The Heart in the Matter: Design, Belief and a History of Buddhist Architecture in America
AuthorGordon, Robert Edward
AdvisorIvey, Paul Eli
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation explores Buddhist architecture in America from the nineteenth century through the present day. It examines significant examples of Buddhist architecture with respect to the spiritual beliefs of the practitioners who created them. Its goal is to understand these structures from the point of view of human experience. Given the large number of Buddhist structures that exist in the U.S., the narrative navigates the major contours of its development. It follows in isometric fashion the parallel history of Buddhism’s emergence in America that started with the California Gold Rush and its influence on the New England Transcendentalists. Proceeding chronologically through the twentieth and early twenty-first-centuries, the historical sweep of Buddhism’s architectural presence in America is articulated by exploring important structures in depth with respect to Buddhist belief, human emotion, socio-political contexts, and religious faith. A number of hermeneutic binaries are employed throughout the history presented here. Space and Place, East and West, Interior and Exterior, and Spirit and Matter are the major motifs implemented to explicate the buildings and environments under investigation. The overwhelming feeling pervading the discourse and design of Buddhist architecture and its co-extensive belief system is that of the heart. The human proclivity to attach personal meaning and deep emotion to a space or a place is at the express core of the Buddhist structures that house Buddhist practices. As a result, the study’s methodology is inspired by Yi-Fu Tuan’s humanistic geography, whose work explores the relationship between environment and human subjective experience. The study finds that ritual, lineage, and heritage work in tandem with heart, home, and the human body in the construction, understanding and experience of Buddhist architecture. It argues that traditional forms and practices derived from each community’s home culture infused a sense of shelter and protection onto these buildings. Buddhist belief and its associated architecture assuaged the new and sometimes hostile setting of the United States. As the first study of its kind, this dissertation opens the field of Buddhist architecture in America as a distinct branch of scholarly inquiry.
Degree ProgramGraduate College