"If there is a lake, the swans would go there."
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
About the Author
Rick Fields is the author of several books, including Chop Wood, Carry Water
and The Code of the Warrior.
He was formerly the editor of The Vajradhatu Sun,
an international journal of Buddhism, and is currently the editor-at-large of Tricycle: A Buddhist Review.