This paper is an examination of Buddhism's future in America. An ancient religion founded in India and very popular throughout Asia, Buddhism has travelled outside Asia as its practitioners have immigrated to other parts of the world. In some places, it has expanded beyond ethnic bounds, and it has found especially fertile grounds for growth in the United States among followers of widely different ethnicities, races, and cultural backgrounds. As a number of American celebrities have embraced Buddhism's meditative approach to life, the religion has achieved a higher profile. China's aggressive attempts to take over Tibet, home of the Dalai Lama, the religion's most prominent spiritual leader, have also raised awareness of Buddhism and encouraged more Americans to study it and consider following its precepts. Buddhism has already established a strong foothold in America, and its influence is likely to continue to grow and mature over the next two decades.
Siddhartha Gautama was a prince, born to the king and queen of what is now a region in Nepal in about 563 B.C. His quest for spiritual fulfillment ultimately led him to meditate under a fig tree, "often referred to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment" (Introduction 3), where he was able to attain nirvana, the ultimate state of enlightenment. He spent the rest of his life teaching to others what he had learned: the way to nirvana is the Middle Way, a course which avoids extremes.
Buddhism preaches Four Noble Truths:
That life is full of suffering; that most of that suffering, including the fear of death, can be traced to "desire," the mind's habit of seeing everything through the prism of the self and its well-being; that this craving can be transcended, leading to peace and eventually to an exalted state of full enlightenment called Nirvana; and that the means to do so lies in the Eightfold Path of proper views, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfu...