The Making of American Buddhism

About the book

As of 2010, there were approximately 3-4 million Buddhists in the United States, and that figure is expected to grow significantly. Beyond the numbers, the influence of Buddhism can be felt throughout the culture, with many more people practicing meditation, for example, than claiming Buddhist identity. A century ago, this would have been unthinkable. So how did Buddhism come to claim such a significant place in the American cultural landscape?


The Making of American Buddhism offers an answer, showing how in the years on either side of World War II second- generation Japanese American Buddhists laid claim to an American identity inclusive of their religious identity. In the process they created a place for Buddhism in America. These sons and daughters of Japanese immigrants—known as “Nisei,” Japanese for “second-generation”—produced the Berkeley Bussei, a magazine published from 1939 to 1960. In the pages of the Bussei and elsewhere, these Nisei Buddhists argued that Buddhism was both what made them good Americans and what they had to contribute to America—a rational and scientific religion of peace.

Video preview

Advanced Praise

“The Making of American Buddhism is an exciting gift to all who care about Buddhism in America. With previously unpublicized stories, new perspectives on the study of American Buddhism, and a deep understanding of how Pure Land Buddhists participated in and produced Buddhist modernism, Mitchell sets the new standard for work on mid-twentieth century Buddhism in the West.”
Jeff Wilson
Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies, Renison University College, University of Waterloo


“Mitchell shows that recovering the foundational contributions of Japanese Americans in forging a uniquely modern American Buddhism does not just bring more diversity to existing narratives but rewrites the very history of Buddhism in the U.S. A timely, compelling book that will change both the research and teaching of American Buddhism.”
Ann Gleig
Associate Professor of Religion and Cultural Studies, University of Central Florida

News & Events

Race, Place, and Religious Labor: a Book Launch Event for The Making of American Buddhism with Chenxing Han
virtual event hosted by the Institute of Buddhist Studies
May 24, 2023, 1:00 - 2:30, pacific time
Register here


Berkeley Buddhist Temple
In person event tentatively scheduled for
Sunday June 18, 2023 at 11:00
More information coming soon