Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, successive waves of Japanese Buddhist immigrants settled in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, bringing with them a variety of Japanese Buddhist schools and traditions. Overcoming many hardships, Japanese immigrant women worked with great devotion to help establish numerous temples in the Hawai‘i through Buddhist women’s associations known as Fujinkai. These dedicated women not only maintained ancestral Buddhist practices but also integrated Japanese Buddhist, native Hawaiian, and other cultural elements in ways that were entirely new. Persevering through the war years and through successive waves of cultural adaptation, they transmitted and protected Buddhist values with humility, generosity, and compassion. This is a story of cultural integration, social transformation, and spiritual resilience told through the lives of women in Jōdo Shinshū (True Pure Land), the largest branch of Japanese Buddhism.
This article describes an unprecedented survey of a wide swathe of American Buddhists of diverse racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and sectarian backgrounds about their attitudes toward health and healing. The final section describes a follow-up study investigating how a segment of the survey respondents benefited from their practice of Buddhism during the Covid-19 pandemic. The most important overall finding is that American Buddhists see their participation in a wide range of Buddhist activities as a source of mental, physical, emotional, and social wellbeing. In light of this result, I argue that Buddhism is playing a larger than appreciated role in shaping Americans’ attitudes about health, and that the entire range of Buddhist approaches needs to be taken into account beyond simply meditation.