Lecture focuses on Buddhism and its functions

by Jessica Hampton

The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum hosted a presentation on Buddhism and its role in world affairs Wednesday.
The presentation was the third in a series of five held by the Minnesota International Center regarding the role of religion in world affairs. Roger Jackson, professor of religion at Carlton College, headlined the event.
The goal of the series of lectures is to inform citizens of the role religion plays in world politics and in understanding other cultures.
“We really regard this as a groundbreaking series,” said Carol Steinberg of the Minnesota International Center, adding there is a lack of public discussion on religion.
Jackson began his presentation with a brief history of Buddhism as a religion.
He then explained that Buddhism is not only a religion, but the foundation of culture itself in Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
In these countries, where religion is one of the largest factors in the identity of a nation, Jackson said naturally it would tie in closely with the politics of such nations.
He then went on to discuss how Buddhism differs in Tibet, Sri Lanka and India, as well its role in American culture.
He cited Tina Turner, Richard Gere, Brad Pitt and even the Beastie Boys as excellent popular culture examples of people who, though they were not born into the Buddhist culture, use Buddhism for “intellectual exploration.”
Jackson explained that Buddhism has existed in the United States since the late 18th century with the explosion of immigration from China and Japan. Buddhism didn’t gain such popularity in America however, until the Beat Generation brought it to the surface in the 1950s.
Jackson ended the lecture portion of the presentation by saying that there are “too few interactions” between such converted American Buddhists and Buddhists that are trying to retain their native culture after immigrating to the United States.
The Minnesota International Center is holding two more speaking engagements. The next presentation will be on the religion of Islam on March 18 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center, featuring Dr. John Espofito from the Center for Muslim/Christian Relations in Georgetown.