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At One With Dual Devotion


Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2006
`JuBus' blend the communal rituals of Judaism with the quiet solitude of Buddhism. Most adherents are at peace with the paradox....

No one knows for certain how many JuBus there are; the last surveys were conducted in the 1970s. A large majority of the 3 million Buddhists in the United States are Asian, but by some estimates, at least 30% of all newcomers to Buddhism are Jewish. (By comparison, U.S. Jews number 6 million.)

... Buddhism has a history of adapting to new cultures.

It was founded by Gautama Siddhartha in India about the 6th century BCE and then spread to China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Vietnam. It arrived in the United States in the late 19th century, and was popularized in the 1950s and '60s by the likes of Buddhist missionary D. T. Suzuki, author Alan Watts and JuBu beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Now, American Buddhist centers long bound by a tradition of remaining politically neutral are adding priorities that reflect those of their large numbers of often liberal, educated and politically active Jewish members: family life, civil rights and programs to feed, house and educate the poor.

Zen Judaism has spawned a genre of JuBu jokes, such as: "If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?"

A majority of the board of directors of a leading Buddhist magazine, Tricycle: A Buddhist Review, are ethnic Jews. Half of the 10 Buddhist abbots to take charge of the Zen Center of San Francisco over the last 40 years were of Jewish ancestry.

Conversely, more and more synagogues are adopting Buddhist-inspired meditation programs, like the one Rabbi Lew recently co-founded in a blue wood-framed house a few doors down from the conservative Congregation Beth Shalom in San Francisco.

Keywords: Buddhism