned Americans of a religion that “both in theory and practice…degrades women,” practices “crass brutality” towards animals, and “goes hand-in-hand with vice…that blushes not at unspeakable practices.” Even more terrifying, this “cruel” and “pessimistic” tradition was making inroads in the United States through both immigration and the conversion of American citizens. Similarly, American newspapers during the Progressive Era warned of “the religion of gloom and melancholy,” being spread by debaucherous “priests of unutterable cruelty [who] traffick in human flesh.”

What was this terrible creed, with its awful priests? It was Buddhism—a tradition today often heralded in popular culture as the path to everything from a better professional career to world peace.

Within a century, Buddhism in America has gone from being frequently portrayed as a “dangerous cult” to becoming the prime spiritual practice of the business elite. Americans now generally view Buddhism favorably, according to Pew Research Center, while Canadians view Buddhism in equal favorability with Christianity, according to an Angus Reid poll. Mindfulness is taught in schools, and Buddhism is presented as a sort-of spiritual science. How can our views of Buddhism have changed so much in so little time?

Read the rest of the article at Quartz at Work

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