Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Holly Gayley

Second Advisor

Greg Johnson

Third Advisor

Deborah Whitehead


This thesis critiques the existing binary categories applied to American Buddhism, that of ethnic and convert. First, a critique of existing models and the term ethnic is presented. In light of the critique and the shortcomings of existing models, this thesis presents a new model for studying and classifying Buddhist communities in the United States, culturally-informed Buddhisms. Chapter Three of the thesis applies the culturally-informed Buddhisms model to case studies of the websites for the Buddhist Churches of America organization and the Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple. The goals of the culturally-informed Buddhisms model are: to create an adaptable and specific methodology and terminology for scholars to use when researching communities which accounts for change over time, and to re-orient the conversation away from the assumed ethnic and racial heritages of community members to a nuanced discussion of the various cultural strands that have influenced and shaped the communities.