So said the 16th Karmapa when asked why he visited America in 1976. Of course, the Karmapa wasn't the first swan to go to the lake. In a book of immense scope, Rick Fields surveys the history of Buddhism in America from the quasi-legendary Fu-sang in the sixth century to Asian immigrant communities to the latest trends in American Buddhism. Writing as a storyteller as much as a historian, Fields takes us back to the earliest European contacts with Buddhism, most notably, Sir William Jones, who was just about to go to America on the recommendation of Ben Franklin, when at the last minute, fortunately, he chose India. His work would influence the American Transcendentalists and eventually the great Theosophist and first American convert to Buddhism, Henry Steel Olcott. A sympathetic writer, Fields is also meticulously inclusive. Besides the obvious transmitters, like D.T. Suzuki and Philip Kapleau, Fields traces the forgotten influences of Paul Carus, Ernest Fenollosa, and Dharmapala. One memorable story is of the ex-Navy submarine mechanic Heng Ju, who walked, three steps then a kowtow, over and over, all the way from San Francisco to Seattle for a berry pie. Fields has countless other stories that make How the Swans Came to the Lake a priceless contribution not only to Buddhism in America but to Buddhism itself. --Brian Bruya
Indeed, it is an excellent book and I quickly bought myself a copy.
Of course, the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 is surveyed, along with figures such as Paul Carus and particularly the Zen authority D.T. Suzuki.
A great read and highly recommended to any interested in the (recent and fairly ancient, too) history of Buddhism.
perhaps more detail than I was looking for - but one can always skim ahead to another chapter! Covers Buddhism from Buddha himself to the many ways that Buddhists arrived in the... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Roger Petrich
book arrived promptly as promised and was in excellent condition. well packaged. a thoroughly satisfactory transaction. five stars to the vendor and my thanks.Published on August 22, 2010 by David M. Hagler
Wow, what an ambitious, wide-ranging book! (It covers a span of time between about 1730-1990). I'm sure some people will think it's TOO ambitious, incorporating too many people... Read morePublished on December 21, 2006 by Marvela
I don't know of any other books that tries to put together a complete picture of how Buddhism came to America starting from far BEFORE the mid 20th century, as is the common... Read morePublished on August 18, 2006 by Eduardo Neecha
I was in my university bookstore when I saw a sign "Faculty Recommend" in front of this book. I decided to check it out. Read morePublished on July 5, 2006 by M. Tran
This is indeed an ecyclopedic view of Buddhism in America, but I feel the author is a bit too uncritical in drawing from some of his sources. Read morePublished on June 2, 2003 by J. Kowalski
Though this book is currently out of print, I recommend it to all Buddhists; it is the best history book I've read about the Western Sangha and fills in alot of gaps between the... Read morePublished on April 16, 1999