Hipster Buddhists--Takepart.com August 2011

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Hipster Buddhists

Its contentious whether the subculture of "hipsterism," is still relevant in 2011,  yet a scene of petite 20somethings still cruising the streets of downtown SF and  LA seem to have made the transition from brazen consumerism to spiritual epiphany.

In turn  these folk are abandoning the floors of Urban Outfitters and used record stores for the virtuous enlightenment of Buddhist temples and meditation retreats.

Around LA, and San Francisco, Buddhist temples and mediation centers previously devoted to older, more ethnically defined patronage are now the stomping ground for an  increasingly diverse  gathering of patrons, both in terms of age and cultural heritage.

There's even a Buddhist dating service ---who's bold font mantra is "Meet Buddhist Singles at Buddhist Dating Service, and Find Nirvana Together!

Fascinated by this growing trend, I interviewed a variety of devotees and practitioners of the Buddhist faith, one in many ways aligned to Take Part's altruistic stance.

Asked why more younger "hip," people are attracted to Buddhism of late, Mary Stansavage, Director of Buddhists organization, Against The Stream  offers  the explanation, "It makes sense. Our teacher is only 40 so he appeals to a younger demographic. If you are familiar with Buddhist teachings, you will see it makes, sense."

Reverend Kusala of the International Buddhist Meditation Center in downtown LA adds youth are now looking for an alternative. "Younger people like Buddhism as it is more lifestyle based and more philospophical than other religions. I think what they are looking for  is therapy and philosophy to help them cope with life in these times."

Meanwhile Reverend Yamoto of the Los Angeles City Buddhist temple reaffirms the diversity line,  "For a long time there has been little alternative for America's youth than  the dogmatic Christian faith. I think youth are turning to Buddhism as they are looking for a more universal type of human engagement."

"It has become evident at our temple that there are more and more young people attending. I think they are seeking something new, something fresh ."

Still Yamoto says there has been some deterrents and the faith appeals only to some. "Many younger people have been turned off by Buddhism being aligned to various races, though this is now changing.

"Some are also deterred by the basic tenet that suggests those practicing Buddhism avoid intoxicants. This can relate to any form of indulgence, from drug and alcohol, through to obsession with a nobby, shopping or music. Anything that might impede their wider world view and blinker their perception of the wider picture."

Take Part also spoke to those who regard themselves as followers of the Buddhist faith. Hank Demaio, gave his perspective to Take Part. An LA based film producer in his twenties, he also grew up with Buddhist parents in Vermont. Asked his views on this trend, he reflects, "I think younger people are embracing Buddhism as it's a freeing faith. You can actually practice it without  declaring that you are.  It also allows you to practice other faiths simultaneously, whether that be  Judaism or Catholicism or whatever."

Demaio adds, "I think in these oppressed times people are also looking for an alternative to conventional social morays such as consumerism and coupling.  I think younger people too have more freedom now than they ever did. They are getting Christianity pushed down their throats and  they are making their own choices."

Amanda DiLella a film student, 22  based in Silverlake says  she likes  Buddhism as its prompted a lifestyle change, telling Take Part, "before I was all about partying. Which was essentially the pursuit of hair makeup and clothes, though now Im more focused on my studies and health. Its empowering, since Ive started attending mediation sessions at the temple ive never felt the level of clarity, its also prompted a lifestyle transition."

Based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as Buddha, Buddhism is a religion and philosophy  embracing a scope of traditions, beliefs and practices.

The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries  and is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to end ignorance of dependent origination,  in turn avoiding a cycle of suffering and  prompting rebirth.