Sumi Loundon and company's BLUE JEAN BUDDHA is a rarity in several regards. For one thing, Loundon and her writers manage to lucidly articulate many ideas and feelings about culture, pop culture, age, and Buddhism that have previously proven to be precarious ground for authors to tread (this is particularly true of Loundon's first-class analyses throughout the book). For another, it switches gears gracefully--for any book, not just a dharma book--between being a sociological study (pieces like Kenneth Lee's "Drugs and the Dharma" and Thich Nu Pho-Chau's "Life as a Vietnamese Nun" exemplify this); a unique and very broad dialogue on philosophy, cultural ideologies, psychology, service, and peace (Claudia Heiman's "Winning over Depression," Noah Levine's "A Dharma Punx Path," and Adrienne Stauffer's "Freeing Tibet, Freeing Myself"); and very often literary nonfiction (Seth Castleman's "If a Nice Jewish Boy Sits in a Cave, Does He Make a Difference?" and Lillian Guild's "The Perfect Buddhist Boyfriend"). And lastly, its pieces burst with a very special kind of honesty about spiritual pursuits and the many facets of American life that only the spirit of youth could offer (Hanuman Goleman's "I'm a Mutt"). BLUE JEAN BUDDHA is fresh, insightful, and right-on. All of the bull's-eyes it manages to hit combined with its heart and humor make it an engaging read for anyone and an essential volume for any Buddhist's library.
As a young, serious Buddhist, I always wondered if there were others who shared my lifestyle and worldview. To my delight, I found that I am not alone. For me personally, "Blue Jean Buddha" is definitely a book whose time has come.
The book is down-to-earth and sincere, full of honest essays about how young people are implementing the Dharma into their lives, personal, public, and professional. It certainly is not New Agey, "too far out", cliche, or irrelevant. (I was anxious about the possibility of BJB being so, but it did not disappoint me!)The book explores the interchanges between Buddhism, Generation X and Y, and American pop culture, among other topics. It has no agenda except to portray Buddhism as it plays itself out, right now.
In many ways, I feel like BJB is a historical snapshot of some of the people who will be among the most influential shapers of Buddhism in the West in the near future. I was happy for this warning!
I definitely appreciated the vast diversity of Buddhist traditions and expressions represented in BJB. As an introduction, the book provides teases and initial glances into Buddhism, and does not purport to be a definitive statement by examining details. There are gaps, because there are still issues in modern Buddhism yet to be debated and/or resolved. But that is the point of BJB, it keeps you thinking, wondering, critically inquiring. I learned a lot from this book and totally recommend it to anyone interested in young people, and the future of Buddhism in the West.
The deep, thoughtful, and important reflections and rhetorical questions offered in THE CONCLUSION is WORTH THE WHOLE PRICE OF THE BOOK ALONE. Editor Sumi Loundon does not pretend to know all the answers, and after reading all these possibilities, I realized I didn't predict the future either! These are fast, exciting times we live in right now, and this is a perfect book to have along for the ride.