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How the Swans Came to the Lake (Third Edition, Revised and Updated)

Product no.: 0-87773-631-6
This new updated edition of Swans includes recent events in Buddhist groups in America and discusses such issues as spiritual authority, the role of women, and social action.

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Publisher's Synopsis
Takes the reader from the origins of Buddhism right up to the immediate past, through Buddhism's growth and spread in Asia to the personalities that opened it up to the West and those that brought it to America. Far more than just a history of Buddhism's arrival and growth in America, this highly readable account is packed full of interesting stories and anecdotes, and includes a wealth of material on the spread of Buddhism to the West from the time of Alexander the Great onwards. This book gives the definitive treatment to the impact Buddhism has had on American thought, and is a goldmine of information on early Buddhism in Europe. It covers the early Western Buddhist pioneers, plus those who profoundly influenced and paved the way for its appearance in the West.

Included are: the Greeks in India, King Ashoka; the Gnostics; Sir William Jones and the Royal Asiatic Society; Emerson and Thoreau; Whitman and Walden; Edwin Arnold; Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society; the Chinese and Japanese immigrant communities in the States; the Pali Text society; the World Parliament of Religions; D T Suzuki; Sokei-an; Nyogen Suzuki; Alan Watts; Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac and the Beat Poets; Shunryo Suzuki; Philip Kapleau; Chogyam Trungpa; Tarthang Tulku; Geshe Wangyal; Thomas Merton; Jack Kornfield; Joseph Goldstein and Thich Nhat Hanh; and many others.


"If there is a lake, the swans would go there. So said the 16th Karmapa when asked why he visited America in 1976. Of course, the Karmapa wasn't the first swan to go to the lake.

In a book of immense scope, Rick Fields surveys the history of Buddhism in America. From the quasi-legendary Fu-sang in the 6th Century, to Asian immigrant communities, to the latest trends in American Buddhism, Fields goes in depth. Writing as a storyteller as much as a historian, he takes us back to the earliest European contacts with Buddhism.

Most notably, he covers Sir William Jones, who was about to go to America on the recommendation of Ben Franklin when at the last minute he fortunately chose to visit India instead. His work would influence the American Transcendentalists and eventually the great Theosophist and first American convert to Buddhism, Henry Steel Olcott.

A sympathetic writer, Fields is also meticulously inclusive. Besides the obvious transmitters, like Zen pioneers D.T. Suzuki and Roshi Philip Kapleau, Fields traces the forgotten influences of Paul Carus, Ernest Fenollosa, and Dharmapala. One memorable story is of the ex-Navy submarine mechanic Heng Ju, who walked (three steps then a kowtow) from San Francisco all the way to Seattle for a berry pie.

Fields has countless stories that make How the Swans Came to the Lake a priceless contribution not only to Buddhism in America but to Buddhism itself."       ~Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal


"THE PROCESSION carrying the body of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was heralded by the wails of a lone bagpiper and the slow, steady heartbeat of a deep bass drum, followed by the hoarse guttural cries of Tibetan horns.

As a crowd of more than three thousand American students and guests watched in silence, the funeral procession of Trungpa Rinpoche emerged from a fogbound forest at the Karme Choling retreat center in northeast Vermont. The body was carried in a palanquin-a canopied, silk-curtained upright box-and covered with a round white parasol."


Mr. Fields started his journalism career at the Whole Earth Catalog in 1969. In recent years, he was editor of Yoga Journal and a contributing editor of New Age Journal. He had previously founded the Loka Journal and was editor in chief of the Vajradhatu Sun, which later became the Shambhala Sun.

He was also a teacher for several years at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colo.

Author Fields, Rick
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 452 pp.
Publisher Shambhala Publications 1992
Browse these categories as well: Western Buddhism, Southern Buddhism, Northern Buddhism, Eastern Buddhism and Zen Masters, Vajrayana and Crazy Wisdom Masters

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